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Fall 2018-Spring 2019
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Table of Contents Close Encounters of the LPC Kind 8 When the Smoke Clears 12 In the Line of Fire 14 Friends in Far Places 18 Food for Thought 20 Walking the “Long, Long” Road 26 When the Game Beats You 32 Confessions of a Retail Ambassador 36 Love Beyond Borders 38 My Return Home 40 The Healing Place 44 A Pawsome Experience 50
Cover and Interlude bunny photos by Timothy Cech. Table of Contents photo by Jennifer Snook.
Letter from the Editor At the start of the fall 2018 term, I didn’t anticipate being in this position: writing an editor-in-chief letter for “Naked” magazine’s 13th issue. I had never been at the top spot with any kind of publication, nor had I ever put my work out into the world in any meaningful way, never taking the courageous first step from towers of spiral-bound and storage soldered for random access. So when I advocated myself for the position, the impetus of the idea arrived from the strange plane of intuition that informs me what makes an idea appealing, enticing or interesting. I cannot explain or intellectualize what generates this feeling, but I know it’s always present, and I must pay close attention to what it tells me, for better or for worse. It is a trickster, this voice, and it sometimes guides me into dead ends. Though more often than not, it is always pushing my routine, my process and my output outside of my comfort zone. So it is in my best interest to listen and become flexible in my creative posture. It was essential to always scrutinize questions, chase answers, embrace criticism and value the contributions from this semester’s talented staff of writers. And thank goodness gracious for this publication’s invaluable advisers Melissa Korber and Marcus Thompson, without whom this enterprise would run right off the tracks. The same applies to the design mentors — always able to translate our nebulous thought abstractions into tangible visual work. Which brings me to this brand new puppy of a
magazine in your hands (or on the coffee table, the backseat of the car or wherever it may be). These pages are built from the collaboration of several talented and tireless college students, whose choices in material represent common themes of the human experience, even if they range from wildly differing perspectives and places. All the stories cover individuals following their own voices of intuition and attempting to contribute something better to their environment for social, altruistic or entertainment ends. Some attempt to do so under extraordinary circumstances and traumas. Whether it’s through combating the devastating effects of California wildfires, overhauling nutrition in the face of illness or building a brand new life, it is clear that dreams of doing better, maybe even becoming better, are the root. Some more unconventional subjects are struggling to break into the main stream of conventional society too. When stripped of the far-out predilections, like dressing as fantasy creatures or searching the skies for alien life, we are left with people seeking a place in the world with a community of accepting bedfellows. I hope that this eclectic and, at times, eccentric array of material fosters a spirit of understanding, empathy and identification within you, and we may come to accept each of these subjects for the very things that divide them: their superficial differences. At the very least, my intuition tells me it won’t be boring.
Editor-in-Chief Timothy Cech
e k d a S N t e a h ff T Taylor Lobb Creative Director
Devin Bradshaw Staff Writer
Kyle Zeisbrich Staff Writer
Alexa Lowe Design Mentor
Timothy Cech Editor-in-Chief
Deborah Ahl Managing Editor
Elizabeth Joy PR Director
Jon Chiarello Staff Writer
Ian Jones Staff Writer
Jennifer Snook Design Mentor
Ruben Banuelos Staff Writer
Melissa Korber Adviser
Marcus Thompson Adviser
Mission statement Naked Magazine is a student-run and editorially independent magazine. Its mission is to uncover the lives of students at Las Positas College by stripping away the layers and uncovering the Naked truth. The views expressed by the individual writer or artist, are not considered to be the views of the publicationâ€™s staff, the editorial board, the associated students, the college administration or the board of trustees.
Naked is a student publication of Las Positas College, and reproduction of any form is strictly forbidden. Naked is a First Amendment publication of the students of Las Positas College. It is published once per year. Students retain the copyright ownership of the content they create, including words, photographs, graphics, illustrated cartoons and other work. Naked retains copyright ownership to advertisements it creates. Naked retains the right to use all material in all forms for perpetuity.
Special Thanks TO OUR SUPPORTERS COURTNEY METZ REBECCA CHISHOLM EDWARD CECH, III DEANNA HORVATH BRETT JAMES SANTA MARIA LUCCIANA CASELLI
2221 3rd St, Livermore, CA, 94550
TO OUR SPONSORS LAS POSITAS COLLEGE FOUNDATION RUBEN BANUELOS DEBORAH AHL ELIZABETH JOY JON CHIARELLO
Close Encounters of the LPC Kind Words and Photo Illustration by Timothy Cech
e are surrounded by identifiable light. ampposts from the campus, townhouses to the south, and speeding freeway commuters pollute our geography with their artificial brightness. isinterested cows idly gra e the northern hills that buttress campus. an made debris clutters the twilight sky. ake offs and landings from ivermore unicipal irport, a short . miles away, are abundant in the fading light. he full moon pummels its reflective bulk in the darkening tapestry above. ut there is a narrow break in the encircling glow. ust outside campus, between the solar panel array and the gated track, is a channel of shadowed land. t cuts through the northeast valley like an unpaved landing strip. fter unfolding our lawn chairs at the threshold of this dusty tract, we turn our backs to the abrasive
floodlights and arch our necks up to the supernova frontier. t is the second and final meeting of the ight atch ncounters class series, ight atch. yself and twelve other students will seek the unexplainable, test the limits of perception and transmit psychic invitations to what alien ob ects idle above our three dimensional human bodies. or the first time in C history, the search for aliens has been given an official platform through the Community ducation branch. ithout the associated long term commitment of college credit courses or admission at the college itself, these types of classes are meant for personal development or a sense of play. Courses range from video game coding to financial accounting, but sometimes a marketable fringe sub ect is included, such as ghost hunting. he instructors are usually practitioners in their fields, or at the very least sub ect
enthusiasts, subcontracted for these crash courses with short runs. ana ewberry, co owner of ector ight atch ncounters, is our instructor. dditionally she is an admitted psychic and extraterrestrial contactee. ewberry explains the sky will be in a cyst from the sun. atrolling the stratosphere, the traffic of hidden vessels will be illuminated by the withdrawing sunlight. nce the rays reach the metallic surfaces, visual proof will reflect back to us. o then, when confronted with the dark matter of infinite space, how can the finite mind sift through such obscured phenomena ilitary grade night vision goggles, it seems, are the answer. hrough the en. s, the celestial bodies appear as glittering sand scattered upon glass. Costing a pair, they filter our vision in forest green contrast and illuminate the sky with , times more light than our naked eyes can perceive. he four pairs of goggles, provided by ewberry, must be shared e ually among our odd number. lso in our arsenal are two high powered laser pointers to ping any sightings. lthough not teeming with high fre uency activity as the awaiian islands, as egas or local enicia, locations where ewberry s company hosts groups of eight, the ri alley is documented to have its own paranormal encounters. n eptember , a sighting was reported to utual etwork , a database of user submitted sightings, claiming a massive triangular craft emitting red, white and blue lights appeared above near ivermore. t blinked three times and vanished. ometimes the encounters are more amorous. anuary sighting, also posted to , claims a ivermore man experienced a sudden erection and high sexual anxiety after witnessing an ebony disk, etched with a seven point pentagram, flying outside his home.
t this time, California has , logged sightings in the C ational esearch Center index, making the state the most concentrated in the country for claims. xperiences like these fall under the metaphysical umbrella of fology the dissemination of claims, documents and media to support the existence of unidentified flying ob ects and existence of aliens. everse engineering. lien abduction. ast life regression. ene splicing. Cow mutilation. ike a creature in a teven pielberg invasion, fology is a many limbed organism. ts appendages all attach to a central alien body, feeding itself with the conviction that the universe contains far more than an earthling can ever perceive. t the night one ightings lecture, ewberry introduces herself as an extraterrestrial contactee, military abduction experiencer and ybrid other. he speaks with bouncy charisma, carrying herself with bubbly optimism, when she follows these claims with descriptions of a high school cheerleader upbringing. ife took a destructive turn when, at age twenty one, she had a near death experience from a drug overdose. hile drifting in a fugue state, she recalls hearing a voice identifying itself as her great grandmother. n order to save my life and give me that opportunity to stay, my great grandmother had to help me stay in my body, which was re ecting me, she says. ewberry survived this close brush with death and, in the years following her addiction, got sober. he also began to dream of s every other night. n her self published book, ot very sychic is a Contactee, ut very Contactee s sychic, ewberry writes would begin a series of dream state contacts with many levels of recall. fter which would culminate into physical contacts. n an interview with ussia oday, aul ellyer, Canada s former minister of defense, said, ith absolute certainty, four species, four different species at least, have been visiting this planet for thousands of years. mong the known groups of extraterrestrials are the reys, the ordics, the eptilians, and the more generally classified ncient stronauts. ithin different circles of fology, these beings range from high level earthly infiltrators to inter dimensional scientists. avid cke, former sports broadcaster and ereford nited footballer, has written over fifteen books on the rchons, reptilian humanoid shape shifters, and their agenda. o such researchers and believers alike, the sur-
face level means very little. he validity of generally accepted truths is sub ugated by a disinformation firewall, constructed with clandestine motivation by the highest levels of government. ew ork imes article titled lowing uras and lack oney : he entagon s ysterious rogram reports that the dvanced erospace hreat dentification rogram, funded at the re uest of then enate ma ority leader arry eid in and shut down in , produced documents relating to vessels that moved at very high velocities with no visible means of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift. he central figure in this program was contractor billionaire obert igelow, who is currently developing inflatable spacecraft for habitation. n a inutes interview with ara ogan, igelow says, here has and is an existing presence, an presence. he truth is really out there. t least the class knows which signs to look for. uring night two s ightwatch course, ewberry breaks down the three known classifications of . opefully can show you as many of these things as possible. t s a crapshoot different nights, she says. he first is oving tars. hese are subdivided further as crisscrosses, multiple formations, power ups, blinking out, shooting out and fading out. n the field, they can be mistaken for satellites, airplanes or birds. nomalous behavior like irregular flight path should be scrutini ed. C news segment from eb. , reports video footage of an orb descending over erusalem and then rapidly shooting out into the sky. he second type, ig ight, manifests at cloud level, is colored amber and flares bright. o avoid confusion over false sightings, ewberry reminds us that single blinks accompany commercial airliners, double blinks are for general military and triple blinks are top level government echelon. astly, as well as most coveted to witness, are tructured Craft. hese ob ects, even if not illuminated, appear close enough to determine their shape. ewberry warns us that if these come close enough, it is possible that a thick gauge of light will beam down. n these rare instances, the risk of missing time is likely. e can gather why, ewberry says. s the last light of day melts into the foothills, she informs the class that it is time to channel our intentions and direct them to the universe, a practice called vectoring. f it succeeds, then the eve-
ning is more likely to result in a close encounter of the fifth kind. lso referred to as C , this process represents a willing solicitation for alien contact, as initiated by a human. eople experience craft in their imagination. t s all very high vibrational, ewberry says. or the C night watch, ewberry streamlines the vectoring experience, inviting the class to participate in a minute meditation version at their discretion. he synergy of your group does matter as far as how much result we see, ewberry says. his may explain why activity is slow tonight. n hour after sunset the stars appear as pinpricks in an endless fabric. hey throb with light, but they do not move. here have been some close calls but all of them have been discredited. everal are satellites, moving mechanical and soulless along a mathematical tra ectory. dim three ob ect formation is only a group of birds. side from the students, the only other signs of life are the cows still gra ing the brown hills. y neck has been bending at a posture breaking angle for minutes. he novelty of the class is wearing off. m seeing something on the lens r am seeing something up there asks a middle aged man named im, attending the class with his daughter. ndicating the goggles we share, he adds, m uncertain of the technology and the right use of it. nother student shouts. wo thin green lines from the laser pointers converge on a point above us. press the en. s to my sunken eyes. high flying ob ect moves in an erratic pattern, heading south. t bursts with bright light and moves in an arrhythmic pattern that follows neither order nor convention. he orb is both moving star and bright light. e all see it and cannot explain it. nce it reaches the moon s wide corona it vanishes. t wasn t an airplane, a helicopter, a bird, a bat, a comet, a shooting star or a satellite. t was beautiful, almost magical to witness. t could have been anything. ut whatever it was couldn t be described within the parameters of secular thought. his great blue marble has shrunk down several si es over the course of ten seconds. t the risk of using the same circuitous rationale as a believer, insinuating non believers to draw their own conclusions, will admit that ust don t know what think saw. ll do know is that the gra ing cows are no longer on the hill.
Encounter Characteristics: According to “Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained,” “They were rarely reported to engage in any kind of hostile act… they were usually said to be just observing or communicating using telepathic powers.” Those who come in contact with this race have claimed to receive psychic abilities as a result.
Species: Reptilians Aliases: Draconians, Saurian s, Annunaki, Chitauri Identifying Features: Lizar d-like, bipedal and scaled humanoids.
[Alien Research Files]
Species: Nordics Aliases: Aryans, Pleiadians, Space Brothers Identifying Features: Tall, humanoid, pure white, dimorphic males and females.
