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Juana Tello reflects on the importance of young people’s engagement in organizing as the youth organizer with People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER).

The Sights and Sounds of Bayview is a storytelling project between the San Francisco Arts Commission and local public radio KALW 91.7FM with funding from the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. These eight stories feature remarkable people who live, work, and make a positive change in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.

Radio Producer: Cristal Fiel
Photographer: Pernilla Persson
Local Music: 3rd Street Productions
Additional Photos From: James Stancil, Robynn Takayama, and Tim Trautmann

Sights and Sounds of Bayview Team:
Robynn Takayama: Executive Producer
Holly Kernan: Executive Editor
Martina Castro: Supervising Editor
Audrey Dilling: Series Editor
Stephanie Foo and Seth Samuel: Sound Designer
Brian Storm: Multimedia Editor

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by Elisa Chavez

I recently had dinner with some college friends, all of us in our early twenties and fresh out of school. We met up at a cozy restaurant, hugged, and proceeded to eat cozy comfort food and get extremely riled up about the state of the world. Campaign finance, giant corporations, media representation of the Arab world, we covered it alland eventually, as the social analysis reached a fever pitch, one of us burst out, “So what do we do about it?”

An embarrassed silence fell over the table.

I often find that the enormity of the world’s problems overwhelms me. My brain can’t pick a place to settle; instead, like a hummingbird experiencing a panic attack, it flits from one issue to the next without ever alighting onto a course of action. There are just too many problems, with too many potential solutions to choose from or worse, no apparent solutions at all.

Courtney Martin offers an antidote to activist’s ennui with her 2010 book Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists. The book, which offers eight portraits of young Americans engaged in progressive, socially conscious work, is written around the core belief that we can’t save the world singlehandedly and shouldn’t push ourselves to; however, there are opportunities in every life to make small, daily commitments to a better world.

Her subjects range from the low profile– a case manager at Homeboy Industries, a firebrand environmentalist from D.C. to the high profile, including Rachel Corrie and Rosario Dawson. Martin writes eloquently and with obvious empathy, and her subjects are all incredibly interesting people with compelling stories and laudable guts. But does her book deliver? Does it really provide readers with small ways to lead more activist lives?

For me, the largest obstacle was the fact that her book is not about small ways to participate; it’s about young people who made the career decision to be full-time activists. That’s not small! It’s their vocations, in some cases their entire lives. Then again, these stories really are great. If the book had truly been written the way I was expecting, a better title might have been “Do It Anyway: Last Weekend I Went to a Soup Kitchen and I’m Thinking About Donating to Heifer International.”

I think the trick is that Martin’s book is not a how-to guide or a detailed blueprint. You turn to it for inspiration. Given her varied cast of characters, I believe there’s something in it for everyone, whether your focus is going green, education, art, or peace activism. I also believe that because the book covers such a broad range of activist experiences, some of the stories will jump out at you over others. My favorite was “An Altar Boy With A Gun”, Martin’s portrait of Homeboy Industries case manager Raul Diaz. I can’t remember the last time a piece of writing made me laugh and cry and think about the way I engage with my community.

So maybe “Do It Anyway” isn’t going to give you a magazine-article rundown on five ways to conserve energy in your house. I’m still waiting for the definitive activist’s bible for daily life (although I have this sneaking suspicion it will only ever exist in my head). And actually, I think Martin does offer some practicable advice. In the weeks after finishing her book, I haven’t been able to forget what she says in her epilogue:

“We must hold these large-scale revolutions in our hearts while tackling small, radical every day acts with our hands.

 

Courtney E. Martin is a senior correspondent for the American Prospect and an editor of Feministing.com. She is a 2002 recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics, has written two other books, and has had her work in Mother Jones, Newsday, the Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.

2010 Youth Leadership Award – Mitzi Chavez from NENtv on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the 2010 Neighborhood Youth Leadership Award winner Mitzi Chavez for her work as a youth mentor, educator and peer leader.

“She is truly a positive role model. Her intellectual curiosity and intelligence, open-heartedness, and her communication skills are three of her greatest attributes. This combination shows through in her work both in and outside of Peer Resources. Whether a mentor or an educator, Mitzi’s welcoming nature and true passion for helping others regardless of their diverse needs and backgrounds has had a great impact in many lives,” said resident Sarah Brant.

