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.”

Q & A: Mike Parker on Changing the Nature of Politics in Richmond

Interview, Malcolm Marshall

Editor’s Note: Richmond Progressive Alliance Campaign Coordinator and one time Mayoral candidate, Mike Parker spoke to Richmond Pulse’s  Malcolm Marshall about the recent election, working with Mayor-elect Tom Butt and training new leaders in Richmond.

Richmond Pulse: RPA lost in the 2012 election but came back strong this year. What was the key to success this time? How much do you credit to Chevron’s missteps?

MP_RichmondWallMike Parker: There are many things that contributed to our victory. But I think the key reason that we won in Richmond, even while progressives lost across the country, was that this wasn’t just an election campaign. This was part of a ten year battle to change the nature of Richmond and politics in Richmond.

We had in place people who had developed roots in the community. We had in place people who had reputations so that when the hit pieces came out, we actually had already been door to door with many people talking to them.

The hit piece stuff does damage. It did damage to us here. We would have done much better without them. I don’t think that this is Chevron’s misstep. I think we won. I think we won because Richmond really is much better now than it was ten years ago and people recognize that, and because we built an organization in Richmond to act politically throughout the year, not just at election time, and to help make some of these programs a reality.

RP: As a campaign strategist, what was different this year compared to other recent elections? Are there messages that resonate in Richmond today that didn’t say six or eight years ago?

MP: Chevron’s role in the city was a big issue. Chevron only attacked the three RPA candidates, it did not attack Tom Butt and it didn’t attack Jael Myrick. It wanted to smash the RPA, and its supporters, and I think the reason it wanted to goes back to the political struggle over Chevron’s modernization project.

The project was an opportunity for Chevron and Richmond to see reduced pollution, not just the same levels. It was the opportunity to take steps for making production of oil greener. It was the opportunity for Chevron to work with the community and Chevron in all those places chose not to work with the community, but to do just the minimum necessary to comply with the law. And they didn’t like the fact that people sort of stood up and said, ‘No, we want something more.’

The other big issue facing the city was, and still is, Doctor’s Hospital. We fought the closing of the hospital from the very beginning—wanting to get help early on, when we still could, from the Chevron Community Benefits Agreement. And we continued working with the California Nurses Association to try to keep the pressure up and we’ve made some headway.

We haven’t solved it yet, but there are more people who are onboard with finding ways to save it, and it can be saved—if we get enough good leadership in this county to actually take a look at how to save it.

RP: Mayor Elect Tom Butt has often voted in alignment with RPA members on the City Council, but he is not an official RPA member. What expectations, and challenges, do you see moving forward in working with the new mayor?

MP: I think we’ll work together well. That doesn’t mean that we agree about everything.

One of the basic principles of the RPA is that we accept no corporate contributions. Tom doesn’t get much in corporate contributions, but he doesn’t accept that as a principle. We don’t accept candidates who accept corporate contributions, so that’s one of the areas we have a difference. We also have a difference with Tom on a number of policy questions. We have a difference with him about Doctors Hospital and the importance of it, about minimum wage.

On the other hand, Tom is also somebody who is very smart and understands that there has to be something done in Richmond to bring it together, and I think that Tom will work well with the RPA.

RP: Only 17,000 people voted in this last election. How do you expand the circle of the RPA to bring in more residents, specifically more young people?

MP: That’s the $64.00 question. We recognize that part of the problem with a volunteer organization is that it needs volunteers and it needs people who will work. Well, that means that the main people who can do that kind of work consistently are retired people. People who are working full time, who have families, they can’t put in days and days and days of the consistent work that was necessary to do this.

This wasn’t just a spurt of activity at election time; this was consistent activity every day for the past, well, pretty much the past ten years. I don’t want to exaggerate it, but, you know, we try to maintain an open office, we were involved in all kinds of campaigns, helped various projects get going. All those things take work and it’s hard to get young people to basically put that kind of time into it. But we have to figure out a way to do that.

We have to figure out a way in particular to train new leadership, people to come onto the city council, people to lead in the community–because we want a community that’s active.

The best things that have happened in Richmond have happened because the elected officials have worked with active parts of the community to accomplish things.

RP: You said throughout the campaign that this was about Chevron trying to retake control of the city council. Then we saw that Chevron was willing to spend $3 million to get influence. What lessons can be learned from this experience that the community should build on moving forward?

