Spring 2016, issue 2
The BCC Voice
From Police Officer to Professor
Katherine Koelle's Journey to Berkeley City College
ON THE COVER: Dan Schmatz is a space creature in disguise as a man creature, but DON'T tell anyone. He landed in Oakland from planet New Jersey 6 years ago and still can't fix his ship. Works with ink and markers to make illustrations which are then collaged with Earth Magazine media snippets. He has produced artwork for bands and websites that have appeared in Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan, Talkhouse Music, etc.
Website: danschmatz.com Email: email@example.com Instagram: @vomitfromscratch
CONTENTS PAGE: Michelle Ramin has exhibited locally and internationally, including at SOMArts, Southern Exposure, and Incline Gallery in San Francisco. Her work has been featured in the SF Chronicle, SF Weekly, New American Paintings, Beautiful Decay, and 580 Split. Ramin was also awarded the prestigious San Francisco Bay Guardian 2014 Goldie Award for Excellence in Visual Art and her work is included in the Jimenez-Colon permanent collection in Puerto Rico. She currently lives and works in San Francisco.
The BCC VOICE is produced by English 14/15 students at Berkeley City College, with funding from the Associated Students. A special thank you to the ASBCC, the BCC English Department, administrators, faculty, and students who make this school great!
Inside This Issue
ONE: From Police Officer to Professor
TWO: It's Never Too Late to Start
THREE: All Hands on Deck
FOUR: Behind Company Lines
FIVE: Company Lines Continued
SIX: Yes Means Yes
SIX: Palm Oil
SEVEN: Hip-Hop Aesthetics
EIGHT: Bay Area Housing Blues
NINE: What Nourishes BCC Students?
TEN: Oakland's Monthly Street Party
By Louis Do
If you were to see Katherine "Katie" Koelle, one of BCC's exalted English professors, you would agree that her profession suits her personality. Koelle is a pleasant woman of middle age whose even-tempered demeanor is apparent, which makes the fact that she was once a reserve officer in the Oakland Police Department even more astonishing.
"Many people know that I am a teacher," Koelle said. "I must look like a teacher for some reason. I don't look like a police officer, so people are surprised."
Koelle grew up in Swarthmore, a small college town in Pennsylvania. After college, in 1978, she moved across the country to the Bay Area, with the intention of becoming an elementary teacher, but changed course to become an English instructor instead. During this period, she held odd jobs such as being a server, teaching junior high, and finally as a secretary in the Oakland PD's Assault Section.
"I was interested in the work, but I knew I didn’t want to be a police officer for my career, so the alternative was to take reserve officer training, which was an abbreviated police academy."
Koelle reflected on the differences of the police department she served in during the 1980s, compared to the police one would see now in the news.
"We had really incredible training. I know that the police have a bad rap now, but it was a good department when I was there," she said. The recruits during the time were trained in weaponless defense, methods of subduing a suspect, and only resorting to using a police baton or gun as a last resort. Koelle and her fellow recruits were taught that, "Your best weapon is your mouth. You talked somebody down."
Koelle and her fellow reservists were successful in practicing weaponless defense, but it was not an easy feat or a time without fear. It was not something that could be practiced, but was about using their skills to deescalate conflicts while on patrol.
“You had to be careful for your life and the lives of people around you.”
Two moments of California history that Koelle was able to witness and serve in were the Bay Area earthquake in 1989, and the Rodney King Riots in 1992.
“It was really great to be able to go out and help on those nights, but it was scary, especially during the Rodney King Riots, because you didn’t know what was going to happen. I was lucky.”
Koelle still remembers her firearms training with clarity. Shooting was not a skill that came naturally to her, and she had great difficulty until an instructor gave her some advice.
"You can't compare yourself to these guys who grew up shooting guns. You've never done it before. You can't expect to be as good as these guys."
Koelle was not the best shooter in her class, but she did well enough afterwards because the pressure to perform was lifted from her mind.
