Category Archives: Health

Sometimes my posts are health related. I can’t guarantee the accuracy of what I write. So please consult your doctor or your own encyclopedia for a second opinion.

Learning from “The Interrupters” of Violence in Oakland

It’s the end of the second week of February in Oakland, and last week there were seven homicides. You wonder if there is anything that can be done.

I was blessed to be able to watch a screening of “The Interrupters” on Thursday night (Feb. 9th) at the Oakland Museum of California.

[ I say blessed because if it wasn’t for my friend Tiffany, who has the gift of being able to talk her way into anything (even bringing a Burger King hamburger, fries and drink to the Bill Graham auditorium in SF), we would not have been able to get seats..and in the front row!]

“The Interrupters” (@TheInterrupters) is a documentary by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz that follows the work of an organization called CeaseFire (@CeaseFire_IL) and it’s efforts to fight violence on the streets of Chicago. CeaseFire outreach workers, many of whom have had a past history of violent crimes, connect with youth to try to prevent violence through counseling and just plain ‘real talk’.

Thursday night’s preview was sponsored by Oakland’s Ella Baker Center, KQED, the Oakland Museum of California, Youth Alive! and a many other organizations.

After the movie screening there was a panel moderated by Abel Habtegeorgis of Ella Baker Center that included Eddie Bocanegra and Ameena Matthews, two of the outreach workers from CeaseFire and featured in the movie.. as well as Kendra Simmons from Youth Alive! and Anthony Del Toro from California Youth Outreach who work in violence prevention in Oakland.

(l to r) Abel Habtegeorgis, Ella Baker Center; Eddie Bocanegra, CeaseFire; Ameena Matthews, CeaseFire; Kyndra Simmons, Youth Alive!; and Anthony Del Toro, California Youth Outreach

Real Talk

I was able to record a bit of the panel conversation below..

Ameena Matthews from CeaseFire speaks on the similarities between Oakland and Chicago and why it’s important to share our history with youth today. (9. 03 min)

Eddie Bocanegra from Cease Fire talks about the consequences for him after he shot a young man while he was young and what motivates him to be an ‘Interrupter’ (7.42 min )

Youth Alive! is an organization that believes that violence is preventable, and advocates for policies that reduce gun, gang, family and rape violence. Kendra Simmons talks about her approach to counseling youth that are hospitalized as a result of violence in Oakland. (1.27 min)

California Youth Outreach helps youth involved in gangs via education, intervention programs and offering various opportunities towards future success. Anthony Del Toro talks about how to gain the trust of youth who are engaged in violence. (1.48 min)

Special Guests

In the audience were local teens and organizations that work to build a better Oakland…

  • Hope Collaborative: a grassroots effort to create a healthy, prosperous, and vibrant Oakland
  • Alameda County Health Department’s Place Matters: a team that’s working for equity in: education, economics, criminal justice, housing, land use, and transportation.
  • 1000 Mothers to Prevent Violence: a support group for families who have been victims of violence is having a Mourning Mother’s Walk at the San Leandro Marina on May 5, 2012!
  • Oakland’s Kids First: an organization that develops leadership opportunities for teens in order to help them graduate with a back pocket of skills..
  • The Khadafi Foundation for Non-Violence: an organization that provides support for victims

    Oakland's Measure Y Outreach Team

    of violence.

  • Youth from the Measure Y Outreach Team: who interact with the youth of Oakland in the areas most hardest hit by violence.
  • Berkeley Youth Alternatives: a community organization that helps children, teens and families through preventative interventions and support services to kids in the juvenile justice system. (I was an after-school tutor here when I as an undergrad..memories!)

And probably many others who I might have missed..

But let’s not forget one of our hosts The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.. a grassroots organization whose mission is to give Oakland residents skills to work together to strengthen our community. One of their campaigns, Heal the Streets, trains youth to become community leaders and violence prevention advocates.