Encounter Characteristic s: They are believed to be shape-shifters who have infi ltrated high levels of government to manipulate huma n society. David Icke, former footballer and sports jou rnalist, claims they are blood-drinking beings from the Alpha Draconic system. He also adds, “These are th e bloodlines known as the Illuminati, and they are the servants of the now hidden Reptilian ‘gods’ who act as prison warders to their slave race.” Species: Greys Grays Aliases: Zeta Reticulans, Roswell Greys, sually large Identifying Features: Grey-skinned, unu organs. heads, four feet tall, lack of external sex experimentation Encounter Characteristics: Abduction, run-ins. With and “missing time” are symptoms of such reconstructed an aid of hypnotism, Betty and Barney Hill d in Septemunnaccounted seven-hour span that occure to Unexplained ber 1961. An entry in “The Rough Guide g dragged from Phenomena” describes the couple “...bein a curious fertiltheir car by little beings and subjected to both scientists ity examination.” Greys are believed to be human race for and time-travelers experimenting on the morally ambiguous motives.
When the Smoke Clears Words and Photos by Elizabeth Joy
Separated from him for 10 hours with no phone connection, evacuee Kate Peace explained how her 16-year-old son barely escaped from Paradise High chool after the fire ignited. She showed pictures of her sister’s beet-red back, with third degree burns from the flames that chased her, after she had to abandon her car to run from the bla ing fire. Her brothers, mother, sister and daughter all lost their homes, as had she. eace bent down to try to find a matching boot to the one she found in the piles of donated items, dumped throughout the Chico al art parking lot. “This keeps my mind busy,” she said, holding back the tears, then made eye contact. ll want is a shower, eace said. he tears came, followed by hugs. he devastation is endless. ver , evacuees from the Camp Fire escaped alive, but many had nowhere to go. urvivors, including ones with children, slept in the cold and rain at the Wal-Mart parking lot through hanksgiving. he threat of possible mudslides from the rainstorm over the holiday intensified the already stressful climate. n outbreak of norovirus hit shelters opening their doors to the displaced. amily and friends of hundreds of the missing fire victims waited to hear if their loved ones were alive
or not and grieved those who didn t survive. housands of homes and structures, and over , acres burnt to ashes. ad air uality, with the smoke affecting all the surrounding areas, caused many health problems and closed down schools. nd then there are the firefighters themselves. California firefighters have faced five of the ten most destructive fires in state history since the fall of . arly this ovember two of largest wildfires in California broke out, with , firefighters combatting the flames. he Camp ire is the deadliest wildfire in California history with a death toll at by hanksgiving. t one point, the number of victims reported missing was over , . First responders are continuously faced with traumatic encounters and, with the eruption of wildfires over the last year, they are facing physical and emotional fatigue like never before. ven though they seem like superheroes without capes, they are still humans whose mental wellness needs attention. Coping with personal life along with the trauma they are faced with continually is a balancing act. dding tension to this factor are California’s unceasing wildfires. ith most of the fire contained by hanksgiving, first responders, search and rescue teams and the volunteers supporting both them and the evacuees,
were exhausted. any of them were reeling with the loss of their own homes and loved ones. he Camp Fire is only the most recent in a handful over the past year in California, and many of the same firefighters have been on duty throughout. ecovery from the previous wildfire in hasta County over the summer was still underway when utte County erupted in flames. n ugust following this fire, C an iego s lex resha reported that six firefighters and e uipment operators died in the line of duty within four weeks. irefighters and their families are dealing with stress and emotional pain on a scale never seen before,” Presha said. irefighters are among the rare few who are not just physically strong but who can handle a high stress load, performing well under pressure. et, being in the literal direct line of fire are the firefighters who choose this career that often gives no time to pay attention to the psychological effects that come with the ob. f they don t address them, the results can be disastrous. Separated from family and friends for lengths of time, with little sleep and time to process everything happening around them, firefighters often shut down emotions to function. Continual self care and support is a must for these firefighters to really survive the constant emotional, mental and physical fatigue. “Silence regarding personal problems and the use of poor coping mechanisms e.g., alcohol are found all too often within the firefighter culture, according to the article irefighter uicide: he eed to xamine Cultural Change. he ational allen irefighters oundation states that firefighters are four times more likely to experience a suicide among their peers each year than a death in the line-of-duty. elissa ell, an C fire program alumni and currently a Cal ire firefighter, explained that there are resources offered by agencies to support firefighters. C s Critical ncident tress ebriefing are offered after firefighters are involved in highly traumatic incidents, facilitating small group discussions among those affected. fter running a call with a patient who didn t make it, ell sat in on a C for the first time and noticed it helped out all the responding crews. hese debriefings go hand in hand with professional medical and psychological services. aradise, by definition, ironically means bliss, nirvana and oy. hese words seem like a bad oke to the rescuers and the rescued. oth will be faced with the experiences and memories to cope with.
fter a traumatic crisis occurs such as this fire, it s easy and common for “out of sight out of mind” to happen. he collateral damage from one wildfire alone can feel too painful for bystanders to consider. bout active duty firefighters lost their homes, according to firefighter teve orris, whose own home in agalia was incinerated by the Camp ire. e had been with Cal ire for years in utte County, was promoted two years ago and commutes to the oss each station. orris was at his home with his wife, Jennifer, and two-year-old daughter, resley, the morning of the fire in aradise. e evacuated them, grabbing some personal belongings, and an hour later, their home was gone. nitially after the fire, resley kept asking, o home now his was hard for his wife to hear. o orris explained, o we can t go home. t s all burnt up. ow when resley says it, orris will say, o, we can t go home, and she will finish his sentence. t s all burnt up. e s grateful she is young enough to adapt, unlike older children who were separated from friends in school. espite all the damage, orris is in a place of appreciation with so much support and love, thankful that his wife, daughter and two dogs got out alive. is heart goes out to the evacuees who have had so much loss and little provisions. “We’re far better off than the evacuees who lost everything, orris said. The main thing Morris would tell cadets choosing the fire industry as a career is, very call you go out on, you are helping someone who could be having the worst problem in their life. e encourages cadets to always walk in another’s shoes, treating them with empathy. nce the immediate tragedy is over, it s important for society to fight off complacency, returning to life as usual. he lives of all the individuals involved will not go back to normal once the dust settles and the news reporters go home. he holidays and bad weather add fuel to this emotional fire. “There’s nothing left, nothing,” Peace said, as she rummaged through donations. hen her countenance changed. eople were ust burning in their cars. The emotional detachment from her words made it clear that the healing journey for those recovering from such trauma re uires time and a community of supporters. Californians should be making a mental note that the needs for those recovering aren’t just physical and material. eeper issues will demand attention for the well-being of everyone involved in the fires, firefighters and victims alike.
In the Line of Fire
Words and Photos photos by Elizabeth Joy he intensity of the bla ing fire s foot flame lines left elissa ell wide eyed for a second, but she immediately refocused on the two first year firefighters she was overseeing as a senior leader. umerous spot fires lit up everywhere in the green areas not yet burned , bleeding together in an instant with the high winds, igniting the wild land. ngines lined up along the tree lines in front of the structures to fight off the flames. Cal ire helicopter came flying overhead, dousing the fires with a water drop. ell s engine operator honked twice, signaling it was time to go. ime to get back to the road. Communication is of utmost importance on any fire call since supervisors must keep everyone safe. ut wildfires do pose a specific danger, with nature s elements, compared to structural fires. ell s Cal ire unit moved its engine to in the black areas already burned for safety, transitioning from wild land to structure protection, working fearlessly to save a home that was vulnerable. f all the larger wildfires ell has been assigned
to, which include the utte, oma and homas fires, the anch was the most intense fire she d seen in her four years with Cal ire. p to that point it was known as the largest in California history, killing one firefighter and in uring three others. ell, however, was fully prepared. er readiness wasn t ust her six years immersed in the C fire program, her seven years as a ivermore leasanton eserve firefighter or her four years with Cal ire. hough ell s resume si les, it was grit and focus that fueled her to hurdle over obstacles and setbacks when she struggled to pass specific skills. hat, and the support of her instructors and leaders, encouraged her to meet the high standards necessary to be a firefighter. hen ell felt unsure about these setbacks, she turned to her instructor Ron Johansen, who she calls her fire dad. e would tell me, on t get upset. on t cry. ust keep going, ell said. e helped me believe in myself. he latest wildfire she was assigned to was the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, where she did
overhead work. ith these wildfires you have no idea when you re coming home, she explained. specially when they first ignite. t s not ust about battling the immensity of the fire in full force. t s also the mop up. he in the black can still have kindle, so we have to make sure it s all out. er captain once worked days straight. he crisis determines how long a shift can be and also how long it will be before seeing loved ones again. nd then there is the fact that some never do. he life threatening danger that a firefighter encounters is both color and gender blind. he standards are the same for everyone. ell being a female firefighter, which makes up only seven percent of the industry, is therefore of no conse uence. Citizens and colleagues just want someone who can get the ob done. akland ire Captain eorge reelen, both an alumni and instructor of C, said, ou re either a worker or you re not. ou have to earn that stripe. e don t give it out. raduating from C s fire program in and having worked at Cal anta Clara nit for the last four seasons, ell has earned her stripe. nd it definitely was not ust handed to her. hroughout
her years at C in the fire program, she struggled to pass certain re uirements. hen it came to some skills, such as ladders, she had to up her ante with her physical training to be capable of doing the ob. When she struggled to pass written tests, she asked around and got others study techni ues to help her. he didn t give up. he set her personal standards higher and met them. ell understands that being a firefighter comes with a price one has to be willing to pay. t s not an easy career path to choose, and itâ€™s not for the weak of heart. ecoming a firefighter is no oke. emaining one isn t either. ut even so, for as challenging a ob as being a first responder may be, it is also hugely rewarding. ddressing those up and coming in the fire industry, oanne ayes hite, an rancisco s fire chief, said, erving one s community fills one with a great sense of pride and responsibility. eing a part of the solution is what makes being a firefighter the only career for ell. emaining in the game can be exacting, as it influences every aspect of a firefighter s life. ell exemplifies what it takes to be among California s firefighters, fusing her grit with the wisdom passed down from her mentors. t is a ourney that started right here at C.
Fire Academy Expands at LPC The collegeâ€™s Fire Science Technology Program is in transition to become an academy in the spring of . he revisions are intended to modernize the program and to help students be better prepared to enter the workforce. The program is transforming the currently educational focused program of obtaining a ire cience egree into a professional craft by adding the vocational aspect of the academy. efore the changes, the program allowed students to earn an ssociate in cience degree, but graduates had no work experience. ccording to erman ierra, C s ire ervice Technology Coordinator, the academy will now provide this experimental component. ebastian ong, C s Coordinator, said that before the changes C students had to attend other colleges to receive their threemonth academy training. ma ority were able to get into the Chabot s ire cademy, but
the demand was too great for the availability. any students had to travel around the ay rea to academies farther away. This academy training will now be incorporated into C s current program, making it a complete package. tudents will obtain all the training they need on campus. Sierra said that the intention of the Fire cademy is to provide an academic, behavioral, physical and manipulative skills base. nce the students graduate, they will be prepared to compete for entry level firefighter positions and be capable of completing departmentsâ€™ probationary re uirements. n addition to all the physical work, we also have st century employability skills, interpersonal communication, work ethics, diplomacy, psychomotor skills, plus an effective behavior component, ierra said. e are trying to work on ethics which will translate into any profession.
