SANCTUARY VOL. 4
EDITING STAFF Editor-In-Chief Kenzie Aellig
Managing Editor KK Interchuck
Photo Editor Avery Wilcox
Copy Editor Lyn Brook
Online Editor Tèo Mata
Social Media Editor Justin Garcia
STAFF WRITERS Mariana Garrick Nicole Gonzales Saskia Hatvany Ximena Loeza Cash Martinez Gia Opsahl Fernando Pacheco Hunter Troy
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS Nicolas Cholula Amaya Edwards Morgan Ellis Paris Galarza Garrett Isley Cameron Lee
TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter from the editor p.4-5 / From the Ground Up: A Revolution at State p.613 / Oakland’s Tiny House Village Makes an Enormous Impact p. 14-21 / Rooted in Community p. 22-41 / Work-from-Wherever p. 42-47 / Life Onboard: the Bay Area Intrepid Who Choose Life on the Water p. 48-55 / Castro: the New Queer Experience p. 56-61 / Lost in the Clay: Finding an Escape in Pottery p. 62-67 / Gentle Giants: EquineAssisted Services p. 68-71 / Wearing Drag as Armor p. 72-75 / Open Arms and Pastures: Rescue Farms in the Bay Area p. 76-87 / Freedom From a False Haven: the Reality of Religious Trauma p. 88-93 / The Kittens are Alright p. 94-99 / A Journey to Peace: the Yogic Way p. 100-107 / Finding Refuge in the Sound p. 108-115 /
For our last issue together, the Xpress staff chose the theme of sanctuary. After a long semester, and a universally difficult past two years, it felt only right to end our time together with stories of comfort and closeness, community and culture. The idea of sanctuary is so diverse and undefined. I challenged the staff to consider what the word means in their lives, and how sanctuary can be as big as a concept, as small as a room, or as significant as a single person. The writers, photographers, and editors worked individually and in collaboration to provide you, our readers, with stories that embody the idea of home, safety, security — in a word, sanctuary. I began this semester with the goal of highlighting stories of underrepresented identities and communities. My purpose as editor in chief, and my purpose as an almost-graduated journalist, has been and will always be to uplift those who have been misrepresented and neglected in the media and in life. I have been so blessed with a staff that supported this goal and made it a reality, speaking up for the communities and topics they feel so passionate about. Above all else, I’m most proud of the growth I’ve seen and experienced over the course of the last four months. It’s been an honor and privilege to watch writers and photographers find their voices, as well as the courage to seek out and tell stories of depth and value. To see the evolution of confidence in my staff in both their writing and the stories they pitch has been the greatest privilege of all. I started my time here at SFSU with a case of imposter syndrome. I’m ending it with beautiful friendships with my fellow classmates, an incredible mentor in the wise and ever-so-stylish Joanne Derbort, and the confidence to begin this new chapter of my life. I owe all of that to Xpress Magazine. Kenzie Aellig Editor-in-Chief
Ground Up: By Cash Grace Martinez and Amaya Edwards
On a windy Tuesday afternoon, holding a cup of coffee from Cafe Rosso and wearing a university-branded mask, fourth-year student Ja’Corey Bowens sits on the steps of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, a monolithic feature of San Francisco State University’s campus. Since the start of the fall semester, Bowens has served as the president for the Black Student Union, which provides a community space for the university’s Black student body. Founded in 1966, it was the first organization of its kind in the country. According to William Orrick, author of “Shut It Down! A College in Crisis,” at the time of the BSU’s founding, only 4% of students at San Francisco State University, then called San Francisco State College, were Black. Five decades later, students of all ethnic and cultural
backgrounds, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, Palestinian, now populate SF State’s campus. Events discussing racial issues, police brutality and intersectionality are held on a regular basis. Classes focusing on the experiences of marginalized groups — HIV-positive people of color, queer and transgender Native Americans, undocumented Latina immigrants — are offered each semester. University course requirements dictate that all students, regardless of major, must take at least one Ethnic Studies course in the time they are on campus. In spaces like the BSU, Student Kouncil of Intertribal Nations (SKINS) and General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS), students of color can find community, support and belonging among their peers.
A Revolution at State Ja’corey Bowens and Lee Lockhart. Photograph by Amaya Edwards
“In every part of what is now America, there’s little to no spaces for Indigenous people,” says Valerie Cabral, one of the facilitators for SKINS. SKINS was founded by activist and SF State alumnus Richard Oakes of the Mohawk Nation. The group directly supported the Third World Liberation Front during the 1968 strikes. “To have a space specifically constructed for Native students on campus was something that was unheard of to me, especially coming from my high school where our mascot was a ‘Chief,’” Cabral says. Still, the image that the university often paints of itself as a progressive utopia is different from the one that many students of color face each day when they arrive for their classes. Feeling like there is little support from the administration, students of color often turn to each other for support and advice. Many student leaders, such as Bowens, as well as the BSU’s External Vice President Lee Lockhart, are beginning to feel the weight pressing down. In the last four years, Bowens says they’ve watched the number of Black students in their classes dwindle. “I was on the Afrocentric floor my freshman year and we had about 25 of us living there,” they say. “Now I’m walking across the stage, and there’s only three of us.”
Lockhart joined the BSU his freshman year as a general member, later serving as financial officer in his third year. “I didn’t really think that I’d ever be in a (BSU) leadership position,” he says. His role as External Vice President is to provide support to other BSU board members, as well as their general members. “Something we’ve always talked about in BSU is how to support Black students better,” Lockhart says. “It’s really sad that we still have to worry about that.” The presence of student leaders and activists from 1968 to now is a driving force behind SF State’s radical legacy — and the work, they say, is far from over.
All power to the people According to Orrick, tensions had been building on SF State’s campus for years prior. However, the ultimate catalyst for the Ethnic Studies strike and resulting academic movement was the suspension of teaching assistant George Mason Murray, an SF State graduate student and the minister of education for the Black Panther Party. Murray was invited to speak at Fresno State College in October 1968, where he called for Black students to arm themselves against white supremacists disguised as school administrators. “We are slaves,” Murray had said. “And the only way to become free is to kill all the slave masters. Political power comes from the barrel of a gun.” According to Orrick, while the college’s president at the time, Dr. Robert Smith, refused requests to fire Murray, his hand was eventually forced by the board of trustees. Murray was officially suspended on November 1, 1968. Protests followed soon after. A mere five days later, the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front (TWLF), a coalition of Black, Latino, Indigenous and Asian students, as well as white allies, unified and began striking, demanding that the Black Studies program be expanded and that Murray be reinstated to his teaching position. “[Administration tries] to make us believe we’re free when our brother and sister students are made victims,” reads one flyer, published by the first Black Student Union while the strike was ongoing. “We are not educated here, we are trained.”
Ja’corey Bowens. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
“In every part of what is now America, there’s little to no spaces for Indigenous people.” –Valerie Cabral
Lee Lockhart. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
According to the SF State Strike Collections, by the spring of 1969, more than 800 protestors had been arrested and class attendance had dropped to a measly 37%. Police officers, sporting full riot gear and carrying batons, beat and brutalized students on a daily basis. Violence on the college’s campus had become a common sight. Still, Orrick says, the BSU and TWLF held steadfast in their convictions and on March 20, 1969, an agreement was reached between strikers and administration. By the next fall, the first College of Ethnic Studies was established in the United States. The largest student-led strike in US history had ended, but the fight for a safe and equal education for students of color at San Francisco State University was still in its infancy.
The struggle continues In 2016, the College of Ethnic Studies as well as its adjacent programs were facing a major financial crisis. Faculty and staff stated that the issues were due to budget cuts from the university, while university officials claimed, in comments then made to Golden Gate Xpress, that their dire financial straits had resulted from the College of Ethnic Studies spending more than what was included in their budget allocation. In response, a group of concerned undergraduates unified, leading to the beginning of the second strike in SFSU’s history. According to archival information made available by the College of Ethnic Studies, the demonstration was spearheaded by undergraduates Hassani Bell, Julia Retzlaff, Ahkeel Mestayer and Sachiel Rosen. A list of ten demands, which focused on the reallocation of funds to the College of Ethnic Studies, as well as increasing university requirements for Ethnic Studies courses, was published on their Facebook page. That May, following 10 days of a hunger strike which resulted in one hospitalization, the group’s demands were finally met by then-SFSU President Leslie Wong. In a written statement published by President Wong, close to half a million dollars was dedicated to funding the College of Ethnic Studies. Bell, who was in his freshman year at the time of the hunger strike, was murdered in September of this year by an unknown gunman. Bowens spoke of their personal
connection to Bell as both a friend and comrade, as well as the impact his work and life had left on members of the BSU. “A lot of these individuals are still going unrecognized today,” says Bowens. “It’s my job not only to continue recognizing them, but making sure we’re honoring the people who came before us, because we wouldn’t be here without any of our alumni from BSU.”
“It’s my job not only to continue recognizing them, but making sure we're honoring the people who came before us, because we wouldn’t be here without any of our alumni from BSU.” –Ja’Corey Bowens
Bowens says that much of their time at SF State has been spent advocating for the safety, education and rights of other Black students. As Bowens and Lockhart point out, much of the campus discussion following George Floyd’s death by police in May 2020 was focused on policing, security and racial profiling. Yet, they both say very little has changed or improved in the relationship between campus police and students of color. “A lot of the stuff Ja’Corey and I did to advocate and support Black students, whether that was with police abolition or just trying to get them to listen to BSU, was really difficult,” says Lockhart. “It wasn’t a problem getting into the space. I think President Mahoney does a great job of making herself available but I think the followthrough hasn’t been there.” Promises made by the administration in the months following Floyd’s death, such as a review of the University Police Department’s budget or the implementation of Mental Health Response Teams in residential halls, were left unfulfilled, according to Bowens and Lockhart.
“It’s disappointing to see that. It’s annoying that we get to be in these spaces, but then no action comes from it,” Lockhart adds. For Bowens, who spent two years working in Associated Students (AS), the anti-Blackness they say they experienced from the university and student government became too much to ignore. Their decision to leave AS, in the end, was nothing less than bittersweet, they say. “Administration doesn’t want to accept mistakes that they’ve made, but they’re willing to embrace anything that goes right,” Bowens says. “That was hard to have to rationalize, just knowing that you pour so much in and you’re not even a header on this chapter of history.” Aisha Hawkins, a long-time member of SKINS, says that the support from the university, as well as from AS, more often than not feels restrictive, bordering on censorship. “Administration and Associated Students tell you, ‘Here’s a space where you guys can be expressive,’ but they’re not giving us the freedom to do it,” says Hawkins, who is Black, Indigenous and queer. “They definitely restrict how much we can represent ourselves.”
“Administration doesn’t want to accept mistakes that they’ve made, but they’re willing to embrace anything that goes right.” –Ja’Corey Bowens
Joshua Ochoa, who serves as the president of AS, says in an email that he and AS are actively working to address issues within the system and address the concerns of student organizations. “I would ensure that AS remains an organization by and for the students at SFSU, in addition to one that stands against anti-Blackness and what we can do as a campus to combat it,” Ochoa says. “In the past, we’ve done trainings and had important conversations around anti-Blackness and how to combat it throughout campus, but I know that we can always do more to address those concerns as we continue to fight and advocate for students.”
