Thursday, July 3, 2003
Carly Costanza and Carly Dahl
Because they stood up against prejudice in high school.
They''ve been best friends since grade school. One of their other close friends, who just graduated from Carmel High with them, is also named Carly. Their own mothers think it''s confusing. And classmates like to tease the Carlys.
"People like to walk down the halls and yell, ''Hey Carly,'' and see all our heads turn," says Carly Costanza.
Last fall, it got a bit more confusing. Carly Costanza and Carly Dahl started a high school chapter of the Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA, and suddenly found classmates asking them if they were a lesbian couple.
"We let them know we weren''t," says Dahl. "But we also said, ''what would the problem be if we were?''"
For Costanza, the idea for a club started as a way to get her mom off her back for not belonging to any school groups.
"I was kind of anti-school," she says. "My mom got on my case to join something, and I said there aren''t any good clubs. So we started one."
Dahl explains that she wanted to educate classmates that there is an underlying cost to carelessly using high school slang like, "that''s so gay," and, "you''re a fag."
"Those are popular insults," she says. "We wanted to do something to promote awareness--Carmel is in a bubble and definitely people don''t seem to know about the rest of the world. When we wanted to study The Laramie Project at school, people said, ''there are no gay people at this school--why is it an issue?''"
Ultimately, the school allowed the reading of the play about Matthew Shepherd, who was murdered because of his homosexuality. And to the Carlys'' surprise, the school permitted special events that the GSA Club brought in, such a panel of speakers who described different sexual preferences.
"We had LGBTQ speakers," Costanza says. "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning. They told stories about their lives, and that really helped introduce people to tolerance."
"We read the comment sheets after, and it was really interesting," Dahl says. "People wrote, ''it''s cool to see they are just like you and me.''"
The Carlys also arranged other activities, such as a lock-in at the Carmel Youth Center, a bowl-a-thon fundraiser for children of gays and lesbians, and events with GSA chapters at other local high schools. During one of the most affecting club events, students and supportive faculty observed a day of silence, and carried cards with photographs of victims of hate crimes.
In April, a Bay Area activist group honored the Carlys with an award for community activism at a luncheon attended by Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter, Assembly-member John Laird, and Congressman Sam Farr.
"It''s cool being young and being able to teach old people a thing or two," Costanza laughs.
Dahl is headed to Vassar this fall; Costanza to Santa Barbara City College. They plan on joining chapters of GSA at the colleges, or starting them if they don''t exist.
"It''s not a safe environment to be out at many schools," Dahl says. "There''s a pressure to conform, and we want people to know there''s a cost to that."
Teen Center Matriarch
Because tattooed, muscle-bound ex-gang-members call her "Mom."
Little more than a year ago, many thought the Marina Teen Center''s bare and paint-cracked building was condemned. The place often looked abandoned. A sparse 20 kids would amble through daily looking for something to do.
Now, with an average of 80 kids coming in every day (up 80 percent in the last five months), lightning has clearly struck the body of the once lifeless Center.
Since her arrival in April of 2002, Macklin has found donors to help give the place a paint job in and out, new basketball backboards, a weight room, a paved driveway (in progress), and a daily supply of free pastries for the kids. As co-chairman of OSSC, a thrift shop in Monterey, she has been able to supply sports equipment and kitchenware, largely from her own pocket. And through a wise use of meager funds, she has begun serving free meals every Tuesday for the 100 teens (minimum) that squeeze in to get fed.
All this cooking and shopping, along with the camping and field trips she has organized, have led her superiors to demand she start recording overtime. But she says it is not just the Teen Center''s life that she has rejuvenated.
I asked a few kids last week where they would be if not at the Center. "Nowhere."
"Watchin'' TV at home."
Without safe places to go, teens will even do the kind of things that earn them a bad name with local police and neighborhoods. But Macklin has been a voice insisting they are "good kids."
The 35-year-old, sure on her feet, explains in her Georgia drawl how teens come to her asking for help with drug problems or pregnancy. Her kind eyes looking serious, she says that sometimes she drives kids down to the pregnancy center or Clint Eastwood Foundation herself.
As she strolls through the rooms, she chats it up with the teens, laughing and making jokes. They seem shy and polite and happy around her. An 18-year-old, bad-mouthing girl begs forgiveness when Tammy warns her to straighten up or not come back for a week.
Her secret, she says, is that she treats teens like "young adults."
"I give them the respect they want to receive, and they respect me," she says.
