Lowell High School is located in San Francisco, CA. A public college preparatory school, Lowell attracts students of diverse racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds who come from far corners of the city. For the Spring 2009, I taught my first two high school classes at Lowell as a student teacher. While reading Sherman Alexie's short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, I asked my students to investigate the communities they belong to, particularly how their communities deal with problems, and role storytelling plays in the process. Students formed groups based around a self-selected shared community, chose an issue of interest, researched the issue and its effects with their group members,created poems together, wrote a narrative short story on their own,, and shared their work with the class. This zine is the result of their combined hard work and dedication. Thanks for reading! −
Jessalyn Aaland, May 2009 www.aalandisland.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to Paul Morgan for designing and printing the covers. paul.cretin.net Thanks to Lorna Galang-McMahon and Bryan Ritter, my co-operating teachers, for their continued guidance and support, along with the rest of the Lowell English Department. Additionally, thanks to Nelson Graff and my colleagues at San Francisco State University for pushing me to deeper understandings about teaching.
Table of Contents
Homelessness in San Francisco
Homeless people living on the streets pose a moral and public health issue to San Francisco residents. Unfortunate men and women begging in crowded areas make people feel guilty and sometimes mentally unstable homeless people can cause scenes, making others uncomfortable. Most homeless people are incapable of keeping the same standards of hygiene as those with stable housing. It is a common sight to see a homeless person sleeping on the ground underneath a sheltering cover. Unfortunately, many also do not always have access to public facilities when the need for them arises, so they may have to relieve themselves on the sidewalk. It is not only a stereotype that homeless people use drugs and alcohol; while the majority does not, some find, escape from reality in their habits, and some even are homeless because of their drug habits.
“Untitled” by Harry Jackson People ask me a lot about what it was like being homeless. They want me to tell them, “How did you live? Who did you meet? What were they like? What did you do?” I don’t always have a print-worthy answer. Sometimes I can’t give a perfectly worded, so-eloquent-you’d-swear-it-was-a-prepared-speech response. It’s actually not that complicated. All you have to do is give up stable housing, and maybe lose your job. A lot of us stayed homeless because we felt we didn’t need luxuries like a comfortable, concrete, assured place to call home. We were wandering turtles, dragging our homes on our backs, and though we weren’t all happy about it, we were used to it. It’s a lifestyle choice—like being green, except instead of being green you’re being homeless. You can’t know what it’s like until it happens to you. *** I made my home on my back on the last day of 9th grade, back in June of 2005. My old home was no better. Mom and Dad didn’t even consider themselves a married couple anymore. They only shared the apartment and harvested the benefits of people that actually loved each other. Both of them expected the other to take care of me. I spent an uncertain year doing a lot of odd jobs and borrowing from the hidden caches in the apartment to keep myself somewhat well off. Dad finally noticed something, something he hadn’t done for the past year. He stumbled in one night from doing god-knows-what, with god-knows-who and startled me scouting for his stash under his mattress. “Hey!” he barked, “What’cha lookin’ for in there?” I didn’t expect him to acknowledge me, he almost never did. I pulled my head out of his bedbug hotel and tried to slip out of his way, taking a mental note that there 3
must be something hidden under the bed worth protecting. He gave me a cold stare, standing still, moving only his neck, keeping his eyes locked on me.
social life. There was only one place, one destination, one direction to go then. I went outside. Great way to begin the summer.
I just shrugged it off, mumbling “Nothing”. It’s not like I was expecting a parade for snooping around his bed.
But doing a double take, there was something in his face that spoke more than what he could say. I’ve heard that people say only 10% of what they say with words and the rest is in your facial expression, your body language, and how you say it. Well, standing there and looking at me, Dad delivered an essay with his face. With the most powerful subtle combination of nerve impulses triggering his facial muscles in layers of meaning, he said he didn’t want to catch me looking under there again. He said “stay out” with his mouth, but not with his voice. His face told me I didn’t want to be here anymore. It told me “I’ve got something not meant for you under here.” But it didn’t just show that, it went on, “Your presence is an annoyance to my existence.” He told me without telling me, “You’re just a homeless person living here.”
The inner-city Tenderloin is my neighborhood. It doesn’t take a genius to tell it’s not the kind of place that makes tourists fall in love with a city. Clashing colors and varying roof heights make the district look like the buildings are having a turf war for domination of a particular style on every street. The streets smell like cheap cigarette smoke and a drunken man’s urine. In some places they kind of look like that, too. The Tenderloin has quite a few homeless people in it, hanging around the many homeless shelters and free meal services that spawn the long lines of ruined men and women in a circular cycle. I couldn’t stay here, though, I was only 15. My plan was to live on the streets for the summer and get a job that didn’t require too much paperwork. I hoped I could find someone who would let me rent some kind of space sub rosa. A kid like me would be really lucky to get any sort of empty, customizable space. But before those things could come, I had to answer my hierarchy of needs in order. What do I need to do first? Food, job, or shelter? I weighed the benefits of each. It was only about 5 pm. I ate a burger on the way home. Do I need to keep my body fueled, find a place to stay before dark, or start working my way to better things already?
I never found out what he kept under that bed, but it doesn’t matter. What he said in his face was right. I had known it subconsciously before, but every inevitability inevitably comes to an upsetting realization. The ides of June was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I cared about myself more than Mom and Dad did—I could take care of myself better than they could. So I did. That evening I took inventory of all my few worldly belongings, folded and packed an extra set of clothes, Mom’s jacket, all the money I had, all the money I could find, legal documents, a few unforgettable relics of childhood, and whatever else I found handy into a suitcase that smelled like alcohol. No way would I could ask any of my friends to take me in —the plastic, material glam-gals who think they’re oh-so-popular were bound to find out and spread perverse rumors about whomever’s generosity I asked for. I just couldn’t heap that kind of gossip on a friend by asking them to be a transitional host. Just because I was about to be homeless doesn’t mean I didn’t still have a 4
I didn’t need to eat again, I thought, and I can’t just go out and find a job. The transition to homelessness was a far greater feat than I would let myself believe at first. I should find a place to just sit and think for about 15 hours. Where should I go then? TO BE CONTINUED . . .
“Taking Things Into Perspective” by Hannah Mills
“Slam!” I pushed my front door closed in frustration and anger and walked down the steps, still trying to comprehend the fact that it would be my last time walking down those stairs. How could this have happened? I had no money, no house, and no friends or family to turn to. Out of habit, my feet led me to a nearby bus stop. I sat down on the stiff green bench and watched the cars zoom by. I felt a soft nudge at my ankle. My faithful dog, Levi, snapped me back into reality. To my surprise, it was already dusk. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Where was I going to sleep?” I was astonished by how little I cared about my predicament. Slowly I stood up, stretched, and picked up my limited bag of necessities. Inside lay three apples, a water bottle, and a jacket. I remembered my ex-wife saying something about homeless people camping out in Golden Gate Park, so I decided to head in that direction. Levi, never leaving my side, hopped up eagerly, awaiting his new adventure. As soon as I stepped out from under the bus stop awning, raindrops started to pour down and the brisk wind began to pick up. “Just my luck,” I muttered to myself, as I trudged towards potential shelter. After what seemed like hours, I finally caught a glimpse of neatly trimmed grass and blossoming trees. The fragrant smells of each kind of flower drifted into my nose. In every direction I looked, paved sidewalks led the way. Ah, my new home. I scanned my surroundings for shelter, as I needed a place to dry off my now drenched and frozen body. I wandered around the park aimlessly until I came across a group of grimy bums. “Well, well,” one of them sneered, “Look what we have here. What brings you to our grounds?” I quickly explained my situation, all the while wincing in disgust. These men reeked of putrid stenches; their fingernails were black with dirt; and their ratty old coats had insects laying nests in them. I had to find another place to sleep. After all, I was of a different social class—a higher one—and had no interest in associating myself with those scumbags. The leader interrupted my story. “Get lost, you don’t belong here,” he advised. Probably too eagerly, I replied, “Okay, sorry to bother you.” Too tired to take the effort to scope out a decent place to sleep, I plopped down under the nearest tree, rested my head on the lumpy ground, and tried to fall asleep. It was useless. The wind whistled and the soil beneath me was damp from the rain. Using my jacket as a blanket, I tossed and turned restlessly until the sun rose. Along with the sun came my realization of the empty feeling in my stomach. I opened my bag and peered inside. To my frustration, my bag was empty. I had been robbed! “Ruff.”
I looked down to find Levi staring up at me with an urgent look in his eyes. Poor Levi, he was probably as starved as I was. “I’m sorry,” I whispered into Levi’s ear. “This is all my fault and I promise I won’t let anything happen to you. You’re all I’ve got.” Dissatisfied, Levi sniffed and trotted away in search of food. That wasn’t such a bad idea. I got up, only to realize I had no idea where to find food. “It’s okay,” I reassured myself, “There’s got to be food somewhere in this huge park.” A week passed. Levi and I were just barely getting by, surviving off of food thrown into trashcans, sleeping under a new tree each night, urinating behind bushes, and pretending that the musky smell following us came from something other than our filthy bodies. I had even resorted to begging, something I had always looked down upon. To my utter horror, I realized I had turned into one of the bums I had always hoped I’d never be. People walking past held their noses as they walked by and treated me the same way I used to treat bums—like shit. Feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and defeated, I knew that in order to survive I needed assistance. I gave a holler for Levi, who came running as soon as he heard me. Together, we headed back towards the circle of bums we had first found; this time, we were in the same position as they were. “Wow, a week huh? We didn’t think you’d last longer than a couple days.” It was the leader again. Although he was the same person I saw a week ago, he looked kinder. Perhaps this was the first time I had actually studied his face. “I’m Stan,” I introduced, “and this is my dog Levi. Can you guys help us?” “I don’t know…we aren’t exactly looking for any new members. It’s hard enough supporting everyone as it is,” the person in charge pointed out. “Please,” I begged, “we have nowhere else to go.” “I’m just messing with you, of course we can take you in. We just wanted you to accept us first. My name’s Bill, and my boys here are Sam, Frank, Jess, and Adam. Welcome to the club.” I was so relieved I almost cried. Restraining myself, I nodded and shook each of their hands. Sam, Frank, Jess, Adam, and Bill taught me how to live off of practically nothing. They informed me where to get free food from soup kitchens: “most churches hold them once a week,” advised Adam. Frank told me where the best places were to beg for money. Best of all, each of my new friends shared their stories on how they ended up on the streets. Levi was the happiest I had seen him days, his belly finally satisfied. Soon, we grew weary and decided to get some rest. For the first time in days, I slept. I was grateful for the sheet they lent me and the tarp they let me share to distance myself from the damp ground. As the dense fog rolled in over the horizon, I trembled under my flimsy sheet that provided no warmth or comfort. I curled up in a tight cocoon hoping that when I came out, I would be back in my cozy house, my problems and worries drifting away like minuscule particles of dust. The sounds of early city life made 7
their way into my eardrums, making it impossible for me to fall back asleep. So I lay there; listening to the chirping birds in search of their morning meal, the screeching taxi tires rushing to work, and the faint coughs of my fellow bums surrounding me. Levi, sensing I was awake, greeted me with wet, sloppy, dog kisses. He always seemed happy to see me—at least that was one thing I could rely on to stay the same. I closed my eyes and ran my fingers through his scruffy fur, trying to forget for just a moment the reality of my depressing situation. With my newly acquired homeless survival skills, I began my climb out of the bottomless hole I had dug for myself. I now had a couple bucks saved up from begging and I visited soup kitchens nearly every day. Levi was a big help when it came to begging. Everyone just stopped and stared at him with a pitiful look on their face. Levi stared back, eyes wide, as if saying: Please. I need help. Can’t you sympathize with me? I’m a dog. I shouldn’t have to worry if I’m going to be able to eat another meal or where I am going to sleep tonight. Wow, really? How generous! Thanks! Knowing that the only way to get myself out of this sticky situation was if I did it myself, I took charge. I was aware that the journey would be tough and at times I would feel like giving up. I was aware that it would be a long process that required constant effort and perseverance. In spite of that, I was sure that with my new friends by my side, I would have the confidence I never had that was necessary to get my life back on track.
“Being a Teenager in San Francisco” by Hannah, Harry, and Ian Be accepting of gays. Buy organic foods. Act courteous on public transit. Stand on the right side of escalators. Respect the city and its people. Have a liberal outlook on life. Know your way around the J, K, L, M, and N. 8
“Diary of a Homeless Man” by Ian Miller I thought I would always be safe—I didn’t think this would ever happen to me. I have never imagined that I would lose my job and have to live on the street. This all came on so suddenly that I didn’t have time to react. One day, I am sitting at home watching TV with a pretty average life and a good job as a banker, then the next I am out on the street faster than a world champion sprinter running for the gold. I am all alone and have nowhere to go. All this trouble started with the recent recession—before that I had no trouble at all. November, 1 2008: Today I had an appointment with my boss at the bank and I was so worried about it last night that I only got about an hour of sleep. In the morning, I went to work and waited out side my boss’ office. It only took a few minutes for his secretary to tell me that I could go in, but to me, it felt like three life-spans. “Hello Bob,” my boss said. “Hello sir,” I replied. “Take a seat… I’m sure you have heard that the company has to make some lay-offs and I am sorry to say that this includes you.” “But sir, this is all I have I need this job” “I’m sorry but you will have to go now and clean out your office” I left the office and cleaned out my office. Walking home, I felt like someone took a gigantic hammer and whacked me in the stomach. November, 18 2008: Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to find a new job, but to no avail. I was very scared and worried about what was going to happen. I was especially scared because I had missed my rent and would probably be kicked out of my house. Then, I got an eviction notice and knew there was nothing I could do about it. I was in debt after not having a job and so I couldn’t pay any of my debts. Because of this the IRS took my belonging leaving me with nothing left to do but wander the streets. Both my parents are dead and I have no siblings. I have always been a proud person and because of this I was unwilling to go to my friends for help so I was unsure what to do. After leaving my house I just wandered around the streets and had no idea what to do next. I finally decided that I would spend the night in Golden Gate Park so I walked over there and slept in a bush. November, 18 2008: That night was one of the worst ever. It felt like I was stripped naked and thrown out into a pile of snow. The raging cars and screaming teenagers made my ears feel like they were bleeding. It felt like I was lying on a bed of needles each protruding deep into my flesh. November, 26 2008: It is Thanksgiving today and probably the most depressing day I have had so far. In the morning I didn’t even know what day it was but then I heard some people talking. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” one asked.