MP: We built something that looks to residents being involved politically, rather than simply coming out to vote, and in doing that we created a little bit different culture in Richmond around how politics can be run.

I think we pretty much established that we were able to actually go out and make our case about what we stood for, and the people who went to vote agreed with us.

Chevron, by putting all this money into politics keeps raising the bar on what it takes to get active in politics and to do something. Right now it’s not possible, without having $100,000, to be part of a campaign. There are only a few ways you get $100,000. You either get Chevron’s backing, you have the backing of some other powerful institutions—the realtors or maybe the building trades—or you come together in some group as we did. We combined the campaigns, so between the campaigns all together we were able to raise probably $150,000. But, that was a lot of people coming together.

I have nothing against us raising $100,000 from small contributions because it’s lots of people coming together and it’s a lot different than coming into this game and basically owing your allegiance to whatever corporation is willing to sponsor you.

Warriors Give Nystrom Community a New Place to Play

Story and Photos by Chanelle Ignant

Lenora Walker grew up playing basketball near Martin Luther King Park in Richmond. But when the Martin Luther King Community Center closed a few years ago, the park’s run down outdoor courts became her only option.

“All we had left were the courts here that had cracks [and] the backboards were small and old,” Walker recalled. “We didn’t have nowhere else to go around here that’s not in someone else’s neighborhood.”

On Oct. 20, Walker and over a hundred other community members attended the unveiling of two radically different courts in their backyard.

IMG_9997The Mitch Richmond Basketball Courts, named for the Basketball Hall of famer—and former Golden State Warriors great—Mitch Richmond, debuted with the help of the Warriors Foundation, Good Tidings Foundation, the California Endowment and Healthy Richmond.

Featuring four new NBA plexiglass hoop systems and a 14,000 square foot all-weather acrylic playing surface, the renovations came about through the work of the Nystrom United Revitalization Effort (NURVE), an initiative launched in 2002 to address the needs of the Nystrom neighborhood. The renovated basketball courts completed the effort to revitalize MLK Park. The courts are next to the Oakland Raiders themed football field, completed in 2011, and the Oakland A’s baseball field—opened earlier this year.

“What the Warriors did here was just phenomenal,” Jim Becker of Richmond Community Foundation said.

After an Oakland Raiders football field’s renovation and an Oakland A’s baseball field done earlier this year, Becker reached out to Jose Gordon, Executive Director of the Warriors Foundation with the idea of involving the Warriors in the rebuild of the outdoor basketball court. Gordon loved the idea.

According to Becker it’s the only instance in the country where all three major sports teams have helped build a neighborhood park.

“Playing sports was my everything,” said Mitch Richmond during the unveiling ceremony. On the court is where he said he learned the value of teamwork and dedication.

Following the ceremony the Warriors Foundation led a basketball clinic with students between the ages of 10 and 12 from Richmond College Preparatory and the Police Activities League.

Christina Baronian, a sixth grade teacher at Richmond College Prep, said that with the limited space at her school the new court offers a place for her students to go after school.

“This park was always a dangerous park to go,” Baronian said. “A lot of their parents wouldn’t let them come here because it was so dangerous. And now that they’ve fixed up this court and the other field my students are going to be able to come here now, which they’re really excited about.”

Lynette Walker, who lives nearby came to the event and said she hopes the refurbished courts will attract more players.

“For years we would come out here and play and no one would be out here,” she said. “Now that they fixed it up I really think that a lot of people will be encouraged to come back and play.”

NURVE team member Janie Holland said the park involved more than just outsiders.

“We would like for the community to take ownership of this,” Holland said. “We want them to feel like this is ours. We all did this together.”

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More Unity, Less Division

Commentary, Asani Shakur

 

Recently, I came across some of the rhetoric that has taken place in the Richmond City Council.

I saw on Youtube that Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles was chastised and made a mockery of for wearing an African head wrap at one of the city council meetings. What bothered my heart was that some of the sardonic remarks came from other African brothers.

A brother and minister, Wesley Ellis, is seen in the video recording of that night placing a handbag on top of his head as a joke towards Beckles’ African head wrap. Then to add insult to injury Mr. Ellis is greeted by Richmond resident Mark Wassberg with laughter and a high-five.

