A Street Closure

Due to major flooding from February’s storms, many roads in the Bay Area have been closed, including A street in Hayward. The road has been closed since late December last year and is scheduled to reopen sometime in the middle of March 2023 according to the Hayward Police Department and the Public Works Agency of Alameda. 

The recent storms in the beginning of this year have had different side effects on the state of California. An increase in potholes on the streets and flooding has caused multiple roads to be closed as well as causing sinkholes to open up across the Bay Area. 

One of these sinkholes, which opened near San Lorenzo Creek in Castro Valley, is what caused A St. to collapse after a storm on New Year’s Eve. The soil that stood against the creek was oversaturated with rainwater and eroded away, causing major damage to the street as well as people’s homes and backyards that were adjacent to it. 

Michelle Smith, a Castro Valley resident, had this to say when asked by reporters at KRON: “I’m worried about the roads and the properties and the people that live near it. There’s a lot of houses that have their backyards against this creek.”

Smith’s concerns are valid according to meteorologists, who say that residents should remain cautious as most of the soil is still extremely waterlogged and at risk of flooding. “The ground is still saturated. There’s still going to be plenty of chance for runoff and localized flooding,” says Colby Goatley, a National Weather Service meteorologist, who urges people to keep paying attention during this time.

Street view of sink hole closed off with fencing. Residents home on the other side of fence. Trees and yard demolished by sink hole.

Similar to what happened on A St., a situation occurred on Faircliffe St. in Hayward in mid-January where a large section of the hillside eroded due to the heavy rainfall. While no roads ended up being affected by this, the mudslide caused by this erosion left at least one house on Faircliffe uninhabitable. 

More of these incidents have occurred since January as California has continued to experience heavy rainfall and has caused a lot of problems for the city administrators as well as its citizens. Besides A St. being closed, the following roads near Hayward are under construction and will be closed until further notice according to the Public Works Agency of Alameda: Foothill Rd., Lake Chabot Rd., Kilkare Rd. and many others. 

Fortunately, as of Mar. 6, many of these roads have been reopened — especially those in Castro Valley — including Crow Canyon Rd., Eden Canyon Rd. and Redwood Rd. which also suffered from a large sinkhole in early January of this year. However, residents on A St. will have to wait a little longer for things to go back to normal in their neighborhoods.

Fenced off section divides A St. to keep drivers and pedestrians safe from sink hole. Cars having to navigate around the structure.

Historic Bay Area Weather

Top of snowy hills in Fremont, looking down towards the East Bay. Hiker seen in the distance.

On Feb. 23, East Bay residents woke to a rare sight of snow covering the surrounding mountains. This historic snowfall left many Bay Area residents shocked and filled with excitement. Despite the snow slowing down traffic, many Bay Area residents still went out to experience the snow for the first time.

“I thought it was crazy. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I thought it was Christmas. It was spectacular. People were playing in the snow, and I felt like it was something out of a dream,” states Angela Tafur, a Chabot College student who visited Grizzly peak.

East Bay resident Benjamin Barretto also heard the news and headed toward Mission Peak in Fremont, “My immediate thoughts were those of excitement. This type of weather doesn’t happen often in the Bay Area, so I definitely wanted to take advantage of it and experience it for myself.”

Benjamin in red winter coat, black snow pants, and two hiking sticks posing in center frame, snowy hills behind him.

Despite the excitement from many Bay Area residents, others issued concerns regarding the rare snowstorm. “It makes me concerned because this is not regular weather for the bay area. This is very abnormal, and I am concerned for more drastic weather changes in the future,” states Chabot College student Kevin Medina. 

Benjamin wearing a red winter coat and ski mask at the top of a snowy Mission Peak, posing with a Ukraine flag.

Benjamin also shared his concerns, “Once I got to the top of Mission Peak, I realized I felt like I was in a completely different place and that this severe weather change should be a cause for concern. It was weird to be completely surrounded by snow and hit with 50 mph winds only to be at work an hour later.”

Chabot College Celebrates Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, clubs geared toward students of color hosted events during February.

Most of these events were virtual, like the screening of Black Voices from the Ivory Tower that Dr. Khalid White presented on Feb. 3 and a Zoom discussion on the impact of violence on the mental health of African American college students on Feb. 9. The discussion, which was held by Pathway to Wellness, took place earlier in the month.

On Feb. 15, the Umoja Community, named after the Swahili word for unity and one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa, hosted a day carnival from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. where students were encouraged to come and celebrate with food, music, and prizes. At the end of the month, there was a Black Scholars Family Night in which Black students that earned a 3.0 GPA or higher in the Fall semester of 2022 were honored and awarded. These events took place in the Event Center in the 700 building and were open to all students. 

If students were unable to attend any of these events or are interested in celebrating Black culture outside of Black History month, the Chabot community provides opportunities to do so throughout the year. The Black Cultural Resource Center, located in room 136 of the 100 building, hosts cultural events and workshops all year long and provides a space for students who identify as Black, African American, and Afro-Latinx to get the support they need. 

