Nonprofit bridges multicultural divide through books, barbershops

OAKLAND—Traveling along International Boulevard, all the common staples of East Oakland are clearly visible.

Decrepit roads, family markets of Latin descent, fast food restaurants, liquor stores and graffiti spread throughout walls of businesses, houses, and other empty places that used to be storefronts.

There are a few spots on this street and around East Oakland where one would not expect to see children’s literature: barbershops.

The sign outside of Pepper Cuts Barbershop is seen on International Boulevard in East Oakland.

“It’s a blessing to have somebody like that in an area where (books) are coming from someone you don’t even know, barbershops are a versatile environment, it’s a perfect place because kids are definitely are going to come here,” Mario Bell, owner of Pepper Cuts barbershop said.

Tucked away in the corner of Bell’s shop is a basket of books meant for preschool and elementary children contrasted against the window out looking International where construction is endlessly ongoing.

“We’ve been around for ten years before I was introduced to him, (he was) coming in here and asking (about placing books), I guess he was going down International Boulevard and seeing all the shops, me personally I support education to the children,” said Bell.

“He came to me with books and I think as human beings, we all need (to read) especially the young.”

The storefront of Pepper Cuts barbershop is seen on International Boulevard in East Oakland.

The man who came to Bell with the proposition of having children’s books in his business is, Denmark Gatewood, founder of Barbers, Books, and Bridges and social activist.

“In the black community, barbershops, churches, salons those are the real staples, black people are gonna be there,” Gatewood said.

“From all different backgrounds, they’re gonna be at the church or salon or in the barbershop,” said the board chair.

Barbers, Books, and Bridges are a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting children’s literature throughout Oakland that is reflective of the community; multicultural and multiethnic.

Gatewood started the organization with the help of Devin Weaver, a fellow Oakland resident with experience in various nonprofits and was initially introduced to Gatewood through Facebook.

Gatewood said he developed the idea after several high-profile police shootings had taken place, and he saw a group online in Harlem that was distributing children’s books in barbershops and other cultural hubs.

“I have a godson and he was four years old and I love him, very much and there were events that were going on around America, with Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice.

“Those events impacted me; you would see people talking about how these kids had no guidance so that was the reason why they were involved in these events and if somebody would’ve just stepped in and taught them… pretty much blaming the victim and so I felt a certain way about that,” Gatewood said.

Gatewood felt compelled to start the organization in order to improve literacy for black and brown in his own community.

Board Chair Denmark Gatewood started the organization after several highly controversial police shootings of black men and learning about a similar nonprofit based out in New York.

Following his meeting with Weaver, who serves as the secretary for the nonprofit, Gatewood said in researching literary rates for people of color, he found that young black boys had literacy comprehension below that of other students.

“Why is that? Why is there a literacy problem, in researching more of it, I found that a lot of these kids lost interest in reading, very early because the books they were reading had no (representation).

“They just couldn’t relate to the books that they were reading. The characters didn’t look like them, it didn’t sound like them, wasn’t from the neighborhood they were, the stories weren’t relatable,” Gatewood said.

Weaver said this is a problem right now where young black boys are not being exposed in developmental years to books that would be a lot healthier for them to read and really enrich their experience.

If they can focus on solving that particular problem and including other communities by having a broader dialogue “if we keep that as a focal area, I think we get a lot more done,” he said.

Secretary Devin Weaver has been involved in nonprofit advocacy work for 15 years. Some of the community involvement has surrounded issues like cultural misrepresentation and mass incarceration.

“The word we use a lot is authenticity. What we have talked about as an organization, as our value set, is that the literature we’re endorsing – we’re trying to like expose people to and read as a community to come together around – is authentic stories,” Weaver said.

Gatewood visited and has set up book baskets in 15 barbershops throughout East Oakland on International, MacArthur Boulevard, Fruitvale Avenue, High Street, and some close to Lake Merritt.

Gatewood and BBB in total have donated hundreds of books throughout their course of activity.

Cultural appropriation

In researching children’s books and the ethnic identity behind them in the Oakland community, both Gatewood and Weaver discovered many of the books they were coming across were not written from a perspective that is authentic.

“Who are the authors, where are they from, (we) started asking more questions at book clubs, festivals, the more questions we asked about the books we were reading, the books we read, the more questions we had about them.

Gatewood and Weaver have been working closely with the local community ever since meeting on Facebook nearly two years ago through books clubs and engagement.

