Category Archives: Immigration

Winning students’ films explore Black Panthers and homelessness

By Anthony Beron

A 17-year-old Skyline sophomore’s video based on an R & B song by Moria Moore that uses footage of the history of Black Panthers won the Judges Award last week at  Project YouthView.

Lily Yu, a Chinese immigrant who plays jazz bass, created the R&B film Limitations, which revisits the Black Panther Party’s lasting presence in West Oakland.  She won a $500 cash prize, a Kindle and and a private screening of her film and luncheon at the Dolby studios in San Francisco.

Organized by Alternatives in Action, Project YouthView, which took place last Thursday at the Alameda Theatre in Alameda, screened films by nine finalists. “Human,” a film by Fremont High School graduates Andy To and Dara So, which tells the story of a local homeless man, won the Audience award.

For Yu, film was a new venture. “I really love music,” Yu says, “I’m in my school’s jazz band. I had just started in film, and I didn’t know much about it, so I decided to do a music video.”

Since filming Limitations, she’s contributed to three videos for KQED chronicling the Oakland dropout crisis.

The Skyline High School student came to film through the Bay Area Video Coalition, or BAVC, a group that organizes classes, events, after-school programs, and resources to help students. Yu found her inspiration in BAVC member, Moria Moore, who has since moved to Los Angeles.

“[Limitations] talks about African- Americans, and it came from Moria Moore’s album, History in the Streets,” Yu says. “I used found footage from documentaries about the Black Panthers, and I decided to focus the video on that. You’ll see [Moore] in the spots that the Black Panthers were in many years ago,” she told Oakland Magazine.

Yu said she did not show her family the video until it was completed, as it was so different from anything she’d created before. “I didn’t know if they’d understand,” she said. But they did.

Her BAVC mentors helped her shape her story. ” I had to write out locations for each shot—‘Where do I imagine this part of the song?’”

In and Out of Shadows: A Play About Undocumented Youth Hits Home

Felix and his momHomero Rosas plays Juan Two

by Romanalyn Inocencio

Watching In and Out of Shadows at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco was like sitting in my living room listening to my Mom. The Filipina mother in the story threatened like my mother, giving you a choice of what household instrument you can get hit with.

It hit home because I’m Filipina and these life stories — focused on fears about the police, stress over grades and college — reflect the anxieties of my undocumented cousins and friends.

Some significant details are different of course. The stories of crossing the border into the United States from Mexico, when one kid had to be drugged because he could not learn his fake name,and another had to crawl through the sewers, are harrowing.

The musical builds on a familiar theme: college application.  In it, the undocumented teens are preparing their personal statements for an AB 540 conference at UC Berkeley (AB 540 allows DREAMers to attend California colleges at in-state rates).

 We meet Angel, who arrived in the US alone via a sewer when he was 13. And Juan who, as a determined six-year-old, had to be drugged with cough syrup during the crossing because he adamantly refused to take his cousin’s name as his own. We watch a newly urbanized “vato loco” (crazy dude in Spanish) teaching an undocumented Chinese friend how to speak street Spanish.

Running through the entire musical is the fear of deportation. Many families in the  play  have deceptive status – undocumented parents who lie to their children about their papers (often telling their children they have papers, when they don’t)  and who live in constant fear of separation.

Even under AB 540 or President Obama’s recent two-year deportation deferral program for certain undocumented youth, students who get to stay may suddenly be left alone with nobody to take care of them. The diverse group of young actors, many whom are directly affected by the issue, mix English, Spanish, Tagalog and other languages as they examine the unwieldy human effects of this messy political issue.

When Young Actors Tell Their Real Stories On Stage

inandout3dreamergrilsinandoutfilipinoactor 

photographs by Breannie Robinson

by  Breannie Robinson

“This is my real life,” said actress Deanne Palaganas, a 25-year-old who plays a Filipino mother who is arrested by police and jailed for not having her papers.

The actress talks about the prejudice she encounters, the judgments of people not accepting her because she has no papers even though she pays taxes.

Palaganas portrays an immigrant and single mother from the Phillipines in Gary Soto’s newest play, Living In and Out of Shadows, which played last month at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.

To write his play, Soto read through the harrowing experiences of immigrant teenagers, gathered through interviews conducted by the Marsh Youth Theatre actors, living in Richmond and Pinole, and wove them together in an intricate compilation of stories and songs.

Palaganas herself was an undocumented teen, forced to live in secrecy even while attending college.

Like Palaganas, many of the actors were telling their own stories on stage. Others were portraying people they had interviewed.

The play refrains from stereotyping the immigrant look and experience.  Soto said his biggest fear was not including enough ethnicities, which is why he added a Chinese teen and added the stories of several of the Marsh Youth Theater’s undocumented actors from Canada, the Phillipines, and Mexico.

This is most noticeable when a young Chinese girl addresses the point, saying “they think only Mexicans and Latinos know the way [across the border] but we Chinese know the route, too. ” In the play, her Chinese family takes a plane ride to Peru, travels from Peru to Mexico and then crosses the Mexican-US border illegally.

Several of the interviews with Marsh Youth Theatre actors made it into the play, including a story from a young man who migrated to the U.S. illegally but told Soto,  “because I’m white, they don’t bother me.”  An Indonesian girl found it frustrating to have people refer to her as Chinese or Mexican.

Besides adding cultural diversity,  Soto made sure to include real details: for instance, a young boy had to re-cross the Mexican-American border through an underground sewer pipeline after he was caught by ICE the first time when trying to cross through the desert with his uncle.

Palaganas said her character reminded her much of her own mother, loud and passionate, outspoken and prone to alternating between rapid or soft Tagalog but never a mixture. “For many of us, this is our story,” she said.

