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Category Archives: 2013 Maggie Powers

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Saying Goodbye Isn’t Easy

Saying goodbye won’t be easy and here’s why. In Oakland, I found myself, my authenticity, and my rhythm. In Oakland, I was introduced to my roommates – three beautiful, strong women. A million laughs and hours of conversation later, we’re more than just friends, we’re family. In Oakland, I realized the beauty of activism as I walked down Broadway Street with a couple hundred others at my side. In Oakland, I was humbled by the smiling faces of the children of What Now America? In Oakland, I found love and community in unexpected places. In Oakland, I found beautiful sunsets over Lake Merritt and Jack London Square. In Oakland, I found great coffee and unique individuals at places like Revolutionary Café (7th Street) and Timeless Café (100% vegan, Piedmont Street). In Oakland, I feel in love with the art, music, and the authenticity of first Friday. In Oakland, my stigmas and stereotypes of this urban domain dissolved. Oakland’s more than the drugs and violence displayed by corporate media. This majestic metropolis is built on a foundation of radical inclusion, community, civic responsibility and love. In Oakland, I watched the tragic final hours of Oscar Grants life unfold in “Fruitvale Station.” The final moments of the film continue to haunt me and transform my sadness and anger into activism. In Oakland, I found passion, dedication, and a radical sense of love. Oakland will always be near and dear to my heart.

Tomorrow is my final day at the General Assistance Advocacy Project. Over the last eight weeks, I have come to love my job and the quirky characters of GAAP. Clients have become regulars, and co-workers have become friends. When I was talking with my dad early this week, he asked, what are they going to do without you? I responded, the real question is what am I going to do without them? I leave GAAP with more than knowledge about government programs, but also of compassion, love, and understanding by co-workers and clients alike.

What an amazing eight weeks!

micah life

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2013 in 2013 Maggie Powers

 

From Oakland, with Love

This week has been an emotional rollercoaster beginning with the viewing of “Fruitvale Station” at Grand Lakes Theater on Friday. The movie features the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life, an Oakland resident who was shot and killed by BART Officer Mehserle at Fruitvale Station on January 1, 2009. A former Saint Mary’s student, director Ryan Coogler provides an authentic, provoking, and a powerful portrayal of the life and death of Oscar Grant. By the end of the movie, there wasn’t a pair of dry eyes in the audience. Outside the movie theater, activists raised awareness about police brutality, the hunger strike at Pelican Bay Penitentiary, and the ongoing George Zimmermon trial.  Watching “Fruitvale Station” at Grand Lakes Theater amongst Oakland locals, I couldn’t help but feel a part of the community. I can sincerely call Oakland my “home.”

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Not even twenty-four hours after the movie, the jury for the Zimmermon trial came to its verdict. Not guilty. Upon hearing this, all I felt was numbness, the first of many emotions; next shock, then sadness, and finally rage. I cried for Trayvon, for Oscar Grant, for the parents torn too soon from their children, for racial and legal injustices. I am angry that an unarmed teenager was shot, murdered, and he who killed suffered no repercussions. Following the verdict, Oakland awoke rousing local activists to rally. On Monday, the four Micah Fellows attended a rally in Oscar Grant Plaza which garnered over 500 people. People expressed themselves through slam poetry and song, others held signs. The crowd walked down Broadway, stopping traffic on its way, crying “No justice, no peace” and “Black lives are precious.” In the midst of my personal rollercoaster, I found inner peace at the rally. My anger, frustration, and sadness subsided amongst the crowd. In the wake of this tragedy and injustice, I find peace amongst activist, rallies, and dialogues with my roommates.

trayvon

This week has especially inspired me to continue being an advocate for social change. Social change is not instant, but nevertheless we must push forward even if our vision is not clear but blurred by tears and marred by anger.

