‘What Mama Didn’t Say’ Challenges Our Notions of Sexuality

Film Review by Sean Shavers

“What Mama Didn’t Say: A Dialogue about African American Sexuality,” recently premiered at Richmond City Hall. The event was hosted by the Teen Services Division of the Richmond Public Library. The documentary, produced by local filmmaker Doug Harris, explores multiple issues around sexuality within the Black community – essentially, all the topics about sex that our families don’t talk about, such as having children out of wedlock or at a young age.

The film makes a strong argument that history, dating back to slavery, has a lot to do with current Black attitudes about sex. For example, throughout slavery, women were routinely abused by their slave owners. Girls as young as five and six years old were forced into sexual exploitation, and our men were forced to live apart from their wives and children.

Harris connects that history to incidents of sexual abuse that occur in some of our households today. Many times, these abuses happen in secret and never come out; and when they do, they are rarely spoken about publicly.

The film also delves into the healing process: how as a people we need to be healed from sexual abuse; the need to understand and value our own bodies, have discussions, use protection, and make smarter choices about sex.

Several youth representing different community based organizations were in the audience.  I was glad to see all those young bright faces in one place, gaining knowledge and showing an interest in something other than their social media accounts.

David Worthy, a 19 year-old freshman at Contra Costa College attended the screening. He thought his 15 year-old brother should have been there, too. Worthy said his brother is already obsessed with sex, often talking about and even bragging about doing it.  Another youth, Kaleb, 15, a sophomore at El Cerrito High, was also at the screening.

“I started getting curious in middle school… I finally gave in and did it (had sex),” he said. When I asked him why, he responded, “It was all my friends were doing.”

I appreciated how the film dealt with the issue of teen pregnancy and STDs but didn’t try to preach abstinence to youth — I think that approach was critical and effective. Teens will do what they want to do, so it doesn’t help to try to scare them, in my opinion.  Just give them the info and let them make a conscious decision. These topics are so important for Black youth because we have the highest HIV rates in the country, our teen pregnancy rate is also high, and because in our communities these things are rarely discussed.

When I was younger, one of the things my mom neglected to inform me about was birth control. I had no idea that women could use contraceptives or be given shots to prevent pregnancy.  I was just to taught “strap up” – use a condom.  At the same time, many of my partners never asked me to use contraceptives.  It wasn’t an issue or a concern.  As a result I had unprotected sex most of the time.  In one year alone, I got multiple women pregnant, which I’m not proud of.  I think my mom was so concerned with me using condoms that she just didn’t think to tell me anything else.  Plus, it might have just been uncomfortable for her to discuss sex with me.

In retrospect I also see how young men are often manipulated into thinking we’re supposed to have sex with everyone, which is just not true.  Sometimes women too can use the stigma men face being a virgin or inexperienced, as leverage to have sex with someone. I wish I’d been told about peer pressure, that I didn’t have to have sex with anyone and everyone that asked. When you’re a young man who is taught by friends that you’re supposed to have sex and be good at it, you go through life trying to have sex with everything that moves, not worrying about disease or pregnancy.

Hopefully more youth will be able to see this documentary film, and begin to challenge their own understanding of what it means to be sexually healthy and responsible.

Local Organizations Use Comedy to Protest Keystone XL

News Feature, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

Early in February, the State Department opened a public comment period on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, part of a pipeline that would carry unrefined petroleum from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama has yet to approve Keystone XL, which has sparked protests across the country. Richmond is far from the Texas refineries where the petroleum would be shipped, but environmental and social justice organizations such as the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project (based in Oakland) are concerned that Chevron, which has a refinery in Richmond, will be a player in the product’s export.

Josh Healey, an organizer at Movement Generation, welcomed a large crowd to a screening of the organization’s new video, “Keystone XL Has a Job for You,” a satirical take on the public health consequences of the pipeline. The film was written by Healy and directed by Yvan Iturriaga. Donte Clark, the artistic director of RAW Talent (Richmond Artists with Talent), plays Darrell, a young man looking for a career at a job fair. At the fair, Darrell meets a corporate recruiter who is advertising jobs working on the pipeline.

