Xpress Magazine October 2019

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Amelia Williams Izzy Alvarez


David Sjostedt

Chloe McDaniels

Jeremy Julian Anne Lima


Janae Rodriguez

Patrick Tamayo

Karishma Patadia

PHOTO EDITOR Harrison Rich




Andrea Williams

PHOTOGR A PHERS Paige Acosta Kameron Hall James Wyatt Sandy Scarpa William Wendelman Leila Figueroa

SPECI A L TH A NKS TO Don Menn Beth Renneisen Kim Komenich Kevin M. Cox Rachele Kanigel Carly Wipf

A figurine stands in the front window of Botanica Yoruba. Photo by Paige Acosta.


Copyright 2019 Xpress Magazine is a San Francisco State University student-run publication




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t’s been so long since I’ve been allowed to write in first person I’ve nearly forgot how. Feels kind of weird. Not very … journalistic. Which is funny considering for most of my life I was writing in first person, through my own eyes and my own versions of things: beauty, pain, controversy, love. I grew up in books and diaries, typing fleeting stories in the 2003 version of Microsoft Word. I knew I wanted to be a writer when my ego was validated in a major way; my second grade teacher put a poem I wrote about dolphins in the school newsletter. I went to an arts high school for creative writing and did just that — wrote creatively and made a lot of very eloquent and beautiful things up. I could write whatever I wanted, and any of my characters could say whatever I needed to fulfill my plot points or provoke my reader. I didn’t think I would ever become a journalist because I never felt like I was that good with strangers, with parting that intangible curtain of introduction to get people to talk to you and trust you enough to tell you things. Juicy, throbbing, put-it-in-print things, I mean. Not just anything. I thought I was going to be a human geography major in Vancouver after a childhood in San Francisco. Obviously that didn’t happen, but I never thought I would be interviewing drag queens in the middle of the night on a Tuesday or crying with immigration lawyers in their Market Street office or going to a support group with a mother who lost her son to gun violence. Journalism has given me inspiration I never thought to look for, and a reality check I never knew I needed. This semester has been the least amount of writing I have done in all my semesters at San Francisco State and the most reading of other people’s work I have done since high school. The mantle of EIC is a lot to bear, anyone else who’s written one of these letters can attest to that. This kind of feels like “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” if you get my reference. If you don’t — I am the latest iteration of a reincarnated being that can manipulate the elements, but in this case “the elements” are my fellow students and they produce stories, not bursts of fire or flying rocks. My third semester as a part of Xpress Magazine brought a new wave of faces and some warmly welcomed returns. Such an eclectic group has bore eclectic stories. In these 25-odd pages of content we have a little bit of everything: environmentalism, cannabis, religious identity, cats, the music scene, penises. We have dealt with some rather unique challenges this semester, the most glaring being the utter loss of our website. Obviously that hasn’t stopped any of us from writing. I am so grateful to have such a diligent, motivated and ambitious staff to bring this next issue of Xpress into fruition. You have no idea how many phone calls with the printers I had to make. Unto us a magazine is born!

– Amelia Williams asjswilliams@gmail.com




Does social media harm us? Story by Janae Rodriguez Illustration by Chloe McDaniels


rom the time we wake up to the time we lay our heads at night we are bombarded by filtered vacation photos, edited engagement pictures, blurred selfies and sometimes news. Social media has become the center of the world. It can be hard to weed through what is real and what is fake — which can take a toll on our mental health. With apps like Facetune anyone can easily edit their photos to look like anyone they want. Social media networks have become a platform for instant gratification or dissatisfaction. According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, photo-sharing applications Snapchat and Instagram are most popular with 18-to-24-year olds. Christopher Clemens, Ph.D., is a San Francisco State Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts professor and studies the impact of media on people’s beliefs, behaviors and emotions. He stresses the importance of knowing the effects social media can have on a person, for better or worse. “The positive, we are more connected specifically through social media. You can find social support when no one is there ... The negative effects tend to be the most popular to research like self-esteem issues, body image issues,” Clemens said. “It can affect how people think about politics. It can influence how people think about their own life, their own gender, their gender identities, sexual orientation, it can influence just about everything. In addition to other things. It’s not the only factor that influences people’s attitudes toward these behaviors but it is a factor.” When you can flatten any bumps or lumps, smooth out any lines and cinch in your waistline it can seem to become normal. Perfection is unrealistic but yet we are all striving for it.

Facetune is the number one app in the photo and video category in Apple’s app store. Diana Garber is a psychologist based in San Francisco, whose work provides insight into what underlying effects social media can have. “I think social media just really sort of exacerbates and makes everything look larger in a way that we couldn’t have 20 years ago,” Garber said. “So, 20 years ago if you were having a bad day you could have imagined what other people were doing but you couldn’t turn on your phone and see them at a party in the Bahamas, at the spa in a bathing suit, that they lost 15 pounds, and [you] perpetually feel negative about yourself in the moment.” Growing up in Michigan, Jezlan Moyet always dreamed of moving to Los Angeles to become a talk show host. As a child she would play talk show host with her best friend in the basement using her dad’s video camera. Today she is a social media influencer, model and talk show host on Good Morning LaLa Land and knows first hand the highs and lows of social media. As of the publication of this article, she has over 11,000 followers on Instagram. “It is really just a way for me to build my community, share the content I am creating whether its from a photo shoot as a model or from a talk show or from the red carpet when I am doing the interviews,” Moyet said. “It is really just another area of distribution from the content I am creating and to be able to have an engaging conversation with the people that are watching.” She finds enjoyment in the fact that her social media accounts allow her to be able to speak back to the people that are watching which is something television lacks. But with the positives there are also negatives to being so public on social media. “It is almost a shame the negativity that social media can foster,” Moyet said. “Whether it is comparisonitis that you have with yourself compared with somebody else’s success or the insecurity that it might trigger in someone else who is watching you. It’s really just been a challenge for me and my community to really make sure we are celebrating our successes and not comparing to anyone else because we rise together.” Countering the negativity that social media can bring, Moyet has been able to stay positive by not taking anything to heart and recognizing that it is not personal. “Really just recognizing if there is the negative comment or the haters, the best way to address them — cue the Taylor Swift song “You Need To Calm Down,” Moyet said with a laugh. Being a social media influencer, she recognizes there is a responsibility that comes with it — to be authentic in a world that can be hard to decipher between real and fake. “It is easy to hide behind filters or Facetune and I don’t want to do that,” Moyet said. “Of course there is artistic expression and you might want to use this filter preset to give off this vibe but really being able to express through a caption for Instagram stories your own reality and not just the highlights.” X

A mock illustration of a Facetune page



Toxicity takes the game Story by Jeremy Julian Illustration by Chloe McDaniels


irst-person shooter video game Ion Fury, formerly known as Ion Maiden, was released in August to fairly positive reviews. However, talk surrounding this particular video game wasn’t in regard to its quality, but to the controversy over the homophobic language included from the game’s developers, Voidpoint. This particular game contained the word “fagbag” and other homophobic phrases used as jokes. After backlash toward the game’s developers and publishers, Voidpoint and 3D Realms respectively, fans were promised the language would be removed from the game and both companies would be donating money to an LGBTQ organization. However, 3D Realms decided they would not be taking down the homophobic language included in the game. According to a statement released on the Steam Community page for the game and put out by both Voidpoint and 3D Realms: “We do not support censorship of creative works of any kind and regret our initial decision to alter a sprite in the game instead of trusting our instincts.” On gaming forum ResetEra user “Twenty5Thousand” posted screenshots of a Discord chat from a few of the developers. The sexist and transphobic language in the chat was another reason for backlash. This is an example of how toxic individuals in the gaming community taint the games beloved by players. It also shows how developers themselves can have bigoted opinions and how they make their way into creative works. Gamergate, in the same vein as the more recent #MeToo, is a movement that began in the gaming world in 2014 with the harassment of popular female video gamers and industry media members. “I definitely think that [Gamergate] led to an increased level of toxicity in the gaming community. The main thing that [Gamergate] did was weave an elaborate narrative about alleged corruption in the games indus-


