Articles by Katrina Davis

Katrina Davis

About Katrina Davis
Katrina Davis is a photographer who also enjoys reading various gossip blogs and hanging out with good friends. “I’m also a comic genius.”

PHOTOS: Congratulations, graduates!

Congratulations to all of our East Oakland 2012-2013 correspondents. We were thrilled to celebrate your hard work, and your commitment to your city, at our graduation last month.

The Oakland Tribune, The Maynard Institute, and your site director Christopher Johnson wish you all nothing but the best as you continue to tell the stories of your communities. Oakland needs you.

Photos: Katrina Davis

For my father: the places a dresser drawer can take you

By Katrina Davis

I can’t find my social security card, which sucks because I’m moving and I really really need it. My dad keeps everything important I own in his possession because we both know I’ll end up losing it. As I’m looking through his drawer to find it, I find one of the first things I can remember he kept for me so I wouldn’t lose it, my savings book.

momdadbroWhen I was 16, my father took my sister and I to the bank to open up our first savings accounts. He didn’t allow us to get a debit cards because he wanted to make sure whatever we were going to buy was important enough to have to stand in line at the bank for, and that way we wouldn’t squander away our small fortunes.

Normally I would just save myself the trouble and wait for my father to come home, ask him where it is, and wait for him to find it for me. I can’t today. And I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to ask him for it and get an answer. Last Tuesday morning my father had a stroke, leaving him paralyzed on one side, and unable to speak.

Yesterday was his first day at rehab. It was a good day, he showed progress. My father is a strong man, and I know in my heart that he will recover, but there are days that I can’t see that far.

Days like today where I just lay on his side of the bed he shares with my mother, and cry as I stare blankly at a picture of us together on his wall.

Looking around the house, and in his drawer, I keep finding things that remind me of him. A picture on the wall of him and I on a spur of the moment trip to Tijuana for a few hours. A picture of my sister with him, both smiling as he shows off a massive catfish he’s holding up for me as I take the picture at one of our favorite camping spots we’ve gone since I was a toddler.Dadinnam

And then there’s his treasured Obama special collection plate on our mantle over the fireplace in our living room. He once hid it when he and my mother left town because he couldn’t trust that my sister and I wouldn’t some how find a way to accidentally break it.

In front of our house sits one of his most prized possessions, a yellow convertible Mustang. On one of my visits to his hospital room, my sister sat looking at my father sadly, because she wasn’t sure if he could understand what we were saying to him or not.

It seemed that he was giving a thumbs up to everything we said, assuming what we were saying to be good things. My Uncle’s girlfriend A’Setta said to me, “Why don’t you ask him a yes or no question?” I decided to ask a question I knew would be a definite “no.”

“Dad, can I drive your Mustang?” He gave me a look that we all know to be his “Yea, I don’t think so” look. I decided I’d take it as a yes anyway.

Back to his drawer, looking for my social security, I find pictures, and anything else I’m not looking for, but at the same time pleasantly surprised to find. A write up of me in a newspaper during my softball glory days in high school, that he’s undoubtedly had in his drawer for a little under a decade now. An adorable little girl (of course I’m describing myself), standing next to her twin sister, making a funny face for the camera.

img056An itinerary for my Cousin N’Woah’s high school graduation. A picture of my sister, my cousin Net, and I on a softball team we played for when we were very young. And then the picture of my little younger cousin Mangaliso. My Aunt Diane is holding her up so my sister, who was a baby at the time, can kiss her on the mouth. I can’t help but think how socially unacceptable that picture would be if it were taken of us today.

Winston Callender Might Still be Alive if Things Were Different

Judith Jones, stands with photos of her late son by their Christmas tree. Photo: Katrina Davis/Oakland Voices

By Katrina Davis

Judith Jones points to a photo on her wall. It’s one of dozens – part of a collage filled with images of her son Winston Callender, his friends, and family. The one she’s smiling about is a picture of a young Winston, posing with two friends, all wearing wigs and big smiles.

It was taken when a friend of Judith’s decided she was going to play a trick on her uncle’s wife by dressing up as a strange woman and introducing herself to the wife. Judith says her son had to be part of the fun.