This support goes beyond academics as the Black Cultural Resource Center offers services like mental wellness counseling, career counseling, transfer resources, and basic needs support.

Along with the Black Cultural Resource Center — special programs like Umoja, Striving Black Brothers, and My Sister’s Keeper aim to create a space for Black students to thrive by focusing on African American history, literature, and culture. 

By providing the core four courses as well as multiple other transferable courses, Umoja strives to support Black students with their academic goals by promoting “togetherness,” — as described by sophomore Christian Green. Besides their cohort classes, the Umoja program also provides personal counseling for all of their students. Umoja counselor and coordinator Tommy Reed says, “Their ability to build a connection with students and their timely responses are a large part of what makes the program so useful.” 

Outside of academics, Umoja promotes community outreach by hosting events on campus throughout the semester. While they have done less since the pandemic, whereas before, they used to host three to four events per semester, Umoja regularly hosts open mics and partners with the Black Cultural Resource Center to host Chop it Up Tuesdays — in which students are encouraged to come to the Black Cultural Resource Center and discuss whatever topics are on their minds. 

If you are interested in joining Umoja or the other groups on campus that are geared toward Black students, you only need to reach out to the individual programs through the Chabot website and apply. Umoja has no GPA requirement, and all students are welcome to apply.

Russell City The Great Town That it Once Was

Russell City  was once a thriving unincorporated town with homes, churches, jobs, schools, farms, and clubs. Russell City was a town located in Hayward. Before it was an Industrial Park It was the pinnacle for various migrants and immigrant groups like Spaniards, Danes, Germans, Italians, African Americans, and Mexicans. 

Due to racial discrimination in Alameda County, there weren’t many areas for minorities to live and call their home. There were only a few neighborhoods: Fillmore (in San Francisco), West Oakland, Palo Alto, and Russell City (Hayward). 

Russell City mural in Downtown Hayward

Many minorities set up businesses to make a living. Aisha Knowles’ grandfather used to own an automotive shop in Russell City; she stated, “I hear the stories from people who lived there, who had business there, and about what the town meant to them and how special of a place it was,” said Knowles.

On Saturday nights in the 1940’s and 50’s, Russell City was the place to be. People would be dressed in their finest suits and clothes, dancing it up on the dance floor to some of the greatest R&B and Blues musicians, such as; Grammy award-winners Ray Charles, B.B. King, and other artists like Lowell Fulson and Dottie Ivory. People from all over the bay came to hear them perform. There were two clubs in Russell City: the Russell City country club and Miss Alva’s Club.

Russell City Country Club is one of the two clubs that includes live performances for music venues. Russell City Country Club (Photo courtesy of Hayward Historical Society and Dr. María Ochoa)

Dr. Maria Ochoa, Ph. D., is the author of the book Images of America Russell City. She is also a San José State University Professor Emerita of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. The book is based on the history of and dedicated to the people of Russell City.  She mentions how great the well-being of a community in Russell City once was. “I lived in Hayward across the street from Chabot when it was all fields. I remember going to Mass in Russell City as a little girl. I remember it being a place where my parents made friends with Latinos, African Americans, and Whites. The community was together as a whole,” said Dr. Ochoa. 

Russell City public school was located just five miles away from downtown Hayward. The book described Russell High School as a valuable three-story high school with iconic Greek architecture and the nation’s most elegant school. The book also described Russell City public school from the 1st grade to the 8th. Before the high school in Russell City was built, students who wanted to continue their education had to go to Oakland High.

 The classroom experience sometimes included manual labor, and sometimes teachers would take their classes into the fields. Dr. Ochoa stated, “There were cows and chickens in the streets. People had school gardens which were orchards, and vegetables were growing. It was all agricultural.”

Russell City itself was an agricultural town. Gardens were common in residents’ homes. There were a lot of orchards and vegetable gardens. The town had dairies and a pig farm. The smell of hogs was horrible, as described in the book. 

Four stores in Russell City supplied food, cigarettes, aspirin, and other things. There were restaurants in that town that weren’t segregated. The money always went back into Russell City. 

Alameda County never provided services like water, electricity, and sanitation. “It was a difficult situation. They had no roads, no indoor plumbing, and they had no utilities like electricity. People living in Russell City had to get Car Batteries to bring electricity into their homes, schools, and businesses.” Says Dr. Ochoa.

  So, what happened to Russell City? What happened to this thriving minority town? For one: it was an unincorporated town. Two: the residents were still interested in bettering their town. It was that they were denied the opportunity by the government, the county, and by Hayward. Both the county and the city devised a plan to turn Russell City into the industrial park you see today. Residents were forced to move, and businesses were forced to close.

By the late 1950s, the town was in turmoil. Residents were forced to move, and arsonists burned properties to the ground. When the town was expanded to Hayward, the city used eminent domain to remove the last of the residents in 1966 for the industrial park.

