Spoken Word! -Terri L.

Hey everybody, it’s me again. Look at our awesome team, blogging twice in one day! 🙂 Just wanted to let you know that this week, we are aiming for everyone to make a post, so look forward to hearing from Dana and Galvin for the first time, and another post from Luz. Of course, we have realized we are pretty terrible at blogging or updating on a regular basis, so don’t hold your breath. 😉

A warning before I get on with what I was going to write about – it’s loooooooong. But hopefully good. So brace yourself for the length and open your mind for the content.

Yesterday was Visitors Day. It was super nice. My mommy and one of my sisters came (bearing lots of food, of course). We hung out and cooked. If you ever wonder what a Liang gathering is like, the previous sentence says it all. We talk and cook. Also, we tend to cook food for an army, so today has been officially dubbed leftover day and we don’t have to cook anything from scratch – just reheating and some minor reinventing 🙂 .

Part of Visitors Day was a program from 7-9. During that program, each work site was given 7 minutes to give a presentation. In an effort to minimize the time that we (College Track) took, we made art pieces and did a quick sharing of that. It was for this setting that I created my first spoken word poem! Continue reading

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Hello Outside World! Its me, Michelle…

Hello Outside World! Its me, Michelle. You know, Michelle Valdivia. Oh come on, its only been a few weeks, you couldn’t have forgotten about me that quickly. Or maybe you could have… but you didn’t… right? Anyway, since I know you’re all wondering what kind of crazy things I’ve been up to, here goes nothing.

Wait for it…

I have been out changing the world! Feeding orphans, saving babies from burning buildings, all that jazz! Nah, I’m just kidding Outside World! All in due time. Even though I’m not out saving babies or whatever, I am still working hard and trying to do some good here in Oakland, especially at my work site. I have been interning at an organization called First Place for Youth. First Place helps foster youth get a stable foundation and be self-sufficient after they age out of the foster system. My job, along with the 3 other BayUp interns, has been to create a GED program and information binder so that former foster youth can have readily accessible resources if they want to attain their GED. Although I expected to be working with youth a lot more this summer, the youth I have gotten a chance to interact with are so kind and full of joy, it has been a blessing to be a part of their lives and try to help them in their path to a GED.

Yesterday was an especially important day at First Place. Fridays at First Place always include a community lunch, where youth and staff eat lunch together and share community with one another. This Friday’s community lunch was a bit different, in that we all sat in a circle and shared our thoughts about the Trayvon Martin case. In light of the recent verdict, tensions in Oakland have been high. There were several protests the first couple of days after the verdict, and downtown Oakland was greatly affected. Although I do not live near the downtown area, I could still hear many police helicopters throughout the night. Several business were trashed and windows shattered during the protests by people who were not necessarily out there to have their opinions about the verdict heard. According to an Oakland native, the people who partook in the more violent aspects of the protests were not members of the community of Oakland. It just doesn’t make sense for people to destroy their own home.

During this week’s community lunch, youth at First Place had a chance to share their thoughts on the verdict, and their hope for change within the community. The conversation was very diverse, although there were several common elements. We talked about a lot about perceptions, especially the perception that society has of black men, especially black youth, and how usually the common stereotype is that young black men are trouble. We also discussed the many ways in which the media perpetuates this stereotype. A lot of the youth felt outraged that the media focuses so much on the murder of a black youth by a white male, but the media does not focus on the many young people who are victims of gun violence everyday in urban areas throughout the United States. One young man even asked the question, “if it had been a black man who shot Trayvon Martin, would there have still been all this hype over the case?”. The youth are very aware of the reality that race plays a large role in the perceptions of our youth and in what gets presented in the media.

Many of the youth shared personal stories of friends and family members who have been killed due to gun violence. Before Friday, I had never gotten the chance to really hear the youth’s stories, but this Friday I was truly blessed. All of the youth have been through so much struggle but they still express hope that things can change. Two young men talked about how they turned their lives around because they wanted to be positive role models to the youth in their communities. We all talked about ways in which we can enact change in society, but also ways in which we can change and improve ourselves. It starts with us and our communities, with changing people’s perceptions of black youth. It starts by leading through example, by providing spaces within the community to talk about the hard issues, the things we don’t always see in the media but the things that play a real role in our lives.