“Winston was like, ‘I wanna dress up!’,” she remembers, smiling. Then he decided to take it a step further – walking out into the street in full drag, and stopping traffic.“He would just do things to make you laugh.”

His sister Chanelle is chuckling, thinking about her brother’s antics. “He would put on my clothes, knowing they were too small!”

There are many great memories of Winston. In between memories of good times, there is always the realization that Winston is no longer here. Those are the moments Judith begins to cry.

“I’ve been crying about Winston all day,” Judith says. “All night, all day.” She has been in mourning for months – ever since her son died last October.

Almost 2 years ago, he was shot by two men on High St. Winston was left paralyzed from the waist down. He spent the next 18 months at Highland Hospital, as doctors struggled to fix intestinal wounds they ultimately could not.

Today, Winston’s family is still struggling to heal from the loss of a young man who meant so many things to each of them. “Winston was loving, caring, comical,” Judith remembers. He was “generous. He was a good person, he had a good heart. He never ceased to amaze me. Most of all he was my baby.”

Blanca Callender, his widow, lost her greatest advocate. ”He always wanted to see me succeed. He was my motivator, my supporter, my personal chef. He just lifted my spirits whenever I was down.”

Chanelle is quiet when she talks about Winston around Judith. Chanelle wants to not break down, to be strong for her mother, to protect her. It’s what Chanelle and her brother always did. They looked out for their mother, and for each other. “Winston was a father figure to me,” Chanelle says, remembering her brother as a spiritual person, and a poet who wrote about poverty, struggle, and his family.

As all three women sit and reflect on the joyful times they had with Winston, and who he was to them, Judith gets more serious as she talks about Winston as a young boy. Early on, she saw her son headed down a difficult road.

“He was very impulsive, and destructive,” says Judith.

Winston’s wife, Blanca Callender (left), and his mother, Judith Jones, releasing a balloon and dove in his honor. Photo: Katrina Davis/Oakland Voices

When Winston was a boy, Judith started noticing his mental health and learning issues. When she asked his teachers for tutors, and approached doctors to evaluate her son, they all said that nothing was wrong, that he was simply being a boy and that he’d grow out of it. But unfortunately as he became older, his episodes were more and more frequent.

Even though she couldn’t get an official diagnosis, Judith could tell that her son was struggling with mental illness. She knew, the way a mother just knows her child. And she feels that those challenges helped lead him to a destructive life on the streets.

 When he was 16, Winston was on a corner on 23rd Ave. when Judith happened to drive by. She asked him what he was doing there. He said he was working for a liquor store. Knowing Winston was being untruthful, she told him to get in the car. Later she learned that he was working for drug dealers.

Judith was desperate for help. She wanted her son off the streets, and in a program to address his mental illness. But she still hadn’t received a diagnosis for him.

She went to Child Protective Services and his doctors, but she was told nothing could be done for him unless he was a ward of the court – meaning he had to break the law to be helped.

Fortunately, Judith was connected through a friend to an organization called Access, where Winston was able to finally receive a psychiatric evaluation. He was diagnosed with several problems, including attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Even though he was finally diagnosed, Judith feels it came too late. “He became another statistic. Winston fell through the cracks because nobody cared except me.” Winston, having stigmas about his disorders, would constantly fight with his mother about receiving treatment.

Chanelle feels her brother had another major struggle – one that lead him to hanging out on the corners. She says her brother also had the issue of not having a father figure in his life.

Living with his mother, who was a single a parent, Winston looked for a father figure among his peers, Chanelle explains.

Winston Callender, 29, lies in his casket as it’s being closed. Photo: Katrina Davis/Oakland Voices

Judith agrees. “These young boys are trying to teach each other how to be men. And they don’t know how to be.”

Winston didn’t have his father around, but that didn’t stop him from being a loving, caring father to his own children. Blanca, Judy and Chanelle all say that Winston was a fun-loving but stern parent. He seemed committed to giving his children the kind of paternal attention he grew up wanting.

Lacking that guidance, Winston felt vulnerable. ”I feel that the world got a hold of him,” Chanelle says. “Because he was dedicated to his friends, and his friends were in the streets.”