I don’t expect a person like Wassberg to embrace our African culture. In that same video he is recorded saying to Beckles, “This is what happens Beckles when you wear that tight funny hat around your head, your brain cells get blocked.” Other times he’s been quoted as saying to Beckles (who is openly gay), “Gays have no morality…You’re filth, you’re dirt.”

What stood out for me was that nobody stood up for this sister.

Politics aside, whether you support her political views or not, whether you like her personally, or not, we should not allow anyone to poke fun of our culture.

It was a poor example of leadership and a disgraceful representation of Richmond for the rest of the world to bare witness to. I placed it on par with the stupidity of some of these reality shows on television, with all the drama. I thought “How could people in leadership positions who are to make decisions for the citizens of Richmond, possibly have the city’s best interest at heart while displaying loathing characteristics? How did they allow it to get so ugly that the media catches wind of it?”

Beckles is often critisized by some in Richmond for not being “really black.” In an SF Gate article council member Corky Boozé is quoted as saying  “she says she’s a black Latina. Well, you’re either African American or you’re not.”

The question I found myself thinking about after reading the article was, “What separates us who are of African decent, whether we live in United States, Brazil, Cuba, Panama, Haiti, Barbados, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic or other Caribbean islands?” I’ll tell you: A boat trip.

Not all of our ancestors were dropped off here in the New World (United States). The middle passage consisted of a three-legged system known as the “triangular trade.” The triangular trade started from Europe as its first leg and on to Africa as its second leg where they kidnapped people and forced them onto a ship before dropping them off to the America’s—leg three, a life of enslavement.

Aside from the boat trip, where our dichotomy lies, is language, which creates further divides us.

An African in the United States speaks English, an African in Cuba speaks Spanish and an African in Brazil speaks Portuguese. The reason is simple—colonization.

Africans here speak English because it was the British who controlled the slave economy in the United States. The same goes for Africans who speak Spanish as a native tongue. It’s because their overseer was from Spain, and through colonization, the native African tongue (language) was stripped from us. As well as our names, culture and the like. The Portuguese, the British, the French, the Dutch Empire, Spain, and so on, all had their hands in the African slave trade.

I point this out so one won’t be fooled by someone else’s accusations of some one not being “Black” because they come from one of the island’s and may identify themselves as “Afro-Latin.” That identification is no different from someone saying I am “African-American” because they were raised here in America.

Beckles did not need to expound on why she wore an African head wrap (it was in solidarity of the 200 Nigerian girls that were kidnapped). We should not have to feel the need to explain to anyone why we may wear something that identifies with our African culture.

We of African decent should not be ashamed of our history and culture. We should hold our Maafa (Kiswahili for African Holocaust) sacred.

Until we educate ourselves, and our children, by reconditioning the mind, we will continue to suffer from “divide and conquer” syndrome.

A School Lunch I’d Gladly Eat

Commentary, Sean Shavers | Video, Ann Bassette

When I was in high school in Oakland, I never really questioned the cafeteria menu, I just knew that I wasn’t eating it because it didn’t look appealing and I had other options. For years school lunch was considered nasty and inedible by me and my peers. Many of us would grab a bag of chips from the vending machine and skip the lunch line entirely.

It wasn’t until recently, that I saw school lunch in a different way. Along with members of the Richmond Food Policy Council, I took a trip to Pittsburg High School to see the school’s nutritional program.

We we’re given a tour around the campus by Matt Belasco, the director of child nutrition services for Pittsburg Unified School District. He explained how and why the school had been remodeled, with child nutrition as part of the design. In fact, six out of 13 schools in Pittsburg were remodeled with a garden facility on campus, including Pittsburg High. Belasco said that child nutrition is his main objective now at the high school.

If kids don’t have a healthy meal before school it will affect how they learn, perform and behave in the classroom, Belasco said, so it’s essential that kids eat well, in order to think well. Belasco also mentioned that before the school was remodeled, they served about 800 meals a day. Now that number has shot up to 3,000.

As part of the initiative they also did away with off-campus lunch. A move that Belasco said was meant to discourage students from eating at corner stores and then not returning to school.

“We developed a system to counter act that,” Belasco said of the unhealthy lunches often eaten by students. “By providing clean drinking water, access to fruits and vegetables and a desirable school menu, we’ve done that.”

