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Young & Determined: how a group of young men is reinventing Marin City

Read the story on KALW.

Lorenzo Bynum has the “baller” build you might see on the cover of GQ, without the swagger. He’s clean-cut, 5’10”, wears two small earrings and has a muscular frame. It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Marin City, and the 23-year-old is digging frantically through a 10’ by 10’ closet. He’s hunting for a parachute large enough for a game with 15 third graders.

Wednesdays are busy days for Bynum. He clocks in at three part-time jobs: two hours directing elementary school children, two hours coaching track and field, and two hours coaching middle school boys basketball.

One reason Bynum likes basketball is that he grew up shooting hoops around town—with the friends and family members who are now his business partners. In late 2011, Bynum, his cousin Louis, and his friends Marcus Mason, Maurice Jenkins, and Melvin Judson, launched a business designing and selling t-shirts.

With $365 pooled from their savings, they ordered 100 cardigans and 50 sweatshirts, and began screen printing original designs. So far they’ve sold over 200 shirts.

“If you don’t know us, and you just see us on the street, you think ‘oh these are just some bad guys from Marin City.’ And most people don’t see us. So we’re here to get that out in the streets,” says Bynum.

Like many living in Marin City, the young men have had a hard time finding work.

Two of them are working towards degrees. For both, it’s their second try. Mason lost his housing, and Bynum says he just wasn’t able to pay.

“They hiked the tuition to where it was $35k to go a year and I couldn’t afford that even with financial aid, grants and scholarships,” says Bynum.

Meanwhile, Judson and Jenkins work part-time. They see each other daily at Babies “R” Us. Judson has worked as a cashier and stocker there for four years. This year, he got a raise. Now he earns $10.51 per hour, just over the county minimum wage. At 17 years old, Louis Bynum is the youngest. He also used to work at Babies “R” Us.

“Right now working for me is a bigger priority, trying to start this business and also provide for myself,” said Jenkins.

Over the last 30 years, Marin City residents battled poverty and drug abuse. Today, some things are better.

According to the 2010 census, Marin City is now a median-income community. But the stigma and the challenges remain. Marin City still has higher crime and poverty rates than the prosperous county surrounding it and more than a quarter of Marin City residents continue to live under the poverty line.

“Over the last few years, the city changed for the better,” says Andrew Abou Jaoude, Client Services Coordinator for the Marin City Community Development Corporation.

Bynum and his crew see themselves as part of Marin City’s renewal.

“Our clothing line is called RedEy3. It means ‘Real expressions determined through one’s eyes.’ And the image is a plane. It means being successful in anything and everything you do. Flight to success, it’s catchy. It rolls off the tongue,” he said.

The crew works out of two homes, both of which are in public housing. At the four-bedroom apartment that Maurice Jenkins shares with his parents and siblings, they receive equipment and clothing. They hold meetings at the two-bedroom apartment Lorenzo shares with his family. But soon, they will be working out of their own office, thanks to a local non-profit.

Along with joblessness, youth crime continues to plague Marin City. Kevin Lynch is the Director of Marin County Youth Probation Services. “Approximately 75 percent of youth in our system are youths of color, which is way out of proportion to what youths of color represent in Marin County,” says Lynch. “And when I see numbers going down for other youth, that frustrates me even more. I feel like we can do better.”

Walking around Marin City, it’s easy to see the things that make life harder. Outside Jenkin’s apartment, an older, frail woman is walking around in circles. She’s stoned. Within 45 seconds, a police car approaches, and officers step out to talk with her. Behind her, young men are joking and listening to music. They don’t seem to notice.

Outside of the Phoenix Project of Marin, John Allen, 26, and Derek Morgan, 17, both say living in Marin City is challenging.

“Marin City is what you make of it. It can be your heaven or it can be your hell,” says Allen.

“It’s kinda hard growing up here because we don’t have a lot of things. But, it takes you to rise up above the influence. Growing up here you can get caught up, or, you can rise,” says Morgan.

RedEy3 still faces some challenges. This year they contacted the Marin City Community Development Corporation for small business resources, but they have yet to sign up for any assistance programs. The bigger issue now is duration. Can they keep it fun long enough to push them through months of small business hardship?

The RedEy3 team is in the process of coming out with a new collection. This one will have 120 shirts and tank tops for sale. Until the collection comes out, they will be submitting grant applications as they prepare to buy a digital t-shirt printer machine, and they’ll keep the business going.

You can see RedEy3 designs at


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US policy alters deportation priorities

In a letter to Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and other senators who had requested that DHS consider deferring the removal of all DREAM Act eligible students, DHS announced that they would not categorically defer removal, but persons who were not high priority targets can request prosecutorial discretion on a case by case basis.

