BEGINNING & ADVANCED JOURNALISM
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Marching against brutality brings meaning, power and hope
By Sarai Wagner
On June 6, I went with friends and family to participate in a peaceful march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protest against police brutality in my home city, Hayward.
I didn’t really know what to expect: It was supposed to be a peaceful protest, but over the preceding months, I had seen how peace can be disrupted. Regardless, I was adamant about going because it was very unsettling to just sit at home when I could be using my voice and body to fight the police brutality that has plagued this country, and honestly makes me sick to my stomach.
The protest that day began at Hayward City Hall with speakers sharing powerful speeches and poems. They described the police structure as corrupt and demanded an end to the murder of black people. I could relate easily to their words: As a black teenager, I have seen too many videos of people who look like me being targeted by people with more power. I have felt fear when encountering the police more times than I have felt safe. Some days, when a family member leaves my house, I find myself randomly worrying about how they may not make it to their destination because they might be targeted because of their skin.
After the speeches, the march proceeded from City Hall to the Hayward police department. We walked through streets that I have driven through countless times. We chanted phrases that had quickly become familiar -- “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police”, “Say His Name: George Floyd”, “Say Her Name: Breonna Taylor”, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.” People held their signs high, people held their fists high, all of us yelled together.
Drivers driving in the opposite direction honked in support. I felt my community come together, not just Black people, but Asian, white and Latinx people. It was extremely unifying.
Recently, I have seen this kind of support a lot, with people from all around the country and around the world standing together with Black Lives Matter. I have felt support from friends expressing their outrage on social media, and spreading awareness. It’s honestly a beautiful thing to witness people coming together.
When we reached the police station, we took a knee at the intersection. A new set of speakers took the microphone, and this time they emphasized the people in my community who were victims of police brutality. I became familiar with a new name, Augustin “Augie” Gonsalez, a 29-year-old father of two who was shot to death by two Hayward policemen in November. One speaker talked about her brother, who is constantly harassed by police for his felony probation, which they “hang over his head like a noose.” Speakers said the police are supposed to protect the community, but instead they view it as their enemies and become our oppressors. They commit crimes against the community and go unpunished, while residents have to fight to demand simple justice.
One speaker addressed the idea that police brutality is a matter of a few “bad apples”. She gave a perfect analogy, saying “bad apples” stem from “rotten trees”, and the rotten tree in this case is the institutional white supremacy and racial discrimination that existed at the foundation of the
police and still holds today. The police were founded to “serve and protect”
white and wealthy communities, and part of the way they do that is by targeting and terrorizing communities of color.
By this point, about 100 people had gathered, and we headed back to City Hall. We walked together and chanted, as we had on the walk to the station. The truck that led the protestors stopped right in front of Winton Middle School and began blasting multiple “anti-cop, anti-Trump” songs. We took a break to sing and dance together, and the group felt the strongest and most solid in those moments.
At just about that time, I suddenly realized that no local media were there to cover this peaceful, meaningful protest. I had seen many reports on news sources about protests in the previous weeks, yet most of them emphasized looting and “rioting” rather than the peaceful parts of the movement. It’s beyond frustrating, yet true, that in order for voices to be heard, glass needs to be shattered. That’s what it took for President Trump to acknowledge us, that’s what it took for the nation to turn all eyes to this movement. There have been peaceful protests for years and years, and no one had paid attention to the injustice, but now we have everyone's attention.
I started to think: Maybe if the media had been covering the peaceful protests from the beginning the way that they are now, things might be different? I want to work as a journalist when I’m older, so I pay attention to the impacts of the media and the ways it can help change society. That’s why it has become so important to draw media attention: Tactics of the past weren’t working, so protesters had to adopt new methods to wake everyone up.
As we continued our march back to City Hall, we passed under an overpass and began to chant, “I can’t breathe.” Our voices echoed loudly as we chanted. Knowing those were the last words of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality and racial discrimination, I found myself becoming angrier and louder each time I yelled those words. I had to blink a few times to keep my eyes from watering. George Floyd died in a horrific way, and I saw the video clip; I will never forget it.
About five minutes from our destination, a BART train passed us. Protesters turned and held up their signs and their fists for people on the train to see. I think about how those passengers may have felt, seeing so many people stand together in solidarity for Black Lives Matter and against police brutality. I hope they felt empowered and ready to make a change.
It’s now the end of July, and I hear less about protests, I see fewer people posting about victims of police brutality. People’s social media feeds are returning to how they looked in early May. I encourage teachers, students, parents, or anyone who reads this to continue to use your voices and your platforms to talk about injustices. Performative activism is not helpful at all, the only thing it benefits is your reputation. Continue to link people to petitions. If you are able to donate, do it. If you can protest, go out and march! Send emails to government officials. The point is, get your voices heard. To some people, Black Lives Matter might have just been a slogan or a fad, but to me and all the other black people, this is a fight for our lives.
Editor-in-Chief bids farewell to strange and wonderful year
By Xochilth Aguila
All high school seniors expect their last few months of senior year to be memorable. For the graduating class of 2020, this year was no exception, to say the least.
When I attended my first Eastside graduation in 2016, I saw first hand how the graduating students were so full of joy and excited for their future. Even though I was only a freshman, I couldn’t wait to feel the same way at my own graduation.
Now, my class alone has had a celebration nothing like any of the others. We have had to celebrate while in isolation. But that doesn’t make our accomplishments any less valid.
I am really proud of my class for making it through four years of difficult classes, pulling all-nighters to study and coping with enormous stress. Eastside students give so much of themselves to this school, and we aren’t allowed to take the easy way out.
As Editor-in-Chief of The Eastside Panther, I am also proud of my journalism staff this year for being so flexible and diligent. They could have easily said that completing 60 individual senior profiles was way too much work. Instead they remotely interviewed multiple people and wrote amazing profiles for each one of the seniors. Just as when we were together on production nights at 11 p.m., no matter how tough things got, we always managed to pull everything together at the end, and this time, too. The newspaper staff has turned into my second family, and I will miss them so much.
Even in the midst of a world pandemic when everything has seemed to be placed on pause, we see the many pressing and complicated issues that remain to resolve. I’m glad that I developed the skill to confidently use my voice as an advocate for those who have been negatively impacted by Covid-19. I want to remind everyone who can to exercise their right to vote in the November election — for president and for local representatives. Express your voice!
We face so many challenges ahead, but we are a resilient group that come from resilient people. I know for a fact that every single one of our families have made sacrifices, big and small, so that we could have a better future. Finishing high school brings us one step closer to reaching that goal.
As individuals, we are still at the beginning of our own journeys. Yet sometimes, I’m surprised to find that I made it this far, and impressed by how much I’ve learned. My grandparents on my dad’s side were both illiterate; I think it’s amazing that I can read and write in two languages. In just two short generations, my family and I have been able to progress. I can’t even imagine all the possibilities that I’ll be able to give to my family, as a high school graduate, let alone once I earn that college degree.
I am excited to see what the future holds for my peers and me, and to see the kind of people we will become. Congratulations again! We did it and we won’t be stopped — not even by a worldwide pandemic!