Photographer to Document Bike Culture in Richmond

By Joanna Pulido

Gracefully riding through the bike lanes of Richmond, Josue Hernandez gets to his destinations with speed and ease. At 23, he has the energy and athleticism to bike everyday, but is calm and soft-spoken, with a mix of confidence and down to earth personality.

Hernandez is a North Richmond resident working to beautify, teach and improve his community. And now, with a recently awarded Neighborhood Public Art Mini Grant, he is taking on the challenge of capturing the life stories of 60 Richmond cyclists.

10830590_2754196608186_8570842443455679319_oBorn near San Diego in Chula Vista, CA, Hernandez lived in Los Angeles and Oakland before his family moved to North Richmond in 2005. Despite the difficulty of having to start over in a new city, Hernandez quickly made friends in Richmond — but life wasn’t always easy.

During his teenage years he struggled with academics at Richmond High School, and was transferred to Gompers continuation school.

“Because of moving I needed to adapt to a new place, new people, new school, which made it harder,” he said. “I had a negative attitude about the whole thing like, ‘Why am I even here? I don’t really care.’”

Uncertain about his future goals, Hernandez dropped out of school and took a job in a fast food chain restaurant.

After almost a year of that lifestyle, Hernandez realized he wanted to get back to school, and joined the Literacy for Every Adult Project a night General Educational Development program, and successfully earned his degree.

“I didn’t want to be working dead in job,” Hernandez said. “Some of my co-workers had goals of finishing school and I wanted something like that too. LEAP opened up new opportunity for meeting people and with my writing and reading.”

While at LEAP, he also worked as a busser, waiter and host at restaurants on Pier 39 in San Francisco to help support his family.

After getting his GED Hernandez’ life changed as he pursued what he loved and cared about; photography and biking.

His passion for biking was sparked when he was 17, after purchasing his first bike, which he describes as one that needed some work.

“It was a way for transportation and it was cheap, like 50 bucks. I bought it but they didn’t tell me that there were issues with the bike,” he said. “So I watched Youtube videos and learned how to fix the bike. It wasn’t that hard.”

In 2012, Hernandez became the first youth leader for Rich City Rides, a cycling organization in Richmond that is building a bike culture, community riding skills and is also promoting healthy living and expanding the local economy.

Hernandez excelled at Rich City Rides’ program activities and was selected out of 20 youth to attend the United Bicycle Institute in Portland for bicycle mechanic certification and shop operation.

As an active employee of Rich City Rides, Hernandez’ hard work, personality and generous actions play a strong role in the shop, where he works part time as a sales associate and bicycle mechanic.

In this role, Hernandez paints and customizes bikes, sells merchandise, fixes bikes, has lead two bike parties and helps with Friday workshops. He also leads weekly rides to the Bay Bridge.

Executive Director of Rich City Rides Najari Smith, is a mentor and friend to Hernandez, helping him become more involved with the community. Through Smith, Hernandez was introduced to Urban Tilth, a non-profit organization in Richmond that helps build sustainable gardens and educates the public on health and just food systems.

10532349_927758083908393_1496969588146986915_nHernandez is now on staff with Urban Tilth and is working on the newest farm-building project in North Richmond. He is receiving training in urban agriculture, community organizing and leadership skills. And, he uses his talent for photography to document the work of Urban Tilth and Rich City Rides.

In addition to all of this, Hernandez plans to begin working on a project he for which he was awarded a Neighborhood Public Art Mini Grant in March. He says this is his first grant, and to win it he required learning how to write a competitive application, present his idea clearly and create a budget.

The project is a photo documentary in Richmond of cyclists interviewed in different locations. It will depict where they ride, how they ride and why they ride.

The project’s three set goals are to show that Richmond has a strong bicycle community, to showcase a form of alternative active healthy transportation and to document the expanding bike culture and how it impacts the city.

Moreover, Hernandez hopes to share his photography and promote healthy living at the same time. He dreams of opening his own bike shop in Richmond one day, where he sees himself continuing the work of customizing bikes and sharing his photography.