“Where did they come from?

“These children stories didn’t feel like they came from the community, you could feel it, something’s off because looking through it a little more we saw that these authors weren’t from the community as well,” Gatewood said.

“We didn’t think that was cool.”

Gatewood added, “I’m not saying that all authors are gonna be African, black, indigenous, but there these children out there where they are intentionally seeking them out, we want to make sure that we get their work out there as artists, as authors, as publishers.”

Weaver said, “Denmark’s talking about the level of cultural appropriation that goes on in children’s literature and it’s massive. We broke down the statistics on it. If you’re of native or indigenous identity, two-thirds of all the literature that is produced about your community is not from your community.”

I think there’s a lot of stories that whiteness can tell about what its intersection with black and brown people, but they need to be authentic stories, Weaver said.

“Our focus is to pick books that the community believes are beneficial for their children and the children they mentor or teach. Create access to better literature,” Weaver said.

During a visit at Pepper Cuts, April Spruell was waiting for her son Messiah to get a haircut and decided to pick up some books from baskets and read them to him.

When asked by a student journalist, the East Oakland resident said, “(I) picked them up for my son, the books look cultured and it seems like a good idea to read it as I wait.”

“The display setup is inviting.”

Several books are laid out for display in Pepper Cuts barbershop on International Boulevard in East Oakland.

Weaver said, “There’s another layer to this, something we talked about at the museum presentation, there is a lot of cultural appropriation that happens in multicultural literature because a lot of white folks make books about black and brown children and then sell it like its coming from the community.”

The presentation was at the African American Museum and Library (AAMLO) during a February event where Gatewood, Weaver, and others presented their books and organization to the public.

“There’s a lot of these children’s books that aren’t written by people that look like us, it’s a potentially booming business, right? A lot of our stories are being appropriated, written by folks who don’t know anything about our culture,” said Gatewood.

Several books are laid out for display in Pepper Cuts barbershop on International Boulevard in East Oakland.

Gatewood said, “What they’ll do is write a story, then they’ll just put some brown or black characters on it and then just call it a children’s book of color.”

“There are two kinds of different ways to think about the way we like distributing literature, one is we’re trying to create these hubs or places we can put libraries where people can just take a book out, read it while they’re there, put the book back and share books,” said Weaver.

He also said, “For us we’re not a book retailer or this huge archive of books, we’re not a huge library of books, so what we wanna do is use a small amount of resources to give many children as much possible access to books, places where hundreds of children funnel through and when they’re there they can access books.”

Weaver said BBB hopes to have a lasting kind of place where there’s culturally relevant books.

The festivals are a good way to tell people about the aspirations we have to create strong library locations, we’re trying to create 20 mini-libraries right now, Weaver said.

Weaver also said that BBB encourages people to donate books that they think are relevant, if it’s substantiated and people like it, then BBB can always look for donations to support them to get it out in the community.

“We think of it as a healthy cycle. We want to highlight local authors because there is a ton of local fantastic authors of color in Oakland,” said Weaver.

Local connections

Gatewood emphasizes promoting local authors and he and Weaver try to reach out to authors who they feel would be a good fit.

“They live here and tell our children’s stories, so it’d be very responsible for us to help them out,” said Gatewood. “Get their books read, get their books in the community, in the schools.”

He said in talking to the community, Gatewood thinks it’s only responsible for him to get back and one of the ways of giving back is through Oakland; Oakland authors, publishers, distributors of children’s books for African and black children.

“I hope that that interest is cultivated, I also hope to help those authors, those black, African, brown, Latino, Asian authors who write these stories, write our stories,” Gatewood said.

Denmark Gatewood shows off one of the donated books recently given to the nonprofit, totaling more than 100 books in Oakland on May 7, 2017.

One of those authors is Oakland educator Melissa Reyes, who wrote “I Am Sausal Creek” and is currently featured on their website.

“I really liked what I was reading in terms of their mission and what they’re trying to do. Of course, it was also a good opportunity for me to have another platform for folks to find out more about my book,” Reyes said.

Reyes said, “It’s in line with what I value even as an author and part of the reason why I wanted to publish a book at all for myself, which is that there’s a lot of voices and life experiences that have been left out of that (publishing) industry.”

What that means is young kids are growing up without seeing images of themselves reflected in books that they’re reading.  Learning about cultural values that may be different than what is mainstream here in the United States it is important. More diverse and by diverse, what is outside of the norm, Reyes said.