try,” said Nicole Hunter, founder of intersectional gaming site Black Girl Gaming. “It was the formulation of the idea that the games industry has an infestation of people leftists who want to turn games political or some such nonsense.” Last year, writers from the game Guild Wars 2 were fired after engaging in harassment and bullying from the game’s fans. Narrative designer Jessica Price was fired from video game company ArenaNet after sexist fans criticized her and a response to a particular tweet. Fans took to Reddit to call for her firing and the company did exactly that. A colleague who defended her was also let go due to the incident. The harassment extends to players as well. The Anti-Defamation League put together a study this past summer to look at how many players were being harassed online from other gamers, and found that nearly 70% of gamers involved in the study have experienced harassment. Many of the users revealed that they were attacked due to factors such as race, gender, sexuality and other areas of one’s identity. Another alarming factor is that 23% of players involved in the study admitted to coming across elements of white supremacy in the games they play. This is something that has been more prevalent as of late as it has been revealed several times that white supremacist groups have been using video game chat programs, such as Discord, in order to gain a following and communicate with each other online. “I think social media platforms as a whole need to figure out ways to effectively ban people from their platforms when they engage in these types of behaviors,” Hunter said. “And on another level, Steam and review aggregate sites need to find ways of minimizing the effects of review bombing.” The most famous YouTuber right now is Pewdiepie, a straight, Caucasian male who was never reprimanded by the platform for posting anti-Semitic videos and for saying the N–word on a live stream. According to social media statistics site SocialBlade, Pewdiepie alone has more than 100 million subscribers on YouTube and growing. In the last 30 days, his count has jumped by over 1 million individuals. Developers are making better strides toward fighting harassment in their own companies by walking out during work to fight sexism. A walkout at Riot Games took place in May, which saw more than 100 individuals simply walk out of work in resistance of the cover up of gender-based discrimination at the studio. The industry is empowered by those who have the biggest and loudest voices. Individuals like Pewdiepie are a part of the problem and perpetuate a community of hate and bullying. It is up to video game publishers to not appease the vocal minority of bigoted gamers. It is also in the hands of YouTube, Twitch and Discord to shut down and reprimand their biggest names from spreading racial slurs and hateful ideologies. X










This story is not actually redacted.

o, your eyes do not deceive you. That is a penis. A penis! Why is there a penis in a public university magazine? Because the editor-in-chief said so. That’s not entirely true, but what better shot sums up a San Francisco community that has been congregating to spank each other and galavant nude and/or restrained on Folsom Street since before most students at San Francisco State University were even born? The penis in question belongs to a quoted source who gave his enthusiastic consent for this image to be used. And don’t you think there’s something poetic about the angles of the member and the cigar? The decision to include the penis was a quick one, but covering our bases with the school, community and the law was anything but (apparently the printers will run anything we give them). Some students and faculty found it in poor taste, or saw it as an attempt to “be edgy” over doing “good” journalism. Some experienced intense eyeball protrusion. Most laughed. Xpress has published suggestive — damn near explicit — content in years passed, covering stories on the production of sex toys, the daily lives of sex workers and even BDSM and kink venues for adults to safely act on their fantasies. In fact, Xpress has won lawsuits that have tried to prevent circulation based on the use of images not unlike the full-frontal on page eight. There will be 750 copies of Craig West’s penis out in the world and he couldn’t be happier. So why isn’t everybody else? The questions of taste has come up a lot, and the line between pornagraphic spectacle and gritty journalism debated to exhaustion. Is pornography not journalistic? This issue of the magazine has been written and formatted per AP style, and is thus held to AP obscenity guidelines. According to the stylebook’s news values section, “AP does not seek to sanitize news events; sometimes a gory or disturbing image is essential to cover a story.” The image is not derogatory nor does it target any religious, identity or ethnic groups. Whether or not it is “gratuitous” is a matter of opinion. Is this pornography? Did Xpress inadvertently become a dirty magazine? Pornography has never had concrete definitions, nor clear boundaries. Walter Kendrick, author and professor of English at Fordham University, ruminates on this ambiguity in “The Secret Museum,” stating “‘pornography’ as a field of discourse was mined from the start with impossibilities, not the least of which was that it turned writers and readers alike into amatuer psychologist, who never asked what an object was, only what was meant by it. From the start, ‘pornography’ named a battlefield, a place where no assertion could be made without at once summoning up its denial, where no one could distinguish value from danger because they were the same.” Of course, part of this is to be memorable. Part of it is to embody San Francisco in all its layers, or in this case lack thereof. But most of it is to tell the truth. The penis was there, intentionally, and it’s likely more people saw it in person than will see it on page eight. On the page opposite the picture of the phallus is a close shot of a hand gripping buttocks. Radio silence on the validity of its inclusion. X





udity, leather, whips and bondage: there is nothing like San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair. For one Sunday a year, a portion of Folsom Street in the SoMa district transforms into a kinky wonderland. For decades, thousands of people have come together to celebrate and explore sexual fetishes and alternative lifestyles dressed in full leather regalia, chains, lingerie, puppy hoods and harnesses or even no clothes at all. Dominant and submissive relationships are visible everywhere you look. Men and women walk their human “puppies” through the crowd on leashes. Some are even gagged. If they stop, dominants spank their puppies with a paddle or yank on their leashes to make them move. The sound of whips echo past the main walk of the fair, over the sound of the bustling crowd and loud music. Freshly whipped and paddled asses shine bright red with welts and drips of blood. Booths selling varieties of whips and kinky toys also have crosses where volunteers can be bound and then repeatedly flogged by a professional dominant. People uninterested in being beat can observe the various forms of intimacy: oral sex and passionate kissing can be spotted throughout the crowd. Folsom Street Fair is the world’s largest leather event and has inspired other Folsom Street fetish events all over the world, from New York City to Berlin. It creates a safe and exciting environment that brings curious adults and members of various kink communities together. The fair encourages and thrives off of self expression, community activism and sexual fantasies. “This festival is about love and inclusion and that’s why I have been coming for six years now,” said Fabulosa, a fair attendee dressed up in black latex with ram horns and roses atop her head. “It welcomes all types — all looks, sizes, ages, whatever fetish you’re into and even if you’re not into a fetish, anyone is welcome.” The event is organized by Folsom Street Events, a grassroots and volunteer based non-profit organization that donates the total net proceeds from every event to local charities supporting the LGBTQ community and public health. In 2017 alone, over 250,000 people attended the fair and the organization was able to donate $322,484 to local and national charities. FSE Director of Volunteers Roberto Quadra said almost 700 community volunteers worked together this year to make this unique and amazing event possible. It is estimated that over 400,000 people were in attendance.


Craig West attends the Folsom Street Fair in a leather BDSM outfit in San Francisco on Sept. 29 2019



“This festival is about love and inclusion and that’s why I have been coming for six years now.’’ – Fabulosa

Jack Daniel and Tre hug each other during the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco on Sept. 29 2019.

Jack Daniel grabs Tre during the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco on Sept. 29, 2019

“It gave gay men more places to go with their identity.’’ –Craig West



A Folsom Street Fair attendee smiles on Sept. 29, 2019 in San Francisco, California.


Not everyone who attends the fair dresses up or participates in the wide array of fetish and kink activities made available to them, but everyone is respectful and accepting of the eclectic crowd. No one photographs or touches people without their consent, although there are many first timers who gawk at all the spectacles. Although some of the sights seem shocking to some people, everyone at the fair has a smile on their face. The positive energy of the environment is contagious. Quadra explained that Folsom Street Fair is a melting pot for all different types of kink, fetish and queer communities. It goes beyond just leather and bondage cultures. There are booths where you can get tested for HIV in just 20 minutes and multiple music stages where people gather around and dance with friends and strangers. But what Quadra was most excited about this year was the Playground, a special gathering space in the fair reserved for transgender women, queer femmes and queer people of color. “It’s really important to center trans and fem folks in a place that has historically been masculine and provide them with a safe space,” Quadra said. “We really expanded on that this year, more than ever before and it’s amazing.” Quadra added that this year’s title holder for Mr. San Francisco Leather is the contests first openly transgender winner. Mr. San Francisco Leather and San Francisco Bootblacks are positions of prestige in the leather community, won by competing in a type of leather pageant presented by the Bay Area Leather Alliance. The contest has been held annually since 1979. The culture and community around Folsom Street is inclusive and accepting of all marginalized communities but has historically been centered around the gay leather culture. For many years SoMa was a gritty, working class neighborhood — and a hub for gay biker clubs. To celebrate San Francisco Pride and the city’s gay community, local travel website SF Travel aggregated relevant historical content. This included an article Life magazine published in 1964 titled “Homosexuality in America” which featured a popular SoMa gay bar, The Tool Box. The article caused even more gay men to move to the city and cemented “San Francisco and SoMa as the capital of gay deviance.” By the late ‘70s there were almost 30 different leather bars, biker clubs and bathhouses in SoMa and Folsom Street was the center of it. It was nicknamed “Miracle Mile.” This gay biker bar and leather culture in San Francisco provided the country with some of the first positive depictions of gay men and gay sexuality, said long time Folsom Street Fair attendee and leather man Craig West. He remembers how non-existent gay media coverage used to be and how most public images of gay men in those times were negative and tragic. For West, the biker and leather bars of SoMa and Folsom Street Fair diverted from the fixed negative image of gay men and exposed society to and celebrated leather culture and dominant/submissive relationships. “It gave gay men more places to go with their identity,” West said. “Which is big help for a lot of gay men who feel like ‘I wanna be myself, but I don’t want to be that’ — that being a negative image given to them by the media.”


