Students from all four high schools on East Oakland’s Castlemont campus — Leadership Preparatory, East Oakland School of the Arts, Castlemont Business and Technology School, LPS-College Park — crowded outside the new auditorium this afternoon to honor their classmate Antonio Nunez and all of the other Oakland students who have died violently this year.
By my count, at least seven OUSD students have been fatally shot in 2009 – more, if you include the 15-year-old who had stopped coming to school (in Oakland, anyway) or the 21-year-old adult school student who died over Labor Day weekend.
The student-leaders who organized the event told me that tragedy strikes so often in their lives it’s become almost normal. “Right here in Oakland, you only last a little while,” said Rogerio Leon, a soft-spoken 17-year-old.
Maybe that’s why the short memorial wasn’t as somber as I had expected. Most of the students were quiet during the moment of silence, but when Rogerio asked everyone to call out the names of people they had lost, some kids started laughing and joking around. A student behind me cried out, “Biggie Smalls!”
Still, Rolando Vazquez, 17, said he felt the Castlemont schools should host these joint events more often, that doing so might bring a sense of calm and provide a release.
Alicia Loera, 14, said she hoped students who were grieving would know they weren’t alone. “We just want to tell people that we’re going through the same things,” she said.