Illustration by Alexa Lowe
Friends in Far Places:
Written by Ruben Banuelos
t was onica im s first day of nglish class. n reality it was the second, since she had looked at her schedule wrong. t was a flustered beginning to the next five months. he entered the room ready to start, but the only available seat was in an empty row. he sat down, took out her pink notebook and black pen, and was prepared to start her day at as ositas College. oon a chill dude wearing a worn down denim acket sat next to her. he had never seen this stu dent before, but her intuition told her that they d get along. e introduced himself, effectively breaking the ice, and soon enough they were carrying a whispered conversation through the remainder of class. hen they were dismissed, im and her new friend were both craving n ut cheeseburgers. im was con vinced she had found a new friend. he found that this connection could have only been possible by putting herself out in the physical world, adapting to an indifferent environment and sei ing on the innate courage within her. et friendship s con oined twin of social media represents a particularly different trend. he race
to populate an online profile operates inverse to meaningful connection. ithout constant effort, the friends list begins decreasing. sers of social media start to acknowledge followers as friends. he reek language has four different references for the word love, representing the varying ways love is expressed. ne of them is philia, which means affectionate regard, friendship that is usu ally shared between e uals. his is a serious bond experienced by the involved parties. n his series of books on ethics, ristotle explained that philia is ex pressed as loyalty to friends, family and community and it re uires virtue, e uality and familiarity. hilia is where the name hiladelphia come from. his is why hiladelphia is known as the City of rotherly ove. hilia is the love that is shared be tween friends that is so strong, it is like being broth ers. nd then acebook changed everything. ow, the meaning of friend is to click a like or follow on social media. he term friend is passed around freely and without the philia that it normally included. ow, one can have thousands of friends, because friendship is not that weighty.
ow many people can one have in their life that fit under the brotherly love concept ow many people can one enter into a pact with to never lie to one another, to tell the truth to each other even when it hurts, to stick together through thick and thin, confront life issues together so neither is alone, so resources can be shared and support is never end ing College students today are being forced to grap ple with what it really means to be a friend, to have friends. ocial media has turned communication digital. riends are now people who interact through digital apps and direct messages. ut life gets real for young adults. College stu dents go through different challenges in life and soon learn that they don t have , friends. ome times, in the worst moments, they have ero friends. f they are fortunate, one friend. hile they don t say it, many operate as if their social media followers are their friends. t is where they find comfort and support, communication and camaraderie. t is where they go to get advice, to address their problems, to be part of a community. o not feel alone. hen college comes. dulthood comes. ife gets in the picture. nd the once popular uestion asked by the s rap group oudini becomes relevant again. riends. ow many of us have them riends. he ones we can depend on n the past the word friend had a simple meaning. t was accepted that a friend could only be in the flesh. therwise they would be considered imag inary. omeone that could be introduced to your mother. riendship used to be so easy to understand. ou go out, you sociali e and boom, you make tons of friends and might even be considered popular. ccording to the second edition of the nterna tional ncyclopedia of arriage and amily, friend ship is a relationship with broad, ambiguous, and even shifting boundaries. he word friend has a dif ferent meaning for different audiences. n spite of friendship s vague and seemingly indefinable uality, friendships contribute in important ways to psycho logical development and health and well being from early childhood through the older adult years, the encyclopedia stated. hat constitutes a friend today are clicks, clicks form likes, and likes form friends. eople use social media as a way to expand their friend lists. nstead of venturing into the real world and physically inter acting with people, we can open our apps and seek new followers. f intimacy e uals acceptance, anoth er drop in the follower bucket affirms our value. teve artman, an intern at the tudent ealth Center at C, stated, or them, the ability to
reach out from within a safe place in their own home and still be connected with others is phenomenal. ith social media starting to take over our social life, the word friend gets very confusing. e start friending people, and we have no information about who they are. ll you did was saw your recom mendation list and decided to click add. uren amasubbu, C of obicip.com and con tributor to he uffington ost, said, Children and youth assume that friendships they seek and nur ture are reciprocated and thus sign up to friending re uests, both online and offline, without a deep understanding of the relationship commitments involved. he case can be made for having friend ships online rather than in person sociali ation, but there are still adherents to the old fashioned way. onica im, a student at C, described her social connections as the opposite of friendship. like to stay in touch with friends by meeting up with them in person, she stated. used to text people a lot, but we re older now, and we don t have time to sit down on our phones and type out all these life updates back and forth. find it more en oyable to go out and do something with someone you d like to catch up with. nce life started to arrive, the difference be tween who is a friend and who isn t is revealed. he reali ation that not all followers on witter are reliable. ou may need to ask yourself who are the friends that you can actually trust. ill one of your so called friends offer support in an emergency ill they have your back when confronted with in ustice or will they simply like, retweet and be done with it. r worse, glance over and move on to a cat video. xford niversity psychology professor obin unbar theori es that people can only maintain about stable relationships. ut even of the relationships, an average of . are dependable and . express sympathy during crisis. his disparity is deflating, but it s the truth. he help and guidance from the . friends will show up because those rela tionships have been established. ocial media is meant for keeping up with others lives because we are nosy by human nature, so that s exactly what we do, im said. alf of people look for social interactions outside the walls of their house. he other half seek interac tions and comfort from social media apps. t its core, the definition of friendship hasn t changed. t still represents the need to form connec tions and cultivate love, or philia. ut the current trend of the world is that we access friends differ ently, and with that the meaning assigned to friend ship is changing. nd not for better.
A Holistic Sisterhood
Food for Thought
It was time. While they knew it would prevail, nothing could have prepared them for this day. They racked their once shallow minds for an explanation. They felt disparity for any reasoning at all. The 60 year-old ALS patient they looked after had succumbed to his fate. The one person who changed their lives forever would soon be dead. They felt helpless as they watched him die. They felt hopeless as they digested the process. Catheters overflowing with urine, bed sores, the stench of blood and feces. his was the first time ophia yde and atelyn Serpa got a close-up look at how degenerative diseases ravage the human body. After a few weeks, their sensibilities were disturbed, their morality violated. Worse than the disease was the treatment. “We don’t want to help people by pumping drugs,” Sophia said. “We want to help people from the root cause of the problem with their health — which is typically their diet and lifestyle issues.” Their beliefs were confronted as this person neared the end of his life. The home care they provided became moral support from a hospital
Words by Taylor Lobb Photos by David Moreno bedside at the Pleasanton ValleyCare Intensive Care Unit. Eventually, the ALS successfully took over his immune system. All that was left was to provide him with whatever comfort was possible. t s not real care, atelyn said. t is ust enough to keep people alive.” And from that moment onward, everything they did was based on health and wellness. This was a mission they would embark on together. o make his last days enlightening, atelyn and Sophia blended the meals he received through a feeding tube, packed with greens and nutrients that zapped him with natural energy. They did hours of personal research and enrolled in clubs on campus to expand their knowledge on nutrition. They may have only extended this man’s life by a minuscule interval. But the information they learned could prolong the lives of others by years. e left an indelible impression. heir perspectives were forever altered by his suffering and demise. What they envisioned for their lives was now infused with deeper meaning. They became closer as friends, even more converted to holistic health. They now saw the importance of sharing this discov-
ery with others. This is when the Stevia Sistas were truly born.“If it weren’t for each other, we would still be in the same stagnant state,” Sophia said. They had attended the same grade school in Livermore, even crossed paths a time or two. But a conversation in an anatomy course at Las Positas College about their mutual affinity for stevia set in motion a bond that would change their lives and lead to a movement. They desired to confront the travesties of traditional medicine head on, through wellness. Stevia is a natural sweetener found in plants from Brazil, with many health benefits. t turned out they used the same kind. They became sisters almost instantly. Two people linked by their desire for wellness, a connection symbolized by stevia. Now, they are social media mavens. nfluencers in the social space, hoping to enlighten others on the benefits of a balanced, plant-based lifestyle. In 2017, Sophia and atelyn took to nstagram and coined themselves the Stevia Sistas, taking their wellness ourney public by documenting their lifestyle with high definition photos and high-quality advice. They are now approaching 5,000 followers. Their feed consists of recipes, gardening and exercising tips culled from their ourney over the years promoting self care without strict parameters. “It is so important to not limit yourself from indulging,” Sophia said. “It’s all about balance.” Their commute as full-time students at San Francisco tate forces them to find an ad ustable balance with their diet and exercise. Their class schedules are packed Monday through Friday, but they still make time to maintain a social media following in an age where consistency is key to remaining relevant. And in the Instagram space, quality imagery is a requirement. “We’re nomads,” Sophia said. “Travelin’ travelers.
We travel a lot, so it’s hard to make the food pretty, but we ust try to be as real as we can. t doesn t always look beautiful, but it’s easy and it tastes good.” The two promote recipes that are easily accessible on the go and feature techniques on how to manage time properly with a packed schedule. Each week, they craft their itinerary for the next seven days. They plan what they will eat and where they can exercise between classes. Their schedules are manipulated down to the minute. They even plan out their weekends, making time for nature hikes and study walks in the mountains where they quiz one another on material for upcoming exams. Referring to themselves as “weird hippies,” Sophia and atelyn will often go barefoot or use natural roots from the earth to make herbal tea on these frequent weekend retreats. rying to find comfortability amidst such a hectic lifestyle proves to be a challenge again and again. owever, it seems home is wherever they are together. The two support one another in every aspect: educationally, emotionally, financially and so much more. Sisters. They are pioneers for young adults, innovators with a fresh approach for those who are also looking for more but can’t seem to find it. ow, they are who they always wanted to be — an embodiment of wellness, evangelists of purity s benefits, examples of social media’s power. “There is a variety of different people we want to reach,” Sophia said. “There’s moms, people who are in college and even younger people.” ll ages can benefit, seconded atelyn. ogether, they want to show people the way. ut first, they had to find each other. e truly balanced each other out,” Sophia said. “Successfully.” fter graduating from ivermore igh chool in 2014, Sophia moved to Oregon to pursue a career in nursing at Oregon State. She quickly realized it wasn t for her. er instincts spoke to her. This is not what I need. This does not support my
growth. This is not healthy for me. She spent one semester in Corvallis, Ore. before deciding to move back to the Bay Area, enrolling at Las Positas College. It was a gut feeling she couldn’t ignore. She knew her potential would blossom where her loved ones were. “Family is your tribe,” she said. “And if you’re not surrounded by your tribe and your team, you are not going to succeed.” er upbringing accustomed her to a plant based lifestyle. It wasn’t unusual to have meals prepared from food grown in her backyard, where she and her father, ohn yde, tended to their personal garden. e instilled in her the importance of a balanced lifestyle. Their family religion was health and wellness. er father was diagnosed with ype diabetes before she was born. t was a shock, as yde isn t the breakable type. e exudes positivity and his laugh is contagious. is ear to ear grin lights up his entire face. To see his smile is to witness the vibe that led him to treat his diagnoses as the opportunity of a lifetime to challenge traditional approaches to medicine. e shunned the prescribed treatment and proved to Sophia he could rebuild his crumbling temple naturally from a plant-based diet and exercise. n the process, he in ected ophia with his own spirit, guided her by his example. e spent the next few years instilling in her the relationship between well-being and a happy soul. From 15-mile hikes in the akland ills, to camping trips at osemite, to catching fish in the ay and preparing them for dinner, he created a foundation for Sophia to build something sustainable on. er father s triumph over illness planted a seed that would eventually blossom into Sophia’s passionate belief in holistic medicine. While nutrition had always been an integral part of Sophia’s upbringing, she struggled with a misconstrued obsession for bodybuilding. She was all about lifting as much weight as possible. But while she was passionate about iron, she lacked the knowledge to indulge it in a healthy way. atelyn s path was different. hile ophia wanted to bulk up, atelyn wanted to slim down. he struggled with a balanced nutrition and a healthy body mass index. She was obsessed with the idea of being thin, emphasizing exercise more than her diet. It affected her in ways she couldn’t recognize until Sophia became her partner in purity. “When I wasn’t eating enough calories, I thought that was doing ust fine in the gym, atelyn said. “Once I started introducing more calories into my diet, more fats, more nutrients in general, I started performing way better. I felt stronger, and more
alert.” he was in a nutrient deficit, struggling with a healthy weight. When she met Sophia in anatomy, she was still learning about various nutrition concepts, trying to find the right one for her. ophia added perspective she didn’t have, introducing qualities atelyn lacked. The way they complemented each other only made their friendship stronger. Their introduction was only the beginning of what has now been crafted into a strong will and purpose in life. As their relationship grew, their loyalty to stevia was no longer their strongest bond. It transitioned into a shared desire to take care of others. Their goal became bigger than personal wellness and now focused on service, thanks to their time spent looking after their patient at ValleyCare. is condition left him beyond saving through natural means. owever, by using methods of Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM), other cases have proved to be transcendent. “Eating a very high plant-based diet is the biggest key element to starting off some chronic diseases,” said Marsha Vernoga, an LPC nutrition professor. C is defined by the ational Center for Complementary and ntegrative ealth as a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine. atelyn calls it a preventative approach, not applicable once the disease has been contracted. tudies have yet to show definitive research on plant-based diets. But Vernoga said that “as an entire pattern, what we do see in the research is that the people that live the longest, that have the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, Type 2 diabetes are people that eat mainly a plantbased diet.” A few years after the death of the man they held dear, another person’s case touched close to home for both ophia and atelyn: ernoga. Vernoga is a registered dietitian and faculty member at LPC. A soft-spoken woman who didn’t appear to be a day over when ophia and atelyn first met her. er porcelain skin radiated a glow the Stevia Sistas couldn’t help but notice. They were amazed to learn Vernoga once battled severe digestive issues, chronic rashes, cystic acne and lethargy. At age 23 and suffering, their teacher told them how she sought answers. Vernoga visited every hospital she could find over a five year span, underwent countless medical approaches and invasive procedures in search of a cure. She was left with inconclusive diagnoses and, ultimately, a lack of overall
wellness. So she turned to the one thing health care professionals overlooked: nutrition. ithin five months of adopting a whole food and plant-based diet, ernoga was re uvenated. “After suffering for so many years, things started finally shifting for me, she said. A year into the diet, her symptoms were completely eradicated. She never looked back. She is now 40 and feels the best she’s ever felt. Vernoga is now on her fifth year teaching at C. he only hopes to resonate with students the way she once did with the Stevia Sistas. After their paths crossed in , atelyn and ophia became the first ever presidents for the newly founded Nutrition Club. his kick started their ourney to new heights. or the first time they had a spotlight. hey were leading others through similar wellness feats, while obtaining an education. They were learning what people need, the mistakes they were making and how to deliver complex ideas in a digestible form. This was the stepping stone for their social media movement. The process by which they created the vibrant, serene greenery that is their blog, a positive space where the two share their relationship with life. Now enrolled in a nutrition communication education course at , the two feel more confident than ever before thanks to the relationship they’ve built through their page. They have mastered the skills utilized in their education and expressed on their page. “It has really allowed us to put ourselves in the mindset of other people, atelyn said. Putting themselves out there came with its issues. Their collective experience and moments of enlightenment gained through the people they have encountered were too powerful not to share with the world. ecause of their patient, ohn yde, Marsha Vernoga and, above all, each other, they overcame their reluctance. Before life brought them together, neither Sophia nor atelyn knew what they wanted. And then, in an anatomy class at LPC in spring 2016, they found a solution to the angst that plagued them. Randomly, serendipitously, they found exactly what they were looking for. Each other. Now, it is clear exactly what they want. They want to preserve their minds, bodies and souls. They are constantly working to uncover the deeper meaning that exists outside of the pretentious suburban lifestyle that used to engulf them. They want to be a part of something that matters, rise above the doldrums and monotony of life by helping to prevent atrocities like the one they witnessed. And it all starts with @steviasistas.
