Category Archives: Sexism

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.

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.

Mack freshman launches her Twitter novel

With a blue-ink pen in her left hand, she glides it across the page leaving behind strange squiggles as her dozen metal bracelets scrape against the worn, wooden table.

The sound is amplified when students drift out of the room like a stream flowing downhill after the first rainstorm.  She is left alone.  Hunched over the desk, Janaya Andrews, 14, freshmen, composes the first 140 characters of her first twitter novel.

“I’m an observer.  Anything that pops into my head I’ll write a story about it,” says Andrews.

Andrews carries a black handbag on her right shoulder.  From there, she pulls out out an old purple composition notebook with pages hanging loose.  She opens it up to the next blank paper and begins to write.

“While I’m in my room listening to Escape The Faith, I’ll write about celebrities, but mix it with fiction.”

And so the twitter novel begins at McClymonds High School:

“As I walked into Mack, MC Hammer was demonstrating the Hammer Time but Destiny dragged me up the littered stairs, away from the joy & chaos”

Dancing Without the Stars: I’d Rather Spike a Volleyball

dancer dancing clip artBy Silvia Cardona-Tapia


Attitude, attitude, attitude. Just take me.  I’m being forced into a class that I don’t like. And it’s not even math or physics. It’s dance and I’m no dancer. In  truth, I’d rather spike a volleyball.This fall, McClymonds created a new policy to place the majority of the girls in a dance class instead of physical education (PE).   A class filled with 15 girls  — some of whom don’t want to dance –can be suffocating.

“The deal was trying to build unity, sisterhood and telling a young lady what they need to know” said Lakeisha Golden, math and dance instructor.

The administration might have made a serious mistake.  Corralling “drama girls” into a small class might not have been the smartest decision.

“They are lucky to be in a class with 15 people instead in a class of 35-40 with me yelling at them,” said Jeremy Namkung, P.E. instructor and vice principal.

But then, who really had a choice? Certainly not I.

The tensions inside the dance class run higher than they would in normal PE.  Drama is in the air.  Past rivals in the same room create a hostile environment. No guys to insert humor in the situation – it’s downright catty.

“We wanted to make it an all-girl class so they would feel more comfortable” said Namkung.

Instead, shouting matches break out between teacher and student, and one student screams at another the words “bitch” “hoe”, “shut the f**k up”, as every curse word in the book flies across the room, faster than a pirouette. And more lethal.

“It’s on them being in the dance class. Those are the same girls that complained and even failed my class,” said Namkung.

For those of us who didn’t complain or fail PE ,this seems a harsh punishment.  Dealing with endless backtalk, shouting matches, and disrespectful comments in the room discourages girls to remain in the class.

However, girls who enjoy dancing just ignore the drama.

“I just like dancing,” said Nia Bell, a junior.

Students face the problem of  an indifferent administation  that discourages the  idea  of transferring out of dance (especially since the vice principal  teaches P.E.).  It became extremely difficult and time consuming for a girl to attempt to switch dance class to PE.

“It depends on the time of the year.  But some manage to switch.  It’s really based on time,” said Golden.

Until I can switch back into P.E., I’ll feel like I’m in a telenovela.

How One Offensive Song Went Viral

By Pamela Tapia

The situation:  five guys, most of them athletes about to play in the football championship game, produce a song called “Fat B******” in Mack’s recording studio, where they are supposed to be making beats. They refer to several girls by name. The song  — with foul language –goes viral.  The girls are angry and hurt. The school administration has to take action.

You’d expect the guys to be suspended. Yes, they were for three school days but NO FOOTBALL GAMES. You’d expect them to have to apologize: yes, they did, in a private letter to the principal, but not publicly, and not directly to the girls.

“Boys will be boys,” is what one girl reported being told before leaving our school. Another girl reported being told, “Well, you girls STARTED it: you yelled at the boys in the hallways, you were disrespectful. This is just tit for tat.” Their answer: “We were direct, and we didn’t embarrass the guys in front of the entire community.”

According to attendance clerk Sam McNeal, all but one of the girls named transferred to other schools.  Before the girls left, they retaliated by creating a song of their own  — even McNeal found it tame –against the boys who created the original song.  “The boys were to supposed to apologize publicly.  I don’t know why it didn’t happen,” said McNeal.

I feel that the lack of real punishment has affected the culture at my school.  Are we saying athletes deserve better treatment? Are we afraid to hurt their chances of getting recruited?  The boys have not made a public apology to all who were affected by the creation and release of the song. That includes me. I may not have been named in the song, but I found it offensive to all women.

Assembly To Address “Profane” Song

Several male students – mainly athletes – will apologize formally at an assembly in the auditorium Thursday November 18th for “a profane song referring to a number of female students by name.”

Principal Kevin Taylor announced the special assemblies that will focus on dealing with sexism similar to that on the campuses of every high school in the country.

Teachers at McClymonds support the open debate.

“It’s good to confront sexism so that we can start a conversation earlier rather than later,” says Ina Bendich, Director of the Law Academy.