“I’m excited about this project,” Hernandez said. “I think it will show that Richmond’s bike culture is already here and it will also make it stronger.”

Ceasefire Walks, Rain or Shine

Commentary, Leslie Basurto

It was 7 p.m. on a Friday night and I was attending my first Ceasefire night walk — a weekly trek where members of the community walk together through streets where gun violence has occurred in the hopes of putting an end to it. In recent years Ceasefire has received a lot of credit for Richmond’s reduction in crime and violence, and I wanted to learn about their approach.

The night was dark and pouring rain, I was thinking maybe they’d call it off because of the weather. But, I figured I would at least knock on the door of the Bethlehem Missionary Church — the meeting point — in case anyone was there.

To my surprise, the door opened and I was greeted by a group of people sitting in a circle. The mood was palpably serious. Rev. Donnell Jones, Community Organizer for the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, was telling them about recent deaths in the area involving gun violence. The men involved in the shootings were between 18 and 23 years old. “Babies,” Jones said, “robbed of the ability to dream.”

Jones explained the purpose of the walks and the strategy to end gun violence including “call-ins” where parole officers meet one-on-one with perpetrators, which has proven successful. Members of the group discussed the lengths they would go to get these youth help. Before we headed out, we gathered in prayer “for a generation of people that have been lost.”

After grabbing candles and signs reading a variety of things like, “Peace for Richmond” and “Honk to end gun violence,” we hit the streets, heading towards Cutting Blvd.

The signs we held suffered in the rain, but the enthusiasm and perseverance of the group persisted.

“I almost thought that maybe I wouldn’t come out to walk tonight because of the rain,” said Jane Eisenstark, a Richmond resident. “But then I realized that it was that much more important that I do.”

Throughout the trek the group chanted, “Ceasefire: Alive and Free,” and despite the poor visibility, drivers passing by honked in support.

We reconvened at the initial meeting point at the end of the walk, drenched from the rain. The gathering closed with a prayer and some words from Jones about taking the work to the next level outside of walking. The goal, he said, is getting at risk youth help through any means.

I left feeling overcome with emotion. I thought about peers who had been lost too soon and how senseless these deaths always are. Gun violence does not occur everywhere. We do not need it. It is hurting our community.

I also felt intense gratitude for the people who walk weekly, as well as those who are involved in the fight against violence in other ways. It is clear that these people have unconditional love for their community. Any of them would help if someone who needed it reached out.

Rich City Fashion

Photo Essay, Chanelle Ignant and David Meza

Joggers or skinny jeans? Snapbacks or bucket hats? If you’re wondering what the hot fashion trends are in Richmond right now and where can you get in on the action, look no further. On a recent afternoon at the RYSE Youth Center a group of fashion conscious models weighed in on the debate.

“It depends on which Richmond you at,” said Nya McDowell, 18, “because our Richmond [reflects] our creative people.”

The Merritt College freshman says that her style is mixed and matched. While some people rely on name brands, she tends to make her own clothes work for her.

“I wear what I’ve got, and only go shopping for what I need,” she said.

Overall the models said they don’t shop often, but when they do, they look for the best deals. Thrift shops trump big name stores and persistence, they say, is the best way to walk away with the goods.

“It’s patience. You have to go through every single rack,” McDowell said.

Maaika Marshall, 23, says she likes the mix-matched look, but feels like she can’t pull it off herself. “That look is hella cute. I wish I could do that.”

Instead, Marshall goes for a refined, professional look, opting to shop online at stores like H&M, Macy’s and Zumiez.

Elijah Holford, 19, says that no matter what you wear, you should wear it with confidence.

“Without confidence people will see right through you,” she said.

So what defines their personal style? Check out some of their favorite outfits in the photo spread.

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Seeing Gardens in the Blight

Photo Essay, Luis Cubas

Richmond is a city plagued with blight. While some areas are revitalized, too many lots are left empty throughout neighborhoods—standing out like gaps in a crooked smile.

