Stories by Monica Medina
Six weeks before Tariq Khamisa's 21st birthday, on a cold Saturday night in January 1995, the San Diego State University sophomore was gunned down while delivering pizza. It was part of a gang initiation, called "Jacking the Pizza Man," and Tony Hicks, the one being initiated, fired the fatal bullet. He was 14 years old.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Local Hero Daniel Hoang Makes a Difference Through Martial Arts
Daniel Hoang had set his dreams on becoming a physician. He volunteered at hospitals, and studied biochemistry at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), in 1994. He worked three years at Scripps Research Institute Department of Neurobiology, where he received an Excellence Award for Research and Development.
Throughout her life, Virginia Gordon’s passion for activism has been front and center. She remembers how her grandmother Sadye was deeply involved in Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, and served as an organizer for Youth Aliya, an organization that was founded during World War II to bring Jewish children out of Germany and relocate them to England and Palestine.
Jewish American Heritage Month Local Hero Robin Rady Helps Cancer Patients Get Organized with ‘Binder of Hope’
Four years ago, Robin Rady was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though it was caught early, it’s the kind of news that could have been enough to put anyone in a deep funk or a tailspin. But Robin, who is known for her warmth and positive energy, searched for clarity and calm. She found it in a binder–and that binder ended up seeing her through one of the toughest periods of her life, a time filled with surgeries, reconstructive surgeries, physical therapy and so much more.
Shara Fisler thrives at her job. She is the executive director for the Ocean Discovery Institute, an educational program she founded 15 years ago, in order to empower young people to explore San Diego’s coastal habitats and become scientific and environmental leaders of tomorrow. For someone who started out in life living hundreds of miles away from the nearest ocean, her passion for studying natural habitats actually began in the desert.
In Dr. Gail Knight’s office is a wall of photos of patients she has treated. They are mementos of childhood milestones—birthday celebrations, family vacations and graduations. Though she hasn’t treated most of them in years, Knight's pride in them shines through. The pride in knowing that through her work these children are thriving.
Andre Jones and Aaron Wooten know first-hand the important role fathers play in the lives of their children. Jones grew up with his father, Wooten did not; and though their lives took different paths because of it, the two have come together to run Father2Child. The program has one goal: to strengthen the bonds between African-American fathers and their children.
When Travis Ricks learned he had cancer in his right leg, he was a star football athlete in high school. Sports were his life. Later, when he had to make the decision whether or not to amputate the leg because his treatment options were dwindling, he said, "Let's cut it off. It's time to move on." Yet, if he could do it all over again, keep his leg and be cancer-free, he wouldn't change a thing. In losing his leg, he received something far greater: his relationship with his mother.
Carmen Kcomt is filled with pride. On June 25th, this 2014 Hispanic Heritage Month Local Hero who hails from Peru, finally became a United States citizen. The journey to citizenship was filled with challenges and setbacks that included 11 years of struggling to maneuver through the system in her quest for political asylum—and spending five of those years as an undocumented immigrant.
As a child in Belfast, the Reverend Canon Albert Ogle grew up in a place where being gay was criminalized. It was a violent time, filled with sectarian rioting, when Irish Catholics and Nationalists were demanding an end to years of discrimination. Ogle, a 2014 LGBT Pride Month Local Hero, wryly observes that despite the hostility between the factions, there was at least one item both sides could agree on.
Many of us have never been to India and chances are we never will. But it’s a country worth learning about, particularly when you consider that according to the World Economic Forum, India is expected to surpass Japan as the world’s third largest economy by 2015. What’s more, by 2030, it will supplant China as the country with the largest population.
Dr. Allen Chan leans in to explain to his guests, comprised of three adults and three children, the Chinese custom of finger tapping when served tea. We are sitting around a rather large, round table at the Jasmine Seafood Restaurant enjoying a bountiful meal of Dim Sum, and we also lean in order to better hear him above the din of the packed restaurant.
Helene Bortz has just arrived. She’s in high spirits, exuding a joie de vivre and a sense of purpose, the kind that undoubtedly got her to where she is today. As she warmly greets her business partner of five years, Myrice Goldberg, a woman who seems reserved and low key in comparison, one can soon see how well they complement each other.
Amidst the towering, aromatic pines of the San Bernardino National Forest is Camp Mountain Chai. Like most summer camps, it offers typical activities such as swimming, crafts and sing-alongs. It’s an experience that each summer draws hundreds of San Diego children, and in the process, they’re getting something else: a cultural identity.
