Category Archives: Oakland City Council

Will New Gun Laws in Oakland Make Mack School Students Safer?

130114_SCI_Guns_jpg_CROP_rectangle3-largeby Anthony Beron

Will tracking guns reduce violence? Or is this just another unworkable solution?

In Oakland, guns appear and multiply. And get used, over and over again.

At McClymonds, students feel mixed about the effectiveness of proposed assembly bill number 180, sponsored by Rob Bonta, D-Alameda that allows the city of Oakland to pass its own gun regulations. Would it have any impact on the street violence that Mack students witness?

“As younger people in the streets get guns, they don’t wanna settle out a fight with their hands- they just kill with a gun,” declares a solemn-looking Lee Benson.

Gun control remains a major problem in Oakland, especially West Oakland.  Five McClymonds High students and alumni were shot in 2012, which is just a fraction of the 1,594 total shooting victims in Oakland last year.

Three hundred and sixty crimes occur per square mile in the “hella” city, which is 320 above the national median according to the website neighborhoodscout.  The Business Insider ranked Oakland as the second most dangerous city in the United States as of 2012.

“The main problem with this is if we track guns that will just give people another reason to use them more quickly,” argued Kardel Howard, “they’re defiant, and there’ll be more violent if rules and deadlines are forced onto them.”

Others feel that you just do the math. “Less guns means less violence,” said Jacob Miles, Mack senior.  

“’The opponents like to paint it as some unreasonable restriction on gun ownership,’” said California senator Darrell Steinberg to the Sacramento Bee. “’And these bills are anything but. They are drawing a very careful distinction between gun ownership for sport, hunting and even self-defense – versus these guns that by definition fire dozens or hundreds of rounds indiscriminately and kill people.’”

Will restrictions work?  We will see when (if) this new proposed assembly bill is signed by Governor Jerry Brown by October 13th.

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.

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.

Macksmack writers win state high school journalism awards

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Miles Mitchell wins 2nd place in environmental reporting for story on McClymonds garden

Two McClymonds students, senior Romanalyn Inocencio and sophomore Miles Mitchell, have won journalism awards from the California Press Women’s Association.

Mitchell won second place in environmental reporting for a story about the vegetable garden at McClymonds, which appeared in macksmack blog on June 11 2012.

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Romanalyn Inocencio (second from left at a journalism workshop at the Sacremento Bee last fall) wins 3rd place in two highly-contested categories: news and opinion

Inocencio, a senior, won third place in news for a story on changes (new teachers, restorative justice  and added AP classes) at McClymonds that was published in Oaktown Teen Times in January.

She also won third place in opinion for a piece opposing a teen curfew in Oakland.

Why Censorship is F****ng Stupid

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by Khristan Antoine

Like any other art work, journalism has its own beauty and language.  But what happens when that language is simply not enough?  As student journalists, we are handcuffed by rules that say we can’t use certain words like sh*t, p*ss, f*ck, c*nt, c*cks*cker, motherf*cker, and t*ts.

We resort  to using words  that tame the real, strong emotion behind a significant quote even if it was uttered in the heat of the moment: just last week, an ecstatic Lady Warrior, who recently won the OAL championship after 37 years of deadends, said “We f***ing go.” And we had to use asterisks. In some school newspapers, we couldn’t even use the asterisks or the word.

For f*ck’s sake, we can’t even write a review of a rap album because we won’t be able to quote verbatim a decent lyric that portrays the meaning of the song entirely or precisely.

And there are myriad other examples. In an interview with a student for another story, the student talked about how her parents told her to wash the dishes and she sat on her butt and continued watching TV.  After a while, they began to lose their patience and resorted to the language we all know as authoritative.  She heard a loud bang and a scream that pierced the atmosphere.  “Get your fu***ng a$$ up and do the God da*n dishes!”  As she told us, “sh*t just got serious. ”

Cuss words carry the emotion of the person speaking them. They don’t necessarily harm or insult anybody but they make a strong impression. They change the tone of the conversation.

Words were never meant to be “bad.”  Who gets to decide what is acceptable or not? I fuc**ng think words, all kinds of words, are just that:  words. They were designed to fulfill their purpose to communicate  and express emotion.  If a word achieves its purpose, does it cease to be a good word?  What a silly thing to suppose that words are bad or good.

A word is only as good or as useful as its context.  As some may argue, cuss words  detract from the eloquent nature of language, allowing for a lazier approach to social intercourse (you can SAY intercourse, but not the F word).

What censorship fails to address is inequality:  not everyone has access to an education that provides the tools necessary to develop a more extensive vocabulary fit for use in society or even fit for a high school journalism blog.