R&R with the Stevia Sistas
The root of Katelyn and Sophia s motivation resides in balance. Without it, they would likely fail in their pursuit for overall wellness. To them, balance is deďŹ ned as limiting the intake of harmful nutrients but not eliminating them completely. Indulging is essential, and there is a healthy way to do so, which they actively promote with recipes they create from home. Here are a few healthy blended drink choices for the weekend, all featured on their Instagram blog, @steviasistas
& F RU IT SA
INGREDIENT S: s ombucha: ibiscus Ginger Trader Joes: Greens ombucha
Pinot noir *Top with be rries and citr us for a refreshi ng finish
G UAVA ON MANG O
WATE R ME L AS MARGAR IT
: INGREDIENTS elon m er at Frozen w go an m Frozen na Frozen bana uice on m resh le
uava s ombucha: la ne o te ui n sil & passio *Top with ba ish fin ng hi es fr fruit for a re
DED NT LOA A D I X O I ANT H IES SMOOT IENTS: INGRED rries bluebe Frozen mango Frozen ana wn ban o r B 1/2
TEQU I LA uice lemon uee ed e ic u e resh s ed lim e e u s y resh rilog ucha: s omb uila ne o te
JOINT, HAIR & SK IN GARDEN SM OOTH IES INGREDIENTS : ale Fresh mint Large pear (1) Scoop Fu rthe Turmeric Toni r Food c
(2) Scoops Fu rther Food Collagen Pept ides (1) Pinch No w Foods stev ia resh lemon uice Ice
Walking the “Long, Long Road” From BART platforms to a Grammy Words by Ian Jones
He is the son of a devout Muslim man from Somalia, who was born in 1905 and had 14 children. He is a former hustler, who sold crack and robbed houses for cash. He lost a brother to gun violence in his kitchen. He is a musician who can be best described as punk, R&B, soul, blues and rock ‘n’ roll fused together. He is a Grammy Award winner. He is a former marijuana grower. He performs on television shows, giant music festivals and, to this day, the occasional street corner. It is impossible to label Fantastic Negrito, and that’s by design. There isn’t a box to put him in that won’t have his limbs sticking out. It’s not just his extravagant attire that makes him unique. It’s his experiences, his perspectives, his talents. It’s what makes him so Oakland. And that is what makes him so Bay Area. A renaissance is happening here, a tussle between history and future. The injection of tech money and Silicon Valley types has brought a boon of resources to places like Oakland, which also has a rich history and culture that’s succumbing to the weight of influx. ut woven into the very fiber of his story is a picture of the collision between future and the past. His life, his music, is an illustration of how eras and cultures can coexist and even collaborate to produce lasting and spectacular work. That’s why this Massachusetts kid is such an important voice in Oakland, and, thus, the Bay Area. He doesn’t forget the past and its pains. He doesn’t toss out history to make room for what’s current. He marries them in such a way that his story is one of growth instead of regeneration. In that way, Fantastic Negrito embodies the solution for the gentrification he often sings about. is embracing of all that has happened and all he used to be, is the fuel for the soul of his music. Perhaps that’s how, in the middle of this wide-reaching and dramatic societal shift, the Bay Area can keep its soul. Just follow the fantastic music of its own Negrito. ight now, in the office of his artist collective, Blackball Universe, he’s wearing scarlet red chinos offset by a plaid cummerbund and a bright white dress shirt. His braided mohawk stands at attention, and his beard is doing its own thing. His shoes are a paradox: they’re normal sneakers so they should blend in, but don t because of the flash of the rest of his outfit. He says his outrageous style was a survival mechanism for living in the ‘hood. “Nobody would fuck with me. Literally. I just stuck with it,” and, he adds candidly, ”I got girls easier that way.” Let’s go back. Before he was Fantastic Negrito,
the poignant musician, he was just Xavier Dphrepaule , resident knucklehead who flirted with the wrong side of the law. He moved to Oakland with his family at 12 years old. He grew up with 13 siblings. With that many kids under one roof, it s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Perhaps that’s how he got so good at commanding a room. Today he’s soft-spoken and pretty down-toearth, but is far from a wallflower. rowing up, he had to fight for everything. Dphrepaulezz ran away from home shortly after arriving in the Bay. His father, educated at Oxford, was so strict. He never saw his dad again, as he died two years later. Dphrepaulezz spent his formative years in foster care and in the streets. He was 13 when he got his hands on Prince’s third album, “Dirty Mind.” The hardcore alternative vibe of the album captivated him. It was Prince, a selftaught musician, who prompted Dphrepaulezz to teach himself how to play instruments. The early ‘80s was quite the time to be a teenager in the Bay Area. The crack epidemic was brewing in Oakland. Hip-hop had arrived from the East Coast, and the punk scene was live. And Xavier, no angel as a teen, was all in. “We were all selling drugs, man,” he told The Guardian in 2016. “We all carried pistols. There was a crack epidemic. Mostly, I was small-time. I was the kind of kid who sold fake weed, shit like that. Sometimes I would use tea.” He dabbled in robbery, too. He’d befriend unpopular kids, so he could go their house. He would lift the house key and the family’s schedule so he could make a duplicate. When the coast was clear, he’d return and steal some valuables. Why? Pursuit of the American Dream. Having money. e once did a bid in uvenile hall for fighting. usic, however, was a constant in his life. At 18 years old, he dressed up in some nice clothes and posed as a student at UC Berkeley. That’s how he got access to the piano rooms, so he could practice. Eventually, he decided to pursue music, giving up the burglary and crack dealing. Once, it turned against him. He and some friends were buying guns from a gang. The transaction turned into a heist. The gang kept the guns and took their money. The next day, Dphrepaulezz hitchhiked a ride to L.A. Imagine the desperation. The hope that made it all make sense. The pain, fear and frustration that kicked in as he got closer to the city of dreams. How the memory of mopping up the blood of his brother
off the kitchen floor urged him to power through it. It would break a lot of people, and it has. When I remark on his calm, spiritual affect, something you wouldn’t expect for someone who has seen so much, he says, matter-of-factly, “It took a lot of suffering to get here.” Nobody warned him of the twists his life would take. Nobody told him to brace himself. In Los Angeles, his hustle was as an independent songwriter, handing out demos of his work to anyone with fingers. is tape ended up in the hands of Joe Ruffalo, who at the time was Prince’s manager. Ruffalo immediately snatched Dphrepaulezz up. He got him an apartment, put some money in his pocket and set up auditions. Jimmy Lovine of Interscope Records loved his music and outbid everyone. Dphrepaulezz signed a million-dollar recording contract with nterscope in under his first name. e put out his first studio album in pril called he actor. ut it flopped. nly two months earlier, Interscope had released 2Pac’s much-anticipated album, “All Eyez on Me.” He couldn’t compete with that. Dphrepaulezz felt overwhelmed by the pressure to cram into the box, but resisted. To this day, he’s reticent to label his music with one genre. The concern with what would sell clashed with his desire to make good music: to earn money or sell his soul? The creative differences killed his chances with Interscope. Then he nearly died. On Thanksgiving 1999, a near-fatal car accident put him in a coma for three weeks and crushed his playing hand. He’s said he doesn’t remember the impact, just the pretty girl in the car with him. He
picked her up in the Hollywood Hills. They were on their way to get food. The accident got him out of the Interscope deal. he s uare peg no longer had to fit into a round hole. That was a relief. The intense physical therapy, the care he needed to recover, the vulnerability of being on the mend - all of it humbled him. It was the antidote for his narcissism and arrogance. In 2000, freed from his contract, he created Blackball Universe. It started as a record label and grew into a multimedia creative collective. He created incarnations: Chocolate utterfly, e and his apanese Guy, Blood Sugar X. These were bands, personalities, for which he would create music and get it licensed to films and television shows. is credits include movies like “Madea Goes to Jail,” “I Can Do Bad All by Myself” and “Leprechaun: Back 2 The Hood,” and TV shows like “Burn Notice,” “Las Vegas” and “The Surreal Life.” He was also a club promoter, throwing monthly illegal shows at his loft. He once got arrested when his rooftop party featured a hot tub full of nude dancers. The money he earned from his ventures went into the collective, which included Malcolm Spellman, a writer from West Oakland. Dphrepaulezz and Spellman had both been crack pushers and didn’t get along, but they later forged a bond in creativity. Dphrepaulezz shared his earnings with Spellman, so Spellman could focus on screen writing. Their creative partnership is one reason why Dphrepaulezz can’t forget about his roots or the culture that shaped him, even though some of its elements were dangerous. Two former drug dealers leaning on each other, having broken out of their illicit cocoons to manifest their expansive
talent. It takes perspective to know the gems are there even when only dirt is visible. After failing to become a big-time artist, Spellman was the one who was going to make it big time. That’s how Dphrepaulezz saw it, anyway. This is why he values investment over displacement. He did this for about eight years, then gave it all up in 2008. He sold his equipment and left Los Angeles, moving back to Oakland. He got married. Had a son. Became a marijuana farmer. The music dream was behind him. Or so he thought. “One day, I had come back from farming duties. My son was in his crib and not really talking yet. He was really unhappy. His mama left me. I wasn’t really used to that duty.” That’s when it hit him: “Oh shit, I’m alone.” One night, he just wanted his son to stop crying. The anguish of his child was a metaphor for the unease he suddenly felt. He wanted peace back. For his son. For his life. hadn t played in five years, he said. had this one guitar, leaning against that settee — the love seat. And I look at it and I think, ‘Well, let’s try that!’ I played a G-major and the world changed. The room changed.” Dphrepaulezz mimed his son’s facial expression, changing from sour to happy. They had a moment. A father and a son. The past and the future. “What he taught me that day,” he said, “was that music is the language of humanity.” This was 2012. The music itch didn’t come all the
way back right away, but the slow process had started. “I did the thing any dude in the hood would try: I started learning Beatles songs,” he said, laughing. He went back further. He grew up hearing the blues but hadn’t paid much attention to it. He was too young to understand the reality present in the lyrics of ead elly, the energy and defiance of Muddy Waters’ sound, the somber truth of Skip James. All he knew was it didn’t have the bass or the thump he loved in hip-hop. It didn’t faze him that renowned bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, who’d played with the likes of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, was a close relative. But it sounded so different with the ears he had now. The hot shot kid who thought he knew it all was now a complicated man who had learned so much. By 2013, he was making music again, but not with his full spirit. He opened an art gallery and played the piano to test his music. Spellman, one of the voices that helped strip away his arrogance and self-centeredness, nudged him to try music again. The new incarnation was born: Fantastic Negrito. This time, he didn’t run to LA. He stayed home. He wrote songs that mattered to him and poured his heart out to strangers while simultaneously shaking a fist at the establishment. He recognized that he had his work cut out for him if he was going to make it. “Oh shit, you got Creedence Clearwater Revival,” he said, his eyes widening with terror. “Oh shit, you got Sly Stone. Oh shit, (Carlos) Santana. Oh my God! Tower of Power. We got all these amazing groups — so the standard is high!” He decided to start small and perform on the streets and on BART platforms. “Let them decide,” he said of his first attempts in front of his ay rea audience. “If I’m good enough for them, I’m good enough for the world.” He knew that he’d experience a lot of indifference. “You’re getting off BART, you’re new to San Francisco, ‘Oh, you don’t give a fuck?’” He was up to the challenge. “Let’s see if music still works. Let’s see the language of humanity.” The gamble paid off: Heads began turning. Once, he drew a crowd while playing a street corner. A musician who was driving by parked, pulled out his guitar and played alongside Fantastic Negrito. It was D’Wayne Wiggins, an Oakland native from the R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! In 2014, he released a self-titled EP on Blackball Universe. His life changed forever when National Public Radio chose him out of 7,000 submissions for its Tiny Desk Concert Contest. ob oilen, the director of s flagship ll
