Speaking Up: what youth centers in West Oakland should provide

by J’Mya Gray-Martinez

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Chip Johnson blamed problems with youth centers (two open and a third about to open)  in West Oakland on lack of  staff and programs.

Journalism 1 decided to pitch in, providing insight into what should be included in local youth centers and what also needs reform.

-“A youth center that has its own library, where disturbances are not allowed, would be ideal. It should have insulated walls and soundproof glass, and be open from 6am until 9pm, a place to eat and air conditioning. Its head would probably need to be armed and confident in kicking people out for violating the center’s rules.” (Anthony Beron)

“We should have more programs at school instead of at youth centers, because it’s easier for students to get their SAT prep,  help on their homework or class work right here.” (Abbas Hassan)

“More music, dancing, singing, college. Students are bored after school. So they need something to do. If you have these programs then the kids won’t need to do drugs or harmful things like that.” (Jaden Nixon, who transferred out of McClymonds)

“I’m happy with the programs that Oakland has to offer me. I can go to the YMCA on weekends and the Boys & Girls Club on weekdays. They have sports for you to play and they’re very safe. The programs are kind of healthy but you can get good exercise. It keeps the violence away. (Parrish Kendricks)

“Healthy living programs. Not just with eating but when it comes to relationships, violence, and interactions. I want to see programs that will affect the youth like scared straight programs. Also, I want to see more people kids can trust and rely on. Lastly, I want to see more jobs like YEP or Youth Uprising.” (Kaya LaForte)

“I would like to see fun programs. Also educational programs that will help us in the long run. For example, a program that teaches you useful things like how to write a resume, fill out a college application and things like that. I would really like to see tutoring programs also.” (Hailey King)

“We need more fine Arts and Educational Programs because there are a lot of talented kids I know around Oakland that don’t get a chance to show their true talents, and then they get caught up in gangs, drugs, and violence.” (J’Mya Gray-Martinez)

 In Oakland,  I believe we need to provide more programs during school hours so students are forced to go. (Quaylin Wesley)

There are a lot of kids in Oakland with great potential, but usually don’t get a chance to because they get caught up with things they shouldn’t be doing. Having more community programs in Oakland would help most of us be able to express ourselves in different ways.

Ask Naya: stormy relationships

 

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Dear Naya,

The advice you gave me is really great, but there’s one little thing,

My boyfriend cheated on  me  with  my  best  friend, claiming that  they didn’t do anything, but I saw them kiss. OUCH.

Fool that I am, the  next  day I  forgave him because he was the only guy who ever caught my eye.

But he had eyes for other girls — and had the moves too.

Totally Confused

Dear Totally Confused,

Sometimes, it’s worth forgiving the person you love. It’s your move. Not his.

Dear Naya,

My life without him is nothing if he’s not there with  me so  are  you  saying I  should dump  him  and move on? The advice you dish out sometimes confuses me but I know  that  you probably went  through the same thing so  what  should I  do?

Totally Confused

Dear Totally Confused,

What I am saying is that nobody can trust a cheater.  What they say is never true  and they will do anything just to win you back. I’m sorry that my advice confuses you. Just trust that you will make the best decision.

You will find someone special when  you least  expect  it. Te di mi corazo`n para darme la mano para un u`ltimo soporte – Naya

* that means: I gave you my heart so give me your hand for one last stand

Too many murders of youth in West Oakland: McClymonds grieving again

 

macksmackdarvelhousebetter

Willie Gilbert lived in this house in West Oakland— his cousin, also a teen, was shot to death just a year ago.

 

opinion piece by Lee Benson

Students at McClymonds are once again grieving — this time for Willie Gilbert, a former student who liked to shoot hoops and was one of a handful of teens to own a car. Gilbert, who will be buried Friday, died from gunshot wounds 10 days ago at Highland Hospital, with police still trying to determine exactly where the shooting took place.

This is the second murder in 2014 of a student who attended McClymonds. In March, sophomore Denzel Jones was fatally shot in front of the Boys’ and Girls’Club on Market Street,

“It’s a shock because i just seen him not too long ago,” said senior Luckie Lovette. “He was one of the first people I met here, he was a funny dude, he would rap with me and stuff. He was a cool dude. He was a good friend of mine for some years and I’m going to miss him.”

The news of his death spread quickly on Facebook and Instagram. It hit students even harder because of the cumulative effect of the murders of friends in Oakland — including the fatal shooting of a young teenage mother by her brother.

Gilbert was a popular figure. “I knew Willie since middle school,” said Deshawn Nelson, a senior. “It’s just sad to see something like that happen and it’s a shame that he’s gone so soon. He deserved to live life just like the rest of us and someone took his life away from him.”