“More people with more diverse experiences, folks of color, queer people, immigrants, working-class folks have the opportunity to tell their stories in their own voices, have the opportunity to have themselves reflected and see themselves reflected in books and stories and in media.”

Gatewood said, “The authors and artists who tell our stories in the community, help to educate our kids and cultivate their imaginations, cultivate their community and if there is any money spent on these books, it goes right back to the authors in the community so it’s kind of like recycling of the money.”

Reyes also said, “Part of what could happen is that there are certain households that are literacy rich for different reasons because it’s like family members’ education, because of access to resources and the ability have a house full of books.

“There’s a whole range of different reasons, certain houses tend to be more print rich than others. There can at times be certain cultures around spaces that may feel more or less welcoming to people to come into, so I think the idea of bringing books into spaces where folks are at and creating a culture of literacy in those spaces is great, it’s brilliant,” she said.

BBB accepts donated books and aside from holding book clubs where parents and children can come together and read, Gatewood and Weaver table at events to spread their literacy goals.

Denmark Gatewood and Devin Weaver promote their books and organization during an Earth Day event at Oakland Civic Center in Oakland on April 19, 2017.

One such event was an Earth Day event held at Oakland Civic Center on April 19, where several tables were setup to supplement the outdoor festivities.

During the event, at least 40 books were sold and Gatewood and Weaver spoke to several passersby about their organization.

Brittany Waldon, an Oakland resident saw the tabling and was intrigued by the books they had since she reads to her son often.

Barbers, Books, and Bridges board chair Denmark Gatewood speaks to Oakland resident Brittany Waldon during an Earth Day event at Oakland Civic Center in Oakland on April 19, 2017.

“It’s very fundamental and I support the youth and I like the message the group is sending. They have book clubs, books for kids of all ages in different varieties, books that kids can relate to, learn and grow from it so like I’m down. 100 percent with their movement,” Waldon said.

Gatewood said, “The bridge is something to help these young black African children, when a child reads a book and can relate to the book because the narrative is one that is grounded in his or her experience, photos look like him, there’s a connection there.”

Marguerite Rischer, East Oakland resident writes her name down at the Barbers, Books, and Bridges’ table setup as Weaver and Gatewood speak to her during an Earth Day event at Oakland Civic Center in Oakland on April 19, 2017.

Weaver said, “I think the ecosystem too, is a bridge, bring the author in a space where they can talk to parents, bring books into barbershops, put books in places where they’re not typically thought of as belonging.”

“Bridging these desperate ideas of community education (that) are somehow separate in the Americana we have created, collectively,” Weaver said.

“There’s an interest in looking beyond their current situation, so that would be the bridge, these books help them to (escape) their current situation, as far as physically, as far as mentally, (build) confidence, imagination and for me to go beyond barbershops, we want to do it, where it’s a bridge to elsewhere, to festivals, other cultural hubs, schools,” Gatewood said.

Bell said, “With that man thinking the way he’s thinking for us to be here, it’s a blessing whether one, two, or two thousand (books).”

A cover of a book is shown at the table setup of Barbers, Books, and Bridges during an Earth Day event at Oakland Civic Center in Oakland on April 19, 2017.

DeBolt strengthens local journalism despite industry setbacks

Journalists everyday face an increasingly difficult profession and local journalism while needed more than ever, continues to be sharply affected by readership and disparities within the field.

Despite winning the 2017 Pulitzer prize for breaking news for coverage of the Ghost Ship fire, the East Bay Times were subject to financial cuts in print production immediately after.

East Bay Times reporter David DeBolt said his news organization will soon experience another round of production layoffs and has certainly seen a depressing stretch in terms of how many employees are currently working in EBT’s various newsrooms.

“Of course, there’s been downsizes, they haven’t laid them off yet but (BANG) has announced that they’re moving their chain of newspapers’ copy desk and production desk down to Southern California, which is gonna result in a lot of layoffs,” DeBolt said.

DeBolt is one of the reporters who worked on several of the stories about the Ghost Ship tragedy. The coverage was recognized for journalism’s highest honor, and he and other staffers continue to break stories involving the Oakland Fire Department and its failure to address safety concerns leading up to and after the fire.

DeBolt said the emphasis on storytelling nowadays is placed on people who create content.

If you’re a photographer or writer your job is safer than is on the copy desk for example, even though, DeBolt said they’re the unsung heroes of all the stuff journalists do and save reporters from mistakes continuously.