I  s**t  you not, sometimes words unify and make it easier to have significant conversations — break ups, family showdowns, disciplinary lectures, just plain hurt feelings.

I do not believe “cuss words” should be the only words used in a daily interaction.  There should be a professional level to everything and anything discussed or shared but cuss words unite us all. They’re so basic that there’s no possible miscommunication.

Tougher Gun Laws Now: Stop the Violence

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by Sana Saeed

About a week or two ago, my mom had a close friend whose only child died. She was so depressed and her child was only 18 years old. He was going home after a party when he got shot near his own house. His mother said that he was a good boy and innocent.

Guns were once meant to protect  but now all they do is take away innocent lives.  The Newtown Massacre, Taft High School Shooting, Colorado Theater Massacre,  the list goes on…

Violent and often mentally unstable people, aided by weapons obtained legally or illegally, kill others over a stare, religion, physical appearance, or for no reason whatsoever. Instead of getting into fist fights, they have upgraded to gun fights or shoot outs. During gun wars, innocent people can simply be on the streets, walking: Hiram Lawrence would vouch  for that.

Everyone should care about enacting tougher gun control laws. Why? Because you never know who might get killed next. It could be you or someone you love. Gun control is never an issue until someone you know gets killed.

When a tragedy hits home, in a small, “safe” community in Connecticut, everyone starts talking about working together to make a positive, loving, safe community for all of us. Even the president.

As the days and years go by, these massacres are taking more and more lives and leaving behind scars that may never heal.   As a 15-year-old, I have witnessed many deaths and shoot outs over stupid reasons. That is why I care so much that a person only acquire a gun legally, with a license and through tough licensing procedures.

Most of the authors of the mass shootings and massacres are mentally unstable (Newtown) or  gang rivals (Oakland, or so says the police chief).  It shouldn’t matter if 20 kids die in one day or if one single  kid is murdered in front of his house.  Lives are lost and will never be returned.

Or maybe the problem is that obtaining a gun permit is too easy.  In fact, most of the mass shootings in 2012 were made by legally obtained ammunition and weapons, some including high caliber rifles.

On December 14, mentally ill Adam Lanza drove to school in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot and killed  20 children ( 12 girls and 8 boys between the ages of 6 and 7) plus six adults, his mother and himself.

The mentally ill shouldn’t roam the streets: they need constant medical attention  and should not be free to practice shooting at a rifle range, to buy weapons and to target their victims. Put them on a short leash, please.

Don’t let just anyone take advantage of the second amendment (the right to bear arms). It’s just another excuse to own a gun and to kill.

Why Oakland’s Proposed Graffiti Law Goes Too Far

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by Breannie Robinson

Banksy’s graffiti  — two English policemen kissing, an Israeli soldier getting frisked by a little girl — showing at Art Miami-Basel this week—sells for  as much as $266,000 and it’s political, provocative, and creative expression.

Graffiti, as Banksy and other artists would say, derives its MEANING from the street. Location is central. So would Oakland punish Banksy and the owner of the building on which it is displayed?

A new proposed city ordinance would punish both. It goes too far: it would impose fines on graffiti artists, on their parents if they’re minors, and also on property owners who don’t clean it up. The ordinance would basically make  tagging or graffiti a misdemeanor instead of an “infraction,” which would make it possible to be jailed for displaying graffiti. You must be kidding, jailed for having your property defaced?

Even if it’s an increasing problem in Oakland, (and Nancy Nadel led the move for more punishment, so West Oakland is targeted), why does it make sense for the building owner to be punished for what another person has done? Why should he or she be forced to clean it up or worse, be fined?

I think it’s laudable for Oakland officials to try to control the aesthetics of their city but it’s ridiculous to fine building owners who have no control over the tagging on their property. It might even discourage people from buying property in Oakland.

Graffiti has always been controversial: it can be viewed as “blight” or as “art.” The style of graffiti art can be seen as scruffy, ugly illegal drawings on buildings but in certain areas, graffiti is seen as portraits of real life which enhance a neighborhood’s beauty.

For example, in New York, there are large memoirs on the side of buildings and no one has fined the owners for the art on their walls. In fact, there is a PAID tour of Williamburg, Brooklyn which centers on graffiti.

Many famous graffiti artists who exhibit their art in galleries had their start on city walls: besides Banksy, Blek le Rat (who exhibited at the Tate Modern in London), Konstantin Dimopoulos (who painted Blue Trees in Seattle), Peter Ferrari PLF and Barry McGee, among others.

I wonder if this is another case in which Oakland is overreacting, because  we are in Oakland and “Gang Graffiti”(tagging to show that a block “belongs” or is “territory” for a specific gang)  is seen as threatening to law and order. Whether that is the case or not, punishing the owners of the building is taking things too far.