While out on a walk down California Avenue, in the North and East neighborhood near Richmond High School, I passed three large lots in just a few blocks. They looked like they’d gone untouched for years; covered with weeds, garbage and old appliances.

Looking at them, I wondered, “What would happen if these lots were transformed into community gardens?”

Tim Higares, a code enforcement manager in Richmond, said the number of vacant lots is in the hundreds, and growing. But, he said there’s hope in the blight.

He cited the new community garden at Harbor 8 Park on the Richmond Greenway and the ongoing Mathieu Court greening project in the Iron Triangle as examples of efforts to beautify vacant, dilapidated areas.

“The city is in support of anything that will improve or stabilize the community,” he said.

“We would much rather see a beautiful green community garden than a ugly lot that’s full of trash and debris.”

Already some cities, and the state, have taken moves to support the idea of using vacant lots for growing food.

Last November the Oakland City Council approved changes to the city’s agricultural regulations to allow gardeners to grow vegetables on vacant lots and sell without a permit, as long as they receive permission from the property owner. And in 2013, California passed the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones, which gave private landowners a financial reason to consider turning their vacant lots into a garden oasis: a lower property tax rate for those who allow their land to be leased for urban agricultural for at least five years. Unfortunately this new law isn’t applicable in Richmond because it applies only in urban areas with a population of at least 250,000 people—Richmond has around 110,000 residents.

Nevertheless, I would like to see Richmond’s vacant lots transformed this year. By allowing these spaces to be used for gardening, the community of Richmond could benefit with fresh vegetables, and an improved landscape.

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The College Myth: Why Most Students Need More Than Four Years

by Joanna Pulido

The teacher smiled and held a hat as a line of about a dozen students looked at each other nervously. Inside the hat were small pieces of paper with each student’s name. Luck would determine who would be part of the class, and who would have to continue the search.

Those of us already enrolled in the class waited quietly, watching the smiles and frowns as lucky students moved closer to graduation, and others possibly further. In my four and a half years at San Francisco State University, I saw this scenario play out year after year. Some teachers tried to help us by taking into consideration the number of credits students needed, or by adding more students to the class than the limit stipulated — but often times getting into a class just felt like a matter of luck.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to SFSU, in many universities across California it’s difficult for students to graduate on time because of the space constraints in required classes, tuition costs, credits lost when transferring schools and generally not enough courses offered. And, a new study shows that the commonly held goal of graduating within four-years is unattainable for a growing number of students.

Four-Year Myth, a report from the national nonprofit, Complete College America, declares that a 4-year degree has become a myth in American higher education. The study finds that the majority of full-time American college students do not graduate on time, costing them thousands of dollars in extra college-related expenses.

Policy experts who analyzed the statistics believe a more realistic benchmark for graduation is six years for a bachelor’s degree and three years for a “two-year” certificate.

While in college I heard numerous friends and students debate whether higher education is worth the debt. It’s difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook with increasing tuition costs, long commutes and a bleak job market for graduates.

Fellow students frequently bowed to the pressure of not wanting to fall too deep into debt and would work part-time or full-time while in school, which usually meant extending their time in school. Not a great tradeoff.

Ideally, students would be able to make classes fit into the demands of the rest of their lives. As is, it works the other way around. Students are given a day and time to register for classes depending on a number of variables: what year of school they’re in, whether they’re athletes or in a special program because of disabilities or income level. Often, popular classes—and even those needed for graduation—fill up fast. Imagine being given a day and time to register only to discover that the classes you need are already full, with a full wait list too. This is the frustrating reality for many students.

We are told that education is the way to success and better lives, but for many it becomes a stressful cycle and may not guarantee anything more than years of debt and an unfinished dream.

As a solution, Complete College America suggests a more structured higher education delivery method, called Guided Pathways to Success (GPS), which would provide students with a direct route to graduation. Utilizing GPS, majors are organized into a semester-by-semester set of courses that lead to on time graduation.

