Category Archives: toxins

EcoCool: Why Some Mack Students Bike to School

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by Lee Benson

His gold bicycle shines in the sunlight, as Shaquan “Sip” Washington locks it outside of McClymonds High School. He is one of only a handful of students and teachers who ride their bicycles to school. “It’s not just eco-friendly, it’s practical,” says Washington.

Today is different: no lock, so the sophomore rolls his Schwinn inside and parks it in Officer Humphrey Garret’s office on the second floor.  In West Oakland, where Bikes 4 Life founder Terry Coleman helps kids fix bikes on 7th Street and sometimes organizes Rides for Peace, bicycles take on a different meaning: they are cheap transportation but they can also be also dangerous.

Two bicycle riders were robbed near West Oakland BART on May 8 (and blogged about it).

Just six weeks ago, McClymonds student Frenswa Raynor was riding his bicycle near the downtown area when police mistakenly identified him as a robbery suspect. He was shot in the jaw.

And there are plenty of bicycle thefts. Just a few months ago, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon broke up a major stolen bicycle ring. Police say most of the stolen bicycles are sold at flea markets in Oakland.

So why do McClymonds students (and teachers) ride their bicycles to school? Necessity or style?

“I ride my bike to school everyday because my parents work and do not have enough time to drop me off at school,” says Washington.

For Rahquille”Roc” Jackson, a sophomore at McClymonds, “it’s way more convenient than walking.”  He adds, “I live down the street.”

For Kelton Reynolds, another sophomore at McClymonds, it’s a way to stay in shape. “As a varsity football player, I look for ways to exercise and strengthen my muscles. This is as effective as me running the track around the football field.” Long term substitute teacher Michael Curry claims that ,”I ride my bike to school occasionally because gas prices nowadays are too high to drive to school everyday.”

Billy Stevens, a freshman on the McClymonds basketball team says that it has double benefits for him, too. “I ride my bike to school because I need to save money and I can get my exercise as well.”

Not all students agree. Luckie Lovette, a junior at McClymonds, prefers to walk. “It’s better exercise and I don’t have to worry about where to park it.”

Is My Lipstick A Lethal Weapon?

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Danny Sola, senior, applies Jordana Squeeze ‘n Shine “I hope my brand’s not toxic.”

by Sana Saeed

Lipstick makes your lips silky and bright. It may even make you feel more feminine.

But it may be hazardous to your health.

So says the latest study by University of California at Berkeley researchers, who found metals in every one of 32 lipsticks and lip glosses like Burt’s Bee that they tested. These metals included lead, cadmium, manganese and chronium, which are used as color additives.

“It scares me that (metals) are getting in my skin,” said Danny Sola, a senior.

In a small study published last week, researchers asked teenage girls to hand over their lipsticks and glosses and tested them for toxic metals, including lead and cadmium.

Even though the metal content was different for each brand, researchers found that women who apply lipstick two to three times daily can ingest a significant amount—20 percent of the daily amount that’s considered safe in drinking water or more—of aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and manganese.

Women who slathered it on (14 times a day or more) met or surpassed the daily recommended exposure to chromium, aluminum, and manganese.  Lead, a metal that humans should avoid, was detected in 75 percent of the samples.

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Darlisha McClothen wears Maybelline Baby Lips. “I never thought of lipstick as being dangerous.”

 

Students said they expected the government — specifically The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) — to protect them from dangerous cosmetics. “It’s very horrible, so horrible (that the FDA is not looking out for us), ” said 16-year-old Katina Degraffenreed, whose favorite brands were on the list. “Now, I won’t wear it much, now that I know it has lead.”

Right now, the FDA regulates how much of these substances can be in pigment, but doesn’t specify how much metal overall is allowed in a tube of lipstick. And the FDA itself doesn’t test the dozens of dyes used in cosmetics or set the maximum amounts of metals in them, UC Berkeley researcher Katharine Hammond told The San Francisco Chronicle.

As for students,  not all are ignoring the study. “From now on, I’m using olive oil,” said Sola.

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?’”

Sustainable Future for Oakland: Students Care

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by Anthony Beron

Oakland High senior Kasey Saeturn relies on the bus for the long trek to school every day. It’s already overcrowded and unreliable.