For Vickie E. Turner, becoming a lawyer wasn’t a childhood dream, but as an accountant for the Las Vegas Gaming Commission, she felt that something was lacking and wanted more. Then a friend told her he was heading to San Diego for law school. The thought intrigued her, so she went along, figuring she'd just test the waters.
Most people seem to have a phobia about rats, and that's just what the boys in M. Eloise Battle's school were counting on the day they tossed a large, dead one right into her bicycle basket. Battle, who was in the seventh grade at the time, didn’t notice at first, but when she did see the specimen in her basket, she exclaimed with glee, "Oh boy! I can practice mounting this!"
The Montford Point Marines are a little known part of U.S. military history. Born out of necessity, when African American men were first drafted to serve in World War II, the legacy of the Marines who trained at Montford Point in North Carolina is a mirror of the times, back when segregation and discrimination were par for the course.
True heroism. You can see it in their hands, brown and weathered. Their long fingers, slightly bent from the weight of the load they've had to carry. It's in their faces too, which exemplify a quiet dignity, and in their eyes, which glisten like gems from beneath the Pacific. An homage perhaps, to their time in Hawaii, Saipan, Guam and Okinawa. The crevices that line their faces and their somber, knowing smiles reveal a measure of the life they've lived.
Rose-Margaret Orrantia has spent a lifetime working to help American Indian children in the foster care system. After all, helping children is where her heart has led her. And helping to place these children in American Indian homes has been her way of giving back to her community and ensuring its future.
On a bright and clear weekend morning in early October, there’s a flutter of activity at San Diego’s Tecolote Nature Center as staff get ready for an annual family activity, “Baskets and Botany.” The one-day event, which has been held there since the mid-'90s, is a day for families to share the environmental and cultural connections of Tecolote Canyon.
The world is filled with injustice. All you need do is pick up a newspaper or go online and you’ll find a litany of human rights violations—victims of torture and kidnappings, people being sent to prison camps by their own government, women suffering untold abuse at the hands of their husbands or fathers while authorities look the other way, and children being forced into labor and prostitution. Here in San Diego, Chilean-born Fabiola Navarro sees fighting such human rights violations as a life-long cause.
As a kid from New York, you could say I grew up in the wings of the Broadway stage. After all, my mother took me to see many a Saturday matinee of Broadway’s best. By the time I was 12 I had seen my fill. “The Sound of Music,” starring Mary Martin, “My Fair Lady” with Julie Andrews, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” with Robert Morse, and “Fiddler on the Roof,” starring the incomparable Zero Mostel, to name just a few.
There are little girls who dream of princesses, playing with friends, or discovering a new and exciting book. And, there is Sophak Yem. What she longed for were gooseberries, a bright green berry that grows wild in Cambodia and has a particularly tart taste. Gooseberries. How she loved them when served with a mixture of salt and chili mixture. For Yem, a 2013 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Local Hero honoree, growing up in a Cambodian concentration camp, gooseberries represented one of the few joys in her young life.
Elmer Bisarra learned early on what was expected of him. As the son of a Filipino father and a Chinese Hawaiian mother, he knew that the man is supposed to be the provider for his family, and that women serve best as educators, healers and nurturers. He remembers how this belief was embedded in his culture, passed down to him by his parents.
Listen to klezmer music and it will harken you back to another time. Rich with tradition, the haunting melodies are a testament to the Jewish people and all they’ve endured throughout the course of history. To me, klezmer has the capacity to reach into our hearts and stir us to feel its beauty and soul.
Whenever tragedy strikes, in any part of our country, it affects us all. We go into shock, disbelief, sadness and grief. We become riveted to our television sets, radios, computers, and smart phones, craving every bit of news available. And, the horrors of the day are played over and over until they become embedded in our hearts and minds.
What does evil look like? Just ask Frank Meeink, who became a skinhead at age 13, and spent years struggling with the demons inside him—the ones that caused him to pick fights for no reason, sometimes beating his victims senseless. It took incarceration to help him turn his life around, a life that was captured in the film, American History X.
I was but a little girl when I started hearing the first rumblings of the Feminist Movement. As I grew older it was fascinating to see it all unfold—from the Feminine Mystique, to the protests and marches on the nation’s capital, to Erica Jong’s best-selling book, “Fear of Flying,” and to the launch of Ms. magazine, and my very first copy at the age of sixteen.
San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood is home to one of the largest Somali populations in the nation. Many arrived here as refugees in the early 1990s, during a time of civil war strife in Somalia. One of those who settled here at that time is Amina Sheik Mohamed. Today she is manager of the African American Campaign for the Network for a Healthy California operated locally from the University of California, San Diego. She is also a 2013 Women’s History Month Local Hero honoree.
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