The resulting conversation was honest and eye-opening. One teen asked panel members how can she uplift a brother who had just been sentenced to life in prison for murder. Another young lady, whose father was shot in the head and cousin recently murdered, applauded the panelists for their efforts which inspired her. (After the conversation she immediately went to a representative from Kids First and asked to volunteer.)

So what?

At end of the discussion a young man, who took it upon himself to start a grassroots organization called “The Eagles Program” (sorry couldn’t find a link) where teens learn dance and acrobatics to keep them off the streets, expressed frustration about going to all of these talks/meetings on violence and nothing seems to come of it. The violence in Oakland still persists.

In response Ameena Matthews stated ..”The end result starts and ends with self”

Don’t worry about what the myriad of organizations are or are not doing. Or how our elected officials seem more concerned about getting re-elected and protecting their own instead of protecting those most in need.

Look at your actions and figure out what you can do to stop violence in your community based off of your own personal strengths.

I agree 100% and that goes for everyone.

Here is a couple of small things that you can do that can push us towards progress.

1. Some of these organizations need donations to support their work. Donate some money..but also donate your time.

2. WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY.

“The Interrupters” will air on PBS’s Frontline on Feb. 14th (click for trailer). Check your local listings (I think it comes on at 10 pm Bay Area time) and watch this show.

Go a step further and invite your friends and some local youth to watch with you.

—–

Side Note

KQED Celebrates Black History with an awesome website describing local heroes and a handy dandy Black History Month Resource Guide (click to download)! Make sure to check out KQED and PBS for awesome programs coming up in February.

As my intrepid friend Tiffany would say … Smooches!

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A lesson in Health Prevention..and privilege.

Few of us expect to be confronted with our own mortality during the course of your average workday, but that’s exactly what happened to Bill Weir last Friday, January 13th.

In Los Angeles to interview renowned cancer specialist and preventive medicine proponent, Dr. David Agus, Bill underwent a battery of tests to show the Nightline audience the analytics behind Dr. Agus’ approach. What he discovered was beyond anything he expected, and changed the entire course of the story he went to cover.

The Ultimate Example of Preventive Medicine | This Could Be Big – Yahoo! News

Please watch the video attached to this article. It’s eye- opening.

—— My comments after watching the video ——–

This story really resonated with me, because I feel it is SOOO important to do all you can to prevent incidence of disease. Simple changes in your life can make a big difference.. try to eat healthy more often than not, move for about 30 minutes everyday, and get in regular doctor’s visits to screen and catch signs  of disease that can be treated early.

What irked me about this was that Bill Weir did not go to the doctor regularly…he didn’t even have a doctor. He took it for granted that he was healthy and there wasn’t a need to monitor his health status by seeing a doctor.

This man has a regular job and presumably good health insurance coverage. (He might not..I’m not sure how much money journalists for ABC make or what benefits they get). HOWEVER, I can assume that ABC at least offers health insurance. But he didn’t have a doctor.

Bill Weir is really blessed to have been given this particular assignment and signs of disease were caught early. I am glad that he opened up and admitted to not having a doctor in the hopes that this helps others out there.. but at the same time I am really upset.

There are millions of American’s without health insurance coverage. Many who could be suffering from chronic disease. Many might have already been diagnosed, but can not afford to go see a doctor and get treated.

Stories like this is a slap in the face.

If you have health insurance… and can afford regular doctor’s visits. GO TO THE DOCTOR. Please.

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Oakland residents honor MLK by gathering to stop the violence.

“Our greatest resource is our children” — Refa. Stop the Gunfire – MLK Gathering 2012, Jan. 16th

This is a common utterance that is heard by activists that speak about youth..yet you wouldn’t know it by looking at the violence that has occurred in Oakland this past year. Three babies under the age of 5 were fatally shot due to gun violence. As of October 2011 the number of homicides in Oakland was at 94. I don’t know how many other shootings occurred during the holidays.