That loyalty led Winston to somewhere he didn’t have to be: out on the street, around criminal activity. That’s where he became a target.

Winston survived the shooting, and his family was hopeful that he would recover and come home. Judith, Chanelle and Blanca would stop by to see him at the hospital. They would push him outside in his wheelchair so he could get some fresh air.

During one of her visits, Judith asked her son why he never listened to her when she warned him of the dangers of hanging with the wrong crowd and being in the wrong place. She posed the question lightly, gently. She said she was trying to understand what he was going through, but she didn’t.

Winston, sitting in his wheelchair, smirked and simply replied, “Because, you’re not a man.”

Winston endured multiple surgeries to fix his damaged intestines, only to have more problems arise, making his recovery difficult. He stayed in the hospital for nearly 2 years, only to be told after his final surgery that there was nothing more they could do. He was discharged to spend his final days with his family.

Upon hearing the news of his certain passing, Winston was still determined to see his last birthday. On the day he turned 29, he was discharged from the hospital. Blanca sat beside him in the ambulance ride home.

He was greeted at home by friends, family, and a birthday cake that he wasn’t able to eat because his wounds wouldn’t allow him to maintain any type of food.

5 days later, Winston passed away surrounded by his family, in his mother’s Fremont home. Judith still hasn’t been able to bring herself to throw away his cake.

Friends & Family carry Winston to his final resting place. Photo: Katrina Davis/Oakland Voices

“I talk to him when I’m walking, I talk to him every day out loud. I just, it’s not the same.” Chanelle says of life now that’s Winston’s passed.

Blanca says that it’s hard losing the only person who cared about her feelings and thought she was special. “I can die happy because I know who’s going to be there to meet me, and it’ll be Winston. Dying to me isn’t so scary anymore.”

“I’m not happy,” says Judith. She also says she’s not the same person ever since Winston was shot. And that she never will be.

Maybe if Winston would’ve received the help his mother asked for earlier on in his life, maybe if Winston would’ve had a strong male figure in his life, things would’ve been different for him.

A mother might still have her son, a daughter her brother, a wife her husband, and two young children, their father.

PHOTOS: BART Life

Photos & Story By Katrina Davis

BART is usually seen as just a way to get around the Bay Area. You get on, put your ticket in (or swipe your Clipper card), take a ride and, bam! you’re on your way.

But BART can also be a break. A mini-vacation from whatever is going on in your day. A moment to sit down and breathe. It can even be a source of entertainment depending on who you’re riding with. And with the beautiful scenery of the Bay’s cities and towns – some feeling just like the countryside - BART is a way to get away, and have a moment for yourself, while also dropping you off promptly for your daily grind.

 

PHOTOS: Health of the Hood – Maxwell Park

Story & Photos By Katrina Davis

The things that make Maxwell Park unhealthy are few and far between, but there nonetheless. Recently a store promoting lower prices replaced a grocery store on MacArthur. Even though the prices are better, the quality of the food has also gone down.Sometimes if you aren’t careful you can pick up a batch of moldy strawberries, or in my case a slab of moldy cheese.

There’s also debris that can be found sometimes. It can range from small pieces of trash, or big things like mattresses, TV sets, dressers and other cast offs that people have decided they no longer want in their homes. The big debris can sometimes block the street and create a hazard for people walking around.

In nearby neighborhoods there are a few bars where every so often you can see people fighting out front. And there are fast food restaurants that serve unhealthy food.

 Another issue that my neighborhood has are stray animals. There are a lot of feral cats, and sometimes the more intimidating stray dogs walking unattended through the neighborhood. Unfortunately, with stray animals comes animal waste on the sidewalks and sometimes in yards.

In my neighborhood, and nearby neighborhoods, there are many things that you can find that keep it healthy. One of my favorite things about my neighborhood is that we continue to implement modern practices that help to keep the neighborhood thriving and up to date, while at the same time still practicing the old school methods of being a close knit community through different events throughout the year. Events like street festivals and community art shows.

A big thing I’ve noticed is the installment of bike routes and how more and more people are utilizing them. Which in turn helps people exercise and cuts air pollution.