“Many who lived in Russell City are in their 70’s and 80s. talking about it can be painful because they remember what they lost when it was destroyed,” said Knowles. Russell City now is a question of “What it could have become” since 1964.

The residents of the once-forgotten community weren’t willing to let Russell City fade in their memories and let it be unknown. Ruby Tolefree-Echols and Henry “Billy” Garron, two former Russell City residents, founded an annual reunion picnic. Echols died in 2002; unfortunately, Mr. Billy Garron passed away some years ago. 

“The reunion picnic was held in 2022 after being suspended during the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. It is unclear if the picnic will continue as the people who lived and worked in Russell City are few in number now, largely due to the passing of so many. The people who now come to the picnic have not necessarily lived or worked in Russell City. They have heard stories from their elders and want to learn more,”  said Dr. Ochoa.

Russell City Reunion Picnic participants are looking at a handmade community map. (Photo courtesy of Dr. María Ochoa)

There are tributes to Russell City in Hayward. Russell City is commemorated in the downtown Mural where Hayward had officially apologized. On Nov. 16, 2021, the Hayward City Council voted unanimously to issue a formal apology for the City’s historical role in and the perpetuation of racial discrimination and racially disparate impacts of its past actions and inactions. The property of Russell City today is worth millions.

“One of the things that happened with Institutionalized poverty is that people try to survive, and to face some of the challenges requires having a strong sense of community, and I think people there developed that.” Says Dr. Ochoa.

ChatGPT at Chabot

On Feb. 21 many instructors from Chabot College held a zoom meeting discussing ChatGPT—whether it’s beneficial or not to them and their students. ChatGPT is an A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) chatbot established by Open AI and started on Nov. 22.

Instructor Lester Abesamis who led the meeting, stated, “ChatGPT is an artificial intelligent language model designed to generate human-like responses to natural prompts. You can type in any prompt and what ChatGPT draws from its database. It can remove from famous personalities.”

If you ask ChatGPT a question or give it a prompt, it can respond to you like how a celebrity can. “ChatGPT got some adaptability and changed its style as supposed even to the degree that somebody famous enough like comedian George Carlin, but I told it to give me the same information in a style of a George Carlin monologue, and it did.” Says Abesamis. 

You can ask ChatGPT anything you want. When do you ask ChatGPT what ChatGPT is? The response is: ChatGPT is an AI language model developed by OpenAI that can engage in natural language conversations with humans. It uses machine learning algorithms and neural networks to generate human-like responses to textual inputs. ChatGPT is pre-trained on a large corpus of text data from the internet and continuously learns and improves with each interaction. It can answer questions, provide information, offer suggestions, and converse on various topics.

ChatGPT writes emails, prompts, and answers questions and essays. You can ask it to write essays in the style you want. “It may not be good for essays where you’re providing textual evidence and specific examples. It may not be able to do that.” Stated Abesamis.

During the meeting, Instructor Michael Thompson questioned the purpose of using ChatGPT by saying, “I’m Curious to see if anybody is interested in realistically, they’re going out into the world where this is more and more likely to replace their jobs they have right now. I went to the canvas sight just to see what they said about it, and they basically are saying, ‘well, you can’t block It. We better figure out how to use it, and as I was doing it, a chat box popped up, and then they were saying, ‘what do you do with it?’ just doesn’t seem to be a nuance to me.” 

When you asked ChatGPT about how beneficial they can be to instructors and students, the answer is: As an AI language model, I can help both teachers and students in a variety of ways, such as: Answering theoretical questions: I can provide information and explanations on a wide range of academic topics, including math, science, history, literature, and more, Assisting with homework and assignments Offering study and exam preparation tips, Providing lesson plan ideas and resources, Providing assessment, grading tips. Recommending educational resources. Offering professional development resources Overall, my goal is to provide accurate and helpful information to teachers and students in a timely and efficient manner, so they can achieve their academic goals and succeed in their studies. ChatGPT went into more specific details on how it can help benefit Both Instructors and students.

Debt Relief Is a Priority for Students, but Is It for the Supreme Court?

On Feb. 28, in what has become a growing movement across the country, students and teachers amassed on the steps of the Supreme Court to support legislation that would essentially cancel the student loan debt of upward of $400 billion for more than 40 million students. 

In what has become an ongoing battle within the judicial system growing in filings, proceedings, and public infamy. With organizations like The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and a myriad of state and local governments accompanied by agencies and unions representing millions of student voices. A few conservative judges and states stand in the way of accomplishing this goal for so many. “This court should uphold the lawfulness of Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona’s plan to provide critical relief to student-loan borrowers impacted by an unprecedented pandemic,” written in an amicus curiae brief. 

Publicly there is a lot of determination and effort coming from students as debt relief addresses the hardships and challenges faced during the COVID pandemic period. A difficult time for just about everyone who lived and worked in a metropolitan or communal area; these effects are still being felt today by many as the world has been forced to adapt to what was once a killer virus with an extremely high mortality rate. Work schedules, small gatherings in close quarters, and not seeing a face in public for years still remain to be an issue today in common everyday life. 

The Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, known as the Heroes Act, originates from the 9/11, Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom era. In 2001 the Secretary of Education was granted waiver authority to respond to national emergencies. In 2003 this authority was broadened by a bill put forth into legislation by Rep. Kline (R-MN) passed by Congress and signed into law by President George Bush to provide student debt relief for troops serving overseas. 

“Several provisions of the HEROES Act indicate that Congress intended the Act to confer broad authority under the circumstances and for the purposes specified by the Act. First, the Act grants authority notwithstanding any other provision of law, unless enacted with specific 

reference to this section. Id. § 1098bb(a)(1). Second, the Act authorizes the Secretary to waive or modify any statutory or regulatory provision applicable to the student financial assistance programs. Id. § 1098bb(a)(1), (a)(2). Third, the Act expressly authorizes the Secretary to issue such waivers and modifications as he deems necessary in connection with a war or other military operation or national emergency. Id. § 1098bb(a)(1). The Supreme Court has recognized that, in empowering a federal official to act as that official deems necessary in circumstances specified by a statute, Congress has granted the official broad discretion to take such action. This authority is not, however, boundless: it is limited, inter alia, to periods of a war, other military operation, or national emergency (id. § 1098bb(a)(1)), to certain categories of eligible individuals or institutions (id. § 1098ee(2)), and to a defined set of purposes (id.§ 1098bb(a)(2)(A)–(E)),” stated in a letter from The Department of Educations General Counsel Lisa Brown to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. 

In opposition is a clique of Republican-dominated states, Kansas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, and South Carolina, and a cabal of individuals, represented by two Texas residents who would not fully benefit and claim to be injured parties for the purpose of a lawsuit. The Department of Education v. Brown, No. 22-535, is the case for Myra Brown, whose debt is held with the commercial industry. Alexander Taylor, who did not receive a Federal Pell Grant, is only eligible for half the relief. 

This meets the precedent of “standing,” a requirement that must be met to maintain a case against ruling in favor of student debt relief. Called “one of the nation’s most ambitious and expensive executive actions in the nation’s history,” and believed to be a violation of the separation of powers by Justice John G Roberts. That is the separation of the legislative branch, the judiciary branch, and the executive branch. Indicating that the President does not have executive authority to overreach in this judicial case that has become highly controversial.

Although in the previous administration, President Donald Trump had evoked this act during his term in office in March 2020. President Donald Trump had already declared that COVID was a national emergency and took action to pause student loan requirements.   

Furthermore, “the major questions doctrine” has been stated as being applicable in this case, which means that any initiatives with significant political consequences for millions of Americans should be decided with congressional authority. Justices Roberts and Thomas both became very focused on the exact meaning of the text when observing the word “waive,” stating that the text does not specify the waiving or cancellation of loan balances. 

In recent Supreme Court cases, this same doctrine was used to narrow and restrict the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency to take any official action on climate change. A similar ruling followed soon after, again using the doctrine. This time it was restricting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from upholding a moratorium on evictions as well as standing against any requirements for employers to have their employees vaccinated.  

The administration disagreed and indicated that the HEROES Act does state this express authority previously given to the secretary of education to accomplish legislative action for this exact purpose, which is to take action on behalf of students in the face of a national emergency.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, fully supporting the president’s plan, compiled a report made up of feedback from students and organizations. Some of the organizations are the Debt Collective, NAACP, the National Young Farmers Coalition, and the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. The senator personally stated that “if the Supreme Court fails to apply the law as it is written and uphold Biden’s student debt plan, it’s the most vulnerable Americans who will be harmed most. It’s incumbent on her and others to push the Supreme Court to do its job and allow the president to cancel student debt.”

What is the current state of the case?

With oral arguments having ended, it is time for deliberation, which can take up to three months to reach a decision. With over 40 million students awaiting $ 20,000 worth of loan forgiveness, the Education Department sent a mass email to students reassuring them that the administration would continue to provide support. 

“Our administration is confident in our legal authority to adopt this plan, and today made clear that opponents of the program lack standing even to bring their case to court. While opponents of this program would deny relief to borrowers who need support as they get back on their feet after the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. We will continue providing updates and notify borrowers directly before payments restart. Payments will resume 60 days after the Supreme Court announces its decision. If it has not made a decision or resolved the litigation by June 30, payments will resume 60 days after that,” wrote Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. 

After observation of the loan process during the years of COVID, the warning is dire; if debt relief is not utilized there could be “a historic rise in delinquencies and defaults,” according to the Department of Education. June is the projected date for the court’s decision while millions of students across the country wait it out as their futures and quality of life hang in the balance.

Chabot Celebrates Lunar New Year

The Chabot College Lunar New Year Event kicked off on Feb. 2  hosted in the 700 building. The celebration was presented by the Asian Pacific Islander Education Association (APIEA) and was in collaboration with the Association of China Club and the Movement Learning Community.   