My first two and half years at SFSU, I played for the women’s soccer team, which helped me obtain priority registration, and due to my low income background I was part of the EOP (Educational Opportunity Program), which also offered priority registration. Both of these programs also provided tutoring, counseling, money for books and guidance. To stay in these programs I had to keep a 2.0 GPA and complete 12 units each semester, which kept me on track for graduation.

Ultimately, these structured programs helped me complete classes, save money, and provided moral support that made me feel more confident in my college experience. If in practice, GPS functions the way the programs I was part of did, it may very well prove to be the answer to the increasing time and costs of college.

Down a Player: How a High School Coach and Basketball Team is Carrying on in the Wake of a Homicide

News Feature, Chanelle Ignant

 

At a Friday night basketball game in late November, Richmond High School’s boys basketball coach, Robert Collins, paced the sidelines, yelling instructions to his team.

With less than 30 seconds left, and only a two-point lead over the Mount Diablo Devils, Collins had one command for his team.

“Don’t foul the shooter! Don’t foul the shooter,” he said, his booming voice carrying throughout the gym.

The Devils tied the game at 73 with 12 seconds to go.

The pressure was on for the Oilers. With the ball in play, they managed to make it across half court, but fumbled the ball near their baseline.

With five seconds left, senior Sahr Kelly recovered the ball and took a difficult shot from underneath the basket.

The buzzer sounded. Kelly’s shot went in, and the Oilers were victorious.

As the team rushed from the bench, surrounding Kelly in celebration, they left behind a jersey laid out on one of the chairs. It was emblazoned with the number 4—a memorial to the team’s fallen player, Rodney Frazier Jr., who was killed out front of his North Richmond home in November.

Collins, now sobbing, walked through the post-game ritual of handshakes and saying “good game” to the other team.

His love of the game, of his players and of Richmond’s program was evident. The sense of loss for a player absent that Friday night was palpable.

“This game was special,” he said on the way to the bus. “That was so special.”

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Frazier, the 16-year-old junior guard for the Oilers who was gunned down on November 7, Collins said he and the team have been riding an emotional roller coaster.

“We’re ready for some normalcy again,” said the veteran coach of 18 years.

IMG_9985Collins gained media attention in recent weeks after co-organizing a rally for Frazier at Richmond City Hall where hundreds of players, community members and leaders gathered to honor Frazier and call for change.

His passion, often witnessed on the sideline at games, turns to indignation whenever he speaks of what happened to Frazier.

“Why did they have to take someone out who was just on the brink of becoming someone unbelievably special in life?” Collins asked. “Why did that have to happen? I’m never going to get the answer,” he said. “No one is.”

Collins began coaching at Richmond High in 2002, replacing the famed Coach Ken Carter. He left in 2006 to coach at Amador Valley High, but resigned after two years when parents complained about his intense coaching style.

He returned to Richmond as a physical education teacher in 2008 and became coach once more, fulfilling his wish to “be a part of kids lives.”

“I’m older and a lot wiser and a part of a school community now, which is what I always wanted to be,” Collins said.

Collins admits that the challenges are great for Richmond High students.

“It’s pretty heavy for these young people that see a lot of rocky stuff on a day to day occurrence,” he said. “I’m sensitive to it, but I will never understand it.”

He said basketball keeps the players going because it gives them a physical outlet for their pain and a common goal to work toward.

Despite the recent tragedy, he considers Richmond High his saving grace.

“I was never really part of a school community, until I got to Richmond,” he said.

IMG_9998And that community relies on him now. On Friday night, as his voice carried throughout the gym, the intensity that he says forced him out of a suburban school is what the Richmond players look up to.

“He gives these kids and this school and this program everything he has,” said Kellis Love, the Richmond junior varsity boy basketball coach. “He’s one of a kind.”

So far, Collins said, the team is playing “with the idea that we wish Rodney was here doing it with us.”

“It is what it is,” Collins said. “We’re going to have to get through it and go forward.”

Now on a two-game winning streak, the Oilers are gaining momentum. With Collins’ leadership from the sidelines, and Frazier’s memory pushing them to succeed, the boys of Richmond High will keep playing one game at a time.