On the tour, we were escorted to the campus garden first, where a majority of the school’s produce is grown. Belasco said that the special-ed students were responsible for growing and maintaining the garden. There were fat, juicy looking eggplants, dark green cucumbers and bright colored peppers and tomatoes dotting the flourishing garden. The tomatoes are used for salsa and sauces, according to Belasco. The cucumbers could be used to make fruit infused “spa water.”

Last summer, members of the summer child nutrition program, along with students, grew and pulled up, sixty pounds of vegetables for the summer school lunch program. Their work saved the school money and gave students skills.

After the garden we went to the food carts. These carts were loaded with healthy snack items, like grapes, pears and carrots. These carts were basically small stations, for students on the go, who don’t want to wait in lunch lines. It seemed like a smart strategy to keep the cafeteria from over crowding.

To wrap up the day, we entered the cafeteria—the place where it all goes down. The first thing that struck me was the vending machines. They weren’t stocked with the usual fare: Candy, soda and chips. In place of the unhealthy items were bottle water and 100 percent juice containers.

On each end of the cafeteria were well organized salad bars. Each of them with a color coded system, to show students which food item belongs to which food group: Green for veggies, red for fruits, blue for milk, orange for grains and purple for protein. The system ensures students get their nutritional needs met, even without going through the lunch line.

Aside from the salad bars, there were four lunch stations throughout the cafeteria. At each station students are given food options. One station was the red, white, and blue deli. It served traditional American food, hot dogs, hamburgers and the like. There was a south of the border station, which served Latin cuisine, like tacos and burritos. Another one served Italian cuisine—think pastas, soup and bread. And finally, there was a hot wok express, which served Asian cuisine—rice, noodles and steamed veggies.

All of the variety makes it nearly impossible for students to complain about the menu
After walking around the campus and seeing all of the fresh meals, it was finally time to try the food. I decided to head south of the border.

The two tacos I had with cheese, salsa and sour cream were the bomb. The flavor, the crunch of the taco, the spicy salsa and the melted cheese were just right. It was far better than any school lunch I had ever eaten.

If I had access to all this goodness while I was in school, I would have definitely taken advantage of the free lunch program.

Recreating Richmond’s Home Front

Photo Essay, Ann Bassette

Richmond hosted its 8th annual Home Front Festival on October 11 with a new theme — Kids Can Do It.

As always, it was a popular event driving scores of families to come out, enjoy the Richmond waterfront and celebrate the impressive history and beauty of the area.

The day kicked off with the 5k/10k Homefront Run and Walk along the shoreline from the Ford Point building on Harbour Way South, hosted by the Hilltop Family YMCA. Afterwards, there were plenty of free festivities in the Craneway Pavillion, on the S.S. Red Oak Victory Ship and at the nearby Lucretia Edwards Shoreline Park.

The historic World War II ship was built at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond. Veterans climbed the shaky stairs to board the ship. Once on deck, with the American flag flying high, a ukulele band performed and encouraged visitors to pick up an instrument and join in. Guests were also allowed to explore the enormous ship, which is one of the lasts of its kind. Only three of these ships remain, floating in the world. The Red Oak saw service in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars.

At Lucretia Edwards Park, families enjoyed the beautiful Richmond shoreline while visiting local vendors, playing games and listening to music from local bands and choirs. Kids kicked off their shoes and bounced around in three large jump houses. A brightly painted children’s train circled the grass and travelled along the waterfront with smiling kids in tow.

This year’s festival coincided with Fleet Week and provided people a great view of the Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, who spun, flipped and showed off their aerial acrobats high above.

Rich City Rides offered bike tours along the bay trail, along with bike valet service and bike rentals for people to enjoy the area on two wheels.

The day was rounded out with top-notch entertainment for the whole family by Alvon’s Blues, Angelas de la Banda, the Elite Jazz Band, Switched Up! and the Contra Costa Chorale.

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‘Youth of Color’ Voting Still Critical in Competitive Political Races

Youth voter turnout in North Carolina, including a sizeable segment of ethnic voters, will play a critical role in determining whether Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan retains her seat against Republican challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, according to data on the voting patterns of youth of color.

