The July 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee

 
 

National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website

 

 

In this issue:

Oakland Youth Organize

Hate Crimes Against the Homeless

Food Bank Helps Ease Hunger

Food Bank Keeps Growing

San Diego's Economic Cleansing

Psychiatric Abuse and Repression

Transit Activists Win Victory

Technology for the Poor

Violent Arrest at City Hall

The Dream of People's Park

New Richmond Shelter to Open

Street Spirit Vendor Tony McNair

Bush's Tax Cuts for the Rich

Corporate Benedict Arnolds

Rain Lane's Photographs

"Say Something" A Short Story

Poor Leonard's Almanack

Poetry of the Streets


ARCHIVES

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005

 

 

 

 


 

Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Oakland Youth Organize for Justice

by Janny Castillo, BOSS

Youth from Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond rally to defend the bus fares so essential to poor families. Janny Castillo photos

"My grandparents gave us unconditional love. They took care of me and my younger sister. I was taught to have hope and faith and I realized early on that I had a greater purpose -- to take care of my community and to help my people." -- Fadeelah Muhyee, youth organizer

For youth growing up in Oakland, and immersed in an environment where drugs are prevalent, violence is the norm, and misery is in control, it can be difficult to see the way out. Twenty-year-old Fadeelah Muhyee has found a way out and is trying to reach in and pull many of her peers out, too. Fadeelah knows how difficult it is to survive on the streets; in the last two years, she has lost over 10 friends, ages 20 to 30.


I interviewed Fadeelah recently in a cyber cafe in the Philadelphia Convention Center at The Second National Summit on Equitable Development, Social Justice, and Smart Growth. We were among 1,300 participants who came together from across the United States to hear discussions on advancing regional equity in transportation, housing, and employment.


Fadeelah described how she became involved in youth organizing. As an Oakland High School junior, she participated in the youth program that Kids First founded in 2000. She learned to do outreach and became president of the Youth Power Club. Under her leadership, the youth held fundraisers for a local family affected by 9/11 and for the homeless.


"Kids First has taught me how to get to the root of a problem," Fadeelah said. "There is a need in our community for people to feel like they are being cared for, that their needs are being addressed. Our work helps to address those needs."


Fadeelah went on to help create similar youth groups at three other Oakland high schools. Under the umbrella of Kids First, Fadeelah and other youth organizers adopted the name of "Real Hard." They are connecting the city's high school students together to organize for a stronger voice in school and transportation policy. "We wanted the youth to have decision power," Fadeelah said. "Not just deciding what this year's prom theme will be."


Youth Power Club members, through a student teacher report card program, are able to "grade" teachers and provide input into the hiring of new teachers. Real Hard is currently working on training peer counselors to work one on one with students.


Real Hard organized passionately for an AC Transit rally that was held on May 18 of this year. "We started organizing around the fact that we could lose the youth bus pass," Fadeelah said. "We called our allies in the various high schools, informing them, and it resulted in a rally on the steps of an AC transit hearing."


The rally was a success, and the youth were able to bring seniors, disabled people and city officials together under one message: "Take Care of Our Kids, Keep the Youth Bus Pass!" This youth organizing effort was successful in pressuring AC Transit to vote to keep discounted bus passes on June 22. [For more on the rally, see "Young Transportation Activists Win Crucial Victory" in this issue of Street Spirit.]


Fadeelah represents Real Hard at meetings of the Transportation Justice Working Group, a regional group of nonprofits, organizers and concerned individuals working for equity in public transit. "The TJ Working Group has allowed me to gain experience from other organizers," Fadeelah said. "I feel like people respect us now and we have more power."


She also mentioned the civil rights lawsuit recently filed against the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). "The lawsuit makes our actions get more media and community attention. AC Transit is acknowledging us as a force and a voice to be listened to."


Just Cause/Real Hard has about 22 youth who are working under stipend and 15 youth volunteers. They have a network of high school teachers that allow them into the classrooms to talk to their peers. They also produce conscious hip hop CDs whose songs bring the message "that we are in this struggle together and help is out there." They produce the CDs at two recording studios, one at McClymond's High School and the other near Castlemont High School.


Here is a sampling of the lyrics:
"Open your eyes to the lies, America.
How many people got to die, America.
Before you hear the people cry, America."


When asked why she chose to be a youth advocate, Fadeelah spoke about her childhood. "My grandparents gave us unconditional love," she said. "They took care of me and my younger sister. I was taught to have hope and faith and I realized early on that I had a greater purpose -- to take care of my community and to help my people."


Fadeelah is now going to school, working for Kids First and raising a son. "It's been a struggle," she said, "but the struggle has given me faith and the feeling that I can do anything."


Fadeelah had these important words for other young people. "I want to send a message to the youth who want to make a change but don't know how. Start seeking help outside of the things you already know. I was trapped in the ghetto, but only mentally. I reached out and found the help that I needed to break the cycle of poverty and violence. A lot of my peers are angry; their parents are on drugs and abandoned them. I am also angry but I choose to use that anger and turn it to love through my work."

Real Hard conscious hip-hop CDs are available at Kids First. Please call (510) 452-2043 or e-mail fadeelah@kidsfirstoakland.org


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