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Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced the winners of the Community Challenge Grant Program (CCG), which provides matching grants to local residents, businesses, non-profits and other community groups to make physical improvements to their neighborhoods.

The CCG Program has awarded 28 grants totaling $577,656. The bulk of the CCG awards continue to be for permeable landscaping, public artwork, graffiti/litter abatement, community gardens and gathering spaces, equitably covering all areas of the City. The funding for CCG awards come from city businesses who voluntarily designate one percent of the business tax they already pay. 

The CCG focuses on projects that directly engage residents and businesses in creating green spaces, gathering places, public art, and other neighborhood amenities by featuring and applying ecologically friendly practices. The program is an important tool for enabling communities to take the lead in conducting small scale improvements in their own communities and neighborhoods.

“The Community Challenge Grants promote innovation in our neighborhoods and encourage communities to take pride in their streets,” said Mayor Newsom. “These innovative projects leverage public and private dollars to get communities working together toward making San Francisco a cleaner, greener, and safer city for everyone.”

“We are inspired by the twenty-eight innovative projects awarded this cycle,” said City Administrator Ed Lee. “The Community Challenge Grant Program works best when community groups are empowered to take charge to improve and green their neighborhoods. These projects continue to make San Francisco a cleaner, greener place to live and grow.”

The CCG partnership with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Urban Watershed Management Program is a critical part of the project. Through this partnership, grants were awarded to six community projects including implementing environmentally sustainable technologies for sidewalks and infrastructure and managing local rainwater in schools and parks.  The awarded amount totals $102,600.

“Each of these community-driven projects will help the entire City to better manage stormwater,” said SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington. “They demonstrate the importance of acting locally and are vital to the health of our watersheds.”

Community Challenge Grant Program Fall 2010 Grant Award Recipients

1. Jose Ortega Elementary School PTA

Awarded: $10,000
Project: Community Art

2.  Precita Valley Neighbors, sponsored by SF Parks Trusts

Awarded: $8,500
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

3. Progress Park, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $8,600
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

4. Inner City Youth  OMI Clean Team

Awarded: $15,000
Project: Litter Abatement

5. Market Street Association

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification

6. Worchester/Alemany Triangle, sponsored by Mission Neighborhood Center

Awarded: $13,328
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

7. North West Bernal Alliance

Awarded: $14,579
Project: Graffiti & Litter Abatement

8. Korean American Community Center, sponsored by SF Clean City Coalition

Awarded: $15,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

9. Kids In Parks, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

10. Hayes Valley Farm, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $10,000
Project: Urban Forestry

11. Sunnyside Neighborhood Association

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

12. Chinatown Community Development Center

Awarded: $25,000
Project: Graffiti Abatement

13. Excelsior Action Group, sponsored by Community Initiatives

Awarded: $30,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

14. Portola Neighborhood Steering Committee

Awarded: $45,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

15. Hunters Point Family/Girls 2000

Awarded: $30,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

16. Japantown Sakura 150 Project

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Urban Forestry

17. Sand@OB Project

Awarded: $24,600
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

18. San Francisco Clean City Coalition

Awarded: $50,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

19. Pennsylvania St. Gardens, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $45,000
Project: Neighborhood Beautification & Urban Forestry

20. Storrie-Ord Neighborhood Group, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $5,449
Project: Urban Forestry

21. Vermont St. Neighborhood Group, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $10,000
Project: Urban Forestry & Landscaping

22. Tenderloin Housing Clinic

Awarded: $35,000
Project: Community Art

Urban Watershed Stewardship Grants Fall 2010 Award Recipients

23. Alice Fong Yu Elementary School PTA

Awarded: $3,500
Project: Rainwater Harvesting

24. Pennsylvania St. Gardens, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $40,000
Project: Street Park with Rain Gardens and Swale System

25. Plant*SF, sponsored by SF Parks Trust

Awarded: $15,000
Project: Sidewalk Landscaping and Impermeable Surface Removal

26. SF State University

Awarded: $21,000
Project: Rain Garden with Native Plantings

27. Sunnyside Cooperative Nursery School

Awarded: $3,100
Project: Sidewalk Landscaping and Impermeable Surface Removal

28. Surfrider Foundation, SF Chapter

Awarded: $20,000
Project: Sidewalk Landscaping and Impermeable Surface Removal

 