A path forward Campus conditions for students of color and the organizations that serve them might seem bleak, but Bowens says that there is still hope to improve the lives of Black, Indigenous and other students of color at SF State. “It starts off first with them listening to student workers and student leaders,” Bowens says. “No one’s gonna do anything about these problems if we, as Black students, don’t say anything.” Bowens and Lockhart both agree that focusing on making BSU an intersectional, welcoming place for all Black identities is one of the student organization’s main goals at this point in time. In the past, Bowens says, queer Black students have felt uncomfortable attending BSU. “The Black Student Union is inherently supposed to be an inclusive space,” Bowens says. “How are we changing that narrative to make sure that BSU is holding onto that? Yes, we’re an inclusive space for all, but what are we doing to prove that we’re being inclusive?” Lockhart says that BSU has focused on making programming more diverse and accessible to Black students of other marginalized identities. “I hope to see BSU continue to be a space for all Black students, and not the ones that we typically think of, like Black heterosexual males, in the space,” he says. He added that breaking the existing misperception of the BSU would encourage more Black students to get involved and find their community at SF State. “Our struggles are interconnected,” Bowens says. “We’re all just Black students and we’re here to be in community with one another.”
Aisha Hawkins. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Oakland’s Tiny House Village Makes an Enormous Impact By Hunter Troy Delilah Aviles, 20, has experienced what many are struggling with in the Bay Area: homelessness. Yet, she radiates positivity.
When the pandemic started in 2020, Aviles lived in her car. She moved back to California from Florida and stayed anywhere she could that would “feel like home.” Eventually, Aviles found housing through Twitter by scrolling upon a post about Oakland, California’s Tiny House Village. 14
Jesse Turner. Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“I like to take it day by day because my future is not granted or certain,” Aviles says. “But I know that my daily steps lead up to my goals.”
Photograph by Cameron Lee.
In February of 2021, the local Oakland nonprofit Youth Spirit Artworks (YSA) created the Tiny House Village. According to Jilly de la Torre, Youth Spirit Artwork’s case manager and Tiny House project coordinator, it’s the first tiny home village in the nation created specifically for youth. According to the current City of Oakland Point in Time Count Report, which is used to calculate how many people are unhoused each year, there were 4,071 people without homes in Oakland during 2019. The report says that 79% or 3,210 of those people were unsheltered. 16
The United States Interagency Council of Homelessness reported in 2020 that 12,172 young adults experienced homelessness within California. “The thing that makes our program unique is that it’s not just serving you in the moment where you are at right now, but it’s really helping people focus on their future,” de la Torre says. The village consists of 22 8-by-10 tiny homes, with four reserved for on-site resident assistants. Residents are able to stay for up to two years and must be between the ages of 18-24. The
oldest aged applicant Youth Spirit Artworks will accept is 23.
for residents to “figure out who they are first and foremost.”
Youth Spirit Artworks was created in 2007 by Sally Hindman, who has worked in management and nonprofit experience for over 20 years. Not only does the village supply medical care, but they also provide residents with equine-assisted services for healing trauma and weekly budgeting and art education classes.
“Here, everyone has a space to go to, to process the hard days and their challenges,” Turner says. “And then they have community space to go to when they need support. I think that’s just how it needs to be everywhere.”
Some residents work while others attend school, but Tiny House Village assistant manager Jesse Turner says that this community provides a space
Turner lives in a green and turquoise tiny house. He’s lived there since 2020, acting as caretaker of the village before residents arrived.
Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“I feel like a stepdad with 20 kids,” Turner says. “Some of them call me mom. My job goes from unclogging toilets and fixing septic tanks to helping people when they’re going through tough times.”
“Residents work with each other on different things,” de la Torre says. “For example, one of the leaders who’s not specifically a resident led his own workshop about graffiti art and just opened it up to the community.”
Turner also says that the pandemic played a big role regarding homelessness over the past couple of years.
Aviles, who studies medicinal plant chemistry at the City College of San Francisco, is working with an organization called the Women’s Forest Sanctuary to create monthly visits for residents to travel to local redwood forests.
“About half of our residents have actually never experienced homelessness until COVID,” Turner says. “Some of their stimulus checks were late and they didn’t get them until August 2020. At that point, they had been on the streets for three months.”
“These monthly trips to the forest have restorative justice,” Aviles says. “We’ll pay people to come and teach us. We’re always in a circle and being a community, which is an indigenous practice.”
The Tiny House Village has volunteer hours In addition to working on projects that Youth Spirit between 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday where people can help build new tiny homes. Artworks leads, participants are also creating their They have the goal of creating 100 homes for own projects to better their community. youth who struggle with homelessness and hope to create more villages in the future. 18
“Here, everyone has a space to go to, to process the hard days and their challenges.”
Photograph by Cameron Lee.
Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“It’s a trickle effect — our effects in the world as individuals trickle into our communities. It’s important to put ourselves out there in the world and show up.” –Delilah Aviles
“We’re hoping to use the process that we went through to create the first village as a model and a learning experience to create other villages in the future to hopefully turn that around at a faster time,” de la Torre says. Aviles says that she is grateful every day for the opportunities that come her way and that she’s motivated to make the most out of what she has.
Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“Space is power. To create is the power,” Aviles says. “It’s quite amazing to have all these resources but we have to put it to work and apply it. I think it’s a trickle effect — our effects in the world as individuals trickle into our communities. It’s important to put ourselves out there in the world and show up.”
Nilo and Yota stand in the bed of the City Slicker Farm truck, getting ready to pass off supplies to their peers at the Multicultural Community Center (MCC) on the University of California, Berkeley campus on Oct. 26, 2021. Yota, a 20-year-old student at UC Berkeley, is an intern with the MCC on campus. “Honestly, I just like to play with dirt. I like sand. I like just being in community with other people who actually know how to do stuff like this. I think I’m just happy to be in a space where it’s so community-centered. And it’s also just recognizing that we’re all part of this larger ecosystem,” Yota said. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
By Amaya Edwards
Rooted in Community
Luxury condos loom over the farm beds at City Slicker Farms (CSF), a nonprofit organization sitting on a 1.5-acre plot of occupied Ohlone Chochenyo land in Oakland, California. The organization was born out of necessity. West Oakland is historically a food desert and continues to be one, affecting the majority Black and low-income families living there. CSF focuses on providing food to the surrounding community and beyond. Claire Meushke, Garden and Education Manager for CSF, leads some of the most important and vital programs that CSF offers, such as Garden Mentor Visits and the Backyard Garden Program (BGP). The BGP prioritizes “BIPOC community members who face economic barriers to growing their own food and connecting with green spaces,” Meuschke said. “We try to center low-income and people of color here, feeding them but also making the space accessible and making sure they’re welcome,” said Meuschke. “A lot of unhoused folks like to come use the space…It’s a sanctuary for some. Then, we also have a lot of people who probably are the gentrifiers and they come into the space. So it’s kind of a complicated sanctuary,” Across the Bay, a similar picture is painted in the BayviewHunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ) is a diverse cohort of community members, community activists, environmental mentors and restoration specialists. Nina Omomo is the restoration coordinator there, overseeing the restoration and revitalization of different habitats around the city. The LEJ nursery sits at the edge of the Bayview and is home to garden beds and testing stations that sustain the native plants the stewards cultivate there. Omomo and other LEJ employees, a small but mighty crew, are working to expand this nursery that is also home to a community garden. Both of these organizations are rooted in community and history. They have chosen their positions because they want to do this work, not because they have to. “I think it makes people feel good,” Omomo said. “I feel like if this is really what you want to do, you have to dedicate more than you probably would doing something else. And sometimes it takes a lot out of you…I’ve worked other jobs where I get paid more and, at the end of the day, that doesn’t really do it for me sometimes.” The endeavor of educating a marginalized community on environmental justice, whether this comes in the form of native seed planting or providing fresh food, is necessary. In turn, these efforts and dedication provide and sustain sanctuary, a complicated one, but sanctuary nonetheless.
Hernan Soto pours nutrients onto freshly plotted plants in the Multicultural Community Center garden beds at the University of California, Berkeley campus on Oct. 16, 2021. City Slicker Farms facilitates mentor visits and MCC is one of those garden sites. This day was about holding a space of healing for the interns and volunteers, who are all people of color and many come from immigrant households. Soto, who does work for his community in Bay Point, highlighted the fact that there are more liquor stores than grocery stores in Bay Point. “It’s intentional. Alcohol and drugs have historically been used to destabilize our communities. So, if we’re reconnecting to the land and we are growing our own food, reconnecting with Earth, it’s a way to just ground ourselves in wellness,” Soto said. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Nina Omomo leads a volunteer day at Candlestick Park on Nov. 17, 2021. Omomo is the restoration specialist for the nonprofit, Literacy for Environmental Justice. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Tori Coleman volunteers with LEJ, planting native plants in Yosemite Slough on Nov. 17, 2021. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
A LEJ volunteer loosens a root-bound native plant before putting it in the soil at Yosemite Slough on Nov. 17, 2021. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Claire Meuschke, Garden and Education Manager, and Danielle Smith, Communications Coordinator, transfer soil from their CSF truck into Theresa Coleman’s home in West Oakland on Oct. 27, 2021. They worked for hours, refreshing Coleman’s garden by replacing the old wooden planters with galvanized trough planters. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Theresa Coleman and a friend look at her freshly planted backyard garden in West Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2021. Coleman is a pillar in her community, working hard to make sure that people around her have access to necessary resources like clothing, food and books. Coleman’s family surprised her back in 2014 when she was going through surgery and had CSF install a backyard garden for her, which consisted of wooden planters supporting food plants. Planting food in her backyard is about promoting community and “making the groceries come to” them. Coleman compared gardening to therapy “a conversation with the Earth.” Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Claire Meuschke waters Theresa Coleman’s new planters as Vera Lopez, Volunteer Program Coordinator, speaks to Coleman’s niece, Porsha in West Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 27, 2021. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
A kale plant on the City Slicker farm in West Oakland, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2021. “I think community is integral to City Slicker Farms and the work we do...There is a lot of diversity in all senses of the word: socioeconomic, racial, geographical, different ages, different abilities. So, people will connect to some food sources in ways that others don’t. I think a lot of the work we do is taking into account (the fact) that a lot of different types of people are working with us, and we’re also serving them, so (it’s important to) be adaptable and open and constantly redefine what the needs are for the community,” Meuschke said. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Condos sit behind the farm beds at City Slicker Farms in West Oakland, Calif. CSF, founded in 2001, is led by Willow Summer and other community volunteers. It addresses food security and urban farming as part of the movement for food justice. In the last two decades, CSF has built more than 600 community and backyard garden beds around the city. Since the beginning, CSF has only continued to grow, creating a network of community solidarity and drive to make sure people are not only fed but knowledgeable about the environment around them and how to sustain urban farms and gardens. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Claire Meuschke, Garden and Education Manager, shovels dirt out from the back of the CSF truck. “I think the work in nature, farm work and gardening is endless. There’s always something to be doing and replacing and shuffling out because, with growing food, we’re constantly interacting with the lifecycle of plants. As the garden manager, I’m doing all types of labor all the time like sourcing materials, driving the dump truck around and picking up soil…But then I’m also kind of the contractor, working with the budget and talking to funders, wearing a lot of hats. But it’s energizing…It’s never really dull here. I’m learning the difficulties of balancing and preserving energy, especially when working in sensitive areas of hunger,” Meuschke said. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
A nursery run by Literacy for Environmental Justice sits in front of a construction site on Treasure Island with the Bay Bridge in the background on Nov. 11, 2021. LEJ team members spend the day here prepping thousands upon thousands of native plants to be planted around the island. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Gardening gloves sit inside a cinder block at the LEJ Treasure Island native plant nursery on Treasure Island with the Bay Bridge in the background on Nov. 11, 2021. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Nina Omomo and another LEJ team member unload new native plants to be taken care of in the nursery on Treasure Island with the Bay Bridge in the background on Nov. 11, 2021. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Claire Meuschke and three Urban Adamah fellows work on a project at the CSF West Oakland Farm Park on Nov. 12, 2021. They worked for most of the morning to afternoon to fill the new community garden beds with soil for fresh planting. The Urban Adamah fellows are part of the mentor program that Meuschke leads, teaching about farming and food sustainability. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Sophia Hu. Photograph by Nicolas Cholula.