The Keystone Pipeline is a system of oil pipelines; Keystone XL would be the fourth pipeline, transporting oil from the Alberta tar sands through Nebraska. Its critics are concerned that, among other things, the new pipeline will exacerbate water contamination and pollute the environment. Additionally, many indigenous communities in Canada and the United States live in areas near the pipeline. An expansion of the Keystone Pipeline would mean that the refined oil would have to be transported to refineries near the Pacific Rim, like Chevron’s refinery in Richmond.

The makers of “Keystone XL Has a Job for You” believe that the number of jobs associated with the pipeline has been exaggerated by the pipeline’s proponents. In a hilarious scene, the recruiter attempts to market various jobs to Darrell, such as cleaning animals covered in oil, shredding native land treaties, and selling wigs to cancer survivors; Darrell could even become a space pioneer colonizing other planets because of pollution on Earth. Darrell leaves the recruiter preferring to work for a local organization advocating for ecological justice. Local Richmond organizations like Solar Richmond, Urban Tilth, and the Nurses Association are featured as alternative and socially conscious places to work.

As a character, Darrell functions as a stand-in for Richmond – he is a person of color seeking new opportunities, but he is skeptical of corporate greed. As Richmond residents, we are able to relate to Darrell because we have seen corporations take over land and resources.

“Richmond, being in the shadow of the Chevron Refinery, knows all too well what the impacts are of these big oil companies – asthma, cancer, you name it,” says Healey. “But also, Richmond is building the alternative. Richmond is the largest city with a green mayor in the country. Richmond has all these amazing community organizations and unions that are creating green jobs.”

Following the video, employees from Urban Tilth, a union member from the Nurses Association, and Donte Clark of RAW Talent spoke about their personal paths to finding jobs in their fields. Katy Roemer, a Richmond nurse, also spoke about medical cases she’s encountered in people living near the Chevron refinery. She says that her family’s union history inspires her activism.

“It may seem daunting – Chevron is huge,” she says. “I have the obligation to do what I can.”

Kindness On Display at ‘Behind the Curtain Gala’

Story • Monet Boyd/Photos • David Meza

Richmond celebrated “Unity Day” on February 8th with a “Behind the Curtain Gala,” held at the Craneway Pavilion.  The fundraiser brought together individuals and local charities for a night of music, dance, art, and giving. The event also provided a sneak peek at a new partnership between the philanthropic group Unite4good, and the city’s schools, non-profit organizations and community leaders.

Unite4good describes itself as a global movement that will “establish a new standard whereby acts of kindness and service become so valued and celebrated that people make them a part of their daily life.”

Unite4good organized the Unity Day events – which actually took place over two days, Feb. 7th and 8th —  to encourage individuals and organizations to give back to community, with acts of kindness. The Bay Area’s Unity Day was just one of several scheduled in cities across the country.

The night before the opening gala, teenagers from various bay area high schools came with friends to the Craneway to help set up chairs and earn their tickets. After their work was done, students were given an opportunity to be interviewed on camera, as anticipation for the event grew.

On Saturday, the gala began with a welcome from the host organizations, which included Richmond PAL, and afterward a fashion show put the talent of local clothing designers on display. The show was hosted by TV star Mario Lopez, and there were celebrity performances by local singer Sydney Nicole and the well-known groups En Vogue and Mindless Behavior. The night also featured a guest appearance by actor Blair Underwood, and a performance by the EL Cerrito High School dance class.

I had the great honor of introducing Mario Lopez, and when I got on stage my stomach dropped a little from nervousness. People screamed, eager to see Mario. The experience was scary, fun, exciting, and thrilling all at the same time. After I introduced Mario, he got the show started and from there it seemed like folks were dancing all night.

