As we begin to gather our thoughts, the first thing that comes to mind is the amount of knowledge and experience I have gained in the past two months. Growing up I was always looked at as being the “hippy- child”, all I ever wanted was to save the world and protect our environment and all that mumbo- jumbo. I was always seen as someone so different from the rest of my group of friends and while they loved me for being different, I don’t think they ever took my beliefs seriously because they could never really understand for the fact that they were never involved and couldn’t relate. It has been a breath of fresh air to meet a group of girls who care about the issues going on in today’s world as much as, if not a whole lot more than I do. I have learned a lot from my roommates. I love that I can have intelligent conversations with these girls and we both have equal passion and knowledge about the subject. We can talk about things that really matter in the world and it is so satisfying to hear about what they think and where they stand on specific issues. There is substance in our time spent together. We bring up thought provoking questions with honest and respectful responses. I can get home, open the latch to my little gate, walk up the stairs, unlock the front door, put my bags down, fall onto the couch and just say, “ Hey Gabi, what do you think about the new immigration law?”, that in itself has been kind of rewarding for me. I love that with the readings we have done I can walk outside my house and see what I am reading. My internship has opened my eyes to so many issues that are taking place in my backyard. There is so much work to be done, but even more potential to be seen.
Category Archives: 2013 Amelia Gomez
What a week it has been…
I can easily say that this has been one of the most emotionally draining weeks of my life. With that being said, everything around me seems to be connecting and forming into a circle. I would say that this all started last friday when we decided to see Fruit Vale Station which I know my roommates have already talked a lot about so I won’t go on too much about it. It has had a huge impact on me. The impact must be so heavy for me because we are living in the community in which it took place and we are able to feel the pain of the real, overall issue which is racism. I will say that my whole life I have been pretty oblivious to racism, sure I always knew it existed but I never knew the gravity of the problem, how alive it still was, and how often people are faced with it. I feel like before now my eyes have been closed. I feel ashamed that my own friends and family are prejudice and discriminate against others in their everyday jokes or phrases. We live in a day and age where people don’t think for themselves, they believe whatever they are told and you are pronounced as a “black sheep” if you go against what popular belief says is right. We say things and words everyday and forget the real meaning to what we are saying.
We are dragged into believing everything the government or media tells us because we are too lazy to do anything else. It saddens me to hear the hatred in peoples words. In articles I have read and on social media websites people that know nothing about the Trayvon Martin case are commenting on it and spreading ignorance and animosity to the rest of the world. It pains me that we don’t take the time to educate ourselves on important matters that we are aware of, such as these. Throughout this week I have felt a great depression come over me and I think the only cure to that was attending the protest on Monday. At the protest we grouped together to hear what people had to say, to speak for those no longer here with us, and to try to spread awareness and movement. There was something so inspiring about walking next to a stranger knowing that if anything, you had this one thing in common, that today you were each others conrad. There were many moments where I would just look to the person walking next to me, behind me or in front of me and smile because we were doing something here, we were standing up for those who have fallen and for those who have fallen short, we were all together for this one cause, equality and justice for all.
As I mentioned in one of my last blog entries, I was able to go with an Another Road to Safety agent (which are like the CPS) on a home visit. On that home visit I met with a mother and her two sons. The oldest son was very disruptive during conversations we had and would constantly do what he could to influence his younger brother to act up as well until they were able to crack their mother and make her have a melt down. They did not seem to have any structure in the home and they were restless, getting into whatever they could and anxious to get outside and play. Since we were going to start having a summer camp at the Prescott Joseph Center we urged the mother to sign her kids up. This was done intentionally to get more children signed up but also to get the kids out of the house for a couple of hours so that the mother could have her “me-time” and be relaxed enough to handle her children when they got home.
Today at work I passed by one of the classes ran by the summer camp and the oldest son I visited spotted me and greeted me. It was really nice to be able to see him again and in a different setting, outside of home. When I was talking to him I asked how he was doing in the program and if he was enjoying himself. I was flabbergasted by the respect he showed and the way he spoke to me. He was a complete sweetheart. Maybe I am just soft hearted but after talking to him I started tearing up. He presented himself like a whole new boy. At home his mother mentioned her concern of him getting kicked out of the summer program because he had been kicked out of school a couple of times and was expected to misbehave.