Lionel Hamilton, a senior at Mack, said, “I was devastated when I heard the news, I didn’t want to believe it but I saw the news and everybody was posting it on Instagram and Facebook. I’ve known him since we were little, he was like a brother to me. I was just with him the other day but it hurts me to know that I will never see him again.”

This shocked me as well. I was asleep when a friend called me with the news early Monday morning. It’s sad because I’ve known him since my freshman year; he was always a goofy person and fun to be around. It’s sad to know that I’m never going to see another one of my friends again.

These situations make you wonder who is going to be next. The entire class of 2014 is dealing with their grieving differently. Some are just letting their emotions show because they can’t help it while others just sit there and try to hold it in. The truth is that we are all hurting from the situation, especially because nobody expected it but you have to allow everyone to grieve in their own way.

“No one expected this at all,” said Lovette. “I guess what they say is true: if you look to your left and look to your right, some of ya’ll ain’t gonna make it. It feels like half my class is already gone.”

 

Why we’re late to school — long commute, need more sleep

lateness

opinion piece

by Nicole Funes

Daily agony: my alarm rings, as I stumble out of bed at 5 a.m. way before the blue jays start to squawk. Shower, dress, quick juice and race five blocks to the bus stop. That run downhill gets my heat beating.

It’s now 6:45 and if I’m lucky I’m on the first of two buses that cross Oakland from East (south) to West (others have to transfer twice). It’s an hour and 20 minute ride and I have to be lucky – the buses have to be on schedule and follow their route without “incident” for me to make it to school on time.

There are a handful of us loyal to the West: we were displaced by gentrification but we identify with West Oakland and its community spirit and “family-like” feel.

Nevertheless, school administrators greet us with curt remarks “Late again?” and stony stares, as though we stopped at the corner store for a chat or overslept.

Anywhere between 12 to 40 students arrive late to school every day, said Will Blackwell, who teaches manhood at McClymonds. Tardiness can affect grades, other teachers said.

It’s clear that we need more sleep and less stress about the commute.

Just look at the newest study: a study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement showed that later start times for high school students are better. The three-year study involved 9,000 students at eight high schools in three states.

Earlier studies in Minneapolis showed that later start times (and more sleep)produced higher graduation rates.

Even McClymonds students recognize that sleep deprivation affects their school work.

“I’m tired and irritated in the morning,” said Kaya LaForte, a freshman at McClymonds, who is an A student but feels she could do more if she were not so tired.

Part of her problem is the long commute. “It can take an hour or more. The bus driver could be making a lot of stops. Some people might have to take 2 more buses, and BART, then have to walk sometime and then might not make it,” she said.

Like others, she often skips breakfast.

She feels targeted when she comes in late. The response to the bus saga at school: “That’s not an acceptable excuse. You need to leave 5 minutes earlier.”

Sleep affects performance, the study showed. More sleep, researchers found,  improves grades and standardized test results.

“We did find that there was statistically significant improvement in their grades in English, math, social studies and science, all the core academic areas,” said Kayla Wahlstrom, director of the University of Minnesota Center and the study’s author. “And we found improvements on standardized tests, like the ACT test.”

The study showed that schools with start times at 7:30 a.m. had just 34 percent of students who reported getting eight or more hours of sleep, while schools with  start times of 8:55 a.m. had 66 percent of students getting eight or more hours of sleep.

Wahlstrom also said coaches told her that the athletes were more able to remember plays and could perform better physically with more sleep.

“It’s easier to get up in the morning when you get enough sleep,” said Anthony Beron, a sophomore who played JV football and is a long distance runner. “When you’re rested, you can run faster, longer and compete harder.”

Eating in class: will we concentrate more?

eatinginclass opinion piece

by Anthony Beron

Some of us come to school hungry, usually because we got up late. It affects our whole day. We can’t concentrate, daydream instead of eating crunchy Doritos or sweet mandarins. So why not let us eat in class?

At McClymonds, students can’t eat in class, said assistant principal Clayton McKinney. His reasons: possible ant or rat infestation; distraction in the classroom.

“Food makes a cleanliness and rodent issue, and it’s distracting for the students. However, we’ve been pretty lenient in the past,” he said. But McKinney acknowledged, “Students should have between four and six meals a day.”

Not so in math teacher Mark Rizkallah’s class. Although Rizkallah could eat in class in his high school in Riverside, California, he supports school rules that prohibit eating in class.He doesn’t eat himself and believes that it distracts from learning. “It’s about who has authority,” he said.

Students disagree with all the reasons for prohibiting food in class. Some teachers eat in class. Students need to eat more frequently and have fewer breaks.

“The food becomes a distraction only when all you’re focused on is trying to sneak a snack,” said Brandon Aninipot, a junior.