For me, watching the show from behind the scenes was fascinating. Seeing people in the crowd smile and dance in unison made me proud of my community. All the negative things that have been said about Richmond and our young people were not relevant on that night. The lights flashed red, yellow, blue, and green on the audience — almost as if they were the stars of the night.

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Black History Is All Around Us

Commentary • Keyannie Norford

February is Black History Month, the shortest month of the year, but nevertheless a month where African Americans can celebrate the history and successes of other African Americans, past and present. Yet even today, our k-12 public schools seem intent on keeping Black history to a minimum.

During my own high school years in Richmond, California, I was aware of my people’s history, but nowhere near as knowledgeable as I am now that I attend a historically Black college, Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee. Here the South, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, it seems there is Black history on every corner – almost every building has some story behind it. Fisk University, established in 1865, was itself the first institution of higher learning for African Americans. Jubilee Hall, which is now a campus dorm for freshman girls, was the South’s first permanent structure built to educate Black students.

But one doesn’t need to be in the South to be surrounded by Black history. It is all around us, although most remain blind to the facts. Every time we eat peanut butter, for example, we have George Washington Carver, an African-American, scientist, and inventor, to thank for it. Every time we turn on the heat or air-conditioning, we have David Nelson Crosthwait, Jr., an African-American, engineer, and journalist, to thank for it. Every time a woman chooses to use birth control pills, they have Percy Julian, an African-American chemical synthesis pioneer to thank for it.  And of course, every time us ladies get our hair straightened or curled, and our scalps greased, we should know that it all started with Madam C.J. Walker, the first African-American woman to become a self-made millionaire, by selling her hair products and inventing the hot comb.

Understanding Black history should be essential to our everyday lives as African Americans. As a people, we need to know where we came from and use that knowledge as motivation to be great – to rise above the common judgments of those who believe we are of less worth than other people and cultures that the official versions of history have deemed ”great.”  As Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut, once said, “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” Our history is everywhere, and it is everything.


This is part of a series of Richmond Pulse stories for Black History Month looking back on the moments and people that helped define the African American experience.

Raw Talent’s Second Verse

By  Edgardo Cervano-Soto

Growing up in North Richmond, Donte Clark, like many residents, relied on corner stores for groceries. The small “mom and pop” shops were a lifeline for many. “A lot of us grew up on convenience stores — the food they brought, the social life,” says Clark. “The stores represent the heart of the community, where you get your information and hear people’s stories.”

It is a corner store just like the one described by Clark that is the setting of Clark’s newest play, “Po’ Boys Kitchen,” being produced and performed by local spoken word and acting troupe, RAW Talent. The play provides a commentary on modern-day Richmond through the perspectives of characters that pass through the convenience store, one of the last Black-owned businesses in Richmond.

Key characters such as the owner of Po’ Boys Kitchen, OG Hodge, recurring visitors like Hobo Jo, as well as Sabrina and Taylor, two youth employed at the store, anchor the play.  As we’ve come to expect from Clark’s work, “Po Boys Kitchen” packs a sublime political punch that Clark knows will resonate with Richmond residents.

“For Black folks in Richmond particularly, it’s about the [loss of] Black businesses,” says Clark. “The play does cherish the memories of ‘back then’ but it also makes the statement [that] we have the right to ownership, now.”

“Po’ Boys Kitchen” is Clark’s follow up to his previous work, “Te’s Harmony.” Last year, RAW Talent performed the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet to sold-out audiences at the El Cerrito Performing Arts Center. The success of “Te’s Harmony” signaled a new path for RAW Talent – the group began as a schools-based spoken word group — toward more stage productions.

The premiere of “Po’ Boys Kitchen” also comes at a critical time for RAW Talent as an organization. Under the direction of co-founders Molly Raynor and Donte Clark, the group has evolved from its beginnings as an afterschool program administered through the Making Waves Education Program, to become an independent art company supported by the non-profit RYSE Center, which now acts as its fiscal sponsor.