A few people came to speak and say a few words at the beginning of the event. Chabot’s President Susan Sperling attended the event and spoke, she voiced that it is important to recognize all of the people for whom Lunar New Year is celebrated. She then thanked and and gave a shout out to various individuals for supporting the event altogether. 

The President of the Association of China Club spoke as well. She stated the facts and traditions of the Lunar New Year that occur in China and thanked the audience for coming out to show love and support. 

Fong Tran, a spoken word poet, educator, and public speaker shared a beautiful poetry during the event. For example, one of the poems titled “I Hate” conveyed Tran’s battle with accepting his ethnicity and who he is. The series of spoken word poetry was very powerful, it seemed to have quite an impact on the audience.  

To end the event, there was a fun activity the audience could participate in. At the beginning of the event, the people flooding in were required to take an envelope from the entrance table, that envelope would contain a scratch card in it. This card however, would not win us the lottery, but 10 special cards would let us know if we won a prize that varied from a gift card to a large squishmallow. 

The event was attended by a series of different people who wanted to learn more and were interested in the program. The overall goal was about sharing space and culture within the community, and creating a safe space for people to feel comfortable within themselves.

Hayward Library’s Lunar New Year Celebration

Lunar new year is a time for big celebrations for many people all around the world. On Jan. 21 2023 at the Hayward Library, we had an astonishing Lunar New Year celebration. The Hayward Library is a seemingly recent library, with it being built in 2019, this event was the first that the Hayward library has hosted and was well attended.

Library guest, adults and children circled around Lunar New Year performance.

More than 300 people came to observe and participate. The celebration’s hosts, Librarian Wenny Wallace, and Jayanti Addleman, the Director of Library services, wanted to bring the community together with performance art in dances and singing to make people feel comfortable just the way they are.  

The Lunar New Year is a celebration of the arrival of a brand new Lunar calendar year, the holiday honors the heritage and brings people, both young and old, together from many different Asian cultures and backgrounds. In an insightful interview with Wenny Wallace, she says “This is to bring the community together. I saw some people start to talk to each other. That is the reason why I feel Lunar New Year is important, one, to keep the heritage, and two, is to bring together the whole community, not only small communities like Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese communities. Bring all of them together.”

Traditional dancer dressed from head to toe in bright yellow and red, dancing with flags at the Hayward Public Library

 Lunar New Year celebrations are not the same everywhere. For example, in some places, people would visit their families and stay with them, eat various foods, and have a good time. While in America, celebrations are likely a community event. The holiday isn’t only celebrated in Chinese culture, many festivities take place in Korea, Vietnam, and more.

Lunar New Year traditions, which have a history of about 3,500 years, in the words of Wenny Wallace, are “Like Christmas,” where you take your time to visit family and friends. These traditions and elements hold different significance. For example, 2023 is the year of the rabbit on the Chinese Zodiac calendar, and that represents peace and prosperity. Also, the importance of the color red is a key thing to mention, which represents luck/good fortune. Firecrackers also play a big role in Lunar New Year celebrations used to scare away bad luck and bad energy from the year prior. 

With the event’s big turnout, a monumental moment for them, so much so that they are open to doing another one next year. In the words of Wenny Wallace, “You should feel proud about your own culture.”

Hayward and People of Change Mourns Tyre Nichols

In the wake of Tyre Nichol’s death on Jan. 10 at the hands of Memphis police officers, the violence caught on video hit home in the Hayward community with residents. 

The Bay Area is a culturally rich place to live, and Hayward is no exception. With such a diverse population, it is no surprise that such a violent public death for yet another person of color is beyond disturbing and evokes strong emotions in the community. This type of sentiment motivates the need for change, and the best place for this to start is by listening directly to the voices of the communities affected by the policies that govern the police. 

Discussion and engagement can bring people together, which is precisely what transpired within an organization known as People of Change (POC). On Feb. 1, a vigil was held outside the Hayward City Hall at 5 p.m. in response to police violence and the killing of Tyre Nichols. The night was cold, but that didn’t stop some residents from coming out to convene and express how upset they were to see yet another person of color killed by police in the news.

The vigil was hosted by Amelia Bonilla, Jordan Leopold, and Leonardo Nicolas Huerta. Jordan opened the night and gave a heartfelt speech on race relations and policing in our local Bay Area communities, particularly Hayward. Although some of the members had impassioned speeches to provide, the event was purposed to be an open mic night, and it was indeed. 

“No justice, no peace,” the crowd chanted, a familiar rallying cry for social justice warriors as they listened to Jordan speak about the tragedy of the loss of Tyre Nichols. “This is a national problem,” he proclaimed and noticed how many others have experienced this execution style of force used most often on people of color. Some of the more known recent names are Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. The feelings of anger and sadness come to the surface yet again as it is expressed with deep emotion, wondering, “when will the discrimination and killings at the hands of police end?” Said Jordan. 

