Category Archives: history

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.

“Griots” project comes to McClymonds

mcclymondsgriots

by Jaden Nixon

The “Griots” project made a powerful impact at McClymonds.

“It gave us insight into how Oakland teens think,” said Kaya LaForte, a freshman who saw the exhibit late last month.

“The Griots of Oakland” is the name of a book and an oral history project by five young black men who collected stories of growing up Black in Oakland in interviews with 100 Black  men aged 6 to 24. ‘Griots’ is a West-African word that means storyteller.

“It should be made for the whole school and all of Oakland to see,” said Joseph Sanford, a senior. “It makes me remember about the ‘hood, and what people don’t know about living in a different community and what we do to make it out.”

The project was launched by African American Male Achievement (AAMA), which works to empower young black males, and Alameda Health Care Services Agency created a project to allow young African American males to share their personal experiences. They worked with Story for All to recruit five young men from the ages of 14 to 18 to collect stories.

The young men were taught African American and Oakland history, as well as videography, by the non-profit.

With video cameras and 30 interview questions, the young men hit the streets, interviewed teens at school and captured on video the voices and thoughts of over 100 African American males from the ages of 6 to 24.

Interview questions ranged from “What did you eat for breakfast?” to “What is it like being a young African American man in Oakland?” The answers were sometimes alarming. While nearly 79 percent of boys under 13 said that it was good to be a young black male, 83 percent of those over 13 said that it was hard.

The exhibit at McClymonds included photos, quotes and video clips from the interviews. A book was also published.

However, for some, it is just a reminder of the ordinary. “I’ve seen people get shot. When I see this, I don’t feel anything new,” said McClymonds sophomore Billy Giddens. ” I just go on to the next day.”

griotphoto3

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!

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.

Sneakerheads: the seductive appeal of Jordans

quaylin jordans

opinion piece

by Janaya Andrews

What’s the deal with Jordan shoes: these sneakers are taking over the world and  people will do anything to get them, even if  it  means selling them for money to get a new pair or stealing them when there are other shoes. Lots of other shoes.

You mostly see these shoes more than you see other shoes on people’s feet.

Why this obsession? There are sneakerheads and people are flipping AirJordans and  Foamposites at Sneaker Conventions. You must be kidding? Sneaker conventions?

I guess if they don’t have their designer sneakers,  then they  don’t  feel like they belong. Sad state of affairs, when your friends judge you on the brand of sneakers you wear.

Even sadder that people get shot waiting on line to buy those $1,500 Paranorman Foamposites or $185 AirJordan V Bel Airs. In Wilmington, Delaware and in  Las Vegas, guys camped out to wait for their release, only to be shot.

It doesn’t make you original, only an OG. You are just following  in someone’s footsteps just because you want to be popular or just fit in.

Teens say that they  buy Jordans because “they  look  nice  and  they’re popular,” in the words of freshman Quaylin Wesley.  “They’re expensive and the  main topic to talk about  in  school,” he added.

In West Oakland (and East), they add status. “It says something about how brave you are, how much clout you have, how much nerve you have,”says Yale sociologist Elijah Anderson about the street value of shoes.

But much of the real value is to Nike, and other big brands profiting from the sales of these shoes, turning athletic shoe market into a $21 billion a year industry.  New sneakers may sell for up to  $270 for a pair, all because Michael Jordan and other basketball stars put their name and logo on the shoes. 

Just DON’T do it. Just be you .

Tradition, sports bring freshmen to McClymonds

AlaydriannaJones

More studious? Freshman Alaydrianna Jones hunkers down in the library.

Photo By Jasmine Moody

by Anastasia Walton

They’re not the targets of balloons full of honey and feathers.  Instead, praise is heaped on them.  So far.

The new freshman class at McClymonds is larger than last year’s, more committed to academics (and sports) and punctual, according to teachers and administrators.

 “For freshmen,  they have a great habit of being on time, but what I need to see is more focus and less immaturity,” said PE teacher Jeremy Namkung.

There are  90 freshman at McClymonds this year, 10 more freshman than last year, says principal Tinisha Hamberlin.  A small group of 25 freshman who had to  attend summer school at McClymonds as eighth graders got an early feel for the “School of Champions.”

The reasons for enrolling at McClymonds range from family tradition to excellence in sports. Although McClymonds has a stronger STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, it was not an apparent factor for students in choosing McClymonds, says Katherine Hall, STEM teacher.

“I chose to come to Mack because it’s close to home and it has the best sports records,” said Rayshawn Lawrence, who attended Westlake Middle School and plans to play football as a Warrior.

For some, tradition goes back several generations. “So far I like Mack, it is not as bad as people try to make it seem,” said Tonisha  Smith, who attended Westlake Middle School last year, “I came to Mack because my grandmother came here.”

For others it was a matter of logistics, mainly commuting. “I had no choice in whether or not I was attending Mack or not. My mom made me come here since it was close to home, but so far I really love all my new teachers and the new friends I have made here, ” said Tatyana Jones.

Freshmen enthusiasm has spread to those who work with them. Head of security Donald Mann  said that he has to talk to 85% of the freshman class about adjusting to the demands of high school. He says this is not unusual because freshman are used to their middle school’s immature ways. He labeled this class  “one of the best freshman classes I’ve seen in 15 years.”

 

What China Taught Me: Discipline, Roots, Openness

KhristanChinapagodaphotos by Khristan Antoine

by Khristan Antoine

Extreme is the word that sums up my experience of China: extreme numbers of people, vast expanses, cluttered skylines, extreme smog.

I had never traveled outside the US, not even to Canada or Mexico. I didn’t even own a suitcase. Then I was selected as one of 13 African -American students from the East Bay to travel to the world’s mightiest country, without a clue about language, culture, or history.

On a trip organized by East Oakland Youth Development Center and China-U.S. Study Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), three McClymonds students, Umiika Rose, Brandon Vonderwerth  and I experienced China in all its complexity.

We travelled with photographer Nicka Smith and EOYDC director Regina Jackson as part of a movement to bring more African American students to China.

There was more study than tourism. Every morning, we had lectures by professors and college students on culture, history, traditions,  and economics. The day we landed, we checked into the hotel, took a shower, got dressed for a greeting dinner. We were welcomed with a dinner with varied foods and Peking duck. They prepared welcome signs, greeted us with smiles and an introduction; the Chinese delegates gave brief speeches and we all broke into conversation (through our translators) and ate.

Our first day set the tone and pace of our stay: we went to Beijing foreign studies to attend our first lecture (we had 8 lectures and three Mandarin classes.

The most memorable moments were when we could explore the city, as tourists. We walked through Tiananmen square and the forbidden city. I enjoyed walking up the Great Wall (I wouldn’t say it was easy at all as it was a challenge climbing the uneven stairs and walking up the steep hills).

As we toured, the reaction of people in the street was to stop, stare, and snap.

The biggest surprise for me was seeing the same deep divide between the rich and the poor in China that we know all too well in the United States.