Oakland support group hosts workshop for families struggling with mental health and substance abuse

Click here to read my story for Oakland North.

“A woman wearing a black hoodie, black pants, black boots, and black-framed glasses sat alone in the front row of a room at the East Oakland Senior Center on a Saturday morning. She leaned forward with her arms crossed and resting on the table, patiently waiting.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, was one of the first people to show up at the “Help for Family Caregivers Coping with Mental Illness or Substance Abuse” workshop, hosted by the African American Family Support Group. She was seeking information and resources to help her 19-year-old-daughter—who suffers from co-occurring schizophrenia and drug abuse and is currently homeless—find the help that she needs.

“I hadn’t been to an African American event yet, so that was very important. I had gone to [a family clinic] and it was very white [and] middle-class. Nobody had issues with homelessness or substance abuse, so I really wanted to come here because I felt like both of those things would be addressed within the context,” said the woman…”

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Oakland School District program helps refugees break language barrier

Click here to my article published on Oakland North.

“Yes,” said Hajiia Fun in a soft voice, nervously laughing after she was asked by Nate Dunstan from the Oakland Unified School District’s (OUSD) refugee and asylee Program if she could help translate for her fellow classmates. Speaking Arabic, she told two other mothers that a group of staff members were there to aid them with student registration and introduce them to support services offered by the district.

The women were attending an English as a Second Language (ESL) beginners class at Allendale Elementary School, which is in Fruitvale. According to the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Student Achievement Initiative, the district’s Arabic-speaking and API students struggle the most when it comes to literacy. Members of the initiative say there is a gap in communication and educational support between these students and their families, as some of these families do not speak English, and some are even illiterate…

Building a skateboarding community at DeFremery Park in Oakland

Click here to read my article published on Oakland North.

“DeFremery Park in Oakland is tubular—grimy.

The blinding sun’s reflection hits empty cans of beer, and buds and roaches on the corners where the ramps and the walls meet. There’s an untraceable scent of burning cigarettes and weed. It is a place where during the day, kids wearing bright orange, green, and blue shirts with skateboarding graphics skate in patterns as they cross paths with adult skaters, wearing gray and black grungy shirts and jeans with holes in them.

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Norbert Elliot, 24, looks like the stereotype of a Californian skateboarder: Dreads down to his chest, a black tee that says “New Legacy” (the name of the apparel company that sponsors him), yellowish orange jeans, cool flat-sole skateboarding shoes, and white headphones in his ears. Every sentence that comes out of his mouth slides up and down, like a skateboard going from side to side on a ramp—a Californian drawl.”

Young adults fill mental health services gap with peer mentoring

Click here to read my article published on Oakland North.

“Millennia Dunn has stylish strands of electric blue hair and black and red acrylic nails. Instead of enjoying Veteran’s Day with her friends and family, wohe 18-year-old is at a leadership regional retreat for PEERS TAY.

PEERS stands for Peers Envisioning and Engaging in Recovery Services, and TAY means Transitional Age Youth (TAY), or people ages 16 through mid-20s. Typically, the health care system specializes in assisting children, adults, and elderly adults, leaving the TAY group without specialized care. The mental health services inside and outside of hospitals are not tailored to meet the special circumstances of these young adults, leaving them without proper care.

At the PEERS headquarters near the Oakland airport, Dunn and other TAY members and volunteers from southern California and San Francisco were discussing some of the issues faced by people in this age group. Among them were the names given to people suffering mental illnesses, accusations of faking emotions, and lack of mental health tools geared towards black men. After brainstorming some resolutions, the group of young men and women wrote down their practical proposals on bright-colored Post-Its that covered the walls of the conference room…”

Oakland students receive free internet access from Sprint

Click here to read my article published on Oakland North.

“‘Mom, I need your hotspot!’ Irma Avila said, mimicking her 11-year-old son Agustin Cuevas. She was laughing about how hard it is to have her kids finish their homework since they do not have Wi-Fi at home. Six of her eight kids are assigned school assignments online on a daily basis, and they all use her cellphone’s hotspot.

Avila went to the 81st Avenue branch of the Oakland Public Library on Friday to pick up free cellphone hotspot devices for each of her high school girls. She hopes this will alleviate the chaos of letting her children use her phone’s hotspot. She already divides its use into sets of 30 minutes in order to get a reasonable internet speed.

“It’s a really good opportunity for the kids,” said Avila about the event.

The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and the Oakland non-profit Tech Exchange collaborated with the telecommunications company Sprint to give away free hotspots, smartphones, and tablets to district high school students. A hotspot is a mobile and wireless device that shares wireless internet access. The event was part of the 1Million Project run by Sprint and the Sprint Foundation, which will provide 200,000 hotspots over five years to high school students in the United States who do not have access to the internet at home…”

Oakland council passes ban on flavored tobacco sales

Click here to read my article published on Oakland North.

“In an unanimous decision, on Tuesday night the Oakland City Council voted to ban of sales of flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, in Oakland.

According to a proposal published by the city of Oakland, the ordinance will lower tobacco use among young people and people in the African American community. The ban will prohibit retailers (as well as their agents or employees) from selling or offering to sell flavored tobacco products, such as menthols and “vaping” liquid. The ordinance will not ban the smoking or vaping of flavored tobacco products in Oakland. It will take effect in 2018.”

The Chamanas|Feel The Evolution

Click here to read my article published on Fusion Magazine.

“With great achievements and a personal loss, The Chamanas are facing 2017 with a force of inner strength and creativity. The group is made up of Paulina Reza on vocals, Alejandro Bustillos on drums, Manuel Calderón on bass and Hector Carreón on guitar.

Their upcoming album, Nea, is characterized by the tragic events the band has experienced. At the beginning of the recording process in October of 2016, Carreón’s brother, Nea, suddenly passed away…”

Photos: Darío Lizárraga

Convoca dreamer a ‘no tener miedo’

Haz click aquí para leer mi artículo publicado en El Diario de El Paso “Convoca dreamer a ‘no tener miedo‘”.

“Viridiana Villa está convencida de que si uno hace las cosas bien, no tiene nada que temer. Ese es el mensaje que guarda para sí y comparte con otros de los llamados ‘dreamers’ en estos tiempos de zozobra.

Los comentarios de la ‘dreamer’ de 27 años surgen en medio de un ambiente de temor por recientes redadas de indocumentados en todo el país, y el arresto de dos jóvenes adultos que, como ella, viven en el país sin permiso desde antes de cumplir los 16 años.

Los ‘dreamers’, personas que entraron al país a los 15 años de edad o más jóvenes y se quedaron sin autorización, desde hace varios años cuentan con la protección de la Acción Diferida para los Llegado en la Infancia (DACA) que estableció la administración de presidente Obama…”

Temen que muro demore construcción de nuevo cruce en Columbus

Haz click aquí para leer mi artículo publicado en El Diario de El Paso “Temen que muro demore construcción de nuevo cruce en Columbus“.

“Columbus, N.M. – Funcionarios locales temen que la construcción del muro que quiere construir el presidente Trump a lo largo de la frontera sur, así como el impuesto de importación para financiarlo, afecten la disponibilidad de fondos para terminar el nuevo cruce con Palomas, México.

Norma Gómez, directora de la Cámara de Comercio de Columbus, dijo que el impacto positivo inmediato que la reconstrucción del cruce trajo a Columbus es evidente, ya que  hogares circunvecinos se ocuparon por los contratistas y trabajadores de la construcción. Pero teme que la construcción del muro demore la terminación del cruce.

“Esperemos que no nos impacte en una manera muy negativa”, dijo…”