Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Golden Gate Guns Target Teens

My latest post to WireTapMag.

19-year old Jamar Lake should be enjoying his summer with family, earning money at the local youth center or playing a game of football with his homies. But he isn't doing any of those things. Lake was murdered Thursday May 24 at 10:30 a.m. on a bright, sunny morning outside a corner convenience store, not far from his home at the Buena Plaza East housing projects. Nicknamed "Big Bear," Lake was a popular senior at Mission High School where he had recently earned enough credits to graduate.

As a student teacher at one of San Francisco's oldest public high schools, Mission High, I got to know a lot of the school's diverse young students. I worked in an 11th grade English classroom this year, and a 12th grade classroom in '05-06. My pupils came from Palestine, Ukraine, Mongolia, Taiwan, El Salvador and Puerto Rico. Some had fled Hurricane Katrina and were rebuilding their lives in San Francisco. Listening to their hopes and struggles, I'm certain I learned as much from the kids as they may have from my teaching. But there are some experiences we discussed that I wish weren't so common for them.

A shrine for Bear

I walked into Mission High on Wednesday May 30 and immediately saw a shrine in the foyer that included twinkling candles, flowers, photos and other remembrances to Big Bear. Down both sides of the first floor hallway students wrote shout-outs and comments to their friend and classmate, many ending with "Rise In Power" or "Relax In Paradise." Although I hadn't known Bear personally, I knew many of his friends, and no-one could miss the large, smiling Lake sauntering to class surrounded by a crew of admiring boys and girls. I also learned that Bear was also warmly embraced by the school's principal and other administrators.

Ms. L (the master teacher I worked with) and I would talk often about our student's lives and their neighborhood issues. Perched on her desk was a photo of Raymon Bass, a student from 2004 who had been shot to death outside of a bar in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood. As a resident of the Western Additon, a person of conscience, as well as a patron and DJ at the bar over the past six years, Bass's shooting was also personal to me. Big Bear's death last month was a stinging reminder of how little San Francisco has done to concretely deal with the causes of youth violence. A few measures -- beefed up police patrols or neighborhood rallies-- come and go in the wake of these tragedies. Then business goes on as usual. Read the rest of this post here.