Her nightmare could end: an alternative plan known as Scenario 5 could make Oakland more “sustainable” while investing more money in buses to restore service to levels that existed in the past, she told  at an environmental impact report hearing on April 16.

“Buses are overcrowded,” she said.  She also supports “eco-friendly buses.”

Saeturn was one of several students to testify at the hearing about the Environmental Impact Report, which analyzed several alternatives to Plan Bay Area.

In their testimony, students supported Alternative 5, touted as “the environmentally superior alternative,”  which would decrease greenhouse gases and particulate pollution that triggers asthma. It would also budget more money for affordable housing and buses.

The other students were graduates of McClymonds, Street Academy and Bentley high school, who are now attending college. The Rose Foundation’s summer program “New Voices Are Rising” had stirred interest in the plan.

Woody Little, a student at UC Berkeley who grew up in Rockridge, urged that any plan avoid displacing people from their current neighborhoods and create more affordable housing.

Plan Bay Area is a long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan for the entire San Francisco Bay Area. It includes the Bay Area’s Regional Transportation Plan (updated by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission), and the Association of Bay Area Governments’ demographic and economic forecast.

This is the first time legislation is asking MTC and ABAG to adopt a Sustainable Communities Strategy, which will coordinate land use and transportation in the regional transportation plan. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for cars and light-duty trucks in the nine-county region.  If the plan succeeds in getting people out of their cars, there would be more people riding buses and BART.

Pamela Tapia, a McClymonds graduate, told the story of her family’s displacement: that her mother now has to travel four hours to work and spends $60 a day. “The EIR fails to factor in the impact of gentrification on housing costs in neighborhoods that historically have been home to low-income residents.” Another McClymonds graduate, Devilla Ervin, talked about his foster mother having to move to Sacramento to find affordable housing.

Brenda Barron, who graduated from Street Academy and now attends San Francisco State, testified about changes in transportation: there are no buses near her home after 10 pm. She said that public transit  should be more affordable and frequent  and matters to younger people.

Another public hearing is scheduled in Fremont on May 1 at 6 pm at the Mirage Ballroom.

Asthma in West Oakland: How It Affects Mack Students

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by Jonae Scott and Anthony Beron

Students at McClymonds are four times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than students at Piedmont High, just four miles away.

Just ask Pamela Tapia.

Now 19 and a 2011 graduate, Tapia recounted being hospitalized for two weeks as a Mack sophomore, just as she was writing a story for Oaktown Teen Times about air pollution and diesel fumes in West Oakland, which has the 3rd highest rate of hospitalization for asthma in the state.

“The story was no longer about statistics,” she said. “It was about ME.”

Tapia was one of six speakers at a forum about asthma sponsored by The Oakland Tribune on March 20. They tackled every aspect of asthma from triggers to vitamin D deficiency, from code enforcement to social justice issues.

For Tapia, the first asthma attack was disorienting. “Why do I feel like I’m drowning,” she recalled. It spurred her to be an activist with the Rose Foundation and along with McClymonds students from the Law Academy, to confront issues that adults were ignoring. “No one in the West was speaking up [at that time],” she said.

Tapia and Fremont High senior Pearl Joy Balagot wrote stories about asthma as reporting fellows for the Tribune. Balagot’s story this week focused on strict guidelines in the Oakland Unified School District for taking kids with asthma on field trips. In her investigation, Balagot found that most teachers were not aware of the guidelines.

The reaction was similar at McClymonds.  Ron Delaney, who teaches U.S, History,  had not heard about the new guidelines for asthma, but he had not taken any students on field trip. Kat Hall, who teaches engineering, had taken 13 students on a field trip, with one who identified as asthmatic. She said his mother kept his inhaler and said he did not need it for the field trip.

While the first panel, which also included Oakland Tribune reporter Katy Murphy,  focused on youth and asthma, the second panel addressed environmental factors and health strategies. Experts included Joel Ervice, an expert on diesel pollution regulations, Brenda Rueda-Yamashita and Dr. Washington Burns, who organized the county’s Breathmobile.

When Young Actors Tell Their Real Stories On Stage

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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.”

Why Mack Students Should Care About Climate Change

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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.”