In San Francisco, nine high schools and two middle schools have a program called Grab N Go, breakfasts conveniently packaged in bags with all of the components of the meal so students can grab a meal quickly from the cafeteria line or from carts on school grounds. These breakfasts can be eaten in class.

“The Grab N Go Breakfast is one of the best things we offer our students at school,” Mission Principal Eric Guthertz  told The San Francisco Chronicle. “To know that even in the morning rush all of our students can grab a bag, head to class, and have a full belly to begin the day, is powerful.  It is a joy to stand in the hallway greeting each student by saying, “good morning, grab your breakfast and have a great day!”

Food helps teenagers because it strengthens memory, energy levels, and concentration.  Research shows that the brain obtains energy from glucose and that fatty acids strengthen synapses, which are related to memory.  Antioxidants reduce stress by destroying extra oxygen in the body’s cells.  Amino acids — found in protein-rich foods — help concentration and alertness, as well as mood, sleep, and memory.

Because food helps regulate stress, strengthens memory, and provides energy, students should be have the opportunity to eat during the school day more often than just lunchtime.  How can someone succeed in school without remembering what happened in yesterday’s class?

Why “Licks” was powerful: it’s based on a true story

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by Janaya Andrews

It was no ordinary Friday afternoon at McClymonds, as 25 students and community members talked to the Berkeley director who filmed the award-winning “Licks.”  He was with two of the actors, who both grew up in the Lower Bottoms.

The event was organized by Alternatives in Action and featured a panel on “manhood.”

“The movie shifted between humor and sadness and anger,” said freshman Dazhane Labat, who attended the event. “It had moments of redemption; like when the baby is brought to a family to save him from his drug-addicted mother.”

The movie hit home. It actually shows us  teenagers how  life is  in  Oakland and how  things work out; with the realistic scenes of places you know, and dialogue that rings true, you recognize how the  hood works.

The movie follows guy named “D”, as he moves back  to his hometown Oakland where he was charged with robbing a store and wielding a gun.

The most compelling scenes centered on personal relationships. At home with his girlfriend, she told him,”Promise me you wont hit up no more places. His response: baby, look i’m with you now and  she  expresses her doubts and warns him not to bring back his stolen merchandise.”

In his oustside life, friends become more prominent, asking him, “Are  you ready to go make hit this lick.” He answers, “Yea, man let’s go to their approval, “alright that’s my boy.”

Minutes later, they drove to a meat market and went in the store with a black masks on.  Then they  told  the  store clerk to  get on  the  floor;  they held his  head down  on  the  counter making  sure he couldn’t get  a  good  look  at  their faces.

“Licks” touched us all, because of the real hard times we face and the choices we make: the film shows, with  great compassion, that thugs have problems with money and only rob because they are trying to get money for their families.

For Jonathan Singer-Vine, a 24-year-old writer and director who was born  and  raised in Berkeley, California, “Licks” is  his  first feature film. It opened in Oakland’s Parkway Theater in November and won several awards.

He said the film was aimed at 16-year-olds because they will understand how and why the movie was made and its real message.

What Queen Latifah means to us

Queen Latifah

by Selena Williams

She’s big and bossy. And what we like most about her is how she knows how to relate to people — with her touch, her eyes, her music.

To all of us in West Oakland, she’s more than glitter, she’s real.

She speaks her mind. For instance, she supports gays and lesbians, and rode in a pride parade. In her hometown in New Jersey, she offers scholarships to minority students in honor of her brother who died in a motorcycle accident.

“She is like a song that never gets old, like Oprah,” said Janaya Andrews, a sophomore at McClymonds.

She’s been around a long time. Queen Latifah burst onto the scene in 1989, one of three hip-hop artists to receive an Academy Award nomination in an acting category.

From her rap origins, she evolved into an actress, jazz singer and icon of classic good taste, without ever losing her edge. “I’m not that into trends,” she says, for starters. “I do my thing.”

Unlike Wendy Williams and Oprah, she adds comedy and originality to her show.

She’s also a plus-size spokesperson for CoverGirl cosmetics, Curvation ladies underwear, Pizza Hut and Jenny Craig. She represents her own line of cosmetics for women of color with CoverGirl Queen Collection.  Latifah changed the game, becoming a role model  for Black girls in West Oakland.

For those of us who don’t look like Britney Spears or Madonna, Latifah was the artist to follow and relate to.  Black women were no longer  eye-candy in hip-hop or rap videos: they took control of the mic.  Few artists have had a bigger impact on West Oakland youth.

Now Queen Latifah returns to daytime television with a new talk show.

Co-produced by the hip Will Smith, through his production company Overbrook Entertainment, it features the  usual celebrity interviews, hot topics and pop culture tropes and top tier musical acts.

For me, Queen Latifah is an idol who shows me that you can be famous as a musician and successful as a businesswoman.