Tag Archives: Justice

Mack students react to racial profiling data in Oakland

racial profiling

by Luckie Lovette

McClymonds students were angered but not surprised to learn that nearly 60 percent of police stops in Oakland during 2013 were directed at African Americans.

“I feel that we shouldn’t be targeted just because the police believe that African Americans contribute to a high rate of crime, and police shouldn’t suspect us of a crime just because of our skin color,” said Selena Williams, a senior.

According to the data released by the Oakland police, Blacks are stopped and searched by Oakland police at a rate of 62 percent while they make up just 28 percent of the city’s population. The report also shows that although Blacks were more likely to be stopped, they were no more likely than any other racial group to be found with illegal drugs or weapons.

The data also show that Oakland police are more likely to arrest Blacks on suspicion of felony charges during a stop.

“To be honest, it’s pretty sad,” said Kendall Page, a senior. “They make fun of us; basically everyone is laughing at us because of the racial profiling problem.”

The report, which presents stop-and-search figures from last April through December, was ordered as part of the negotiated settlement of a civil rights lawsuit over a decade ago, which stemmed from the Riders scandal that alleged police brutality and other forms of misconduct.

“I feel it’s really racist that they are targeting black people,” said Taivion Foster, a sophomore.

Oakland Interim Police Chief Sean Went said in a letter that the figures in the report are reflective of “the situation in many U.S. cities and speaks to the need for systemic changes throughout our communities.”

“We are committed to working toward an Oakland that ensures equal opportunities, protections and successes for all,” he wrote.

John Burris, one of the civil rights attorneys who worked on the Riders case, in which  four Oakland police officers were randomly beating and detaining  Blacks in Oakland in early 2000, told reporters yesterday that he was not surprised by the findings.

“It’s disappointing, but we’ve always suspected this to be true,” he said.

“I’m hopeful the data will get analyzed in such a way that we can find out whether there’s implicit bias in law enforcement,” Burris said.

The report said that Hispanics were stopped and searched by Oakland police at a rate of 17 percent, whites at 12 percent, Asians at 6 percent.

Former McClymonds student Frenswa Raynor, 16 and African American,  was shot in the face last year by a veteran police officer  in downtown Oakland because he was thought to have been armed, but was later found out to be unarmed and innocent. Burris represented him.

Why Mack Students Should Care about LGBT

macksmackLGBTby Janaya Andrews

Sometimes justice trumps love. Take Valentine’s Day. I spent it lobbying in Sacramento for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

I was one of seven McClymonds students who joined 3,000 students in Sacramento  in a forum about LGBT rights at the 65th Model Legislature and Court of California YMCA Youth and Government.

While in Sacramento, I wrote a bill to promote acceptance of gays, bisexuals, the transgendered, and lesbians. I felt that it was time to support the LGBT, not only because I am standing up for what’s right, but also for truth and justice.

“People shouldn’t be afraid to be what they were born with,” said Shamorra Washington, a freshman. “It’s not like it’s a switch that people could simply flip to change their whole being.  Why should they?”

Our group focused on notable LGBT people from President James Buchanan (our 15th president who was gay but closeted) and  Laura Jane Grace, born Thomas James Gabel, lead singer of punk band Against Me! (transgender who has since switched genders and married).

In my group, we had a guest speaker come talk about her experiences, and she shared a personal story with us about feeling out of sorts. It was in college that that she realized she was transgender. Her upbringing in an accepting family made her less afraid of coming out.

A 2012 survey by the Human Rights Campaign of 10,000 LGBT youth aged 13-17 found that while almost all (91 percent) of LGBT teens are out to their close friends, fewer are out in school (61 percent) and out to their families (56 percent).

Those who were out at school and out to their families reported higher levels of happiness than those who weren’t.

“We are all human, so why treat each other with less respect,” said Washington.  “If you want to be seen and heard, you have to set your feelings free.

As Dorothy Parker so eloquently said, “Heterosexuality is not normal, it’s just common.”  She forgot to add it is natural.

And Jean Genet said, “I like the word gay, though I think of myself as queer. I believe the strength in my work comes from that perspective -my being an outsider”.

And I have internalized what these two famous writers said: nobody should be afraid of being gay, just be who you are and love it. Now is the time to act to support LGBT youth.

Why Trayvon’s Murder is So Upsetting

 Trayvon Martin Murder: Witnesses Heard Cries Before Gunshots

by Lisa Boyakins

It’s the talk at McClymonds: a 17-year-old shot and killed in Sanford, Florida after going out to buy iced tea and skittles, wearing a hoodie, like any of us. It was 7 o’clock at night.  People called it a racially motivated crime.

Students at McClymonds were angry and upset. Their reactions ranged from sadness and anger to disgust at how law enforcement has not arrested a murderer, namely George Zimmerman, the man who ran after Trayvon Martin and fatally shot him.

“I feel that this case is sad,” said Kevin Jennings, class of 2006. “An innocent kid was gunned down.”

Federal prosecutors are finally investigating the killing. A grand jury will hear evidence on April 10.