“Every reporter now does virtually everything, we shoot video, we take pictures, we’ve definitely shifted our focus within the last year, particularly into video. More visual storytelling, so I think that would be the biggest (change) in terms of how we tell stories,” DeBolt said.

DeBolt’s skills as a reporter are evident through his writing and newsgathering ability.

He covers Oakland for the news agency and regularly writes most of the big stories coming out of the East Bay community.

“From the day he arrived, he showed a great deal of initiative, journalistic instincts, (and ability) to pick up good stories,” said Craig Lazzeretti, metro editor for the EBT.

Lazzeretti said DeBolt has been covering Oakland for more than a year and has written a bunch of great stories including the whole saga with the Raiders’ scheduled move to Las Vegas.

“The police sex scandal involving underage minor prostitute Celeste Guap, various issues involving the mayor, Libby Schaaf. So he just has great work instincts and ethic, which really showed on the Ghost Ship coverage,” Lazzeretti said.


East Bay Times reporter David DeBolt speaks to fellow reporter Matthias Gafni in the Oakland Tribune newsroom in Oakland on Monday, April 24, 2017.


DeBolt said, “(Local reporting) is essential, people need to know what’s going on in their neighborhood, what’s happening at city hall. It’s not always the most interesting reads, but keeping a check on local municipalities is the primary function of a local newspaper and without the local newspaper, nobody would write about it.”

Journalistic upbringing

Both Lazzeretti and DeBolt went to and graduated from the two of the same journalism programs, San Francisco State and Contra Costa College.

“Two of my major influences growing up were my father who is an adviser at a community college paper so I always kinda hung out there over in San Pablo with his students and lot of them became journalists. I grew up in that environment,” DeBolt said.

DeBolt said his other influence was a youth pastor from his family’s church, was also the sports editor for the local paper in Vacaville. Through him, DeBolt expressed an interest in covering sports and ended up writing for the daily toward the end of high school.

“He was always real inquisitive, asked a lot of questions, bright kid. (He) really worked hard and dedicated himself to be a really solid reporter and that’s where his passion has been,” said Paul DeBolt, Contra Costa College journalism professor and adviser to its publication, The Advocate.

David DeBolt said, “Those two things really got me interested in an early age in becoming a journalist, if I didn’t have to go to college, I wouldn’t have gone to college, if they would’ve let me do that. I just wanted to write as soon as I was out of high school.”

Instead, DeBolt went to CCC where his father teaches and transferred to SF State after serving as editor-in-chief in his third year and became editor of the Xpress publication before graduating college.

Lazzeretti said, “You come out of that program (The Advocate) with a firm (idea) of news reporting.”

Paul DeBolt said, “(David’s) determined, one of his best qualities is he’s very soft-spoken, he’s quiet and patient.”

“In journalism, sometimes, you have to be patient, you have to wait, people are gonna try to outlast you, get you off the story,” Paul DeBolt said.

Divisions within the industry

Aside from the adversarial outlook journalists face, reporters have to contend with learning different ways to tell stories and the low-paying salary behind it.

Former BANG reporter and current legislative aide for Berkeley councilman Kriss Worthington Karina Ioffee said one of the reasons she left journalism was how difficult it was to financially support her family.

“It became more and more difficult to support ourselves and my partner is also a journalist and so one of us had to do something different in order to pay the bills and we have a child.  “Those sorts of things necessitated a career change,” Ioffee said.

Before making the career switch, what drew Ioffee to journalism was storytelling and the potential for change.

“I like telling stories, I like meeting people and I thought I could help the world through journalism by writing about the world’s problems,” Ioffee said.

“Little did I know how naïve that was, I thought that journalism was a great career because it gives you license to ask good questions, find wrongdoing, to be free, roam around and learn a lot about the world,” she also said.

Ioffee worked in the industry for the past 15 years and joined BANG due to the lack of journalism jobs in the Bay Area but noted there still underlying disparities that hurt the profession even more.

“There definitely is a (gender) disparity, I needed to find out to what extent there was a gender disparity in salaries,” said Ioffee.

One example, she said, where a reporter who is skilled and talented, yet less experienced and younger but when he was hired, he started making more money since he is a man.

Other examples of that she said, were between male and female reporters, where many female reporters at BANG had more years of experience but were getting less than inexperienced reporters who were in their twenties.