“Not much, I think I am just going to hang out with my family,” the other
“Oh, that’s cool, I am going to hang out with some friends,” the first said. Hearing these people talking made me wish that I had somewhere that I could go to have a nice thanksgiving. Then I heard that there was a homeless dinner that is held on Thanksgiving and decided that it might be good for me to go. When I arrived there I find lots of food and people. After talking to these people, I realized that I should start to hang out with them. December, 1 2008: It’s now been a few weeks since I lost my house, and I have been having a lot of trouble. I have started hanging around with some of the other homeless people, but I am not too fond of it because there isn’t much to do without any money. One day I was begging on the side of the street and wasn’t getting any money. I heard one mother talking to her son. “Can we give that man some money Mom?” the boy asked. “No, he will just waste the money on drugs and alcohol,” the mom replied. That was the first time that I truly realized what people thought of homeless people. December, 4 2008: These past weeks have made even the driest, most tasteless scrap of food seem like a royal feast. My stomach sounds like two dogs gnawing and barking over a chunk of meat. I feel like I am about to have a famine-induced heart attack, which might be a sweet release from this painful life. December, 25 2008: Its funny; I always thought that Christmas was about gifts and food, but after living on the street, I am starting to think that it is more about happiness and love. “I hope he gets me this if he doesn’t I hate him.” “Oh I love this you should by me it.” These were the kinds of things I would hear on the street which made me realize the spoiled behavior that has infected today’s society. January, 1 2009: This has been an exciting end of the year and very disappointing as well. My new year’s resolution this year is to get a new job and I intend to make sure that it comes true. January, 5 2009: All this time on the street I have still been looking for a new job but I was having a lot of trouble. But finally I got a lead and went to an interview with a new bank. After the interview I had to wait a few more weeks then eventually I heard that I got the job and I started right away. Eventually with much hard work I was able to start renting a new apartment and was able to get off the street. 10
Immigration Raids on Latino Families
Immigration raids are a very important issue, because they affect all Latino immigrants and their families across the United States. Immigration raids cause children to be separated from their parents. And they won’t have no one to take care of them or feed them. In the United States there are approximately five million children who have at least one parent that is undocumented. These raids traumatize the children because they are separated from their loved ones, sometimes even for months. The immigration raids also affect the U.S. economy, because the economy of this country is dependent on immigrant labor. Most of Latino immigrants do household work, cook at restaurants, construction work, opening businesses, agriculture, and contributing in paying billions of dollars in state and federal taxes. If the immigration raids continue, and more and more immigrants are deported, the more money this country will lose.
“The Hunt” by Denis Galo One pitch-black night, the moon wasn’t even out because it was afraid--- it knew that something was going to happen. All of the stars went black and no one saw a thing. There was a family of five; a mother, a father, a sister, a brother, and a baby boy.. Everyone in this family was an immigrant yet the baby boy had the blessing of being a true American. They all lived in small world, a one-room apartment that was cramped, uncomfortable, and dark. The place they lived was a dump. They tried to make it look pleasant and clean; but the walls of this place were literally falling and tearing apart in seeing a family suffer. The father worked a double shift to make money. He never slept. He was immune to sleep. That same day he had been fired because people around the neighborhood were saying: “Immigration police are starting to investigate everywhere, homes, streets, neighborhoods, just trying to trap immigrants like criminals.” The father did not know what to do. Finally that night the sleep caught up to him and he fell dead asleep. That dark and almost blind night there were four immigration officers waiting still, stonelike, knowing when to strike, resembling hunters waiting to kill their prey. The day started like any other regular day. The family woke up at the crack of dawn, the sun peeking over the horizon gently and tenderly. The first one to wake up was the father and mother. Their names were Juan and Sofia. They worked as a team helping with breakfast and making the children’s lunches for school. The kids go to school, nothing unusual. Mom stays home and Dad goes to work. But fate has planned against these hard-working people. This family has been through too much. They crossed the border because they thought that the land of hope and dreams was going to give them a better life. “Can this land truly be called the land of hope and dreams?” Juan thought each morning. 11
The old, greasy, and pale-skinned manager of Juan was a man afraid of the law. Juan’s co-worker, “Jim”, envied the attitude of the man who held his head high and did twice, no forty times the work any other worker did. Jim started thinking that he might get fired, so he reported Juan’s illegal status to ICE (U.S. Immigrations and customs enforcement). Jim also told his boss about the consequences of having illegal workers. Juan wasn’t the only illegal worker in the construction site. Jim liked his attitude of superiority and power. “ Juan,” his boss said, “I don’t know how to tell you because you have been doing an excellent job….” He paused seriously “I have no choice but to let you go because of legal…” This hurt Juan more than any punch, kick or hit. “What did I do? Is it wrong for me to stand in front of you? Is it a crime to work for living?” He exclaimed with furry. His boss tried to cowardly defend himself “It wasn’t my intention people here have said that ICE might come soon to make sure there aren’t any illegals,” It was of no use. Meanwhile this scene was going on; on the other dark side of town four men tall with grim faces, were sent on another mission, Juan’s family was next. It was no use. The hunters have started their rummage and there's nothing that can stop them from catching their prey. The four immigration officers that were patrolling the area where Juan lived were the, most brutal and cruelest of them all. They act more like cops than immigration officers. They get all of the info about their next victims. They know where you live, who you are living with, what your name is. They get all the dirt on you but the thing is that they only strike at night. When you’re sleeping with your own mom. As soon as the sun moved from the sky down to the earth and the darkness starts to show, the officers went to the house of the family that has lost all its hope. It was around midnight. Everyone is asleep. No sound. Silence, surrounded by total darkness, no moon and no starts, because they all want to miss the terrible sight. The officers get ready to storm into the house as if they were about to catch their criminal, like a lion sinking its teeth into a defenseless animal. BAM! BAM! BOOM! They destroy the door and yell “Wake up let’s see your hand up in the air! We want to count you off to make sure you aren’t hiding!” They make the whole family stand up and then pin them down to the ground. The baby cries, and cries. No one does anything to stop the crying. Sofia almost got up one but one of the officers shoved her back down and searches the rest of the apartment. They took the baby harshly and without emotion. Juan had enough of this harassment. He got up and refused to be treated in such a way. “I am not a criminal! I am not an animal! I am a human being!!!! Leave my family alone! Take me but stop! NOW!” he yelled so fiercely. They tried to pin him down again. One of them punched him in the face, but he didn’t feel anything: he had taken deeper hits than that before. He returned the punch and knocked one officer out cold. Then they grab him and brutally assaulted him, beating him constantly in the stomach and head. He didn’t feel a thing; he has felt the deeper pain of words and life experiences. A couple of hits wouldn’t hurt him anymore. The only sound 12
left was the wailing cry of the baby yelling for help and the sobbing of the rest of the family.
“Miguelito’s Story” by Alex Guzman-Ramos I can still hear the loud thud of their footsteps, their green uniforms, and their flashlights that shined like fireflies in the night. I could hear the clank from the handcuffs they were placing on us. My neighbor’s girlfriend was crying hysterically because she was frightened about how the agents just came through the door and took us away. “Where are you taking them? They haven’t committed any crime!” She was confused and looked at us wondering if she’d ever see us again. *** My name is Miguel Figueroa, but everyone calls me Miguelito. I came to this country when I was 11 years old, with my abuelita Ofelia. We left Nicaragua in 1976 because of the civil war that was going on. My parents, Marta and Jose Figueroa were killed by the Nicaraguan Army for being part of the Sandinista Movement. We left for the United States, because Nicaragua wasn’t safe for us anymore; my abuelita feared that if we stayed in Nicaragua we would be killed. I remember looking back one last time before we left. I was leaving my home, my friends, the smell of nacatamales, and gallo pinto. I was going to miss Nicaragua and wondered if I’d ever see her again. It had been a normal day in SF, it was hot, sunny, and I could hear the cars driving down the street. I got up, went to school, turned my homework in, and played soccer with my friends. Like always, after school I’d go home, buy some groceries for my abuelita Ofelia, and wait for her to get home from work. I got home and started doing my homework. My abuelita called and said she was going to be home late, because she needed to baby-sit for a few extra hours. I knew she wasn’t actually going to work extra. I heard her tell her friend over the phone, that she was going to buy tickets to go see the San Jose Earthquakes play vs. the LA Galaxy for my birthday. She knows how much I love soccer and that the San Jose Earthquakes were one of my favorite teams at the time. It was nearly dark, about 7:30 at night. I was sitting down on the couch with our tenants Lisa and Fidel, a Nicaraguan man who left Nicaragua for the same reasons that we did. Suddenly these men barged in through the door, moving flashlights back and forth in a rapid motion. They grabbed my neighbor Fidel and handcuffed him. They had placed him under arrest since he hadn’t shown up at his immigration court hearing and the judge made the decision to deport him, since he hadn’t shown up. Then they came to me and asked me for my passport or green card. I knew my green card was false, but I had no option but to show it to them. They typed in the number of my card into their miniature computer and found that it was invalid. Then they handcuffed me as well and put us both into a van. All I could think about was my abuelita, and I wondered if I’d ever see her again. 13
I couldn’t wait to see the look on Miguelito’s face when he’d see the tickets for the soccer game. I wanted to surprise him with a really nice present since we never spend money on luxurious things because we couldn’t afford them. As I opened the front gate, I saw Fidel’s girlfriend Lisa. She was running with incredible speed, like a track star. As she got closer I noticed she had a scared and fearful look on her face. “Señora! Señora! They have taken them!” she cried. “Immigration took Miguelito and Fidel away!” *** When we got out of the van, they took us to a detention center. There they put Fidel and me into a room alone, until an officer came and talked to us. He said that we were under arrest for committing a crime. The crime was that we were in this country without the government’s permission. That we pretended to be American citizens by having false identification. I didn’t understand. “But we haven’t committed any grave crime; we haven’t stolen anything, hurt anyone or done anything to break the law. We‘ve come to this country for a better life, to earn more money for our families, and give our children a chance to get a better education.” “You have committed a crime and we will not tolerate that kind of behavior in this country. You are to be deported to Nicaragua at once.” *** My heart melted when Lisa told me what happened. Everything froze: the cars passing by, Lisa’s lips moving as she talked, the birds flying in the sky. I felt an overwhelming wave of sadness; Miguelito, my grandson had been taken from me. I cried, and fell into Lisa’s arms. I didn’t know what to do, or who to go to. Most of all I wondered, would I ever see my grandson again? Lisa told me about El Centro Legal de La Raza, an organization that helps immigrants with legal matters. “Maybe they can help us” We went the very next day and met with a legal counselor. She said that they could help us obtain a lawyer to help us bring back Fidel and Miguelito. She said we had a good case since Fidel and Miguelito had left Nicaragua in fear of being politically persecuted. She contacted a lawyer who said he would help us even if we couldn’t afford a lawyer because he felt the need to help his people. Our lawyer presented a case before an immigration judge to prove that if Miguelito and Fidel were to be sent back to Nicaragua their lives would be in danger. The fact that Miguelito’s parents had been killed by the Nicaraguan Army, served as important evidence to the case. The judge granted us their release from the detention center, and prevented them from being deported back to Nicaragua. “We did it, lo logramos!” I felt relief and tears of joy running down my cheeks. I was so grateful to everyone that had helped us make it possible for Miguelito and Fidel to not be deported. I couldn’t wait to see them again. *** As I walked out of the detention center with Fidel, I was so happy because I knew I 14
would see my abuelita again. I could hear her far off in the distance yelling our names “Miguelito, Fidel!” I ran to her and hugged her tightly. I was glad to see her again because I thought I wouldn’t see her again. I was reunited with my loved ones once again, and that was all that mattered.
“God’s Love” by Selenia Rodriguez “Push Maria push,” the doctor pleaded me, and rivers fell down my face. My brother Pedro was crying with me saying,” Puja mija puja!” As my little Emmanuel was coming to our world I remembered the reason he came to life. It started when my Papito wanted to come to this violent infested country where there is nothing but, the “Migra” officers or as they call them here I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), and police officers who give you the evil stare as soon as you walk past them. So Papito and Mamita passed by the border first, then Pedro and Hector, and I was going last and alone. The guy said not to worry, that I would soon go with them; that I should just close my eyes. He grabbed me and swallowed my innocence. That was the day; Eduardo “El Coyote” raped me. Emmanuel means, “love to God” and all I wanted in this country is God n my side. “Papito it’s a boy!” “Mijita I’m so proud of you for having this beautiful child, because it’s not his fault that Eduardo did that to you.” “I know Papito, I know.” I looked at my child’s sunshine face, with eyes the color of honey gold directly out of the bee’s hives. “Mija, I have to tell you something,” he mumbled in worry. “What happened?” I questioned in fear. ‘We have to move again; La migra just raided the house again. I think they saw that you were pregnant, from the medical bills we have received.” “How about I ask Eduardo for help Papito?” I suggested. He replied, “Mija I know you are just 13 and don’t understand life and men, but Eduardo doesn’t want anything to do with you.” “But Papito, what are going to do then?” As I was talking with my father, Pedro took Emmanuel and was whispering to him. I wondered what it was he was whispering, hoping that he was saying,” Everything was going to be okay.” Truth was it wasn’t going to be okay; it was actually the beginning to a whole new life. Suddenly a feeling of fear washed over my body like a wave and I began to cry. “Mija what is wrong?” “I don’t know Papito, it’s just when I thought I was going to have a baby I pictured myself with a husband and a loving home for the two of us. But that’s not going to happen anymore.” When I turned over to see my two older brothers, Hector and Pedro, I saw that anger had swallowed their eyes. “This shouldn’t have happened, I thought this was the country of opportunity and something like this happens,” Hector said with a quivering voice. “The worst part is that we can’t even go to the police since we are immigrants,” Pedro said as I looked at him holding Emmanuel in a loving way. I knew I had people
that loved both Emmanuel and me but that still didn’t substitute the feeling of safety that having a husband and a home of my own would give me. “ Mija this baby will bring you strength now. Not only do you have to fight for your safety but also for Emmanuel’s safety which is from now on your main priority.” This was the first my Mamita had told me since Emmanuel had been born. She took Emmanuel from Pedro’s arms and said, “ This is now the family’s burst of joy, in which we shall all contribute to his safety and well being.” As my eyes met hers she looked away not wanting to show me her glassy eyes that had been crying because innocence was no longer a virtue I had. Although seeing my Mamita like this brought me to tea rs, her words brought me comfort, and I knew somehow I would give Emmanuelito a future full of happiness and joy, no matter what obstacles this country may throw at me. As I was leaving the hospital this strikingly, handsome, young man approached m baby and said, “Aw you have such a cute brother.” I replied in a silent whisper and touch of embarrassment, “He is my son,” The stranger exclaimed with sympathy, “Is everything okay?” I sadly mumbled, “I-I-I mean we do not have a place to stay or go.” “Who is we?” “Me, my son, Emmanuel, my older brothers, Pedro and Hector, and my parents.” “So it is six of you?” “Yes, it is,” I replied with a knot in my throat, the size of an orange. “Okay I will help you and your family find a home, but with one condition.” I wondered what this stranger wanted because we had no money. He smiled and said to me, “I would like to know what your name is you sweet girl.” I chuckled and said, “Maria and yours?” “I ‘m Frederick, and I think you could stay at my sister’s house. She has a big house and won’t mind.” “Wow thank you so much,” we all exclaimed in gratitude. After settling in Jane’s house I felt warmth again. Warmth I had only felt in Mexico. On Emmanuel’s first birthday I had to go to the supermarket, and Frederick offered to take Emmanuel and me to buy the sugar for the cake. As I was about to pay for the sugar I glanced at the person behind me in line, it was a dreadful sight, it was Eduardo, the horrible man who had raped me. He looked at me and gasped. I was carrying Emmanuel at the time and he made a face of everlasting worry, and said, “Is he mine. I replied with fireballs bursting from my eyes, “No! If he was yours, you’d care for him and give him a home, but I don’t think you ever did, so no!” That day I let go of my past and embraced the future. This future looked bright and full of light since that night Frederick proposed to me. I answered with joy, “Yes” and started a new beginning with the family I had always wished for and seemed impossible to reach when Emmanuel was first born.