Jordan also mentioned a lack of training and de-escalation practices; in its place, police are just shooting people of color who are viewed as a threat or physically beating them to death. The data for this misconduct should be public. Still, the organization believes, along with many other community members, that the facts and numbers behind this data are withheld from the public view. The consequences for police officers involved in misconduct are disciplined and retrained in-house with unreleased data; that is a fact. This procedure is standard within a department to investigate internally but keep what happens as a result off the public record. 

How can there be accountability and trust in a community if there is no feedback after people in the community report police misconduct? These people who are victimized in one way or another by private citizens or police officers treat people like the enemy or criminals depending on which neighborhood they live in and their socioeconomic standing. Why do people of color face roadblocks to obtaining equality in the justice system? 

The sentiment was that of frustration, stating openly within the crowd’s feedback to Jordan “that they were tired of hearing about people of color being killed like this.” 

A Black mother from the Hayward community took the stage after Jordan and gave a very emotional speech about the danger she and her children were facing every day. How worried she was about the future lives of her children, ages six and seven. She was very upset about needing to have “the conversation” with them about the dangers of police and why we deserve to live. The fact that simply wearing a hoodie could mean death for them as Black children living in the Bay Area brought this mother to tears on stage. “We must demand change for our kids, or they will pay the price. Our babies don’t feel seen or heard; how can we make people care about Black lives and be seen as human beings,” She proclaimed.

Several more community members took the stage and, in one form or another, expressed the same distrust, frustration, and anger toward the police. Latino members of the community joined with Black residents and together shared the problems that face Black and Brown people. “Staying silent is not an option,” one community member exclaimed and mentioned in particular “the stereotypes used to discriminate against Latinos such as viewing them as lowriders and cholo gang members.” 

This discrimination is universal as there are many cases over the decades of discrimination in the Latino community at the hands of police dating back much further than the 1930s. Still, it was these years that led up to a famous event. During the 1930s, dance halls were trendy, swing dancing and releasing some of the economic stress felt during the Great Depression. 

In a New York neighborhood of Harlem famous for the Harlem Renaissance. The violent clashes of the Zoot Suit Riots, where mobs of U.S. servicemen, off-duty police officers, and civilians brawled with young Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles. The June 1943 riots got their name from the baggy suits worn by minority youths during that era. Still, the violence was more about racial discrimination and not about conflict over fashion.

The vigil lasted about an hour or so, and afterward, residents came together and embraced each other, although some were meeting for the first time. The feeling of caring and concern about the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis was felt all the way over here in Hayward, 2,069 miles away. These killings happen far too often to people of color across the United States. 

Hayward police are not exclusive, sharing in the disenfranchisement of people of color and sometimes providing unequal justice. It was on this night that residents of Hayward felt they could keep their silence about Tyre’s death no more and vowed to bring change, starting with their local police department.      

To the right of the stage, there was an elegant memorial display of remembrance set up for Tyre Nichols, along with food items and informative handouts for the community members in attendance. Although the night was cold and attendance was not as good as it could have been, improving the weather will bring out more community members looking to get involved and create change. These residents didn’t take notice because they were there to break their silence. The passion that drove this event is a response to police violence, and unfortunately, this violence will most likely continue well into the future. 

How did POC begin, and what is it all about?

  In May 2020, in response to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, a group of people came together to discuss social media. A discussion was born from participating in protests with the Hayward Community Coalition (HAYCOCOA). A discussion group on Instagram was started for this purpose, to have engagement about the topic of police brutality.

“We drew inspiration and thought we’d do better as a collective. We didn’t know what would happen, just that we wanted to bring people together to form a discussion. To help unite and inspire the black and brown community for social and economic prosperity. We felt that we needed to take a stance on police accountability,” said Jordan Leopold, POC Organizer.

The discussion went well, and they moved forward with a history post about the City of Yanga, which was founded after a group of enslaved Africans, led by Gaspar Yanga, rebelled against colonial rule in 1570. Veracruz, enslaved Africans lived under strict laws in New Spain’s royal system. Africans who were able to liberate themselves could expect the following:

“…the Negro or Negro woman absent from the service of his or her master for four days shall suffer fifty lashes of the whip… and if they should be away more than eight days, for a distance exceeding one league, each of them shall suffer a hundred lashes, iron fetters weighing twelve pounds shall be tied to their feet with a rope, which they shall carry for two months and shall not take off under pain of two hundred lashes for the first offense; and for the second, each shall take two hundred lashes and shall not take the weights off for four months,” William H. Dusenbarry Historian.

Yanga would be one of many enslaved Africans to rebel against the slave system. Yanga’s rebellion was a combination of several hundred enslaved Africans who fled to seek shelter near the Veracruz mountains—going from Cofre de Perote to the Sierra de Zongolica mountains. The rebels established a small town where they could live on their own. For 30 years, the Yanguícos harvested their foods (sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tobacco, corn, and many others). They used machetes and sticks for the raiding of supplies from passing Spanish caravans.