We also have various mom and pop markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables, construction workers that continue to make much needed improvements to our streets, and a Yahoo! Group that keeps neighbors updated on things happening in the  in the area. It’s practically a cyber neighborhood watch. The group is also a space for people to share their opinions on  different things going on in Oakland.

There are the different types of gyms throughout the street. Having all these things in the same community helps to keep things close knit and continue to make the neighborhood a healthier place to live.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East Oakland Poet ‘Bossman’ Puts in Work to Heal, Teach

Spoken Word Artist/Musician Dre Johnson, aka Duke the Bossman. Photo: Katrina Davis

By Katrina Davis

“My name is Dre, aka Duke the Bossman – MC, host, artist, educator.” Just a few of the ways East Oakland spoken word poet Dre Johnson describes himself.

However, for the sake of this piece and your sanity, I will refer to him by just his first name, Dre.

The 25-year old first started with spoken word when he was a freshman in high school. Through a writing workshop he attended, he met the host of Tourettes Without Regrets, an underground performance art show in Oakland.

“It was bananas,” says Dre, remembering the first time he saw the show. TWT inspired Dre to keep going with spoken word. Since then, he has performed around the United States.

Dre says his work is “centered around mostly real life and real life experiences.” Dre says he likes to “let my poetry be as real as my life is.”

Most of Dre’s work is inspired by his experiences living in East Oakland.” There’s a lot of my poems that are about friends and family members that have been murdered and being able to speak about it like that helps me heal those wounds.”

One of Dre’s poems is about the murder of 3 of his friends. Two of them were killed just a day a part from each other. In the poem he writes how he and others around him “saw red” for the next 2 days after.

Dre performing his host duties during the Berkeley Slam at the Starry Plough Pub in Berkeley. Photo: Katrina Davis

“We became demons,” the poem goes, “plighting to perpetuate a cycle older than we.”

After their deaths, Dre says he saw himself “turn into this fucking monster, ready to get revenge and just do whatever. And I just can’t talk about that conversation, but in the poem it’s like, ‘Yeah I think about that shit, too.’”

Growing up in East Oakland, he says, “the violence and crimes that go on, you don’t talk about. You’re just not supposed to name names, you’re not supposed to say shit out loud.” Dre says his art allowed him to express his feelings about “how the shit went down.” Poetry became one of the few ways he saw to address some hard experiences.

“I just shed all my fear about what anybody thought about how I felt,” Dre says of his decision to step on stage and share his work. “Every show that I’ve ever performed at across the entire country, there will at least be one person in the audience to come up to me and and be like, ‘Yo, thank you for sharing,’ and that ‘I feel the exact same way,’ and that’s really all I care about.”

Dre says that spoken word is a way to explore different kinds of poetry, and he’s taught himself a lot about the art form. Through his non-profit Digital Storytellers, he’s been able to educate youth in various schools, empowering them to “speak their minds in an articulate way,” particularly with their elders and peers.

“Discovering your voice,” Dre says, “just allows you to be able to vocalize your feelings about stuff instead of holding it inside until it just boils over into something disgustingly ugly or violent.”

Digital Storytellers currently serves Richmond High, Skyline High in Oakland, and Hayward High, as well as the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy in San Francisco.

You can catch Dre, aka Duke the Bossman – spoken word artist, mc, host, and educator –  performing around the Bay Area.

 

Single Mothers Build Careers & Family, Defying Stereotypes

 

 

 

With a graduate degree and a great job on the horizon, Candase Chambers (here with her son Kyle) is challenging many stereotypes about single mothers. Photo: Katrina Davis, Oakland Voices 2012

By Katrina Davis

Being a single mother can seem overwhelming. Having stereotypes defining who you should be might make you feel that there is nothing more for you than the life society says you  will have. In the latest Census, data showed that single mother families are 4 times more likely to be impoverished than families of a two parent household.

Candase, Ashley, and Tina are all single mothers. They are all college graduates who learned that just because they are a single parent doesn’t mean they can’t can’t reach their goals and keep pushing to have a better quality of life for themselves and their families.