Her police reservist training served to influence the way Koelle approached education when she started teaching at BCC in 1990. The training helped shape her definition of self-confidence, and allowed her to be more sympathetic to students in her class who have difficulties with writing.
"If you haven't written a lot, or if you are not comfortable with writing, you can't be mad at yourself because the person next to you who has been writing and reading for years is really good and you're not. You just have to compare yourself to yourself.”
Instructor Koelle’s story shows another side to a professor. Students are often so engrossed in their assignments, that they forget professors have past stories, which can even shape their methodology for teaching today.
BCC English Professor Katie Koelle.
Photo Credit: Sharon Gibbons
"Our next training sessions will be on June 16, 18, and 23," says Library Counselor Linda Sakamoto-Jahnke. "You just have to download the forms on the Berkeley Public Library web page."
Nicole Beadle, EBRPD Wildlife Intern, plants new plants at Elsie Roemer.
By Sharon Gibbons
Enjoy nature in some beautiful local settings; volunteer to plant native plants, pull weeds, and clean up trash during the week or on weekends. Relax and enjoy the fresh air, while helping sponsoring organizations, such as East Bay Regional Parks Department (EBRPD), Golden Gate Audubon (GGA), Save the Bay, and others, perform habitat restoration around the Bay.
The EBRPD invites you to volunteer at the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary near Crown Beach in Alameda. “It’s a great opportunity volunteering this spring,” says Nicole Beadle, EBRPD wildlife intern. “They will be planting lots of natives and it will be very satisfying to see the progress.” David Riensche, alias “Doc Quack,” EBRPD wildlife biologist, describes volunteers as “the backbone of the park district’s maintenance and enhancement of habitat for endangered species.” The plantings are done above the tidal marsh wetlands that are normally off limits to people. Come visit and work in this wild and rugged setting with colorful flocks of shorebirds feeding in the mudflats.
By planting native habitats for wildlife, you can help make the Bay more resilient to the effects of climate change, especially sea level rise and flooding. Golden Gate Audubon has weekend volunteers planting and weeding at Arrowhead Marsh in Oakland. “We are being proactive and establishing an upland transit zone with plants that can handle some salt water,” describes GGA Restoration Specialist Kisha Mitchell-Miller. This will provide protective cover and healthy habitat for wildlife retreating from sea level rise. “It’s amazing to have this special area, that is a working ecosystem located between the Oakland airport and the Coliseum, that gets people outside biking and walking,” says Scott Zimmer, GGA restoration intern. “I will come again!” states first-time volunteer and Oakland Firefighter, Maria Sabattivi, during a recent Saturday event, planting and picking up trash.
Volunteers can work on a special project hosted by Save the Bay, called the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee project. This is an outdoor lab combining a wetland basin and an experimental levee or habitat slope to study the the water filtering abilities of soil, subsoil layers and native plants. Scientists are investigating natural solutions to problems of flooding and sea level rise.
“In June, Bay Area voters will have an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate improvements around the Bay that will benefit people and wildlife and make our economy more resilient to climate change. Vote yes on Measure AA for a Clean & Healthy Bay this June. This modest, $12. parcel tax will generate badly needed funding for restoration of San Francisco Bay wetlands, benefiting people, wildlife and the Bay Area economy,” says Monica Canfield-Lenfest, Save the Bay Editor and Outreach Manager.
First-time volunteer and Oakland firefighter, Maria Sabbattivi, plants in the upland transit zone.
All Hands on Deck
The Bay Needs Our Hands
Intern Scott Zimmer shows how to plant natives at Arrowhead Marsh.
Photo Credit: Lis Arevalo
Golden Gate Audubon volunteers clean up trash at Arrowhead Marsh.