Sexism Against Asian-American Women “Sexism, like racism goes with us into the next century. I see class warfare as overshadowing both.” − Constance Baker Motley
“Love at First Throw” by Samantha Hang The nightmare started once I stepped foot into my new high school. I wanted to go back, back to my home, New York, as soon as I caught the eyes of my new classmates. My name is Thai T. Lee and I'm Asian-American. My mother got sent from New York to San Francisco because she got promoted in this big business company called Expos, so it required her to be here. I tried telling her that I wanted to stay in New York, but my words seemed to just slip through her head. I walked to the office and picked up my schedule for the classes I have to endure for the rest of the year. My footsteps added up slowly as I walking; it seemed endless. When will this nightmare end? I didn't want to go through this. Why couldn't my mom be here by my side when I needed her? It felt like the first day of kindergarten all over again. As I walked into the office, I knew they were waiting. The lady behind the desk examined me as if I did something wrong. "Welcome to Mills High School, Ms. Lee. My name is Mrs. Sanders, and I will help you when you need it," Mrs. Sanders explained. "Thanks. I'm going to be needing a lot of that," Thai responded. I looked down on the floor when I was speaking to her. Her words seemed to slip through from one ear to the other. Her words had no sound to me, as if I were watching a silent movie. Let's just say, I'm really shy when it comes to meeting new people. She handed me my schedule and I left the office. I was pretty lost, but when I was rifling through my papers, I found a paper that said "You'll be needing this." I laughed to myself when I saw this. The paper was a map of the school. Finally, I my first class. It was World History, my favorite. I walked in with a bunch of eyes glued to me. As quietly as possible, I strolled to the teacher. "Hello, Ms. Lee, I'm Mr. Vu, and I will be your History teacher for the year, take a seat over there next to Mr. Conferido, in the purple and yellow," Mr. Vu directed. I followed his directions and I sat in my seat. As I sat down, I looked at the boy next to me, who's suspiciously staring down at me. I heard if a boy stares at you for more than two seconds, he's definitely thinking about something. Mr. Lee goes on with his lesson about World War II. Every time I looked in the direction of the boy, he seemed to be staring back. Once I thought it was eternity, the bell rang. As I hiked down the row of chairs, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and I saw the boy right in front of me, smirking. "You're the new girl, right?" Ryan asked. "Yes...I am," I replied. 17
"Well, my name is Ryan, and if you need help around, you can always ask me. I didn't catch your name." "My name's Thai, and thanks for your offer, but I really won't be using it." "Oh, well, my offers still available if you need it..see you around." Ryan ran out of the classroom with his head down disappointed. A mountain of emotions hit me hard. Did I do something wrong? I walked out of class wondering why he had that look on his face. I strolled down to my next class, and it's English. I introduce myself to the class and dragged myself to my seat. I meet a few new friends and once class was over, I go to all my classes until lunch started. I knew I was going to be sitting alone, so I just went outside. I sit down at a table by myself. Ryan comes out of no where and sits next to me. "Hey, how's school's so far?" Ryan asked. "Good, you?" I replied. A flyer lands on our table and I take a look at it. It's for football try outs. I actually like football and I always wanted to try out. "Hey, do you know if the team's any good?" I asked. "Yeah, they were state champions," Ryan exclaimed. "Do you think girls can play?" I mumbled. "Well, if they try hard enough. I'm on the football team, you know," he replied. I thought for a while if I should try out or not. I absolutely love football with a passion and I thought why not try? After school rolled on by and I went to the field. The coach and the boys were all staring at me when I came. "Cheerleading try outs are tomorrow, Miss," the coach noted. "Actually I'm here for the football try outs, sir," I snapped back. "Really? A girl on a football team? Now that's something I don't see everyday." "Can you just give me a shot? Please?" "I don't know, you can really get hurt out there and you need a physical." "I can get a physical to you in two days and I have experience." "Well, I will see you in two days then." I left and go home to my mom. I discussed to her about my day and the football try outs. She's always supported me through everything. She called in the doctor for an appointment for me to go to tomorrow so I can get my physical. I went to bed thinking about what would happen if I made the team. I dreamt away in my sleep, when morning came about. I got ready for school and leave. I got to my first class and of course, Ryan is there saying "good morning" to me. As I sit down in my seat, a boy named Kevin made a remark. "Girls shouldn't be on the football team. They're not strong enough. They'll just end up on the field crying over a broken nail or something," Kevin remarked. "Yeah, I think so too. Shouldn't they just join the cooking club or cheerleading or something?" the other boy replied. "Yeah, the new girl thinks she's all that. Watch her run away once she sees us in action."
"Haha, maybe I'll just tackle her and give her a taste of her own medicine." Once I heard all of that, I storm up to them and tell them off. "Maybe you need to see me play before you judge." "Maybe you should just stay away from the team and do something else." "I should just sock him in his face and kick him in his balls, I thought. "You know what, keep your words to yourself and bring them on the field where it counts the most." "We'll see about that." We got back to our seats and class started. Throughout class, I was just thinking about hurting Kevin in some way. Just hearing him cry would have made me feel better, but I kept to myself. I got to the doctors' after my rough day at school. Got everything I needed for my physical, so I get back in time for the try-outs. "I see you actually came back, Miss Lee," the coach said with a surprised look, "Of course," I replied with a smirk on my face. He gave me my pads, and no, not the ones that girls use when they're on their period. I put on my gear, pads, and helmet. I'm ready to kick some butt. All the guys stared down at me as if I were just 3 feet tall. That feeling didn't feel too good. We started with the simple drills, through the tires and tackling against the bags. Once we were done, we started a game. No guy wanted to be on my team, besides Ryan. "Come on, I really think you're good. I really want to see you tackle Kevin," Ryan said with a smile on his face. I accepted his offer, and we started the game,. We were on defense and Kevin was one of the offense players. My eye aimed for him. Once the ball was thrown, I ran down to catch my prey as if I were hunting him down. He's down once I hit him. He couldn't get up and I laughed at his face. That showed him. Ryan ran up to me and congratulated me. At that moment, I knew that Ryan was going to be someone really special to me. He was the only one who didn't use sexism against me. I knew I should have been nicer to him. Coach couldn't believe his eyes. "You are definitely going to be a starter," coach exclaimed. I jumped up and down with my helmet off. I ran to Ryan and hugged him tightly. Right after he took off his helmet, I looked into his eyes, and our lips acquainted. I couldn't believe what was happening. As our lips departed, everyone was staring in awe. "Oh sorry," Ryan blushed. "No, I liked it," I replied. We both became red as tomatoes. After practice, Ryan told me he always wanted to go on a date with me. I immediately said yes. He was one of the few who actually didn't care that I was a girl who played football. He liked me for who I am. He didn't judge from my outer appearance. He gave me something for the first time since I've been here. Respect. 19
“Stay Strong” by Christina Chan Walking down the street sent a shiver up the spine. The wind blew furiously, as the leaves rustle, the moon glowing as usual. Suddenly, shouts were heard in the lightly dimmed house in the middle of the Chinatown. Yes. It happened to be my house. I slowly crept downstairs as if I didn’t want to wake up the eerie monster under my bed. I saw a figure climb up onto the couch like a drunken fat cat and turn on the TV with the remote control. “Where’s my dinner?” he asked with a rough voice. An irritated voice responded, “Are you paralyzed or something? Go get it in the refrigerator and microwave it yourself.” I turned around, trying to escape this upcoming tornado until a familiar voice made my body freeze at the spot. “Oh, Anita! Why are you just standing there? Come sit with me.” I quickly changed my annoyed face and turned around. “Okay Papa.” The torturous space in between us filled the whole living room. As awkward tension filled up the air, I was gasping for oxygen every second; something worse than being underwater. This brought back to the time I had my detention in 6th grade, where I was with my principal in a classroom. There were barely any sound to be heard except the breath of my principal and mine. I caught my eyes on his and he looked at me like I’m a guilty criminal. His sudden breath, like a dragon squirting fire, broke our wall of tension. “So, how’s school? What’s your GPA so far?” “I’m getting a 3.8 for this semester,” I said as I laid back on my couch with ease. As Mah came over with Papa’s dinner, she said, “I saw Mrs. Jiang today. She said she’s adding 200 dollars to our rent starting this month.” The eyes of Papa widened like someone chopped off his ears, and he stood up fiercely like a predator. “WHAT! I am not going to pay an extra 200 dollars. I am already tired working everyday just to support this family. You handle it yourself.” “How can I handle it myself? You’re not the only one that is working hard. You think doing household chores are really easy?” “Don’t use that as an excuse. All you women are useless. What can you guys do? The most you can do is stay home and ask us men for money.” A bomb had just ignited in the house, everyone heated up with sweat dripping down our foreheads. “ENOUGH! Stop yelling at Mah!” I screamed with my lungs out while afraid to look at the sharp wolf eyes of his; I only secretly look at him from my peripheral vision. “You’re a kid. Don’t talk to me like this!” Papa bawled at me like a soldier defending himself with a shield. 20
I locked myself in my room once again, but I was still able to hear dishes clanging on the floor with two tremendously thunderous voices raging with each other. Desperate cries and shattered glass could be heard throughout the house. I pulled out my iPod and turned it to the maximum volume, but I could still hear Mah and Papa, their words striking like martial arts. Sometimes, I just wished time would stop for a second so it would prohibit my ferocious parents from expressing their feelings out for a night. Suddenly, the wooden doors aggressively thumped the walls, leaving cracks on the side as well as tension in the room. Silence.
Ambrosial porridge with Chinese donuts running through my nose made me alive once again, giving warmth to my bedroom. The smell slowly went down to my respiratory system to my esophagus, leaving butterflies in my stomach. Thoughts of things falling apart arises to my mind as I captured these smells. The roar of my howling stomach, to the ones I heard last night which made me believed I swallowed my parents for a moment. I opened my eyes thinking it’s time for school. I twisted my neck over to my spherical pink Hello Kitty clock, realizing it is only 4:45 AM. I followed the smell of the aroma like a path of an escape from my house. The living room looks 10 times bigger than before without the fluorescent light bulb hanging from the ceiling turned on. All of a sudden, a beam of shiny light captured my black eyes, leading me to the kitchen. Slouched back as always, Mah stood in front of the stove stirring her porridge. Steams ran towards her eyes as teardrops are slowly dripped down to the palm of her hands. Every teardrop was like knives stabbing into my heart.
“Little Anita girl! Come here! I bought you Mint Chocolate ice cream!” Mah said in her baby voice. “Yay! Yay! Yay! I got ice cream!” I was running through the sprinklers as the tiny drops of cold water sprayed to my face, cleaning off my sweat. A sudden breeze blew my hair back, releasing the hot temperature of my silky black hair. I turned around and Mah’s gone. Suddenly, everything turned dark and I felt like a prisoner that’s been locked in its cell for more than 10 years.
“MAHHHH!” I shouted. I woke up realizing that was just a nightmare. It was 9 AM already and it’s a Sunday morning. No sounds were heard outside my bedroom, so I walked downstairs to my living room. On the table, there was a huge bowl that was covered by a plate under a Chinese newspaper. Beside it, there was a note. 21
“Little Anita, Pick one. Mah or Papa? Love, Mah. Shocked, sad, and happy, my feelings spiraled like a rollercoaster. Perhaps, it was like eating a pack of sour patch candies with a different reaction every second or so. Reading the note again, the word Papa was smeared, giving me another ache in my heart. Anyways, of course I am going to pick Mah. I will also be supporting her all the way. My father has been looking down on her probably since I am still in her womb. Mah’s always been the one who really cared for me and loved me, while my father always wanted more from me. I am the only child from his generation and since I am not a male, he sees the same thing in me as he sees in Mah, something worthless. He thinks all Chinese ladies, are useless, gossipmongers, and weaklings. Ever since that time, I hadn’t seen Mah until next month. I came back home from school, finding a pair of familiar sandals at the front door. I quickly ran to the living room, finding Mah holding a stack of documents and Papa lying on his couch as usual. Before I wanted to shout out Mah’s name and tell her how much I have been missed her last month, I heard her continue her conversation with Papa. “Sign this or I’ll let my lawyer handle this.” Mah said confidently, like the rabbit from the tale “The Tortoise and the Hare.” “You actually think I will listen to you? Where else can you go after being divorced? You’re just going to live with your sister for at least 2 months and come back here to beg for forgiveness.” “Think whatever you like. Just sign it or else I’ll see you in court.” “If being a hobo is what you want, then I’ll make your wish come true.” Papa emphasized defensively with almost his eyes popping out. He used his pen from his jean pocket and signed the divorce document. After that, Mah grabbed my hand with my already packed luggage and left the house. I looked at Mah while walking away from our house, seeing her real smile for the first time. “Sorry for leaving you awhile ago,” Mah apologized. “It’s okay. But can you tell me how you did all this at first?” “Did what?” “You looked like Wonderwoman for a moment!” Mah laughed. I have never seen such a nice smile from her for a long time. “Honestly, I was really hopeless the morning I left that house. I wandered around the streets like everyone was my enemy. I bumped into a friend of mine and I told her my situation. She advised me to go reach from help from the Outreach programs, somewhere at 1200 Van Ness Street. There, they gave me plenty of 22
advice and made me believe I can support myself without dealing with Papa always looking down on me because what he is doing is like sexism.” Hearing this from Mah, I feel like she is like a phoenix. She has reborn into something more powerful: my role model. As we turned to the corner of the street, our house was getting smaller and smaller. It was disappearing, just like our past.