Folsom Street Fair attendees walk around the fair on Sept. 29, 2019.

“San Francisco is a city that caters to wild expression and it’s important to support these places and keep them alive.’’ – Roberto Quadra


The first Folsom Street Fair was in 1984. It was created by community leaders and activist groups to fight against neighborhood redevelopment and raise money and support for the community, who were being devastated by the AIDS crisis. Since the ‘80s, the community and SoMa neighborhood has seen drastic changes, but Folsom Street Fair has done nothing but grow and expand across all spectrums of the LGBTQ and kink communities. Because of redevelopment and gentrification, most of the original biker clubs and leather bars have closed their doors and the modern remaining kink and fetish businesses continue to struggle amid rising rents. However, the community is still kinky as ever and one can find naughty community spaces any day of the week. The Cat Club — located right on Folsom Street — has a fetish themed night every Wednesday called Bondage A-Go-Go, where club goers can wander to the back dungeon and volunteer to be spanked and whipped by a professional dom. The Armory is a small club with erotic photographs on the walls and hosts kink and submission events regularly. Then there’s Wicked Grounds, an 18-and-over erotic coffee shop and boutique that specializes in coffee and kink gear/education. “San Francisco is a city that caters to wild expression and it’s important to support these places and keep them alive,” Quadra said. “Places like Wicked Grounds almost went out of business recently because the neighborhood is becoming more and more gentrified by these luxury condos and it has a serious effect on our ability to hold space in this city.” X




Nayeli Barraza looks out the front window of Botanica Yoruba



Keeping faith in: four generations of santeria Story by Izzy Alvarez Photos by Paige Acosta


thick haze from the incense lingers in the shop. The saint statues in the window displays attract passersby, but the pungent scent invites them in. The lively music evokes a Caribbean feel. Large vivid paintings of powerful figures hung from the white walls offer a glimpse into an unknown spiritual world. Nayeli Barraza cleanses Botanica Yoruba, her grandmother’s shop, twice a day, but there is no sweeping or dusting involved. Pop Rockssized quartz crystals produce fragrant smoke under a bed of rounded charcoal, burning the Three Kings incense to cleanse the energy within. Her petite figure with long, wavy dark hair walks near the white, wooden shelves containing rows of candles representing a santo or desire. Every corner of the shop is washed with incense to keep disruptive energies from invading the calm spirit felt as soon as you walk in. At 20 years old, Barraza has lived in two worlds her entire life: her maternal family’s world of Santería, an Afro-Cuban religion, and the western world of medicine outside of her home and the botanica. The negative connotations surrounding Regla de Ocha, as Santería is formally known in western society, has made it difficult for Barraza to fully express everything she embodies. “You can’t bring your own beliefs into the medical field. I think that that would be the hard part,” Barraza said. “I think that people should just do what they feel is safest and best for them.” The decision to study nuclear medicine has brought ethical dilemmas in her initiation of becoming a Santería priestess. The religion she was born into was a generational inheritance. Her great-great-grandmother was a priestess and passed the tradition down to her grandmother, Yolanda Marenco.

common misconception, but through the orishas she can help guide a person to the life they want to live. She is godmother to many and has initiated them into Santería. It is not common for a family member to train another. However, an exception can be made in this case as Marenco is the younger Barraza’s godmother or mentor in her path to priestesshood. “She’s the one that’s more sensitive than the rest,” Marenco said. “Not only to the religion but to the spirits, to the needs of the spirits. Most of her dreams come true.” The mysticism revolving Santería has been stereotyped to Voodoo and its practitioners have been shunned by western society for some of its rituals, like animal sacrifices. Some outsiders Barraza has invited into her home compared it to Satanism. She’s lost childhood friends because of their parents’ intolerance. At a young age she saw a santo mounting a person during a ceremony. This scared Barraza away from Santería for a couple of years. She didn’t know yet that mounting is an art of a santo entering a human in a trancelike state to communicate. Not all in the religion know the reasoning behind its traditions — it’s told when they are ready. With patience Barraza is slowly but surely learning the customs of the culture. “It changed the way you view the religion. Then I would go to drummings and someone would get mounted,” Barraza said as a matter of fact. “I would receive messages that I really needed.” When Barraza was five, she and her siblings were baptized as members of Santería. They were dressed in white and wore headdresses with traditional gifts of cotton and coconut. For a part of the Mano de Orula ceremony they had to sit still with eyes closed, holding two one-hour


he origins of Santería, which loosely translates to the revere of the santos or saints, are traced back to the Yoruba religion of West Africa. The slave trade brought members of the Yoruba tribe to Cuba and with them the religion evolved to syncretize Catholicism in their new surroundings. Lucumí is the spoken language of Santería, deriving from the Yoruba language with Spanish phonology. Marenco speaks the language when the family travels to Cuba for ceremonies. As a Santería priestess, Marenco offers consultos or consultations with consecrated Spanish cards and dilogún (cowrie shells). In Santería this divination is a way for humans to receive guidance from the orishas (santos). Marenco has over 40 years experience. She is the only fully initiated priestess who can consult with santos. She can’t see into the future, a

Candles sit on the floor of Botanica Yoruba



A figurine head sits in a bowl with coins and candies on the floor of Botanica Yoruba

candles in each palm. They must stay immobilized until the candle wax melts down through the wick. After the ceremony, they are given a simple yellow and green beaded bracelet to wear on their left wrists. “After that I definitely noticed the change in my life,” Barraza said. “And I just felt like there really was always a protector.” If the bracelets were to break off, the devotees are forbidden from touching it. A new one is made and placed in the follower’s sopera or soup tureen, which is decorated based on a santo’s colors. It symbolically represents a home for Orula, a santo, to gain his aché, or blessing. It is kept there for two to three days, sometimes weeks, to permeate the energy. The broken one is discarded. “I think it’s a good thing when my bracelet breaks because who’s to say what energy was coming my way,” Barraza said.


otanica Yoruba carries the heritage of Santería inside its four walls. A statue resembling a black Virgin Mary is center alongside an island glass case displaying oils and stones atop. The kaleidoscope colors of the candles are a staple for the spiritual shop. There are candles for love, death and success. Most all of them are stamped with saints such as the familiar St. Jude and the lesser known San Simon, patron saint of drunks. They are then prepared with a blessing of sanctioned oils, seeds and flower petals. Soaps are available for those that need an energy cleanse. The shop is stocked with plenty to meet spiritual needs and even consultations provided by Marenco. With it, Marenco hopes the younger Barraza will continue the business she has built. Family members describe her as an old soul who is open to others. Despite her endowment, this way of life wasn’t something Barraza had contemplated much while growing up in the religion. A chance encounter on a trip to Cuba in 2015 established her direction to the religion. An espiritista, someone who can channel the other side, told her to stop taking her medication and see a doctor immediately. She did once back home, and was told she had developed cancerous polyps in her uterus from the medication. The revelation affirmed her of Santería’s credibility. Her health history was a factor for going into the medical field. She found that she can help others spiritually and physically if she continued her career path in nuclear medicine. “She’s honest and that’s what you need in this kind of business, to be honest with people not to take advantage of the pain of other people and their suffering,” Marenco said. The herbalist origins of the religion can affect misinformation about medical treatment in the community. Carlos Cardova, a Latinx studies professor at San Francisco State University, has been educating students on Santería since 1974. A priest himself, Cardova is an herbalist who




