I went alone to the Live in Peace march and rally held in East Palo Alto on Saturday, Feb. 3.
My best friend found that was pretty bold of me. She felt at least when you go with friends you have someone to chat with or better yet chant with, but I didn't pay it any mind because growing up in East Palo Alto I was bound to see someone I knew, which to me was about just as good as going with someone.
As I was walking -- hearing the chants and reading the signs -- I started thinking, "So, has my life been touched by violence?"
It took me a minute to realize how deeply it had been.
I remembered about my nephew, Edwin Lamar Sims, who was shot on Valentine's Day, when I was 15.
I thought about my other nephew, Eric Jerome Price, who was 18 and was stabbed to the point he was hospitalized for more than a week.
I thought about my very first boyfriend, Nocomes Noel III, who was shot and killed on my 26th birthday just over a year and half ago.
Then I realized the reason I had to ask myself if violence had affected me, and the reason these young men's lives did not come immediately to mind, was because I grew up thinking violence was just normal.
I thought violence was just a part of life and I guess I had become comfortable with it.
Even as a young girl going to Ronald McNair -- where they held a memorial for a murdered student named Henry Carter when I was just 12 or 13 -- I know I felt this way.
Violence had just been a part of me growing up and it was neither bad nor good, just something that was part of the society we lived in.
How could a young woman come up with such a ridiculous notion that hurting one another was just part of the natural progression of life?
It is amazing for me to even put something so ludicrous on paper, but the truth indeed hurts.
Now as an adult, with East Palo Alto being a world away from 1994, I wonder if the young people of East Palo Alto feel the same way that I felt growing up: that it is really no big thing that people we love seem to get hurt and even die every day.
How is it possible we get comfortable with such a feeling and, even more important, can it and will it change?
My honest opinion is that I don't really know. I don't know if violence in our community can truly be erased, not only physically but mentally as well.
As our strength goes to eliminating the physical problem of violence I wonder what happens to all the emotional bullet holes it leaves in the hearts of our families, and friends, too.
How do we heal the problem inside and out? I really don't have an answer (not even a good suggestion).
But what I do know is that if we don't do something soon the blood and carnage we see in our community will start to seem just as normal and as natural as breathing.
Initially published as a Guest Opinion in the Palo Alto Weekly Feb. 21. Strickling is a lifelong East Palo Alto resident and a regular contributor to the community Web site Web Link .