Work-from-Wherever How people’s relationships with their homes have changed during the work-from-home era By KK Interchuck
After a long day or even longer night, home is the place to return to where one can relax and unwind. Alas, the era of working from home is among us, which means those who work remotely can no longer leave work at the door. What once was a haven has now been infiltrated. But is it all bad? According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2020, 54% of remote workers said they would want to work from home “all or most of the time,” even after the pandemic. A third of participants said they would prefer a hybrid schedule with some days in-office and others at home, while just 11% said they would rarely or never want to work from home. Hiba Khalid, the operations and marketing manager for a Japanese restaurant in San Diego, California, began working from home in April 2020. For Khalid, 26, working from home is ideal. She creates her own schedule, has time to run errands or complete chores and can wake up just minutes before the actual workday commences. Her mental health began to suffer when she realized how difficult it was for her to separate work from home. Khalid lives with her family where she spends most of her time working out of her bedroom without a
Sophia Hu. Photograph by Nicolas Cholula.
proper desk or chair. She fashioned an old vanity into a makeshift desk by removing the mirror, which still sits against the wall beside the desk. While she works, she perches on a faux fur cushion atop a backless stool. “My room is my office,” she says. It can be mentally taxing being unable to return home and essentially “forget” about work. “It’s still going to kind of be a presence in my space,” she says. Because she lives and primarily works out of the same bedroom, Khalid began finding it increasingly difficult to refrain from thinking about work as she would wind down at night. Twenty-three-year-old software developer Sophia Hu runs into a similar issue. She primarily works from her San Francisco home, visiting the office about twice per week on average. Although Hu appreciates having more time in her day without having to commute, the lack of 44
separation between work and home also takes a toll on her.
“There's very little separation between your time and company time.” –Sophia Hu
“There’s very little separation between your time and company time,” she says. It used to be rare for Hu to think about work once returning home. “But now when I’m at home,” she says, “if someone Slacks me, I have to look at it.” She describes the days she does go into the office as “a breath of fresh air.” The separation is much more distinct for her. “When I get home, I feel like I don’t have to work anymore, finally,” she says.
Another disadvantage of working from home is that the number of possible distractions increases dramatically. For Hu, this regularly manifests in low-productivity days. After an early morning bike ride, Hu might return home and shower before 9 a.m., head to her bedroom and turn the space heater on, only to realize hours later that she had accidentally drifted off to sleep. By the time she wakes it’s lunchtime, and she is greeted by a looming list of errands she told herself she’d get done that day. Eventually, workday hours conclude and she hasn’t gotten much done for actual work. A low-productivity day isn’t so bad or uncalled for from time to time. What really bothers Hu is how these days make her feel. “It makes me view myself as a lazy person,” she says. “It makes me think of myself as unproductive and I think, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”
Sophia Hu and Stanley Su. Photograph by Nicolas Cholula.
Hu says that going to the office results in such higher productivity than at home that it makes the trek across town worth it. “One day in the office I’ll get as much work done as two days at home,” she says. “There’s nothing to do (in the office) except work. So I just work.” In Hu’s case, her office also happens to be a spacious and quiet space with complimentary snacks, coffee, tea and lunch. So not only are there little to no distractions but there are also built-in perks. However, working from home still has its advantages. Khalid appreciates that she is in complete control of her workflow, taking breaks as necessary, grabbing a snack or running a load of laundry before getting right back to it. “There’s no boss watching over me, so I can comfortably work at a pace that suits my energy
This distinction isn’t impossible to achieve. Bay Area interior and furniture designer Sara Jaffe says that those struggling with separating work and home can make small changes to their routines and spaces to make the boundary clearer. If you have the luxury of space, Jaffe suggests working from different areas of your home to switch up the monotony of working from a single room. Khalid does this by working from her family dining table one day and then back to her bedroom the next. Sophia Hu. Photograph by Nicolas Cholula.
“You need to enrich your environment in a way,” Khalid says. “I’ve even started going to cafes sometimes and working there for a day.” Jaffe says those with more limited room have other options as well. There are rituals you can create to mentally and physically separate your working space from your living space. When Jaffe finishes working at home, she goes through the ritual of putting all of her work completely away instead of leaving it on her desk. and my own mindset versus just going really hard and trying to get everything done,” she says.
“When things are put away, you can clear your head,” she says.
Humans are dynamic beings whose moods and energy levels differ day to day. Because of this, Khalid appreciates the freedom and flexibility that telework provides. She can be completely relaxed in her own space with no pressure to look or act a certain way 100% of the time.
A more visual separation can be made in smaller spaces with something as simple as a curtain or room divider. Additionally, if something like your kitchen table doubles as your desk, you must make the conscious decision of when you will use that space for work, and when you will use it to eat, Jaffe explains.
Although Khalid wishes she had a clearer distinction between work and home, she still manages to appreciate that whenever she needs a break from work, she can focus on her home and environment and then revert to work mode. “I can go vacuum or wash dishes if I want to,” she says. “It does help me destress because then my home environment is tidy. And then I can put that aside and be like, ‘Okay, I’m going back to work now.’”
“There’s a psychological way to adapt, and there’s a physical way,” she says. Lastly, Jaffe stresses the importance of curating your space to “soothe your spirit,” which can be done with simple things like art, plants, pieces of furniture, or even colors. When you make these decisions, you are crafting your own space. “I think that that’s what creates sanctuary,” she says. “It’s saying, ‘When I come home, I feel glad to be here.’”
Sophia Hu and Stanley Su. Photograph by Nicolas Cholula.
“I think that that’s what creates sanctuary, It’s saying, ‘When I come home, I feel glad to be here.’” –Sara Jaffe
Life Onboard: the Bay Area Intrepid Who Choose Life on the Water By Saskia Hatvany
On a Wednesday afternoon, John Fredericks briefly rummages through a cluttered countertop to find a clean mug. His current home, a 1973 wooden sailboat named Horizons, has lately become more like a workshop. A jumble of cables take up what would otherwise be the dining table, tools line the upper deck and panels of the teak wood interior of a 40-foot sailboat are piled up in a corner. Fredericks has been between boats for a while, and he’s the first to admit that living on a boat can get messy sometimes. Across the dock is his 32-foot 1962 Chesapeake, a small sailboat that he’s all but stripped down to the bones. He is in the midst of renovating the vessel in the hopes of one day sailing away for good. “I want to go to more far-flung places that you can only get to by boat, that are far from Western modern society. That’s kind of the whole point for me, get away from the crazy, busy, modern life,” Fredericks said.
John Fredericks. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
Jack Patton Sonya David. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
Such is often the dream of those who choose to live on the water, but making that dream happen can be an arduous and expensive process. At Fifth Avenue Marina in Oakland, where he’s been living for over a decade, Fredericks is the resident boat diver. He gets paid by the marina to dive and clean boats and to haul the occasional sunken boat out of the water. For years, he’s been working towards a goal of eventually becoming a full-time cruiser — the term used to describe boat dwellers who travel long distances. Between weekends spent sailing and anchoring across the Bay and along the coast with friends, Fredericks spends time either working odd jobs or trying to get the boat into sailing shape. For several years he rode a bike taxi at Fisherman’s Wharf. Now between jobs, he helps take care of a 93-year-old man who lives a few docks over. “I like to do everything myself. I don’t like having to pay other people to do things,” said Fredericks. 50
He first arrived at the marina in 2010 after having completed a cross-country bicycle tour from Maine to Los Angeles. Just like his three-month journey across the country, Fredericks enjoys the slow pace of boat life. At the end of the wooden dock, life is more peaceful than busy city life. Glassy waters give way to stunning sunsets, and warm cozy string lights illuminate the wooden interiors of old sailboats as they slowly sway and creak with the elements. Fredericks will often take his dog Selkie, a black German shepherd, on a small motorboat to a deserted beach that can only be accessed via the water. While boats are usually associated with luxury, in a pricey housing market like the Bay Area’s, living aboard can actually be more affordable than living in an apartment. Depending on marina fees and boat tax brackets, some might even call it cheap. “We’re in the Bay Area but we’re not paying Bay Area
pricing,” said Sonya David, 28, who has been living on a boat with her partner, Jack Patton, for about seven years. Across the Bay, at Safe Harbor Marina in Emeryville, a small white cat darts across the dock and hops onto the deck of a shiny 42-foot sailboat. She was adopted about a year ago by David and Patton, who named her Fathom after the unit of length used to measure water depth. Ever since David and Patton first met, their whole lives have revolved around boats.
“We choose this lifestyle because of what it gives us. We don’t want to feel stuck in a box.” –Sonya David
David fell in love with sailing as a teenager. In college, she was working part time cleaning boats when she met Patton, a trained BMW mechanic who had just bought his first sailboat and was slowly growing tired of his nine-to-five job. Within months they were living together on Patton’s boat in Emeryville. Later, they sold it to buy their dream sailboat, a 1986 Passport 42 with a hand-carved teak interior. “We choose this lifestyle because of what it gives us. We don’t want to feel stuck in a box,” David said. Over the years, the couple has been hard at work saving up to become permanent cruisers. Together they run Spirit Marine Services, a boat service business through which they offer various boat repairs, maintenance and cleanings, and which they hope to continue remotely. They also run their YouTube channel and blog “Two The Horizon Sailing” and have captain’s licenses, which allow them to make money on longdistance boat delivery jobs. If all goes to plan, next November they’ll sail down to Mexico to start their global circumnavigation. “A lot of people think it’s super affordable or it’s super easy, and it could be if you’re just trying to keep it afloat or if you don’t ever want to take it anywhere,” David said. Maintaining a seaworthy boat, however, is a whole other story. On a recent long trip down to the
Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
Sonya David. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
Channel Islands in Southern California, the couple spent several days off-grid, relying on their solar panels, water-maker and provisions. But with more self-sufficiency often comes more problems to fix. “I don’t even want to add up what we’ve spent on boat parts in the past four years because it’s well over 100 grand,” Patton said. The ocean’s humid and salty environment takes a toll on anything that’s exposed to it for too long. Stainless steel needs to be polished, wooden decks need to be varnished and hulls should be scraped. Maintaining the regular trappings of a home, such as plumbing and electricity, while also dealing with an engine, the sailing equipment and the hull that keeps the whole thing afloat, means that the to-do list can easily get overwhelming. Greg Johnson, 53, isn’t a fan of boat chores. He bought a 35-foot 2008 Hanse sailboat hoping that it would be lower-maintenance than his first boat. What he didn’t expect was to find an instant 52
community at the marina where his boat was docked at Emery Cove in Emeryville. He quickly abandoned his corporate accounting job, rented out his San Francisco apartment and moved onto the boat permanently. Before he knew it, he was babysitting kids for the neighbors, doing the occasional accounting gigs and working as first mate on an 80-foot privately owned boat docked nearby. “I think in a lot of modern living, you might say hi to your neighbor at the mailbox, but you don’t know them generally. Not like at a marina,” Johnson said. Unlike Patton and David, Johnson has no interest in full-time cruising. He’s content with day and weekend sailing trips. The cabin of his boat is simple and uncluttered, save for a few gifts from friends: some children’s artwork, a handwritten note and a little piece of wood carved with the name of his boat, “Gretel.”
