Tag Archives: pollution

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.”

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.”

Oakland Students Testify for Better Transportation and More Low-Income Housing

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by Brenda Barron

Street Academy

It took courage, patience (waiting for four hours and through chanting by the Tea Party) and brevity (each speaker allowed one minute or 60 seconds).

Despite the hurdles, three students from Oakland public high schools testified for better transportation and more low income housing last Thursday at a heated 4 ½-hour meeting hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

No action was taken but the two groups unanimously voted to move forward with a deeply flawed draft of the “One Bay Area” plan, a $277 billion transportation and housing plan in the nine-county Bay Area that must also help meet greenhouse gas reduction targets set in California SB 375.

As one of the students and as a senior at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. I spoke publicly about many problems in the community and the change that is needed.

I talked about taking public transportation since I was five years old when I started riding the bus to my mom’s work. I never thought transportation was a big deal until I grew up,  but it has changed a lot since I was five.

In the last few years, bus lines have been cut and changed so often that people get confused about which lines go to which place. People do not want see bus service cut. They want to see more bus routes, and more frequent buses.

Many people take buses because it costs less than BART, but BART takes you farther, and goes faster.   I would like to see the BART and buses cost less, especially for the young people — because we go to school and most of us don’t have jobs, so we can’t afford it. I would like to see more clean buses and BART.

Other speakers (including McClymonds graduate Devilla Ervin) pointed out flaws in the plan considered: that it does not restore  lost transit service, does not protect people from displacement, does not protect people from diesel fumes and does not create new affordable housing for people who live there.

Oakland Tech student Tanika O’Guinn and Street Academy student Eliezer Mendoza also spoke.

Pamela Tapia, a graduate from McClymonds, also representing New Voices Are Rising, talked about her own homelessness after her family lost its housing and was forced to relocate.

“My family in West Oakland lost our apartment,” Tapia said. “My mom was supporting three people on a minimum-wage job. She and my sister moved to Stockton but I had to choose between going with them and dropping out of school or staying here. The explosion of luxury homes has pushed out low-income people. As a homeless teen, I want to tell you to stop the displacement,” Tapia said.

macksmack Editor Wins Three Journalism Awards

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Pamela Tapia, editor of macksmack and a writer for the Oaktown Teen Times, has won three journalism awards in a contest for high school journalists in Northern California.

The Northern California Press Women’s Association held a ceremony for the winners on May 11 at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley.

Betty Packard, CPW executive director, said they were over 1,000 entries in 17 categories and lauded the quality of the work submitted.

Tapia won second place in feature writing for a story that explored the difficulties that girls experience when they leave gangs. The piece appeared in The Mosaic, a newspaper published by Mosaic, a summer minority journalism program at San Jose State University sponsored by the San Jose Mercury-News and several Bay Area media groups and foundations.

The other two awards were for stories which appeared in Oaktown Teen Times. Tapia won second place in environmental writing for a piece on the creation of YouTube videos by McClymonds students opposed to Proposition 23 and its impact on clear air in West Oakland. “Good use of sensory appeal and  good use of perceptive personal observations,” wrote the judge.

Tapia also won third place in feature writing for a story that explored restorative justice at McClymonds, an alternative to youth court and suspensions.

“What an honor to be recognized!” said Tapia.