 

Down a Player: How a High School Coach and Basketball Team is Carrying on in the Wake of a Homicide

News Feature, Chanelle Ignant

 

At a Friday night basketball game in late November, Richmond High School’s boys basketball coach, Robert Collins, paced the sidelines, yelling instructions to his team.

With less than 30 seconds left, and only a two-point lead over the Mount Diablo Devils, Collins had one command for his team.

“Don’t foul the shooter! Don’t foul the shooter,” he said, his booming voice carrying throughout the gym.

The Devils tied the game at 73 with 12 seconds to go.

The pressure was on for the Oilers. With the ball in play, they managed to make it across half court, but fumbled the ball near their baseline.

With five seconds left, senior Sahr Kelly recovered the ball and took a difficult shot from underneath the basket.

The buzzer sounded. Kelly’s shot went in, and the Oilers were victorious.

As the team rushed from the bench, surrounding Kelly in celebration, they left behind a jersey laid out on one of the chairs. It was emblazoned with the number 4—a memorial to the team’s fallen player, Rodney Frazier Jr., who was killed out front of his North Richmond home in November.

Collins, now sobbing, walked through the post-game ritual of handshakes and saying “good game” to the other team.

His love of the game, of his players and of Richmond’s program was evident. The sense of loss for a player absent that Friday night was palpable.

“This game was special,” he said on the way to the bus. “That was so special.”

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Frazier, the 16-year-old junior guard for the Oilers who was gunned down on November 7, Collins said he and the team have been riding an emotional roller coaster.

“We’re ready for some normalcy again,” said the veteran coach of 18 years.

IMG_9985Collins gained media attention in recent weeks after co-organizing a rally for Frazier at Richmond City Hall where hundreds of players, community members and leaders gathered to honor Frazier and call for change.

His passion, often witnessed on the sideline at games, turns to indignation whenever he speaks of what happened to Frazier.

“Why did they have to take someone out who was just on the brink of becoming someone unbelievably special in life?” Collins asked. “Why did that have to happen? I’m never going to get the answer,” he said. “No one is.”

Collins began coaching at Richmond High in 2002, replacing the famed Coach Ken Carter. He left in 2006 to coach at Amador Valley High, but resigned after two years when parents complained about his intense coaching style.

He returned to Richmond as a physical education teacher in 2008 and became coach once more, fulfilling his wish to “be a part of kids lives.”

“I’m older and a lot wiser and a part of a school community now, which is what I always wanted to be,” Collins said.

Collins admits that the challenges are great for Richmond High students.

“It’s pretty heavy for these young people that see a lot of rocky stuff on a day to day occurrence,” he said. “I’m sensitive to it, but I will never understand it.”

He said basketball keeps the players going because it gives them a physical outlet for their pain and a common goal to work toward.

Despite the recent tragedy, he considers Richmond High his saving grace.

“I was never really part of a school community, until I got to Richmond,” he said.

IMG_9998And that community relies on him now. On Friday night, as his voice carried throughout the gym, the intensity that he says forced him out of a suburban school is what the Richmond players look up to.

“He gives these kids and this school and this program everything he has,” said Kellis Love, the Richmond junior varsity boy basketball coach. “He’s one of a kind.”

So far, Collins said, the team is playing “with the idea that we wish Rodney was here doing it with us.”

“It is what it is,” Collins said. “We’re going to have to get through it and go forward.”

Now on a two-game winning streak, the Oilers are gaining momentum. With Collins’ leadership from the sidelines, and Frazier’s memory pushing them to succeed, the boys of Richmond High will keep playing one game at a time.

 

A Glimpse of the Globe

by Monet Boyd

 

I always wanted to travel the world, and this summer I got the chance.

It was my junior year at El Cerrito High School, and a friend nominated me for an ambassador position with Global Glimpse—a non-profit that provides life-changing global education to high school students. Global Glimpse partners with high schools throughout the San Francisco Bay area to provide opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds to experience life-changing travel abroad.