By Lis Arevalo
Could you imagine living with not being able to read and write? Life wouldn’t be too easy if you hadn’t learned these basic skills that allow people to participate in society, would it? According to the Literacy Project Foundation, there are 6 million students in the California school system and 25 percent of them don’t understand what they read. This worsens when it concerns adults: 44 million of them are unable to read a story to their children and 50 percent of these adults cannot read a book written at an eighth grade level. Illiteracy is a major problem because it does not allow people to participate appropriately in society as citizens, workers, or family members.
In 1987 this problem was already identified. The statistics were different; it seems that literacy problems have increased with the advancement of technology, but the results are similar: Americans read below the level needed to earn a living wage, and reading tests at school can serve as early markers along the school-to-prison pipeline.
To help to solve this crisis, Adult Literacy Services are available through California’s public libraries. One of these programs is Berkeley READS. This free, volunteer-based program provides confidential services and literacy support services. Free instructional material is given to participants, and they are matched with a tutor for one-on-one tutoring or assigned to small group instruction. Berkeley READS also offers English literacy instruction for immigrants and literacy in basic computer skills.
The BCC Voice talked to Linda Sakamoto-Janhke, who is the Library Literacy Coordinator at Berkeley Public Library, West Branch. Berkeley READS started about thirty years ago, according to Sakamoto-Jahnke, and it is part of the California Literacy Programs for adults. Volunteers are students and people from different backgrounds who are interested in improving their knowledge about literacy. Some of them come from BCC, as part of the Work and Study Program. Prospective tutors receive free training sessions before they start. They should be older than 18 years old to get engaged in this program, have a high school diploma and interest in different kinds of literacy learning.
The next training program is in June, and is offered in three sessions. This requires a commitment of at least six months to the program. People who want to work with adults should be patient and sympathetic, as well as compassionate, and understand there are many reasons an adult may not have achieved these skills that are considered basic in our society: years in prison serving a sentence, economic disadvantages, a physical condition, etc.
Berkeley READS offers this disadvantaged population not only the opportunity to improve their literacy skills and work with the support of a tutor, but also sessions of Health Literacy, Book Club, Financial Literacy, Cultural Arts Literacy and many more.
The program goes beyond only teaching participants to read and write. Berkeley READS promotes presentations of their new, proud readers who are not only happy because they are able to read a whole book, but also because they can present their feelings and impressions about their readings. This is crucial for building better self-esteem and a better rapport with the community.
College students are welcome to be part of Berkeley READS. Being a volunteer is a fantastic opportunity to meet other people, while improving your skills and building new ones. Volunteers acquire work experience and consciousness about what it means to help others solve their problems.
“Working with challenged populations teaches compassion and sensitivity,” said Sakamoto-Jahnke. “I think it is a good opportunity to develop as a person.”
When volunteering, students can relate the experience to their academic fields and have a lot of material to create new projects in their areas of expertise. Volunteering in a library could be a great pleasure for those who love to read and write, and want to use their skills to help others have better lives, improve their possibilities of getting a job, and help them to be better citizens. Why not take the challenge? Volunteer today!
It's Never Too Late to Start
Berkeley READS Since 1987 Helping to Change Adults' Lives
Photo Credit: Ted Trautman
Trautman, in one of many such photos posted on social media to improve his chances of being hired for sharing economy jobs.
By Patrick Kruger
The recent explosion of app-based startups—detailed in Spring 2016 Issue 1 by staff writer Louis Do (“Bringing the Business”)—has consumers celebrating new-found convenience and those in the tech industry seeing dollar signs. Known collectively as the sharing economy, companies such as Uber, Postmates, DoorDash, and Instacart (all San Francisco-based) are transforming the service industry in the Bay Area and beyond. With the hype machine at full-throttle behind this apparent revolution, savvy consumers and investors may be wise to tap the brakes—at least enough to ask a few questions.
For the past year, Bay Area journalist Ted Trautman has been doing just that, taking jobs with a host of app-based startups to investigate the industry from the inside. Trautman, 31, holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Philosophy from Wittenberg University and a master’s in Journalism from UC Berkeley. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Slate Magazine, among others. Originally from Minnesota, Trautman has lived in Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, and Argentina. He currently resides in San Jose, Calif., where The BCC Voice sat down with him to discuss his latest venture.
