June 23, 2011By: PR Comm
Immediately after finals, I hopped onto a forty-eight hour train ride with thirty other UC Berkeley students to New Orleans, Louisiana. My 2011 summer commenced with a three-week service trip through Magnolia Project, a student-run group that works in partnership with Gulf Coast communities.
We were lodged at the Lower Ninth Ward Village community center and divided into teams of 5 or 6 volunteers. The teams rotated to work with a different non-profit organization each week, with projects ranging from canvassing to construction. In the first week, my particular group worked with The Green Project, where we recycled paint in the warehouse and de-nailed/sorted wooden materials in the lumberyard. We rebuilt homes through St. Bernard Project during week two. Our tasks included drywalling, mudding, sanding, painting, shelving, among other assignments—most of which involved power tools and were learned on the job, for me at least.
During the last week, I had the privilege of going on the break-off trip to Abbeville, a city approximately 150 miles to the west of New Orleans. There, we cleaned up an elementary school in HEROD Village. The work itself wasn’t exactly glorious: steel brushing rusted screens, cleaning/caulking windows, patching floor tiles, mopping, etc. Yet, being present at the site was definitely the highlight of my time in Louisiana. The facility is intended to host a nutrition program that serves food to local children, but its completion continues to get postponed due to failing inspections. Finally, on our last day in Abbeville, an inspector came by and signed it off. The anticipation upon her entry and joy as she exited were equally shared among all the volunteers and community members present.
Louisiana, ultimately, allowed me to see the social inequality and injustices in context. Most noticeably is the French Quarter’s full restoration as a functioning tourist area, contrasted with the remnants of Hurricane Katrina—in the form of damaged houses and vacant homes—in neighborhoods just 10 minutes away. The discrepancy really puts what we value and prioritize as a society into perspective. I honestly was expecting to be able to look back and be amazed by our work with a sense of fulfillment. But instead, I am left feeling unsettled. There is so much more left to be done. This frustration will stay with me and serve as a reminder that the need for aids in the Gulf Coast still continues.
On a lighter note, we were free to explore the city after work hours. The welcoming atmosphere of southern hospitality is the epitome of my cultural experience. There is some sort of festivity each weekend; our stay easily coincided with the Greek Festival, Oyster Festival, and Creole Tomato Festival. Not to mention the food! I’ve had multiple fill of snoballs, beignets, seafood, and so on. As the home of jazz, you are bound to hear music on every corner you turn in the city. And the list goes on. I obviously didn’t come close to doing justice to everything that New Orleans has to offer. For the remainder of the summer, I will be in Berkeley taking classes (including “History of Jazz in America”) during the week and working at Tilden Park on the weekends. Come by if you would like to visit and further this discussion!
June 15, 2011By: PR Comm
Every morning in high school, I awoke to the sound of the stock market ticker. NPR broadcasts business news at 6:50, and hearing that morning bell meant I better hustle out of bed. From then on, listening to public radio remained an important part of my daily life, keeping me up to date on current events both foreign and domestic. This summer, public radio has once again become part of my life in the form of an internship for the summer at KQED, the public radio station for Northern California.
I work for Forum, a daily two-hour program that features a panel-style discussion on a variety of topics, from conflicts overseas to local budget crises to recent book releases. Two days a week, I wake up at hours comparable to Saturday morning practice and BART to the city in order to arrive at the studio well before the start of the show. My duties vary throughout the day: In the morning, the other intern and I welcome guests to the studio escorting them around and assuring that they are comfortable. During the show, we man the computers printing and prepping emailed-in comments and questions from which the producers and host select to read on air. Then we show the guests out and repeat the process for another hour.
After the show ends, and sometimes even while it’s still on air, we prep for other upcoming programs. This involves compiling a variety of internet articles and researching possible guests. I mine the websites of various newspapers, numerous blogs and pages of Google hits. This information is consolidated onto a focus sheet, which allows various members of production to access it. At the end of the day, we print all the paperwork we need for the next day’s show.
Working for Forum gives me greater insight into the service I use every day – sometimes in a surreal fashion. What I’d previously known as disembodied voices emanating from my stereo now came out of the mouths of very much embodied individuals. I hear the morning news reporter practice his report as he walks by the intern desk seconds before I hear the exact same pronouncements come out of my speakers.
Beyond this, I’m also learning so much about the world and the great community that is the SF bay area. In one day, I can be researching both judicial impartiality and farmer’s market fraud – and now I’m a greater expert on the proposed SF ban on circumcision than I ever intended to be. I look forward to applying the skills I learn at KQED to my work with Connect the Dots, a Berkeley Arts and Culture ‘Zine. I’m incredibly excited for the rest of my internship and I know this will be a summer to remember.
-as told to Ben Gellis