“I really believe that you have to have faith in something you can’t just go around life saying, I don’t believe in this, I don’t believe in that,” Barraza said. “Because then you’ll never be able to believe in yourself.” prefers to steer clear of non-organic substances unless absolutely necessary. “You can combine both it’s not prohibited to use medical practices. If a person needs a surgical procedure, definitely, that is encouraged,” Cardova, 69, said. “Something that we would do is to get them spiritually prepared so that they can recover and handle [the procedure] well.” Although she no longer practices her father’s religion of Catholicism (her mother’s second), she used to consider herself Catholic. When she was a child her parents divorced because the spiritual differences put a strain on their marriage. Her father now accepts their Santería practices. “At first, I felt like I had to hide the fact that I enjoyed the religion,” Barraza said. “Once I started to be more open about practicing the religion and enjoying the religion, my dad was completely OK with it.” Icela Barraza, Nayeli’s mother, experienced misunderstandings of Santería while attending a Catholic school when she was younger. At times, friends assumed it was Voodoo or witchcraft. “I was automatically raised in it. My kids had the choice to pick whichever side because their father is Catholic and did not believe in Santería,” Icela said. “I’ve always given them the option to choose, whatever calling their path is that’s the path they’re going to choose.” When Nayeli Barraza is ready, she will go to Cuba for her tambor ceremony. Tambor is an introduction to making santo as part of the initiation to undergo a year in white. It is a celebration of body and soul where all in attendance wear white from the corona (crown) or headdress to the shoes. Barraza will be given the name Iyawo and she can’t be referred to by her given name for a year. The ritual starts with a gathering of witnesses in white then slowly with Iyawo walking around in circles while the tambores chant and play. Iyawo will present coconuts and candles as gifts for the given santo. An estera, a woven straw mat, is placed in front of Iyawo as they throw themselves on it face down to salute the tambores (drummers) before them. Barraza will also use the mat to sleep and eat on the whole year. The ceremony advances with Iyawo dancing in front of the tambores step by step then progressing to more rhythm with fellow onlookers joining in the dance behind. The singing, dancing and banging of the wooden drums grows louder and louder with everyone’s collective claps. The crowd forms a circle around the Iyawo as they are the only ones left dancing, then they all stop abruptly. The initiation ends with Iyawo running around in circles as the tambores accelerate their beat and then exiting the ceremony. Soon after her year in white, Barraza will finish her nuclear medicine education to work with MRI and CAT scan machines. She’s learned to lean on the strength her faith has given her to power through whatever trials come her way. Educating the masses on Santería is important for her to preserve the religion. Her ultimate dream is to run the botanica full time and bring some comfort to people seeking spiritual advice as her grandmother does. “I really believe that you have to have faith in something you can’t just go around life saying, ‘I don’t believe in this, I don’t believe in that,’” Barraza said. “Because then you’ll never be able to believe in yourself.” X




A look at independent music venues in San Francisco Story by Amy Bigelow Photos by William Wendelman 16



No such thing as personal space as concert goers crowd the floor of the Mezzanine during the first performance on Sept. 24, 2019 in San Francisco, California.




s yellow lights scatter patterns of squares all across the 7,700-square-foot venue, onstage, a band is running through their setlist and tuning instruments. At Mezzanine, soundcheck for Ginger Root is nearly finished and its members are ready to captivate concertgoers with their opening performance. For the past 16 years, moments like this have produced a multitude of memorable concerts for audiences, showcasing both local and established musicians at Mezzanine. As one of several independent music venues in San Francisco, this intimate space has seeded an appreciation for the city’s vibrant music scene — especially for the local band circuit — among the masses. But as of last October, curating monthly concerts and private events has become a grim operation. Mezzanine faces the looming possibility of a permanent shutdown in the coming months. Located in the SoMa district of San Francisco, Mezzanine has resided on Mint Plaza since it opened in 2003. The venue currently shares the space with its building owners, the Chritton family, who run their Microbiz security installation company from the basement level. According to a Mezzanine press release that was issued a year ago, the Chritton family has decided not to renew their 20-year lease, and now plan to convert the venue into office space for their family business. Landlords who monopolize their properties for financial gain, as gentrification spreads throughout the Bay Area, are forcing smaller venues like Mezzanine out of San Francisco. Even with support from devoted music fans and city officials, Mezzanine may soon become yet another venue to leave behind its cultural mark on the city.

“I’m devastated... The city is losing a great space that has been so inclusive to every kind of music, every culture, literally everything.” – Deborah Jackman “I’m devastated. Not only is my dream of being a venue owner ending, and 40-plus people are going to be out of jobs, but the city is losing such a great space that has been so inclusive to every kind of music, every culture, literally everything,” said current Mezzanine owner Deborah Jackman. After joining her staff in 2007 as general manager, Jackman has overseen the venue’s daily operations working with talent buyers and various in-house managers, ensuring that each Mezzanine event is a great experience. Having managed several venues and restaurants in New York City for nearly two decades, Jackman moved to San Francisco to be part of the “jam band” epicenter — the birthplace of prominent artists like Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. Now that Mezzanine is one of the few female-owned independent venues in the Bay Area, Jackman and her staff continuously make vast contributions to support the local music scene and foster an inclusive community for everyone. Mezzanine books 12 shows a month highlighting a wide array of artists from different genres — including the rhythm and blues artist Pink


Sweats, aspiring hip-hop DJs, and ska-punk bands like The Selecter. Most performances feature local artists on the bill. Jackman is elated to give up-and-coming groups, like Ginger Root, the opportunity to share the stage with someone like LCD Soundsystem or Justin Martin of Dirty Bird. “That’s the cool thing about this job, it exposes you to people you’ve never heard of that you might actually listen to after a show,” said Michael Lee, who has been the production manager at Mezzanine for eight years. While Mezzanine is an established concert space, unlike other music venues in the city, it also functions as confluent spot for diverse communities to enjoy creative nightlife entertainment. Huge city events including the Pride Parade and Folsom Street Fair are accompanied with Mezzanine after-parties, along with San Francisco film festivals and fashion shows. Jackman loves that there’s something for everyone and a different crowd every night Mezzanine is open, which will be greatly missed — if and when — the venue closes down. After the building owners refused to renew their lease with Mezzanine, and considered raising the rent from $10,000 to $60,000 a month, Jackman has relentlessly made several negotiation attempts to make the venue’s occupancy more appealing. In asking for a short-term lease extension, Jackman envisioned partnering with Another Planet Entertainment, an independent promoter, to help the venue financially stay afloat. Being an independent venue owner, Jackman currently does not have the same financial leverage or conglomerate oversight from bigger promoters like Live Nation, compared to other Bay Area venues like The Warfield or Slim’s. Luckily in July, under the discretion of District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed temporary interim controls to protect SoMa venues. These temporary interim controls give building owners in the SoMa district 18 months to acquire a change of use permit, with approval from the San Francisco Planning Commission, if they want an entertainment space to serve a different purpose. Regardless of the efforts made to ensure Mezzanine’s prolonged residency in San Francisco, the Chrittons are adamant about their future plans for expanding Microbiz. “I don’t think that we would be pleased with another venue that provides live music to go away and to turn into another use such as office space,” said Maggie Weiland, executive director of San Francisco Entertainment Commission in an interview with Grammy.com. “Personally, I would be very sad; I’ve been going there since I was 21. But also just on a professional level, it’s not a great storyline for our city.” More independent venues in San Francisco have also succumbed to gentrification at rampant speed. Last October, Hemlock Tavern closed after nearly two decades of business when the Dolmen Property Group bought the building earlier that year. What was once a welcoming place among both bands and patrons alike, has now been demolished. The empty space on Polk Street will soon become another metropolitan oasis of condos and small retail outlets.


nother veteran venue, Elbo Room, shuttered in January once their one-year lease extension expired. After operating as both a dive bar on the ground floor and small music venue on the second level, co-owners Matt Shapiro and Erik Cantu decided to relocate their prominent entertainment hub to Oakland. The original establishment, located



on Valencia Street, was then put on the market for $4.2 million. To commemorate its predecessor, the same building reopened as The Valencia Room in May, hoping to keep the integrity of Elbo Room intact. Aware of Mezzanine’s current situation and how the current market has impacted business for many smaller venues to keep thriving independently, The Valencia Room isn’t worried about facing pushout anytime soon.

“The San Francisco music scene will always be around.” – Eddie Valadez “I was bummed when I found out about Mezzanine because I used to go to a lot of shows there when I lived in the city,” said The Valencia Room general manager Eddie Valadez. As a business with a built-in clientele from its previous owners, The Valencia Room has adapted to the current climate by rebranding themselves and promoting local artists. “The San Francisco music scene will always be around — we’ve had bands as far as Sacramento drive down because they know they can play a show here,” Valadez said. Having performed at The Valencia Room for a second time now, San Francisco-based alternative rock group — The Turnouts — have recently gained more exposure after touring around California and playing at local venues and bars over the summer. “In our experience, San Francisco has been really cool because the venues are smaller, there aren’t a whole lot of bands out here that are gigging regularly, so it’s easy to meet people and get into the scene,” said The Turnouts lead singer and guitarist Mason Mejia.


or The Turnouts, the biggest challenge in playing the local music scene isn’t solely gentrification, but rather outside promoters taking advantage of local artists by setting a “pay to play” atmosphere, which can discourage up-and-coming bands from performing at all or not taking the music community seriously. “Usually people who own the smaller venues actually give a fuck about the bands playing,” guitarist Clayton Silva said. “It feels more like you’re hanging out and jamming with your friends than it feels like you’re putting on a show and sometimes that’s even better with a good lineup and an energized crowd. We are very appreciative of every show we can land.” Noise Pop marketing director Lamont Harper believes the closure of independent music venues in San Francisco are giving smaller artists less room to play and be heard. For bands looking to gain exposure, he suggests performing at community centers and applying their talent online. “For musicians, their digital footprint can be just as loud as it is in the physical world,” Harper said. In addition to playing various gigs since 2017, The Turnouts have recently released their self-titled debut album on Spotify, which was produced by their newest member and trumpet player Sean Greenfield.