This Friday was a Friday of hope. Of change. It was a Friday of being a part of a community that I had never been a part of before. It was a Friday of asking hard questions and being forced to look at myself and see the ways that I carry preconceptions about people. Through all of it, I really saw the Holy Spirit moving in this community. I came in, a stranger among friends, and the people at First Place welcomed me and opened up their hearts to me. BayUp is not about a bunch of college students coming into Oakland to change everything and save everyone. That’s not what I set out to do. I came into BayUp knowing that there are already a lot of great people here, trying to enact change within their own communities and trying to empower themselves. I have been blessed to see the community of Oakland at work, and to be welcomed into it as a family member is welcomed at home. I thank God for the opportunity to be here, to learn and to grow as a new member of the community of Oakland.

So there it is Outside World. That is what I have been up to. Yep. BayUp 2013. This blog is obviously NOT comprehensive of the last 4 weeks but I felt compelled to write about this specific Friday because it is reflective of how hard some of the topics here at BayUp can be, but also of how rewarding it all is. So yeah. Since I don’t really know how to end a blog, I will leave you with a haiku that me and some of my BayUp friends came up with on the first day. It has sort of become our unofficial BayUp 2013 motto. So yeah, no big deal or anything. 🙂 Enjoy!

Community stands,
Seeking hope with one another
Believe in Oakland

(Believe in Oakland!)

The Blog post that I had to create for my job:) – Luz A.

My CLUE/ Street Level Health Project team:

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Who are we:
The Bay Area Urban Project (BayUp) is the organization that was in charge of putting on the vigil that took place at the West County Detention Facility this 6th of July. BayUp is a group of students from different colleges in the Bay Area, as well as Reno and Hawaii, who have chosen to dedicate 6 weeks of their summer to learning more about God, His heart for social justice issues, and how we can be seekers of Shalom in Oakland, CA.

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The theme:

In light of the 4th of July, we chose to focus on the theme of “Liberty and Justice for All” for the 6th of July vigil that took place at the West County Detention Center. We took this phrase from the Pledge of Allegiance, which is usually recited daily in our American public schools by all students, documented and undocumented. While all students must recite this promise of liberty and justice for all, this message doesn’t hold true for our undocumented brothers and sisters present in this country. There have been many families that have been seperated, and there have been many students who have experienced the separation of a parent or loved one due to deportations. There are many undocumented people our there who were brought to this country as babies, so they don’t know another home aside from the U.S. There are many undocumented people who live in fear of being deported and therefore lack the liberty to roam this country, to find work that they enjoy, and to be free to visit loved ones back in their home country. Essentially, we wanted to get people thinking about where the “ liberty and justice” are for these people.

The testimonies:

As a part of this vigil, we thought it would be important to have two testimonies that represent two different points of view. The first testimony was given by one of the BayUp students who comes from an immigrant family. She shared her perspective on the issue and voiced some of the struggles that undocumented people face. She also shared her experience growing up in the school system that required her to recite the Pledge of Allegience each day, and she shared about how she came to realize how these words don’t hold true for everyone in this country and how they were not written or intended for the undocumented population in the U.S. She also pointed out how much privilege is taken for granted here in the United Stated by its citizens, and how she recently came to realize that even though she came from an immigrant family, being born here has provided her with so many rights that often get taken for granted. In the end, she was greatful for all the people present at the vigil and their participation in these issues of immigration.

The other testimony was one on solidarity, given by one of the staff members of Bayup. She shared about her experience as a white American, growing up thinking that everyone did have access to liberty and justice. She talked about how once her eyes were opened to the truth that not everyone has access, she realized that the broken immigration system wasn’t just an immigrant problem, but it should be all our problem. She used the image of “the body” in scripture because when one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body is used to heal it. Our call as people of faith is to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community, even if the issues of the broken immigration system don’t directly affect us.

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The dance:

As a part of the vigil, the BayUp team presented a dance piece that was based off of an excerpt from a poem titled “Freedom’s Plow” by Langston Hughes. While this can be a fairly patriotic poem, we decided to let the moves speak for themselves and show the role of community in the immigration struggle. The main piece of the dance involved 3 people that depicted the lines of the poem as they were being read to the audience. We also depicted the engagement and lack of engagement of others in this struggle through our blindfolded team members standing in the back of the main piece.  These blindfolded people are important in the piece. Some members would take the blindfold off which was representative of how many Americans become aware of these issues of immigration that they were blind to before. After removing the blind fold, some chose to leave them off and engage with the struggle while some chose to put them back on to show how others refuse to engage despite having been exposed to the issue. There were other members that never even took the blind fold off and never got exposed to the struggle that our immigrant brothers and sisters face.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bn_ikiztkO8&feature=youtu.be

All in all, the vigil was a success. Planning and attending this vigil was definitely a new experience for the BayUp team that put it together and attended, but it was an experience that they were grateful for having experienced. For the returning attendees of these vigils, I can only hope that they were able to gain a lot from the parts of the vigil that were unique to this group.

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