Today Regeneration Church and Reverend Harry Louis Williams II, hosted “Stop the Gunfire- MLK Day Gathering 2012” a grassroots program hoping to find a solution towards reducing the violent crimes in Oakland. Attending by over a 100 civic leaders, activists and residents, presenters pleaded with participants to gather together as a community, put our arms around our youth and pray for peace in order to make a change. This event was heavily influenced by Christianity and a belief that Jesus Christ is the answer to the crisis we are facing. ..

Rev. Harry Louis Williams II kicks off the "Stop the Gunfire - MLK Gathering 2012"

One of the speakers, whose name I did not catch, started out the event by recalling the story of Cain and Abel. He said when Cain killed his brother Abel, God heard the blood of his brother cry out to Him. The speaker then asked if God was to put his ear towards the streets of Oakland, what would he hear?

Following that opening, guest speakers like Councilmember Pat Kernighan, family members of slain children, and local activists like George Galvis (who fought against gang injunctions) came to speak, sing, and recite poetry for 5 minutes on what they are doing to make our city a better place to live.

Pastor Mustafa Muyhee, BASIC Ministries

Pastor Mustafa Muyhee of BASIC Ministries told us that MLK brought change as an answer to the problems they faced in the past. It was the gospel of Jesus Christ that gave him the power to make change. “Only Jesus can change the heart of a murder” said Muyhee who confided that 10 years ago he used to be a murderer. He said those that know Jesus need to bring the gospel to the murderers, prostitutes and drug dealers..so that they can turn their lives around like he did.

Brenda Grisham, Christopher LaVelle Jones Foundation

Brenda Grisham’s son, Christopher LaVelle Jones, died on New Year’s Eve 2010. He was 17 years old and on his way to church services when shots rang out. He died trying to protect his mother, sister and niece. She says that she continues to pray for the men who shot her son. “We can not save a life unless we put our arms around the offenders.”

Refa 1

Refa 1 (Revolutionary Educator for Africa) says that it’s culture that has our attention. But that there is a system that is promoting, yet corrupting our culture and making millions of dollars at our expense. Young black men are listening. After an innocent young man who was doing good things in his life was killed in West Oakland, Refa decided to paint spray paint a mural on the corner of 14th and Campbell, an area that has been terrorized by violence for over 20 years. Neighbors and youth were inspired .. some even donating money. Two years after the mural was complete, crime has been dramatically reduced out of respect for the young man killed. “We can make change at a grassroots level”

Nola Brantley, MISSSEY

Nola Grant, Executive Director and Founder of MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth) says that violence starts before it gets to the street. It stems from domestic violence witnessed in the home, poverty, drug use ..and those examples are just the beginning. We need to start looking deeper. We need to identify the problem so that we can turn to a solution that does not involve violence and anger. Finally, yes we need to come to GOD for prayer and answers, however God’s work is not done inside the church walls. Through sacrifice and giving up something of ourselves, we should go outside of the church walls and make change in our community.

Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson, Oscar Grant's Uncle

“We can never be satisfied as long as police brutality exists in our community” says Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, Oscar Grant’s Uncle. He shared with us how Oscar Grant’s seven-year old daughter Tatiana is now afraid of the police. He says police brutality creates anger in the community which then becomes misdirected. Uncle Bobby said “We are in a state of emergency!” and that it’s up to our men (black, brown and white) to take the leadership role and at the same time the community has to take time out of our lives to mentor young men. Learn more about what he is doing by visiting The Oscar Grant Foundation

There were many more presentations and stories shared during the program that would make this blog post too long to cover..

The program ended with a free lunch and an opportunity to visit community organizations sharing information about their work. Take the time to visit their websites and learn more about how you can help them fight violence in the streets.

As I left the church to head home, I noticed a little boy, no more than five, running in and out of the church, laughing and interacting with people while his parents were networking outside. He was comfortable and unafraid..knowing that he was perfectly safe to roam freely.

Hopefully with more events like these, we can work together to make sure that all the children of Oakland can have that same kind of freedom.