“I tried to bring that up to the bosses, but they justified it. But there was a law firm looking at that (pay disparity) but because the salary disparity wasn’t that severe, they weren’t going to pursue any litigation,” Ioffee said.

“But it is a problem and also the crime beat is very often men, (they) are given more (assignments) that are recommended (like) high-profile pieces or politics,” said Ioffee. “Whereas, women are assigned to more female-centric or what traditionally the female beat, like education or features.”

DeBolt said, “It’s important for a newsroom to be diverse, not just in race or ethnicity but gender, and all areas.”

Although ethnic diversity remains a common disparity.

“I think our newsroom was pretty white, pretty old, pretty white, so whatever efforts they were making to increase diversity, wasn’t really working,” Ioffee said.

DeBolt said,”The newsroom isn’t the mirror image it should be of the community it serves, the city of Oakland ranks among the most diverse cities in America, you certainly don’t see that, not just in our newsroom but across TV and other newspapers.”

But despite glaring problems such as these, Ioffee and DeBolt both agree journalism is needed more than ever.

“Journalism is vitally important and I encourage any young person to go into it,” Ioffee said.

She said student journalists should definitely to be realistic about what their aspirations are for employment, if they don’t want to leave the Bay Area,  she thinks it could be hard to find good paying jobs.

“So that becomes the question, are you willing toil for pretty low money for the love of journalism or are you gonna go somewhere else,” she said.


East Bay Times reporter David DeBolt works on an assignment in the Oakland Tribune newsroom in Oakland on Monday, April 24, 2017.










United Airlines fallout from passenger ejection reverberates on campus

Ghila Andemeskel, biology major

By Christian Urrutia and Qing Huang

SF State—Many SF State students say they are upset and confused at United Airlines after a watching a video where a passenger was violently removed from an overbooked flight.

Cassandra Pena, a biology major, said she only heard about a passenger getting hurt by an airline. “I don’t know the reason why the guy refused to give up his seat,” She said. “But whatever, kicking out a passenger was unprofessional and made it serious.”

Ghila Andemeskel, a biology major, said the incident is a “type of class issue,” and the press is missing the point when focused on talking about what David Dao was doing in the past such as gambling.

“Dao is a citizen and showed he has paid the ticket,” Andemeskel said. “That’s the matter, and Dao’s past is no matter.”

Andemeskel said the apology from the CEO of UA was too late. “Before the incident, he said UA was the best airline and criticized others like Southwest whose service was bad,” Andemeskel said. “Now the incident has happened on UA, he needs to focus on the victim, and not talk about other airlines’ service anymore.

Zoology major Jocelyn Jones, 19, agreed with Andemeskel on the minor importance of Dao’s past before the incident.

She mentioned how in the coverage after the event occurred, stories were focusing on irrelevant facts.

“Before the airline issued an apology, there were stories where they were trying to dig up dirt from his past. Which I thought was completely irrelevant to the situation. Nothing to do with him being on a plane,” Jones said.

She added, “The airline seems like they’re trying to cover themselves instead of being sorry for what happened.”

“I don’t know the whole situation,” said Cat Myers, criminal justice major. “But enough to show I don’t like what UA did (in the situation); first, let a passenger book a flight but as a result ends up suffering on the plane.”

Also, she said she doesn’t like how UA sold too many tickets. If overbooked, their employee(s) should have tried to take another flight and avoid kicking out other passengers.

“It is really wrong,” She said. “I think the passenger will sue them.”

Sean DeRubes, a philosophy major, 21, said if someone is refusing to give up their seat after a money offer, maybe offer that seat to someone else. He said granted that wouldn’t be the fairest way, picking someone who is less assertive who would actually submit his or her seat.

“But it just seems kinda of a ‘Goodfellas’ Ray Liotta type-of-style move. It seems like they were bouncers at a club, it’s silly because they’re an airline,” DeRubes said.

“He bought a ticket and that’s how you return his investment, by knocking him out, that’s a little unfair,” DeRubes said.

Sean DeRubes, philosophy major

San Pablo city council votes to change immigration rule

San Pablo councilman Arturo Cruz and mayor Cecilia Valdez listen to residents during public comment at the city council meeting at city hall in San Pablo, Calif., on Monday, March 6, 2017.

SAN PABLO—Before a vote was passed allowing local law enforcement noncooperation with federal immigration agents, Marisol Contreras described a common fear.

