MRAK podcast: ‘Kill Zone’ Pastor Ben McBride asks, ‘What are people standing for at the end of the day?’



Inspirational CEO and pastor Ben McBride appeared on the Must Read Alaska Show this month to discuss his ongoing community-building efforts and projects, from podcasting to being a part of a Sundance Film Festival Award winning documentary.

I met McBride 10 years ago at a pastors conference, during which a group of faith leaders discussed the need to have more members be physically present and available in the struggling communities of the inner cities around America.

Some pastors spoke in theory, but McBride was one of the few who had taken it upon himself to make a difference.

Oakland is one of those cities, a place ravaged by violence. McBride, a native of San Francisco, sought to do something beyond just praying. He moved his family from the San Francisco suburbs to East Oakland, where gun violence accounted for 60% of the city’s crime rate, earning it the name “Kill Zone.”

McBride recounted his first night there: While his wife was shopping for essentials for their new home, McBride heard gunshots. He dropped down and started praying. However, the shots continued and became more intense, in spite of his prayers. Eventually, he went outside to see what was going on, only to find out that the shots he heard were actually fireworks celebrating an event at the Oakland Colosseum.

Reflecting on the experience, McBride realized that he assumed he would be subjected to violence he’d heard about, but he could see that there were ways to bring happiness to the community, much as the fireworks did. 

Soon after moving to East Oakland, McBride got involved in the PICO organization, a faith-based non-profit devoted to helping struggling communities.

I asked him about his interest in working with this particular organization, and he answered that he wants to reduce the gun-related homicides that were gripping the community. He referred to the gun victims as “loved ones” due to their exposure to extreme violence at a very young age.

This work led him to create “Bring The Heat,” which focuses on bridging gaps in the community and the police to help build a better understanding from both sides. McBride was vocal about his experiences with law enforcement, from his brother being beaten on a college campus to being racially profiled himself in San Francisco. He did not let those experiences define him and he began working with the police station, even through moments of animosity. He told me how together they reduced the gun-related homicide rate by 50% and restructured how police approach these situations throughout the neighborhood. 

McBride said he supported defunding the police in mid-2020 at the height of the fallout from the death of George Floyd. But then he saw that just giving up on the institutions because no one wanted to do the work was counterproductive. It helped him realize that he needed to work with the police, not against them. Thus, he created Empower Initiatives.

His organization’s goal is to bridge differences among people of various backgrounds to find belonging wherever it may be, from private companies to public institutions. He separates himself from the usual concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as anti-racism. Instead, he uses questions, such as “What are people standing for at the end of the day?”

McBride believes people don’t need to try to change each other, but need to create a new social contract where they can respect each other’s values. Fostering environments of belonging is the crucial aspect of his mission with his company.

I asked him how his faith had influenced his work as a fellow man of God. He said he believes he is doing the job he is meant to do, fueled by love and the Holy Spirit.

“Everybody is redeemable. Nobody deserves to be thrown away, and there is a place at the table for every person, particularly the one with whom you disagree the most. So for me, the ethics around enemy love, the ethics around non-violence, the ethics around what does it mean to take off your cloak and split your resources with the ones who do not have. For me, fuels a lot of the work we do around belonging,” he said.

We concluded with a discussion about his feature at the award-winning Sundance Film Festival with “The Force,” which explored the police department of Oakland as it went through a scandal. The movie initially focused on the success of his efforts to help make the community a more harmonious society until the film’s production times aligned with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown was shot to death by police, which led to major rioting.

This incident caused a shift in the movie from him training the police department to leading a protest against the department after discovering that a young Latina woman was sex trafficked.

The film ends with Ben at odds with the Oakland police chief as he leads a large protest at the height of the “defund the police” protests that were happening all over the country.

However, as Ben stated, he seeks to now bridge the gap and work with these departments. Ben has since befriended the police chief and now works with him and others all over the country to help law enforcement departments. It’s easy to say “defund the police,” It’s easy to yell and riot. It’s hard to move into a community called the Kill Zone and work with law enforcement to help create a better solution.