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As more community groups start improving their neighborhoods, many feel they lack the resources to do the job. Our guest on NENfm, Dr Gerald Eisman from the Institute of Civic and Community Engagement at San Francisco State University (and a speaker at the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp on August 14th), explains how the academic community could make a massive impact.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Show Information

Guest: Dr Gerald Eisman, Director at the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement
Geographical Area: San Francisco Bay Area
Related Event: Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp
Related Organizations: Craigslist Foundation, Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, San Francisco State University
Host: Adam Greenfield
Additional Credits: Moontan (music)

 

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The NEN welcomes David Onek’s Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast back to empowersf.

James Bell (left) & David Onek

In this podcast, David speaks with James Bell, Executive Director of the W. Haywood Burns Institute, about his work to reduce the overrepresentation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system, the involvement of community members in the reform process, and more.

Listen Now:

Interview Highlights

Bell on Involving the Community in the Reform Process
“Involving the community in a meaningful way is a core value that we have. We believe that you can’t address the overrepresentation of young people of color without engaging people from their communities. What we want to do is bring people from the impacted communities to the table to help folks problem solve. However, we understand why most people don’t do it. Because first you have to have community people, when they’re invited to the table, to be able to modulate their anger, modulate the fact that they have not been participating, they don’t get much money from the system, and to become a part of the team. That takes a tremendous amount of coaching, of bringing them up to speed on the alphabet soup that stakeholders have, and it is very time and labor intensive. But it is essential for these changes to occur.”

Bell on How a Safe Space is Created for Difficult Discussions About Race
“That’s exactly what is needed: a safe space. The first thing that we do, is we make sure that people understand that we are not about finger pointing and that we need a collaboration of people, who have authority and can make decisions about young people of color, to be at the table to cooperate. And, then, the next thing we do is we don’t lead with race; we actually get data and we try to see where it is that kids of color are impacted the most and ask them what policies and procedures do they believe contribute to this impact.”

Bell on Rationally Examining the Juvenile Justice System
“All we’re doing is an examination. We’re like an internist. You go to the doctor to say, ‘I think I got a scratchy throat, something’s wrong, I’m not feeling right,’ and the doctor goes through a series of questions and looks and asks you about things and measures things to say, ‘well, this might be happening.’ That’s what our process is. But what might be happening is the overrepresentation of young people of color, which brings in race, which gets a lot of people irrational. And so what we try to do is be data-based and as rational as possible as we examine, for use of this metaphor, this patient.”

About The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast

David Onek

The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast, a co-production of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice and the Berkeley School of Journalism, features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The weekly Podcast, hosted by criminal justice expert David Onek, gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Jody Fu, Junior Class President, Lick Wilmerding High School

[This is Part 2 of a NEN Blog series about how an SF high school helped deliver emergency kits to the vulnerable. Read Part 1 here.]

Right after the Haiti earthquake in mid January, the students, faculty, and parents at Lick Wilmerding High School became involved in helping Haiti. During classes and assemblies, we had frequently discussed the event and what to do. Eventually, we had placed such great emphasis on the cause that we had become among the top donating high schools in America. But it also struck me something could have been done to mitigate the destruction in Haiti: Preparedness.

A little over a century ago, one of the largest ranking earthquakes of all time hit San Francisco. This is where we live and this earthquake’s “anniversary” has been projected to hit soon. We are all just waiting for it. It deeply concerned me whether any earthquake preparedness was being done in San Francisco, especially for the elderly and those who can not assist themselves on a regular basis.

Every year at Lick, the class president and representative are in charge of organizing at least one community service event for their grade. During a meeting with Junior Class Representatives Jeff Kaminsky and Briana San Diago, we brainstormed ideas that could have a lasting impact on earthquake preparedness in San Francisco. Earthquake disaster kits were our solution.

Students (from left to right) Risa Egerter, Kayla Abe, and Jody.

But coming up with the idea was only the first step. How much would it cost? What materials would we need? In what homes would we place them? Despite all these questions, I immediately sent an email out to The Volunteer Center of San Francisco wondering if these kits were possible or would even be beneficial.

