Type 2 diabetes — once known as “adult-onset diabetes” — is now striking children and teens in epidemic proportions, particularly in low-income communities and among adult youth of color.

With The Bigger Picture Campaign, teens in Northern California are using their creative juices to change the conversation about Type 2 diabetes. The innovative program, a partnership between UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations and arts nonprofit Youth Speaks, empowers young people of color to develop original spoken word poetry and produce hip hop videos that feature their poems.

Here, poet Anthony Orosco highlights the “death by diet” that plagues his Stockton, Calif., community.

From 1962 to the end of the
Delano grape boycott
Cesar Chavez led a movement against agricultural inequality.
The United Farm Workers of America
Empowered Mexicanos bent over from Bakersfield to Lodi
Standing united against the mistreatment of the people
Responsible for feeding this nation.
Abuelas y Abuelos, tias, tios, primos y carnales
Who picked processed and packed produce
Their pockets couldn’t afford to begin with.
Backs breaking bones aching
Harvesting healthy fruits and veggies
Acre by acre,
The bounty of California’s breadbasket
That almost never blessed the tables of farmero families,
When I was 13
My belly was a clinched fist protesting days without a proper meal,
Couch cushion diving
Finding as much change as a boy with no job possibly could,
Knowing in the pit of my empty growling stomach that
$2.00 burgers and 50 cent sodas
Ain’t enough anymore.
My grandfather changing from picker to pick pocket
Even if you gotta rob chumps for their change
Just see it as them paying for
You ya friends ya family to eat.
Even as the grease from them fries begins to choke you,
When your body begins to shut down and deteriorate
From the toxins poverty forces down your throat,
As long as there’s something that feels like food in your mouth
You can’t, you won’t complain.
Stockton sits in the middle of obscene agricultural abundance
But us?
We live where fast-food chains
Trap us like chain links on a prison yard.
The intentional inmates of the South Side
Where Charter Way was known as Death Row
For Different reasons over many years.
Today it’s practically multiple choice,
Being murdered or choosing death by diet,
A decision between
8 spots 3 blocks apart
As a little chavalito
My tio learned how Mexicanos in fields did math,
Adding up 5 cents a cherry from as many as he could fit into his basket
Minus the throwaways
Minus the ones too small
Minus the ones not ripe enough.
He brought home $15 a day
While praying the division of his labor would work to feed a family of 7,
And now here I am,
history unchanged
Attempting to stretch $2 change as far as possible
To buy as much as possible
Like broke families have done for centuries.
Sometimes I wonder
If there’s a difference between counting cherries and change anymore
If it’s worth digging through couches
Anymore than it’s worth searching through branches.
Sometimes I wonder
If I could pick the stars out of the night
Would my wishes really come true.
If I were to pull the sun outa the sky
And stop this food from growing,
Whose plate would be more empty
Who would hurt more
The pickers or those we pick for.
Because no matter how much produce I pick
No matter how much profit gets counted,
Nobody will ever truly have enough
And everybody has to eat.

Cover of UCSF Magazine: top left corner reads “UCSF Magazine, Summer 2018”; bottom right reads “Drug Odyssey: The epic journey to better medicines”; illustration on cover: a syringe and needle come from the left; a large dropplet shape comes out of the needle with lines and multi-colored dots within; at the bottom left there is a portion of a beaker; at the top and bottom right, colored amorphous cloud-like shapes drift in from the edges of the page.

UCSF Magazine

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