In 2014, Clare Senchyna’s son—26-year-old Camilo Senchyna-Beltran, her only child—went out to celebrate becoming an EMT for the city where he was born and raised. But on his way home from Bruno’s in the Mission, she said, he was shot and killed by a 21-year-old stranger.
“It was random and senseless,” Senchyna said, “and my life was never the same—like thousands of mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and friends in this country.”
By September, a mural of Camilo in his classic Giants cap will adorn the future home of United Playaz, a gun violence intervention group with the locally famed motto, “It takes the hood to save the hood.” Everytown for Gun Safety supplied a $10,000 grant to make it possible.
At a rally coincidentally held on Wednesday in the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting and hours before another mass shooting unfolded at a medical building in Tulsa, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and United Playaz founder Rudy Corpuz Jr. joined a host of speakers in calling for action to rein in gun use.
Attendees, including Mayor London Breed and District Attorney Chesa Boudin, attended the Everytown and United Playaz event in SoMa dressed in orange, the color hunters wear to signify they aren’t targets.
Shootings like the one in Uvalde, which killed 19 children and two teachers, or little-known individual shootings, remind mothers like Senchyna of the first days, weeks, and months of grieving the loss of their children, she said.
“It goes something like this: wake up and realize anew that our child is dead,” Senchyna said. “Wake up and mourn anew that we are still alive. Wake up and feel, again, the punch to the gut.”
Others impacted by gun violence also shared their stories. Mattie Scott, president of Brady California and San Francisco’s Electoral College delegate, lost her 24-year-old son in 1996 and her 23-year-old nephew in 2007. Hailee Love, an 11-year-old student at Bessie Carmichael School PreK-8 Filipino Education Center, lost her mother to gun violence in 2019.
“It’s affected me badly,” Love said. “I wish she was here to see me graduate [fifth grade]. We need to stop using guns.”
United Playaz plans to buy the building at 1044 Howard St. to expand gun violence intervention services for youth and people newly released from prison, costing an estimated $6-7 million with renovations. At the rally Wednesday, Pelosi pledged $4 million from the federal government while Mayor London Breed promised another $1.4 from her budget proposal unveiled this week.
Attention swarms around mass shootings—and in the news cycles that cover them—before fading from national attention. But the pervasive threat of gun violence never ceases in low-income communities, said United Playaz founder and executive director Rudy Corpuz, Jr.
“It’s been happening,” Corpuz said. “When Johnny and Joe get shot in the neighborhood, why don’t people come out for that? Until it hits your home, in your gut, then you’re out there. It takes all those pieces from every walk of life to make it work to end senseless gun violence.”Ida Mojadad can be reached at [email protected].