US Policy Alters Deportation Priorities

letters2wash Immigration amnesty, deportation, immigration, law The Department of Homeland Security’s Janet Napolitano announced that the Obama administration would make rules whereby 300,000 in deportation proceedings would be reviewed and where those without criminal records could stay. Mary Giovagnoli, Director of the Immigration Policy Council discusses the department’s new deportation priority changes.
Obama’s New, More Lenient Deportation Policy Could Cut Both Ways Politically #Hispanic #Latino #immigration
August 18, 2011
Obama Administration puts Band-Aid on immigration

It’s been a big week for immigration news. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday released a letter stating the Obama Administration would review the files of 300,000 undocumented immigrants and reevaluate the pending deportations of “low priority” cases or people who have not committed violent crimes.
U.S. Eases Policy On Deportations

The Obama administration decided it will, on a case-by-case basis, allow many illegal immigrants who face deportation to remain in the U.S., a move aimed at focusing enforcement efforts. Federal authorities will review individually the cases of some 300,000 illegal immigrants in deportation proceedings, a senior administration official said Thursday.
I applaud Obama’s bold decision to make #immigration enforcement more in line w/our nat’l security priorities #DREAMAct
August 18, 2011
National Day Laborer Organizing Network Response to President’s Speech
July 2, 2010
Regardless of Obama”s new immigration policy, I will continue to enforce all Federal and Arizona immigration laws. Nothing Changes!
August 19, 2011
National Community Advisory Report on ICE”s Failed “Secure Communities” Program via @ndlon
August 19, 2011
Judge orders #SComm docs to be turned over to migrant rights groups. Congrats to @ndlon & @newman_chris you guys rock!
August 19, 2011
Deportation Halted for Younger Immigrants

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration announced on Thursday that it would generally not deport or expel illegal immigrants who had come to the United States as young children and graduated from high school or served in the armed forces.
Relief for DreamActivists ->Fewer Youths to Be Deported in New Policy: #latism #cir #immigration
August 19, 2011
RT @changeLGBT: RT @chrisgeidner: #Immigration enforcement changes could stop deportations for same-sex partners:
August 19, 2011
RT @P4HR: Check out @DetentionWatch today which features PHR’s blog on #SComm #DWN #immigration
August 19, 2011
Immigration reform in August: why now? – CNN International #greencard #immigration
August 19, 2011
RT @SunitaPatel_ccr: RT: Court just ordered ICE ordered to produce #SComm FOIA docs by Sept. 13th and release of "Oct. 2 Mandatory Memo" by Tues. @theCCR @ndlon
August 18, 2011

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Unmodified: HAMP Fails People of Color in Foreclosure Crisis

Making Home Affordable is a key part of the Obama Administration’s effort to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. If you are struggling with your monthly mortgage payments or if you have already missed a payment, now is the time to take action and apply for HAMP the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). But what if taking action means butting up against a system that repeatedly loses your paperwork and often starts the foreclosure process without your knowing it?
Ana Romero is one of many Americans who anxiously awaits news about her loan modification application. Currently her home is set to be foreclosed on June 10th. In this segment she talks about the bureaucratic hoops she has had to go through in order to apply for a HAMP modification. Her story exemplifies some of the issues homeowners of color face when applying for loan modifications. Kevin Stein, Associate Director at CRC, provides HAMP loan modification context noting that people of color are often experiencing a harder time than other borrowers.
Unmodified was produced in 2011 for the Race Poverty and Environment Journal’s RPE Radio podcast.
Music: Kronos Quartet String Quartet #4

Photos: Irene Florez

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Volunteering for the long haul

Braised Short Ribs w/mashed yams, Brussels sprouts and orange gremolata, prepared by the Kitchen of Champions at Oakland's Society of Saint Vincent de Paul for a recent fundraiser.

For the last 70 years the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has been helping those in need attain food, shelter, and work. They focus on the poor and the homeless with the help of a small staff and many volunteers. Walking into their kitchen I was surprised to learn that they have dedicated teams of volunteers who serve week in and week out. Their longest volunteer has been giving her time every Wednesday for the last 18 years. This segment takes you behind the scenes to Saint Vincent De Paul’s dish room to hear why their volunteers keep going back.

If you want to get involved to help them meet their mission and maybe meet yours, call (510) 636-4265. You can help at their dining room, help desk, Job Club, and even in their kitchen. Learn more at

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Mujeres create their own workplace

Natural Home Cleaning members at the Worker Co-op Conference in New Orleans. Photo by Irene Florez

While successful in some markets, the cooperative business model faces challenges. One is that co-ops are just catching on in the U.S., which means financing new projects is difficult, and guidance for young cooperatives is scarce. To help fill the void, WAGES provides advice to those trying to start a co-op. “We don’t want other people to have to learn the hard way,” Abell says. Read the Full Story