Greg Johnson. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
“For me, living on a 35-foot boat is simple. I don’t have much stuff, I don’t want much stuff.” –Greg Johnson
Yet, not even he seems to escape the inevitable problems of boat life. Just recently, he lost electricity onboard after trying to plug in a portable heater and has yet to find the cause. Even so, what he loses in practicality, he gains in simplicity. “For me, living on a 35-foot boat is simple. I don’t have much stuff, I don’t want much stuff,” Johnson said. Living in a marina also comes with rules. Most boats have toilets that pump directly out into the water, but in marinas, there are usually strict rules about
wastewater. In the Bay Area, live-aboard tenants either have to use the marina bathroom or have their holding tank pumped out at a pumping station. Greywater runoff, which comes from the sink and the shower, can be pumped directly into the Bay if biodegradable soaps are used. Marinas often have laundry facilities, but when they don’t, doing the laundry can mean a lot of handwashing or a trip to the nearest laundromat. “We don’t regret living this lifestyle. But yeah, you have to work a little harder for some really simple things,” David said. “It’s not really a less convenient lifestyle, it’s just more involved.” Bud Brown used to live on the water. He was an antique dealer in Berkeley and first moved to the Fifth Avenue Marina after he traded some antiques for a boat. Eventually, he was offered the harbormaster job and has lived in a shingled white house on the edge of the water for the last 15 years. “It’s a harsh life. It’s like living in a car, only a little
John Fredericks. Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
bigger,” Brown said. “And certainly, it depends on the Marina. There are plush Marinas, but still, there are a lot of trade-offs.”
Area marinas face particularly high demand, and most have a multi-year waiting list to get the coveted “slip.”
As harbormaster, Brown oversees marina operations, manages live-aboard permits and has authority over who is allowed to dock. Brown said that since his marina is small, he’s able to be selective about who he allows to dock, but that in the Bay Area, problems have arisen recently over those who anchor outside of marinas in undesignated areas.
Last year, David and Patton gave up their live-aboard status at Emery Cove Marina and moved to the next-door marina in preparation to become full-time cruisers. Now, a few days of the week they have to either sleep off the boat or spend the night in nearby anchorages and rely on their engine and solar panels. Giving up their slip was a difficult decision, but one of many that has brought them one step closer to untying the dock lines for good.
In California, only 10% of the boats in a marina can have live-aboard status, which means that the boat is the person’s primary residence. The regulations, coupled with a housing crisis, can also attract “sneak-aboards,” people who live on their boats in marinas without official live-aboard status. Bay
Photograph by Saskia Hatvany.
Castro: the New Queer Experience By Kenzie Aellig
Its colorful flags give a cheerful welcome to visitors from all around the world, while its historic bars and shops give comfort to the residents who have been there since the beginning. The Castro, one of San Francisco’s most notorious neighborhoods, has been an iconic staple of the city since the 1960s. The neighborhood has evolved its outward appearance to keep up with the ever-changing times, but some feel excluded from the neighborhood’s demographic. Despite its history as a revolutionary space for LGBT individuals, a new generation of queer people have begun to question if the Castro is meant for them, too. Ziggy Deberry, 20, moved to San Francisco two years ago after leaving their hometown of Santa Clarita, California. “Back then, being gay was such a revolution within itself, that being proud was an act of liberation,” Deberry says, addressing the history of the iconic neighborhood. Deberry, who is Black and genderfluid, expresses incredible love for the city but feels it’s necessary to acknowledge San Francisco’s shortcomings, especially within queer spaces.
Ziggy Deberry. Photograph by Kenzie Aellig.
Ziggy Deberry. Photograph by Kenzie Aellig.
“I love San Francisco, but I am not a native here,” Deberry states. “I understand that this isn’t necessarily my lived-in, built-in, lifelong experience.” They describe growing up hearing stories of the famed Castro neighborhood, only to feel disappointed after their first experience there. “I didn’t see a singular person that looked like me. It felt like the thing that I was supposed to have in common with these people, they didn’t even care to recognize,” Deberry says, referencing their queerness. “It didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I’m queer, it doesn’t matter that I’m trans, because I don’t fit into that standard of white gay men.” Deberry stresses the importance of intersectionality within queer spaces and questions the limitations of the communities they identify with. They explain that it’s common for communities to separate the various aspects of one’s identity rather than acknowledge that it’s impossible to do so. Deberry feels that almost all revolutionary movements and 58
organizations, including the Black Panthers, gay rights movement and the Women’s March, have a history of excluding identities and leaving out the needed conversation about intersectionality. “It’s like, how dare you?” Deberry says. “How dare you tell Black trans women that they are supposed to separate their transness from their Blackness? It’s impossible. You can’t do that.” Deberry feels it’s important to address the fact that white, gay men have long been the face of the LGBTQ community, listing public figures such as actor Chris Colfer, YouTuber Tyler Oakley and singers Elton John and George Michael. “They have had their time, they’ve had their moment, and I am so glad for it,” Deberry says. “But there needs to be space — there has to be space — for the people who are now struggling.” These people, according to Deberry, are members of the community who have long been forgotten or overlooked.
“Right now, the Castro is just the ‘G.’ That’s it — the white G. There isn’t even a place for the white L’s, the B’s and T’s.” –Ziggy Deberry “What are we going to do for the ostracized people within our community? What are we going to do about the fact that the highest number of youth that are homeless in the country are trans? What are we going to do about that?” Deberry asks. “There is no real game plan.”
Quan recalls fond memories of the Castro — his “earliest memories” — as a child, attending “Drag Queen Story Time,” where drag queens read to children in libraries and schools, calling it “such an important piece of me.” “I never had a coming out because it wasn’t necessary. It was understood that I was not a straight adolescent,” Cyrus says. He acknowledges a large amount of trauma in the queer narrative surrounding the concept of coming out, adding that the experience is never linear and is constantly evolving. Quan, like many others, questions why straight people don’t have to come out and believes gay people don’t have to either.
To start, Deberry would like to see fewer gay bars and more youth centers in places like the Castro. “Right now, the Castro is just the ‘G,’” Deberry states, referencing the acronym LGBTQ. “That’s it — the white G. There isn’t even a place for the white L’s, the B’s and T’s.” Deberry would also like to simply ignite conversation. They believe it’s important for communities to learn and grow, as well as adapt with the ever-changing landscape of social issues. “I think it’s really important to tell the people within the community you can play the role of the oppressor worse than the actual oppressor can because you’re supposed to be on my team,” Deberry says. Cyrus Quan, a self-described “born and raised” San Franciscan, reminisces on his childhood growing up as a “minor with a fake ID,” using the Castro as a guiding tool for his gender identity. Quan, 23, who lived in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco until he began attending school in Santa Cruz this past September, describes his relationship with the Castro as “very complicated.” He describes the neighborhood as a very open place that has become a haven for specifically white, cisgender, upper-class, liberal queer men. Ziggy Deberry. Photograph by Kenzie Aellig.
“It just takes places like the Castro and that history to do so,” he says. However, Quan feels it’s crucial to acknowledge that he believes this positive coming out experience was, in part, due to a place of established privilege as a cisgender, white-passing male. Although it can be “tempting” to view the Castro as a “boy’s club of cis homosexuality,” Quan adds that a more overarching problem in the city is the issue of gentrification, which also affects the Castro. Quan believes gentrification in the Castro has appeared in the form of “white, tech, gay men coming in and creating this identity of the Castro.” Quan also expresses frustrations with “transphobic sentiments” in the Castro as well as the “weird fatphobia and body expectations” that made Quan feel “so strange” in his youth. He adds that these expectations “informed not only my discovery of my gender identity but also my discovery of gender dysphoria.” He believes this environment can breed toxicity and patriarchal values in men. However, it can also create a space of acceptance and belonging. “There’s also a lot of love that people feel towards one another because they see themselves in the person they love, through their (shared) gender identity,” Quan says of gay relationships. “There’s a certain amount of trust that is immediately built into two men seeing each other in the Castro, simply by being two gay men seeing each other in the Castro. It’s just a small, very intimate thing that I really would have only come to understand by growing up where I did.” He commends the historic neighborhood for its long-lasting impact on society. “The events that they still put on and the charities are known throughout the world,” Quan says. “There are such incredible queer symbols that came out of the Castro, and those things still exist.”
Quan credits the Castro neighborhood for laying down the groundwork for the possibility of places where people of all gender identities, class and racial backgrounds would be able to coexist. “History repeats itself, and we can just hope that it gets a little better on the second try,” Quan says.
Ziggy Deberry. Photograph by Kenzie Aellig.
Lost in the Clay:
Finding an Escape in Pottery By Ximena Loeza As the studio manager announces closing time, the heads of several hard-working potters shoot up in shock. They scramble to clean up their workstations and make their final touches on their pieces. For these potters and many others, it’s easy to get lost in the clay, where hours become minutes and closing time comes too quickly. Something that makes ceramics stand out from many art forms is the community based around it. Studios are communal spaces where potters are forced to share facilities and materials, like glazes, tools, clay and kilns. Clayroom is a fairly new studio with two locations in San Francisco. Their Portero location opened in 2018 and their South of Market (SoMa) location opened in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. But even with unlucky timing, Clayroom has been able to flourish and become a popular studio in San Francisco. They offer a variety of classes for beginners and skilled potters alike. Studios like Clayroom have created a safe space for potters to create and learn new things, no matter their skill levels.
Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Jamie Westermeyer and student. Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Jeffrey Downing, a ceramics professor at San Francisco State University, has been a working artist for over 20 years. He helps students unload their pieces from the kiln with the help of former student Julia Rinklin, a studio manager at Clay by the Bay, a ceramics studio in San Francisco that has been open for six years. Rinklin shows how different glazes have changed in the kiln on various pieces. She talks about the importance of understanding how a kiln works and the differences between various types of kilns. She picks up a piece and shows it to Downing, asking why the color of the glaze changed in the kiln. “Do you think it could’ve been because we used a brick kiln? Maybe an electric kiln would’ve given it a more blue hue,” says Rinklin. Downing thinks people are drawn to ceramics because of the hands-on aspect, being able to be much more connected to the clay.
“With painting, you’re using tools like brushes and an easel. With ceramics, your hands are in the clay, melding it into a vision you have in your head and pushing and pulling the clay. It’s a deeper connection to the clay,” says Downing. The community surrounding ceramics and pottery is what brings a lot of potters, like 25-year-old Jamie Westermyer, back to the art. Westermyer is a costudio manager at Clayroom as well as the head of instruction of Clayroom’s classes. “All of my friends that I’ve met in the Bay Area are because of Clayroom. The community that’s fostered there is just really amazing,” says Westermyer. She joined Clayroom’s SoMa location two weeks after their opening in 2020 and has been able to witness the studio grow and change. “When we first started, there weren’t a lot of
members and they weren’t doing classes yet. But I’ve seen it quite take off. A lot of people during the pandemic lost their jobs and I saw a lot of people start coming in every day,” says Westermyer. Westermyer feels as though ceramics is vastly different from other art mediums. She mentions how you can take a painting or a drawing home, but it’s not really possible to take home a working pottery piece. She feels as though she has created a strong bond with ceramics, a bond that is wholesome, filled with curiosity and free of any competitiveness or hostility. Westermyer’s favorite kinds of pieces to make are dishware, especially mugs. She sees a lot of people in the food industry, especially chefs, are also interested in ceramics. She thinks food and ceramics go hand in hand, and that understanding and appreciating the dishes being eaten off of are just as important as appreciating the food being eaten.