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2013 in 2013 Maggie Powers

 

First Friday, Solidarity, Oakland, and bell hooks

I write this blog post in Awaken Cafe, my new favorite cafe located in downtown Oakland. Last week, SoliI spent the Fourth of July holiday with my family at my grandma’s in Sonoma; however, after a few days away from Oakland, I was anxious to return. In the past six weeks, I have come to love the unique atmosphere of Oakland. On Friday, I attended First Friday again. Music filled the air and the streets over flowed with people, artwork, and local vendors. I met local artist Barira Rashid, a recent graduate from UC Berkeley. She was promoting her political posters which brought to light the prominence of sexual violence against women. The phrase “It’s not sex when there is no consent. It’s rape” adorned the top (As seen on the photo below). Of course I took one home! Afterwards, a friend and I caught the last of Jack London’s late night farmer’s market, walked along the port of Oakland, and dined at Oakland’s famous “Chicken & Waffles.”

no means no

As I read bell hook’s “Solidarity with the Poor,” I couldn’t help but to think about the work I was doing at General Assistance Advocacy Project this summer. hooks writes, “The poor suffer more intensly now than ever before in our nation’s history. They suffer both the pain caused by material lack and all the problems it produces and the pain caused by ongoing assault on their self-esteem by privileged classes.” Each day, I work with multiple individuals who are currently on General Assistance, CalFresh, and/or Social Security Income. I hear personal stories of the horrible living conditions of the Tenderloin, of bed bug infested apartments, and prominence of drugs in the neighborhood. I hear individuals talk about their embarrassment and shame of being on welfare programs, some of whom tell their stories through watery eyes and tears.  I hear stories of harassment and inconsiderate remarks made by their caseworkers.

The way mainstream media portrays poverty needs to be challenged. Audiences are given images of lazy black, single mothers on welfare, stealing money from more the affluent. The media creates a racists and sexist narrative that allows “non-progressive white folks of all classes to see themselves as the economic victims of needy black folks stealing their resources.” Middle and upper class individuals should understand how they contribute to a system of poverty. Consumerism, materialism, and capitalism must be critiqued and challenged if we are to eradicate harmful stigmas of the poor.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2013 in 2013 Maggie Powers

 

Sister: You Are Welcome in This House

Last Friday, I had the pleasure to accompany Mia to a local, West Oakland rendition of August Wilson’s “Seven Guitars”. The play was held at Mia’s work, Joseph Prescott Center. Being an outdoor event, the backyard was transformed into the play’s setting of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in the late 1940s. The actors were suburb and kept me on the edge of my seat as the tragedy unfolded. In high school, I feel in love with performing on stage and love community theater. The local play gave me another reason why I love West Oakland.

On Saturday, Kenna and I decided to go see a movie at the New Parkway, a local movie theater a few blocks from our apartment. The New Parkways features documentaries and old classics whiles guest longue on coaches and other unique seats instead of the traditional, uncomfortable movie theater seats. Kenna and I watched “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” a gripping documentary on legendary activist and icon Angela Davis. The documentary showed images of the funerals of Black Panther activists George and Jonathan Jackson in West Oakland. Angela Davis’s political activism is a testament to the Social Change Model the Micah Fellow have been studying this summer. Davis encourages individuals to challenge social institutions and advocate for real, institutional change.

On Monday, the BART strike began! Instead of my usual thirty minute commute to work, I took the bus to Jack London Square where I boarded the ferry to Embarcadero. Although the commute was an extra one-two hours long, I stand in solidarity with the BART employees. Power to the people!

This upcoming week I will start my sixth week as a Micah Fellow; I have crossed the half-way point. Looking back on my experience, I will especially remember like the evenings I spent watching local theater, “Free Angela,” and the ferry rides to San Francisco. These experiences validate my commitment to social justice and inspire me to continue my journey to becoming a social change agent. For now, I will meditate on these words of Angela Davis, ““We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2013 in 2013 Maggie Powers

 
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A Civilization of Love

First, I must celebrate the history that was made this very day. Today, June 26, 2013 people across the nation celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling of Windsor v. United States and Hollingsworth v. Perry. The Supreme Court has tipped the scale in favor of marriage equality. Four and a half years ago, I was devastated by the passage of Proposition 8 that prohibited same-sex marriage. But today, I have hope that, as a society, we are moving towards a civilization of love. Catholic social teaching seeks to offer a path of healing and transformation as we commit ourselves to building a civilization of love. Although marriage equality is not typically included within Catholic social teaching, I advocate for its inclusion. In “A God of Life, A Civilization of Love,” author Daniel Groody writes, “At the core of social justice is respect for each person’s human dignity and an overall commitment to the common good.” Today’s Supreme Court ruling protected human dignity and is indeed a step towards the common good. I will celebrate this weekend at San Francisco’s PRIDE celebration, but I will be back in Oakland in September to celebrate Oakland’s PRIDE event. It was here in my home in Oakland I learned the good news. A day I’ll never forget.

