Category Archives: community activism

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.

McClymonds students lobby and present bills in Sacramento with YMCA Youth and Government

Youth and Government may still be predominantly white but McClymonds and other chapters such as Crenshaw, San Francisco and East LA are hoping to make an impact

By Janaya Andrews

For 16-year-old Khristan Antoine, a senior at McClymonds, it was a taste of what it might be to change the world.

“I learned not to give up when something’s hard and to put up with some judging and prejudice,” she said.

After five days of writing bills, lobbying and debating issues in Sacramento, students from McClymonds said that their five-day experience with YMCA Youth and Government was worthwhile and challenging.

The delegation from McClymonds, led by YMCA’s Erika Walker, has grown from six students to 18 students, the most ever, including 10 sophomores and four freshmen.

The bills they wrote, lobbied for and debated included a proposal to set a minimum age for marriage at 16, to hold gun buybacks twice a year and to require all drivers — not just teens — to have six hours of training behind the wheel and  go through a period of time on a permit.

Antoine said that she joined this program because her leadership teacher Relonda McGhee said it would be a great idea if she  joined Y&G.

The only criticism that McClymonds students expressed centered on the long sessions and strict dress codes (several students bought new “business” clothes).

Despite the restrictions,  students said they bonded with others and learned how to argue and compromise. Daijahnae Labat, 14, a freshman, said that she just  wanted to  try  new  things.

“I liked the team building,” said Dazhane Labat, 15, another freshman. “We learned about how goverment works and all its practices.”

 

Serving up stereotypes

Would quinoa salad (with white bread) represent white people?

Opinion piece

by Nicole Funes

How ignorant of a Catholic girls’ school to honor Black culture by reducing us to fried chicken and watermelon on their menu?

I found it insulting that just 18 miles from West Oakland, in the diverse Bay Area, a group of suburban school girls at Carondelet in Concord decided what to do for Black History Month without looking up a single thing about Black History on the Internet. They just talked about FOOD in the cafeteria. And resorted to STEREOTYPES!!!!

And don’t they have an adviser? Are there no adults involved in menu selection, let alone education?

I think that  those white people were being racist and they didn’t even know what Black History month was about. Their attitude is just too…cavalier.

For instance, if we were in their shoes and had a month to celebrate white history month (as though anyone would REDUCE white history to ONE month of the year)  and we said, “Oh, to honor white people this month,  we’re going to have salad, white bread, olives, and lemonade for lunch. We should put it on our lunch menu!”

And our principal wouldn’t even notice or say anything about it and, then we would go on TV and make fun of their culture like how they do, thinking we barely know their culture or what food they eat, just because it says “white” in front of “history month”, we only have to GUESS what they eat. And then we would have an assembly because peoples’ feelings got hurt, so we just had to apologize: nothing more.  As though, you could just take back words that had inflicted pain.

You would justify your action by claiming ignorance: oh, we just put something to eat this day because we had an assumption that white people eat this food because we might have friends who are white and now we think we are part of the clique!

McClymonds sophomore is fatally shot in front of Boys and Girls Club

denzelphotoposter

The wall at the Boys and Girls Club on Market and 24th Street commemorates Denzel Jones.

photo and story by Anthony Beron

McClymonds high school students were shocked by the shooting in front of the Boys and Girls Club on Market and 24th Streets Saturday night, in which McClymonds sophomore Denzel Jones, 15, was killed along with a 35-year-old man.

“It’s a dangerous corner,” said freshman Jasmine Vilchis. “It makes me think about safety and worry about the killers, still on the loose.”

Vilchis was within earshot of the shooting, and recalls gunshots “ringing in the night, leaving everything silent.”

Spanish teacher Elsa Ochoa described him as having a lot of friends and as a student who presented a reserved resonance. “We’ve lost another youth to violence in Oakland.”

Several grief counselors were available Monday to help students sort out their emotions.

His family asked the public Sunday to help find the gunman who killed him. Police told reporters they have no suspects and no motive yet.

Jones, nicknamed “Beans,” had only attended McClymonds since winter break. He had transferred from Oakland High School and said he most enjoyed math. His sister, Sharda Macon, a psychology major at Laney College,  told KTVU, “We just really need a lot of support right now. It’s hard losing a kid. He’s just a baby.”

Debate coach and journalism assistant Pamela Tapia saw him as a student full of potential and fraught with academic talent, and as someone with a strong work ethic.

“He was genuine, intelligent and mindful. It’s so horrible that he had so much talent that wasn’t harvested; he always turned in the best work and was one of the best students I’ve had.”

In front of the Boys and Girls Club, bystanders stopped to sign two enormous posters and light candles. A huge teddybear and red and white balloons — his favorite colors — also were placed nearby.

“He was hecka quiet,” said freshman Nicole Funes. “He looked smart,  like he was capable of doing good work.”

From a cold Cabrio to a warm Thanksgiving: how the Golden State Warriors saved my life

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By Luckie Lovette

I never imagined it would happen to me: family crisis, homelessness, and living in a cold 1999 white Volkswagen Cabrio for two months. But unlike  633,782 hungry and homeless Americans, I got lucky.