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Filed under Advocacy, Health, Oakland

Sean is for Oakland, small business and local artists.

Inkwell Tatoo, Piercing and Gallery

It’s 2012, THE most important election year since the last election!

Tonight I was fortunate to be able to attend an event hosted by one of the many people running for office in Oakland.

Sean Sullivan (@seanforoakland) is hoping to be a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 3 which includes West Oakland, Downtown, Adam’s Point and Lake Merritt.  In an effort to get to know potential voters, he had an informational session at Inkwell, while showcasing local artists and helping to support an upcoming event for black nurses.

Sean Sullivan and Leslie Silket at Inkwell

Sean has been an activist in Oakland for over 10 years.  He is a member of the Community Block Grant Board,  a board member of Khadafy Washington Foundation for non-violence, and Oakland’s Community Action Partnership an organization dedicated towards reducing poverty. He also worked as an environmental health activist, advocating for such things as getting rid of BPA in sippy cups. He is all about supporting small business, which he demonstrates by having tonight’s meet and greet at Inkwell.

Inkwell Studio is a local tattoo, piercing and art gallery, located on the corner of 24th and Broadway in Downtown Oakland. Not only do they offer custom tattoos and with exceptional customer service, they display art by local artists.

Tonight they showcased a father and son team: Buggsy  and Wade Malone.  Buggsy is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. On display were some beautiful wood work of  musical artists such as Tupac and Micheal Jackson. There even was a piece of work depicting Frida Khalo.

Tupac, by Buggsy Malone

His son Wade is a student at the Oakland School of the Arts. I didn’t see any wood art from him, but his drawings show great promise. I’m definitely thinking about buying the flowers, if someone else doesn’t snatch them up. (We need to support the kids, ya’ll!)

Also on hand was a bay area nurse named Leslie Silket, RN, BSN. She was there to share information about the 2nd Annual Black Nurses Event. This is a special occasion to celebrate ‘unsung heroes’. Nurses, for little pay and sometimes no benefits, dedicate their lives towards taking care of patients. It’s not an easy job, and it’s sadly unappreciated. Silket says that this is a opportunity for local African-American nurses to get together and share their stories,  celebrate triumphs and get a good meal!

The Black Nurses event will be Z Cafe Feb. 16 at 5 pm. Tickets are $40, but if you are a student nurse you can get in for free. Email Leslie Silket, nuselove67@aol.com for more information.

Flower Art by Wade Malone

Sean Sullivan says that it is important to support local businesses because they provide employment to Oakland residents, and bring revenues back to the city. He is a huge supporter of risk takers and dream makers, and feels that small businesses like Inkwell and artists like Buggsy and Wade Malone are “hella cool!”.

I agree.

Visit Inkwell Studio all this month to see more work from Buggsy Malone and his son Wade.

Support small business, local artists ..and don’t forget to vote!

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Filed under Advocacy, City Council, Election 2012, Healthcare, Oakland

GAH! .. Adventures in Hypertension

Week Blood Pressure
1 145/90
2 148/88
3 147/90

GRRR!! .. I get that it has only been 3 weeks. Maybe it takes longer? Who knows. That should be a question I ask next week. How long does it take to make a real change? REALLY?

Hypertension Lesson #3

This week we learned about nutrition. Same old same old right? How many times have we been beat over the head with healthy eating? Eat nutritious foods, don’t eat bad foods. Period.

Stephanie decided instead of giving us the Nutritional Science lecture, to give us some handy dandy tips for us to try.

I will share 5 of them with you.

  • You like bread? Whole wheat instead of white. Pasta, sliced bread, hot dog bun, however you like it, there might be a whole wheat version. Get it. White ain’t right.. Brown is better!
  • Need to cook with oils? Olive or Canola. Why Olive? Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Very helpful in reducing high blood pressure. You can’t really cook olive oil in high heat (it breaks down those essential nutrients) so if you need to fry..Canola is your guy!
  • Beans, beans the magical fruit! They are a natural source of protein with out the fat. Half a cup of Lentils have 9 grams of protein. I have never had a lentil. Anyone got a recipe?
  • Incorporate more greens! OF the lettuces, Romaine has the highest nutritional value. Then try spinach, swiss chard and collards. I like to make spinach and tomato sandwiches. Whole wheat with the crusts cut off. Sipping on tea with my pinky in the air.