She describes herself as friend and disciplinarian, and says that''s what the teens themselves want. Macklin has made the kids feel at home and feel wholesome. Given firm guidelines, but also the space and the trust to be good, they gravitate toward it. Fights, which in the past Tammy has broken up herself, have not occurred on the grounds since November. Word is spreading, and more kids keep coming. There has been a 15 percent decrease in teen crime in Marina since 2002--it could have something to do with the Center''s recent success.
A mother of three, wife of a Navy officer and co-chair of an organization that helps Navy wives and mothers, Girl Scout leader, and PTA member, one might expect Macklin to be worn haggard. But she beams.
She recently made a deal with her husband, who was offered an excellent position in Japan, to delay departure until the end of the next school year so that she can spend more time establishing the Center.
Now on vacation, another volunteer has stepped up to fill her place until she returns. Before she left, however, Macklin stocked the Center''s freezer with a fully prepared dinner for the Tuesday meal she would miss.
Because he devotes his time, when not jamming on jazz guitar, to teaching kids jazz for free.
Bruce Forman talks about his pet project, JazzMasters, almost as fervently as he plays jazz guitar. Come to think of it, Forman does everything fervently. He''s that kind of guy.
In late 1999, Forman pioneered a free music program in Carmel which he taught along with a few of his buddies. Bruce Forman''s buddies happen to be the current top players of jazz in the country.
JazzMasters has expanded to Seaside, Big Sur, New York City and Los Angeles. Originally, there was a workshop in the San Francisco Bay Area also, but Forman figured there were already plenty of opportunities for music education there and he concentrated his efforts on the Central Coast.
"Music really needs to flourish with kids," he says. "We''re not trying to create musicians, we''re transforming lives. We want kids to get inspired by music, and I think musicians can do that quicker, cheaper and better."
In a free workshop at the Boys and Girls Club in Seaside (all JazzMasters programs are free), it is readily apparent how Forman gets kids into music. He gets down to their level, literally, bending his tall, wiry frame to ear height, laughing as he talks about rhythm and melody. Small heads nod and smiles emerge as fingers timidly stroke guitar strings.
Forman also teaches jazz to advanced students, through the Monterey Jazz Festival education programs. For 12 years, he''s seen hundreds of all-star high school players grow up and succeed, thanks to the MJF. Several years ago, I saw Forman introduce an amazing teenage guitarist at a private concert, where they played an acoustic set as if they had been jamming together for decades. Forman puts people at ease. His quick wit and total love of music are contagious, and this is what people respond to.
Beyond the fact that he has released many CDs as a bandleader, authored several guitar technique manuals, has been called "one of the great lights of our age" by Jazz Times, and plays an almost non-stop schedule with jazz greats, Forman is a relaxed and fun guy. He cares deeply about the community where he has lived for more than 20 years, and his mission these days is to involve kids with it too.
"My love of this community keeps me going on JazzMasters," he says. "We are so lucky here. It has given me so much," he says. "We''ve refocused on the youngest kids so they don''t get left behind when music is cut from schools. I was scared music was becoming a rich man''s sport, when really, it should be accessible to all."
Forman''s goal for this year is to get a JazzMasters program set up in Salinas, to use some of the folklorico talent there and make it bilingual.
Last weekend, Forman and local drummer David Morwood were honored with the national Jazz Journalists Association''s award at the Jazz and Blues Company in Carmel. He''s playing two sets at the MJF in September, and he''s touring the South Pacific later this year--all the while keeping JazzMasters running at top speed. So what does this guy do in his spare time? He laughs at the question.
"I wrote a novel," he says. "Yeah, it''s about jazz and mysticism and human folly. It just got published." Catch a reading of the book, Trust Me, later in July at Thunderbird Books or at the Henry Miller Library.
For more info on JazzMasters, call 659-4654.
Because he''s standing up for peace and justice and against the Bush Administration.
Sam Farr, the veteran politician who acts on behalf of Monterey County in the US House of Representatives, sees his mission in straightforward terms. "It''s my job to represent the 17th District," he says simply. Part of that task requires some nuts-and-bolts political wrangling, and Farr is good at that. For instance, getting himself installed as a member of the Appropriations Committee, which controls the House''s money, has helped him protect crucial local assets like the National Marine Sanctuary, the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School, and hundreds of thousands of acres of National Park, National Forest and Bureau of Land Management land.
"We''ve got federal footprints all over the place," he says. "My job is to make sure they are administered well and that they''re doing their job."
But Farr says he also recognizes an obligation to "push the envelope." And so over the past year and more, he has done more than simply bring home the bacon. He has emerged as a progressive Democratic leader at a time when many of his colleagues have cowered.