“The killing was wrong,” added Dante Bush. “If we don’t start punishing people who take the law into their own hands, then everyone will start killing people when they think it’s right.”

“It was disturbing. The boy looked like me when I was younger,” said Stephen Vance, a senior, “It wouldn’t happen in Oakland, not after Oscar Grant.”

How healthy are tots living near CASS in West Oakland?

Terranisha Nathaniel, Stephen Vance and Pamela Tapia received EPA awards in February 2011 for work done in identifying and fighting pollution in West Oakland.

By Stephen Vance 

with reporting from San Jose Mercury-News

How bad is the air near the smelter just five blocks from McClymonds?

Just ask a mother.

A  new pilot study sponsored by the nonprofit Global Community Monitor will test the blood of tots (children 1 through 5) who live within a mile of Custom Alloy Scrap Sales, or CASS, targeted by environmental groups for pollution issues.

“We’re just starting to recruit families in West Oakland,” says Ruth Breech, program director of Global Community Monitor.

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 CASS’ 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 is trying to relocate to vacant industrial land next to the former Oakland Army Base.

Breech said a total of 70 children — 35 children from each West Oakland and 35 from West Berkeley who live near Pacific Steel Casting– will be tested for heavy metals that have been previously detected in air quality samples.

“This was prompted by the community,” Breech said. “They said, ‘OK, it’s in the air, so what is in our bodies?’ ”

Children who live near  CASS  will be tested for lead and cadmium. Children who live near Pacific Steel Casting in West Berkeley will be tested for manganese.

The study will compare the levels of metal found in children who live very close to the plants with the test results of children living on the edge of the study area. The results will also be compared with “normal” levels of exposure to those metals detected from other studies.

“We have residential neighbors really living next to heavy industry, so our question is what is too close? How do we coexist?” Breech said.

The study is a collaboration with the UC San Francisco pediatric environmental health specialty unit and Children’s Hospital Oakland. Children who are selected for the study will have their blood drawn at Children’s Hospital.

The family must also make their home available for a one-time dust wipe sample that will be studied for the presence of metals.

Air samples will also be taken during the study.

Participating families will be given the blood test and dust wipe results compared to national averages. Families will also be referred to health agencies to help them interpret the results and find ways to reduce their families’ exposure, Breech said. The study will be completed by the end of this summer.

For more information about the study and how to join, call 510-233-1870 or email program@gcmonitor.org.

Six McClymonds students selected as paid summer interns

by Pamela Tapia

Six students from McClymonds are among the 60 or so Oakland students selected for paid four-week summer internships through the city of Oakland’s  Mayor’s Office.

The students —  sophomore Devin Simmons, and juniors Eric Abundis, Dominique Albert, Jazmine McDowell, Victor Smith and Ciana Augustine — will work with Nancy Schiff at the Center for Youth Development through Law.

Students from the other high schools in Oakland will intern with businesses as diverse as Kaiser Construction, Metropolitan Golf Links, East Bay Zoological Society, More Radio, and KICU television.

In the past, as many as 250 students were selected as summer interns. “There is limited funding this summer for job slots,” said Cara Johnson, afterschool program coordinator at McClymonds. “The first place to cut in the budget is always programming for youth.”

Debate Season Mixed: Tapia Wins 3rd Place, But Empty Trophy Case at Mack

Just a hint of the trophies to come.
by Pamela Tapia

The debate season at McClymonds ended on a high note, with senior Pamela Tapia winning third prize in the junior varsity division at the Bay Area Urban Debate League’s annual League Championship on May 14-15.

Tapia began debating just four months ago. Her strongest argument focused on how the war in Afghanistan served as a distraction for the structural violence in the United States.

Despite Tapia’s victory, Mack lost the largest trophy displayed in its trophy case to one of its rivals.

“It’s a shame we lost our precious trophy — our non-sports trophy — to Fremont,” says Tapia.

Last year, McClymonds’ Tanesha Walker (now a freshman at UCLA) reigned  as number one debater in the league, traveling to nationals to represent the Bay Area. Her victory brought the traveling trophy to Mack.

At a gala dinner Monday night at the Lake Merritt boathouse, students recognized their coaches and volunteers who helped organize practices and tournaments.

A Lesson in Restorative Justice: Mack Students Do the Teaching

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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.”

What the Dream Act Means to Me

The Dream Act means a lot to me.

I’m a senior at McClymonds and one of 725,000 living without legal documents in the United States. Congress has passed the Dream Act but it never made it to Senate approval.

If it had passed, I could go to college with some financial help from the government, like most of the other students graduating from Mack who are not immigrants.

I’ve worked hard to earn that privilege.

Other “illegal” immigrant students who cannot afford college and are afraid of deportation all share my hope: that I will be allowed to learn, achieve, study, work and contribute to American society.

We all hope and pray for that opportunity. “I would be able to pursue my dream of getting a higher education and work,” said a 21-year-old community college student from Central America. “I also promise to help others succeed.”

The Dream Act would not only benefit students who are undocumented but it would help the economy because we, immigrant students, would have to pay a fee to get our residency.  I think it’s the LEAST the Democrats can do after Obama promised an immigration reform.