Khalid Elahi directs Way Out Incorporated, an organization dedicated to combating youth violence in Richmond, California. He shared his insights into how to break the youth cycle of violence in his hometown, as told to reporter Malcom Marshall.
My name is Khalid Elahi. I’m a community activist and football coach, and executive director and founder of Way Out Incorporated Youth Foundation.
I’m a Richmond native, born and raised. I was a very young kid doing a lot of negative activities, going the wrong route and then overcoming that to come back and help others to overcome the same deal or preventing them from even going that route.
At my lowest point, I was at war with several groups of individuals while selling drugs to provide for my child, hustling and living on the street life on a daily basis.
I had lethal disagreements [with people] in at least four different neighborhoods. That was a real low point. I didn’t worry about tomorrow. I was just focusing on the day at hand. You know tomorrow was millions and millions of years away from me. I was just living day to day.
Then there was my brother’s death in Richmond. That was the lowest of all points, losing my brother to gun violence.
I transformed when my brother died — I turned away from revenge. I grew up.
The first thing that made me put down my weapon was when I started coaching football in 1999. When one of my players saw me on Clarson Boulevard and he yelled out “coach.” That word sent a shock throughout my body, because that title means so much in the African American community. Down the road, on the stage at my brother’s funeral at the Richmond auditorium, I decided to go back to school and ended up graduating from Laney College. My bother’s nickname was “Way Out” so I chose that for the name of the foundation.
Now, I want to help young men and women to live a healthy life. I want them to get on the ball and do something in life. We’re focusing on recruiting young men and women to live a healthy life, to go to college. I have done that successfully with about 10 different people, whether they went to college or they went and got jobs.
Way Out Incorporated is gonna show youth the way out of Richmond, California, street life, poverty life, low income life. We’re gonna educate young people. We’re gonna help youth get on track. We’re gonna help youth start identifying goals that they want for themselves, and get in the habit of setting short-term goals and then reaching them, and then set big goals and reaching them. That’s what Way Out Incorporated does.
We’re consulting with different schools. I’ve worked in King Elementary in Richmond for a couple years, working with second graders on up to fifth graders, raising GPAs and modifying behavior, we’re also working in juvenile halls.
We work with youth first-hand and then we coach for the Richmond Steelers. I’ve coached over 200 young men in my career within six years, so I have a caseload of young men that I constantly work with.
The number one thing that’s hurting Richmond, the youth is violence along with poor education. We’re not investing in them today. So what is Richmond gonna be like tomorrow? Who is the change going to be led by, Richmond residents or outsiders?
If the violence is going down, we need to start giving big props to the people that have been committing these violent acts continuously. They’ve basically stopped doing what they’ve been doing every day. So something is convincing them to break the cycle, whether it’s at the church they just went to last week, whether it’s another community program. They don’t have a whole lot of alternatives for these young people. So that’s where we’re trying to come in with creative minds in Way Out Incorporated and get something started for these young people for the future looking years down the line, not just a quick budget or some money fad. No, we’re talking about working with minds for years.
I see it a whole different way. I’m not for the marijuana fields, and I’m not for the casino because we could build something else, and the casino, I mean, why not build a university? Why not build an educational facility? Why not? Why not build a private school?
Why not trust real role models, you know, people that have been through Richmond’s cycle of madness, and then were able to come to you with valuable information. Why not listen to us so we can tell you what we need?
We need an education facility. If you don’t build the education facility, you’re gonna have to end up building another jail anyway. So why not build preventative measures? Why not build a school? Why not have the best private school in the Bay Area, why not?
My dream is working in unison with people from all over Richmond. All our goals will be aimed at improving the entire greater community of Richmond. A better Richmond to me is that we have facilities for K through 12, facilities where we can educate our people in Richmond, send them out to colleges to get the education that they need, and to come back and take Richmond to another level, another plateau.
If we could take that land in Point Molate and build a facility, more than one facility because I believe it’s 424 acres, we can go in and build a facility that could be the most powerful educational magnet in the Bay Area.