Farr has shown this leadership in important areas of governance--all of which are crucial to us here in central California, and all of which have been ignored or threatened by the Bush Administration and its allies.
Farr''s good work can be seen in what he''s done over the past month.
During the first week of June, immediately after Leon Panetta delivered the devastating Pew Commission Oceans Report to the White House, Farr introduced important ocean-protection legislation in the House. He then resigned his seat as chair of the California Democratic Caucus to push the bill.
The following week, Farr lambasteed Attorney General John Ashcroft for trying to expand his power, under the pernicious PATRIOT Act, to hold trials in secret. (Farr compared the proposal to the infamous Star Chamber of 15th-century England.)
And two weeks later, Farr introduced a bill that would establish a plan for dealing with post-conflict situations like the deepening quagmire in Iraq.
Where Farr has shown the most courageous leadership has been in his unrelenting opposition to the Administration''s warlike foreign policy. An early and eloquent critic of the Bush plan to invade Iraq, Farr stood as one of only 12 members to vote against the unprecedented first-strike war.
Meanwhile, Farr has fought to protect federal organic standards and against exempting the Department of Defense from environmental laws. He battled the Bush Administration''s cynical "Forest Health" bill and decried cuts in benefits to military families.
Our e-mail box seems to receive an urgent message from Farr''s press aide every other day. There is no denying that the man is on a rampage.
What happened to fire his passion? "George Bush was elected president, and the Republicans took over both houses of Congress," he says bluntly. "When that happened, the old Peace Corps volunteer in me said, ''We''ve got to get back to the basics. We''ve got to organize--on the community level.''
"The collective American society has become very comfortable, and a little complacent. When that happens, we forget to pay attention to the details about what''s going on with the government. Not being able to stop bad policy or implement good policy, part of the job is to be the town crier."
And the message Farr would like to shout from the rooftops?
"The emperor has no clothes."
John L. Nash
Digital Divide Dasher
Because he latched onto an unforeseen opportunity to help his community.
About two years ago, John Nash sat on the board of the Seaside Civic League. One day, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asked the League about putting a computer center into Del Monte Manor, its subsidized housing complex in Seaside. Oddly, Nash happened to have about 18 computers, tables and chairs piled up in his garage at the time. They belonged to his son Cedric, who ran a computer business in Oakland. With Cedric''s okay, Nash offered up all the equipment. He also offered to manage and set up the center with the help of two computer-savvy colleagues, Richard Coleman and Carl Laing.
Nash, a friendly and straightforward man, had grown up picking tobacco in North Carolina. He''d spent most of his life in the military and working for the Department of Corrections. After retirement, he expected to live out his days watching his grandchildren and fulfilling his duties as treasurer, Sunday-school superintendent and deacon at the Greater Victory Temple Church of God in Christ. He didn''t have much computer experience and definitely never imagined he''d direct a computer center. But when the chance arose, he spun with the twist of fate.
After a year of planning, the center opened. At a ceremony on Thursday, June 26, the number of graduates reached 108.
"The best part is seeing how excited they are," Nash says. Looking back, he remembers why he jumped on the opportunity. Many locals were eager to gain tech skills, but didn''t have the money to take classes. Nash saw that the center was the perfect solution in a convenient location. Also, he wanted to give low-income families a way to keep their kids abreast of the technological revolution, not out of any dogma, but because he believes, "you better be with it or you get left behind."
In between classes, the center is open to the public, and usually fills up with kids doing homework, printing out their favorite band pictures from the Internet, or booting up games. This coming semester Nash expects youth enrollment to double to 30 students. Adult classes will increase in size as well and he has long been asking the Civic League board to fund a new employee.
Thanks to the center, retired people, kids and professionals alike now have an opportunity they may never have had. Last week, an older lady said that with the training, she would be able to run the office in her church. Others will get job promotions. A photojournalist from the Seaside Post was there printing out his business cards (free of charge) and designing a Web site to post his photos. One flamboyant cook was happy to have had the center to type up her resume (although she huffed the mantra, "ain''t no jobs round here anyway").
Nash successfully pitched CSU Monterey Bay students to teach classes at the center for university credit. He got the Monterey School District to share in paying some of his teachers'' salaries. And he is currently waiting for a grant reply from the Texas-based Beaumont Foundation in hopes of getting faster machines.
He has also done well to put competent and hard working tech-whizzes like Carl Laing by his side. As he turns 71, John Nash is a reminder that opportunity (and recognition) always knocks for the industrious soul.