“Realizing Sexism” by Angelica Nguyen The sun’s radiating glow was slowly edging away from the horizon on this Friday evening. It was the beginning of spring break so I decided to take a stroll around the campus before returning to my car to go home. As I was walking, I caught sight of Jasmine across the street with her new boyfriend, Adam. She was clinging onto his arm like someone had just pushed her off a mountain and she needed to hang on in order to save her life. Her facial expression told me she was definitely disappointed by something. “Hey, Jasmine.” I yelled, but she didn’t respond. It must have been because she was too far away. I noticed that the two of them seemed to have gotten into an argument. “Are you a whore or something? You look so desperate hanging on to him like that,” a strange man said. “Hey! Watch what you’re saying. Just because she’s clinging to my arm doesn’t mean she’s a whore,” Adam exclaimed to the man. “I think she deserves an apology.” “What, are you kidding me? I have the right to say what I want. I don’t have to do anything,” the man said as he made a 180 degree turn, and walked away. I crossed over to where Jasmine and Adam were standing and asked them what was wrong. Jasmine gave me the cold shoulder, as though I was invisible, and hastily walked to her car. I guess she must have felt horrible from the incident. Realizing it was almost seven, I rushed back to my car to go home. I felt like I was on the verge of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. On 19 th Avenue, the lines of cars were miles long, moving at the pace that could have lost to a snail in a race. Everybody was able to inch up a car length every five minutes. I wanted to yank every strand of hair off from the top of my head. As I slowly got past the wretched traffic, I realized the cause was because of a black, straight haired, small brown eyed, Asian woman in a white Corolla driving too cautiously. I couldn’t believe it; she was literally driving five miles per hour. People were yelling at the poor lady. Everywhere it sounded like a mother grizzly bear was protecting her cub from a mountain lion. I thought it was kind of harsh directing all the tension towards the woman. The beginning of my break was eaten up by a woman driving too cautiously. It was 8:30 pm by the time I pulled up to our minuscule driveway and parked my car. I grabbed my oversized bag from the passenger seat and locked the 23
car. After I ascended up the stairs, I stuck the regular, brass key into the awkwardly shaped hole and turned it to the right as much as possible but instead it made a roaring noise louder than a hurricane. So I just stepped inside, and was ready, prepared for the loss in the upcoming war against my dad. With my head down low expecting fireworks to explode, I was amazed that it was so quiet; I was even able to hear the water from the sink drip. “Mom, is Dad home yet?” She hollered back at me “No!” I realized I spoke too soon. At that very moment, Dad stepped through the front doors, with the intoxicating smell of alcohol all over him. I bet that people across the streets were able to smell the horrendous odor. He shrieked “What the hell smells so bad in here?” The stench of the aroma filled the air and seemed to make people cry puddles of tears. It started to spread like germs, jumping from person to person, and started a chain reaction. The smell traveled up his nose slowly at the pace of a sloth climbing up a tree. The stench was so putrid; it could have been used to evacuate an entire building of people from a fire. Dad’s nose seemed like it wanted to take a rocket to Mars. Wanting to avoid the smell was like being unable to use a toilet or you had to deal with it, and it cannot be done because the stench will go through whatever gets in its way. He staggered to table like a baby learning to walk and looked at the mound of food. “Tiffany, what did you make? Can you cook? Do you actually think any of this is edible?” “There’s nothing wrong with it,” replied my mother. “How am I supposed to eat crap like this?” I saw my mother slaving over the stove since the time I had left for school, at noon, to cook a feast for my father. Why was my father so unpleased? I thought everything on the table was very appetizing. My mouth drooled after I glanced at it. “What would you like me to do then?” “Throw everything away and make me a steak and fries,” commanded my Dad. “Give me half an hour then.” “Bring me a couple of beers too.” I didn’t want to hear the two of them anymore, so I rushed up the stairs at the speed of lightning to my room. I decided to grab a book of my shelf to release the tension from my day and calm down. I was just getting to the second chapter before I heard, “BAM!” “What the fuck is this? It tastes like shit! Can’t your stupid ass give me food I would actually be able to eat? You have to be the dumbest wife in history. What kind of a damn wife are you?” wailed my father. “Why must I attend to your every need?” “I’m your fucking husband that’s why.” “You know we’re not in China, anymore right? We’re at the same level now,” acknowledged my mother.
I jumped from my bed and dashed over to my door and slammed it as hard as I was physically capable. I definitely didn’t want to be involved in another tornado. I remember the last one that hit; it took a least a month before everything was restored to its original state. I can’t stand being in the middle up their immature conversations. They acted as if they were four year olds on a playground. I leaped back on top of my bed and blasted my stereo cranking my speakers all the way up. At 10 o’clock the tornado downstairs sounded like it had passed. So I turned off my stereo and went back to my book. Hooked onto my book, I wasn’t in the mood to pick up my cell phone when it rang. After the continuous calls, I felt the ringing would never stop like how a clock keeps ticking. Frustrated to the point where I could have been able to knock out a pro wrestler in one punch, I picked up my phone. “Amanda, its Jasmine.” “Hey, Jasmine. Are you all right?” “Not really. I’m sorry about earlier. I wanted to tell you why I blew you off,” said Jasmine in a distressed tone. “You know how I had an interview today right?” “Yeah, you told me about it.” “Well, I came and everything went well until they looked at my resume. They told me I wasn’t up to their standards, and everybody else who’s been interviewed was ten times smarter and stronger then I was. The interviewer told me ‘I don’t believe you are capable of working here. We are currently looking to have this position filled by someone else, but “Wow, I feel so much better after telling you. Thanks Amanda.” “No problem. I’ll see you tomorrow then. Bye.” I laid down spreading my arms and legs out making an “X,” and thought to myself how I never really noticed that there was so much sexism against AsianAmerican women. I can’t believe how much the women in this community encounter this problem. I guess since I was young, it happened to Mom so frequently where Dad was always in control so much, it just seemed normal for men to have more power. It has never dawned on me that Asian-American women are respected less until Jasmine told me what happened when she encountered the man on the street. I also didn’t realize that we have to live up to a higher standard just to be on the same levels as men. Asian-American women actually face a lot of difficulties to be equal with men. I guess it’s one of the many issues that will take an extensive amount of time to be able to solve. So I changed into my sweats and hopped back into bed. I pulled up my covers and wondered if all these events could happen with six hours, what will tomorrow and the following days would be like. I looked out my window, at the stars in the sky, and fell asleep.
Parental Pressure Parental pressure is a common issue between children and their parents, and more specifically between parents and students. In the Chinese American community of students, parental pressure seems to be a major conflict in both their school and personal lives. Here are stories where children face struggling situations by the negative influence of parental pressure.
Growing up, children feel the need to live up to their parents’ expectations to be loved. As they get older, they begin to have a mind of their own and rebel against their parents. They struggle to break free and be independent. In this short excerpt, a daughter and her parents argue over what’s best for her life.
“What Emma Wants” by Anna Vuong
Every day, the children of the Chinese community are constantly being pressured so they can succeed and be the best, but they fail in leading their life because of the high expectations thrown at them by their parents. This is a story of a girl whose life was determined strictly by her Chinese parents. She was a girl whose voice, thoughts, and opinions were held back as her parents piled what they wanted on her, leading her to regret the life she has been living under for 17 years.
Right then, with her ear pressed up against the door, she could hear her dad approaching her room. Emma scrambled to her bed just as her dad appeared in the doorway. “Time for dinner, Emma,” said Emma’s dad in Chinese. “I don’t want to eat,” replied Emma in an exhausted tone in English. “You have to,” said Emma’s dad. Before Emma could respond, her dad picked her up and threw her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes just like he did when Emma was younger. “Put me down!” screamed Emma. Her dad went right on walking and smiling to the kitchen table setting Emma down on a kitchen chair. “Now tell me what’s going on with you.” demanded her dad in Chinese. Emma sat there in silence debating the pros and cons of telling her parents the truth. “Well…you know how you both want what’s best for me as long as I’m happy?” explained Emma in Chinese, hoping it would ease up her parents. “Uh huh…,” both her parents said at the same time, not fully understanding where this conversation was heading. “The thing is,” continued Emma in English in an unsure voice, hoping they wouldn’t understand the main point of the conversation “I didn’t get accepted into the college you wanted me to go to, but that’s okay because I have been thinking that I don’t need to go to college.” They heard “Didn’t get into college…I don’t want to go.” Emma parents understood just enough to send them raging, speaking so fast that every word that came out of their mouth seemed connected. “What do you mean you didn’t get into college and that you don’t need to go!?” shouted her shocked parents in Chinese. “It’s just not for me! I spent my entire life studying so hard and it’s not fun. I’m not happy!” exclaimed Emma back in Chinese. “You’re eighteen. You’re not supposed to know who you are, that’s what college is for,” reasoned Emma’s dad, “Life is about proving something to yourself.” “Don’t you mean proving something to you?” emphasized Emma
“The Girl Who Rebelled” by Mindy Lin The stack of rejection letters piled high as I scrambled throughout my room, and each piece of paper I see on the floor, there is a dark red letter standing out as if it was calling towards me. “B+, B, B+,” it cried, as rejection letter after rejection letter flew into my room. I looked around with sweat draining from my forehead. The room started spinning and holding my head to my arms, I felt the blood rushing and adrenaline kicking in. “AHHH!” I screamed. I woke up in alarm and started panting. It was 7 AM and I was already dreaming such idiotic non-sense. “Leah, you are a weird freak without a life,” I said to myself. Hair tangled in small tufts and heart still pounding from the “nightmare”, I headed downstairs, lied on the couch and stared up the ceiling, wondering how that nightmare last night became my dream. I come from a very traditional family in which my strict parents hope for my brother and me to go far in life. They continue to encourage me in their usual tone that I should try my best and that in life, there are no limits. However, I have known that it is their way of saying, “Get straight As, get into a good college, earn a good living, and make us proud”. Such expectations can not only be achieved in one snap, but must be earned, so my parents spent excessive amounts of money for math classes and tutoring classes. It was as if they owned a sealed document containing a list of rules of what they expect from me as a daughter of a Chinese 26
family. Over the years, I have felt as if my parents wanted me to live the life they so wanted, but were never able to grasp.
“What about what you are going to do for a living, huh? Your father and I didn’t work our tails off just so that you could throw away your future! You have no idea how fortunate you are to have an opportunity like this handed to you,” lectured Emma’s mom in Chinese. “Here we go again,” thought Emma. She was so sick and tired of listening to her mom tell her how lucky she was to have things handed to her while her mom began to work as a teenager with no education. Her mom knew she knew all the stories and yet she kept telling them. “Jeez, when are you going to stop telling those same old stories Mom? Whatever happened to you in the past has nothing to do with me,” Emma snapped back in Chinese. “Excuse me!? What did you say?” asked her mom. “Enough! Let’s talk about this later. Right now let’s enjoy a nice dinner.” exclaimed Emma’s dad. The whole conversation was two-thirds Chinese and one-third English. And the Chinese made it all the more worst. Emma could really hear the disappointment in her parents’ voices. They seem to be screaming in their heads, “What are we going to do? There goes her future, our future. The only hope left of a better life.” Emma didn’t want to hurt her parents, but if she went on like this any longer, she would really lose it. And that was the end until late at night, at about 10 pm; the argument had been going on for hours. Angry words and exchanges were thrown around like bombs firing back and forth nonstop. “You’re crazy!” cried Emma’s mom in Chinese “I’m crazy? You’re crazy. You are the one who is putting all your hope and dreams on me!” Suddenly, Emma’s dad burst out laughing. “Don’t you go laughing! You do it too, Dad,” said Emma scowling. “I do not!” exclaimed her dad. “Oh yeah? Does always pressuring me to go to the college you want me to, ring a bell?” “I was not pressuring I was simply suggesting it,” argued Emma’s dad. “Yeah right,” muttered Emma. “You know what? You are going to college and that’s final!” chimed in Emma’s mom in Chinese. “No, I’m not!” “Yes, you are!” “No, I’m not!” “Yes, you are!” The three of them stared at each other from across the room, like an old western movie starring cowboys ready to attack. Even though the living room was small, it felt to Emma like she and her parents were a million miles apart. The firings stopped, suddenly filling the tiny living room with silence and quickened breaths. 28
“You know what, mom and dad? I’m eighteen and for my whole life I have done what you have asked of me. I didn’t like half of the activities you put me in, but I did them anyways so that you would be proud of me. But it seems like whatever I do is never good enough for you.” confessed Emma in Chinese. Emma wanted so badly to say all that in English because it sounded so much more sophisticated, but in Chinese it just sounded like a little girl whining. Not at all what Emma wanted to sound like. It may not have sounded sophisticated to Emma, but when she said that, it opened her parents’ eyes. They saw that if parents push their children too far and don’t show them appreciation, their children’s achievements will all be for nothing. Children might lose respect for their parents. They may not agree with Emma, but they reluctantly gave her what she wanted most and hoped it was the right choice for their daughter. Pressure to do well in school exists throughout the world—whether it’s in America or Asia, children of different races is always pressured by their parents. As a result, children no longer enjoy school. This problem is especially seen towards Asian American children. Here is a short excerpt of a story about a boy who struggles in school in order to satisfy his mother.