Locals would transport goods in caravans that traveled from the Veracruz port to Mexico City, MX. But as African and Indigenous people fled slavery and sought refuge in the surrounding mountains, they took to raiding caravans regularly. These Yanguicos were a threat to the colonial order. In 1609, when a rumor started circulating that the Yanguícos were planning to overthrow local Spanish authorities in the neighboring towns and appoint Yanga as the king, the Spanish Crown’s Viceroy Luis de Velasco sent a battalion of a few hundred troops to kill them. The Yanguícos and the Spanish suffered numerous casualties during their battles, but Yanga would not be defeated. Yanga ultimately negotiated a ceasefire: the Spanish Crown consented to a treaty that, in 1618, allowed the Yanguícos to establish their government and live in peace.

Yanga serves as an inspiration for the Afro-Mexican movement. As the rebellion’s leader, Yanga negotiated a peace settlement with the Catholic priest Alonso de Benavides and Captain Manuel Carrillo, which granted the Yanguícos freedom as long as they did not allow any other self-liberated enslaved people to join them. Although the Spanish Monarchy tried to back out of this peace treaty, it remained in effect until Mexico gained independence in 1821. Since 1976, Yanga has held “Festival of Negritude” and “Primer Pueblo Libre de las Américas” (Festival of the First Free Pueblo in America) celebrations honoring the town’s creation.

This historical post on Gasper Yanga went viral and was picked up by mitú on Instagram and went on to pick up 35,000 likes and started a discussion that went overseas. It was after all of this engagement and interest that they decided to make POC official. “We knew the policy was needed to have an impact and to equip people with talking points so they could apply pressure,” Said Leonardo Nicolas Huerta, POC Organizer. 

The group addressed the people in power for their education, the school board, and the city council. Eventually, it was able to have school resource officers removed from some schools and brought half a million dollars back to the school district. The organizing members all have higher education, including Jordan Leopold, having been a student body president at one time. Although currently, there is no POC club or official affiliation with any schools.   

“It is crucial to what we do; education on historical figures is intersectional for black and brown folks to come together as a people and overcome the oppressor. Even though we’re showing historical figures, we are highlighting issues today like the Bay Area’s sea level rise, climate crisis, and the Bay Areas’ impact on that and highlighting the impacts in the east bay, given that there are many waste sites where Black and Brown people are living in those zones. We feel it’s our duty to help with education by doing something about it,” said Leonardo.

There are nine prominent organizing leaders in the organization currently. Their official “People of Change” website and mission statement state that “People of Change is on a mission to advance the social, political, and economic well-being of underserved communities of color through direct service and research. We aim to mobilize community members and organizations through social engagement, historical education & political empowerment.” peopleofchange.org

Who does the organization help and represent?

“We’re building a plan to help students while expanding our reach, having been in student government. I know all too well that students need resources and living assistance. Currently, we are growing in numbers and want more student involvement. Student leaders behind movements to expand beyond the community to be a movement. We are Bay Area residents, most of the team is in Hayward and some in Oakland, east bay, but we aim to reach the entire Bay Area. We recognize that although there are a lot of non-profit groups that help communities in the Bay Area. We also see that a good number of the people who work within these organizations don’t live in the neighborhoods of the communities they serve,” said Jordan.

The movement is said to involve all people and is open to all cultural backgrounds, but the group’s primary focus is empowering Black and Brown communities. 

What kind of events does POC organize?

POC looks to provide community circles, speaking engagements, and a space for folks to talk about what’s happening to them. Currently, there is a plan in development to facilitate more conversation. Getting in front of people basically with a “soapbox.” Getting ideas and solutions to people who need them.

Additionally, POC would like to start a (Black & Brown) b&b market to highlight other Black & Brown small businesses, farmers markets, and block parties to check out other people’s arts. This collaboration could bring much-needed income to local community members, a new “Black Wallstreet.”

“We need to start small and keep our ears to the community, we can’t assume the value, but we want the actual impact to provide immediate value to people in need. Entertainment as culture, music, and art is of great interest to us; we’re looking to partner with the city of Hayward and local record stores, connecting with the Hayward Chamber of Commerce, blocking off a street, or a southland mall parking lot. Requirements, paperwork, and money are always a concern. We realized if we wanted to do something big, we needed to be more massive without diving too deep into our own pockets. Starting small allowed us to go further with our dollars by getting help within the community. Through coordination and challenge, we ultimately became a lot closer, which was good for the future of the organization,” said Jordan.  

POC experienced growing pains and challenges in organizing events with obtaining permits, perishable food they could give out, sanitization, and a wide range of issues around “red tape.” Handing out water on the street to community members in 101-degree heat to people outside wandering around the lake. Hotdogs fed families, and they started connecting with people on a universal level, exchanging pamphlets with religious groups such as Christians and Muslims. 

“It never comes down to funding; it comes down to creativity and low-cost, high impact. Getting in front of people, asking what they are looking for, what would benefit and improve their quality of life. Live physical community engagement, we see a lot of value in these, food, water, shelter, clothing, and economic opportunity. Basic level and ensure folks are taken care of and using those engagements. We are hearing the community’s experiences and using that to figure out what else can be done—trying to figure out who can do what and trying to close that gap. We see what works and what doesn’t work to improve our impact. 

