This
                                                                                                 By Amara Killen

 

This Is My Reality. This Is My Idealism. This Is My Truth.
During “get to know you” exercises with my GirlFly peers we were asked to discuss, broadly, who we are and where we come from. As is common in our racially centered society we substituted, “who are you,”  with “what is your race,” and began sharing what we believed defined us:
“I am African American,” one girl pronounced.
“I am half Mexican, Irish and Japanese,” another proudly chimed in.
I was quiet and attentive, not feeling all too eager to hastily proclaim my very mixed Polish-Scottish descendance, until I heard my name:
“What are you, Amara?” they asked, curiously.
“Well,” I scrambled for the words. “My ancestors were from Western Europe.”
“So…white,”
We all laughed at the obvious, and even I was oblivious at the time to the subtle socially-instilled separation we had just bought into.

 

This Is What I Know:
As a white, middle class person raised in Marin County, I belong to just about the most privileged demographic there is. I try to be as cognizant as I can about my inherited advantage in today’s society. I know it is important to educate myself about the historical and contemporary factors that exist in our 21st century reality: I understand I do not know what it feels like to live in an area where I am being poisoned by toxic waste every day and have little to no opportunity for advancement/progress; I understand I do not know what it feels like to walk in my neighborhood at night and fear for my life; I understand I will neverknow what it feels like to tell my children that even if they have done nothing wrong they must be deferential to police officers so they are not thrown in jail, or killed. This is what I know.

 

This Is What I Know:
This is a time of great shifting. This is a time of redefining the eurocentric labels we have complied with through past generations. The language of the colored woman is emerging; one of gentleness and anger, compassion and strength, individuality and togetherness. I see everyday a new language being written by my young adult peers. This is the “LGBTQIAP+” American. This is the “filipinoafricankoreanchinesethaiscottish” American. This is the mixed race and the fluid gender American. This is political correctness and terms of acceptance, and openness. I believe this is a wonderful time to be growing up.

 

This Is What I Don’t Know:
I struggle as I try to discover my place in this new world of acknowledgement and empowerment surrounding identities; this remembering,yet redefining the past. All of the new words get stuck in my throat as I stumble to be both understanding andtrue to myself. To be real and to not offend. I dissect the dictionary but still am ignorant, uneducated, wrong. Is it “Native American,” or “American Indian?” Is it “he,” or “her,” or “they?” I have the best intentions, so why do I still get those cringe-worthy looks?  I feel like crying out: I AM TRYING! I WANT TO UNDERSTAND! Please, call me out. Educate me. Help me understand what I am doing wrong.

 

This Is What I Want:
I want to look you in the eye when I am speaking to you.
I want you to smile when I pass you in the street.
I want to hug and embrace you when you cry.
I want you to forgive me when I call you the wrong name.
I want to forgive you when you don’t understand me.
I want you to teach me when I am ignorant and confused.
I want to be compassionate when I am filled with hate.
I want you to breathe when you are frustrated with me.
I want to listen when I hear something new.
I want you to speak when you feel silenced.
I want to see you.
I want you to see me.
I want you to be compassionate,
I want you to cry out.
I will listen.

Photo: Brechin Flournoy
The People of Bayview

 

Although I struggle with these issues, as I meet people everyday who are open and willing to talk I am reminded that the most important way to come to a personal understanding is on the individual level.  These interactions are what give me purpose and touch my heart. I wanted to share about a few of the people I met while working in Quesada Gardens:

 

Marila:
Chubby fingers touch my arm and take hold, and I look up, trying to catch the culprit. Huge eyes smile back at me, and I laugh, realizing it is an adorable baby girl who reached towards me on the MUNI. Connecting. Rejoicing. I tickle her arm and say hello to her and her mother, who rocks the girl on her big, warm lap. For the remainder of the ride I poke, squeeze and tickle as Marila’s bubbly laughter rolls onto the MUNI floor and infects all around her. What a beautiful thing it is to hear the giggles of a baby, and to laugh along.
Joseph:
Another day, but the same light-rail; the T-Train rattles along 3rd street, and I read, keeping to myself. At the next stop a man walks on and addresses me.
“Excuse me, but could I sit in one of these seats?”
I realize I have taken up three seats with my belongings, and I move them onto my lap to let the man sit. I peek over at him and notice his huge and watchful eyes. He is sipping from a bottle of champagne and singing to himself, rhyming something about the weather too quietly for me to hear. He sees me observing and I smile politely.
“How are you doing today?” he asks.
“I’m doing well, how about you?”
“I’m good, I’m good.