“The Promise” by Sandy Hong The next day, I rushed out to the lamppost to meet my best friend, Laura. I patiently waited for her arrival under the beating sun, wearing my old worn out white collar shirt under my thick, blue patterned wool vest. What’s taking her so long? I thought to myself as I checked the time. Feeling faint, I sunk down to the ground and stayed there until I heard a familiar voice calling out my name. “Kenny! Kenny, up ahead! Whoa!” I looked up and saw Laura riding over to my direction uncontrollably on her two person bike. I quickly jumped out of her way and watched as she collided in the lamppost. I rushed over to help her up. “Do we have to go through this every single day? Just because you have a helmet on, it doesn’t mean that it’ll protect you from any injuries. Why don’t you just go to school in your fancy car like everyone else at school?” “Pssshhhhh… I rather die than go to school in a car. What’s the fun in that?” That’s just like Laura to be this adventurous. She comes from a rich family, but she’s unlike any rich kids I have known. She’s like a white dove with long, pure white wings; free from the clutches of her parents and from the confinement her parents have once kept her. She’s not like one of those snobby know-it-all rich kids at school. 29
Laura walked over to examine her bike. “Anyways, hop on. We’re going to be late for school. You know how strict Mr. Kaleb is on tardiness.” My mother enrolled me into Merced, a private school for elites ranging from grades one to twelve. I am currently in the tenth grade, taking four advance placement classes and two honors classes. Every day, I am surrounded in mountains of homework, forced to stay up until 3:00 AM just to finish them. Teachers in school, especially Mr. Kaleb, expect us students to pay close attention during class; however in most days I am so tired that once I sit down on those comfy chairs, I start to fall asleep. Sometimes I get so irritated at the amount of tests and quizzes the teachers pass out that I scratch myself as if I caught the chicken pox. Life at home isn’t smooth sailing either. I am constantly reminded by my mother that education is important and that I must get good grades if I want to get into college. She keeps nagging and nagging, like a parrot that never stops talking. “By the way,” Laura said, “did you tell your mom about our plans on Friday?” “Of course not! Last night report cards came in the mail. Didn’t you get yours?” “Nope,” Laura replied nonchalantly as she pedaled away. “Well I got mine. My mom freaked out. Because of my C in English, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go out until I’m thirty-five!” “That’s ridiculous; you’re one of the hardest working kids I know. Just because of one C… you’ve always done what your mom wanted you to do. Why can’t you have one night of relaxation? I bet you’re just too scared to stand up for yourself.” It’s true though, I always chicken out at the last second. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to disappoint my mom. I just can’t seem to enjoy myself knowing she has to work. Laura may be right, but we are just too different. She’s the third generation here in America, while I’m the first generation child. She’s rich and I’m poor, yet she seems so much more carefree even when her parents have higher expectations from the third generation. “Mr. Huang, I think you are aware of your grade for my class. I believe you have received your report card from the mail.” Mr. Kaleb looked at me straight with those blinding bright blue eyes. I suddenly felt intimidated as I glanced at his serious face. Suddenly my body became stiff, as if I hadn’t stretched for months. My feet stayed glued onto the floor, my burning hands were cooled with sweat; I dared not move an inch. It felt as if he was trying to get me to confess a crime. “Yes sir, I just received my report card yesterday.”I stuttered. “Good, so I presume you know what I want to talk to you about,” Mr. Kaleb said with his deep voice. “Let’s get straight to the point. I know you are capable of doing better. What happened? Do you have any issues at home?” “Oh, no, it’s nothing. I just had a lot to do last week. I guess I was too stressed by the amount of extra work, which is probably why I failed your test.” 30
“Hmm, interesting. Well, you can always go to the Wellness Center if you feel too stressed out. Or, you can drop one of your AP classes.” “Drop one of my AP classes, are you kidding? My mother would never let me do that!” I blurted out. “Well, Mr. Huang, communication is key. Make sure to talk to your mother about your grades. If you really feel that you cannot handle all the classes she has chosen for you, talk to her and make her understand how life as a student in Merced High is different from a normal life in any other schools. Understand?” Every child faces some type of pressure in their life, whether it is from school life or personal life, pressure always leads to a huge amount of stress. In this story, a bold daughter requests a break from this resulting stress and in the end, both her and her parents come to startling realizations.
“Forever Restricted?” by Lindsey Leong Lila’s parents had always been overbearing in all aspects of her life, from not allowing her to attend summer camp with the rest of her friends, to even restricting her from celebrating her own birthday. At the early age of five, her parents had other things planned, forcing her to attend weekly piano, Mandarin, and martial art classes, as well as making her memorize the maps of the world and periodic table, and more recently, sending her to 10 hour long SAT prep classes. Though the amount of extra-curricular activities she had to participate in was overwhelming, it was the expectation that she had to perfect each that made Lila want to pull out her hair until she was completely bald. Most of the time, Lila believed that her parents acted more like merciless coaches training her to get into the best schools than loving and caring parents who gave sappy hugs and kisses. As Lila began her routine walk to school, she thought about how in one short year she would finally be attending college, free from the constant pressures in her life, and a chance to finally be independent. The only unplanned thing in her strictly outlined life was which college she would attend, and Lila wanted to avoid getting drum-pounding headache thinking about that subject. Lila could see her school’s distinctive building coming up ahead, with its roof mounted solar panels reflecting the sunlight, causing her to squint her eyes from the blinding light, and making her realize that her daily contemplative walk was slowly coming to an end, it was time to face reality. As she swung open the rough wooden door of her nationally recognized high school, she could feel her tiredness kicking in, causing her to let out a very loud yawn. Lack of sleep, followed by the common sign of charcoal black sacks hanging beneath her dry eyes, as well as hunger that created a seemingly endless hole in her stomach were common dilemmas Lila faced daily. Lila’s study schedule had been created long before she was even born by her dictating parents, and Lila, like a programmed robot, followed its rigid schedule hourly. 31
Lila hadn’t known of anything other than the mantra “Study and perfect everything, then get into Stanford” which was instilled in her already packed sardine can-like head since she was born. She couldn’t even picture her life without pressure. “What would it be like to have a free Saturday?” Lila thought dreamingly. As Lila made her way home after an afternoon filled with turtle paced piano and SAT classes, her mother met her promptly at the door and immediately began urging her about her test grades, and prepping her for tomorrow’s schedule. Lila was fed up and erratically exclaimed, “Can’t you lay off the pressure for a few hours?” Lila’s mother reacted just as surprised as Lila and Lila’s father who had just arrived. “Are you crazy?” both of Lila’s parents exclaimed, Lila boldly responded. “No, I’m not, however I’ve never known a life without your constant pressure, and I would like two weeks to handle my own life by myself, is that too much to ask!” Lila’s parents were in shock, their only daughter had never, in all of her 17 years mentioned such an unconventional request. Deep down, they knew they were extremely hard on their daughter, pushing her to the highest limits, they just wanted their child to have, and achieve more than what they could ever have. They wanted her to take advantage of the opportunities available to her, and realize how lucky she was to have them. Deliberately, Lila’s parents responded by saying, “Lila, this will be the biggest lesson you will ever learn from us, so we will let you free from our pressure for two weeks, that’s it.” Although Lila’s parents believed this absurd plan would teach Lila that her parents were right and she was wrong, all Lila heard were the words “free from pressure, two weeks” Lila believed she was dreaming again, so she absentmindedly pinched her mom, who quickly screamed in pain, as if she had gotten stung by the largest yellow striped queen bee. The first week of Lila’s self-proclaimed freedom had been spent by attending an event her parents would’ve normally considered frivolous, (especially if it occurred on a weekend during the school year), a food festival hosted by her favorite magazine, Bon Appetite. Lila was able to taste a vast range of foods, much different that her usual Chinese based meals of bland white rice, a quickly stir fried vegetable, usually ending with a dry piece of seared chicken breast. Lila didn’t stray completely off the path her parents had guided her on for 17 years; she kept up with her tests, and during the two weeks, although her homework hadn’t been completed as promptly as normal, she still managed to reach the due date. As the two weeks of relieved pressure were coming to an end, Lila’s parents had startlingly noticed that Lila could still thrive and be a responsible student in an environment with less pressure shoved upon her. Lila had realized that her parent’s pressure was their unique way of expressing their love for her, by “pressuring” her to do the best so her future would be brighter than theirs. Lila appreciated some pressure, as it served as a reminder to keep up with her homework, and to not get completely caught up in “frivolous” activities. Lila also 32
gained a different perspective of her parents, although they occasionally acted like tough Olympic athlete coaches, they also possessed a more fun and loving side. Lila’s parents had similarly learned that they could relive their pressure slightly, but not completely as their daughter could still use supportive pressure. They recognized that they should allow Lila to be a teenager once in a while, and ease up on seeing Lila’s head peeping out of the thick math book only once in a six hour time period. All in all, Lila knew that her and her parents had to compromise and communicate better, and work together to achieve what they both wanted. They had all gained “tunnel vision”, and only saw one goal, not allowing Lila to have an opinion in her future, moreover, a say in their family’s future.
“Chinese Culture” by Sandy, Angelica, Lindsey, and Anna Be prim and proper. Know how to use chopsticks. Don't slurp your noodles. Perfect everything. Aim high for your parents. Modesty and humbleness is a must. Respect your elders. Be multi-talented. Don't cherish your reputation. Cherish your heritage.
Lack of Diversity in the Sunset District
A calm scenic community with many similar houses everywhere you look, with gentle winds, and a bright warm sun shining upon you, [the Sunset is] almost like a suburb. It would seem as though this kind of community would be hard to find in a such a crowded city like San Francisco, but it is one of the largest communities in San Francisco. The population of this community is predominately Asian. Thus, a major issue in this community is a lack of diversity. Being exposed to other cultures at an early age helps build tolerance and understanding towards other cultures. Therefore, when they are adults in the working world, they will know how to work alongside people of other cultures. In addition many people in the past have been injured due to ignorance towards other cultures. Furthermore, ignorance contributes to the racism in this world that we live in, so if the adults of the future are more tolerant of other cultures, it will help stop the hate that we have, even if it is only in our city. Hopefully in the near future the Sunset District will diversify and the children of the future will build a tolerance for the cultures around them.
“A New Life” by Edwin Mak After three months of cramped rooms and garbage food, Wing Cheung Lam set forth his foot onto the foggy docks of San Francisco Bay. Angel Island had held him captive for three whole weeks, and now he on had his best coat and a heavy hearted smile to fulfill his dream of getting rich in the land of prosperity. Wing Cheung sighed as he thought about the past four months of his life shifting through the dirt with no luck. Not even a speck of gold appeared against the silver screen. The wind stirred up by the San Francisco Bay blew into Wing’s face as he pondered the one question that had been crawling around in his head for the past four months: there had to be an easier way to make more money. Wing looked harder, silting through the brown dirt looking for the shiny mineral that would be the solution to his bankruptcy problems. “We should head back to the shack, it’s getting dark,” Wing said, thinking about his empty stomach. “Nah, I’ll stay here. Maybe there’s something we missed,” Sam Sung Hing muttered. “In that case, I stay with you” Wing said “we can eat something later.” Wing and Sam had been friends since they were young fetuses. They were delivered within an hour of each other and they grew up as neighbors in their village. They attended the same school as children and even started a small noodle store together as aspiring teenagers. All that changed when Sam wanted to go to America. Upon hearing about the masses of people that found a better life when they found gold, Sam pleaded Wing to leave their boring old lives and travel across the Pacific. They both gave up everything they lived for and set out to America. Three more months passed, and still no gold could be found. Signs of forfeit had begun to appear in Wing’s face. 34
Wing thought, why did he have to come to America? He could have just stayed home and lived a nice life managing his successful business. The regretful thoughts of leaving home forced Wing gave Sam a compelling look. Sam noticed this and placed his pick ax on the ground. “What? What happened?” Sam asked. Wing exploded, “Why the hell did you tell me to come to the shit place? This was nothing like you said it would be! You about riches and happiness! Why are we sitting here in this shack waiting to die?” “You never had to follow me here! I told you about planned travels and you decided to come with me! I don’t even need you here. Actually, you’re more of a burden rather than a help!” The purple veins on Wing’s face contrasted against the velvet red background of his face “Fine, if you don’t appreciate me, I’m gone!” Wing stormed down the street. He looked around at the stores and shops which was part of the past that he left behind. Wing stopped. Why not start a noodle store of his own? That would be perfect! Why find the money when it would be much simpler to let the successful people bring the money to him? Sam wandered around the streets of San Francisco, debating in his mind whether or not he should eat that day. Sam reached into his near-depleted pockets and found two dollars. At that moment, the wind blew by and the gust of wind grabbed the bills out of his hand and whisked them onto the street. Sam dived at the two bills as he desperately avoided the oncoming traffic. He then proceeded to dive upon the two bills as if they were infant babies. “You with the face, do something useful and move off the street,” somebody yelled in Chinese. Sam flicked the driver off and limped into the recently opened restaurant across the street to grab a meal, something he had not done in days. The air filled with a familiar aroma that reminded Sam of home when he walked in. A ridiculous number of people waited in line to receive a table. Sam glanced around the store which was bustling with waiters and waitresses. “Here’s the order for table number six” a long-familiar voice ordered. Sam and Wing’s eyes locked. Sam’s jaw dropped. Wing smiled, put down his gloves, and headed over to Sam. “Give this man a table immediately.” A table “magically” appeared upstairs. Sam asked Wing, “When did this happen?” “I just had an epiphany when I left the shack. Why should I try to dig for money when people can bring their money to me?” Wing saw the sheepish look on Sam’s face. “I meant to find you in the shack after I started this, but the tenant told me you couldn’t pay the rent. That got me kinda worried. Anyhow, you should cook with me, since I reserved a spot at cook for you. We can split the earnings, just like the good old days”. “Definitely” Sam replied, “Definitely”. 35
As more people found little success in mining for gold, more people invested in small business. As the sunset district developed into a residential area, more Chinese people moved into the vacant houses and developed shops and stores near their homes.