Coming in and listening based on what we hear, figuring out how we can help, we don’t assume ahead of time. Startups and business circles use this framework, trying to think strategically and not just momentarily.

Having more conversations with folks to see what we can learn and collaborate with other organizations,” said Jordan. POC’s first event was in Oakland at Lake Merritt. The second was with Pamoja Magazine, giving out free water snacks and showcasing art in Palo Alto. “It was a great catalyst culturally for people to see where we were coming from,” said Leonardo. 

The third event for POC was attending “First Fridays” in Oakland, handing out pamphlets and water to people coming out of bars or musicians leaving gigs. This event is a regular occurrence, and POC continues to attend, handing out water and information regarding services for people in need.   

“We are proud of our communication with communities, and the thinking of this brings to mind my time growing up. I was always discriminated against where I grew up in Palo Alto; my neighbors were treated very badly, which always bothered me. My parents moved from Mexico City to Palo Alto and have been there since the 60s. Myself and my family have not just been discriminated against by police officers but by the fire department and EMTs as well. I have been forced to remove my cultural clothing, including my sandals and stripped down in the middle of the street, and treated as less than human. I communicate about this with friends and family in So-Cal, some of them police officers and I tell them my experience, and even they ask why someone would do that,” said Leonardo. 

You can find People of Change at upcoming “First Fridays” in Oakland, the next being this Friday, 2/10. Their website and mission statement can be found at @peopleofchange.org and [email protected]

We Were Hyphy Film Viewing

We Were Hyphy is a 2022 documentary about the Hyphy Movement in the Bay Area that was Screened in Chabot College’s  Event Center (700 bldg.) on Feb 2. The screening was presented by RISE, EOPS, and UMOJA. The event was hosted by E.O.P.S Counselor Charlie Moraliez. We Were Hyphy is directed by Laurence Madrigal, a Bay Area Native who spoke in a  zoom call meeting for the viewers before the viewing. The term hyphy is a slang that is used in The Bay Area which means hyperactive.

We Were Hyphy was the Official Selection of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, San Francisco Documentary Festival and Cinequest Film Festival of 2022. The film had interviews with great Bay Area producers and hip hop artists like G-Eazy, Mistah Fab, Keak Da Sneak, and more. 

The music documentary trails and examines the influence on the hyphy culture which involves; the dances, the music, the cars, the fashion, and the slangs that they use. The film takes the viewers on a special time when the Hyphy culture was big.

Host Charlie Moraliez talking to Director Laurence Madrigal before the viewing via zoom.

The Hyphy Movement started with rapper Mac Dre and Thizz nation in  1999. Mac Dre has hits like Thizzle Dance and Feeling Myself.  Dre was the influential figure that started the Hyphy Movement. He brought his own dance styles, bass line, fashion and his style of rhyming was different thus came the Hyphy Movement. Dre was murdered in 2004. Yet still the Hyphy Movement continues only making it bigger.

The height of the culture was in 2006 When Bay Area artists like E-40, Keak Da Sneak, and Too $hort  videos were played as the regular rotation on MTV and BET’S  106 & Park, a top 20 countdown of the latest and hottest R&B and Hip Hop Music. 

E40 Feat Keak Da Sneak Tell me when to go and Too Short’s Blow the Whistle is both produced by Atlanta, GA rapper and producer Lil Jon. 

“I grew up in Antioch, then went to SF State to study film making. It was intentionally going to be a short passion film project, but we got in contact with a lot more people to interview.” Says director Madrigal during his zoom meeting.

Madrigal grew up during the Hyphy Movement and fell in love with the music. The director went into making this documentary not knowing the full hyphy culture other than music but soon learned, “Making this film I learned beyond the music I learned what Turfin (hyphy dancing) and Ghost riding the whip (hyphy car culture) because I was never into it, but I learned more of it. It was like writing an amazing essay.” Says Madrigal.

“We choose this film to kick off Black History Month by sharing the influence that hip hop has, especially the sub-genre which captures the region. We want to show something that can uplift people and this film shows that.” Says Moraliez.

There were many people  who lived through the movement that came to the viewing, and watching the film was very nostalgic. “I’m from Oakland, CA and watching this brings back good memories. I remember that the word Hyphy first came out. It was Keak Da Sneak who said it first. I’m here to support the event and I’m excited that we showed it.” Says UMOJA counselor coordinator Tommy Reed.

Many  viewers who are not from Chabot came to show love for the movement. “What I love about this a lot of people don’t know what impact the movement had on the Bay Area. The movement is something I grew up on. It was important that they highlighted that.” Says Nate Nevado, founder of Rock the School Bell Hip Hop Conference, an academy located in San Bruno where they use Hip Hop as a platform to serve and educate youth in the community.

We were hyphy is not available on any streaming services. The film is Only on KQED or the PBS website https://www.pbs.org/video/we-were-hyphy-yp1fui/