Things Considered,” had started a spin-off show and podcast called “All Songs Considered,” featuring upand-coming and unknown acts. In December of 2014, Boilen decided to open it up and give all musicians a shot at making the show. he re uirement was to film a video in front of a desk and post to YouTube by January 19, 2015. A day earlier, “Lost in a Crowd” was posted by Fantastic Negrito’s manager, Field. They put the desk and a microphone stand in front of a freight elevator at the grimy lackball niverse offices in ack ondon Square. Backed by a guitar, a stand-up bass and a cardboard box doubling as makeshift drums, the band crammed into a tiny freight elevator, as Fantastic Negrito sang his heart out. That performance of “Lost in a Crowd,” a song channeling the blues greats but with a modern touch, caught NPR’s attention. The video and song begin with primal humming, something that immediately grabs your attention. It’s a different sound from today’s manufactured pop. There’s no autotune, no thumping bass in the video. Just soul. The camera work is shaky and the lighting is far from professional, it doesn’t matter. He and the band shine. It’s no surprise he won. His Tiny Desk Concert, a performance of the same song plus two others, went live on YouTube in March 2015 and is currently over 1.6 million views. The Fantastic Negrito EP shot to No. 7 on Billboard for Blues music in February 2015. By August, his EP was the No. 7 iTunes blues album. In January 2016, he was announced in the lineup of the BottleRock Napa Valley festival in Napa. In April, he was announced as part of Outside Lands in San Francisco. Then came the big coup. Spellman landed a gig as a writer on Fox’s hit show “Empire.” Using that connection, Fantastic Negrito appeared on Episode 15 of season two, performing “Lost in a Crowd” with one of the show’s stars. The appearance did wonders for his coming album, “The Last Days of Oakland.” When it aired, Fantastic Negrito was already on tour with the lead vocalist for Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, in Europe. was terrified, he told . he idea of standing up there with a guitar facing 3,000 seated, hardcore Chris Cornell fans filled me with anxiety. really didn’t think his audience would be into what I was doing. A month later, he asked me to open the American-Canadian tour. I was shocked and honored. e finished that tour and again said our goodbyes. Then he asked me to open up the Temple of the Dog shows with my band. No artist has supported me more than Chris Cornell. His heart was as big as his
legendary vocals.” The two ended up playing about 70 shows in a year and a half’s time, and a friendship emerged. “The Last Days of Oakland” album debuted at No. 4 on Billboard. Rayanne Pinna described the album for the East Bay Express as “an urgent, political record that grapples with the many changes Oakland has seen in recent years.” He celebrated the launch of his first full length album by performing for free on the street during Oakland’s First Friday. The album won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Blues Album in February 2017, and it felt like Negrito had finally reached the top of the mountain. hree months later, Cornell died from suicide. Another loss. More pain. “He believed in me more than I believed in myself.” Despite his success, Fantastic Negrito came to view his Grammy with a bit of disdain. He had already chased stardom, already been involved in the realm of commercialism, and he remembered what was lost. His sudden ascent felt a little too much like the suffocation he experienced before. All of it was too confining. t s not worth losing the purity, the raw honesty in the craft. He has to cling to that. This challenge is similar to the struggle he often addresses in his music, the paradigm shift happening in the ay rea and, specifically, his beloved akland. He has always had an assertive sound, but his latest album, “Please Don’t Be Dead” is even more insistent than the relatively laid-back “The Last Days of Oakland.” From its strong, guitar-riff driven opener “Plastic Hamburgers,” in which he laments drug addiction, to the funky “Bullshit Anthem,” where he urges the listener to “take that bullshit, and turn it into good shit,” the album is a fun ride. He does cover some heavy topics: death, breakups and wrongful termination, but it’s not a somber album. He, like many, fears something valuable is being lost in this financial boom of the ay rea and the migration to Oakland, the heart of the Bay. It is producing something shinier, something prettier. But at what cost? “The way people have been moved out, that’s tragic,” he said. “And we have our work cut out. Because what makes us great is diversity. All people. From all walks of life, all colors, all religions, all sexual persuasions. All of it. That’s what makes the Bay Area original. That’s what makes the Bay Area the greatest tribe ever, in my opinion. Free speech. Equity. Hell, we produced the Hell’s Angels AND the Black Panthers — how about that! We’re some edgy motherfuckers!” ousing crisis and financial disparity are under-
girding this radical shift in the Bay. The displacement of communities, the erasing of culture. It risks yanking out vital components that make the Bay Area special. He warns “the new Oakland” to realize why the city is great: “Oh, you ‘hella love’ Oakland? You do? Well, why the fuck you ‘hella love’ it? You think that some people maybe sacrificed their blood, sweat and tears, to make this shit incredible? You better know who I’m talking about, if you want it to remain great. Because this great title can be taken from you.” There has to be a way to embrace the past while forging the future. There has to be a way to upgrade without needing to uproot. Fantastic Negrito knows the way. We just have to listen.
Concert photos courtesy of Urko Dorronsoro Other photos courtesy of Lyle Owerko
When the game beats you y r o t s e v o l c i g a A tr
Words by Devin Bradshaw
This was the moment I knew I was whipped. t happened so fast. he first time laid eyes let me tell you. couldn t help but stare all day. e ate together, hung out for hours. ot one second was bored. didn t even want to do anything else. couldn t keep my hands to myself. es, we slept together. had never felt such a climax before. ever knew there were so many levels. very time, walk away feeling like accomplished something. ur relationship has even connected me to some of my greatest friends. wouldn t be where am today without this love of mine. ut, as they say, anything in excess can be harmful. here is a dark side to our commitment. t brings out the worst of my anger issues. assion definitely burns on both ends. am ashamed to admit it, but when lose my temper, get abusive. hat s so cra y is nothing else in this world pushes me to those extremes. n fact, find it hard to care about much else. Courtney Metz don t spend time with family anymore. meant it when said we d be together all day. ometimes, can t think of anything else. y brain is ust intoxicated. d have these moments of clarity when we re apart. his relationship is eopardi ing so many areas of my life. y production at school. y energy for work. y involvement in my faith. his isn t a relationship as much as it is an unhealthy dependency. know it, too.
ut that doesn t matter once we re together again. y hands start grabbing and flickering, my energy suddenly picks up, eventually m yelling and screaming. ext thing know, it s a.m. nother night of not doing what should have been. can t develop my future this way. ve got to kick this video game addiction. t is ruining my life. ideo games are hogging my focus. can t hear my mom and sister barging into my room to tell me things. m completely consumed trying to win uper owls in my online franchise on adden . ideo games are apping my motivation. try to do my work, try to work out, try to advance my life. ut my competitive nature seems to only be triggered by building my y layer in . ideo games are ruining my relationships. y real girlfriend believes don t listen to her, don t want to talk to her. can t even tell her it s because m visuali ing my next binge on ortnite. he is probably going to leave me anyway because am not getting anything done with my life. ccording to a ebruary article from cience in the ews, a publication by he raduate chool of rts and ciences at arvard niversity, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine when we do things that feel good to us. igh levels are released when around someone we re attracted to or having sex with, which makes us giddy, energetic and euphoric. nother chemical released is oxytocin. t is released in large uantities during sex. t is called the cuddle hormone because of its bonding activities, which is why it is also released during childbirth and breastfeeding.
uess what releases in my brain while m playing my life when he passed it down. wasn t lost in gamvideo games hat s right. opamine and oxytocin. ing yet. was still a kid, so there was a balance. his addiction is real. nd then it was gone. t happened so suddenly. t know am not alone. imagine most people was like a top pick in the draft tearing his C online with me at any given moment have an assignin the second game of the season. o many promment they should be doing, a child they should be ising hopes dashed on a single play. y cousin oss spending time with, a ob they should be focused on. stepped right on my lay tation, and it was gone. y hey, too, are stuck in the same toxic relationship. heart was broken. o might you be. ou may not even know it. r eventually got another lay tation, and loved maybe you do and ust can t find your way out. ll it even more. y urge to play advanced with each be your cautionary tale. aybe can shame new system. ealthy gaming was out you into kicking the habit. he road the window once got a layto a solution begins like this: tation . oing over to my y name is evin radbest friend Corey s house shaw, and m a video almost every weekend game a holic. to partake in couch y relationco op, ship with video mackdown vs games runs aw became deep. e ve weed for me. been tot didn t help gether for that would years now. lose almost t started every game. off as ust y drive to a fling, a win was too ega enstrong, and esis passed the worst down from it got was my uncle. being up for It was on two straight its last legs. days playing he cord had matches. t to be taped was the most to the back of fun d ever had. the system ust loved my for it to turn on. lay tation , but t was not possible with the lay tation to sit through an my gaming spun out entire session without of control. ony introblowing on the game duced the lay tation etcartridge once it inevitawork, and that opened up a whole Courtney Metz new world. was on to crack at this bly crashed. ext came a intendo . point. could play the game all the ames like okemon tadiums, time, but now didn t have to be in ey ou ikachu and adden the same room as other people to play with them. dominated my time. his is where my love for adwas introduced to my first ever shooting game, Call den was cultivated. of uty: odern arfare . ow a whole new genre inally, the ony lay tation was brought into my was in my grasp. life. t was the greatest thing that ever happened to hing was, was hot garbage. ut again my comme. t was also the worst thing that ever happened petitive nature kicked in. worked and worked hard to me. until was good enough to compete, and it didn t remember being so excited when got it. matter how long it took because to this day it is still bet my cousin didn t even know he was ruining the greatest game have ever played. he problem
is, it took time away from everything else, mainly school, but that didn t matter because didn t need to give my best in high school to get by. ome game releases, especially the series, became a yearly holiday for me. fake sickness would develop every year like clockwork around release date. he lay tation came out ust in time for graduation. College freedom was on the way. got my lay tation for Christmas with my addiction in full swing. t was all wanted for Christmas. even sold my lay tation ust to stay up to date with releases. hen got to acramento tate, my addiction overtook me. blamed it on depression but in truth was struggling with an addiction that still could not see. t wasn t until a couple years later, while writing an article about gaming addiction, when really started to piece it together. eading about the nature of addiction started to open my eyes. t first was looking for other people who had this problem, and it turned out it was me all along. couldn t write this article about anyone else. t had to be me. e, a guy who can t put a controller down. he guy who can t go to sleep until he wins a couple
of fights in C. he guy who has to finish his challenges in ortnite before he can do anything productive. hat s who it had to be. ot anyone else. fter figured this out, tried to go cold turkey. ust put the controller down and stop. hat was counterproductive. didn t last a day without touching my system. hroughout my day, all wanted to do was feel the controller in my hands. hese thoughts consumed me until the point where gave in to the craving and didn t put the ual hock controller down until a.m. ow am taking things slowly. m trying to pull out of that world into a more healthy relationship with gaming. tarting with limiting the number of hours spend on any game. pending more time with people in the real world. pending more time actually talking to people around me. pending more time outside of my room and house. t s refreshing to have a break away, but know that a complete breakaway is not possible. will always love ony, but need to take control of my life, and know am going in the right direction now.
Words by Kyle Zeisbrich Left illustration by Alexa Lowe Right illustration by Courtney Metz Work is work, as my parents always say. You clock in, do your job, clock out and then go home, only to then get ready to do it all over again the next day. But thatâ€™s not exactly the case when you work at the San Francisco Premium Outlets in Livermore. Working here is not as simple as clocking in and doing your tasks. I am far more than a typical department store worker: I also double as an ambassador for the United States of America. Sort of. With a name boasting the glitz and glamour of a city more than 30 miles away, the premium outlets are a tourist mecca. Equipped with stores like Gucci, Prada and True Religion, the outlet has quickly become a melting pot of many different cultures and flavors of human beings. As legend has it, they all get dropped off by tour buses and, like a pack of wild dogs on a hunt, are
unleashed and prowl the stores. Asians, Europeans, Indians, Australians and all other citizens of the world arrive at the Livermore/San Francisco Premium Outlets. All in search of a great deal. The stores are more than willing to oblige this need, sporting giant signs that promise the hugest discounts. I work at Under Armor, obviously the store with the most foot traffic. t least it seems it does. am a salesman, of both shoes and the American Dream. I roam the store with the biggest smile on my face, striking up conversation with anyone, with hopes of selling more product. It didnâ€™t take long before I realized my job was far more than sales alone. Right from the get go, I noticed that many of our customers were not from the United States, so selling clothes became a challenge. But it was a challenge I was eager to conquer. Many of the tourists were not from here, and for many it was their first time in the United States.