“Bad Timing” by Kevin Hu As Kazu lay on the damp floor, he started to regain conscious and shivered as if he was dropped off in the Artic, with nothing but a pair of shorts and a t- shirt. He tried to get up, but he just could not overcome the pain coursing through his body, so he fell back on the ground. He tried to open both eyes, but his right eye was so swollen as if it had been used as a catcher’s mitt. I walked over and gave him some water. He savagely chugged down the water, and fell back on the floor. After another ten minutes it started to pour. It rained so hard it sounded like thousands of glass vases being thrown on the floor. I pitied him so I carried his cold damp body off the street. When I put him down at the bus stop he laid there, started to open his mouth, and started to wheeze. “Well, I finally understood what you meant, I should learn to keep my big mouth shut.” “Yeah, hope you finally learned your lesson,” I replied with a humorous tone. Then there was a moment of silence, like it was three in the morning on an empty street. All of a sudden we both exploded in laughter, and chuckled like hysterical hyenas for the next twenty minutes. The bus rumbled down the street, like a tyrannosaurus rex rampaging in a jungle, as it got closer the more the ground rumbled. Then it abruptly stopped as it arrived at the bus stop. I helped Kazu into the bus as he ambled to the door. He sat down in a cool plastic seat, and slowly closed his eyes. He started to reminisce the past day as his mind drifted through his dreams like a boat sailing smoothly down a calm stream. “Yo Kazu wake up,” I exclaimed as I pounded on his door. “Weren’t you the one who asked me to come with you to buy your new video game?” “Hold on, I just woke up,” he yawned as he opened his window. “It’s not like you have anything better to do in the middle of the summer. Just come in, the door is probably unlocked.” “Okay, but hurry up, it’s almost one o’clock,” I insisted. I walked through his stone cold gate and closed it. I went into his living room and jumped onto the couch like it was my bed. I took my MP3 player out and turned it on, moving my body to the rhythm of the song as if the rhythm was my heartbeat. “You almost done,” I impatiently pondered. “Almost, but if you’re hungry go ahead and take out some chips from the shelf,” he answered. I didn’t feel hungry, but I walked over to the shelf, grabbed a bag of Doritos, and opened them. After another five minutes I started to stack the chips in a pyramid shape; the same way you would stack cards. With each new 36
chip, the pile looked more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, swaying from one side to the other like a drunk a graduation party. “What in the world are you doing,” Kazu yelled at the first glance of the enormous stack of chips. “It’s your fault, you took so long so I got bored,” I argued. “Plus, don’t you think it’s amazing how I can stack chips this high?” “I guess it is cool,” he agreed. “But I’m kind of hungry.” He started to eat the top pieces, while I kept on stacking. It always stayed at the same height until it fell. “Look what you did,” I exclaimed. “It was so high up too.” “Woooow, you’re sounding pretty sad, whining over a tower of chips,” he said sarcastically, as he poked more fun at me. One of Kazu’s many hobbies were to tell racist jokes, he would tell them like a Native American tells stories. After the laugher from the chip tower resided, Kazu started to tell his racist jokes, “Hey, you the difference between a Mexican and a bench?” I started to chuckle because I heard it a few times before. “Dude, you have a big mouth, you shouldn’t say that out in the streets, even though the jokes are pretty funny,” I suggested. “Whatever, I tell them at school, and nothing happens to me,” Kazu replied with a confident tone. “Just know, I warned you,” I stated. “Dude, it’s already two o’clock, let’s go buy that video game you wanted. How we getting there, bus?” “It’s not like we can drive, we’re both Asian,” he joked sarcastically. Most of my friends and I were video game and anime otakus(addicts) in middle school. So as we strolled down the street towards the bus stop, we were consumed in our conversation like hungry wolverines with their freshly killed prey, that we did not notice our bus had passed us. “Hey, isn’t that our bus,” I wailed. “No way, that is our bus, let’s run and try to catch it,” he cried. We both ran after the bus, like it was the last bus of the day. Warm, fresh sweat flowed down our heads, like if it was raining. We finally caught up to the bus, and crawled on. We were both tired so fell silently asleep as if we just ended a day of work at the New York Stock Exchange. “Hey, wake up, this is our stop,” Kazu shouted into my ear. “Don’t have to be so loud,” I mumbled tiredly. “Well, don’t blame me, you were sound asleep,” he argued. “Whatever, let’s just get off the bus,” I murmured. We both walked off the bus, and into the game store a few blocks away from the bus stop. “Hey, you got a twenty on you, I don’t think I have enough,” he questioned. “Ahh, you still owe me thirty dollars from the last time you bought that game, and lunch,” I replied, annoyingly. “Don’t worry, I’ll eventually pay you back,” he sarcastically claimed. So I gave him a wrinkled twenty dollar bill from my wallet, and glared at him.
“You better pay me back.” He bought the game and we both left, anxiously to play it at his house. On the way back Kazu was bored, and started to make racist jokes to kill time again. “Yo Kevin, you know why black people hate country music,” he asked with a slight chuckle. “I don’t know, why,” I asked. “It’s because each time they play the hoe down………….,” he replied. Just as he finishing the joke a large African American guy appeared and said, “What was that man, you got a problem with my people.” I started to chuckle a bit, because there was as much irony as a scene in one of Shakespeare’s plays. I thought, what irony, I even warned him. “Man, it’s just a joke, we just make them for laughs,” Kazu muttered. Yet the guy seemed to be more infuriated, and his face was glowing bright red like an apple. All of a sudden an enraged fist flew towards Kazu; he ducked so that his head looked like an ostrich’s in the ground. He was speechless- this kind of thing never happened to him before. All of a sudden another fist flew at him; the terror in his eyes looked like he was in a burning inferno. His eyes were dead black, and consumed by fear. He quickly opened his mouth to apologize, but it looked like he was chewing a wad of gum; no words came out like he was a mute. Next thing he knew, he was out cold on the floor like motionless road kill on a highway. He finally regained conscious after half an hour. “Why didn’t you help me,” he began. I just shook my head and sarcastically chuckled, “Did you see the size of that guy?”
“Chinese 101” by Kevin, Curtis, and Edwin Chinese 101 You never say 101, its Chinese 282 Your parents must be strict, and you must obey Deep down you love school, but you hate the grades you get An A is an A A B is a D. It is hard to be Asian face it that's who you are. 38
“Community Short Story” by Curtis Lam A normal day of education always involves the busy shuffling and chitter chatter of students in crowded hallways, some optimistic and crazy, some down and depressed. At a moments notice, it could be as hectic as the Virginia Tech shooting with fear running about. As a few minutes go by like a whole summer vacation, your ear twitches as you hear the common phrase “that’s so Asian.” As soon as those words dig violently into your skin, you cannot help but laugh just as somebody who uses the word “nigger.” However, to some few, just as the word “nigger” feels like the only sin needed to send you to hell, that phrase is also discriminatory. Walking down the hallways, people are showing their report cards with their 4.0 GPA, you are waiting in your heart, waiting to burst out just to hear “that’s so Asian.” “Its just a 4.0” says an Asian student. “It’s a 4.0 that a Chinese person got. All Asians are smart” replied the white student. Deep down, that phrase tingles the body and mind like a mouse biting you inside your clothing. You are able to shake off this feeling and disregard it as important. But soon later, that same phrase “that’s so Asian” leaps from somebody’s mouth and jumps straight into you ear and locking in place into your brain. “What did you do over the weekend?” “Oh, I mostly studied and did my homework” “That’s so Asian.” Already after hearing very short dialogues which include the stereotypical phrase “that’s so Asian,” you cannot help but feel like adopting that phrase and using it freely just as you breath the oxygen in the air. Only after hearing a few phrases, the mind mixes and matches to what becomes your very own stereotypical Asian. After weeks and perhaps months after adopting the phrase, you feel a sense, a sense unable to be described, only to be felt by the individual himself. Every chance you get, even bugging into people’s conversation, you say “that’s so Asian.” Another conversation, “that’s so Asian.” And another, “that’s so Asian.” Soon later, you stand back and realize that the vibrations in the air make your ear twitch as the screaming in your ear is the continuous sound of: “that’s so Asian.” “your so Asian.” “I can’t believe your that Asian” “Why do you have to be so Asian?” 39
Moments after stepping back, that feeling of realization comes to your mind and as painful as being shot though each finger, she feel the bitterness of what you have done. That stereotypical phrase hurts not just others, but the own body mentally and physically. Right then, you have decided not to use this phrase anymore to keep some dignity left. Months later, a chance to go to the Asian country of Hong Kong has arrived at your footsteps. You decide to go and to learn more about the dreadful sin of a phrase you had said for months. After what seems to be an eight hours drag of a flight, like playing Tetris on an old desktop machine, you finally arrive, anxious to meet real Asians. Just weeks into this vacation, you realize your stereotypes were completely wrong. You see people completely the opposite of who you think they were. You then now feel truly ashamed about that phrase “that’s so Asian.” Going back to school, hearing that phrase “that’s so Asian,” you dare challenge the odds of losing and argue “Why do you have the say that’s so Asian all the time?” “Because its cool!” “Do you think saying nigger is cool?” “No” “Then stop saying that’s so Asian. It’s discriminating. You should really take a trip to China somewhere and get a sense of who true Asians really are.” After arguing your point, you feel a burden has been lifted from you and feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. You now are proud, never to think of the stereotypical view of Asians.
“Asian Teenagers in San Francisco” by Andie and Mario Do good in school. (Good means A's). Overachieve. Make parents happy. Become number one. Expect harsh punishments. Stay out of trouble. Learn to enjoy rice.
Violence in the Mission and Excelsior Districts
Violence has always been a major problem in the history of the world. It has the power to change lives for the worse in the blink of an eye. Violence is everywhere and it is a huge problem worldwide. This is no different in the Mission and Excelsior districts of San Francisco, and something must be done about it.
“Haunted” by Andie Lazo Almost everyday, from inside a small, lonesome apartment on Mission Street, there would be noises in the night. Not the kinds of noises that people make when they make love, like an average person would expect; no, these sounds were quite different. They were the kinds that made you want to call the police—if you ever heard them, of course. No one ever did, because Richard Morales soundproofed his walls. That way, no one would ever be able to hear his wife scream when he beat her. Richard and Isabella met while they were in college. After instantly hitting it off at a party, the two of them found out that they went to the same school— they were even in the same English class. When graduation came around, they got married. Their first year as a married couple was the best one, as it is with most marriages. However, after that, it just all seemed to spiral downward. Although Richard was quite the ladies’ man when Isabella first met him, she discovered that most of his personality was a façade. Her friends had warned her of stories they’d heard about him having been tied to a number of missing women, but she just brushed them off because she “felt that Richard was the one for her.” She later realized that those stories were true; she ended up becoming one of those victims. Richard Morales had always been a problem child. The only son of two hardcore drug addicts, he’d lost both his parents by the time he was five years old. With no other known relatives, he was given up to the foster care system and thrown into a family of perfectionists. His foster parents berated him constantly, telling him he was no good because of his lousy parents; his anger grew and grew, until one day, he couldn’t take it any longer. He committed his first act of domestic violence when he was a teenager, around fifteen, beating his own foster parents into submission, feeling a thrill from their screams. After this event, they promptly kicked him out, and he lived on the streets until he became old enough to work. When he beat his parents, he found that he derived much more pleasure from hitting his mother rather than his father. He then developed a mask to his true, messed up personality: he trained himself to stay under control, to be charming and charismatic, to understand and show compassion… the perfect trap to lure innocent, unsuspecting women. Countless girls fell for it—they all ended up beaten and abused, and he was turned on every time. The girls would go home, telling people about their traumatic experiences; but whenever they mentioned 41
that Richard Morales had done it to them, their audience waved it off, not believing Richard to be a bad man. The act continued when he finally met and married Isabella, and as his wife, she got the very worst of his “love.” He beat her like he had never beaten a woman before, and there was nothing she could do about it. He was a tyrant in his own home; he never allowed her to leave the house, and forced her to sleep with him every night—which, of course, always involved him beating her. Soon, it got to the point where it didn’t even matter when he would do it—he was then finding any excuse he could make to strike Isabella, her cries of pain always arousing him. This went on for ten long, painful years. There was one room in the couple’s apartment that Richard never let Isabella into. For some reason, he was desperate to keep its contents forever a secret from her—one time, she gave it a passing glance; in the next moment, he beat her so hard that he ended up taking her to the hospital. He somehow managed to pass it off that she tripped down the stairs, and everyone believed him. Of course, though her common sense told her no, Isabella was painfully (literally) curious to find out what her husband was hiding from her. She knew that Richard would go to the taqueria a few blocks from their house every Saturday, and that he’d lock her up in their bedroom so that she wouldn’t get any ideas. However, before he left one night, he was already slightly drunk, and forgot to make sure everything—including Isabella and the mysterious door—was securely locked away. Shortly after he left, she broke out, and made her way to the front of the door. Listening for absolutely any sign of movement outside, Isabella heard nothing. She placed her hand on the doorknob, took one deep breath, and turned. The room turned out to be a normal closet, nothing seeming to be out of the ordinary. This confused Isabella—for what purpose had Richard been so bent on not letting her know about a closet? Then, she saw it. In the middle of the closet was a small black box; in it were drugs, which Isabella had suspected Richard to be taking—but what instantly caught her eye was the object next to the drugs: a handgun. She stared at it, first in awe, then in fear; where in the world had her husband obtained a gun? It must have captivated her gaze for quite a long time, for before long, she heard footsteps outside her apartment, and keys turning in the front door. It was then that she panicked—her heart started beating uncontrollably, and she started to sweat profusely. If Richard found out she had discovered his stash, he would definitely kill her. Then, the following thought entered her mind: the gun would give Isabella power. For once, she’d be in control, not her insane husband. She’d be able to get revenge for all the times he’d mistreated her, for all the wounds he’d given her, for all the years he’d ruined for her. So, when Richard Morales opened the door to his home, he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun.