She started off by saying “oh think of me as your mother, or as your daughter or your niece or your grandmother and that you don’t want me to leave,… imagine if I was taken away from you by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) or how it would feel if certain members of your family suddenly left,” while addressing the council during March 6’s city hall meeting.

“I felt like I needed to speak, to be the voice of others that are not willing or can’t speak or are afraid to… [I] wanted to give them another story, I know there were a lot of parents there but a different point of view coming from a younger generation [could] impact them,” said Contreras, a middle college high school student.

More than 20 speakers voiced their concerns urging mayor Cecilia Valdez along with other councilors to amend a resolution regarding ICE authority and the role of San Pablo Police Department when enforcing federal immigration laws.

After extensive public comment was made for resolution 2007-056-Comprehensive Immigration Reform and Federal Immigration Enforcement, the council voted 4 to 1 vote to change the policy with Valdez, vice mayor Genoveva Calloway, councilmen Arturo Cruz and Paul Morris in favor of, and Rich Kinney against.

“Under this (current) policy the city council continues to resolve the enforcement of immigration laws as a federal matter and as stewards of the taxpayer’s money, it is not the role of city government to participate in this federal enforcement,” city manager Matt Rodriguez said.

Following discussion during a safety committee meeting on Jan. 31, the council discussed the current policy and considered an amended introduction to it, tabling it for Monday’s meeting.

This was in direct response in the wake of President Trump’s executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, which was issued on Jan. 25, Rodriguez said.

“Today we face an upsurge of extreme conservatism, of nationalism, of xenophobia, of racism coasted as law and order,” said American Civil Liberties Union representative Antonio Medrano.

“We ask you to join the cities of El Cerrito, Richmond, San Francisco, Oakland, the community college system, Los Medanos, Diablo Valley, and Contra Costa College, the UC system…in noncooperation with ICE,” he also said.

Rodriguez said the state legislature has introduced several bills regarding immigration enforcement and reporting, specifically SB 54 sponsored by Sen. Kevin De Leon, introduced as the California Values Act to address immigration issues facing many Californian communities.

“In that legislation, if adopted by the California Legislature and subsequently signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown may impact your current resolution under consideration, if it becomes a new state law,” Rodriguez said.

Councilman Kinney said he was more partial toward hearing both sides of the immigration argument and stressed the importance of federal funds and how a conflict could arise, following this type of decision.

“We get a lot of funding from the [federal] government,” Kinney said.

Fellow councilor Morris tried to clarify the executive order by specifying that only undocumented immigrants with criminal offenses would be targeted.

“I want to thank you for bringing this resolution for discussion tonight in these moments of great anguish and anxiety; we require not only support from the city but also your protection,” said Gabriela Hernandez, a San Pablo resident.

Maria Alaquiera, vice chair of the West County Regional Group brought to light, what many of the immigrant community are feeling as a result of the current presidential administration’s rhetoric.

“We need to be protected against the discrimination and racism that is very present in our county right now.”

“We ask you as our elected officials to understand that the new administration has caused tremendous trauma in our communities,” Alaquiera said.

“Recent executive orders are causing anxiety, fear and frustration in our community,” she also said.

Medrano said, “We defend as we say in Spanish, ‘Los derechos de todos’ that’s our primarily concern.” “Whether you’re a citizen or not, everyone has rights.”

San Pablo resident Jan Poniter agreed with Medrano’s sentiments.

“It is a very scary time for an awful lot of people in this community and I think it is incumbent upon the city council to strongly state that they support our residents, every one of them,” Poniter said.

Contreras wanted the city politicians to envision her as a loved one to solidify her message.

“I wanted [them] to view me as family because this community is a family and family is supposed to have each other’s back,” she said.

With the vote’s outcome decided by the end of the session, the council’s decision was met with thunderous applause and cheers of “Si Se Puede” from the audience.

Hernandez said, “I know that a resolution cannot change everything but it sends an important message, that this city does not tolerate any hatred or discrimination, thank you.”

report photo
Dozens of San Pablo residents gather to voice their concerns during the city council meeting at city hall in San Pablo, Calif., on Monday, March 6, 2017.





Passionate Editor Tries to Make Community Better through Writing

By Caroline Crisanto-Monge, Qing Huang, Christian Urrutia and Aya Yoshida

Writing, whether it is for a publication or just as a hobby, there must be passion. For Harry Mok, 48, what drives him to create content that matters are racial issues. Mok has experienced racial discrimination not once but twice in his lifetime. One time when he visited the emergency room for a broken thumb and another in junior high when a fellow student called him a “chink” will forever be ingrained in his memory.