The transition has allowed RAW Talent to refocus its efforts, resulting in the elimination of photography, dance, visual art and jewelry design classes. The scaling back has allowed the group to put their energies into their core mediums – spoken word and theatrical productions.

The move isn’t without its challenges: RAW Talent is now responsible for its own fundraising and staff management – new things for a group that had previously only been responsible for creative programming. Yet, says Molly Raynor, the transition has only served to strengthen the artistry of the RAW Talent members.

“We have been able to concentrate on what we do best. Spoken word is the one thing I haven’t seen in Richmond. So combining theater and spoken word allows the core group to take their abilities to the next level,” she says. “We used to be about slams and that was mainly for competitions. Building towards a play is more of a communal effort.”

The financial challenges for a young company are daunting, but RAW Talent is counting on the support of the Richmond community, and the drive of RAW Talent’s core members. “The change is forcing RAW Talent to really fight for the art we believe in. We have to be the head and muscle. It’s challenged me to step up,” says Clark, who is now the group’s artistic director.

DeAndre Evans is one the artists who has blossomed under the guidance of Clark and Raynor. After playing secondary roles in “Pen to the Page” and “Te’s Harmony,” Evans took the lead role of OG Hodge in “Po’ Boys Kitchen.” Clark personally asked Evans to play the role.

“Playing OG Hodge has made me break out of my shell,” says Evans. “I don’t know many Black storeowners, so I had to create him. At this point I’m experimenting with his lines and exploring his dry sense of humor.”

The idea of having thriving Black-owned businesses in Richmond is worth discussing, says Clark. “Not many people know Richmond was a home to jazz,” he says. “It’s where James Brown performed. We had businesses on MacDonald and Cutting. But all of that was taken away.”

Clark says the play will touch on Black migration from the South to Richmond during World War II, the effects of disinvestment and white flight on Black businesses, and today’s disaffected youth. “’Po’ Boys Kitchen’ is a monument of memories, reminding people of our potential.”

“Po’ Boys Kitchen” premieres Friday March 7, 2014 for a two night run at the De Anza High School Theater. Tickets can be purchased online at poboyskitchen.eventbrite.com or in person at the Making Waves Education Program main office at 200 24th St. Richmond, CA 94804. RAW Talent is also accepting contributions in support of the programming. Contact RAW Talent Director Molly Raynor at rawtalent07@gmail.com for more information. 

Martial Arts School Reborn as Community Center

Photo Essay • David Meza

In 1982, Eddie Solis opened Solis Martial Arts in San Pablo, which has over the years provided hundreds of children and families living in the Richmond and San Pablo communities with martial arts training.

Now, Solis’s son James, who is the current executive director, has converted the martial arts school to a community center. The school will now be called 23HQ x Solis, and will provide community events and immigration services in addition to already existing arts and expression classes, fitness and health instruction, and leadership training. The center has also become a space for Zumba, hip hop dancers, and gymnastics.

“For the past two years I have been creating relationships with the families that have come to Solis Martial Arts,” says James Solis. “In that time I found out that a majority of our students came from broken and single-parent homes. So I created 23HQ as a community hub to help our students, their families and the larger community.”

James Solis’s larger goal is to create community leaders for the cities of Richmond and San Pablo. Richmond youth Roxanne Alejandre attended the center’s grand reopening and said, “It was very impressive that after almost 40 years of Solis Martial Arts being in our community, James Solis has made it into a community hub. It’s not for just karate anymore.”

The new 23HQ is located at 1169 23rd Street in San Pablo.

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Local Youth Become Journalists With American Teenager Project

By Luis Cubas

Robin Bowman, a New York-based photojournalist, set out on a quest in 2001 to capture and narrate the lives of teenagers all over the United States. She spent five years on the road, interviewing and photographing over 400 young people from different backgrounds and communities. The portraits and interviews are compiled in her award-winning book, It’s Complicated: The American Teenager (Umbrage, 2007).