At the program he looked so happy, he had the face of an angel and it really made me so happy to see him doing so well. It made me believe that a real change could be made in these children for the better when they are provided with the right attention and the tools for success. I think that a huge problem is the degrading these kids might get from family members and the people around them. A lot of times if people around you aren’t doing well for themselves they don’t want you to be better then them so they do what they can to keep you down. I think that with the right encouragement children can find their own way to self- empowerment. It is one of the most beautiful things to see the progression and success of youth in neighborhoods like these. To see that they can overcome the odds. They have all of the energy and power to be amazing people, they just need good influences and people who truly believe in them.
It is really self- fulfilling to live here and watch all of these positive things happen.
Since I have been living in Oakland, I have become more “consumer conscious”. I have become more aware of the products I buy and why I buy them. I have begun to “buycott” as our book defines it. I only buy products that have the same beliefs and values I would like to portray. For example I only feel good about buying organic eggs now. This is because it is more natural, but also because the chickens are treated better and are usually healthier. I buy more clothes from street vendors and independent sellers then from big stores because I think it is a way to empower the people and help out locals that are starting out and trying to do something positive.
Since I have lived in Oakland I have also started to eat healthier. I eat vegetables and fruit every single day. For lunch I eat a small salad (lettuce, bell peppers and feta cheese) with a small amount of dressing, a yogurt, granola bar, and an apple or orange. I think that my diet has changed because we are on such a low budget but also because of my roommates. Everyone in my house eats very healthy so it has rubbed off on me in a great way. I eat healthy and it isn’t boring, it isn’t bland, it’s delicious! Ha I have started to drink almond milk, which I had not even heard of before coming here. Apparently it is soy? There is a big difference in the taste and texture but it isn’t all that bad.
One thing that I love is that I am getting a lot exercise living here. Me and the girls go for runs at Lake Merrit, I ride my bike to work now and sometimes if we have nothing to do we will just go walking around town. It is nice to have so many things accessible to us. I really love being so active around town and seeing new places, I think that being on foot is the best way to see the city.
I love the changes I have made by living here and I hope I can keep it up when I move back to school.
“Defining myself as opposed to being defined by others.” – Carol Moseley-Braun
A quote that I think a lot more people need to hear and act on.
My job as a Micah Fellow initially started as being a researcher. The goal for the Prescott Joseph Center has been to build the framework necessary to establish a Family Resource Center in West Oakland. In that fundamental steps would include finding a primary location, hiring permanent local staff, and determining programs that would be offered. One of the most basic actions that would be necessary for going forward with this project would be confronting needs, knowing the people in order to accommodate and treat them to our best abilities. Sure, I had done some research on the community history, current health problems, crime rates, crime types, dropout rates, food availability and poverty levels but that wasn’t enough to tell me who this community was. This community is better than its news stories and statistics, it has character, it has relationships and above all it has beautiful potential. I was lucky enough to go on a home visit with one of the staff member of Another Road to Safety, which is a program we have here at Prescott Joseph that could be compared to Child Protective Services. At Prescott Joseph there are about 20 clients (families) being helped through Another Road to safety. On the house visit the main objective is to check on the family, check on the house and make sure they are keeping up the place and that the children are living in a healthy environment. The particular client that we visited was receiving housing in a gated community for 25 dollars a month along with receiving food allowance and bus/Bart passes to get to work and school. In return this client needed to attend therapy and parenting classes weekly and keep the house clean.
There are many things that I have been thinking about that prepared me for my visit. One thing in particular has been grasping the African American culture in West Oakland, which is something I need to understand and engage in if I want to be able to do my job right. There is one incident that has stayed in my head and has been repeated multiple times. At Prescott Joseph one of the other programs that are available are the Breathmobiles, which are RV type vans that are taken to under privileged neighborhoods and schools where children can get tested for asthma and be treated for that asthma. This is a huge accomplishment because asthma is one of the leading health problems for the population in West Oakland. Visits and treatment are free and there is no limit to how many times you can come. My supervisor explained his frustrations to me when dealing with promoting theBreathmobile to the West Oakland population. People wanted an incentive to go get their children tested and receive free medicine for their child’s asthma. A ridiculous inquiry. Prescott does not benefit from providing these services, yet people want things like magnets, a balloon or pen that will finalize their decision to take advantage of this free resource. So part of my time here has been trying to understand that culture. I don’t know if that culture refers to any specific ethnic group or just the culture of living in poverty, but my supervision emphasizes this toward African Americans living in poverty in West Oakland as being apart of this culture. When I gathered my thoughts I knew I had to engage in the community and see for myself what was going on. For this reason I started volunteering every Saturday at What Now America and took on any extra projects I could get my hands on at work. Before arriving at the clients home I knew I had to be prepared for rejection, not knowing whether or not this client would appreciate or welcome a stranger like me into their home. With all of this in mind I set forth on my first home visit.