According to Mok, many journalists write stories because they want to make the world a better place through their works. For him, the world, where he is particularly passionate about, is minority groups as he grew up within an Asian-American community.

“I guess that’s my motivation,” he said.

For four years, he managed an independent Asian-American news and culture magazine called “Hyphen.”

“Asian-American is hyphenated, but some people don’t use that hyphen that is sort of ‘hyphenated’ second class citizen, second class status, so the name was taken in that way,” he said.

Making a own magazine is hard, but this is his “dream job,” according to Mok.

Swaying ever-so-slightly on the balls of his feet, he humbly explains to students that to cover stories, you must figure out what is interesting. Find what you are passionate about and write about it with every ounce of effort.

For him, it was about mixed race issues and other factors that Mok thought he could add something and make a difference as he explains in The Harry Mok Project he wrote on Hyphen.

“It’s about the growing demographic that the community is talking about,” said Mok.

The topics Mok has tried to cover are what have been done before, what is interesting and what is new and what is happening now in the communities. He grew up in Woodland, Calif., where his family ran a Chinese vegetable farm. As he spent a year in China for genealogy program in grad school and saw where his family, he got familiar with the community. It is important to go in depth from different angles and he believes those stories show the full picture of human beings.

Currently, he is a part-time copy editor at San Francisco Chronicle and he always tries to get facts right and be accurate as the work of copy editors was introduced in an article by New York Times. Yet, he points out some issues in coverage, which he seek changing as a journalist: accuracy and lack of coverage about minority groups.

“I think not just Asian-Americans, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ… media has a shaky history of covering sort of different communities,” Mok said. “That’s an issue within the industry is still ongoing.”

To address the issue, he monitors news media organizations to maintain the standard of accuracy and fairness in the coverage of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders as a member of Media Watch Committee of Asian American Journalists Association.

Despite the coverage of his online magazine is focusing on Asian-American people, Mok tries to cover the things that may not necessarily be associated with Asians or the Asian community. In journalism, it is about adapting to the situations in ways that may not come naturally. It’s about making that extra effort to speak up for yourself and your work.

“You want to work somewhere that you have the freedom and resources to tell great stories,” said Mok.

San Francisco State journalism professor Jim Toland said copy editing is, “a solid way to stay in the news business while also creating projects that you want to explore on your own.”

“You should be loyal to an employer as much as is reasonable but, in the end, we are all working for ourselves,” Toland said. “We owe it to ourselves to develop our own careers within the framework of ethical behavior.”

Although Mok generally likes every process in journalism, he is more likely to identify himself as an editor and writer. At this point, Mok smiles as he said this and added he’s better at writing than reporting. He said he was always good at writing since he had an interest in journalism.

The hardest story he ever covered in his career thus far was about talking to the families of a loved one who has just died. It was when he was an intern at Associated Press in 1999. He talked about his struggle during the interview and advised to students who may face the same problem in the future.

“Just be professional, ask your questions be respectful, be mindful what they are going through, but still try to do your job,” Mok said.

Also, he, as a journalist, told how to survive in the industry by referring to changes in the media world.

“I mean everything is changing so fast,” Mok said. “Just a few years ago, social media was not a thing when I was in college where there were not computers like this, so it is rapidly changing, so the need to keep up (involves) probably learning a lot of things I do not know right now.”

Including a master’s, he has three journalism degrees, from American River College, San Jose State University, and UC Berkeley. His journalism career began when he was a high school student and worked on the school newspaper. At the time, he also helped out a local newspaper called “Daily Democrat.” He remembers when the first time his story got to print on a “real publication,” and saw the byline, his name on the story, it was exciting.

Through his long career in journalism, he now has a new goal: working as a freelancer. As he has met a lot of people and built good connections with them, he thinks it would help his work in the future.

“I think it would be something like (using) my journalism experience: writing and editing experience,” he said about what he wants to do in the future. “I am open to different things: more journalistic and even more non-journalism (work) like the site for UC ideas, for example.”

Sixth grader dreams of judo championship, prepares for youth competition

By Christian Urrutia, Julian Espinoza and Qing Huang

To someone unfamiliar with judo, the Uchi Mata might more closely resemble a dance rather than a fighting technique. The inner thigh throw, as the move is more commonly known, involves the fighter grabbing his opponent, putting his thigh between his opponent’s legs and then pushing him down. In a competition performing the move successfully could automatically win the match, according to Martin Leung’s, who calls the move his favorite.

