WEB EXTRA: A brief history of 9-1-1

Oct 8, 2013

The coordinated 9-1-1 system has grown up in fits and starts in different parts of the country.

Up until the late 1960s, you had to dial “0” or a 7-digit number to reach an emergency switchboard, and those numbers varied city to city.

If you’ve ever picked up the phone to call 9-1-1, you or someone else probably needed help. Badly. And you probably assumed that after dialing those three numbers, help would come screeching around the corner, lights and sirens blaring.

Jen Chien


The pulse of drums spills out onto the street from an upper window of the Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts, a big Art Deco building in the Lakeside district of Oakland. Up on the third floor, a battery of eight drummers is lined up against one wall of a large dance studio, vibrating the air with their music.

David Wakely

All week long we've been playing this sound, and asking you to guess what exactly it is and where exactly in the Bay Area we recorded it.

For the better part of two decades, Oakland residents have often objected to the city's process for taking complaints about police officers. Under the city's system, residents who want to make a complaint against a particular officer must make that complaint to a uniformed cop working for OPD's Internal Affairs Division. For some, the setup was intimidating, and it also bred cynicism because internal affairs routinely dismissed most of the complaints.

Kyung Jin Lee

West Oakland’s Alex Miller-Cole has decided that he can’t depend on the police for help.

“Mead Avenue was the second worst street in all of Oakland,” he says. “All the neighbors have been mulching. We planted 75 trees. Now it’s the cleanest street ever. Nothing happens here now.”

Youth Radio: Staying off probation, and teaching others how

Aug 22, 2013

In 2008, Reinaldi Gilder promised himself that he would never go back to jail. Since his release in December of that year, he’s not only managed to keep his word, he has also shown others that they can do the same.

On the afternoon of June 29, 1998, Trina Gomez and Maximilian Patlan were closing a branch of Fidelity Financial Services in Fullerton, California, when two men knocked on the door. They asked if they could make a payment, so Patlan let them into the bank. Once inside, one of the men punched Patlan in the face and ordered him to lie on the ground. The other man pulled out a shotgun and forced Gomez to collect all of the available cash. Minutes later, the two thieves walked out of Fidelity with more than $5,400 in cash and personal checks. The armed robbery and assault happened so quickly that Gomez and Patlan later had difficulty identifying the perpetrators.

The real value of a free haircut

Jul 23, 2013
Under CC license from Flickr user Mr T. in DC

About 3,000 homeless people live in Oakland. Their challenges include finding places to stay, food to eat, and something else that many people take for granted: self-care. Simple things like a shower or a haircut. If you don’t have a home, where do you go to clean up?  Sometimes, a sink in a public bathroom is the best you can find.

Kyung Jin Lee


Over the past few days, protesters on both sides of the Bay have joined thousands nationally in expressing outrage over George Zimmerman’s acquittal in Florida. Over the weekend, more than 500 people gathered at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Before artist and performer Ise Lyfe became Ise Lyfe, he was Isaac Brown, growing up in East Oakland, probably playing Nintendo games like he is right now. We’re in a bedroom in an apartment with these old video games, hat boxes, and vintage clothes – all carefully placed to capture what public housing units like the one we’re standing in must have looked like back in the day.

Under CC license from Flickr user allaboutgeorge

The top brass of the Oakland Police department looks a lot different than it did a month ago. In just one week in May, two police chiefs resigned: former chief Howard Jordan, then his successor, Anthony Toribio.

The departures followed several highly critical reports: one by an independent consultant, the other by the department’s court-appointed overseer. Both find that years after the landmark police abuse scandal known as the Riders case, the department is still struggling with leadership, accountability, and transparency.

Photo by Julie Caine

This story is part of The Audiophiles series, our award-winning series of conversations with the most creative people working with sound around the Bay.

A communal approach to neighborhood improvement

Jun 5, 2013
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/jalisco-restaurant/ / East Bay Express

Antonio Vasquez is chopping up a slab of pork right off a pig's leg. The whole place smells like roasted pork and corn tortillas. According to Vasquez, Jalisco’s owner, the resaturant is one of the oldest in the neighborhood. In January 1967, his dad opened the doors to Jalisco Restaurant. Vasquez has worked at Jalisco all of his life with his five sisters and two brothers.

Growing up on International Boulevard

Jun 5, 2013

Chicken salad and tostadas are the first things you smell stepping into the Lopez family apartment. Several people are sitting around a coffee table sharing a meal. Each of the tiny studio apartments houses one family. With 24 families in the building, the space is at full capacity. In the Lopez apartment, food is in the kitchen, on a makeshift table on wheels.

The Lopez family has lived in this studio apartment for thirteen years. The family moved here from Mexico. Edgar Lopez and his two brothers grew up in this apartment. 


In 2002, Oakland Mayor, now governor, Jerry Brown started Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) with the hope that students would have an outlet to express themselves through art forms like dance, theater, and visual illustrations.