After this experience, Bowman decided to share the goal of The American Teenager with young people and teach them to take on the same process in their own communities, in the hopes that they would find their voices and make stronger connections with other young people from backgrounds both similar to and different from their own. With the help of Julia Hollinger, a high school history teacher in Richmond, Bowman started The American Teenager Project in 2011.

“I was inspired to keep that vision going, of telling stories and actually wanting to teach young people how to do what [Bowman] had done,” says Hollinger.

Bowman and Hollinger kicked off The American Teenager Project in the city of Richmond and its nearby communities. The program began with the recruitment of 20 journalists from local high schools including Richmond High, Making Waves Academy, Kennedy High, El Cerrito High, and Leadership Public School.

The process began with workshops and training for the 20 journalists. After the training, the students were equipped with cameras and recorders. They set out on a mission to tell the stories of other teenagers living in their communities.

“At first I was a little hesitant. I didn’t know what kinds of people I would meet,” says Esmeralda Flores, one of the students. “I wasn’t expecting it to have an effect on me the way that it did.”

“I learned a lot about my neighborhood,” adds Kira Harrison, another one of the journalists.

“[The program] taught me how I can know someone, but they might have such a different story from what they seem to have,” says participant Melissa Rios. “They have their history, and how they overcame their history.”

The American Teenager Project focuses on the misunderstandings and social inequalities that affect many teenagers across the United States. The main goal of the project is to give a voice to the teenagers who are often overlooked, or whose choices and actions are unfairly judged. Bowman and Hollinger intend to work with young people all over the United States to create an ongoing archive of adolescence.

“The main goal of The American Teenager is to build community among youths across the boundaries that normally divide them, whether it be [boundaries] by neighborhood, social group, economic class, race, or gender, and find ways to connect them with each other through their common aspirations and shared struggles,” says Hollinger.

The work of The American Teenager Project will include over 100 portraits and interviews of teenagers in and around Richmond. The exhibition of student work will be presented at the Richmond Art Center alongside Bowman’s original collection. It is free to the public and will be featured from January 11 through March 7, with a special event on February 1 from 12PM to 5PM.


Q&A: Reverend Michael McBride on the Drop in Bay Area Homicides

Interview • Dr. Joseph Marshall, Street Soldiers Radio

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following conversation took place on Street Soldiers Radio between Dr. Joseph Marshall, co-founder and executive director of the San Francisco-based violence prevention program Alive & Free, and Reverend Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley. Reverend McBride is the director of the Lifelines to Healing Campaign, a project of the PICO National Network. The campaign is committed to addressing gun violence and mass incarceration of young people of color.

Dr. Marshall: In 2013 there was a drop in homicides in Oakland, San Francisco, Richmond, even down in San Jose, [and] in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago – from your perspective what do you think is going on here?

Rev. McBride: I’ll certainly say it’s a confluence of a number of different things, primary of which is people’s desire to stay alive and free. The choices that people are beginning to make. A lot of our loved ones and family members who are caught in these cycles of violence and poverty and exposed to nothing but tools of death … I think with the right focus and the right path and opportunity a lot of our young men are deciding to live and to solve their conflicts without resorting to lethal violence.

I think the credit has to go, at the beginning of this conversation, to every single young person that has decided to put down their gun and say, “I want to live another day.” And then after that I think the credit and the responsibility must go to all those folks who are leading organizations and movements to actually partner with the young folks and their families in these communities to make sure that their desire to live is matched with the resources, tools, with healing and all the different mechanisms that pretty much every human being across the world has access to if they are living in healthy communities that produce life and not death.

Dr. M: The experts don’t have an explanation for these trends and we’ve seen these drops before. What do think it will take to continue this drop in homicides locally and throughout the country?

Rev. M: I’m convinced that all the violence that is related to guns and homicide is continuously connected to a small number of folks in very focused communities and neighborhoods — many are characterized by poverty, lack of opportunity, and the proliferation of illegal weapons. So when we talk about homicides, we can’t ignore the strategies that are being used to target these individuals who are most likely to commit a shooting or be shot. These strategies are continuously being shown by studies to indeed create a lot of reductions (in violence).

