by Anthony Beron
High asthma rates, diesel fumes from the Port of Oakland, pollution from four freeways near McClymonds High School. Add another environmental concern for students: climate change.
A March 23 workshop organized by Oakland Climate Action Coalition — which hopes to lure McClymonds students and other youths — will address the preparation and survival skills needed to address climate change for West Oakland residents.
“We don’t want to label ourselves as victims,” says Myesha Williams of the Rose Foundation, one of the event’s organizers. “We want to prepare ourselves as a community, to use our resilience, and share our resources.”
Several McClymonds students expressed interest in the issue and the day-long workshop. “Global warming impacts my future and my health,” said Brandon Von Der Werth, a junior. “I know that people suffer from asthma and we need to improve air quality.”
Lee Benson, also a junior, agreed that education and preparation were central to dealing with the environmental inequalities in West Oakland. “I want to stay healthy and help others,” he said.
Global warming’s consequences are prevalent in our biome, including West Oakland.
West Oakland is OCAC’s current main concern, because of its susceptibility to flooding.
“West Oakland is below sea-level, and is extremely prone to flooding,” said Williams.
That, combined with poor air quality have inspired Mack students to speak out. This would not be the first time McClymonds students were involved in environmental activism. When McClymonds was divided into small schools, its Law Academy explored pollution in West Oakland. Its students testified about diesel fumes before state and federal boards. The testimony helped change the rules about retrofitting trucks running on diesel fuel.
A four-year project by students in the Law Academy at McClymonds found that metal particles were present in the air surrounding the school community. They took their findings to local media and eventually, they got the attention of Nancy Nadel, West Oakland’s City Council Representative. With her support, a number of city agencies, including Police, Fire, Code Enforcement and City Attorney came together and conducted investigations regarding Custom Alloy Scrap Sales compliance with environmental regulations. Their findings determined that CASS was in violation of a number of regulations. Although CASS has taken steps to correct a number of the violations, they are actively seeking to move their location away from the residential neighborhood, where they have conducted business for more than 25 years.
After pressure by local groups, CASS was trying to relocate to vacant industrial land next to the former Oakland Army Base.
Some of the same issues — injustice, public health, equity and lack of resources — are in play in the battle against global warming as in the community fight against pollutants from a smelter, said Williams. “It’s time to start to take care of our community and its future.”
A Lesson in Restorative Justice: Mack Students Do the Teaching
by Pamela Tapia
Strange sight. The tables were turned at Mack last week.
Judges received a lesson on restorative justice from McClymonds students last Friday.
The 15 students opened “the circle” with agreements about trust and honesty. Senior Amber Hill read a quote by Maya Angelou (“if we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die”) as students related it to violence in their lives. The judges from Hayward, Richmond, Chicago, and a Mack graduate, all former prosecutors, looked astonished at the students’ analyses of the quote.
After the circle ritual, the judges praised the students as thinkers and reminded them about the need for more people of color to become attorneys.
As the demonstration of restorative justice came to an end, students who take part in the REAL HARD program escorted the judges to the Malcolm X room where the judges shared the life experiences that led them to become judges and attorneys.
Most Mack students paid particularly close attention to the Mack alumna (class of 1972), Alameda Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte, who moved from Mississippi to Oakland during the civil rights movement as a teen mom.
“You cannot use discrimination as an excuse (for not trying harder),” she told the group. “I know: I lived through it.”
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Posted in Alumni, College, Commentary, Justice, Law Academy, Racism, restorative justice, School News, small schools, success, Youth
Tagged Justice, Maya Angelou, restorative justice, trust honesty, violence, youth