Hear the Must Read Alaska interview with Ben Mcbride at this link.


  1. I’m from Oakland and watched one man stab another before I started kindergarten. A giant layer of dirtbags have made the city unattractive to those that aren’t. The good folks eventually left and the layer of detritus got thicker.

    I passed through a couple years ago. Rode around on BART for a couple hours. Complete dumpster fire and it won’t get better anytime soon. I bailed out more than a half century ago and it wasn’t soon enough.

  2. Well. He got that right about a community should be seeing its pastors more out and about, than only on a church day. Pastors and their wives responsibilities include serving. If he and his wife don’t understand how to serve a community, then i suggest one take a part
    -time job to work as a hotel housekeeper or McDonalds crew member for service experience as well understanding people better.

    • Furthermore respecting another’s values and not influencing someone living in sin not to change as loving them easily can be morphed into liberal thinking self-gratifying self love i must be liked, loved by people i’m trying to impact.

  3. I believe that some regions tend to produce certain personality disorders in abundance that tend to result in economic dislocations and creates burdens and caste systems with privations which are generally denied by perpetrators but are measured and observable anyway. The solutions are increased spiritual growth toward Christianity and in extreme cases geographic relocation brings best results. Avoiding bullies is a transformative result.

    • Why Christianity inspite of a lot of other religious orientations? And which sect particularly? Unitarian? Alaska Baptist? Latter Day Saints? Amish?

      Further why a theocratic government?

      • Theocratic government is government rule by God directly over His creation, humans. That doesn’t appear to be at mankind’s limited control at this time. Christianity was the declared ideology at the founding of this nation. If people will refamiliarize themselves with Christian morals they can positively enhance the quality of family life and community standards. This nation was not founded by Shintoists, Buddists, or Sun worshippers, or hedonists.etc. Sarri to disappoint you.

        • No it’s not, it’s also and mostly by people who say they are divinely inspired. Like the king is the head of the Church of England.

          And just by the way-We left that very situation in founding the US.

          • What is “it”. Theocracy is government by God. God may soon install His King Jesus Christ and I’m looking forward to it. That will be a theocracy. Until then we, in the US, have the guaranteed capitalist, republic form of government with three branches, the executive, the judiciary and legislative. Just a fact.

  4. Wonder what Pastor Mcbride would have done if a fraudulently installed hyphenated Mayor like Austin Quinn-Davidson ordered him to close his church because of China flu hysteria.

  5. Many sects do not treat the flock kindly. ASk for God’s guidance. The words in the Holy Scripture are comforting and gives wise guidance freely given. Why would one reject healthful teachings.

  6. Some communities have a deep hatred for certain people, poor people of the land. They just hate them. That schism cannot be fixed. Jesus will have to repair that.

  7. The word “theocracy” means direct governance of God over man. “Monarchy” is rulership of subjects by a royal personage. Monarchy is a form of government all about benefits all of which go directly and only to to the monarch.

  8. THE form of Kingdom governments are a human monarch and human subjects. The king is a human getting royally over on other human subjects. He is not a diety. He did not create this Universe. God an all powerful, creative, punitive diety will rule again directly over the earth. A real, tangible kingdom form of government not an esoteric feeling in one’s heart. That government by God over willing humans will be a theocracy. Nothing else is. enjoy your preferred imprecission.

  9. Democrats have xed out God or made a God of themselves. The Creator retains God’s sovereignty regardless of what communists and communist wannabe say, lamely, about Him. God retains His sovereignty.
    Some of the royals trace their familial heritage to the families of Jesus Christ. GOD had a contract with Abraham that through his heirs would be a Messiah to save and repair the earth and humanity for those who through faith select this option. The Messiah will be the Theocracy to which you allude. The royals do have kingship through which they have accomplished much harm to our present day. The US tossed off the tyrannical king systems and set up the republic. Enemies of the republic and American liberty have been trying to wreck it. Our liberties did not come from the US Constitution but from God the Sovereign to all mankind.

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