Realizing this, my mindset instantly changed. Instead of being attached to them like a beeper, constantly pitching them product like my name was Billy Mays selling Oxyclean, I was now helping make people feel comfortable enough to buy more items. I learned from one of the tour group bus drivers that many of these tourists only visit the U.S. to shop, getting right back on a plane and red-eye home with bags full of goodies for friends and family. I came to the realization that for many of these tourists, outlet workers are essentially the only people they interact with during their trip. In essence, we retail workers shape their image of the country. Now enlightened with the idea that I was the face of the nited tates of merica, tried finding ways to converse with customers who live thousands of miles away. Most times I was met with puzzled looks and hand gestures. With time and practice, I got the hang of things. I started to add to my social toolkit, with compliments as my nails and humor as my hammer. I found that I could build a connection with people on a human level. now walked with confidence, cracked jokes left and right and always tried to give our foreign customers a good retail experience. In return, when I became the positive embodiment of what Americans can be, those same customers shared their culture with me in our brief interactions. I was hired during the 2018 World Cup, so finding common ground with tourists became easy. I got caught up on World Cup news every day, so I could be up to date when speaking to the many soccer obsessed Europeans and South Americans. A great U.S.A. representative must be careful not to sound like a fool. confidently spoke of England's great underdog run to the final four, and shared the same amazement when Croatia made it all the way to the end. To say I got along with the English like bangers and mash would be putting things lightly. I’d make Australians laugh when speaking of my dream to visit their country, but this dream can also be my nightmare. I’d
explain my fear of their gigantic insects. As I understood it, Australian bugs are like our bugs, only on steroids. One couple burst into laughter, telling me that this is not true. They said I should be more concerned of their alligators and sharks. My knowledge of the world was exponentially growing. Many visitors from China were very kind, yet very blunt. I once had a woman approach me asking what size I wore and even went as far as bringing out a tape measure to size me up. After she was done logging my sizes, she smiled and said, “Thank you. The clothes are for my nephew. He is very fat like you, too.” As salesman and ambassador, it was my duty to tell her, “In the United States, he's just considered husky.” Another thing I learned on the job is it’s disrespectful for Chinese tourists not to bring gifts back for the whole family after visiting another country, which made sense to me. They seemed to carry the biggest bags into the store, all filled with weight and love, ready to return home with all their goodies like a sherpa. My time working as a representative of the typical American male has been a phenomenal success. Not only do I feel like I have accomplished my mission as an ambassador, I also feel as though I’ve learned a lot about other cultures. It was eye-opening just to see how different and similar we all are. Being raised by my Afghan mother, I was taught the importance of respecting other cultures. We are all different in our own right. Rather than judging our differences, I celebrate them. Instead of being close minded, I’ve learned to be curious. I always try to look at things from another person’s perspective. Sometimes these individuals are not from America, but that’s OK. Every lesson in positive international relations I have gathered at the Livermore/San Francisco Premium Outlets has prepared me to be the very best representative of the great United States I can possibly be.
Love Beyond Borders My Parents’ Journey to America
Words and Photos by Ruben Banuelos “El Gordo y la Flaca” is on the television. I feel the breeze of the ceiling fan on its max setting. I can smell the food cooking from the kitchen. Sitting on the couch are two parents, both coming back from one long day of work. Sitting on the right side of the living room couch is my mother, Lourdes Banuelos, and on the left my father, Ruben Banuelos. I can feel the love that they for each other. It’s a great energy that spreads through the room. As the show ends, they both head toward the kitchen. My father sets the table, and my mother prepares the food. On the menu tonight are red enchiladas topped with lettuce and avocado. They look delicious, rich with color. This famous enchilada recipe has been in our family for a very long time. My mother learned it from her mother, and her mother learned it from her mother. They both sit down at their wooden kitchen table and start to eat. As they eat, they share stories from each other’s workday. Both are laughing and enjoying each other’s presence, having a great time. These are my parents. Although their lives might sound simple, they probably would have never had this quality of life had they stayed in Mexico, where life was much more difficult. In a world where it’s eat or be eaten, a lot of families begin from times of struggle. Either they make the effort to change their situation, or they sit
and just deal with the challenge that comes with the struggle. The United States of America is the greatest country on the planet with many options to pursue a dream. Emigrants migrate from their home countries seeking a new start, a chance for a new life and a chance to achieve that dream. Before my parents were my parents, they were Ruben Banuelos Sr. and Lourdes Pinedo, who were both born in Mexico. Actually, they were from the same village: Huilacaticlan, or Huila for short. They lived across the street from each other. Yet although my mother had known my father her whole life, they were nothing more than acquaintances. According to my father, his was the poorest family in Huila. “Growing up, my father wasn’t around that much. It was just me, my mother, my older sister and my younger brother,” my father said. “So having no father around was a struggle because he wasn’t there to help my mom out financially most of the times, and having three young children was hard to manage alone. I mean, my father would pop into the picture sometimes, coming back from wherever he was, and would help the family out with supplies to survive. But it was never enough.” My father struggled early in life, not having enough food and money. very day was a fight to survive into the next day. Some days he would go to bed
starving as there wasn’t enough food to share among the family of four. But things turned when he hit age 15. He decided to change his fortune and attempt crossing the border into America. “It was a very hard decision to make,” he said. “It was hard to say goodbye to my family at such a young age, especially saying goodbye to my mother. But I had to do this for myself and no one else.” My father was traveling to a whole new world by himself, with no idea what challenges were going to come. Nevertheless he prepared himself to meet them head-on, all for a better shot at life. “My grandpa helped my father to get a connection to a ‘coyote,’” he said. This is a term used for people who sneak immigrants into America illegally. “I went through so much hell crossing lands and lakes. The weather wasn’t doing us any favors either, as it was around 90 degrees. I was drenched in so much sweat. “But the worst part was driving miles and miles in a van that had 36 other people in it, as they were also trying to find a better life, he said. Withstanding conditions like dehydration, elbow-to-elbow to strangers, with a strong chance they’ll get caught and sent back was almost unbearable. he ourney took approximately five days to make, but after the hellish journey, my father arrived to the land of the free. Thankfully he did. Months later he was able to get citizenship. On Nov. 6, 1986, then-president Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to around 3 million illegal immigrants with the signing of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). My father was one of them, and he now had a new life as a United States citizen. After a few years, my mother also decided to come to the United States. She knew deep down that she wasn’t going to do anything with her life as long as she stayed in Mexico. She came to the United States when she was 15, the same age that my father did. Though her path wasn’t as troubling as my father’s, she still had her own struggles and obstacles to overcome. “‘El coyote’ found me a visa of someone that looked just like me,” my mother said. “I remember looking at this visa that has someone else’s name and birthday. But yet, the woman who was in the picture looked very much like I do.” Seeing a stranger’s visa in her hands, she wondered how el coyote was able to find a passport of someone that looked just like her in only a couple of days. She never found an answer to this question, but regardless, thanks to him, she had a chance.
was terrified as was getting near it. was in a car with family and others, but they had visas,” she said. As she neared the border, she was shaking in fear once they reached customs. “I remember the look the man gave me as he checked the visa and giving us the pass to go.” Finally, they made it through to the United States, the land of opportunity. Before my parents got married, it was like destiny lined them up for each other. Coincidentally, they met again in the Bay Area. He was working with his uncle, and she was looking for a home. After months of dating, my father went back to Mexico to ask her father for her hand in marriage. The marriage helped my mother to get her papers. It took a lot of effort but, ultimately, both became U.S. citizens. Just like a lot of other families who have started a new life in the United States, if not for the struggle and difficulty, they would never have needed to come. If it weren’t for my parents coming to this country, I wouldn’t be sitting at this kitchen table eating enchiladas, going to school or living life as I know it. “Coming to America was the best decision we ever made for ourselves,” my father said. “America gave us something that Mexico could have never given us: Hope.”
My Return Home
Words by Deborah Ahl Photo by Elizabeth Joy
The faces of the homeless are changing. They are not just the aged veterans saddled by mental health issues. They are not just drug addicts who never got back on their feet. They are not battered women who chose destitution over abuse. They are single mothers desperately in need of a break. They are working class people priced out of their homes. They are immigrants mining for opportunities. They are veterans who fought for our freedom. They are the students who walk past you every day with hopes of a better tomorrow. Homelessness is no longer exclusive to the outcasts of society. But in the Bay Area, especially the suburbs of the Tri-Valley, homelessness has engulfed even the established. They now represent 14 percent of the community college population, according to the 2017 â€œBasic Needs Survey Report,â€? published by the California Community College Chancellor s ffice. hey aren t easy to spot. They make a practice of blending in with the crowd, not wanting to be recognized, too embarrassed to reveal their plight. Homelessness has spread beyond the fringes. It has spilled into wealthy cities, on the sidewalks and front lawns of neighborhoods. It has oozed its way to businesses and storefronts. It has crept into homes, impacted stable families and has now moved to college campuses. n the second floor of the building at as Positas, Kiley Zieker, a student and once homeless herself, works alongside two other women, CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids) coordinator Amanda Ingold and Danielle Donohoe. The three of them spend countless hours
dedicating their energy, passion and careers to tackling this epidemic. Because in this part of the country, nobody is safe. And somebody has to do something. Zieker, with her bright eyes, brilliant smile and a hint of blue in her hair, both sits and stands in an office that she connects with as one of her homes. Ingold and Donohoe both agree that Zieker’s story is one that should be told. “We want her to be famous,” both said, smiling brightly. “We think her story will help so many as they find themselves in this situation. The bond between the three is tangible when in their presence. Zieker doesn’t shy away from speaking candidly about days she comes into work feeling heavy with emotion and how they lift her up. “They’re my family, a home away from home,” she said. In 2018 the women in the EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) and CalWORKs departments made Zieker a vision board, outlining all the wonderful things she is. This now hangs over her bed as a reminder on the days when it gets too hard to believe it herself. The scars of homelessness cannot be seen in her smile, but they can be heard and felt when she recalls this time in her life. She considers her experience of being homeless as a time of learning, with blessings that came along the way. Destitution was the furthest thing from Zieker’s plans, but, at age 18, there she was. Although adopted at an early age and raised in a stable home, Zieker always felt as if something was missing emotionally. She couldn’t seem to meet the “expectations” set for her. Starting at age 15 and continuing until she reached 18, Zieker sat through hours of therapy. She suffered from eating disorders and depression, which she says may have been brought on by her birth mother’s drug usage. Now looking back over her younger teenage years, she reflects on these challenges as symptoms of rebellion. At 18, the age when a girl is just transitioning into womanhood, Zieker became pregnant. Faced with having an abortion or pursuing adoption, she knew neither were roads she was willing to take. “Being adopted myself, I couldn’t do it. I realized there s a gap that no one could fill, she said. It was this decision of keeping her baby that led her to being homeless. After breaking the news to her parents about her pregnancy, they kicked her out. “They wanted nothing to do with me,” she said.
With $40 and her belongings, she left home to figure it all out for herself. Unwilling to take the steps offered to her (which some might say would have simplified her life landed her on the streets. But it was this decision that eventually led her to C as both student and advocate for students walking in these shoes. It was the need to do something to help herself that made her go to the local libraries of the Tri-Valley. She needed to know how to survive, how to look for help through the state’s government-run agencies and what type of help was available to her and countless others in her situation. “I spent hours in the library researching information on housing and services available for homeless people,” Zieker said. From sleeping in cars and homeless shelters and spending countless hours in the library, Zieker taught herself how to survive in this new way of life. She found information on services available to the homeless population using the public library system’s free computers. Having accumulated this plethora of knowledge, Zieker would later put together a manual, covering everything from home budgeting to moving, and this publication, “Housing Resources,” is made available through the C Cal s office. Once embarrassed by her situation and not wanting anyone to know, she lost sight of who she was. er self esteem and confidence were challenged. However, there’s beauty in her story. Along this journey there were friends made. Strangers giving to her, even if she was not seeking help. She recalls a time when someone gave her a pair of shoes and another gave $150 in cash. The shoes did not surprise her, but the cash was more than needed, and it fed her for a while. She even met and spent time with her biological mother along the way. Eventually she took pride in her experience, wishing to inspire others. “No person should be embarrassed about being homeless. Unfortunately we see it more often than not,” Zieker said. In California alone, the homeless population has grown dramatically over the last few years. According to a May 20, 2018 CNBC report by Jeff Daniels, “As California’s Homelessness Grows, the Crisis Emerges as a Major Issue in State’s Gubernatorial Race,” as of 2017, California had about 134,000 homeless people living in shelters, on the streets and in tent cities. Women make up at least a quarter of this epidemic. When Zieker speaks about the challenges during that time in her life, she is at peace, even if not all the pain is gone. She’s still a work in progress, but at
least there is light at the end of the tunnel. “If it hadn’t been for the alone time and experiencing what I did, I would have never been here,” she said. It was this time of desperation, along with the desire not to be just another teenaged mother working deadend jobs, that propelled Zieker to return to school. After being homeless for five years, moving from one state to the next while nine months pregnant, she returned home to California. Not to her parents’ house, but to an affordable roommate situation. or the first time in several years, Zieker had a bedroom and a bathroom to call her own. Things were beginning to look up. The decision to return to school was not an easy one. It caused her some apprehension, returning to a world she hadn t known in five years, the fear of failing close on her heels. That’s why setting the bar low for herself came easy. She never imagined the possibility of graduating with an associate degree in political science let alone thoughts of transferring to UC Berkeley to become lawyer. And yet, here she is. Working tirelessly as an advocate for the homeless in the CalWORKs department while carrying a full class load. And to top that off, she is now the mother of two. or the first time in a long time, I have stability in my life. A whole year,” she said, smiling. Not knowing how she was going to pay for school or school supplies is what led her to the department where she now works. CalWORKs showed her
how to apply for financial aid and Pell Grants that she uses to pay for school and take care of her home. “I don’t use that money for anything else,” she said. Zieker regards these additions to her CalWORKs earnings as blessings not to be squandered. “CalWORKs accepted me with open arms and no judgment, which meant a lot,” she said. It’s the stigma of being homeless that causes shame. Being frowned upon as if you don’t have a part in this great big world. Common assumptions — drugs, alcohol or other forms of abuse bringing on homelessness — are unfortunately true in some instances. A recent study by the Education Development Center (EDC) found that 49 percent of the homeless community met criteria for a severe mental illness and/or a chronic substance use disorder. Another factor is the risk of suicide while homeless. The same EDC study said, “Rates of suicide deaths among homeless individuals are approximately nine times higher than the general population.” Although Zieker suffered at times from depression throughout her ordeal, the thought of giving up was not a choice she considered. “I want to work at this for the rest of my life. Helping the homeless.” Paying it forward.