“The issue of the youth vote in North Carolina is related to but not identical to issues of race and ethnicity, but North Carolina’s young voters, ages 18 to 30 years old, are more diverse than its older voters. So who votes in this November’s election will be important to the outcome,” said Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information & Research on Civic and Learning Engagement (CIRCLE), a nonpartisan institute based at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

In addition to North Carolina, states where the youth vote could affect the outcome in November’s competitive political races include Alaska, Colorado, and Louisiana, according to an analysis CIRCLE released in August. CIRCLE’s data on African American, Asian American, and Hispanic youth show the complexities at play in ways that may challenge common assumptions about what motivates youth to become civically engaged or affiliate with a political party.

For example, the data show “a significant percentage of African American men more often identify as conservatives, given the choice of ‘are you a liberal, moderate, or conservative,’” Levine said, as opposed to African American women, who more often tend to self-identify as liberal. Gender differences are not only apparent in choice of political party, but in how they view their personal involvement.

Though young women of color have typically higher rates of civic engagement than men as measured by volunteerism, they are “still less likely to see themselves as political leaders,” Levine said, adding that this view is fairly consistent with women across all ethnic groups.

The contrasts between different groups of youth can be striking. Data from 2010 shows that nearly 40 percent of young Latinos are “civically alienated” in terms of voter registration and voter turnout, falling behind African American and white youth. Yet, young Latina women were among the strongest supporters of President Obama in 2012.

Asian American youth were the next largest group to be “civically alienated” (just over 30 percent), but they led all groups in terms of donations to political causes (17 percent).

The data illuminates the tension between the idealistic goal of broadening youth participation in politics and the need of political parties to win at the ballot box by devising ways to decrease support for their opponents. That is certainly the case in North Carolina where the youth vote surged in the 2008 presidential election but ebbed in the 2010 midterm election, resulting in a Republican-dominated legislature that has sought to impose limits on youth voting.

“The swing in the electorate from election to election is a fascinating story in North Carolina,” Levine said, “but it is really a story of youth engagement and participation in voting. North Carolina shows that the youth vote does matter in competitive races.”

Levine said the youth vote may be critical in Louisiana as well. African American youth comprise about 40 percent of the state’s approximately 300,000 voting-age citizens overall, though only about one-third of the voters. “That’s still a significant bloc of voters,” Levine said. Should they vote en masse for embattled Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu, it could yield the margin of victory to propel her to another six-year term.

Louisiana underscores the stakes for Democrats in this midterm election as to whether their party can retain control of the U.S. Senate when the House of Representatives already has a Republican majority that can impede President Obama’s legislative agenda.

Levine’s observations are that the younger voters tend to be more liberal on social issues, like supporting gay rights or immigration reform, but that political operatives from either party shouldn’t take the youth vote for granted. “Youth of color voters have diverse interests, and as young people, their votes are often unpredictable,” he said.

DACA Recipients Grateful for Present, Uncertain About Future

Story and Video • Edgardo Cervano-Soto

 

Manuel Martinez thought his future would follow the life of his father. When he was 17, he thought he’d work in construction after high school. Despite living in Richmond since the age of one, Martinez didn’t think he had many options because of his undocumented status.

Farther north, in Modesto, Yaquelin Valencia, a Kennedy High School graduate, spent a lot of her time driving around the Central Valley. She was 20 years old and passionate about organizing immigrant communities. She was also undocumented, and ineligible for a driver’s license.

On June 15, 2012, President Obama authored a memorandum that would alter the course of the two youngsters’ lives, along with the lives of hundreds of thousands in similar situations. The order granted young immigrants who met specific criteria the chance to apply for what is essentially a temporary reprieve from deportation, or the threat of it.

The administrative policy had an innocuous name, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Those eligible for DACA are granted an opportunity to apply for a work permit and a social security number.

Valencia and Martinez applied for DACA within months of its announcement and both were granted DACA status.

“January 22, 2013, I got a letter in the mail,” Martinez recalled. “My mom cried. She told me how proud she was that I was now an ‘American;’ that I finally belonged in the country.” With a year and a half remaining of high school, Martinez kicked into high gear, re-committing himself to his studies and reconsidering the possibility of what life could be like after graduation.

The last two-plus years since DACA went into effect have impacted the lives of eligible undocumented people, making opportunities such as employment and higher education accessible to many for the first time.