Roosevelt Middle School

What is the recipe for a good education and a great school?  That is the question that drives Oakland Public High School Principal, Cliff Hong.

Hong is at the helm of Roosevelt Middle School in the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland, which has about 650 students.

Mills College student and KALW reporter Karen Gordon met Hong a year ago, when he was in his second year as principal of Roosevelt Middle School. 

KAREN GORDON:  What is the recipe for a good education and a great school?

East Bay Express: Throwing more money at police

May 29, 2013

Oakland already directs a larger percentage of its budget to police than comparable cities nationwide, yet it's planning to spend even more money without demanding reforms.

East Bay Express: A people-focused solution

May 23, 2013

Students at Montera Middle School in Oakland said the school's eighth-grade class was full of "drama" earlier this year. There had been a fight between two girls, and the conflict had broadened to the girls' friends. Some students "were coming to school in sweats, ready to fight," recalled Yari Ojeda-Sandel, a staffer at Montera who coordinates the school's new conflict-resolution program known as restorative justice.

A year ago, KALW’s Ali Budner met Sharena Thomas and her friend Lesley Phillips, two women from East Oakland who say the 911 emergency response system in their neighborhood is broken.

In trying to find a possible solution, they co-founded group called The People’s Community Medics. Its goal is to train citizens in basic first aid so they can help people as they wait for emergency responders.

Laura Saponara

All week long we've been playing this sound, and asking you to guess what exactly it is and where exactly in the Bay Area we recorded it.

The question of who should or should not be on any given street in Oakland came to a head recently at the city’s monthly First Friday Art Murmur event. In the past few years, First Friday has grown from a small art walk to a street party that attracts more than 20,000 people.  And increasingly, they’re people who represent very different Oaklands: the one that the New York Times named one of the world’s top five cities to visit, and the one where 30 people have been murdered so far this year.

Flickr user katastrophik

A couple of years ago, Sonny Le and his five-year-old son were approaching their front gate in Oakland’s Glenview neighborhood after school when Le saw two men running towards them.

“One was trying to go behind us – the maneuver trying to corral your prey, basically,” he says. “The other one started coming right at me, at us. He put his hoodie on. It was like, OK, these kids gonna rob us.”

Money Diaries: When money comes at a cost

Apr 15, 2013
Under CC license from Flickr user 401(K)

The Money Diaries is a series of stories featuring young people from Oakland and their relationships with money. Jabari Omari is a high school senior. For Omari, leaving high school comes with an emotional burden few young people have to face. His mother died after a stroke several years ago. In her will, she left him insurance money – but he can’t access it until he’s 21. So until then, he’s applying for college scholarships, and trying to figure out how to become an adult on his own.

The Money Diaries: Confessions of a Shop-aholic

Apr 8, 2013
Under CC license from Flickr user 401(K)

The Money Diaries is a series in which young people from Oakland explore their relationships with money. Zakiya Jackson is calling her story “Confessions of a Shop-aholic.” She has two jobs to help pay for her shopping habit. For one of them, she gets paid on Fridays, and the money often doesn’t last the weekend. This is her story.


Street prostitution is a major problem in Oakland, but arrest rates have dropped by 37 percent from 2011 to 2012. Nevertheless, community members remain vigilant. In Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood, which includes some of the main trafficking corridors, residents are sick of the street scene. They’ve launched what’s called the Dear John Campaign to take on the street level sex trafficking that happens right outside their doors.

A Simple Revolution: Judy Grahn, feminist poet

Mar 13, 2013

Host and Producer Marilyn Pittman interviews lesbian feminist pioneer, Judy Grahn, whose "Common Woman" poems inspired the early 70's feminist movement. Marilyn's 1982 NPR-funded series "By A Woman Writ" profiled Judy and her work. This show will feature audio from that program of actors performing her words. Judy is now Co-Director of The Women's Spirituality Program at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. 7pm. http://www.sofia.edu/academics/faculty/grahn.php

Over the years, Bill Aboudi has portrayed himself as a champion of independent truckers in Oakland. The local businessman has a city contract to operate a large parking operation for big rigs at the former Oakland Army Base. But records also reveal strong evidence that Aboudi has violated several labor and environmental regulations in recent years, along with multiple city laws, and that he owes city taxpayers more than $235,000 in back rent and penalties for use of public property.

Money Diaries: Unemployed and on food stamps

Mar 4, 2013
Under CC license from Flickr user 401(K)

For the next few weeks, KALW News will be presenting stories from young people in Oakland, talking about their relationships with money. It’s part of a collaboration with the Oakland-based nonprofit Game Theory Academy, which works with low-income youth to improve their economic decision-making skills. Independent producer Lisa Morehouse worked with students at Game Theory Academy to record their experiences, in pieces we’re calling Money Diaries.