“With ceramics, your hands are in the clay, melding it into a vision you have in your head and pushing and pulling the clay. It’s a deeper connection to the clay.” –Jeffrey Downing
“It’s actually so crazy how many members and students at the studio have some type of culinary background,” says Westermyer. “It’s an allencompassing experience when you’re able to have your hand in both.” This is something that Downing has noticed as well. He talks about how whenever he goes out to eat, he’s always admiring the dishware while he eats. “Once you start ceramics, you notice every little detail about dishware at restaurants and food establishments,” says Downing, turning his head to glance at Rinklin as she examines the bottom of a bowl freshly pulled from the kiln. Downing continues, “Especially the bottom of dishware. The bottom can tell you so much about a piece like a maker’s mark or a special design.” This is something that Kelsey Segasser, 24-year-old co-studio manager at Clayroom, finds to be the most important part of a pottery piece. She has a passion for coming up with new and innovative classes for the studio as well as slip design techniques, which is when a potter uses watereddown clay to create designs or dimensions on the
Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
“The wheel is literally hypnotizing. You will be so surprised how quickly an hour goes by.”
clay. She has also gotten into the habit of looking at the bottom of pottery pieces, as she believes they hold a story and a lot of significance. “Every ceramicist has a signature or a stamp or a specific mark that they use to mark all their work. And when you see that you know this is made from a person, not made from a machine, and you just immediately feel super connected to that person,” says Segasser. Clayroom holds classes almost every day that range from “Intro to Clay,” “Intro to Furniture Making on the Lathe” to a “Queen Gambit” class where an instructor walks students through making their own chess set, including both woodworking, moldmaking and slip casting. Segasser feels as though the variety helps keep their longtime members out of ruts and encourages them to keep learning new things.
lost in the clay and falling under some sort of trance while throwing clay. Segasser says this can happen especially during the process of trimming, where a potter trims excess clay and shapes the clay when it is in a leather-hard state. “The wheel is literally hypnotizing. You will be so surprised how quickly an hour goes by. It feels like it’s been like 10 minutes and you’re like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I’ve been here for an hour already,’” says Segasser. Westermeyer has a habit of entering this “flow state” as well. In her evening classes, time gets away from her easily. She gets distracted talking to her students, inquiring about what they’re making and how they’re doing. Even though the night class lasts almost three hours, she never thinks it’s enough time.
“People definitely tend to get stuck in their style. It’s a way to kind of push them out of their comfort zone a little bit and try something new,” says Segasser. She mentions this idea of a “flow state” in pottery, which could be described as the feeling of getting
Photograph by Amaya Edwards.
Gentle Giants: Equine-Assisted Services By Hunter Troy
Xenophon Therapeutic Riding Center. Photograph courtesy of the source.
The following article contains a mention of suicidal thoughts.
They may seem scary due to their 1,000-lbs. frames, yet horses provide empathy, trust and kindness to those in need. From children who struggle with mobility issues to veterans who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder, equine-assisted services help people of all ages and backgrounds. “On the mental side, horses give unconditional love. They don’t care what you look like or whether you have disabilities or anything else,” says Jean Johnstone, executive director from Xenophon Therapeutic Riding Center in Orinda, California. “So for those kids, they have an opportunity to be in control, which they don’t often have in other aspects of their life. They can be in control of this 1,000-lbs. animal and that goes a long way.” According to development and marketing director Cherie Hammer from the National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy (NCEFT) in Woodside, California, there are three main types of services that horses can provide. Adaptive riding consists of horseback riding and horsemanship programs. Hammer explains that this type of service doesn’t always include riding on a horse and that clients don’t need a medical referral from their doctors in order to participate. However, she says adaptive riding can help one’s disability or challenge. Bathing, feeding and grooming horses are some examples of adaptive riding through horsemanship activities. The second type of horse-assisted service is therapy, which Hammer says includes medical therapists such as speech and physical therapists. This type of service targets equine movement into the patient’s plan of treatment and a medical referral is necessary. One example of this type of therapy includes riding a horse at different tempos in order to gain core strength and balance.
The last type of service is mental health resilience, which Hammer says uses equine-assisted programs and workshops that are designed to address the emotional, mental and behavioral needs of patients. One program that NCEFT offers is called Strides, which aims to help decrease anxiety and depression through guided activities with horses and group discussions. “Horses are prey animals. They behave very differently than predators like humans,” Hammer says. “But they are also very sensitive. They mirror people’s emotions, so you can use horses in a mental health setting. Instead of sitting across the couch from somebody, you’re maybe standing next to the therapists brushing the horse, and that enables you to speak.” Liam Caraher, 21, has ridden at NCEFT for about nine years. His father Peter Caraher says that he was diagnosed with a chromosomal deletion that resulted in a cognitive delay and speech delay. He says that through working with therapists, Liam Caraher is able to communicate a lot now and that his mobility has improved. “If it wasn’t for horseback riding, he would have a hard time being able to walk and being able to sit at a table or a desk for a long period of time,” Peter Caraher says. “He has a speech delay. His speeches get something called praxis motor planning deficiency. He never had a speech therapist, but he had a therapeutic riding instructor who was always talking to him and making him talk back to her. So his speech just got better that way.” Johnstone’s close friend and co-worker Janet Alexander convinced her to leave her own business after volunteering with Xenophon for 17 years. Johnstone has been the executive director of the organization for the past three years. Alexander, who is an occupational therapist, mostly works with children. She says that there have been many children at Xenophon with speech issues that have benefited from working with horses and speech therapists. 69
“A lot of our kids are nonverbal and to have them speak their first words on the horse is pretty powerful.” –Janet Alexander “A lot of our kids are nonverbal and to have them speak their first words on the horse is pretty powerful,” Alexander says. Similar to Xenophon, NCEFT also treats people with diagnoses such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and autism. “We routinely see kids who, especially with autism, may not be able to look another person in their eye or even speak to their parents,” Hammer says. “The children will speak to the horse before speaking to another person and you can get those breakthrough moments. It’s amazing.” Kaye Marks, director of marketing and communications at a nonprofit organization called Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, says that equineassisted services have also greatly benefited veterans who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.
“When you take somebody, especially somebody who doesn’t walk typically or is in a wheelchair, and you put them on a horse, that horse starts to move that natural side-to-side movement,” Hammer says. “It’s that horse’s movement that is stimulating their muscles, their skeletal system, their muscular system, their circulatory system, their vestibular system.” Alexander says that many parents have told her that without equine therapy, their children would have to undergo certain surgeries in order to address mobility issues. “Horseback riding helped keep their kids mobile and keep their muscles flexible,” Alexander says. “Just thinking about a kiddo in a wheelchair, which we’ve had over the years, they live a life of having people look down on them. And for them to be then up above everybody, it’s pretty powerful for them.” Kyle Anderson, 16, has been riding at Xenophon since he was about five years old. After his first birthday, he developed a condition called encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. Anderson is nonverbal. However, he uses an iPad with speechgenerating software to communicate. His mother Jenny Anderson says that riding has significantly helped his mobility and reinforced his communication.
“We’ve had countless veterans who’ve literally come out and said, ‘This stopped me from putting a gun to my head,’” Marks said. “It’s wonderful when they tell us that, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘Dear God, I hope that you keep going every day.’”
“He can push a button and tell the horse to walk on. It’s a really powerful way to teach Kyle about communication,” Jenny Anderson says. “The biggest benefits for Kyle have been with his movement skills, his balance and his posture.”
Besides helping heal from trauma, Hammer says that since a horse’s movement is similar to a human’s movement, they are the perfect animal to assist with physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
The Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) has 750 accredited centers worldwide. Their website says that they support their customers with credentialing, education and standards.
Xenophon Therapeutic Riding Center. Photograph courtesy of the source.
“With our patients with dementia, that is actually the first program in the U.S. that is working with the patient themselves and their caregiver,” Alexander says. “They work to be grounded. They work to have a brand-new experience so that they get rid of that history and anxiety.” Marks says that their members are highly trained to meet patients’ needs. Furthermore, if a patient is scared to approach or ride a horse, she says their trainers know how to best handle the situation. “We have 5,500 certified instructors and they go through a pretty rigorous credentialing process. And they won’t throw someone into a situation willy nilly,” Marks says. “They see if someone
expresses a little bit of trepidation or fear, they’ll take it really slow. Maybe their first session, they’re just watching through a glass window into the arena.” Hammer says that NCEFT’s highly trained horses are the ideal animal for helping heal patients because they are highly attuned to how humans feel. “Those horses know when someone special is on their back. If a kid is yelling or screaming or hitting, the horses are just rock-solid,” Hammer says. “So there really is something about horses that makes them different.”
Bonita Rose. Photograph by Garrett Isley.
Wearing Drag As Armor By Gia Opsahl
Editor’s note: The drag queens mentioned in this story have requested to be referred to by their drag name.
strayed away from anything else. After being asked for so long to try drag by friends, LaBlanc surrendered.
The first time Cassidy LaBlanc, 30, put on their wig and smokey eye, they looked in the mirror and immediately recognized a different part of themself that had been missing.
Before they began to discover their queer identity, they identified as a cisgender and heterosexual male. But while in their drag, LaBlanc realized that what they were missing was the “divine feminine” fragment of themself.
Performing drag for fun with friends in college is where it all started for LaBlanc, drag queen, artist and performer in San Francisco.
“Since then, it’s been a beautiful process. That’s how my drag persona, Cassidy LaBlanc, was formed,” they said.
The artistry of drag has been a staple in San Francisco dating back to the 1950s. The city’s expansive drag scene has produced some of the most legendary and longestrunning performers in San Francisco, such as Phatima Rude, Renita Valdez, Carla Gay and Mutha Chucka, as seen in a 2019 Vogue article. San Francisco’s drag scene is said to be one of the most unique, out-of-the-box and accepting communities according to several queens in the city. It continues to evolve and leave a place for any kind of drag. Popular spots for drag shows in the city are Oasis, The Edge, Moby Dick and PianoFight. LaBlanc first discovered drag in 2010 as a student at the University of Minnesota where they met their first queer family of people who choose to nurture, love and support one another. Focusing on theater, LaBlanc’s major, was their first priority. They solely saw themselves as an actor and
After falling in love with San Francisco during college, LaBlanc moved to the city in 2012 and pursued their career in improv and character acting, which then led to them becoming more involved in the drag scene once again. “San Francisco is the complete opposite of mainstream drag,” they said. LaBlanc expressed the level of encouragement in the city’s drag scene, where there is room to express oneself from a place of “even deeper authenticity.” Whether that looks like a more gender-expansive expression or doing makeup looks, LaBlanc believes San Francisco has an alternative way of integrating these. Bonita Rose, a drag queen and performer in the Bay Area, described the drag scene in San Francisco as nurturing and accepting. “As soon as some of the veteran performers notice that someone is up-and-coming, they’ll instantly take them under their wing and provide them with advice,” she said.
Bonita Rose. Photograph by Garrett Isley.