Now, how do we sustain these reductions? Certainly our assumption in our Lifelines campaign — in cities like Oakland, Richmond, Stockton, Detroit, Camden, Baton Rouge, places where we’re on the ground and actively working — we believe the way is to continue to invest in these strategies that get closer to the young people that are driving these acts of violence, and make sure we are building an infrastructure of support and opportunity all around them.

If we invest in people and strategies that actually build them up and cut them off before they make the worst decision that they possibly can, then I believe we can have these sustained reductions, and even go deeper.  Whether it’s the Ceasefire strategy or doing street outreach, or bringing Alive & Free trainings into cities like Camden and Berkeley and Detroit; whether it’s walking neighborhoods in the evenings or going into jails and prisons, we have to keep doing all of it. The silver bullet is collaboration. It’s the Youth Uprising and the Street Soldiers programs that are doing gun buy-backs. It’s Zack Carey and the Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere that are doing peace stand-ins. It’s the City Team Ministries and OCO and PICO folks that are doing night walks. It’s the call-ins. It’s law enforcement making a better effort to not racial profile, but target those who are at the highest risk of shooting and being shot, and providing opportunities. It’s all of it together. If we can commit ourselves to working together over a sustained period of time, will see the reduction.

Dr. M: To me the crucial factor is the mentality and the culture of violence. The way people think that produces the violence, [the use of] firearms and harming someone. And this is not to minimize the efforts of law enforcement. I’m one who does that, but I think you and I know it’s a partnership. [Law enforcement] is not a prevention agency. I applaud their efforts but at the same time I do know it’s a 50-50 thing.

Rev. M: And let me add this piece as well. There are midterm elections coming up in November 2014. We have a moment in the state of California and across the country to make sure that we who are living in these communities impacted by gun violence, impacted by a radical investment in jails and prisons rather than people, that we have an opportunity to take the next step around sustainability, which is to begin to identify the policies and investments that will make sure that the success we’re having is institutionalized.

My message to folks across the country is if we’re serious about sustainability we also have to change our mindset about engagement in the process politically. We need to begin to think about how we [can] move resources. I’m taking about hundreds of millions of dollars back into Oakland, Hunters Point, Fillmore, the Iron Triangle, East San Jose. How do we make sure that our tax dollars do not continue to be spent on strategies like prisons that have been proven to not make us safe? Pay attention to the opportunity that is in front of us.


Hmong Parents Rely on School Janitor for Translations

News Report, Colby Tilbbet | The kNOw Youth Media


FRESNO — Hmong parents and community members in Fresno say a lack of translation services for Hmong speakers is the greatest barrier to that community’s engagement with Fresno Unified (FUSD) schools.

A group of them gathered for a listening session last month where they weighed in on the debate over how local school districts should be allocating their state funds.

“When I go (to school meetings), I feel like I’m an outcast,” said Yeng Xiong, a mother of two and a native Hmong speaker. Xiong said she still attends the school meetings, even though there is never a translator for her.

Hmong youth make up the second largest group of English Language Learner (ELL) students in FUSD, with Spanish-speaking students being the largest, according to the California Department of Education. Hmong are the largest Asian ethnic group in the City of Fresno, with a population of 31,771, or 3.6 percent of the city’s total population, according to 2010 census figures. In the U.S., only Minneapolis boasts a larger Hmong community (64,422) than Fresno.

The meeting, hosted by Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM), a faith-based nonprofit located in Central Fresno, was organized by New America Media to bring the voices of Hmong parents into the evolving debate over how school districts should be spending their money, in light of the state’s new school funding scheme – known as Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – that gives local school districts more control than ever before over how they spend their state education dollars.

The community event was just one in a series of such forums, organized by NAM and financed by The California Endowment, a private health foundation, to provide a space for ethnic minority parents in California to be heard on matters concerning LCFF.