The program is built around active community service, culture and leadership development. It empowers young people to become responsible global citizens and instills in them—or at least in me—a lifelong passion for community involvement and education.

After learning all I could about the program, I decided to apply. Then I waited to be accepted or rejected.

When I learned I was accepted my first emotion was fear, fear to be leaving Richmond and my family. But, as the trip grew closer, I became excited to experience something new. Plus, I knew that I was going to help people outside of Richmond.

imageOn June 9, I boarded a plane with 22 other student ambassadors and two leaders. We were off on a three-week long journey to Nicaragua. There was some comfort in the adventure because three of my close friends from El Cerrito High were also on the trip, and I prayed with my family before I left.

Waiting inside San Francisco International Airport, I was hit with waves of excitement, anxiety and nerves. Many of the folks I met there were from San Jose, Oakland and Pittsburg.  Little did I know that these people I was nervous to meet would soon become like family.

It was scorching when we touched down at the Managua airport in Nicaragua. Two Global Glimpse coordinators greeted us with gifts—a great start to any trip.

The first hostel we stayed in, in Mangua, was terrifying. It was infested with huge ants and spiders. We had an air conditioner in our room but it would cut off for hours during the night and we would sweat bullets until it came back on. Thankfully we didn’t stay there long.

Our official hostel was in Estelí, and it reminded me of home. The staff took care of us like family. They cooked for us, cleaned our rooms and even spent time with us in the common areas.

Estelí is a beautiful city with so much history. The landscape is breathtaking, not far from the city are mountains, waterfalls and forests.

While the city was gorgeous, it was the people I met who made the trip. For the most part, they were gracious and a pleasure to be around. They allowed me to practice my semi understandable Spanish in exchange for practicing their English.

Our trip was very packed; this wasn’t a vacation. Everyday we were busy working through simulations or lessons that would help us understand life as most people in the area knew it. We had to live on a dollar a day, learn about the politics and history of the region and take part in the community.

Many of the people I came across struggled to feed their families daily. As we became friends, I realized that despite having nearly nothing they barely complained. They were—for the most part—happy, and that put things into perspective in my own life.

Dona Francesca epitomized that spirit. Francesca lived in a dumpsite, where she gave birth to 25 kids, but 17 of them died from diarrhea and vomiting. In spite of her troubles, Francesca opened her home to us and had no problem sharing her story. People like her showed me how to be content. They carry joy and peace—which was remarkable to me. Their hardships don’t define them.

The most memorable moment on our three-week journey was executing the community action project. At Fabretto Elementary School we built two tables for children to eat on, and cleaned out the kitchen so the food wouldn’t be contaminated by flies and other bugs.

I was proud that my delegation and I were able to make a sustainable impact. It may seem common to us, but these kids didn’t have access to a table until we built it. I am most proud because Global Glimpse enabled us to address an actual need.

Overall, this trip changed me. It allowed me to meet humble and strong people, and showed me how the world is connected. When I came back and started looking at colleges, I made sure that the ones I applied for had a study abroad program—because I still want to travel the world.

Study: Trauma Follows Children Into Adulthood, Threat to Public Health in CA

News Report, Anna Challet | New America Media

Past experiences of childhood trauma are common among California adults, and those experiences correlate with harmful behaviors and chronic disease at a level that constitutes a “public health crisis,” according to a new study.

The report by the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), a health organization that serves children and families in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point district, demonstrates that “the effects of early adversity on lifetime health are astounding,” according to CYW founder and CEO Nadine Burke Harris.

The first of its kind, the study gathered data on how Californians are being affected by what the report refers to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), or traumatic experiences that have long-term effects on the brain and body. The experiences measured by the study include physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; physical and emotional neglect; and household problems including divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse, incarceration, and mental illness.

CYW found that over 60 percent of adults reported at least one adverse childhood experience, and one in six adults reported having four or more traumatic experiences.

The most commonly reported experience was emotional or verbal abuse, with 35 percent of adults saying they’d experienced that as children.