“This was an outlet to pour all of my repressed creativity and desire to be more feminine. All of these things just started making sense.”
“It all just kind of blends together,” she said. Over time, Rose became more and more comfortable and said their “drag became their armor.”
Although Rose sees herself as more of a shy individual, she craves the theatrics and spotlight that drag gives her.
After watching the popular reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race for the first time in 2016, Rose took inspiration and realized this was not only a creative outlet but also an art form.
“As a queer person, it’s nice to have things that are my moment. Just to have those four minutes on stage when everyone is looking at you is a beautiful thing,” she said.
“This was an outlet to pour all of my repressed creativity and desire to be more feminine. All of these things just started making sense,” Rose said. Rose recalls her first performance at DragCon, a convention for those interested in drag, where she had to dress up and take an Uber to the safe-haven alone. “It was nerve-racking going out in an outfit and makeup, and looking nothing like the people around me,” she said. Rose described her first performance as cathartic. She was finally able to get her fashion visions, that she designs
herself, out in public. Many of her designs are inspired by the ‘90s, anime and cartoons. Rose is also a studio artist, so she is constantly inspired by painters and contemporary artists.
LaBlanc agreed and explained the exhilaration that performing brings them, adding that this isn’t just a hobby, it’s a necessity. “The arts and performing drag is a form of deep healing. It’s a way to express yourself and truly feel seen at the core of who you are,” they said. Not only do some drag queens find an outlet in their performances, but they find one in their makeup as well. LaBlanc says artistry is something that runs in their biological family. As they sat down to do their makeup for drag shows, the makeup became more and more intricate and eventually evolved into body paintings.
“I came to this conclusion that makeup is just paint and my body is merely a canvas,” LaBlanc said. Obsidienne Obsurd, another drag queen and performer in the Bay Area, also combines their passion for illustration in their drag looks and performances. Obsurd, who identifies as transgender, explained that being raised as a woman was part of why they used makeup to express themself. It started with a perfected foundation base and winged eyeliner. Once the pandemic hit, they began to explore their gender and purposely construct their looks around subverting traditional uses of makeup. Obsurd is also a classically trained musician. They balance playing orchestras and chamber music as well as performing drag shows.
“The arts and performing drag is a form of deep healing. It’s a way to express yourself and truly feel seen at the core of who you are.” –Cassidy LaBlanc
Drag found a way into their life when they began looking for a new creative outlet. Due to the pandemic, their career in classical music was put on complete hold. “I sort of am what’s called a ‘bedroom queen,’” they said. “My drag evolved from the makeup experimentations in my bedroom.” They began sharing their makeup creations online through their Instagram account, @obsidienneobsurd, and have been building their online presence since then. “I’ve always loved performing and, as a musician, that’s the primary thing that I do. But drag is such a liberating and different type of performance that relies on spontaneity, rather than careful planning, as my other career does,” Obsurd added. They explained that drag lends itself to being able to express different sides of yourself in one context, under one drag brand. Because Obsurd isn’t able to interact with the audience much in classical music, drag gives them the outlet to do so. They hope to continue to grow within both of their careers and one day blend both passions. “There’s mutual respect. There’s a sense of community,” Obsurd said. “It’s really magical.”
Cassidey LeBlanc. Photograph by Garrett Isley.
Lightning, a goat resident, perks up against a fence at Alma Bonita Animal Rescue in Morgan Hill, Calif. on Dec. 4. Lighting, along with other goats, was rescued when they were found living in a dog kennel without any outdoor space and a severe lice infestation putting their lives at risk. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Open Arms and Pastures:
Rescue Farms in the Bay Area By Morgan Ellis
The value of having a safe space to turn to when faced with trauma is universally appreciated. This is not unique to humans; animals can also reap the emotional and physical benefits of a new home in the face of harmful living conditions.
Because the animals are loans from bigger companies’ farms, when the child concludes their project, they can return them or pay for what the company is losing in revenue by not having that animal back.
In the Bay Area, there are rescue farms overflowing with compassion that give animals a new home when they are otherwise likely to lack quality of life, or even die prematurely.
Many families grow attached to the animal that they raise, explains Erik Matousek, a caretaker at Sweet Farm. They bring them to rescues once their project is done so that they know the animal will live out the rest of their life in peace.
“If an animal comes from a situation where they’ve been abused or neglected, it’s just like a human. They don’t trust anybody at first,” said Sheila Murphy, founder of Alma Bonita Animal Rescue. Farms such as Alma Bonita in Morgan Hill and Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay welcome animals from a variety of situations, including animals who were surrendered pets or 4-H projects. A 4-H animal project is when a family loans an animal from places such as slaughter or dairy farms for the participating child to raise. Raising livestock promotes personal growth in the caretaker and teaches them responsibility, according to Penn State’s Department of Animal Science.
The relationships that grow between the animals and their caretakers are symbiotic. Just as much as the people working on the farms are able to provide sustenance and love to their animals, the process of rehabilitating and forming connections with them is similarly beneficial to the human. “We have a heart relationship. I can walk up to almost any animal here and just feel what they’re feeling, and it’s taught me to slow down,” Murphy said.
The chicken coop located at Alma Bonita Animal Rescue in Morgan Hill, Calif. on Dec. 4. The hens and roosters full of personality at Alma Bonita have been rescued from scenarios such as unaddressed injury and premature death for consumption. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Sheila Murphy, founder of Alma Bonita Animal Rescue, wakes the goats for their morning feeding with the help of her father, Joe in Morgan Hill, Calif. on Dec. 4. Murphy’s father has been a helping hand since Alma Bonita’s start in 2019 with just a few goats. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
A detail image showing farm animal care equipment at Alma Bonita Animal Rescue in Morgan Hill, Calif. on Dec. 4. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Sheila Murphy, founder of Alma Bonita Animal Rescue, cuddles up to her mini-donkey, Mandy, in Morgan Hill, Calif. on Dec. 4. Mandy is extremely receptive to humans and other animals and loves to be pet and scratched. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
One of many enclosures at Charlie’s Acres pictured in Sonoma County, Calif. on Dec. 10. The residents at Charlie’s Acres are available for sponsorship, to which community members can donate monthly, contributing to the operational costs of the organization. Charlie’s Acres Farm Animal Sanctuary in Sonoma County, Calif. on Dec. 10. Founded in 2016, Charlie’s Acres is a nonprofit dedicated to the care and quality of life of rescued farm animals. Joyce Koroslev, a caretaker at Sweet Farm, delivers hay for lunch to the animals in Half Moon Bay, Calif. on Nov. 29. “I really just love being around the animals everyday and knowing that I’m giving them the best life they could possibly live,” Koroslev said regarding her favorite part of her job. Photographs by Morgan Ellis.
Animal residents line up for their lunch at Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay, Calif. on Nov. 29. The cows were all donated in a fortunate escape from malnourishment and premature death. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
The chicken enclosure at Sweet Farm in Half Moon Bay, Calif. on Nov. 29. Although law permits thousands of chickens in a space of this size, Sweet Farm wants to combat that ideal and give their chickens plenty of personal space to graze and play. Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Freedom From a False Haven: The Reality of Religious Trauma By Lyn Brook
The following story contains content about trauma. To have a religious experience can be seen as a universal encounter among our species. Humanity’s sense of wonder and desire to want to feel connected to something or someone has driven us for millennia to explore and discover a divine interaction, as can be seen by various mythologies and religions. So what happens when a religious experience becomes one of manipulation, isolation, betrayal and, ultimately, trauma? According to Pew Research Center, researchers have discovered in the past few decades that religious affiliation, as well as religious service attendance among younger people, has been on a steep decline. In 2000, those between the ages of 18 and 39 had a 38% religious attendance rate, while in 2019 that percentage dropped to 27%. This can be compared to the increase of religious non-affiliation and agnosticism, defined as “one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god.” Pew reveals that in 2010, only 17% of the U.S. populace identified with no affiliation, whereas in 2019 this had increased to 26%. The conversation revolving around the reality of trauma within religious spaces seems to only just be coming to the surface. Specialists, advocates and survivors are beginning to take the stand to educate people and share their stories to garner awareness of religious trauma. Brian Peck, 45, founder of religious trauma therapy and coaching service, Room to Thrive, in Boise, Idaho, says that the best way to begin the conversation about understanding religious trauma is to first understand what trauma is in general. Peck describes his practice as “a trauma-informed approach to religious trauma.” The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes general trauma as, “an event, series of events or set of circumstances
that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life-threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.” Peck expresses that the importance of understanding this is because it is not just in the individual’s head. Trauma affects the physical body, namely the nervous system. He goes on to state that if one can become more aware of their autonomy and what their body is physically telling them, they can begin to understand their trauma and move forward. “We are all physical beings with a survival response,” says Peck. “It’s fight or flight — our bodies give us clues to what is a threat.” The Religious Trauma Institute, which was cofounded by Brian Peck and his colleague Laura Anderson, expands on these ideas of trauma and focuses them on the issue of religious trauma. They are a team of “mental health clinicians, advocates, researchers and survivors” focused on spreading awareness of religious trauma and continuing that conversation throughout the world, as well as providing resources to create a more traumainformed society. The working definition for religious trauma that the institute provides is, “The physical, emotional or psychological response to religious beliefs, practices or structures experienced by an individual as overwhelming or disruptive.” And, paralleling SAMHSA’s general trauma definition, religious trauma affects a person’s “physical, mental, social, emotional or spiritual well-being.” Emily Hedrick, 30, is a religious recovery coach and the program director for Journey Free, an organization focused on helping people recover from religious trauma and harmful religion. She shares her own story of the trauma she experienced growing up in the Mennonite tradition, a “faith stream within Christianity,” and, as of February 2020, was able to leave and begin her process of 89
“deconstructing,” which is the process of “reclaiming one’s life for oneself.”