Mason Mejia, lead singer of The Turnouts glances at the audienceas they lean over the balcony railing during his preformance at The Hotel Utah on Sept. 12, 2019.

When it comes to the local band circuit in San Francisco, Deborah Jackman agrees with Harper, but also believes that both independent venues and the artists themselves can no longer afford to stay in the city. “I came here thinking it was a smaller city, that I would have more impact, I’d have more of a voice and give more support to local bands,” Jackman said. “Now the same thing is happening. I think it’s actually worse than New York because of the major housing crisis.” Still, Jackman and her staff put every effort into making the most out of every Mezzanine event — especially now since the future of the venue is in question. A few weeks ago on a whim, avid concertgoer Fernando Martinez, 21, watched Ginger Root perform at Mezzanine. After frequenting different venues around the Bay Area, in comparison to bigger auditoriums like Bill Graham, Martinez enjoys coming back to Mezzanine for the experience. “There’s always a handful of people at the smaller shows that just want to go for a fun night out at a venue. Yeah, there’s dedicated fans, but there’s also a small portion that want to just have fun,” Martinez said. From his perspective, regardless of the current state for independent venues in San Francisco, as long as the venue is still open, people will show up to have a good time. Jackman said the Chritton family has not yet applied for a change of use permit and fails to acknowledge the integral role Mezzanine has played in the local music community for almost 20 years. While the imminent future of Mezzanine has yet to be determined, music fans continue to support the local music scene. “I won’t give up hope until the last day,” Jackman said. X



An RV is parked on Lake Merced Boulevard in San Francisco, California


Freedom, politics, and RVs on Lake Merced

Story by David Sjostedt Photos by Harrison Rich

hey’re just going to try and kill freedom,” says Michael Stoddard as he stared at the dirt beneath his fingers. His hands are clasped in the air, as if holding a powerful orb he can’t take his eyes off of. “There’s going to come a time when they’re going to try and corral people. I love my country, but I don’t trust my government.” Stoddard has always preferred the vagabond lifestyle. He, his wife and their three dogs are usually found parked along Lake Merced Boulevard in an RV that he says he bought for $3,400. His beard is bristled and his skin is weathered, but there’s a cheerful notion of a life well lived behind his ruddy cheeks. One of his dogs, Lily, a pitbull mix with a similar vibrant quality, stares intently as Stoddard recalled long road trips in his mobile home. Despite having an apartment to go home to, he enjoys the freedom of living in his vehicle and believes that there will come a time when he will no longer be allowed to. “Most of the people living in their RV are choosing to live a reclusive lifestyle,” Stoddard said. “I like being able to go places.” Lake Merced Boulevard is the perfect resting place for nomadic and reclusive folk such as Stoddard. The road is flat, making it ideal parking terrain for sleeping. The neighboring San Francisco State University campus offers bathrooms and water fountains for those without plumbing and it’s one of the only places in San Francisco where there aren’t any restrictions on the size of


a vehicle parked on the street. Much of the city has become a battlefield for residents fighting to preserve the parking and safety of their neighborhoods. Earlier this year, residents filed a lawsuit against the city in an attempt to halt the creation of a homeless navigation center on the Embarcadero, and most recently, people were found buying and leaving boulders on the sidewalks to keep homeless people and drug dealers from loitering on their street in the city’s Clinton Park neighborhood. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently approved a plan to create a safe parking lot for van and RV inhabitants to live in their vehicles for up to 90 days. Spearheaded by Board Supervisor Ahsha Safai, the plan was presented as a rehabilitation program for people who are looking to make the transition from living on the streets. “The goal is to have people in a secure space for three months until they are able to find permanent housing,” said Monica Chinchilla, Safai’s legislative aide. The spot will feature around 30 openings for RV inhabitants in the Balboa Park area, and will provide showers, bathrooms and full-time security. According to a report by the Department of Motor Vehicles in December 2018, San Francisco is home to nearly 500,000 registered vehicles. According to SFpark data, there are only 275,000 on-street parking spaces in the city. With a population of over 880,000 people, that leaves nearly two


people for every car and around two cars for every parking space. According to the most recent homelessness Point-In-Time Count, over 500 San Francisco residents were identified as living in their vehicle, making up 35% of the city’s total homeless population. These numbers are rough estimates, but accurate enough to assume that there are over 400 RV inhabitants who will not get a space in this new 30 person lot. Rosalva Moreno is raising two kids down the street from Stoddard in her recently-deceased brother’s RV, which strikingly resembles Stoddard’s. Moreno has dreams of eventually finding a more permanent home for her family, but in the meantime the RV serves as a way to save money when that opportunity arises. She believes that a space in the new safe parking lot would help her take care of her children, but she was unaware of the safe parking lot or even how to sign up for it. Hostile architecture and increased parking enforcement have become staples of the city’s culture, and Lake Merced Boulevard is one of the last remaining places for people to park and live in their vehicles as a result. Stoddard says the only time he leaves his post adjacent to San Francisco State University is to get a cup of coffee during street cleaning. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are brought in by the ceremonial whirring of a street cleaning vehicle, followed by a platoon of parking police handing


out tickets to anyone who neglects to move their vehicle in time. While this may be the only form of harassment that RV dwellers encounter in this area, Ricky Nunes, who also participates in the weekly dance with the parking police, says that the lifestyle does come with drawbacks. “It’s like living on a freeway,” Nunes said, pointing at the incessant blur of traffic on the boulevard. There is a fear that Nunes’ dog may one day run into the street. Nunes had been outpriced from renting an apartment in the city and harbors frustration with other RV occupants being careless with their trash, but still can’t imagine living anywhere else. “Even if I had the money by some miracle, I’d probably just buy a bigger RV,” Nunes said. “I love the lifestyle. It’s so free.” Kelley Cutler, human rights organizer for the Coalition on Homelessness, has concerns that the safe parking lot may empower city officials to create more laws, despite working hand-in-hand with Safai on the legislation. “If the city uses this like we’ve seen them use other things in the past, such as the navigation centers, to increase enforcement, then this is doing harm,” Cutler said. Cutler says that Supervisor Safai has spoke of implementing no parking signs around the area of the new lot. “It’s different if they’re actually offering resources,” Cutler said. “But it’s limited. We’ve got to be honest about what’s actually available.” X

A line of RV’ trails down Lake Merced Boulevard in San Francisco, California.



We’re still coming of age A newfound love for the books we once loved Story by Anne Lima Photos by Leila Figueroa Green Apple Books in San Francisco, CA.


or a lot of college students, the most reading they’re trying to get through is comprehending scholarly articles from the last five years or analyzing just enough excerpts from a textbook to reach word count for a research paper. As children, reading used to be a fun, adventurous world. There were the annual Scholastic Book Fairs with Harry Potter and Dr. Seuss characters on bookmarks, not to mention a free book of choice. Now it’s become a chore. The time and patience we had as kids waned as we got busier, having to become adults. Fast forward years later and everyone is trying to regain the lost reading abilities of understanding, analyzing and reflecting on the content at hand. However, there’s growing hope for those who wish to revisit that love for the vast world of literature. Young Adult (YA) literature has become a market within the book world over the last 50 years, and progressed into becoming a booming phenomenon within the last 20. These books, whose target audience and main characters are usually between 12-to-18-years-old and rarely seen on high school English reading lists, are being consumed and appreciated for their insight on life by those in their late teens to their 30s. “There’s this relatability that we all are going through in our different coming of ages that even now in my 30s, there are other things that I’m thinking of. I’m coming of age in different ways that are still very relatable in a teenage sense,” said Sara Wigglesworth, 30, a book buyer for


Green Apple Books store located on Clement Street for the last two and a half years. Adults still aren’t over the “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” series. They still cry over Augustus Waters’ boyish charm in “The Fault in Our Stars.” They’re craving more of these stories even as they’ve outgrown the target audience they’re intended for. A 2012 study by Bowker Market Research indicates that 55% of YA readers are adults 18 and older. San Francisco State University Assistant Professor Nick Sousanis is head of the new Comics Studies minor in the School of Humanities & Liberal Studies. Sousanis has been teaching an introductory course to the study of comics called Comics & Culture for the last three years and has his students reading the graphic novel “Robot Dreams” by Sara Varon.