“I think the stereotype of the single mom is that you’re angry, you’re a gold digger and that you’re trying to live off of the father of your child,” says Candase Chambers. Candase is 25 and she recently earned a Master’s in Communications from the Academy of Art, and prior to that, a BA from UC-Berkeley.

Candase and I sit down to talk as she’s making sure she has everything ready for her move to LA. She’s recently accepted a job offer to work for E! News. Her adorable 1 year-old son Kyle is playing with his toys in the corner.

Candase says she feels like she has to work hard to dispel the myth that single mothers are angry women that are trying to live off their babies’ fathers.

“Growing up,  there was just a negative connotation with being a single mom, and now that I am one, I’m not that stereotype. I feel like I have to work hard to dispel (the stereotype) for myself (as well), because when you meet new people the first thing people do is look at your ring finger and see you aren’t married.”

Candase states that being a single mother isn’t something she planned on. But when it happened, she said she just have to keep moving.

Even though Candase and Kyle are eager to start their new  lives in LA – and Candase couldn’t be more excited about her new dream job – she  also knows the change will come with some hardships. “If I was married, it would be like ‘Oh can you pick him up from school?,’ or ‘Can you give him a bath while I go do this?’ Everything is me. But at the same time, that just comes with it, so I don’t want to complain about it. When you’re a parent you just have to do stuff like that.”

Ashley Chambers. Photo: Katrina Davis, Oakland Voices 2012

Candase isn’t the only woman in her family to have a child at a young age. In fact, Candase’s older sister Ashley had her daughter Genesis at the age of 14. “I think the stereotype is, especially if you have a baby at a young age like I did, that you either won’t graduate, you’ll just get your GED, or you’ll have more babies which will be more of a hardship for you.”

Ashley says that having her daughter at such a young age actually had the opposite effect. She was motivated to show society she wasn’t just another statistic. “I think society has done a good job at perpetuating the whole stereotype that single moms are just going to become dependent on society and government aid.”

Ashley says that being a pastor’s daughter already placed upon her an expectation to achieve. Although she admits that becoming pregnant at such an early age did show some naivety, she says it  motivated her  to show society that she was smarter than many people may have assumed.

“I knew people were going to judge me,” Ashley explains, “and it kind of helped me hold my head up when I achieved greater things for myself and my daughters.  So I can show her that despite whatever hardships you go through, you can still achieve a lot of great things.”

Even though she was a single parent at a young age, she was still able to graduate college and provide for her daughter. She says this was one of the great things she has accomplished as a single mother.

Tina Howerton is a single mother who volunteers as a peer advocate for Lifetime, an organization that specializes in helping low income single parents founded by single mothers. She says that there are many type of single mothers.  “Now you’re finding  single moms that have a degree, that maybe were in for-profit jobs for years, and maybe had a divorce (and) lost their job to the economy. There’s (also) young girls with babies.”

Tina hopes that the stereotypes of single moms are fading. “You’ve heard the stigma, ‘Oh, they’re having more babies to get more money.’ I don’t think that’s true at all and I would hope that that’s changing as time goes on.”

Lifetime wants the public to know that single moms are working, or trying hard – like many Americans – to find good jobs. Tina says the women she assists “are working, going to school. And the good thing about the group of single mothers today is that we are really focusing on our education. That gets instilled in our children and hopefully for the generation after our kids.”

 

Single mothers often have to work extra hard to accomplish their goals. Balancing life between raising children, holding down a job, and making good grades in school is not easy. But Tina says one of the many benefits of a single mother’s tenacity and drive is that she sets great examples for her children. “They’re growing up seeing all of us going to school and working and really struggling to make it better for our family.”

With the force of strong single mothers behind them, those children, Tina hopes, will have everything they need to succeed.

Photos: Lakeview School’s Last Day

By Katrina Davis

Kids hug each other goodbye, clumsily clinging to their belongings. They have giant grins as they run to the sides of their parents on the last day of school.

Embracing summer break is a pretty common scene this time of year. Add in the barbeque on the basketball courts, the kids playing a game of Four Square and the adults watching them from the shaded area, and you have yourself a regular end of the year school party! But none of these children will be returning to Lakeview Elementary School next year.

