Life Academy Perspectives: On Violence and Building Peace

By: Yuvitza Rivera, Sophomore

To listen to the audio: Peace is a Verb

Peace is a Verb

Peace has become a word empty of action. We say it, and we believe in it, but we don’t know how or even try to make it happen.

 In a city where violence is a regular occurrence to which many have become numb, my school has ventured to challenge the normalized indifference of its community.

Last November and December, Life Academy was a victim of violence. Once again, the streets of Oakland claimed the lives of a former student and a current student’s five-year-old brother. The community was devastated; students and teachers got to work creating colorful altars for their lost loved ones. Students crowded around the altars during passing periods, and their tear-stained faces showed their grief.

The ones left behind after acts of violence – the true victims – are often voiceless, scared, and hopeless, but not at my school.

In response to the violence that had affected our community, a group of students and teachers decided to react. We commenced a Season of Peace-Building. Our movement is unique because it does not seek to stop all violence, but rather aims to build peace over the course of 74 days. Our movement is built on two components: sacrifice and commitment. We show our sacrifice by fasting, and we show our commitment by signing a “Peace Pledge” and reflecting.

Wanting to be a part of this movement, I took the opportunity to revise and publicize the reflections of the fasters.  This movement has really given me a whole new perspective on what change can look like. Change is not about just wanting something to happen, it is about action: taking small steps to create a big change.

Through these reflections, I have learned how deeply my peers long for peace. This new awareness has led me to commit time and hard work into coming everyday to school to read and revise reflections. I have sacrificed time and sleep with the belief that with every reflection I post, someone out there is reading it and becoming motivated to take action for peace and change.

When you refuse to be a victim and you make conscious steps toward trying to change the violence that is affecting you, then peace becomes a verb.

With a Perspective, I am Yuvitza Rivera

_______________________________________________________________________________

 By: Medardo Gaytan, Sophomore

To listen to the audio: It’s Just Oakland

 “It’s just Oakland”

Bang Bang! “It’s just Oakland” that’s what everyone says. As the violence progresses, the youth in our city are turning into the prey of these crimes. The year has barely started and we already have kids that were at the wrong place at the wrong time, gone.

Those future doctors, thinkers, presidents, curers of cancer, they’re all gone. More and more kids are getting used to big hooded sweaters with the words R.I.P. on them and images of the most recently deceased. They may be stylish but that shouldn’t be a new fad that we get used to any time soon. I have been to funerals, I have seen tears shed for babies that parents will never get back, and I myself have cried for friends I will not see on this earth again.

On my street, Seminary, it is instinct to just drop to the ground and only afterwards check that every one is okay. There have been bullets that have made it past the walls of my home, all the way to the side of my sister’s bed. One even lodged inside our T.V. It has become standard for cops to come at the crime scene– our home– looking for the evidence, following the path the stray bullets could have taken with the beams of their flashlights.

It’s a pretty stupid thing that people are so accustomed to this idea that Oakland is not a place to play around, a place where you have to watch your back all the time  or carry a gun is the only way to feel safe.

Guns only bring more problems as we have seen stray bullets found in innocent kids. In Oakland, it seems anyone can get a hold of a gun. Kids killing kids, mother’s praying their kids will walk home safe, friends lost, hearts in pain, big hooded sweaters … and all we have to say is “that’s just Oakland”?

Well it may be just Oakland, but Oakland is our home. Instead of these apathetic words why can’t we start saying, “Not in Oakland!”

With a perspective I’m Medardo Gaytan.

_______________________________________________________________________________

By: Edgar Martinez, Sophomore

To listen to the audio: Un-Cozy Night

Un-Cozy Night

Remember when you believed in Santa Claus? When the world was filled with superheroes like Batman, Robin, Superman, and Spiderman? Well those youthful fantasies end when something horrific happens.

I was sleeping in my cozy, warm bed wearing my favorite 10-year old guitar hero pajamas. My little brother was sleeping on his bed, snoring like always. I was wrapped in my blankets like a little burrito when all of a sudden, I heard movement outside my house. It woke me up but I managed to get any negative thoughts out of my head. After a few more minutes passed I heard garbage cans moving. I felt my blood flow to my head very quickly. I heard something crash onto a fence. I got up and went into my parent’s room. From there, my heart continued beating wildly as I saw a group of men trying to jump over the fence to our house. My feet turned cold and my blood flow even colder. Both my mom and I ran into my room. With shaky hands, I helped my mom call the police department. As we were doing this, I heard a window slide up and my dad yell as fiercely as he could, “Get off our property or I will call the police!” I visualized my dad being shot right on the spot for his comment, but luckily, no shots rang out. The pounding on the door was loud like a hammer -Boom-Boom-! But my mom had managed to call the police and with her limited English, report what had happened. Relieved, I tried to return to bed and regain the coziness I had had before.

This experience is commonplace in Oakland, where being snapped out of our childhoods early is normal. We find ourselves growing up pre-maturely when we should be enjoying our thoughts of superheroes and our full bellies from a warm dinner. It is hard for children to act like the children they are when violence haunts them.

With a perspective, I am Edgar Martinez.

Edited By: Annie Hatch, 10th Grade Humanities Teacher

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