“There’s this relatability that we all are going through in our different coming of ages that even now in my 30s, there are other things that I’m thinking of. I’m coming of age in different ways that are still very relatable in a teenage sense.” – Sara Wigglesworth. Sousanis’ reading curriculum features a variety of novels that are particularly aimed at children and adolescents. Sousanis started reading


“Robot Dreams” with his daughter when she was three. He says that it has made a good impression on his students who “would pick it up and couldn’t put it down.” “As they told me this term, ‘it’s the kind of book you’d look at from a distance and say that doesn’t belong in a college course,’ but then after reading it and discussing it, they are blown away by the depth of experience inside and how much thought it prompted,” Sousanis said. He says that’s not the only one — “American Born Chinese” by Gene Yang is often taught in junior high and high school alongside works like the “March” trilogy, Rep. John Lewis’s memoir in the comics medium. Sousanis says that many of the works he puts into course studies deal with larger issues, from immigration to race to identity to health, while providing well-rounded, complex characters and storylines to explore these themes. A book that’s continuously been debated, challenged and even banned from some school libraries since its release in 1967 is “The Outsiders” written by S.E. Hinton that she started writing when she was 15 years old. Hinton uses a rivalry between teenage gangs to unpack the division and tension between both groups that’s rooted in their socioeconomic status. “You pick up things you hadn’t the first time around and then it makes you look at the book in a new way. I think students all like these readings and then are surprised at how much they are getting out of them,” Sousanis said. Science fiction writer Octavia E. Butler’s books have trailblazed conversations about Afrofuturism. Her most notable work, “Parable of the Sower,” showcases the main character, a black, teenage girl whose dystopian world is plagued with climate change and continuous issues surrounding race, gender and religion that center around the interconnectedness of our environment and its inhabitants. “There’s a lot of activism within the YA authorship. We’re having a non-binary person as the main character. There’s a book coming out soon where the main character has had AIDS since birth. We’re getting queer characters, a book on Black Lives Matter (i.e. “The Hate You Give”) — it’s so awesome to have and I don’t necessarily see all this represented in adult books. It’s not as prevalent,” Wigglesworth said.


Now there are stories of black people and brown folks, Asian people, indigenous communities, immigrants, differently-abled people, queer and non-binary characters and so on as the leads of these narratives during their teen years. Readers can look beyond the default of the white, straight, cisgender male and female and the cliche love story. The visibility and voices all coming from authors with diverse stories to provide for this vast audience that makes up YA. “The genre totally changed. There’s more material, more variation from when I was actually a young adult,” said Abe Williams, a merchandise buyer at Green Apple Books. “Now you have all these sub-genres. There’s diversity becoming a big thing in it all and so now you’re getting all these queer books that are featuring gender fluidity. All these different aspects are being explored and it’s not just a genre. I’m like learning to read reiterated life lessons,” Williams said. Williams started reading YA novels at 21 and even ran a young adult book blog for roughly two years. “I thought I was so smart when I was a kid — reading Ernest Hemingway and all these adult books, and then I become an adult and start reading like romance to young adult books,” Williams said. He says that this shift in the wide mature content the YA genre has to offer its readers recently is in part due to publishers starting to realize that people under 18 “actually have a mind” and that there’s a positive message and self-teaching moment being conveyed when showing kids of a certain age things to help in accepting aspects of their identity. “Like if a kid wants to wear a dress then let him do his thing and that’s where the stories are opening up about topics like that. That’s what I recommend to librarians that come from middle and high schools looking for books for their students,” Williams said. What many of us feel left out of or question about ourselves, we’re finally seeing it and resonating with through characters like 15-year-old Afro-Latinx Xiomara from Harlem in “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo or a romance between two Muslim teens, Adam and Zayneb, who meet during a Spring Break trip in “Love from A to Z” by S. K. Ali. Not only do YA books ignite a resurgence of youthful spirit and interest for reading again, they’re a contributing benefit to our wellness. X



Amparo Requiel has tended to a colony of cats in the Ruzafa neighborhood of Valencia for years. She personally finances and builds shelters like these.

Gatos de la Calle: Inside Valencia’s Street Cat Colonies



his piece was written as a part of the iEiMedia Valencia 2019 Summer Program. Spain — How would you feel if you knew that right now, 5,000 children are living on the streets, under cars, in abandoned and overgrown lots? Five thousand tiny bodies full of fear, unable to bathe or feed or shelter themselves. In the city of Valencia right now, 5,000 lives survive by scraping by and the kindness of strangers, but they are not homo sapiens; they are cats. Homeless cats have plagued Spain for generations, going largely unchecked as they reproduce and populate empty fincas, brambled yards and every dark corner they can find. The Spanish government has done little to quell their spreading, with thousands of colonies within and beyond Madrid, Andalucia and the Comunitat Valenciana’s capital city. Up until a few years ago it was punishable by hundreds of euros in fines to feed the cats, but that has not deterred local organizations, veterinary clinics and residents from trying to give them a higher quality of life and, ideally, a home. Caramelo swats at the pink mouse in front of him with his tiny, furry paw. His blue eyes track the toy as it flops around in his cage; it is likely the first time he has ever played with one in his six weeks of life. One of the


clinic’s employees, Bea, found him under a car the day before and brought him into work for conjunctivitis. Maria Angeles Frontera, the head veterinarian at Clinica Veterinaria Ruzafa, calls him “mono” — cutie — and gives him a kiss. He seems to like it. Frontera began her practice 25 years ago with dogs, but the increasingly evident issue with the gatos de la calle (street cats) shifted her focus. “In this neighborhood, in the city center, there are a lot of cats. We started to see clients bring in cats from the streets that they kept, and clients who had entire cat colonies,” Frontera said. “They help us with deworming and sterilizing the cats, and the Ayuntamiento [municipal government] offers them help, but it’s not enough. Fifteen years ago we were sterilizing male cats in a protectora (rescue organization), and we try to help with lower prices. We all love cats; we are very dedicated to the feline world.” Caramelo is lucky. His eye has cleared up and he nips gently at the hands that play with him. A couple is coming to take him home that evening. Most cats, even those in an established colony, fare far worse. “There are many cats that are born in the fields, and it’s dangerous. There are car accidents, dog bites, trauma from falling or being stepped



on — in the city it’s risky with all the tall buildings. That’s why we fight to get them microchipped, get them vaccinated so they can join a family, but it’s hard. We see a lot of cats, maybe 30 that get sterilized and returned to a colony, and another 30 that come from the street in a year. People are a lot more conscious now; their situation is a lot better since my start as a veterinarian,” Frontera said. It is dinner time, and the sun lowers over the Ruzafa neighborhood. Amparo Requiel prepares her cart. It is one of those cloth shopping carts that resemble a suitcase, but the sustenance inside is not for her. The cart bulges with latex gloves, canned food and disinfectant. Time to visit her colony. Amidst a wall of graffiti along Carrer de Alacant is a door with two padlocks. She withdraws the keys from a pocket of her pink hoodie, the sole proprietor. The door opens up to two empty lots; one full of overgrown weeds and stalks, the other of makeshift shelters, half-empty food bowls and cats. Lots of cats. The smell overwhelms any new visitor, but dissipates in the evening air. Requiel estimates over 40 cats live here, all with their own names and personalities. Some have broken tails, some have ripped ears, one even limps with a leg that never healed correctly. Plastic barrels cut in half and wooden boxes with tarps overlaid serve as shelters. With her gloves on, Requiel begins her almost-daily routine.

Over 40 cats live in Requiel’s colony. She has named almost all of them and most have been sterilized to prevent furthering the population.