Photo courtesy of Kiley Zieker
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A Warrior Returns to the Theater
Words by Timothy Cech She developed a collection of voices. She could shift her expression dramatically in an instant, contort her face to assume a character. She crafted entire worlds with her imagination, which was fueled by her desire to escape. Then Eleisa Cambra would take those inner, private productions into the outer, public neighborhood. While girls her age labored over tilting lemonade stands in her Cold War Era-suburb, she performed shows for the neighborhood children. Makeshift curtains and cutout Styrofoam were the stage props for puppet renditions of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” She was a star actress and dedicated director. Her parents’ house was Broadway. She sold bags of popcorn for a nickel to an attentive audience. They didn’t know how much they were keeping her alive. They couldn’t know. The beatings and sexual abuse she endured were camouflaged behind painted doors and manicured lawn. The domestic façade is how the abuse continued unchecked into her adoles-
cence. Her mode of survival was endurance. Her way of enduring was escaping. Her way of escaping was absorbing herself in these worlds. “What I had to do to make it out of my family’s home alive,” she says, “I would go through the glass. The glass in the mirror. And live my life in this other world.” Today, 50 years later, Cambra is preparing another show in a different place. Walking into her condo is a special kind of disaster. The carpet is ripped from the living room, and only the coarse gray concrete leads a path through crusting paint buckets and water-damaged U-Haul boxes. A litter of adopted felines scramble past the tatted and blonde woman as she moves through the mess and into the equally disheveled master bedroom. Whatever enigmatic explosion was set off in this home left no evidence, remains hidden from sight, or maybe was never really destruction in the first place but some kind of unconventional evolution.
The likelihood of this third scenario becomes apparent in the backyard. Here is where former Las Positas College theater production student Eleisa Cambra refers to as “the healing place.” It has a mysterious symmetry and order with the arrangement of potted lilac and ivy, a few gifted from family and even more inherited from deceased friends. Icons and messages are hidden in the draping greenery. A bent-forward powder white troll. A porcelain Buddha with a Happy Jack pirate hat. Parallel lines of sunlight pierce an awning fixed above a redwood patio. This is less a backyard and more an optical illusion with a transient mental twist. Every piece serves some imperceptible and vital purpose. This backyard, in actuality, is a declaration. This is Cambra’s choice to transcend into freedom over writhing in pain. This is Cambra, rejecting existence as a survivor of sexual abuse and embracing life as a superhero of woman empowerment. To merely survive, negotiating the static of trauma, is not enough. Her purpose mandates the walls of gender inequality be knocked down with a sledgehammer. Yet she knows a single person cannot wring out the injustices soaked into society. For Cambra, engaging the Tri-Valley community with an ever-changing troupe of warrior women, it is an attack at some of the load-bearing support that separates women from true equality. And it all began with a series of monologues performed by non-actors.
“We’re not victims anymore,” she says. “And I’m not a survivor. I’m not. I’m a motherfucking warrior.” And she is back. The annual production of “The Vagina Monologues,” put on by The Tri-Valley Haven, had been dormant for five years. ut now it is returning along with Cambra, its pioneering director — set for April 5 to 6 at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore, during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Currently 22 actresses are cast, most from previous productions, and Cambra already knows where the forthcoming rehearsals will be held. “Here in the healing place.” Cambra is imagining the 2019 fundraiser with bigger ambition. On the Saturday of the performance, she is planning a women-centric festival with stalls, pop-ups and musicians. She sees the event, which is open to men, as a public opportunity to keep the collective voice of women heard, at least at a regional level. The show’s return comes at a particularly resonant time in gender equality. Cambra is a model of the times. Her life is a microcosm of women’s current defiance of abuse and degradation. he epitomi es how trauma has not quenched the spirit of resolve. It is a battle she continues to fight even at age . Earlier this year one of Cambra’s best friends, whom she declines to name, sexually assaulted her by forcing oral sex from her. She now keeps a dagger in her car. Cambra refuses to have her purpose shattered or
The 2008 cast of “The Vagina Monolouges” rehearses at Tri-Valley Haven in Livermore, Calif. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Staehle.
allow injustice to alter her ethic. In doing so, she’s chosen to use her experience for a greater purpose. “It has not been an easy life,” says Wendy Wisely, Cambra’s former instructor at Las Positas. “The cards that she’s been dealt, and continues to be dealt, are ones that will break a lot of people. She never let those burdens come into the rehearsal space. Ever. But if you knew her, you knew it was there. It just makes you want to try harder for her.” The 2006 economic downturn was reaching a quickened dip. In the following years, state and federal funding for crisis programs and shelters, such as the ivermore non profit ri alley aven, were set for critical cutbacks. According to a 2011 survey of domestic violence programs by Mary Kay Inc., 47 percent of shelters had limited their services due to the economy. Of those programs, 72 percent canceled or scaled back their services, while 63 percent eliminated staff positions. And the Tri-Valley Haven was not impervious to the financial crisis. The issue, however, didn’t decrease with the services. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control found that about 1 in 5 women in the U.S., and 1 in 71 men, have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lifetime. Nearly half (44.6 percent) of all women and just over a fifth . percent of all men have experienced other forms of sexual violence — including sexual coercion, unwanted touching and noncontact unwanted sexual experiences. It was in that climate, in 2006, when Cambra was working as de-facto resident stage manager at the Village Theater. Before one show at this tiny space in Danville, she greeted a group of friends just before curtain up. Among the group was an employee of a local women’s crisis center who harbored her own theatrical aspirations. “We really needed a fundraiser and also to get word out to the community,” says Christine Dillman, director of sexual assault and counseling services at the Tri-Valley Haven. The Haven, as it’s called, is the only rape-crisis center in the area. It also provides off-site shelter to families escaping domestic violence.
Key services offered by the Haven were at risk. Unbudgeted client necessities such as medicine, shoes and functional kitchen appliances. Even basic needs like electricity and running water. Everybody was in jeopardy. To address the looming funding reduction, Dillman and the administrative staff of the Haven imagined a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” The proceeds would help mitigate the problem. The play, originally written as a one-woman show, was culled from over 200 interviews with women and explores subjects ranging from the serious to the comic. Each monologue addresses truths of female experience through meditations on identity, empowerment and oppression. Though the primary aim was raising vital donations, the Haven also believed a dramatic production could help galvani e the community in a time of anxiety. Without the resources, experience or womanpower to mount such an event, they required someone who not only understood their vision and mission but also could make it reality. They found Cambra. “Honey!” Cambra said to Dillman. “You just hit the jackpot!” In 1995 Cambra and her two young sons, Erik and rew, fled to the ay rea to break free from her abusive husband. They referred to this journey as “The Great Escape.” The abuse had extended beyond emotional and physical to insane. In the months leading up to “The Great Escape,” Cambra’s husband had poured gasoline over the backyard garden and lit a match. It wasn’t the last straw but the opening salvo for a level of domestic abuse that up to that point remained behind curtained windows. Although Erik and Drew were never targets of this behavior, eventually Cambra saw the chance for a new life and she took it. Leaving with her boys represented a new start. Life as a battered wife is such a prison she saw single motherhood as liberation.
“I was really lucky I was able to raise these guys. I was so lucky with them,” Cambra says. A sense of play was encouraged in their new home. Cambra devised a made-up language, equal parts gibberish and alliterative syllables. Where Drew could understand these cadences, Erik couldn’t translate. “He’d say, ‘We need a grown-up in the house.’ And I’d say, ‘Tag! You’re it!’” Cambra recalls. More attuned to conventional family dynamics, Erik carried this quality into his adult years. He ultimately married and then fathered two children of his own, both of them girls. Cambra was 36 when she enrolled at Las Positas College as a theater arts student. Her youngest son, Drew, was often her sidekick in class as she studied under instructors such as Wendy Wisely and Ken Ross. From 1996 to 2002, Cambra crewed on nearly every student production as stage manager, from the li abethan he Tempest” to the contemporary “The Laramie Project.” In the Mertes Theater hallway, the walls are covered with photo mosaics of past productions. Cambra and Drew’s faces are all over them. “She was a good model for the family gets involved,” Wisely says. t was isely who first referred Cambra to regional theater as paying gig while working in the public school system as a special-needs counselor. As with LPC productions, her son came with the package. He built and designed sets during her tenure at theaters in Lafayette and Danville. he had long recogni ed theater to be her purpose in life. Drew, who became a highly regarded tattoo artist in later years, shared her passion. Until the night she was offered and accepted “The Vagina Monologues” gig, Cambra had only been a stage manager. So directing for the Haven was a significant first. espite being an unpaid volunteer position, it was for a cause greater than general entertainment. Contributing to an institution that advocated for domestic abuse and sexual assault survivors was an opportunity too special to decline. he first he agina onologues fundraiser re-
quired six months of rehearsal for Cambra and the cast of three non-professional actresses employed by the Haven. The production compensated for lack of sheen with creativity. emori ing the material posed a challenge for the actresses, so Cambra crafted props with the monologues on them and incorporated them into the performance action. Even the lighting represented this attitude of ingenuity. “Somebody’s boyfriend had lighting for a disco thing, so we had this weird lighting,” Cambra says. The show opened April 20, 2007, at the Livermore Veterans Memorial Building, and its single performance exceeded the Haven’s modest expectations. All 200 seats were sold. e reali ed after the first show that we needed a bigger venue,” Dillman says. The 2008 and 2009 fundraisers moved to the 507-seat Bankhead Theater in Livermore for a non profit rate and added a second day of performances, a trend that continues today. Aside from the cost of renting the space, all money earned has gone to the Haven. The number of actresses would also expand. The 2008 cast increased to 12, and the 2009 cast jumped to 23. Auditions opened to the public, drawing the participation of KKIQ radio personality Faith Alpher. In a Pleasanton Weekly article published four days prior to curtain, Alpher said, “This production is one of the most intense pieces of work I have ever done. My experience in “The Vagina Monologues” is a very personal one. I really feel like I’m healing from the inside out.” icki hompson, five time veteran of these shows and director of domestic violence services at the Haven, says, “It’s impossible to do this without being touched personally by it.” Cambra directed six of the eight productions between 2006 and 2014. She only missed the two because after the 2009 fundraiser she took a sabbatical to rehab from shoulder surgeries. It was during this time she experienced sexual assault. Her arm was in a sling as she recovered from
home. Someone pounded belligerently on her front a toddler. Such often isn’t covered by grants, and door. Cambra opened to find an old fling staring there is little flexibility for general use. through the exposed space. After the 2014 fundraiser closing night, Cambra She said she fooled around with this man, whom wouldn’t participate in anything related to theater, she declined to name, for years. But she had ended either as director or spectator, for another five the relationship months prior. She told him to leave. years. Her return this year carries the weight of two He pushed through the thin barrier between them, bookending events. The most recent is the 2018 sexoverpowering her and charging into her home. He ual assault by her best friend. ustified the intrusion by insisting to use the bathut it is the first event that changed life forever. room. On Nov. 11, 2015, her son Drew took his own life. Before long, he was trying to lift up her shirt. Pain She received the news days after a hip surgery, shot through her injured arm as she fought to keep while recovering from home. Confined to bed and her clothing on. Saying the word “no” offered little immobile, a network of friends, family and actresssafeguard against his persistence. es surrounded Cambra as the world He didn’t penetrate her, but became its darkest. his predation left a significant The loss of Drew motivated mark. Cambra to again embrace “I am not invincible,” the purpose that has she remembers thinking guided her path since to herself. “I mean, childhood. He, too, here I am 40-someis in the healing thing years old, place. and I’m going, Before ripping ‘Oh shit. I’m not up the carinvincible.’ I have pets, painting never felt so the walls and vulnerable. remodeling the “Even from condo from the when I was little inside, Cambra and this was began with the happening, I think outside. because I would go While craftthrough the miring her backyard ror, nothing really sanctuary, she was touched me back then given potted wanEleisa Cambra with Erik (left) and Drew (right). as far as feeling vulnerdering gypsy, a gift Photo courtesy of Eleisa Cambra. able.” from her son Erik and his The trajectory of Cambra’s family, and hung it above a life has been a continuous rejecwooden potting bench next to a tion of victimi ation, and her fidelity Buddha statue. She chose a ceramic to this attitude wouldn’t keep her out of pirate to represent Drew. The decoration action long. didn’t last. It fell and was irreparably broken. Among Two years following the assault, the Haven asked the scattered pieces, the skull and crossbones hat Cambra to direct the fundraiser again. For the 2013 somehow survived. and 2014 shows, they were switching the venue from It sits now on the head of the stone Buddha. So the Bankhead Theater to the Mertes Center for the now rew is symboli ed as uddha wearing a pirate Arts at Las Positas College, Cambra’s alma mater. hat. She accepted. “After Drew died, I’m invincible again,” she says. “I wasn’t going to let what other people did affect “When you have the worst day of your life, and you my character,” she says. know it, you don’t give a fuck. Nobody can do anyThe 2013 show raised $35,000. This bounty is cruthing to me that’s going to rock me. Ever. I think cial even in more financially stable periods. unding because I have that, I need to use that. For good.” seldom covers vital-but-random expenses, such as medication for a five year old or a pair of shoes for
Lifeline The call can come at any time. Some shifts go without a single one. Others happen through an all-nighter. But it’s essential that a voice responds at the other end. The call can be a matter of life or death. They are victims of sexual assault, requiring an advocate for a forensic exam. Others are wives and mothers desperate to escape abusive households. Even more don’t have a home. Countless more never get the chance to make a call that could save their lives. The phone is the lifeline, and trained volunteers are its lifeblood. All direct service operators require 70 hours training that meets state standards. Once completed, they field over , calls a year from domestic violence and sexual abuse victims. rom modest beginnings, of fielding crisis hotline calls from a private residence with a rotary phone and gingerbread bake sales to finance articles of incorporation paperwork, Tri-Valley Haven has since flourished into a comprehensive network of services, including safe houses, counselors and community education. he non profit organi ation doesn t adhere to any specific religious creed their aim is supporting all clients in need, regardless of individual belief systems. Vicki Thompson, the director of domestic violence services at Tri-Valley Haven, says, “The crisis line is the main portal to most of our services.” They offer two shelters in non-disclosed locations. One site accommodates 30 beds for battered women and their children. The second serves homeless women, with 16 beds available. Through the crisis line, an advocate will have done a phone screen, met the client at another location and be moving them to a safe house within 24 hours. If space isn’t available, the Haven assists with referrals to other shelters or helps with a motel until a bed is free. Weekly in-house counseling groups discuss domestic violence, addiction, parenting and life-skills support systems. Problems addressed through such sessions range from larger emotional needs to more practical necessities.