Sauteed garlic collard greens with cabbage..Yummy for my tummy! (Recipe Below)

Try this recipe of sauteed collard and cabbage from the American Heart Association. MMM mmm good.

CollardCabbageRecipe

  • LOSE the salt. For real. Previously, I stated that the RDA is 2400 mg. That’s if you have normal blood pressure. It’s 1500 mg for abnormals like myself. Luckily I am not a big salt person, HOWEVER, I do like some lemon pepper, and wouldn’t you know it- but some lemon pepper brands have salt in it! BOOOOOO!!!! Check your labels folks. Especially if you like  buffalo wings (2460 mg), spaghetti sauce (1450 mg), canned chicken noodle soup (1106 mg), Potato salad (1323 mg)..you know normal stuff.

Download a sodium lecture and a  list of foods with high and low sodium counts.  SaltReduction (pdf 528 kb) High Sodium Foods (pdf 176 kb) Low Sodium Foods (pdf 62 kb)

 

MORE food  ‘lecture’ handouts here: FoodFacts ( pdf 573 kb) FoodFacts2 (pdf 618 kb) FoodGroups (pdf 557 lb) FoodGroups2 (pdf 451 kb)

By the way: Alameda County Public Health Department’s: Healthy Living For Life has a lot of great tips for you the try. Check it out!

HOMEWORK:

I didn’t get a homework assignment. However, we did get notice that our exercise session would be longer, so I decided to make sure I exercise often so as not to embarrass myself. 🙂

————

So dear reader..got any other handy advice? Who has a lentil recipe? It had better be good, I’m a picky eater. 🙂

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Parents fight to keep kids healthy.. AWESOME!

“It is unreasonable to expect that people will change their behavior when so many forces within the social, cultural, and physical environment conspire against such change”

— Institute of Medicine

This oft used quote is the rallying cry of many health advocates who are working to improve the environments of low-income minorities. It was used in a presentation by my colleague to motivate parents interested in advocating for their community to fight childhood obesity.

She shared it at a monthly convening of  First 5 Regional Parents Group in San Pablo, California. Funded via revenue from a tax on cigarettes (Proposition 10) First 5 California provides  healthcare, school readiness, child development, and support programs for families of young children.

First 5 in Contra Costa uses part of their funding to support Parent Regional Groups. To tell you more about the groups I will steal a passage that I had previously written on the ‘company‘ blog…

First 5′s Regional Parent Education Group is one such program that teaches participants valuable skills in community leadership and advocacy. As part of the program, First 5 staff train parent volunteers in project management, leadership, community engagement and public speaking.  Currently, 150 Contra Costa parents are involved in the program, many of them low-income residents and half of them speak Spanish as their primary language.

http://www.healthyandactivebefore5.org/2011/04/spotlight-first-5-contra-costa/

One of the group’s projects is to provide low-cost physical activity classes for young children aged 0-5.  They recognized that one of the barriers to young children getting exercise is that many families live in neighborhoods that lacked clean and safe places for kids to play and learn about different forms of activity, like sports.

After doing independent research and surveys, parent group participants found that there was a need for affordable programs for young children to engage in physical activity. They went to the city of Richmond and San Pablo and advocated for classes for their community. They were successful!

This year all of the Fall 2011 classes — Soccer, Karate, World Dance and Gymnastics —  are currently full!  Students also receive a goodie bag filled with nutrition and physical activity tips that parents can use at home. 🙂

When asked what advocacy means to them parents shared “the ability to speak for others” “to have power” “to fight for my children”, “to have a voice”.