 

Linda:
Her soft smile and gentle eyes welcomed me to Quesada Gardens. We sat on the steps and basked under the sun. A Quesada Ave resident since 1970 she has strolled down every crack and cranny on the street. She finished high school on this block, lived in two houses on this block, raised her son on this block, and cared for her mother on this block. She saw flourishing gardens and domino-playing husbands on this block. She ran and panted and sang and hugged on this block.

 

Linda Pettus has grown alongside this block, and this neighborhood. She has seen the loss of businesses after the Race Riot of 1966. She has tasted the food desert that followed. She has felt the affects of cancer, a disease rampant in her community because of the Superfund toxic waste sites next door in Hunter’s Point.  She has known the drug dealers — the neighbors — who hung out for decades on her street and played with her kids.

 

As she has lived through this, however, she has come to deeply respect, and appreciate, the people surrounding her. Even as we discussed the drug dealers who sold continuously in front of her house, she spoke about them with compassion and understanding: “When I would come out with [my son] they would stop…They did their dirt but they also respected him as a child…They still watched out for us.” Linda has seen the value of community and believes that with that comes progress: “It’s changing. There’s been some change, and for the better. I remember years ago my boyfriend was telling me Bayview was gonna change…It’s gonna be a long time coming but it’s gonna come…it’s slow…but it’s coming…once one thing changes something follows behind.”

 

Linda’s positivity was infectious, and I felt radiant after finishing our discussion and hugging her goodbye. She reminded me that despite any stigma, hardships and setbacks that will inevitably arise, connecting through community is the secret to thrive. “I love it here. I have relatives…they tell me ‘you need to come home.’ I am home. I’m always glad to come home. I love San Francisco and I love this community. This is it for me.”

 

Author Bio: Amara Killen is a 19 year old young woman from the SF Bay Area. She will be starting college in Washington State in the Fall 2017.

Asia Pires

How This Community Changed Me
 By Asia Pires
Community.
I never really understood the word “community” before I came here.
“A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”
Yes, my community lives in the same area.
But how am I supposed to know if we have similar interests?
I’ll say “hello” once in awhile, but never “how are you?” or “how was your day?”
People on BART have straight faces or stare.
They wouldn’t say anything to me unless I was someone they knew or to ask to sit next to me.
Since I take BART a lot I sometimes see familiar faces, but, of course, never say anything.
I get off BART and transfer to the MUNI.
It’s quiet and everyone is on their phones.
Passing AT&T Park, someone gets up and offers their seat to a lady struggling to stand.
I look at the lady who could not stop smiling as she thanks the man for the seat.
I get off at Oakdale Ave./Palou Ave. & 3rd St and walk up Quesada Ave.
‘Welcome to Quesada Gardens,’
I’m thinking, “Wow, look at this beautiful garden!”
As I walk up the street a woman and a few dogs look towards me and smile.
So I smile back.
I pass a man watering his plants who greets me with “Hello! Have a nice day!”
That’s how I know this was a real community.
Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Over these past weeks I’ve realized that it’s not a community without consideration.
A community is more social and trustful.
Yes, it may have a few issues, but a real community comes together to fix what needs fixing.
I want that kind of community.
A community where I can tell my neighbor to have a good day, to work on making the community stronger, to help one another out.
That is why I walked back to the MUNI, got on BART, offered my seat to someone who needed it, walked back home smiling at the people who passed me, and finally asked my neighbor…
“Hello! How was your day?”
A poem for the garden:
This is the garden that has brought community together.
This is the garden that we plant in.
This is the garden that we have learned about.
This is the garden that we dance and sing in.
This is the garden that we have learned each other’s names in.
This is the garden that has had open arms to Girlfly coming here.
This is the garden where we met new animal friends.
This is the garden where we met new people.
This is the garden where we made friends into family.
Author Bio:
Asia Pires is a 16 year old girl from the East Bay. She is a rising Junior at El Cerrito High School. She is truly honored to have had spent her time in Quesada Gardens. She feels that this community is full of love and kindness. She loves to sing and dance so it was really great experiencing this outdoors in a well grown community.