DACA generated national interest when it was announced. It was celebrated as an accomplishment for DREAMers and their supporters, those who advocated for immigration reform for the young undocumented community in the United States.

Obama and Democrats throughout the country, who’d earlier been polling low with Latinos, also enjoyed benefits from the DACA announcement. Obama was re-elected to the presidency a few months later, due in part to a reinvigorated Latino electorate—71 percent of Latinos voted for him that year.

Immigration rights organizations sprung into gear, helping potential applicants throughout the country apply. According to the American Immigration Council, a non-partisan and independent think tank, approximately 670,000 people have applied for DACA, with nearly 550,000 of those applicants approved.

In Richmond, Heather Wolf, an attorney at Catholic Charities of the East Bay, said her office has processed 300 applications and pre-screened over a thousand at workshops. She said the Richmond numbers were substantial.

Despite the boom in applications, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services estimates that of the 1.2 million people eligible for DACA, half a million of them have yet to apply. A fee of $465 for a work permit, and a requirement that all application information be forwarded to USCIS may explain why some are reluctant to apply.

Valencia, who assisted Catholic Charities of the East Bay with the pre-screening process, and is a long time immigration rights advocate, used to be among them.

“My understanding of it was that we were going to get a temporary work permit for two years,” she said. “Well, what’s going to happen after two years? What’s going to happen if it gets revoked?”

Those questions persist, but the effect of DACA on the lives of those who’ve received it is undeniable.

“I haven’t had anyone come through, who didn’t go out and immediately get a job or enroll full time in school, or is saving money to go to a four-year college,” Wolf said. “They have all been very productive and inspiring.”

As for Valencia, DACA allowed her to obtain a driver’s license and enroll full time in school.

“I think my mom had a sense of relief that I would be driving around now safely,” Valencia said.

Today she drives herself to school and gives colleagues rides to community meetings. After being elected to serve on the board of the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization, CCISCO, an organization she’d previously volunteered at, Valencia said she drives to Antioch for board meetings with a new sense of security and confidence.

“I feel much safer having a driver’s license,” she said, adding, “When I see an officer I still get a little nervous when they are behind me and I know they are checking my tags, but I know that because I have insurance and a driver’s license….I should be okay if they were to stop me.

After receiving DACA, Martinez completely changed the course of his educational career. With the help of his teachers, he increased his grade point average, ending his senior year with an acceptance letter from San Francisco State University. Martinez is now studying computer science at SFSU. But, a recent interaction at school reminded him of the limits of DACA.

“Even though I have a social security number, I still don’t qualify for many types of financial aid, many scholarships and some types of jobs,” Martinez said.
“I kind of feel like this is not a full measure, this is a half measure,” he said. “I am at a disadvantage for no reason again.”

Immigrant rights activists criticize the DACA program because it does not provide a path to citizenship. Now in its third year, those who received DACA status early on need to renew their applications.

According to USCIS, the participation rates of Asian American and Pacific Islanders have been remarkably low. For instance, of the 27,000 from the Philippines who were eligible, only 3,874 applied. Among Koreans, only 7,741 of the 26,000 eligible applied.

The uncertainty of whether immigration reform will become a reality during the last two years of Obama’s presidency, and the possibility of Republicans gaining control of the house following the November elections, puts many on edge. They worry that a shift in the political makeup of Washington could reverse their lives once again.

“DACA just opened so many doors,” said Wolf, of the people she’s seen come through her office in Richmond. “It would be really tragic to see the program shut down.”

Dr. Chris Zepeda-Millán, a political scientist and professor at the University of California at Berkeley, believes that concern for the program is warranted.

“The limit of DACA is that it’s not permanent,” he said. “If Republicans win this election, there is nothing stopping Congress from passing anti-immigrant bills.”

In fact, recent studies show the likelihood of Republicans picking up more seats is increasing, as Latino support for Obama and Democrats falls.

“With the mass deportations, and President Obama postponing executive action, it is actually suppressing the Latino vote,” Zepeda-Millán said. “If Republicans win the presidential election in two years, all this can disappear.”

Martinez and Valencia have taken advantage of DACA’s short-term benefits, but the future remains clouded, and citizenship still elusive.

“It frustrates me because I remember the first line I read on DACA was ‘this is not a road to citizenship,’ which is my ultimate goal,” Martinez said. “Because I feel as American as I can feel.”