Currently, Hedrick theorizes the reality of religious trauma is being met with hesitation and skepticism for the same reasons PTSD was when it was first Hedrick describes how religious trauma can manifest brought to people’s attention. She says that the in different ways for anyone and everyone. way religious trauma researchers and therapists are beginning to tackle this stigma is simply by gathering “It really depends on the individual. For one person more evidence of its truth. it can be a feeling of not being able to rely on themself, in others it can be the feeling of being “There is a lack of empirical research. It’s all mainly condemned, needing to be punished or feelings of theoretical,” says Hedrick. “But nonetheless, it is a being disconnected and depressed,” says Hedrick. good start for those who have and are struggling.” She explains that there is no one way to pinpoint how someone is experiencing trauma, so the best The pioneers for spreading awareness about this thing to do is be aware of the different ways it can topic, like Peck, Hedrick and Winell, are doing their present itself so as to be able to help anyone on best to break it down so that people can understand their road to recovery. and potentially relate to it in some way so that it might be taken seriously. Hedrick describes the Adding to this, Hedrick says it can be hard for conversation as getting lost in translation because individuals affected by religious trauma to seek help, many people’s assumptions and initial thoughts are especially without any legally recognized diagnosis that this is a “hate on religions” conversation when or legalized protocol to keep individuals and it is anything but that. organizations accountable. Peck shares a quote from his colleague, Michael “It’s a challenge since religion is so protected in our Ferguson, who is a neuroscientist working to help culture,” says Peck. “There needs to be more data. others understand religious experiences, “Religion We have a long way to go to shift religious views so shares a lot of similar features with sex. The majority that we can hold them accountable.” of adults do it. They say it brings meaning and pleasure into their lives. And, in spite of strident Dr. Marlene Winell, founder of Journey Free, began advocates for abstinence-only, people are her research of religious trauma in the ‘80s and ‘90s going to do it.” and has been working alongside her peers towards getting “Religious Trauma Syndrome” recognized as Peck goes on to say that examples like Ferguson’s an authentic mental health diagnosis. of understanding religious experiences and religious trauma are key because one needs to understand Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, was how to do religion safely, establishing healthy recognized by the American Psychiatric Association expectations and understanding that consent is also and added to the Diagnostic and Statistical a huge factor in play. Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1980, as is documented by the U.S. Department of Veteran “In the same way that trauma does not exist in the Affairs (VA). The VA would go on to explain in their event, religious trauma does not exist in religion history of PTSD that it was met with backlash by itself,” he says. skeptics who wrote it off as an “inherent individual weakness.” Despite this, the VA’s article explains Those at Journey Free add onto this by stating that that PTSD receiving a proper and recognized their job is not to demonize religion, it is to help diagnosis helped more people become educated people understand that the hosts of these religions and understand that the issue was much bigger and organizations have been and are continuing than what they had thought. to weaponize religion. An example of this Hedrick 90
“It’s a challenge since religion is so protected in our culture.” –Brian Peck
“In the same way that trauma does not exist in the event, religious trauma does not exist in religion itself.” –Brian Peck
provided was through fear-tactics, like telling people if they don’t do something or live a certain way they’re going to hell, which can result in traumatized individuals. “We are doing our best to shift the focus and conversation to how religion can be and is being used terribly,” says Hedrick. An example she gives of how she and other religious trauma experts are doing this is recognizing the “cycle of abuse,” which is the process of religious abusers using doctrines to overwhelm individuals with guilt and fear. She says that it is very important to squash the “us versus them” that is happening so that the conversation can continue in a way that allows people to feel like they can approach each other and inform abusers of their wrongdoings. Peck believes whether an individual is vocal or supports from the background, all that matters is that they continue helping those who are surviving and helping others become educated and aware. “We are working on harm reduction and prioritizing safety, well-being and supporting one another,” says Peck. If you or someone you know is experiencing or seeking help for religious trauma, Reclamation Collective has a list of licensed therapists who have experience helping with this issue around the country ready to help. As well, you can call the Recovering From Religion hotline, 1-844-368-2848, for any questions regarding religious recovery issues. If your situation is immediate, please contact the suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-TALK(8255).
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
The Kittens are Alright By Fernando Pacheco At the end of Valencia Street in San Francisco sits a cafe where the water is always boiled and the complimentary teas are served with ticketed admission. Although the cafe closes midday, it is never empty, as there’s always a cat springing across the shop’s floor or kittens climbing chairs for a view. Cats live here temporarily, waiting for adoption, but learn how to be surrounded by other cats and people. Courtney Hatt, the founder of KitTea Cat Lounge, recommends advanced reservations for the Mission District cafe. Reservations grant an hour with the cats. “It is a real stress release for any animal lover to enter a space that is tranquil and full of adorable, uninhibited, goofy felines,” Hatt wrote in an email. “It also brings a warm feeling to know that you are helping rescue efforts just by paying for a visit with 20 plus cats.” Cafes like KitTea Cat Lounge provide direct interactions between potential adopters and adoptees in an attempt to help cats find homes. Cat cafes, originating in Taiwan and later popularized in Japan, popped up all around the
United States in the 2010s. There are currently two cafes that provide temporary housing for cats in the Bay Area. About 12 miles east of San Francisco lies the firstever cat cafe in the United States, Cat Town Cafe, on Broadway Boulevard in Oakland, California. Quinn White, the development director at Cat Town, said the cafe portion is operated by a food company named RAWR while their cat adoption center is managed by the nonprofit Cat Town. “As the nation’s first cat cafe, we intentionally put the comfort and wellbeing of our cats first, but we strive to create a warm and vibrant place where people can visit, knowing all the cats with us are safe,” said White. At the time Cat Town opened, the cafe’s founder, Ann Dunn, was volunteering at Oakland Animal Services and noticed there was a lack of resources available to cats. White said the euthanasia rate for cats at the city shelter was 42%. In 2019, the partnership Statistics of San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) and San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SFSPCA) revealed a significant decrease
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
in euthanasia and it only being reserved for when needed.
Hatt considers cat cafes as rehabilitation for cats that were once deemed “unadoptable.”
During her time at the shelter, Dunn found that due to the stresses of life in a cage, most cats were emotionally affected, were sick or were growing elderly. The shelter director set aside some of these cats to be housed at Cat Town, where they later thrived.
“All they needed was to get out of a cage to feel relaxed and confident,” said White, especially since cats have the disposition to roam outside their designated sleeping compartment.
“We began to notice a pattern. Older, undersocialized kittens who had once been considered ‘too old’ to socialize were watching their more confident counterparts and learning that they could trust people,” said White. Cat Town and KitTea Cat Lounge both share the vision of providing support to scared or shy cats, senior cats and kittens. The cafes focus on providing extra attention and time for these cats with trained volunteers that will play, touch and feed them. 96
Like at KitTea, the cats at Cat Town live in the adoption center until they are adopted. If special monitoring or care is required, the cats will be quartered in private studios, although most live in the free-roaming room with 15-20 other cats. KitTea reported that most adoptions happen between fall and winter, estimating eight adoptions per month. Cat Town said they get about one adoption per day. Both cafes do not have a “your time is up” policy, so there are currently cats that have stayed longer
than a year due to shyness, medical needs or a combination of both. Most of the cats’ shyness is temporary and a matter of adjusting to a new setting, requiring patience with the cat, especially if the cat wasn’t socialized as a kitten. Deb Campbell, a spokesperson for SFACC, emphasizes the importance of socializing cats before they’re four months old. “If they’re still living out in the wild as a feral, then it becomes more difficult to socialize them to a point where they could be adopted by anyone,” said Campbell. When cats reach an SFACC shelter they go through a socialization assessment composed of a series of touches and movements by a trained behaviorist.
Animal shelters refer to the time between spring and fall as “kitten season.” During the warm weather, community cats roam the streets and meet other cats. If the cats living in the streets are not neutered, then there is an influx of mating that’ll breed new kittens. SFACC runs a program of volunteers who trap feral and community cats, bring them into the shelter to be neutered and then release them into the colonies they were found in. But Campbell explains that shelters, including SFACC, still await kitten season’s arrival, expecting to receive 50 to 60 kittens a day. To alleviate the congestion that kitten season could bring, shelters like SFACC and rescue organizations like Wonder Cat Rescue have foster programs with over 100 people that will house kittens and participate in their socialization so they are later
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
“You have to be able to touch a cat, handle a cat, pick up a cat and not be concerned that it’s going to
bite or scratch,” Campbell said.
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
ready for adoption. Stephanie Karim, founder of Wonder Cat Rescue, says the rescue is volunteer-based and fosters cats throughout the Bay Area. They independently work to get their cats adopted and use cat cafes as a foster to help with the adoption process. Karim said each cat is looked at individually before being brought into a cat cafe since there are cats who are naturally friendly and don’t need to be socialized. “For a typical healthy kitten, we spend about maybe $350 on everything to get them healthy and ready for their home, and adoption fees are $125, so we really rely on the support of donations to make up the difference,” said Karim. Each cat that gets adopted from a cafe helps a shelter or rescue provide space for another cat in need. It makes room in the cat adoption pipeline, from shelter or rescue to cafe.
“Not everyone is comfortable going to a shelter, but most people are comfortable going to a cafe,” said Campbell. By its nature, cat cafes are social hubs for cats. They have planned meals and consistent time frames. There’s an endless array of scratching posts and feathered balls. Cats linger around, play and run after one another. “It exposes them to so many different types of people. They become well socialized because they’re not just relying on one person for companionship,” said Campbell. Tickets and masks are required to visit both KitTea Cat Lounge and Cat Town Cafe, but leave all expectations at home. As White said, “Sometimes people come just to visit and de-stress, and wind up falling in love.”
“Not everyone is comfortable going to a shelter, but most people are comfortable going to a cafe.” –Deb Campbell
A Journey to Peace: The Yogic Way By Mariana Garrick As soon as 29-year-old Kirin Power grounded herself, sunk her feet into the Earth and looked up to the sky, she immediately found her place and felt connected to the nature surrounding her. Yoga was not just an exercise to her anymore, it was a way of life. Yoga has evolved from an esoteric meditation technique to a state of mind people immerse themselves in throughout their daily life. What first began as an ancient practice has subsequently advanced into an $84 billion global wellness industry that has attracted more than 37 million people in 2016, up from 4 million in 2001. While yoga is still deeply rooted in uniting the mind, body and spirit, those who practice it view its methods as a way to heal past traumas and escape the harsh realities of the world. For Power, yoga was something that she always found herself interested in. As a dancer, the San Franciscan had to remain flexible, so she viewed yoga as the perfect practice to stick to. She began taking yoga classes on and off at her local gym
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
“This sort of alignment happened when I didn’t put a limitation on the expansiveness of my energy and reached to understand the practice better.” –Kirin Power when she was younger but she never found herself connected to the teachings in the classes she participated in. “In the past, I always felt a little bit separated from the practice,” Power says. “I would go through the motions and I would feel better in my body, but I didn’t quite feel like I fully belonged in the yoga room, or like I was similar to the people around me.
I felt a bit imposturous when I would go into these yoga studio rooms.” She struggled with finding acceptance in the practice until she had a life-changing experience with a brand new yoga teacher when she was 22 years old. The instructor introduced her to Bhakti yoga, one of the four paths of yoga that is aimed to channel and transmit our emotions into a higher purpose. Bhakti is referred to as the yoga of devotion and uses mantra and meditation to replace any internalized negativity with wisdom, joy and peace. Power’s bhakti yoga session included song and laughter, which has never happened in one of her yoga classes before. With her newfound discovery of how touching yoga can truly be, she felt as if bhakti opened a new door for her. She finally felt aligned with the teachings of yoga. “I thought, ‘Ah, wow. This is lovely, I really enjoy this,’” says Power. “It sparked an interest to continue on this journey of learning about what else is
there within yoga, because maybe I haven’t quite resonated with what I’ve experienced thus far.”
weekly yoga event that is available to students of all ages, sizes and skill levels.
After Power’s life-changing experience with bhakti, she began to practice elsewhere. She felt energetically trapped in the yoga rooms she previously participated in, which resulted in her taking her practice outside. With the change of scenery, she felt aligned and connected.
Abbey Loberman, an Outdoor Yoga SF attendee, first experienced yoga when she was a teenager. Much like Power, she attended classes for years but found it difficult to connect with the practice. The now 40-year-old San Francisco native explained that she felt lost in her own insecurities as she constantly compared herself to others during classes. In her eyes, she wasn’t as flexible, calm or as meditative as others.
“This sort of alignment happened when I didn’t put a limitation on the expansiveness of my energy and reached to understand the practice better,” Power explains. “I found this passion and almost a sense of purpose. If I’ve connected to their practice, I’m sure others could as well. I want that for everyone.”
Photograph by Morgan Ellis.
After being a yoga student for most of her life, Power started her journey into becoming a bhakti yoga teacher that practices devotion and love through singing. Power teaches at Outdoor Yoga SF, a
Due to her experience, she stopped attending yoga classes. A year after she had her first child in 2013, Loberman rediscovered yoga by attending a candlelight yoga class. Candlelight yoga is an option to practice yoga in soft lighting surrounded by candles. Though she still felt intimidated, she pushed through by staying at the back of the class and absorbed the dharma (life teachings) that her
Abbey Loberman and Kirin Power. Photograph by Paris Galarza.