Diana Avila

On The Verge of …
                                                                                                By Diana Avila

 

I am a young 16 year old woman who has seen some pretty nasty things just because I was born with a vagina. Just because I walk down my streets alone. Just because I look like an “easy catch.” Yes, I am a woman. No, I’m not a dog you can holler at. I’m not a bird you can whistle at. I am a human, like you. But like many women, we still have to prove that we are real. Not an object; but an actual person.
A person that never asked to be touched there.
A person who never asked to feel bare.
Weak.
Vulnerable.
Photo: Brechin Flournoy
I know that in my community, there are those who take catcalling as a joke. “It’s harmless”; “just a compliment.” And there are those who have no mercy. Violent towards the queens who walk down the street or who sit on the bus. The other majority are, in my opinion, the worst: the silent ones who look away, walk away in despite of their human nature, refusing to help one another.
Author Bio: Diana is a scholar at Leadership High School who has plans of moving forward with her studies at a university. With family ties at the Woman’s Building, Diana looks up to her mother and grandmother who have proven to themselves that they could kick ass without a man. In Diana’s free time, she likes to read and write poetry, dance and perform with her dance group called Bolivia Corazón de América, and enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Grace Ng

 Meet Your Neighbor: Charlie Casteneda
 By Grace Ng
Her name is Charlie. When I first met her I felt that she was a very confident woman. She knows who she is and is proud of who she is. She is not ashamed of herself at all. She is basically the first gay adult that I have ever met since coming out. She is an inspirational person to me for many different reasons. She owns her own dog walking business that is very successful: A Girl and Her Dog. She is inspirational because she is also a professional artist with an MFA and is an art teacher. She goes against the norm and treats her employees like family. She is truly amazing.
As a gay person myself I look up to her. I want to be as successful as her one day. She is a very important member of the Bayview community and inspires many people. She achieved so much in her life and she still has so much more to accomplish. She has struggled with some issues throughout her life, but she made it. She persevered through all of her struggles. She never gave up. She is a person worthy of being called strong.
  Photo: Brechin Flournoy                                                                                                     
                                                                                                      Trees
                                                                                                By Grace Ng
There are crucial steps that must be taken into account when caring for trees or else they can turn out dead.
Each plant has an understory. There are dying trees. Save them before they go extinct.
Humans show resilience. Do not give up on the trees. They have history and rich stories hidden deep within them.
Author Bio: Grace Ng is an upcoming senior and is sixteen years old. Her dream school is USC. Her passion is writing.

Kiarah Nunley

                                                                             The Great Garden
                                                                                 By  Kiarah Nunley

 

The garden–
The plants,
The flowers,
The people–
Show different emotions
In this neighborhood.
The plants
Need energy;
The animals
Need nectar from the the flowers.
The bees
Buzz,
Sting,
Eat honey.
The birds
Sing,
Chirp,
Dance,
Speak.
The parrots:
They sing to us–
They dance for us.
Sometimes they give us inspiration.
They see me dance;
They like me dancing.
The people
In this neighborhood:
Different,
But not.
They are creative when they come together.
When I walk down these streets,
I see these beautiful flowers.
These gardens I see in my neighborhood
Make me want to think about me starting my own.
There is nothing like home;
Other than this.
Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Author Bio:
Kiarah Nunley is a 10th grader at Kipp SF College Prep.  She is currently writing a novel.

Mailyn N Guzman

Diversity Makes the US
By Mailyn N Guzman

 

Hispanics: 17%
Chinese:3.79%
Filipino: 3.41million
Black: 14%

 

“They have to get deported”
Who the hell does he think he is?
He might be the president, but he don’t represent me

 

We, Latinos, Chinese, Black, and other races
Are all immigrants
The Mission, Visitacion Valley, Bayview, Portola are made up of us

 

Every family has a story how they got here
And it ain’t that easy

 

Fear, tears rolling down their faces
Leaving families behind
For a better life
Saying good bye; it ain’t that easy

 

Paying a lot of money to the coyotes and polleros
Hiding to not get caught
Running

 

3 days …
1 week…
1 month …

 

Can be a whole tragedy of a life of a Latino.
Some don’t even make it to the other side.

 

20 years later…

 

TRUMP BECOMES THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

 

This is home for us now
Made a family
Have a house
Making our dreams come true

 

He doesn’t care but he just wants to get rid of us

 

Living life is not life
This is home for us now

 

White, Black, Yellow, Blue, Purple
Doesn’t matter the skin color
We make America Powerful.

Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Author Bio: My name is Mailyn N Guzman. I’m 16 — about to be a Junior. I go to Burton High School. I come from an immigrant family. I see little kids getting separated from their families and it isn’t fair. I would like to become a Lawyer to fight for equality.

Mila De La Torre

 it is beautiful
                                                                                             By  

Mila De La Torre
you would not believe
how many times people have asked what my ethnicity was
and instead of being fascinated by my diverse background, they’d say,
“what the fuck is lithuanian?”
as if i’d made it up
you would not believe
how many people have looked me up and down and said,
“you’re not a real mexican because you don’t speak spanish”
as if my dark hair and brown skin and mexican father wasn’t enough
you would not believe
if i told you that people have said to me,
“oh, the philippines doesn’t count as asia”
as if it isn’t asia
the philippines is fucking asia
acceptance and recognition are two beautiful things
it is beautiful when my father sends me on errands
and the woman behind the counter recognizes my brown skin and asks me,
“quieres una bolsa?”
and as awkward as it is, it is beautiful when i stumble to say,
“no, gracias”
it is beautiful when my bibi calls me from tijuana and says to me in her thick accent,
“i love you!”
and it’s beautiful when i tell her i love her, too
i recently visited the philippines with my lola, and i felt so accepted
when at restaurants, waiters would
begin to speak to me in tagalog
i felt so accepted
when i picked up the habit of kissing people on the cheeks to say hello and goodbye
i felt so accepted
when my lola’s friends would tell me stories
about when my mother visited when she was my age
and we would laugh at all the funny things she had said and done
you would not believe
how people completely diminish these two huge parts of me by saying,
“lithuanian is european? so, it’s white? so, you’re white.”
Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Author Bio: Mila De La Torre is a rising sophomore at Balboa High School. She is a part of the school volleyball team, is president of her class in Student Government, and has been writing ever since she learned to. Being mixed, she finds a struggle in finding a culture to identify with.

Naaimah Lollis

  What My Eyes See
      By  Naaimah Lollis

 

Richmond:
I look around
Every corner is a liquor store
I look around
Every street has cracks with messed up cement
I look around
Every street people are hanging out
I look around
Women roam the streets
I look around
But I rarely go outside
I look around
And hear the buses engines as they pull up to the stop
I look around
And think about my environment
I look around
And smell the smoke filled air while I taste every fast food aroma

 Photo: Brechin Flournoy

Bayview:
I look around
In my car gazing for miles and finally I see the city ahead
I look around
And cross the bridge to another feeling
I can smell watery air while cars honk at each other to get out the way
I ask myself, what is this change?
The air is much cooler and moist giving my body goosebumps
Slowly driving through heavy traffic
I look around
And I see buildings on steep hills
I look around
And see fresh foods in the garden
I look around
And I see a community working together
I look around
and I see palm trees and plants I’ve never seen before
I touch every plant that leaves a nice scent on my fingers
I look around
And see a difference
I look around
And it brings me joy when I hear the birds chirp
I look around
and see neighbors waving at each other
I look around
And see diversity
when I look around it makes me wonder how separated I am from my community
I look around
and see things I never really had
This is what my eyes see
Author Bio: Naaimah Lollis is a 10th grader at El Cerrito High School. She enjoys learning more about her environment and how she can make it better.

Natasha J-A

 The Bees of Quesada Gardens
 By  Natasha J-A

 

I am not scared of bees. I used to pet them when I was younger. I like bugs and want to learn more about them and their fascinating qualities and features.
In the garden there are lots of honey bees and bumblebees. There are also many beekeepers on the Quesada Gardens block, including Liz Skow, Tai Trang, and Shane King. The bees feed off of the loquat flowers in the winter and other flowers in the spring.
Honey bees are not native to the Bay Area, they were brought from Europe. Honey bees are one of the most common species of bee and are more well known. These bees sting, have hairy eyes and carry pollen on a ball on their legs.
Unlike honeybees, the native bumblebees don’t sting, but they do bite. There are lots of different native species of bumblebees. Once, at a community gardening event, a bumblebee colony was pulled up from the ground, but the bees were very peaceful and no one was harmed. They use their larger size to their benefit and fly into anyone threatening. These bees carry pollen on their legs.
There are also lots of mason bees in the garden. These bees are moderately sized and have stout bodies. Their bodies are dark and therefore they are able to absorb heat from the sun to keep warm. They collect pollen on their abdomen.

Photo: Brechin Flournoy
Author Bio: Natasha J-A is a student at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in the architecture and design program.