“Wh—what the hell is this?” he slurred, his speech broken by all the alcohol he’d consumed. “Where’d y’get that? Where…” He looked into the deadpan face of his wife, her frame shaking as she kept the gun pointed at him. Then, he saw the open door. It took a while for his drunken brain to put together what had happened, but when he did, he screamed like a wild animal and lunged at Isabella. She flinched, and her finger unintentionally squeezed the trigger. It took less than a second for the bullet to go from inside the gun into Richard’s body. From that moment, the whole world seemed to go by like a blur. Following the shooting, Isabella couldn’t exactly recall what happened—she remembered in short bursts, rather than full memories. Blaring sirens. A speeding ambulance. Reporters and police. Unending questions. Black. In a whirlwind of events, Isabella became an unsung hero. The “murder” of her husband was justified as self-defense, after the police found out the things he’d done to her. Her family and friends forgave her, and tried to sympathize with all of the trauma she’d gone through. For the first time in ten long years, Isabella Morales was free. However, her sudden fame came with a price—she had begun to go insane. Even something as insignificant as being in the sun was such a radical difference to her, having spent the last ten years confined to a tiny apartment. All of the things happening to her now overwhelmed her, and she would frequently pass out. Soon, her delusions got to the point where she started hallucinating. In her dreams, she saw the ghost of Richard, chasing after her, calling her a “traitorous bitch who didn’t deserve to live.” These nightmares kept haunting her, keeping her awake for hours on end. Eventually, she stopped sleeping altogether, just to get away from those dreadful visions—however, that wouldn’t stop her psyche from turning on her. Richard’s image started popping up in her real life, appearing even in her hours of waking. She would turn a corner and see the “ghost,” stalking her and asking her to come with it. It would cause her to have a panic attack, even ending in seizures on occasion. Then came a time when Isabella could take it no longer. One day, when she arrived home—for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to leave the place where she killed her husband—she once again stood before the dreaded closet that had changed her life. The contents of it hadn’t changed since that fateful night—the only difference was that the gun now had a single person’s blood on it. Taking the gun up in her hand, she started shaking again, pointing it at her head. The apparition of Richard appeared once again, this time behind her, egging her on. “Do it, whore, do it,” it chanted, and Isabella could not resist its instructions. She pulled, feeling another presence on her hand—and there was a single bang. When her body was discovered the next day, a strange thing was discovered: in addition to her own fingerprints, the police also found a second set. When taken to forensics, they found out that, somehow, Richard’s fingerprints also made it onto the gun one last time. 43
Taking a Deeper Look at Lowell High School On Eucalyptus Dr. (a small street in San Francisco), there is a large community known as Lowell High School. This community is made up of many people, and everyone plays a designated role, whether you are a student, teacher, secretary, principal, janitor, etc. Something common around Lowell is pressure. Pressure exists in various forms around Lowell and is common among students. Students are constantly influenced by negative pressure, such as the pressure to do drugs, drink alcohol, and have sex. There is also positive pressure among Lowell students from their parents and teachers, such as getting good grades and being successful. Nevertheless, even this positive pressure leads to the stress of the students. Students are constantly under pressure to do what others think is best for them and often times do not get the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.
“Lost Forever” by Karen Etin It was Saturday night, about 8 p.m., and the city lit up as multicolored disco lights filled downtown San Francisco. This was a common time for many teenagers to be out with their friends but tonight, it was definitely not the case for Lily the Loner. She thought about how the only two people who were truly there for her, were her parents. Nobody else. Lily sat outside as grey clouds filled the sky and the heavy fog rolled in. Goosebumps that looked like mosquito bites covered her body as she reminisced on all the fun-filled days she had had with her boyfriend, who she missed ever so greatly. He was always there for Lily, until peer pressure stole that last bit of innocence from her. The feeling of nostalgia filled Lily and the same words kept crossing her mind, “We don’t belong together anymore.” It all started June 9th, 2002. “Bzzzzzzzzzz!” rang the school bell at Lowell High. It was the last day of school and summer had arrived. In the halls, students exclaimed, “SCHOOLS OUT!” and failing “A-“ papers were being thrown around everywhere. There was a great amount of chitchat amongst people discussing their plans for summer and how they were going to spend their 90 free days from school. The students at Lowell High School never thought this day would come. Everyone was discussing the parties they were going to have and how “screwed up” or “faded” they were going to get. Even the topic of sex was spreading amongst students like wildfire. “Oh my gosh Becky. Do you think Jason will want me this summer?” asked one student. “I don’t know Bridgette. If you don’t get him, he’s all mine!” exclaimed another. Lily was bothered by all these topics of discussion because she knew it was going to be just another long, boring summer. “So guys, can we like….do something fun this summer? Something new for a change?!”
“What do you want to do? Let’s go to an amusement park!” her boyfriend Michael replied. “No baby. Let’s do what everyone else is doing; go to crazy parties, get wasted, make love…you know the usual teenage things”. Michael, and Lily’s two friends, Julia and Miranda, looked at each other in awe. They didn’t know what to say or do and felt a bit uncomfortable. They wondered what was going on with Lily for she always seemed to be the childish one of the group. She was strictly the goodie two shoes. To ease the tension, Michael suggested they all go watch a romantic movie. Julia and Miranda agreed right away. “Are you too cool for that now Lily”? he asked. After some difficulty, Lily also agreed. The group set off and headed for the theatre. Inside the movie theatre, which smelled strongly of buttered popcorn, Michael and Lily sat next to each other. When a sex scene appeared on the screen, Lily turned to Michael and stared at him until she caught his attention. “Why are you staring at me? What’s wrong? Watch the movie….” he said. “Nothing”. She paused for a brief second and then asked, “When are we going to get to all that good stuff?” Michael was appalled by Lily’s behavior. What was she thinking? In response Michael shrugged his head questionably and continued watching the movie. Lily lay her hand on Michael’s leg and started leaning closer. She started to move her hand up Michael’s leg and climbed on top of him. Michael was so disgusted and ran out of the theatre. Lily ran after him while her two friends gossiped behind them. +++ “SHHHHH Miranda. You are so loud. Can’t you be a bit more cutty? Geez! I’m sure they can hear everything you’re saying!” whispered Julia. “My badizzle Julia. I will be quieter.” +++ Michael asked Lily what had gotten into her, and she simply replied, “I am a girl and girls just wanna have fun”. Michael did not know what to say to this. Lily was behaving obnoxiously and he was sick of it Lily turned to him and said, “I’m sorry Michael but I always hear girls at our school talk about how they have sex with their boyfriends and I feel so left out. When are we ever going to get to that? You are still nervous to kiss me! When I try to kiss you passionately you get disgusted. You make me feel like the leftovers from dinner that no one wants. Are you planning to lose your virginity to me? What’s the point of us being in this relationship if you’re going to keep it PG.? What if…” Michael couldn’t take it anymore. He cut Lily off, said “bye” to all the girls and left them at the theatre. The next day Michael stared blankly at his cell phone as the name “Lily” repeatedly appeared on the front screen. As much as Michael loved Lily, he didn’t know why she was starting to change and this kept him from accepting any of her calls. She sent him 36 text messages between 10:00 a.m. - 10:20 a.m. (each text
costing her $.15) but Michael continuingly did not want to have anything to do with Lily. Lily did not know what was going on so she called her girlfriends. Miranda told Lily, “Listen I’ve known Michael for eight years, since we were six. Michael and his last ex girlfriend (one of 23) broke up after a month because she was pressuring him to do what he did not want to do. He told her over and over he was not ready but being the skanky girl that she was, she tried to rush and pressure Michael , so they ended their relationship. If you do not want Michael to dump you like he dumped “Ms. Mybunsarehot”, you have to stop pressuring him to do what he is not ready to do. He will not conform like a moron until he is ready and that is the right thing for him to do Lily.” After 47 missed calls Michael finally answered his phone. You could hear the joy in Lily’s voice when she yelled, “Hey baby! Why weren’t you answering your phone sweetpea?” “Because I didn’t and still don’t want to talk to you. The only reason I answered my phone is because every time you called, you interrupted my game of “Tap Tap”. Do you have anything you need to say to me?” “Yes, I can see you are mad but I was calling to see if you wanted to come over. My parents are out of town and they have a nice, comfy bed we can relax in!” Michael couldn’t believe it. His face turned red. His hands started to shake. He wanted to scream so loud and let out his anger but instead he simply replied, “No thank you. We don’t belong together anymore”.
“Untitled” by Thomas Kroner “GET WET” exclaimed the excited teenaged boy leaning over the table preparing to take his shot. Splash! Into the cup went the ping-pong ball followed by cheers from the people watching. Two of those people watching were not in awe of the epic game of beer pong being played. They were petrified, worried of and shocked at the things that were happening around them. Cloe and Zoe had never been to a party where people took part in illegal activities. Drinking was never on their radar when they left for the party. The two girls were completely blindsided by what was about to take place. +++ “Hey what’s up?” Leila asked. She entered Cloe’s room which was adorned from top to bottom with posters and pictures of her favorite teen idols, as only a fifteen-year-old girl would have designed it. Zoe who had arrived a few minutes before Leila was sitting next to Cloe on her bed. “Not much,” replied the two girls on the bed. “So what to you guys want to do tonight?” asked Zoe. “Chad told me a lot of people are going to have a sort-of get together at Mike’s house” announced Leila, “Sounds like it could be kind of fun.” 46
“I don’t know,” answered Cloe, “I don’t really know too many people outside of our grade. Besides how would we get there? It’s hella far away from my house.” “Chad said he could pick us up, and drive us there.” “I doubt that my mom would be down with that.” “Don’t worry” Leila responded. “He can pick us up down the street if he has to.” “I don’t know about this” said Zoe. “Come on you guys it’ll be fun!” exclaimed Leila. Reluctantly both Cloe and Zoe agreed, but it was apparent that they were both very skeptical about the idea. They descended down the stairs and walked to the front door. “Where do you think your going” asked Cloe’s mother. “We’re just going out to see a movie” Leila was quick to lie to her mother. “Fine, be back before it gets to late, and be safe.” The three girls walked outside and down the dimly lit street for a couple of blocks. There Chad arrived in his old 1987 Toyota Camry. Cloe and Zoe weren’t sure whether to get in the car. Not only because they didn’t know what Leila meant by “a get together,” and they didn’t know whether the car was capable of getting to Mike’s house without falling apart. “Hey Leila” said Chad as she entered the front seat. “Hey Zoe, hey Cloe” he said as they entered the back seat. “Are you guys ready for tonight?” “I know I am” answered Leila almost immediately. “Ready for what” asked Cloe and Zoe. A nervous feeling began to set over them. What have they gotten themselves into? Chad looked questionably back at them using his rear-view mirror. He pressed the gas and the car moved out with a sound resembling Cloe’s sink’s garbage disposal with a spoon in it. The car left a cloud of exhaust fumes behind it. While Chad was driving he leaned over to Leila. “Wait, do they not know?” he whispered. “I’m not sure” responded Leila. “Have they ever before?” questioned Chad. “I don’t think so. But don’t worry about it; I’ll take care of them.” As the four of them entered Mike’s house, Cloe and Zoe realized the fears. They had entered a full blown keggar. Less then a minute after they arrived Leila had disappeared in to the mob of upper-classmen. Cloe and Zoe were now all alone; their only friend at the party had deserted them. A man they had never seen before came up to them with two cups of beer. They were now posed with the predicament either don’t drink and be called out my people at the party, or do drink and who knows what would happen. Since they had now way to get back home they chose to attempt to drink. Faces of disgust got placed on their faces; beer was the most disgusting thing either of them had ever tasted. The man who gave them the beer now was 47
roaming around looking for something else to do. So they decided to put their cups down and go sit down on the couch. “What are we going to do?” asked Cloe. “I don’t know; all I know is that I’m scared” proclaimed Zoe. “One thing’s for certain; were not getting back in a car with Chad” said Cloe. “Let’s just stick together until we figure out something to do” responded Zoe. The partiers set up a ping pong table with cups filled with beer and began to play beer-pong. Many people rushed over to the table to see games. Cloe and Zoe remained seated disgusted by everyone’s fascination with other people playing the drinking game. “Ill be right back, I’m going to go to the bathroom” Cloe told Zoe. “Don’t leave me.” “Do you really want to go with me while I pee, in a one stall bathroom?” “Fine, but be back as soon as possible.” “I will.” But when Cloe returned to where she and Zoe had been sitting Zoe was nowhere to be found. Cloe began to panic. Where cloud Zoe be? It was all her fault if anything ever happened to her. What should she do? Should she find Leila? No, Leila wouldn't be any help, she already left them once and she was probably drunk. Cloe did the only thing she could think of, she called her mom. She told her everything that had happened. Her mother told her to try to find Zoe and that she was on her way to pick her up. After twenty minutes of strenuous search efforts. Cloe found Zoe inside a closet hiding behind clothes. “Where’d you go!? Why’d you leave me!? Are you ok? “Ya I’m fine, that guy who tried to give us beer started hitting on me and I panicked. I didn’t know what to do.” “So you hid in the closet?” “Have any better ideas for what I should have done?” “Well whatever you scared me to death. I didn’t know what happened to you. My mom is on her way to pick us up.” They got into Cloe’s mom’s car. Not one word was spoken the whole drive home. Zoe was dropped of at her house. Cloe and her Mom returned home themselves. In the weeks following Cloe was grounded for lying about where she was going and was to never hang out with Leila again. She agreed to both without an argument. But Cloe’s mom was grateful that Cloe didn’t drink and told her what she got in to in time for her to come and get her. 48
“A Way to get Paid” by Ernest Marshall “Son get yo butt in this house now we gotta eat dinner,” Andre’s mom shouted out the window. “Mom I'll be up in a sec I’m taking care of some business,” Andre replied. “Boy don’t have me come out there please. It’s way too late to be out any way. Get yo ass up here before I come down and embarrass you,” she shouted again. “I’m coming ma damn,” he said under his breath. Andre doesn’t have it good in the least sort. His mother is a single woman trying to raise a child which means he has no solid father there to teach him wrong or right or put his foot down. Andre is going to a very high academic high school and is being threatened to be kicked out, for way too many absences. One of his biggest problems is he has been sucked in to the pressure of selling drugs and hanging out on the streets with his homies. “Yo Dre blood you tryin’ to smoke?” A friend shouted out from the hall not caring who heard him. “Nah dawg I don’t mess with that,” he argued back. “Brah don’t be a sucka,” he exclaimed. “Yeah whatever blood I’ll take a couple hits, but I’m not trying to get hella high,” he said. “Aite brah ima go get this dro…..” he said as his voice faded away. Making choices like these were Andre’s biggest problem. It’s been hard for Andre all his life not to fold under pressure; however he thinks he found a way to deal with all his problems through drugs. Andre Jones was born on September 5, 1991 to a young, single mother who was sixteen years old. His father walked out on his mother because he felt he wasn’t ready to raise a son. That’s how most young fathers react. “Phil I have something to tell you,” Gloria, Andre’s mother said very calmly. “What it is love?” Phil replied, wondering what was going on. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m pregnant,” she said with exclaim. “What?! How do you know?” He cried. “I’m late, and I took a test it was positive. What the hell do we do?” She said with no clue. “Man, I don’t even know. I can’t deal with this right now I’ll see you later,” he said while turning his back to her. “Phil we need to talk about this,” she said as she cried. However, he did not listen to anything she yelled out he just kept walking away. At that point she was stuck. All she could do was hope her parents would help her even though she had a feeling that they would not help. Its 9:00pm on September 5 ’91 and Gloria is laying on the hospital bed scream in pain, blood is everywhere, doctors and nurses are everywhere and the whole room is noise. It 49
