November 23, 2021


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SAN DIEGO — A panel of experts said Friday that San Diego needs more leaders to emerge from its poor, more ethnically diverse neighborhoods for the city to avoid the kind of social unrest afflicting Ferguson, Mo., in recent weeks.None of the experts said riots and protests were imminent, but they stressed that San Diego needs new leaders to help bridge the city’s sharp divisions in ethnicity and wealth.Their comments came during a large breakfast gathering in southeast San Diego that was the first event sponsored by RISE San Diego, a nonprofit launched recently by former City Councilman Tony Young and co-founded by former City Council candidate Dwayne Crenshaw to help develop “urban leaders.”People with potential to fill that role often struggle with an “us versus them” mentality, frustration that no one listens to them, and the more convenient option of developing their leadership skills in a gang, the experts said.“I’m a minister in a community of individuals that feel that many of their concerns, even if they scream them from the top of their lungs, are not being heard,” said Pastor Terrell Fletcher, a former Chargers defensive back and part of Friday’s five-member panel.Pastor Terry Brooks, another panelist, said leadership skills among young people in San Diego’s poor neighborhoods often get cultivated in gangs.“We have people in our communities who have all the leadership skills needed,” he said. “We just need to capture those people, let them know they matter and hear what their thinking is and try to redirect their thinking.”Norma Chavez-Peterson, executive director of the local American Civil Liberties Union chapter, said another hurdle will be somehow softening the city’s geographic divide.“There’s the south of 8 and north of 8 divide,” she said. “There are kids in San Ysidro who have never been to see the beach or La Jolla.”Zachary Green, a University of San Diego professor, said another challenge will be drawing young people into civic discourse when they are more focused on Facebook than newspapers and more traditional media.“There’s a new generation of people who are wired differently,” he said.Community divisions, mostly based on race, boiled over two months ago in Ferguson when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teen. The shooting prompted days of racially charged unrest in the city, which is two-thirds black.Fletcher, who grew up in Ferguson, said the protests would be equivalent in San Diego to 10,000 angry residents shutting down Euclid Avenue from state Route 94 to Imperial Avenue.After the breakfast, RISE San Diego leaders said they plan to hold monthly breakfasts on similar topics throughout the county.“We want to bring civic discourse to the urban communities,” Young said.The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 21. For details, visit published in the San Diego Union-TribuneBy David Garrick 05:07a.m. Oct 18,