Category Archives: Gangs

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.

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

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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.”

Ink of Art

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By Luckie Lovette

For most students at McClymonds, tattoos represent overcoming trauma or celebrating memory. The tattoos range from symbols like ankh to dates, names of loved ones or flowers.

Ask any student at McClymonds why he or she decided to get a tattoo and the responses range from remembering loved ones to celebrating newborns.

As for its legality, none of the students knew that in California, it is illegal for anyone under 18 (with or without parental permission) to get a tattoo. Most Mack students have had their tattoos done by friends or at tattoo parlors that cater to minors.

There’s nothing new about tattoos. Look at Japanese art and you’ll see warriors with tattoos of their battles or Polynesian tribes where the word tattoo derives from tatus.

Tattoos are trendy today, especially among teens.  With or without parental permission, some kids sneak out and get tattoos, hiding them with long sleeve shirts.  Or it could be a simple “ink hook up.”  In most cases, people preferred their name or that of their loved one to be inked on their body. People chose to get their arms, hands or shoulders designed in special cursive letters, graffiti letters, or fun letter and number fonts.

Gradually, tattoo lovers started exploring new ideas.

However, most students says they have been discriminated against and profiled because of their body art; adults think that a person who has a large tattoo must be affiliated with gangs and violence, which is not true for most people. Some argue that it’s just art, and not prison related.

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Monte Smith, a senior

Smith says his arm tattoos represent “Family, reminiscence, lost loved ones and prosperity.”

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Jermaine McCaints, a senior

Says his tattoos represent “Family”, with special colors of roses, which cost over $300 “Family is important to me because we all stick together as one,” said McCaints.

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Lavance Warren, a junior

His tattoo reads: “Rose.” He dedicated his art to his grandmother to remember her.  “I got my tattoo to remember my grandmother for making a big impact on my life,” said Warren.

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Luckie Lovette, a senior

His tattoo reads “1800”. Which is the block of 18th street and Linden.  “It’s home,” said Lovette.  Although the tattoo is designed in a style of a gang banger, it was transformed to remember his childhood home. “It give an appearance of an illusion to make people think twice what am I?” said Lovette.

DSCF2422Erin Nicholson, a senior

Her tattoo reads “De’miyah” which is the name of her niece.

“She’s my love, she’s my first niece, and she’s my little angel. I got her name tatted so I can remember her everyday,” said Nicholson.

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Jonae Scott, a senior

Has a tattoo of her niece’s name “Ja’dore.”

“It means I own my skin, and I love my niece, she means everything to me,” said Scott.

DSCF2421Shamiela Watkins, a senior

“It just simply means a symbol of life,” said Watkins .

“Some get tattoos for the heck of it but I got mine to enjoy the quality of a positive life,” said Watkins.

“It didn’t hurt as much, but it was worth the cost,” said Watkins.

Pass the Peace: Why I Embrace Non-Violence

Shamarray Ross, incoming freshman at McClymonds, gathers peace pledges in preparation od Saturday's event

Shamarray Ross, incoming freshman at McClymonds, gathers peace pledges in preparation of Saturday’s event

by Jonae Scott

I have experienced violence and force first-hand in West Oakland, a community in which my roots run deep. I’ve been shot (two years ago during a peaceful vigil for an older friend who was gunned down) and in April, my parents were arrested, and then released, during the raid of the Acorn housing project.

It was traumatic to have federal agents burst into my apartment with guns, assault rifles and flash bang grenades, handcuff my parents and brother, and throw my family’s possessions around.

Because of these experiences, I need to be involved, even to lead any activity to bring peace to West Oakland. The “Pass the Peace” event this Saturday will mark the first time I take action myself. It was time.

It’s important for youth to let their voices be heard. Take Shamarray Ross, a freshman at McClymonds. She says, “It’s time for youth to make it better. Nobody else is.”

And she’s right.

We are making peace pledges at the event at McClymonds this Saturday from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. Sponsored by the Alliance Recycling, the event is called “the Spirit of West Oakland” because we want everyone in the community to join us.

Like my peers, I was distressed to read The San Francisco Chronicle story, that noted that since 2002, the number of African-American men killed on the streets of Oakland nearly matched the number who graduated from public high schools ready to attend a state university.

So distressed that I’m taking action. I demand an end to gun violence in my community.

Bloody month of June: too much violence in Oakland

The crazed man who has yet to be found is seen standing over one of his victims as he continues to fire off shots before turning on the young man below him.

by Jacob Miles

opinion piece

No teenager can feel safe in Oakland nowadays.

Just a few days after McClymonds dropout and homicide victim Darvel McGillberry was buried, violence erupted again in Oakland. Another teen was killed: 17-year-old David Manson Jr. in front of a store in  East Oakland during the daytime.

A second shooting occurred at a sideshow frequented by high school students.

A third incident — a triple shooting– took place outside a downtown nightclub which McClymonds students have frequented.

“In front of a store, at a sideshow, in front of a nightclub, no place is safe,” said Desire Combs, a senior at McClymonds.   “I think this is ridiculous: we should be able to feel safe everywhere in  our own city,” she said.

That’s not the case in Oakland, where the violence is on the rise. In just one weekend, one person was killed, 11 wounded in seven separate shootings capped by the triple shooting outside a downtown nightclub, police  said.

That incident took place in heavily patrolled, gang-neutral, downtown area, when a gunman opened fire on a group of people outside The Shadow nightclub at 13th and Webster. Two women and a security guard suffered non-life threatening wounds and the gunman remained at large, police said.