A Women’s Sanctuary
Christine Dillman, director of sexual assault and counseling services, explains, “If you have that client need . . . a single mom left with just the clothes on her back, and she needs an outfit for a ob interview, we can spend the money on that.” Other services include a legal clinic that helps with restraining orders, free grocery distribution to over 4,000 low-income families and domestic violence and sexual assault support groups. The Haven represents a local contribution toward the larger prevailing women’s rights issues. As with most grassroots initiatives, it remains a small curative to a larger disease. At least in California, recent state-level bills and budgetary decisions point the path toward hope. In June 2018, the California state budget announced that $10 million in new funding would be allocated to Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Prevention. In a joint statement from California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and California Partnership to nd omestic iolence: lthough the final funding differs from our original million ask, we recogni e that the budget process involves a series of complex negotiations reflecting the core values and priorities of our state.” State aid and grant awards that had been under threat of reduction seem to be stabili ing. fter a decade of slow progress and gradual social awareness, in tandem with essential state level funding, deficiencies are being addressed and alleviated. he shelter has received significant funding from the California overnor s ffice of mergency ervices from their Domestic Violence Assistance Program ($422,477 in 2016) and Rape Crisis Program , in , in addition to benefiting from regional level contracts and grants. But the need for volunteers, both direct service and event-related, will always be required. “We really couldn’t do it without them. They’re what helps keeps us going 24/7,” Thompson says. More information about Tri-Valley Haven services and programs can be found at www.trivalleyhaven.org or their crisis lines at (925) 449-5842.
Photo by Timothy Cech
A Pawsome Experience An Exploration of the
Words by Jon Chiarello
In Great Britain, Jess Parnell of Kloofsuits is working in her garage. She begins with the head. First she pulls a balaclava over a mannequin bust to establish a base layer. Then she overlays the fabric with the cut foam, forming a muzzle, ears and brow ridges of the face. She glues and carves the foam until the crude elements begin to resemble an onyx. After that, she trims the excess foam to make it smooth, so the fur wonâ€™t be bumpy in those spots. She references her spec sheet. Wielding scissors and a hot glue gun, she uses these common materials to birth a brand new character into the world. The furry fandom is a group of people who
fuse anthropomorphic animal characters with human characteristics. Furries, as theyâ€™re called, can be described as bipedal animals possessing human intelligence. As a collective, furry fandom appeals to those strongly infatuated with the animal-centric idols in popular culture. Only 10 to 15 percent of the furry fandom actually have their own fur-suit because of the high costs for commissions offered by companies like Kloofsuits. Many furries either make their own or do not have a suit at all. Much of what a furry is has historically been reduced to its sexual aspects. People in animal costumes yiffing in erotic chatrooms, artwork endowing fantasy creatures with embellished sex organs. ratification of this type can be ascribed
to nearly every subunit of popular culture. they meet in the virtual space, forging new herever there is a group of amily uy fans, bonds with fursonas from another side of the there is a group to sexualize its characters. This world. is human nature, and that nature translates Alexa Lowe, a student at Las Positas and most of what we see, hear and feel in sexual design mentor for this magazine, is active in terms. this fandom. At a young age she participated But there is another aspect of the oft-deridin groups centered on anime characters such as ed furry that is overlooked, one that resonates Pokemon and Neopets. In junior high, she joined with its participants as its primary appeal. a drawing community that fostered young feA May 12, 2017, article male artists like her. published in Psychology This group introduced Today titled “More Than Just Lowe to the practice of a Pretty Face: Unmasking drawing mythical anthropothe urry andom, says, morphic creatures, even as “A furry is a fan. Just like the designs began to deviate ‘Star Trek’ fans are a fan of from realistically rendered ‘Star Trek,’ and sports fans anthropomorphic parts. of sports. Furries are fans of Lowe developed her furmedia that features walking sona into a devil-horned cat talking animal characters. with dragon wings. She says, Fascination with these “I’ve always had a fascinaIllustration by Alexa Lowe fantastical remixes has transtion with mythical creatures, formed into the development of akin to chimeras, and I like to the fursona. fursona is an avatar, a creative draw weird mashups of creatures on my sketchdream made real. It is an alter-ego developed pad. t is this fusion that makes the sub genre by the follower. Equal parts mascot and person- so appealing to its adherents. alized icon, a fursona is used to relate a furry’s he posts her artwork to her ur ffinity actrue self to the world. It also is an opportunity count, a digital portfolio meant for furry artto focus their artistic drives. ists. This online platform promotes the fandom They manifest in all shapes, sizes and speto those who didn’t believe their tastes had a cies. At Anthrocon, one of the United States’ home or an audience. It began as an outlet for largest gatherings of fursona, a mohawked shark artists to share illustrations of favorite cartoon converses with a tattooed red fox. Fursonas characters, but has evolved into a peer-run aren’t limited to convention halls, either. They master’s class. Ultimately, the fandom took on meet in public parks for barbecues, they attend a life of its own and quickly became populated midnight openings of isney s ootopia, and with designs of original characters. No longer funny, jokey parodies, the tone of the illustrations became more serious and personal. The rise of the furry culture began. Lowe says this like-minded community and its creations inspired her. It allowed a glimpse of an alternate world, a vista of modified realism. The furry culture allowed Lowe a remarkable step out of the norm. It can be whatever a person can imagine, populated with pink sea otters with bat wings and sunglass-wearing gryphons with glowing unicorn horns. Many furs participate in online role play, or RP. The start was a text-based format called Furry Multi User Chat Kingdom, M.U.C.K. for short, and it let fursona imaginations run wild. Photo Courtesy of Douglas Muth on Wikifur
creen capture of
econd ife by on Chiarello
In this online town, you can talk to anyone, be anybody. An alternative to M.U.C.K. is Multi-User Dungeons (M.U.D.). Both serve as an online gathering of fursona and the furry curious, allowing a virtual environment to RP and socialize. Another more visual format is Second Life, a 3-D online virtual world where users adopt roles and participate in tasks reminiscent of the real world. The majority of furs use this application to RP and explore worlds. In Second Life, furs do what they can’t in real life: be accepted as their fursona. Abaddon Strife, the pseudonym of a Fur living in Virginia, describes Second Life activities as hanging out at clubs and hanging with friends. An article published by On Demand News reports, “Life in the big city can be stressful, which is why some people in Northern Mexico dress up as large furry animals and go out in public. This is the furry movement, and sweeping that town. Arctico, an ice blue husky dog, describes a fursona costume as “A suit that people wear, so they can be their original characters in the real world. Most furries say that the furry fandom is light-hearted fascination that spreads their love for animals by dressing as them. A fur named Aduraty based in New Mexico says that once he puts his fursona outfit on, it gives him more
confidence and makes him more affectionate. ife in a city can be stressful, and it s difficult to release negative vibes. He was interviewed on the n emand ews ou ube channel, saying he puts on a large furry animal costume in order to become his real self. Tarrynt Volker, a German Shepard from Texas, says, “Dressing up in those suits allows you more free space to look and also act differently. The appeal of wearing a fur-suit is that you look like them. They are showing the true self— the selves they want to be. It also makes the furry feel free within the sense that their physical selves are left out. estre e ama, a multicolored hyvanine hyena, fox, ackal hybrid and ou uber from Chicago, says, ou get to express yourself in a way you find fun to share with others. For furries everywhere, becoming a mythical chimera is a way of asserting identity. Whether it’s through an original character suit or a digital model, it offers an escape. A platform for expression, a creative outlet and a large community of friends. But the fandom and the suits are not for the faint of heart. DeRama suggests installing a fan in the fabric to stay well ventilated under all that fur.
A normal person looks at a sheet of canvas as blank and boring. But when a furry artist looks at the same paper, they see a horizon of different possibilities, where they implement their talents. Drawing from real animals and people, they apply this knowledge of anatomy into their imagination’s creative feed. The same piece of paper becomes a work of art and the genesis of a new character. This is where a fursona comes from. Artists in the furry fandom imagine fascinating situations in their heads, such as a fox admiring the night’s sky, and craft these visions with a wide range of art styles. These range from cute cartoony to more adult and professional. Such fantastic sights are brought to life with this art style as a sense of consciousness is given to these ordinary creatures. For example, picture a red fox with a white tail that has the ability to understand life as humans do. Then place it on a pirate ship, fighting skeletons, on its way to a cave to find treasure. The furry artist pulls all these elements together into art that stands out from the others. This concept is hardly new and can be traced to antiquity. ccording to the urryfandom official website, “People have been drawing anthropomorphized animals for thousands of years from
prehistoric cave paintings to representations of gyptian gods. It is only within the last two decades where a vocal fan base has emerged. Nowadays, websites post articles dedicated to furry drawing tips, sometimes including entire how-to art books on the style. Etrian Kalistar, an online furry, says, “In furry art, anthropomorphic generally means an animal or mythological creature given a human body and features. Lowe, the LPC student and design mentor for this magazine, says, “My character is more of an artistic representation of me rather than a character in a story. hen she draws a design, she uses what she has learned about animal anatomy to create what she has imagined in her mind. Lowe draws her inspiration from many different sources. ometimes influenced by animals she grew up with, such as cats. Other times it is from fantasy-related media she observed at a young age, such as dragons. But she is always looking for more sources of inspiration. “I developed an addiction to drawing characters and creatures with horns and hooves, especially goats, so it made sense to combine it into my character, owe says. Her interest with goats is semi-recent and came from playing a lot of “World of War-
craft. laying the proved a good source of inspiration for her real-life art. She’d draw her avatar many times and expanded her grasp of animal anatomy. e ama, the ou ube vlogger from Chicago, says, our back story can be pretty much anything you can think of. Good, evil, gray area, casual, dramatic or horror. Let yourself be inspired by stories you ve heard or made. hen he was creating his fursona, he wanted to combine elements of different animals. For the color, he chose a black and white design similar to a playing card. After designing and developing the character’s identity, the next step is building the character in real life, with real materials. “Generally, you'll want to buy online for fuller, higher quality fur, but they aren't too much more expensive than a place like Jo-Ann’s depending on where you look, e ama says. t is important to note that not all fur-suits require real fur as a fabric. Explaining his own fur-suit, DeRama says, “I was initially going to be just a fur-suit design because my previous fursona had a hard time matching fur colors to actual fur. He also stated it's pretty easy to join the furry group. Local online groups through a Google search or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter host many. The new fursona can use furry sites like ur ffinity, o urry, nk unny, Wikifur and Weasyl for even more options. If a convention is more your game, the furry fandom has plenty of conventions around the world, such as Further Confusion or Anthrocon, which features artists and venders alike. e ama says ou choose to consider yourself a furry. It just depends on where you want to go with what you like to do.
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