First she feeds them, spooning out pâté in individual portions so everyone gets a taste. Then she scoops can after can of wet food into aluminum-lined containers — she says she goes through roughly 24 cans every two days. She does all this without any organization or government oversight; every expense comes out of her own pocket. “The problem is, the political forces don’t put themselves in the skins of the people we are helping. They’ve displaced cats from their spaces, they don’t know what to do with them,” Requiel said. “They also need to understand we need places for these cats to be safe. They don’t value the work we do day by day and there’s still a long way to go. It costs us a lot of effort. In my life I’ve always been clear that you help when people need you.” She claims the average lifespan for a homeless cat is about two years due to illness, starvation or car accidents. Requiel has rescued four cats from the colony to claim as her own: Paco, Pepa, Ricardo and Lola. She named Paco, the oldest at 13, after her father. “My dad always took care of cats. I had a moral obligation when I started doing this 20 years ago. The principle that these cats live well. You spend a lot of money, a lot of effort. There’s a lot of emotional ups and downs; I’ve seen many cats born and many die … but the cats’ happiness is my repayment.” She knows the cats living there likely won’t get adopted, but she has had all the female spayed to prevent any more from popping up. Valencia has few opportunities for residents to interact with home-



Two cats lay near each other as they gaze out toward the Botanical Garden of Valencia, which is home to many cats of different breeds, where volunteers go daily to feed them.

less cats in a clean and mutually comfortable environment, but that has changed recently. La Fábrica de Huellas showcases stray cats in a palatable, if not inviting way. The facade of a cafe gives way to a divided space: the front of the house is a basic coffee shop that allows dogs, but behind two layers of glass and two buzz-in doors are nine adoptable homeless cats. Cat beds and string toys litter the floor as Naza Hernández, the president of La Fábrica de Huellas, implores a tail-less cat to jump on her lap. The space is barely a year old, an offshoot of a veteran animal association to specifically address the cat problem. “It’s the first place in Spain to unite all these things related to the animals. We started wanting to help people with disabilities with animal-assisted therapy with dogs and horses. We are also health experts: psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and we believe in the benefit of animals working with children with autism, elderly people and adults with Alzheimers. We needed to give back some of what they were giving us, it was a way to give thanks. We also want to implicate people to change the hard realities of both people and animals. Valencia has one of the highest populations of homeless cats, that’s why this project makes so much sense,” Hernández said. All the Fábrica asks for in exchange for access to the cats is the purchase of a coffee, beer or pastry from the cafe front. As long as you don’t try to get the cats drunk, they allow food and drink in the back with them. The nine cats ambling around or napping are hand-picked from the Modepram animal shelter, and many bear scars or lack parts of their ears and tails due to life on the streets. Even after they receive a clean bill of health, not every feline makes the cut. “They do have to at least tolerate other cats, and more or less have to get on well with people. They have to be cats that are socialized with people because people expect to come here to have a good experience with them. We prefer adult cats because we know kittens will always get chosen. We as people aren’t born knowing how to care for the animals we live with, so the Fábrica is a place to learn. Apart from the adoption, the education is the goal,” Hernández said. In the past 11 months they have rehomed 16 cats. None of these numbers sound astounding by themselves, but they all contribute to Valencia’s grassroots efforts to get these animals off the streets. Collectively these three women have rescued dozens of cats and prevented the suffering of hundreds more. The Iberian Peninsula was named for the abundance of rabbits; it needn’t rename itself to land of the felines. X




The irreversible approaches


Story by Karishma Patadia Photos by Sandy Scarpa

s temperatures and sea levels rise toward irreversible levels, individuals are becoming more aware of ways to maneuver their lives in a sustainable manner. Globally there is a push to demand change in plastic pollution by pushing people in power toward a sustainable lifestyle. We all have heard that plastic does not biodegrade and once it’s in our oceans, it takes centuries to decompose, eventually ending up in one of the world’s five major plastic patches. Plastic pollution is one of the most prominent issues of our time because it goes beyond just recycling and managing waste. It fundamentally affects the quality of life. We are beginning to see an uproar of change around the topic of sustainable living by making conscious decisions to use paper or metal straws, however, this is only a temporary fix. Eva Holman, former Rise Above Plastic program lead and current member at large, coined the term “single-use” as last year’s term of the year and shared the urgency of transitioning toward reusable materials. “When you switch one single-use like plastic, and you make it another single use like paper, you’re just changing the source material to something else that’s valuable,” Holman said. However, plastic has been in conversation for over three decades. In the early 1990s, researchers and some politicians noticed that non-biodegradable plastic contributes 60-80% of the waste in the ocean. Plastic is supposed to be recycled into reusable products. According to statistics from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) only 34.7% of Americans actually recycle. The average lifespan of plastic bags are only one to two uses. Many people believe that cutting down plastic waste will bring a greater good to our environment, however, others are directing the conversation toward the single-use phenomenon and emphasize on reusing materials. Surfrider San Francisco is an organization that focuses on making sustainable decisions that center around reusing products rather than using compostable items for one-time use. Currently, the local chapter is fighting to pass the “Reuse Ordinance,” alongside Supervisor Aaron Peskin, in hopes of implementing the overall reduction of disposable goods.

Last summer when Starbucks announced it was phasing out plastic straws, CEO of PacknWood restaurant product supply company Adam Merran told CNBC that paper straws cost five, even ten times as much as plastic straws. Due to this significant cost difference, companies are more reluctant to make the shift. If passed, this ordinance would also feed into San Francisco’s 2018 Zero Waste Goals, which includes recyclable and compostable wastes. The San Francisco chapter currently has seven programs embedded in their organization. The Ocean Friendly Restaurants program specifically focuses on transforming the use of compostable and disposable goods toward reusable materials.

“When you switch one single-use like plastic, and you make it another single use like paper, you’re just changing the source material to something else that’s valuable.” –Eva Holman Program lead of Ocean Friendly Restaurants Corrine Gentile found that the most common item that is found on the beach comes from food products and packaging. The program’s main goal is to find a solution for restaurants to discontinue products containing plastic and to eliminate these materials from ending up on our beaches. Gentile contacted about 30 restaurants across the city to change their materials to reusable products. “Everytime we certify a restaurant, we put it on our social media, on Surfrider SF, so we try to promote that the restau-



The line trailing off into the distance was attracting people who were not aware of the Surfride beach clean up in San Francisco on Oct. 6, 2019.

rant is now ocean friendly and we hope that it will make a positive impression in consumer’s mind,” Gentile said. Melanie Napholz, a member of the San Francisco chapter, hosts beach cleanups three times a month. On Oct. 6, Napholz and Holden Hardcastle, chair of the local chapter, registered over 200 volunteers to pick up trash on Ocean Beach. The massive crowd of people picked up over 700 pounds of trash and 1,500 cigarette butts, Surfrider SF said on Instagram. Almost every day-to-day item is made of or contained in plastic. Tupperware, face wash, wrappers, water bottles, fishing wire, tires and even certain clothing are all components of plastic, and ultimately breaks up into smaller pieces of plastic. Researchers have found that the accumulation of plastic in our oceans has led to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a buildup of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. According to National Geographic, the debris that builds up in the ocean creates a layer that blocks sunlight from entering, and ultimately leads to a disruption in the ecosystem due to plankton and algae not receiving the correct nutrients resulting in a vicious cycle. There are larger companies that are headed toward sustainability. For example, at the end of 2018, Trader Joe’s announced on their website that the company will be more accountable to-


ward sustainability by moving away from plastic containers and produce bags, replacing them with compostable materials. In this industrial, capitalistic world, plastic feeds into low cost production, and due to the durability and flexibility of the material it becomes accessible to consumers. However, plastic is not a necessity in our world. With the widespread demand of attention toward plastic pollution, it goes to show the importance of the impact that consumers have. Blue Plate, a new American comfort food hub located on Mission Street, was one of the first restaurants in the city to transform their materials toward reusing cups and plates, said restaurant owner Jeff Trenam. Trenam became aware of the importance of reducing the abundance of plastic in his restaurant at the end of 2017. “We’ve always tried to have our to-go boxes to be recycled and compostable, but we’ve never gone in for buying plastic utensils or single-use stuff. It’s a matter of us being aware of what we can do better,” Trenam said. Holman hopes to coin the term “reuse” as the term for the next year. “Instead of single-use, we reuse. So instead of saying of plastic, we are going to say reusable containers instead of plastic,” Holman said. X



West side story: cannabis equity programs

The Dank Duchess smoking her five-year-old hash in celebration of her hash-iversary.


y 9 p.m on Tuesday, Sept. 18, the parking lot of the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa, California was full — finding a parking spot was impossible. Closer to the hotel’s front doors, groups of people mingled and made their way outside in search of some fresh air, as music boomed inside. Behind the hotel’s patio fence a crowd rumbled in conversation. Just visible above them were countless strings of twinkling lights and a billowing cloud of smoke filled the air with the fragrant smell of cannabis. The hotel hosted an after-party for Hall of Flowers, a two-day cannabis convention and industry trade show. Guests ranged from industry leaders to business owners to ordinary people who just love and appreciate the plant. A never ending stream of people spoke with long-time cannabis cultivator and guru Swami Chaitanya as he moved slowly through the party in his striking white robes and long gray beard. Standing among the sea of people and smoke, a woman known as The Dank Duchess danced as she smoked an O-O, an extra fat and short joint, out of a bejeweled chillum (a cylindrical clay pipe for smoking cannabis and hashish). She is an expert on all things hashish, an educator and a maker of premium-pressed bubble hash living in Oakland, California. The Dank Duchess learned to press hash from well-known hash master Frenchy