Lee Benson, a junior at McClymonds, said that he’s been to The Shadow a few times and always had a premonition that something bad might happen in that area. “A lot of the wrong people end up there,” he added.

This week, teens left flowers, candles and  you’ll-be-missed cards at the 9100 block on International Boulevard, where David Manson Jr. was killed about 1:45 p.m. Sunday. He was Oakland’s 43rd homicide victim this year.

Students at McClymonds who live in East Oakland knew Manson, who attended Oakland High School in June 2011.

“David was cool and it’s real sad how they shot him like that in daylight; he didn’t do nothing to nobody,” said Monte Smith, a junior.

What has been the police response? A vow to crack down on sideshows. What about community outreach, more activities for youths, such as new libraries and also community recreational places to hang out at.

Unless politicians and police develop a real plan, this is the start of a very bloody summer.

Popularity and Dangers of Sideshows: Will Latest Police Crackdown Work?

by Lee Benson

After three people were shot at an East Oakland sideshow last weekend, Oakland police said they would crack down, once again, on the long-standing popular phenomenon, which inspires rap lyrics such as Macaroni Time by Chief Keef.

It’s clear from interviews with students at McClymonds that as dangerous as sideshows may be, they attract youths because they feature drag racing, stunts such as donuts, souped up cars, and rowdy crowds. “It’s dangerous but exciting,” said James Smith, a junior. “And then there’s not much else to do at night in West Oakland,” said Kelton Reynolds, a sophomore.

Even community workers agree. Olis Simmons, president and CEO of Youth Uprising, told reporters that  youths in Oakland need positive alternatives to sideshows, but she does not have the resources to keep her neighborhood youth center open past 8 p.m.

In West Oakland, the city recently finished building a youth center on Market Street, but lacks the $190,000 for programming.

Alternatives In Action staff member Shelley Smith feels there are many alternatives, until 6 p.m. at the youth center at McClymonds.  “Kids have many different options of activities to do afterschool.  Some play games like pool and air hockey, some go to the studio and record music, and some chill and eat snacks.”

At night, however, there are no alternatives, community workers say. “(We need) to actually think creatively like some of our sister cities like  San Diego and think about other ways that we can actually redirect this energy,” Simmons said.

Energy does flow at sideshows. Spinning cars whirr, the rubber of tires burn, and crowds cheer. 

The chaos can be scary, students said. Tyanna Jackson, a senior at McClymonds High School says that, ” I have been to one on International but I will never go again. Side shows are crazy, cars are in the intersection doing donuts and often there is at least one person who is injured or worse. At this one, people began to shoot at each other.”

Most sideshows are impromptu. They move to another area if police appear, even West Oakland, which is smaller and easier to patrol than East Oakland, says Jacob Miles, a junior. “I went to a side show on 12th and Adeline, and somebody started shooting like ten minutes into the show,” he said.  “Everybody ran and that was my last time going to a side show.”

Students would prefer not to have to run. Desean Nelson, a junior at McClymonds High School said,” It doesn’t make any sense that people can’t just go to an event and have fun without having to worry about getting hit by bullets.” He added,  “The world that we live in is getting too sick and this unnecessary violence needs to stop.”

In the meantime, Oakland interim police Chief Sean Whent announced several strategies, including having police and CHP officers at popular spots for sideshows. Police launched a similar crackdown in 2010, increasing fines and ticketing spectators. It was unsuccessful.

McClymonds students grieve, again

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file photo of house belonging to the family of Darvel McGillberry

By Lee Benson

McClymonds students are still reeling from two separate murders of teens in Oakland. Many sought grief counseling at school this week after the homicides of a McClymonds drop-out and of a well-liked basketball player from a rival school.

The 17-year-old high school basketball player, identified as Olajuwon Clayborn, was fatally wounded in a double shooting Sunday night in East Oakland, police said. Nicknamed “Tutu,” he was remembered as a great basketball player and popular student by McClymonds basketball players.

Denzel Bellot, a senior, said, “He was a good friend, and he was like a brother to me”.

The shooting took place near his home at about 10 p.m. Sunday in the 8600 block of Dowling Street.

Police said Clayborn and a 22-year-old Oakland man were standing on the sidewalk when someone approached them on foot and shot them both. The gunman fled on foot.

Another person at the scene drove Clayborn to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:26 p.m. The man injured in the shooting was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was treated and released.Police said they don’t have a motive, and no arrests have been made.

Clayborn was a senior at Castlemont High School who transferred from Berkeley High this year, said Oakland Unified School District Spokesman Troy Flint. Flint also said Clayborn played on the basketball team.

A few hours earlier, a 19-year-old man fatally shot about 6:30 p.m. Sunday inside a house in the 2900 block of West Street in West Oakland. He was identified as former McClymonds student Darvel McGillberry, 19, of Oakland. It was not clear if he lived in the house or nearby.

Police found McGillberry after neighbors reported gunfire. He died later at a hospital. Police don’t have a motive for the killing and no arrests have been made. Officer Leo Sanchez said police believe there were people with McGillberry inside the house when he was shot, but that they left before police arrived.

The murders shocked Mack students. “This madness needs to stop,” said Luckie Lovette, a junior. He added, “Young black males are getting killed left and right, day and night, which is just awful.”

Lovette said he saw grief counselor Charles Washington to talk about his reactions to the two murders. “It’s just one after the other, over and over.”