The email I received back was from Alessa Adamo from San Francisco Community Agencies Responding to Disaster (SF CARD) [read Alessa's NEN blog about how she met Jody here]. Not only did she seem just as excited as I was, but these disaster kits were actually an idea in progress. But that idea couldn’t really move forward because of a lack of manpower and funding. Our match actually seemed perfect. Through their work with the city’s disaster feeding group, SF CARD already had a method of transportation of the kits and a list of people to whom they would be sent. The junior class would fundraise and pack the kits.

Time was essentially our only issue. This was a project for this year’s Junior Class but at first it seemed that this project would take a year or at least into the next school year to complete. But the SF Food Bank agreed to sponsor the food kits. We then set up the actual packing day to be May 8th and from then on, everything went smoothly. Alessa worked with people at the Food Bank to decide the materials that would be placed in the kits and worked out the rest of the logistics. At Lick, Briana, Jeff, and I organized fundraisers. We got our class involved in baking for a school wide bake-sale, making over $500. We then had multiple Jamba Juice Sales there after. Our total fundraising amount, a little over $1400, would be sent to the Food Bank for the packaging and water supplies of the kits.

Three months ago, I sent out that tentative email wondering if earthquake kits were possible for the Lick Juniors. Today, we actually packed them. I couldn’t believe how much Alessa and the Food Bank had gotten together for us. 14 Lick Juniors, Briana San Diego, Jeff Kaminsky, Risa Egerter, Carlos Velasco, Kayla Abe, Joey Wong, Darren Yee, Dare Bodington, Hannah Wong, Waylin Yu, Maggie Harty, Vannessa Altamirano, Joaquin Magnana, and I walked into a room in the Food Bank warehouse, and there were boxes and boxes of canned peaches, water, almonds, granola bars, raisins, crackers, whistles…etc, which would all go into the disaster kits.

Students pack the kits. That's a lot of kits!

It also amazed me how today was also the day I finally got to meet Alessa. As she had been through the entire process through emails and calls, she was equally inspirational while reminding the students from my class what their purpose for being at the Food Bank today was. The 500 disaster kits we packed today would be pilot disaster kits, and if it shows to be successful, thousands of kits may be distributed to needy individuals in the city. I think what excited my classmates the most was that we, Lick Wilmerding students, were a part of initiating this earthquake disaster program that could save thousands of lives.

Excited to start packing, my classmates and I got to work. We organized ourselves in an assembly line, packing 500 kits, in about 2 hours. Nearly every one of my classmates who was there today told me something along the lines of how great it was to volunteer for something that was actually lasting and how much fun they had packing the kits today. I cannot agree more with my classmates.

Lastly, I want to thank Alessa and the Food Bank one last time because we could not have moved forward without their help.

Jody Fu is Junior Class President at Lick Wilmerding High School.

David Onek

In this episode, David speaks with Kevin Grant, Oakland Street Outreach Coordinator, about how he maintains credibility with young people and law enforcement, how he turned his life around after fifteen years behind bars, how he fosters relationships with employers to help people with prior convictions find jobs, and more.

Listen Now:

Interview Highlights

Grant on Taking Responsibility Rather Than Always Blaming the Police
“I started finally coming to understand, to finally start looking in the mirror and say, wait, the person who caused all the problems in my life was me and the things I liked to do… I stopped making enemies out of the police department… We don’t service ourselves on the streets by acting like it’s all the police’s fault. We have to take ownership to what am I doing to be the police’s job all the time.”

Grant on Fostering Understanding Between Youth and Police
“We want the officers to understand the youth more, but we want the youth to understand the officers more.”

Kevin Grant and David Onek

Grant on Providing Employment Opportunities for People with Prior Convictions
“The advocacy that we found that’s important is for somebody to go forward, positioned and tempered, to develop personal relationships with employers… If we, as a society, can say that everything that is receiving funding from our community needs to embrace back our community. These are people in our community… You have to realize the loved ones are coming back home. We need to embrace them when they get back home and give them opportunity.”

About The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast 

The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast, a co-production of the Berkeley Center for Criminal Justice and the Berkeley School of Journalism, features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The weekly Podcast, hosted by criminal justice expert David Onek, gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

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