“I’m allowed to stay here because Obama let me,” said Palaganas.”Not many Filipinos are open.  They train their kids to maintain their reputation, to say they have papers,” said Palaganas.

“To them [American-born] we are aliens,” said Palaganas.  She criticized the U.S. government for accepting taxes from undocumented immigrants, but refusing to acknowledge their contribution or pay any benefits. As for undocumented parents, “They tell us we have to act normal, act American,” said Palaganas, who was accepted to UC Irvine and San Francisco State but could not get a scholarship because she was undocumented.

“You just try to live your life normally and don’t tell nobody your status,” says Louel Senores, who plays Felix, the articulate, dancing, rapping Filipino high school student and activist in In and Out of Shadows.

Senores’ story is a bit different: he received his papers in 8th grade. He was able to attend UC Berkeley from which he graduated with a degree in engineering  For him, the challenge was professional: how to portray a jock when he was trained as a ballet dancer.

Although not in the script, he added his own line about being gay because he wanted to include LGBT in the production, as they are among undocumented youth.

“Filipinos from the islands are more conservative, they are not very open to homosexuality,” said Senores. 

After spending time with undocumented cast members, Senores feels fortunate. “I am an immigrant but I got my papers.  I didn’t think of it.  I didn’t realize they had it that hard.  That’s some f***ed up shit,” he added

“It was just a role but it makes you care,” said Senores. “As soon as you know someone who is going through that,  you care.”

Culture Keepers: New Focus, New Faces

by Khristan Antoine

West Oakland, watch out. With an eye toward gentrification and changes, local youths may be asking questions, lots of questions. They will be the new participants in Culture Keepers, a program based at McClymonds High School.

In its third year there, Culture Keepers will expand, targeting more kids and focusing more on cultural identity than on tutoring. And participants will be encouraged to be curious, too. They will look at changes between West Oakland of the 1940’s and the newly gentrified neighborhood.

“I see Culture Keepers being a fundamental component to shifting how people in West Oakland. particularly youth, feel about themselves,” said Kharyshi Wiginton, director of Culture Keepers.

Culture Keepers is  a tier mentoring program that allows high school and middle school youth to mentor elementary kids in West Oakland, instilling a sense of identity, cultural awareness and pride.

The program is shifting its primary focus from academic support to character development and community engagement. Instead of researching their family tree, students will study changes in West Oakland.

“There is the tradition of keeping the culture,” Wiginton said.  The program began this month with three returning students and plans to recruit 40 more. They will mentor younger students at West Oakland Middle, Hoover, Westlake and Lafayette schools.

Culture Keepers’ primary project this year will be to create a living time capsule.  Students will look into the history of West Oakland from the 1940’s and compare it to the modern census. They will collect data and analyze it.

“Due to gentrification, we want to know what the population looks like now and how jobs have changed,” said Wiginton.

So far this year, Culture Keepers has no funding and will seek a grant from the Alameda County Health Department, she added.

This week, Mack students were involved in discussions about what parts of the program worked in the past and what didn’t work.

“History is like a compass. It tells us where we have been so we can know where we are going. Hopefully, Culture Keepers will help us return to a legacy and tradition of greatness, “said Wiginton.

Mack students learn about resistance, struggle and dance

By Pamela Tapia

Askari York swayed to the beat of African drums. At the emotional intelligence workshop, Taylor Murray learned that the love you receive as a baby can affect your entire life.  ‘It gave me new ways to help my friends,” said Murray.

Focusing mostly on activism, immigration, leadership and hip hop, twenty students from McClymonds joined several hundred students from around the Bay Area to participate in the tenth annual Ethnic Studies Conference on the UC Berkeley campus Wednesday.

The conference included workshops on the history of walk outs, the Aztec calendar, mass exodus of black people from the bay to suburbs, and creation of social groups like the Black Panthers and Brown Berets.

It opened with a bang. To the beat of drums, UC Berkeley students, wearing authentic traditional Aztec ritual costumes, with colorful feathered headdresses bells around their ankles, performed traditional Aztec dances.

Asian students played synchronized instruments like the gong and drums. The ceremony concluded with Northern African drumming., during which York was invited on-stage by one of the African performer to beat the drums and to dance a few steps of traditional African dancing.

“That’s my people,” said York after returning to his seat exhausted.

Following a workshop on the brief history and organization of major walkouts in East Los Angeles during the 60s, a class of UC Berkeley students walked out of their classrooms and poured into the streets with signs, shouting chants and making demands for “education for all.”

Another Kid Shot — Nobody’s Safe

When a nine-year-old, interested in meeting a congresswoman in Arizona, is killed near her local Safeway supermarket, it makes me feel like you can’t trust people or go anywhere and feel safe.

The person who committed this horrible crime should be punished because there is no excuse for them to take innocent lives.

Terranisha Nathaniel, senior

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Why Guns Should Not Be Allowed

The shooting in Arizona that left 6 dead including a federal judge,
congressional aide, and a 9-year-old girl is a perfect example as to
why guns should not be allowed to the public.
Some people believe that the second amendment to the constitution
gives them the right to carry guns.  I believe that this is a
misinterpretation.
People should have no right to guns unless they are soldiers fighting
for their country.  For those who argue that guns are a form of
protection, they should know if there weren’t guns in the possession
of criminals, there wouldn’t be a need to purchase guns for
protection.
I think it’s great that a pizza place in Tucson banned guns. That’s a
beginning.

Lisa Boyakins, junior, McClymonds

Lisa Boyakins, junior, comments about Arizona shooting