The pervasiveness of traumatic experiences was found to be “quite consistent across ethnicities,” according to Burke Harris. The percentage of adults reporting four or more traumatic experiences was similar among Whites and African Americans (16.4 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively), slightly higher among Hispanics (17.3 percent), and slightly lower among Asian Pacific Islanders (11.4 percent).

The report used four years’ worth of data from the California Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone survey on health-related behaviors conducted every year by the California Department of Public Health and led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The total sample size was nearly 28,000 individuals.

“The higher your dose of adversity, the more likely you are to have poor health outcomes,” said Burke Harris. For example, an individual reporting four or more traumatic experiences is over five times as likely to cope with depression as an adult. Those individuals are also more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or kidney disease, and more likely to have a stroke. They’re almost three times as likely to smoke, and over three times as likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.

“That’s a challenge for some people to understand,” said Mary Lou Fulton, a senior program manager at The California Endowment, a private health foundation that was one of the report’s sponsors. “How is it that something that happened to you as a child can actually result in a health consequence 10 or 20 years down the road?” Fulton spoke at a summit on childhood trauma held in San Francisco by CYW in the days after the report’s release.

And the high-risk behaviors like smoking only account for about 50 percent of the increased health risks, Burke Harris explains. Poor health outcomes in individuals who had more traumatic experiences as children are also due to constant activation of the body’s stress response, “where the body releases stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. And when this happens with high frequency [it can become] a maladaptive chronic response in the body,” she said.

Burke Harris also noted that having more traumatic experiences as a child appears to correlate with limited access to health care as an adult. Someone with four or more adverse experiences is 50 percent more likely to lack health insurance as someone who’s had no adverse experiences.

Remembering Rodney

By Tania Pulido

photo copyRodney Frazier Jr. was 16 years-old, a teenager from North Richmond who loved basketball, his motorcycle, family and volunteering. On Fri., Nov. 7, his life was taken when he was shot dead in his front yard while trying to go home.

I had the gift of working with Rodney this year, during the Urban Tilth summer apprentice program. His smile is one I’ll never forget—or his curiosity and the way he’d ask a hundred and one questions.

At a memorial vigil held for him the week after his death, it was clear how many people felt the loss of Rodney. Hundreds of family, friends and community members gathered outside the Richmond Civic Center on a cloudy evening, they lit candles of love as night fell and the weather seemed to reflect the gloomy faces in the crowd.

“He was ambitious, he was sweet, he just wanted to joke and have fun,” Alaundria Evans, Rodney’s sister told me. She added that she would remember him as someone who tried to help anyone.

Althea Evans, Rodney’s older sister, recounted to me childhood memories that highlighted the man he was becoming, one who enjoyed the mechanical side of things—like fixing his bike. “When he was little he would throw away his toys and play with tools,” she said.

As a student at Richmond High, Rodney excelled at basketball. Rob Collins, Rodney’s coach was one of many who spoke to the crowd during the vigil.

“People say he was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Collins said his voice loud with passion and fury. “He was in the right place–at home!”

Rodney was shot at 18 times in front of his own home, where his friends and family witnessed him take his last breath.

photoIn the midst of the sadness and despair one speaker after the next talked about hope for a better tomorrow.

Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said the community was igniting “lights of justice” because “justice must come or peace will not come.” So far police have not made any arrests and believe the killing was a random act of violence. Rodney was not involved in any gangs or drug activity.

For some of Rodney’s siblings the vigil left a huge imprint and a better understanding of the immense love people have for their brother. Ciaundria Hillard, another of Rodney’s older sisters said, “It was sad that everything had to happen, but it makes me feel better that so many people who love him in the community came together and shared kind words.”

“The way people came together, I want us to hold on to that and continue coming together and stop wasting lives,” she added.

As devastating as it is, violence like this is nothing new to us who grew up in Richmond. Within the last few weeks five teens were shot in the city of Richmond and North Richmond.

Althea had a message for the community too. “Hold your kids tight, keep them close to you,” she said, “Let them know that there is a better future.”