“I was beginning to feel glimpses of the truest version of myself.” –Abbey Loberman
instructor taught. The more she learned, the more perspective she began to have. She was able to relax and embrace how far she had advanced on a personal level. “I was beginning to feel glimpses of the truest version of myself,” says Loberman. “I also found that I suddenly had more energy, strength, clarity and patience.” In 2016, Loberman became pregnant again. She became ill throughout the pregnancy and was unable to do much more than walk. With no energy to exercise, her depression and self-hatred
came roaring back. She explains that she was in a “constant and isolated survival mode.” While enduring complications with her pregnancy, she also experienced other hardships in life. After it seemed like everything in life was going downhill, Loberman realized she had a choice to make. She could either let life’s negative aspects consume her, or she could grow and evolve. Once she got the courage to pick herself back up, she began a teacher training course on dharma and yoga at Spirit Rock, a meditation center in Marin County, California. Loberman’s deep exploration into the teachings of yoga brought her to the realization that yoga is much more than just a way to be active. To her, it’s a way of life that has taught her to be open, curious and grateful to and for everything life throws her way. Loberman enjoys showing her passion and guidance in yoga through her Instagram page @yogamommalove, where she also seeks to find the art within the practice.
“In every moment, yoga is a daily lived practice. You know you have tools and practices to calm yourself and recenter yourself.” –Steven Inghram
“It literally changed my life,” Loberman explains. “I began practicing Buddhist principles and learning ‘the yoga,’ which is so much more than the asana (physical posture) poses. It’s about viewing life from a place of wonder, curiosity and love.”
compatible with Western medicine. In a standard yoga class, the instructor does not go over the deep and intensive health history of their students. For yoga therapists, this is required in order to create a personalized care plan for each individual.
With this newly developing skill, she began practicing radical acceptance and gratitude every day. Loberman says her life changed in ways for which she will forever be grateful.
“We view the human body from the perspective of the koshas (Sanskrit word for sheath or layer),” says Inghram. “Yoga therapists are viewing the human body and human suffering from the perspective of the physical nature of suffering.”
Steven Inghram, a 33-year-old yoga therapist, agrees that yoga is more than asana. Yoga therapists are qualified individuals who have been trained to instruct yoga in a therapeutic small-group or individual setting. Although yoga and yoga therapy are separate and are practiced differently, the teachings are still rooted in uniting the mind, body and spirit just as the Indian traditions intended. Inghram explains that yoga is more than a 75-minute to 90-minute class and asana is not the only way to practice yoga. “In every moment, yoga is a daily lived practice,” says Inghram. “You know you have tools and practices to calm yourself and recenter yourself. Yoga is a practice when you’re talking to the boss that you don’t like or the colleague that you have. You have a divide with anything that’s going to cause some level of anger, emotion, or frustration.” Yoga therapy may be beneficial to people who are interested in holistic treatment approaches that are
Inghram explains that a regular yoga class is great for people who enjoy being in groups. However, yoga therapy is for people who want a personalized care plan to get to the root of their issues. In their words, it’s a more holistic approach as compared to actual physical therapy. “It’s holistic in nature,” Inghram says. “Yoga therapists are working with people on the levels of mind on all the layers of the koshas. People are not getting that in physical therapy or psychotherapy. There’s a profound power to a practice in a therapeutic environment that combines that work of mind, body and spirit.” Inghram aims for their sessions to be inclusive to everyone since they are aware that not everyone can have a clear enough mind to sit down and meditate. Inghram explains that it is important through tradition for yoga to be accessible to all, which is why in their yoga therapy sessions, 105
they break it into shorter time periods and they encourage their clients to contact them if they need anything. Inghram believes accessibility is more conducive to healing. Similar to Inghram, 36-year-old Keisha Courtney aims for her practice to be accessible and inclusive for all. The Utah native, who claims Los Angeles as home, founded The Driven Yogi, a California-based brand, after having her own negative experiences with yoga. “My introduction into the yoga space wasn’t a pleasant one,” says Courtney. “I was questioned if I was in the right place, and the front desk associate gave me a look of disappointment that I was in the space in the first place. Fortunately, I was able to push past this experience, and years later became a yoga instructor.” Although Courtney’s introduction to yoga was not pleasant, the practice itself was transformative for her stress. After yoga, she feels reinvigorated with a clear mind and balanced energy channels. “As humans living in a city, we are on autopilot just trying to get through the day,” says Courtney. “Yoga reminds us to be in our bodies, to breathe, and to focus on what is happening right now versus thinking about our to-do lists, tasks and responsibilities.” After practicing yoga for over a decade and being a teacher for half, Courtney wants students to feel comfortable in their bodies while also helping them discover new ways to move that work for their anatomy, muscle structure and practice level. She explains that in yoga, the main focus is to understand the key functions and movements of the body. She wants to teach students how they can keep their bodies safe, especially because all bodies are different.
Photograph by Paris Galarza.
Finding Refuge in the Sound By Nicole Gonzales
Pressing your hands to the piano keys, plucking at the strings of a guitar or creating chord progressions and producing melodic vibrations with your own hands — it’s an almost indescribable feeling, unique to those who play, create, write or perform music. Music is often described as a refuge for those who play instruments and perform. People can use it as a way to express their feelings, form connections and community and contribute to overall happiness. Creating these sounds can serve as a safe space for those who have a passion for playing and performing music. “It is a great feeling to hear a piano come to life or strum on a guitar and hear the natural vibrations start to come out,” said Jono Kornfeld, San Francisco State University music professor and teacher at the San Francisco Community Music Center. Kornfeld also plays guitar with his band Hopsauce, a funk group with aspects of jazz and improvisation. “The better part of performing is when I get in a zone where the music is flowing,” said Kornfeld. “I feel like I’m back in some kind of special zone or happy place, to put it simply.” Other musicians feel similar to Kornfeld.
Jono Kornfeld. Photograph by Cameron Lee.
Jono Kornfeld. Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“It’s a safe place. It’s been such an element throughout my entire life. It’s definitely made me who I am and uplifted me.” –Michaela Gallegos
“It’s a safe place,” said Michaela Gallegos, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley’s music department. “It’s been such an element throughout my entire life. It’s definitely made me who I am and uplifted me.” Gallegos sings lead vocals and plays piano in Triplet Taxi, a band she formed with her brother, Austin Gallegos. The duo has released two singles and is currently working on an upcoming EP. “Playing and writing music is an extreme outlet because you get to put your own emotions and feelings into that,” said Gallegos. “For me to be able to produce the sounds that other people get that feeling off of, it’s incredible. Not only do I make myself happy, but hopefully I make others happy while listening to it.” Using personal experiences as inspiration can make the production process of songs more intense or emotive for those musicians.
“When writing music, we pull from what inspires us the most,” said Gallegos. “It’s really nerve-wracking releasing those songs and to be like ‘I put my heart and soul in this.’” Creating your own songs also serves as an outlet for many musicians, including Brandon Setta, Pennsylvania native and self-taught guitarist and songwriter. Setta played lead guitar in the shoegaze band Nothing for several years, as well as acted as one of the band’s co-songwriters. From a young age, Setta used music as an outlet to work out his creative inspiration. “All I wanted to do was play guitar at that point,” said Setta, reflecting on his childhood. He now creates independent music for his solo project, White Lighters, and has released a studio LP and several EP’s. He feels that his level of creativity and inspiration can vary at different points in life.
Setta reflected on the creative process of making his solo project’s debut studio LP, feeling gratitude and creative freedom. “I wrote a ton of stuff, little bits and pieces of songs that were all over and making me crazy. So I started to focus on songs one by one,” said Setta. While songwriting, Setta feels his inspiration comes specifically from melancholy feelings or experiences. “It’s always been driven by the darker side of things,” said Setta. “Depression, sadness, drinking problems, whatever bad shit you have going on. I write about that so it’s a sort of release.” For many, music has served as a universal language that allows those who play to form significant bonds with one another.
Brandon Setta. Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“When I play a guitar it’s usually to write a song
that’s in my head,” said Setta. “I get these creative bursts where I want to write multiple songs at once or I have no ideas for months.”
“What is particular about making connections through music is that there’s a whole language and set of skills.” –Jono Kornfeld “I hope I’m connecting with the students and that we are sharing this love for music, even if we’re into different styles or at different levels of understanding,” said Kornfeld. “There’s a certain community aspect to that because we’re all choosing to engage with music.” The bond that playing music together has created among Kornfeld and his bandmates continue to empower the group’s dynamic and understanding of one another. “Whether we are actively working on things, either to compose music together or to be in the moment of performing, there’s a really special kind of connection with those folks,” said Kornfeld. “We are inhabiting the same special little world together.” This type of connection, Kornfeld believes, is unique to performing musicians. “What is particular about making connections through music is that there’s a whole language and set of skills,” said Kornfeld. “We’re doing something that’s very demanding and active and requires all sorts of things to be in balance.” Musicians of all genres and experience levels can feel similar.
“It’s about community and meeting other people too and being like, ‘Yes we are all in our safe place,’” said Gallegos. The relationships formed over a musical connection are said to be some of the strongest an instrumentalist may experience. “You’re constantly working together and in close quarters. You know each other’s problems,” said Setta. “You love each other to death. There’s an insane bond there.” While the expressive, passionate and communal experience of playing is common, pursuing music as a career may have its own difficulties. Kornfeld feels his drive for playing music contains a multitude of these difficulties, one being how it can be tricky to redefine your relationship with music when a passion becomes a paycheck. “It exists on different levels. There are some very personal ways in which I relate to music. But because I choose to perform, I have to also approach it professionally,” said Kornfeld. Setta has also experienced the highs and lows of being an actively touring musician. After bartending with his friend, both aspiring to become successful performers, Setta questioned what pursuing a career in music would be like. “I remember talking with who would become my bandmate about it and being like, ‘Can you imagine playing music and paying our rent and not having to do this shit?’” said Setta. “And then before I knew it, we were doing that.” Setta, along with his former Nothing bandmates, toured heavily around the globe for several years during the 2010s.
Brandon Setta. Photograph by Cameron Lee.
“It’s something that I know I’m super lucky to have experienced,” said Setta. “It comes with its own set of hardships and things that people on the outside couldn’t really understand. It is the best job in the world, but it’s just as hard,” said Setta. After experiencing the tumultuous pace of touring consecutively with his band, Setta felt his relationship with music transform from his work. “It really changes things when your hobby becomes your job,” said Setta. “It’s not just about music at that point, not for the better or worse, it’s just a different world when you’re doing it for your rent money.” Creating music has also allowed musicians to produce songs that the public can relate to and find safety in. “In the band Nothing that I played with, so many kids would be in shitty situations and constantly reach out and be like ‘Your music helped me through this,’” said Setta. Engaging in the creative process can also feel uplifting in itself. “When performing and playing music I feel powerful, I feel in control, I feel lifted,” said Gallegos. “It’s so different when you’re the one doing it. I feel transported, I’ll get lost for hours just sitting there at my piano.” Performing and playing has allowed Gallegos to be emotive, connect with others and serve as a driving force in her life. “A lot of people say, ‘Music saved me,’ and it’s totally true,” said Gallegos. “If music wasn’t in my life I don’t know where I’d be or what I’d be doing.”