To my surprise it was nothing like I thought it would be. I had been over prepared. The client was indifferent about me being there. The meeting went more like a “girls getting coffee” situation. She talked about her struggles and how she was feeling and we gave her advise and encouragement. I learned that we were not very different at all. She may have been a couple years older then I, with a different background and upbringing but we had a lot of the same concerns and struggles. I could understand where she was coming from and I felt like I was just talking to one of my girlfriends. Our client had very low self- esteem, was in desperate need of peer counseling and just wanted a little break from kids being kids (due to lack of discipline and respect for her).
This visit was incredibly helpful to me in determining Family Resource Programs. It became apparent to me how important parenting classes are. “There is no handbook for parenting”, half of parenting comes natural and the other half is learned either by experience or influence. This visit helped me see what this parent was in need of. The problem was not only her lack of knowledge on how to set limits and provide structure in a home that has no consistency but the fact that as children, her kids needs contact, they needed attention and they needed to play. The fact that they were not able to leave the house added to her depression and annoyance. Children need responsibility and they need to have things to do that fill up their day. Providing child care and summer camp activities is beneficial to not only the child but the parent as well.
For now I think that setting up focus groups in nearby neighborhoods would be highly beneficial for me to do to get to know residents better and to ask them personally what they think the needs are in West Oakland and in their own home.
“Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with love in dreams”
This was a quote from our reading and something I really related with. It means that the idea of something can be a lot different then what it actually is in reality. We set these standards in life and these expectations for our actions. We have so many wants in life, the way we want something to end up or things we want to accomplish and we don’t think about the steps that come in that process. With regards to that quote, the article went on to say that ” you will suddenly reach your goal and will clearly behold over you the wonderful working power of the Lord, who all the while has been loving you, all the while has been mysteriously guiding you”. This quote is what really hit home for me. I had an experience in my life where I remember thinking how perfectly things had been laid out for me, as if it were all planned, as if it were meant to happen exactly the way it did. This gave me a lot of faith in God. It made me believe that he was looking out for me even when I wasn’t noticing. When I had no idea, when everything had seemed to fall apart in my life is when it all came together to make some kind of perfect sense. God works in mysterious ways, I can’t express how true that really is. But I liked this article because it taught me that our dreams get messy sometimes and they aren’t always what we thought they would be. Through my interpretation of the reading I would say that regardless of the turnout we learn something new about ourselves and others with every new experience we have in life.
One of my favorite murals I pass by everyday to get to work. Image of Ganesh!
So in my first post I explained how my goal was that by the end of my fellowship, I would have fallen in love with Oakland and feel comfortable enough to call it a second home. Well, that time has already come, it took a week for me to fall in love with this place. I have never ben around so much diversity, I can honestly and literally say that I have been around the world and I have never seen anything like it. I love it. I think that diversity is one of the most beautiful things in the world; it is like a global delicacy, not every country/state/city can have it. Oakland really does get a bad reputation from the social media, no one talks about the good stuff going on around here. Even in a town as close as Stockton all we hear about are the murders, rapes and car thefts. Lets be honest you are going to find that in any city environment, and yes I use city not town because Oakland has the characteristics that define what a city is. In this week I made it a point to use Bart, which is incredibly close, about a 10-15 minute walk. I decided to visit some friends in Moraga and I got there in about 10 minutes I couldn’t believe how close we were to school. We attended first Friday which is a monthly festival with dance performers, street vendors, second hand clothes/books/shoes, local art and this liberating atmosphere that makes you want to stay around for hours. I didn’t know I would find anything like it here in Oakland. Can’t wait to see what comes next!