was time, out comes the head slowly and bloody then the rest of his little body followed. “It’s a boy.” The doctor shouted “Oh my god, it’s finally out.” Gloria said with happiness and worry also. No one knew what would happen at this point, Gloria knew it wouldn’t be easy however she was going to fight through it. This was the start of a rough life. Growing up Andre never got anything he wanted. In elementary school all the kids would have on the new Jordan’s but Andre never had these things because Gloria was struggling to pay the rent. “Mom these new Jordan’s just came out, can I get them?” Andre asked with excitement. “Son, not these ones its rent time and I have to pay the rest of the bills.” Gloria explained. “Mom it’s always rent time.” He said with the excitement completely gone. “Yeah I know times are hard, you’ll have to understand as you get older.” She explained disappointed she cannot give her son all that he wants. “I’m sorry I even asked.” He said with attitude. “Don’t give me that, you know if I had it you would get it so just be patient.” She yelled. ***
Andre has been patient for many years but everything he wanted never came. Andre is a really smart young man, who gets into a very high academic ranking school in the. When he started high school he averaged a 3.5 grade point average all the way until junior year where it got tough. Junior year is when he started to skip school to hang out with his boys, he figured hanging out would take the stress of school of his back. “Ay dawn I’m not trying to be at school today,” Andre said with a smirk. “Brah I was thinkin’ that same thing,” Nate, his closest friend replied. “What we ‘bout to do instead,” Andre curiously asked. “Dawg I’m tryin’ to be on. You with me?” Nate asked knowing Andre doesn’t smoke. “Nah blood you know I’m really just cool of that,” Andre replied showing no interest. “Well ima blow later by myself. Let’s sit at my house and contemplate what we gone do, moms at work,” Nate said with a deep intellectual voice. “Look at brah trying to sound all smart.” Andre said with a smile. “Yeah homie you like my newly found knowledge huh?” Nate asked while laughing his guts out. They both laughed as they were walking to Nate’s house. They weren’t worried at all that they were cutting school, it has become such a habit that they just don’t think they have school. When they got to Nate’s house he grabbed the key from under the door mat and let them both in. Nate’s house looked like it was built in the early 1900’s the walls were cracked, the curtains were solid yellow and
all the furniture was all oak, no stainless steel in sight like most new houses have. Anyway, when they walked in Nate’s room they both sat down Andre always likes to go in Nate’s room because he has posters to cover every inch of his wall. From hip-hop artist, to rock and roll artist. “Kid kid, you got something to eat?” Andre asked starving. “Yeah, um it should be some bagels in the cabinet in the kitchen,” Nate offered. “Oh and blood don’t eat all my food, and hurry up I got something to show you,” he yelled right after. When Andre got to the kitchen he opened every cabinet until he found the bagels. Finally, he found them it was the last one and he decided to eat it. So he took the bagel out of the bag and opened the garbage can to throw the bag away. “Damn,” he said, “this shit stinks.” “Blood you need to take this garbage out” Andre screamed. No reply. “Ay brah where you at?” Andre called. Still no answer. Andre walked back to the room slowly. As if he were a little kid waiting to get punished by his mother. As he is walking back to the room he is thinking ‘why isn’t brah answering me.’ He got back to the room, opened the door, “Ay freeze lil’ homie, turn around!” a voice yelled at Andre, it was Nate in a ski mask jumping from behind the door carrying a huge cannon .45 caliber. Andre was totally unaware it was Nate playing a game with him. “Come on man, I aint got nothing for you,” Andre cried. “I just want you to drop,” Nate yelled in a deep incognito voice. Andre boldly turns around and notices Nate body structure. “Dawg, you really gone play me like that? I almost shit in my pants,” Andre said relieved he wasn’t really being robbed. “Yeah blood that’s how I roll. Ay I heard you was trying to get paid so I’m trying to help you out,” Nate said like an eager agent trying to get clients. “Aite man im ready to do anything. I’m tired of being broke. My palms itches,” Andre said eager to hear his homies plans. “So all you gotta do is push this dro for me and see how you like it,” Nate said with a CEO type of attitude. “Aite how much you gone give me?” Andre asked.’ “Ima start you with 3 pounds,” he said with a smirk. “What?! For real blood?” Andre asked so amazed. “Yeah I’m not playing go pick it up from this address. And please don’t mess me over you my homie and everything but I don’t wanna pill your cap back,” Nate said with a laugh in the back of his voice but Andre knew he wasn’t kidding. Andre had to be home soon and left Nate’s house. They exchanged fives and as Andre walked out Nate said, “make sure you take care of that business for me.” Ander didn’t reply with words he was still overwhelmed, he simply just gave his
friend a head nod and walk off. Andre walked down the street staring at this piece of paper with nothing else on his mind, he didn’t look up once. As Andre walked down the street he bumped into body after body without notice. Andre doesn’t know if he is making the right choices as of now but he needs money bad. When Andre got to the address it was pitch black outside. Andre felt like he was walking with his eyes closed but he noticed a huge fence with a “beware dog” sign, then suddenly a dog jumped out of nowhere and started attacking the fence malicious. “Oh shit” Andre said as he leaped back almost falling on his back. “Ay man what you need,” a dark voice shouted from a distance. “I’m Andre I’m here ‘cause Nate sent me,” he said innocently. “Aite, come to the back he called me and told me you were coming,” the voice shouted with a stern tone. “Ok,” he replied. *** This began a whole new era for Andre. His first transaction was in school and he felt so good afterwards, to make money as easy as turning the faucet to cold. It felt good to have your own way of making money quick and easy. However, what Andre doesn’t know yet is that fast money doesn’t last long you have to pace it. Andre still learned all the rules from Nate, the most important rule that stuck out to Andre was: never show what you have or how much you have. It was simply because people start to envy you so much that they’ll do anything to see you fall. Andre didn’t dress flashy he just made sure he was clean, had no jewelry or any type of gold just kept it simple with two earrings. Nate took a trip over to Andre’s house wondering where he has been. “Ay how you been Dre I haven’t seen you in a while,” Nate asked. “I’ve just been trying to get paid, it’s been going coo so far,” Andre replied. “Man, I heard you got kicked outta school. What’s sup with that?” Nate asked wondering. “Nah I didn’t get kicked out yet. They sending all these letters to my house, constantly stressin’ my mom out. They say I got to many absences,” he said defending his case. “Yeah dawg I’ve been meaning to talk to you about this whole sellin’ dope thang. I just quit recently because I’m taking this real interesting class called psychology. I felt like I had to stop before I got in too deep ya feel me?” he preached. “I thought you were all about making money?” he asked “I am but now I’m all about making money in a legit way, the way that would keep my mom happy and the way ill know I can enjoy life without it being cut short,” he preached more. “Whoa, for real you not pushing no more?” he asked wondering if this was real. “Only thing I’m pushin’ now is a pen to a paper,” he said with a huge smile. “Damn,” Andre was stuck.
*** Nate gave Andre so much to think about. This is the same guy that started Andre off with his first bag, and now he is quitting the game. Andre is thinking hard about this because he really doesn’t want to stress his mother out any longer. He loves his mom more than anything. He wants her to be happy, and the only way Andre is going to make her happy is if he gets his education and goes to college. These thoughts raised a lot of questions for Andre. “Can I really give this lifestyle up?” “Will I be able to make up all the work I missed?” Andre found all his answers out by talking with Nate. “Nate I’ve been thinking about what you said to me last week,” Andre said with all seriousness. “Oh yeah? How are you feeling now?” he asked. “I feel good man I went to class all this week, got an A on my chem test. I showed my mom and dawg she was real happy it touched me for real,” Andre said with gratefulness filling his voice. “Yeah I know how that feels. You just gotta keep doing good. I’m glad nothing happened to you brah, ‘cause usually there are only two options for a drug dealer. Either in jail or dead,” he stated. “Yeah and I avoided both, lucky me,” Andre said with relief. Andre knew the right thing was to give up selling weed and go back to school and get an education, that’s the only way. However, selling drugs wasn’t completely bad for Andre he was able to pay for college easy with the $100,000 he had in the bank. After he graduated he had to go to a community college to make up for what he missed in high school, then after he transferred to USC and majored in psychology. Andre has never seen his mother smile so hard, his mother always told him, “good things happen to good people son.”
Lack of Performance Spaces in the DIY All-Ages Music Community Although this zine comes out of my work as a teacher, I am also a member of a community of DIY (do-it-yourself) artists and musicians—this community greatly inspires my teaching practice (which I view as simply another art form). I decided to use a more expository form of writing to address the lack of access to spaces for all ages music to be performed in. Most spaces are either 21+ (bars), require huge rental fees (which under-the-radar performers simply can't afford), or are constantly in danger of being shut down, either through lack of funding or their illegitimate nature. In the San Francisco Bay Area, increasingly tough restrictions on “nightclubs” are making it difficult for small nonprofit venues, such as Artist's Television Access in San Francisco or 21 Grand in downtown Oakland, to continue to support the local music community. If we do not promote the arts as a viable outlet for young people, I strongly believe that we will suffer from a great loss of community in the future.
“Why All Ages Shows Are Important” by Jessalyn Aaland
When I was a teenager growing up in the stucco desert exurbs of Los Angeles, I would regularly bemoan the lack of places to attend shows. I yearned for the day I would have access to unlimited live music—nevermind the fact that I mostly wanted to jerk my elbows around to a bunch of floppy middle aged dudes blasting on trombones, an interest which still makes me cringe with a twinge of embarrassment even to this day. Not being cool enough to be into actual punk, I would console myself with my lack of show access by pouring out my frustration into harmonizing along with my favorite songs in my tropical-themed teenage bedroom. My mantra became local ska-punk band Save Ferris' line, “It sucks to be under 21.” Since this was the 90's, I was stuck with mostly hanging out at Los Angeles' skeezy commercial joints like the Roxy or the Whiskey Au-Go-Go, which fail to match even the most mediocre hardcore show at a place like the Smell. Growing up in the suburbs, I didn't have the cultural awareness to find out about the DIY music community until I was in college. However, my teenaged interest in dorky modrudeboy wannabes playing rehashed Jamaican hits, and the minimal opportunities I did have to participate in any sort of music community, is what led me to now appreciate music across the spectrum, from academic microtonal music to free jazz to harsh noise to highlife, and anything beyond and in-between. Access to a local music community, in whatever form it took (and I'll admit it involved computers, but since it was the pre-Myspace/AIM era, we had to resort to Usenet and IRC), not only gave me more overall cultural awareness, it shaped the path of my adult life profoundly. My interest in music led to me becoming a college radio DJ, which led to me volunteering at a DIY worker's co-op venue—the Che Cafe in La Jolla, CA. It is here that I learned how to set up shows and cook a lot of food
for a lot of people quickly, met all of my now oldest and closest friends, become aware of the world around me in a post-political sense, learned how to communicate clearly and openly with other people, and indirectly, led to my decision to become a teacher. In fact, I think—I know—much of my strengths as a teacher stem from my work with others in the DIY music community. First, I never would have considered becoming a teacher if it weren't for those I knew in the music community who urged me to become a substitute. It's the perfect job for a musician or an artist—if you need to take a month off to go on tour or do an artist residency, no big deal. You just don't accept any jobs for a month. Then you have the whole summer off thing as well. It certainly beats scrambling around for temp work or schlepping from one low-paid coffee shop job to another. After a few years of subbing, I realized I wanted to be in the classroom fulltime, first as a librarian, now as an English teacher. Working with a group of complex young people who I get to know as individuals, helping to develop their critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, and helping them learn how to be good community members is probably the most effective way anyone can create social change. Plus, I get to be constantly refining my craft as I gain deeper understandings about how to teach it to others. Having access to culture, and being united with a community of others who share my cultural interests, unfortunately, does not happen for everyone—or perhaps most people for that matter. I am lucky to have had that privilege. Today we live in a society which is highly individualistic—each person trying to elbow another out of the way to gain a small step toward some sort of monetary gain. Mostly, though, what we seem to forget about in this future age of instant digital communication, where people who found out about the internet last week are sending out info blasts regarding their jogging routines via Twitter, is how to have real open and honest communication with one another. This ability is one which must be nurtured and aged over a long period of time. Being part of a strong community helps teach us that—I know it has taught me that at least. If we fail to provide opportunities for young people to build community around the cultures they are interested in, whether that community is a group of high-achieving bookworms who hang out at the public library or a bunch of teenagers who want to have LAN parties in their living rooms, we cannot expect them to grow up to become adults who have a vested interest in the communities around them. As adults, it is our responsibility to instill a love for and responsibility to the communities they belong to—whatever those communities may be. That is the only way we are going to make any type of difference in a future which inevitably does not belong to us anyway.
For more info on all ages shows, check out these two websites: clubsandwichbayarea.com allagesmovementproject.org 55
“Chinese-American” by Jenny, Midori, Matthew, and Edward Learn to suck up Be successful Get good grades Tuck your shirt in your pants Support your parents when you're older Help parents translate Respect your parents Make lots of money Wear a belt Have good manners Eat every last grain of rice “Filipino-American” by Abigail, Dino, Edmund, and Matt Respect elders. Education is important. Go to church on Sundays, pray to God. Expectations. Pancit. Rice. Lumpia. Wipe feet before coming inside house. Don't interrupt soap operas/never change the channel. Never turn down food when offered. Always “greet” family when you see them. “Latino Teenager” All are “beaners” get good grades in school high school drop-outs go to college and get a good job girls getting pregnant, guys in gangs “take advantage that we have an education” we speak bad English if you go to the Mission you get shot. Family is important.