A major problem within low-income minority groups is the history of disenfranchisement and lack of empowerment. Many feel that they do not have the right to protest when fast food restaurants invade their communities or fight for clean parks and safe streets.

The First 5 Parent Group in San Pablo says otherwise. When I attended their meeting on Wednesday night,  I was inspired by the earnestness, dedication and energy of the parents working to make a difference. I wanted to bottle it up and take it with me!

Wooo Hooo!!

So tell me dear reader..what example do you have of extraordinary people fighting to change their community for the better? Are you doing something to make your neighborhood safe and healthy? Sharing is caring!

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Filed under Advocacy, Health, Obesity

Up and Down .. Adventures in Hypertension

Week Blood Pressure
1 145/90
2 148/88


A change but not what I was hoping for.

This past week I changed my diet by making absolute sure I get 5 servings of fruits and vegetables (2 of fruit and 3 of veggies). Easier said than done. I tended to waiver between having more fruits one day and more veggies on another.   I changed the foods I ate but still drank the same amount of water. My body absorbed the water differently.. or not at all. Let’s just say I went through a lot of toilet paper.

——-

HYPERTENSION LESSON #1

At this weeks meeting we had a doctor come in and give us the low down on what hypertension is.

For those of you who don’t know, Hypertension is the medical term for having high blood pressure. Your blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. It tends to rise and fall throughout the day but when there is constant elevation over a long period of time  it’s called high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is bad. It causes the heart to work too hard and can lead to hardening of the arteries (a term call arteriosclerosis). This in turn can cause heart disease, stroke and other stuff.

What exactly is that fraction?

Systolic/ Diastolic

Systolic = the pressure exerted on the heart when it beats

Diastolic = the pressure on the heart in between the beat, or when relaxed.

What is a normal blood pressure reading?

Below 120/80.  Yes, I said it..below.

What are some of the causes of hypertension? 

Not in order of importance..

  • Genetics
  • Obesity/Overweight
  • Sedentary behavior (not moving)
  • Too much salt intake (how much salt is too much? Over 2400 mg per day.)
  • Too much alcohol
  • Tobacco

Can you feel when your blood pressure goes up?

I am sure you heard someone say..”Man I’m stressed..my blood pressure is up” or “You making my blood pressure go up!” Well they are lying!! Okay it might be true, but they don’t know it. You can’t feel when your blood pressure goes up. This is why they call hypertension the silent killer. Many people feel that since they  ‘feel okay’ that they can put off doing something about their high blood pressure. What they don’t know is prolonged stress on the heart exerts cumulative damage that can cause serious complications.

There are some symptoms of elevated blood pressure, but those manifest when something bad is going to happen right away. Dizziness, blurred vision, chest pain or severe headaches. Signs of a stroke or heart problem. You don’t want to wait until then. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure take steps to control it and stay on top of it. Don’t wait until it’s too late!!

What are ways to treat Hypertension?

If you have been diagnosed with hypertension and your doctor gives you instructions or prescribes medication..LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. Take the medication. Follow the diet recommendation. Do whatever they tell you to do. You are paying the person..listen!!

Other methods that don’t involve medication:

  • Lose weight: If you lose 10-20 lbs you can lower your  number by 5-20 points.
  • Dietary changes: If you reduce your salt intake to 2.4 grams you can lower your systolic pressure by 2 pts
  • Physical Activity: You can potentially drop your number by 4-9 points by increasing your movement..

—–

After the lesson we did our physical activity..which almost caused me to dislocate my shoulder..but bygones.

Homework for this week: READ “Spiritual Guide to Good Health” by Stephanie Davenport.  Ms. Davenport is our Health Ministry Program Coordinator. If you are interested in a copy, let me know and I will comment on how to get one for you. I am sure she has extra. 😉

Next week- NUTRITION LESSON.

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Your turn!! COMMENTS? QUESTIONS? New information that I didn’t add? Chime in and let me know. I am always down to learn something new!!

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Filed under Health, Hypertension, Uncategorized