In early fall last year, the OUSD school board voted to close 5 schools to save an annual $2 million. Although the school board might see closing 5 schools as necessary, since it will supposedly be affording the schools that are still operating more academic opportunities, some people don’t see that silver lining.

“We first found out about it when Tony Smith put his proposal online and parents got wind of it and we had to find out actually on the website through Oakland Unified School District last year, 2011, around September.” says Joel Velasquez, a parent of 3, who has had two children attend Lakeview, and was planning on having his youngest attend when she was of age.

“We first found out about it when (OUSD Superintendent) Tony Smith put his proposal online,” says Velasquez, whose son was attending Lakeview when the closures were announced. “Parents got wind of (the closure plan) and we had to find out actually on the website through Oakland Unified School District last year, 2011, around September.” Velasquez was planning on having his youngest attend when she was of age.

When asked how he feels about the closing of a school that his children grew up in, Velasquez says, “Honestly, it’s not really about me. This doesn’t just affect the families at these schools. This affects a community in and around the schools.”

Pamela Chinn-Scoffern, a first grade teacher who’s been at Lakeview since 1987, also shares her sentiments on the school’s closing. “Lakeview was my life,” she explains. “I’ve taught a total of 27 years, and I felt Lakeview calling me back, so I came back again after just a short hiatus… I love the culture, I love the parents, I love the teachers, the community.”

OUSD’s handling of the closure prompted Chinn-Scoffren to retire early. “I was so disillusioned with the district and their school board and their decision to close the school under the guise” of budget constraints, she says. But she’s not going to get out of the educational field however. “I’ll be substituting, and I hope to write some children books based on my experiences here on Lakeview”.

Lakeview alumna Elle Misiluti came by to show her support on the last day school. “Lakeview means everything to me. This is my home. It’s heartbreaking that they’re going to take it away.”

Being at Lakeview on it’s final day of school and speaking to children who will be attending other elementary schools next year makes you realize it’s more than just a school that’s being closed. It’s a community being displaced, and lives being disrupted.

 

Health of the Hood: Maxwell Park

Each of our correspondents took roughly a 3 square-block walk around their neighborhood, taking stock of the area’s services, stores, homes, schools, and especially how people in the community were living their lives. The goal is to give real, detailed texture to our understanding of the quality of life in East Oakland’s neighborhoods from the perspectives of people who live there. These pieces were done in conjunction with Oakland Tribune Violence Reporting Fellow Scott Johnson’s Oakland Effect project.

By Katrina Davis

I’ve lived in this neighborhood since I was 2 years old. It’s pretty quiet and suburban. I know some of my neighbors, and they even come over from time to time for events. The crimes that happen here and there are mainly break-ins, but other than that it’s pretty quiet. Everyone seems to have a pretty nice front yard and keeps it up.

Maxwell Park. By Katrina Davis, Oakland Voices 2012.

 

It’s a residential area with mostly single family homes and only one apartment complex. The streets are pretty clean and neat. All the streets have a lot of incline. There are trees on just about every block.

Contrary to the popular image of East Oakland, many neighborhoods are quiet, beautifully green, and pleasantly drama-free. By Katrina Davis, Oakland Voices 2012.

There aren’t too many people on the streets, and the people I’ve seen thus far have been getting in their cars to leave. Others just seem to be doing some cleaning around there house. I feel safe walking around my neighborhood. I feel safe because everyone looks each other in the eye and greets each other. Also, the fact that it’s pretty quiet and not too many people out on the streets makes me feel comfortable. The only time I ever feel nervous in my neighborhood is when I hear about a recent crime that was committed nearby. The whole area I’ve walked seems tranquil. Especially with the nice yards and trees everywhere.

There aren’t any stores in my neighborhood. We have a few close by markets such as Max Values and Farmer Joe’s, they’re about 5 minutes away if you drive. There aren’t any liquor stores.

There are two schools very close to my neighborhood, but not exactly in it. They’re aren’t any parks in my neighborhood.

Although there aren’t banks, shops, restaurants, etc in my neighborhood, they are very close by.