pride oakland

A civilization of love commits itself to preserving the dignity of all its community members. A civilization of love addresses the problems that impede development, such as hunger, illiteracy, inadequate health care, poor sanitation, environmental contamination, corruption, political, and economic instability, and inadequate social infrastructure. I have found that the organization I work for, the General Assistance Advocacy Project, is dedicated to such a commitment. I love the work I am doing for the organization. Each day, I assist low-income and homeless individuals receive benefits such as General Assistance, CalFresh, and Social Security. As I reflect on the work I am doing at GAAP, I must say that I am grateful for the opportunity to work at an organization that actively commits itself to a civilization of love. On a daily basis, the work I do and the people I meet inspire love,advocacy, and a commitment to social justice.

 

Active Love

I have been fortunate to live a comfortable, middle-class life. I  woke up to presents from Santa Claus every Christmas, attended private school for a majority of my education and still do, and have never gone to bed hungry. However, this comfortable, middle-class life is a privilege unattainable to many. Unequal access to resources such as food, shelter, and health care is a  reality billions of individuals face across the globe. Nearly 20% of the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day. Instead of spending money on combating poverty and preventable diseases, a majority of global expenditures is directed towards military spending. Perhaps if we spent more money on health care, education, and other “Weapons of Salvation” our world would be a more safe and hospitable place.

Walking around West Oakland, it is apparent that this neighborhood lacks monetary wealth. In West Oakland, there exists no major grocery store, high school drop-out rates are among the largest in the nation, and crime rates are also high. A large portion of the city’s budget is directed towards the police department, which is still seriously underfunded and understaffed. But a larger police force can only stop crime, not prevent the source of it. Nor will it end high poverty and high school drop-out rates. What is the solution for West Oakland’s multi-faceted issues? At General Assistance Advocacy Project, I work with clients who are having difficulty receiving General Assistance or Food Stamps. On a daily basis, I hear clients’ stories of poverty, homelessness, hunger, and drug addiction. Again I must ask, what is the solution?

This last weekend I attended a service at St. James Cathedral in San Francisco. In the homily, the priest discussed the power of extraordinary love. He said extraordinary acts of love make individuals do irrational things, like dedicating your life to serving the poor or committing to marriage. Extraordinary love inspires social justice activism and concern for the poor, oppressed, and enslaved. Social justice activist, Dorothy Day’s life was an example of extraordinary love. She committed herself to a life of active love and social change, a harsh and perseverant way of living. She lived by the words of Father Zosima, a character in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, “Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared to love in dreams.” Perhaps the solution for poverty in West Oakland, in San Francisco, and global poverty can be found in active and extraordinary love.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in 2013 Maggie Powers

 

Sunny Side of the Bay

This last week I enjoyed getting further acquainted with Oakland. On Friday, we attended First Friday, a street festival that takes place on the first Friday of every month. The streets were crowded with clothing, jewelry, and art vendors. The air was filled by good music and the delicious smells from food trucks. I enjoyed looking at the unique crafts and clothing vendors were selling. On Saturday, I returned to What Now America? to assist in the drop-in program for children living in West Oakland. Language was the overarching theme for this particular Saturday. Volunteers taught children the alphabet in American Sign Language and then assisted the kids in spelling out their name in ASL. Following the afternoon lunch, I enjoyed outdoor time with the children, playing on the playground and jumping rope. What Now America? was a great way to spend my Saturday afternoon. Another highlight of my weekend was walking around Lake Merritt with my roommates. Lake Merritt is located in the heart of Oakland and surrounded by beautiful parkland, neighborhoods, and wildlife. It is historically significant as the United States’ first official wildlife refuge and features grassy shores, several artificial islands, and a fairy tale themed amusement park called Children Fairyland. My Oakland filled weekend was filled with new and exciting adventures, places, and people. 

Prior to moving into my apartment, I had been through Oakland on the freeway, never stopping in to explore the city.Notorious for its high crime rate, Oakland is often only talked about in a negative manner. Perhaps this is why I never previously stopped to explore the city. Since arriving in Oakland, my previous stereotypes have dissolved.First Friday, What Now America?, the walking tour of West Oakland, and the walk around Lake Merritt are a few of many gems found in Oakland. I anticipate and am excited for uncovering more Oakland gems in the next six weeks!

Fun fact: Oakland in known as the “Sunny Side of the Bay” because the city averages 280 days of sun a year!

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2013 in 2013 Maggie Powers