Through the efforts of my school’s after school program and the Golden State Warriors’ basketball team, I won a shopping spree at Lucky’s supermarket in Alameda on Tuesday.

The Golden State Warriors invited my family and me on a unique Thanksgiving shopping spree. The team’s public affairs head interviewed me, putting a huge camera in front of me and two bright lights that blinded my eyes. She asked me questions about how long I’ve been homeless on the street (two months), how does it feel to sleep in a cold car (freezing), and the days of school  I’ve missed due to my situation (10 days).

The interview took place at the Warriors’ practice facility, among posters of basketball players. That’s when I received an invitation from the Warriors to take my family shopping for food.

Two weeks later, I walked into the supermarket, where my last name was on a banner on a Lucky’s shopping cart, which was breath taking.

Former NBA player Lindsey Hunter and Warriors’ cheerleaders guided me through the store and gave my family and me special printed jerseys with our last name “Lovette.” Camera crews and photographers followed me and as well as four other families. Two special checkout registers were reserved just for us. Our items were rung up and we spent time in front of the grocery store taking pictures with NBA star Klay Thompson and traffic anchor and news reporter Sal Castenada from KTVU, which was a big jaw drop for me.

After that happened, I went to my step-mother’s house and gave her all my Thanksgiving food. Besides my grandmother, she has been a central figure in my life since I was a little kid, welcoming me to her house when I was on the streets struggling to find a home. My grandmother recently tossed me of her house and left me homeless with no food or money.

She was moving back in her house and she threw away all of my prized possessions away – my TV, my neck set with my weights, my Nike Elites, my trophies — and left me to fend for myself. I wanted to take the Thanksgiving food to her house but I felt like she didn’t deserve it because of her mean attitude.

My step mom was very excited that I went shopping for her and her kids. She had to make room in her freezer for two 20-pound turkeys, two brown sugar hams, three pies and a big bucket of ice cream. My family and I were nothing but thankful to McClymonds Youth and Family Center care manager Lovell Ruffin Jr. and former youth manager Jareem Gunter for getting me set up with the Warriors and for a great haircut.

Mack Debaters Place (Again) in BAUDL Tournament

photo

by Khristan Antoine

Move over, Warriors. McClymonds has a future in debate.

After a late start (at the end of September), a McClymonds debater has placed in the top 20 in two consecutive debate tournaments.

Danenicole Williams, a freshman, placed 18th out of 120 speakers at the Fall Championships held Saturday at Oakland Tech. Along with her partner, J’Mya Gray-Martinez, the young team came in 15th out of 60 teams in the novice division of the Bay Area Urban Debate League tournament.

“I feel pretty smart,” says Williams, flashing a smile. “I felt more confident in myself because of my experience [in the first debate].”

The collaboration was successful because both debaters worked hard. “We would write out each other’s arguments when we struggled with a point or an argument,” she said.

Martinez came in 24th, less than two points behind her partner. “It’s a great opportunity,” said Martinez, who plays basketball. “Most of my peers wouldn’t find debate interesting, but it’s intense and challenging.”

Martinez studied the evidence at home and wrote out her speeches. She enjoys collaborating with Williams, who has more bravado and a fast-talking style.

“We make it fun, even though it’s hard work,” she said.

In the September Season Opener tournament held at UC Berkeley, sophomore Anthony Beron placed 5th as a speaker. He and his partner Dazhane Labat, a freshman,  placed 24th.

Other debaters include Taeylor Barker, Taliah Scott, Sherry Ross and Ringo Buffin, all freshmen, Kardel Howard, a junior, and Anastasia Walton, a senior.

“This is a promising start for a rookie team,” said debate coach Pamela Tapia. “I expect them to do even better with experience. They’re hungry, motivated and nimble, just like our athletes.”

FLY takes off at McClymonds: boys to men

by Janaya Andrews

A boy calls a girl a b**ch after arguing about rumors going around school.  He grabs his backpack and knocks over a desk in frustration.  Before the teacher can stop him and calm him down, the boy is down the hall fuming in anger, swearing at the walls.

The newest guys-only club at McClymonds — First Love Yourself or FLY — addresses such issues of disrespect toward women, confidence and responsibility in a more social atmosphere than the Manhood class for 9th graders, says Lovell Ruffin Jr. , case manager at Alternatives in Action.

The brainchild of Jareem Gunter, community programs manager, the program was launched to help male students talk about these issues, bond and develop self-respect. So far, about a dozen male students, mostly freshmen, are attending.

 “I need a person I can look up to,” said Hosea Wade, a 9th grader.

The reasons for joining FLY range from a desire to bond with other guys outside of sports teams to a need for a safe place to ask questions and get information.

“Some of the guys don’t know how to tie a tie,” said Gunther. “Others need to  respect girls or women.” The current trend — to disrespect women — began 10 years ago and is reflected in rap music and culture, he said.

Some of the freshmen realize that it’s time to confront sexism. “I want to be in the men group to be more mature than I am now,” said freshman Desmond Crump.  “I want to be more polite towards girls, my parents and any other adults I talk to,” said freshman Quentin Garrett.

So far, the focus has been social. But the three adult leaders have written a pledge they hope to teach club members: to honor themselves, to hurt no one, to build community.