Martin is 12, a sixth grader at Richmond Charter Academy School, and an orange-belt in Genco Judo Club in Berkeley. Martin will be representing his club by participating in a judo tournament in San Jose on Feb. 19.

“I like judo because it teaches me self-determination, strength, and self-defense skills,” said Martin.

Martin’s uncle introduced him to judo and at his first competition last year, he placed fourth. Martin said he didn’t have much experience and felt everyone was better and had more knowledge of judo.

“Last year I got second place in my age group,” he said. “But with hard work and practice since then, now I am confident and hope to become first place this year.”

According to Martin, this will be his second time attending the annual tournament hosted by San Jose Buddhist Judo Club. Outside of the San Jose Buddhist Judo Tournament, he had previously entered two other competitions in which he had won a first and a fourth place award.

Since then, Martin has been practicing judo at Genco Judo Club for almost two years. To prepare for the upcoming tournament, Martin said he recently went to his judo club two times a week to practice for total four hours.

“My coach comes up with new moves once in awhile,” he said. “Every class consists of some gymnastic type warm-ups. After that, we do basic move practice before we begin sparring.”

“My most disliked move would be the Seoi Nage because it is a double knee drop move which is pretty complicated and easy to be defended,” he said. “Even though it may also be an ippon, but it’s not the best move.”

Martin said the competitions consists of four people in a pool who need to fight each other. The person with the most wins takes home the gold.

“The stand up spar is the formal way of judo and that is how we fight in a tournament,” he said. “There is a sitting spar, which consists of more chokes and neck holds. The stand up spar has more trips, flips, and moves.”

Martin is a second-generation Chinese-American. Judo is a Japanese sport but is closely related to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Sambo, a Russian martial art. His coach, Dorjderem Munkhbayasgalan, is a Mongolian-American.

“My coach is preparing me to practice old moves that will be useful and very effective in the competition,” Martin said.

He estimated a few hundred people from all across the Bay Area will participate in this year’s tournament. Last year at the City College of San Francisco judo tournament, he won first place.

Beyond fighting in judo, Martin’s hobbies consist of playing the piano and drawing.

“Piano and judo have the same amount of difficulty and both require mental and physical strength,” he said.

He also said he enjoys playing video games. He said he is especially fond of Overwatch and Destiny, as well as Minecraft and Terraria.

“Also, I like to watch movies at the theatre and watch YouTube videos with my friends,” he said.

Despite rainy weather, students feel unaffected


By Gabriela Cazares-Lopez, Caroline Crisanto-Monge and Christian Urrutia

Due to continuous rain, a flash flood warning has been issued in the San Francisco Bay Area by the National Weather Service.

The flash flood warning has also been extended to Santa Clara and San Benito counties and is expected to last through Tuesday night.

Yet, with the severe weather in the Bay Area, students still find a way to commute to and from school.

“It (weather) doesn’t affect my commute that much,” said Sophia Rahi, a child family science major, “there’s delays and it took me a long time to get to school but dress warm and leave earlier for school.”


Other students said similar feelings about commuting to campus when the rain is at its heaviest.

“It doesn’t affect me much, I usually drive, and it does mean slower traffic because of the worse weather. “I don’t mind (the rain), people aren’t as careful, not as cautious but I don’t mind the rain,” William Wong, a zoology major said.

Communications major Marco Zavala said the rain doesn’t affect his commute, although wet and messy, he does not mind spending the $14 to get to school because he only travels to San Francisco State twice a week.

“If it was everyday (that I had to commute) it would be a different story,” he said.

Zavala also said he enjoys the rain especially in the Bay Area since it is always changing which, in his mind makes Bay Area weather unique and one of the best.

Other students do not have to travel as far to get to school.

For Cat Mendoza, a child development major, she is already used to the foggy nature of rainy weather from living in Pacifica, the rain is an inconvenience but only delays her trip by about ten to 15 minutes.

Although Ciarree Parker does not have the same luxury as Mendoza.
“I commute on BART, so it’s a hassle when it’s raining,” the criminal justice major said.

Parker said the fact that it’s wet, foggy, long lines and the hour and a half commuting time, generally discourages her from going to school.

“I generally try to avoid the rain but I have to come to school,” Parker said.