Story and photo by Andrea Williams

Cannoli, and it happened to be the five-year anniversary of pressing her first bar of hash — which she smoked in celebration. To date cannabis has been decriminalized in 25 states and the District of Columbia. It is legal for medical use in 33 states. People can be seen smoking openly on the streets in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, and while driving on freeways in the Bay Area it is impossible not to see giant billboards for cannabis businesses like Eaze and WeedMaps. Cannabis is here and here to stay. But what do these big companies have in common? White owners. It is widely agreed in reports that communities of color were targeted at disproportionate rates in the war on drugs. Data collected by the Oakland City Council, found that African Americans in Oakland account for 77% of cannabis arrests while Caucasians account for merely 4%. Both communities make up one-third of the city’s population respectively. Cannabis business expert and Oakland native Andrea Unsworth, who also attended House of Flowers, is a leading voice in the industry



“We are all grass-roots organizers trying to effect change in our communities, it’s been a hard road but we love what we do.” -Ramon Garcia

and was instrumental in organizing the community to fight for an equity program. In 2016 she co-founded Supernova Women, an organization dedicated to empowering and educating women of color to become self-sufficient stakeholders in the cannabis economy. They were instrumental in passing Oakland’s and San Francisco’s equity programs. “The cannabis equity program is a great thing because it starts the conversation, which needs to happen. But the equity programs need to be funded with real funds, what they give now is not realistic,” Unsworth said. “Right now it is very expensive to be legal in this industry. You have to have access to a lot of capital and understand business and accounting in order to be successful.” The cannabis equity report in neighboring San Francisco also showed that nationally 81% of cannabis businesses are owned by Caucasians and only about 4% are owned by African Americans. The report found both demographics use cannabis at about the same rate. Oakland was the first city in the nation to create a cannabis equity program in 2017. The program ensures that half of the city’s cannabis business permits go to applicants who were prosecuted for cannabis related crimes or were harmed by the broad impacts of the war on drugs It also provides limited financial assistance to participants. Oakland’s landmark equity program was the first of its kind and was quickly followed by cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles that passed similar programs of their own. More cities across the state and in other states continue to follow Oakland’s lead and explore cannabis equity programs. Under Proposition 64 it became much more expensive to be legal in the cannabis industry because of the state tax increase and because of how heavily regulated the industry became. Ellen Komp, deputy director at California NORML, a non-profit organization that lobbies for fair and reformed cannabis laws, explains that the industry is heavily regulated and that the process of getting licensed is arduous. Komp describes how before legalization she would buy a product from a dispensary for $11 and after legalization the price jumped to $33. This drastic price increase due to costly taxation and regulatory changes pushed some people away from the legal market. California NORML lobbied for a less regulated version of the bill in 2016. “It’s hard for a small business to survive with such high regulations,” Komp said. Unsworth believes it is important for cities to align their resources in the right way, so participants in the equity program can have access to more realistic funds and education courses in business and accounting so they are actually given the tools needed to be successful in this


expensive industry. Ramon Garcia, co-founder of Original Equity Group, is a long time advocate for equity programs, and like Unsworth was also involved in the passing of both Oakland and San Francisco’s programs. He agrees that both cities equity programs are not enough on their own and they need more funds and actual education for applicants. Garcia explained that when they were advocating for the programs in both Bay Area cities, they used clear language saying that having “a program alone is not enough.” He emphasized that “the failed war on drugs” has held communities of color back from getting quality education and kept them from building generational wealth, two large factors that in turn create a much higher barrier of entry for them to get into the cannabis industry. “If we didn’t compromise and just take a small win, we would have never got the equity program through,” Garcia said.

“It’s hard for a small business to survive with such high regulations.” -Ellen Komp The Original Equity Group is based in San Francisco and their goal is to provide all local equity applicants with their six-session workshop for free, which includes resources like access to lawyers and accountants, advice from professionals and business training. The course gives applicants a thorough education on different aspects of the industry and even includes workshops focused on how to heal and move on from the war on drugs. After persistent negotiations with the city, the Original Equity Group was able to raise $65,000 toward free education for all of San Francisco’s equity applicants. The landscape of legal cannabis has changed drastically over the past five years and will continue changing and evolving in the years to come. A change, like the legalization of cannabis on a federal level, would have massive effects on the market that would help equity participants succeed. “We are all grass-roots organizers trying to effect change in our communities,” Garcia said. “It’s been a hard road but we love what we do.” X




(left to right) Monica Ramos, singer/guitarist, Aimee Belden, drummer and Krista Delosreyes, bassist also known as D.R.A.M.A. are practicing in their shared space on Sept. 30, 2019.




metronomic drum click, guitar feedback, lingering bass chords, screeching guitar riffs and howling vocals are faintly heard outside the closed door of room 304. In the heart of downtown San Francisco, off Turk Street and up a flight of stairs, lies a place where ear plugs are recommended, but not required. A string of Christmas lights hang — even off-holiday season — and illuminate the dim space where Dreamy Radical Anxious Magical Angels, also known as D.R.A.M.A., practice most Mondays. The post Riot Grrrl — a ‘90s feminist punk movement — band is more than just a punk group, but also roommates and lovers. Singer/guitarist Monica Ramos and drummer Aimee Belden have been together since before the band formed in April 2017 and Belden lives with bassist Krista Delosreyes. Ramos met Belden through her former band Quaaludes, where she was the singer. Belden and Ramos wanted to form a new band so they invited Delosreyes — with no musical background ­— who learned bass just for the occasion. Human rights violations, racism, transphobia, fatphobia, racism and climate change are all the most pressing issues for the band. Through bringing awareness at shows, organizing and booking shows with a bill of people of color and giving monetary support to black and brown punk bands is how the band intertwines punk and politics. Their musical positions are not set in stone. They rotate instruments to fit the tracks. Ramos will sit in on drums; Delosreyes will play Ramos’ guitar or sing while on bass and Belden will play bass and sing. The first song they rehearsed, “Parking Meter,” was the first song they ever recorded. It was the song that was the most solid, Delosreyes said, which they submitted when Oakland-based activist and former singer of punk band Butanna, Vanessa Tsimoyianis-Butterworth, asked the band to be on the compilation “Evaluate What You Tolerate.” Released in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the two-volume compilation consists of 50 Bay Area punk bands against racism, white supremacy and hate. “It was a good start for us to be involved in something that had a little bit more substance and purpose. That activated our roles and what we wanted to contribute and convey ourselves by being a part of [Evaluate What You Tolerate],” Delosreyes said.

D.R.A.M.A. is a staple of the punk community in the Bay. “From being in multiple bands to showing up when it’s needed most, each member of D.R.A.M.A brings and represents their own way in which they resist systems of oppression that keep our friends and family down while showing the beauty and strength of our togetherness,” Tsimoyianis-Butterworth said. Delosreyes and Ramos are both children of Filipino immigrants, which factors into D.R.A.M.A.’s sound. Ramos describes the band as a “Pinay” — a colloquial word for “Filipina” — punk band. On their debut album, they have a track titled “PINAY69.” For Delosreyes, the punk genre serves as an outlet to voice concerns and creativity through music. For Belden, it’s important to stay raw, grounded and away from the corporate world. “You are immediately reaching a lot of people who already have a counter-culture mind, who want to do the right thing, who want to speak out. It’s important to be apart of a scene that has like minded qualities that we are all mad about,” Ramos said. Since Delosreyes learned bass and Belden learned drums for the band, they find themselves rooted in the do-it-yourself ethics of punk. Belden laughed as Delosreyes tried to fathom the idea of a corporate festival asking them to play. The Universe is Lit: Bay Area Black and Brown Punk Festival is one of the community benefits that the band has played. Belden said a way they try to give back to the community is by being conscious of what line-ups they play in. D.R.A.M.A. also played the Matinee Benefit show for Mok and Pating — punk rockers who were murdered by police in the Philippines. Proceeds from the show went to the families of Mok and Pating. The band’s next shows are Oct. 17 at the Knockout and the Pinoy Punk Benefit for Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance at Music City SF. All 10 new songs for their upcoming LP are planned to be released next spring off the Oakland-based record label Nervous Intent. “We use the personal as political,” said Belden “Not many of our songs are political per se, but our presence is or can be perceived as political.” X



A figurine stands in the front window of Botanica Yourba on Sept. 26, 2019.


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