by Victoria Valenzuela
My life as a LATINA in a African American high school is not the easiest, but it’s not that bad. I grew up in the streets of San Bernardino County, and I moved to Oakland, California when I was nine because my mom wanted a change for us. My older sister’s Dad used to beat her.
I started at McClymonds high school in West Oakland, where I am one of the two Latinas in the school .
Everyone thinks I am Mexican but I’m mixed: Puerto Rican , Sicilian and Mexican. Most of my life I grew up around mostly Mexican Americans, so starting here is a big change for me. I have a history class and they don’t talk about my culture at all, but mainly about African Americans like Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King.
I started at La Raza Studies after school program at Fremont high school on the east side of Oakland in order to learn more about my culture.
I loved learning more about my history — how we worked for our freedom and the threats of deportation and hard labor — but I also got into many fights and had been jumped several times for being a Surena, dressed in blue in a rival area.
In a sense, coming to Mack has taken me out of the gang scene that divides Latinos in Oakland.
They told my mom that I brought gang affiliation to the school. They told us that it’s not tolerated here and they threatened me with possible expulsion.
Affiliation is different than membership. To become a member, a girl has two choices: they can get passed around until they are done with them , or they can get jumped in by the leaders of the gang through a fight.
I started with the Surenos because my parents were both gang members. My mom raised herself and used to fight a lot. She is my role model, my inspiration because of her struggles and kindness to others. My Dad is in prison in Tehachapi for armed robbery and drug dealing.
My Mom doesn’t approve of my “blue” and took away my Cortez (Nike shoes that represent the hood I’m from), my blue belt, my blue rosary, my blue rag, grey and white dickies. She even took the blue laces off my black Converse.