Input gathered from these meetings and others will be presented at a State Board of Education Hearing on LCFF in Sacramento on January 16th.

Paula Cha, interim co-director of FIRM, was on hand to translate for the Hmong-speaking parents who needed assistance.

A lack of Hmong speakers on school faculties and staffs, said the parents, is a major cause of the poor, or nonexistent, communication between schools and Hmong families. Without designated translators or people who can step in to fill the gap informally, parents said they felt they often miss out on large parts of their children’s education, such as not being able to attend parent teacher conference meetings, or missing general announcements made by the school.

Mee Vue, a grandparent of students attending Birney Elementary, said that her school was lucky to have a translator — the school janitor, who happens to be Hmong.

“From my experience, I feel that [he does] translate well,” said Vue.

But for Hmong parents in Fresno, Vue’s experience is the exception and not the rule.

In addition to the lack of on-campus translators, letters and notices sent by traditional mail can also often go unnoticed, due to the language barrier. And although many Fresno Unified schools produce materials that are translated into Hmong, that information reaches a limited audience, since many, if not most, Hmong speakers do not read the language.

“If you do send some literature, it will probably end up in the trash,” said Yue Cha, a father of four. “We do have Hmong [broadcast] media here locally, [and] I think that is one great way to communicate that would reach everyone’s home — either radio or television.”

Despite the communication challenges, many parents did express that their children’s schools have done a great job of teaching Hmong history and celebrating Hmong cultural heritage in their classrooms, such as when schools host events for Hmong New Year.

“Its good to know your background [is being taught at school], and I would love to see more of that. I know more schools are doing that,” said Cha.

Because the community is tightly knit, Cha believes that it wouldn’t take much to get more Hmong parents involved in the Fresno schools.

“If schools would designate a Hmong as a key leader, I think that could draw some Hmong parents,” he said.

Other issues stressed by parents were health and nutrition on school campuses. Many parents suggested instituting more health and recreation programs, a greater and healthier variety of food, and more time allotted for students to eat on campus.

“It seems like my son doesn’t receive an adequate meal for lunch,” said Xiong.

Related: The ABCs of Hmong

The kNOw Youth Media is a project of New America Media. 

Transforming Richmond, One Park at a Time

Photo Essay • David Meza

Last month, Pogo Park, a nonprofit community effort to improve parks in the Iron Triangle neighborhood, hosted a tour of its project sites in Richmond for park department board members, their families and friends. It was the first in a series of tours that will take place in early 2014 that will give the community a look at new park and playground projects, and a chance to meet the people behind the work.

The tour began at Elm Playlot, where guests were shown a storyboard that documented the five-year journey to transform Elm Playlot into the first Pogo Park project. Guests then toured the park and saw the ongoing construction of a zip line, trike path, and “global village.”

The tour moved on to Pogo Park’s second project, Harbour-8 Park on the Richmond Greenway. Here, Pogo Park is working with local partners, including Gompers Guerrilla Garden, neighborhood gardeners, and building-trade studios, to develop a two-block section of the Greenway into a children’s park surrounded by gardens. Next, guests hopped on bikes provided by nonprofit Cycles of Change and rode to 23rd Street to view key nodes of Unity Park, a large-scale park on the Greenway that will be built in collaboration with multiple community-based organizations in Richmond.

Everyone then returned to the Greenway where they were served lunch. Richmond DJ Mr. Goodbeer provided the ambiance, with soulful tunes that hummed softly over the chatter of Pogo Park’s guests.

“The purpose of these tours is to get people out to our project sites, to see for themselves how five years of dreaming and planning is now being actualized,” says Sundiata Sidibe, Pogo Park’s communications director. “Many people have only read or heard about Pogo Park. But the way to really get a feel for our projects is to come out, tour the sites yourself, and talk directly with our team of local residents that are doing the work. These tours also provide an opportunity for key stakeholders in Richmond to discuss how we can collaborate to better serve the community.”

To reserve a spot on a tour, email Sundiata at sundiata@pogopark.org 

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