I understand you’re working on a book about the sharing economy. What can you tell me about that?
The sharing economy is sort of a myth. That’s part of the argument I’m trying to make, that it’s a patina of newness—which is smartphones and apps and all that—on the very old service economy. People act like it’s a revolution, when really it’s just a slightly more convenient way of summoning someone to clean your house or deliver your lunch.
Do you have other concerns, beyond the possibility that this supposed economic sea change is being exaggerated?
What I think has been overlooked is the impact on workers. These companies—Uber, Postmates, whoever —they package their marketing: “Not only is our service convenient, it’s also a wonderful advance for workers.” They talk about flexibility, and that’s essentially the only argument in favor of it.
Here’s my criticism: they don’t have to spend a lot of energy defending the wages—which are often very low—or safety risks, or background checks, simply because the job is flexible, and people want flexible. This shouldn’t be sufficient. Flexibility is a fine thing, but it doesn’t exempt these companies from being accountable to labor regulation, which is something they’ve been actively working against. Labor laws can’t keep up with the industry right now. Companies have found a loophole, which is that, if they hire people as independent contractors rather than employees, the company isn’t responsible for anything. Minimum wage laws don’t apply to independent contractors. That’s being exploited.
That’s the case with Uber, right? They’re all independent contractors. Who else is running on that model?
Pretty much everyone. Lyft (also cars), DoorDash (delivery service), Postmates (delivery). Instacart is one I’ve been paying attention to lately. They are an interesting counterpoint. There are two paths for Instacart workers: you can be an independent contractor like at all these other companies, or you can opt to be a part-time employee, which a lot of people celebrate as a concession to these criticisms. But I think that’s kind of dressed up. Page one of the application to become a part-time employee—they are very explicit about this—states that you will never work more than 29 hours per week. That’s an important cutoff, because it exempts them from having to worry about insurance, overtime, etc.
Have you noticed, from company to company, a substantial difference in the way you’re treated as an employee?
The differences between them are small. For example, at DoorDash and Postmates, you get trained at a rented office space somewhere. Instacart—I think this is a measure of how many people they have to train due to high turnover—they don’t even bother to rent an office. I was literally trained in the parking lot of a Whole Foods. I thought we were meeting at a Whole Foods because we would go into the store. They partner with Whole Foods, so I thought they would show us how to do things in the store. We never went inside.
Yeah. The drop off is steep for any of these companies, not just delivery, but for Uber, for all of them. People work for a couple weeks, maybe a couple months, and then the vast majority disappear because they don’t get paid that well. I’ve found, in general, a willingness to waste workers’ time. If I got a job at a Starbucks or Walmart and I’m getting trained, that’s paid time. Because I’m an independent contractor, that doesn’t happen. The training sessions are unpaid. DoorDash training started more than half an hour late.
My first day with Postmates, I went up to a bookstore in Mountain View, and the credit card they gave me wasn’t activated. I was supposed to buy a newspaper, which cost like $2. You get 45 minutes from when you accept an order until delivery, or you get yelled at. I sat in that bookstore for half an hour waiting for them to call me back. I got a bad review and it ended up being an hour wasted.
You couldn’t have paid with your own money and been reimbursed?
I could have paid with my own money.
But you would not have been reimbursed?
No. A similar situation came up with DoorDash. When you order through DoorDash, they have one box for directions for the restaurant, and one box for directions for the driver. So an appropriate direction for the driver would be, “My doorbell doesn’t work.” I get messages in the driver box that are like, “Be sure to get the sauce.” I’m at this wing place, and I was directed to get some sort of sauce, but it cost 70 cents, so they can’t just give it to you. Do I spend 70 cents out of my own pocket to save time? Or, and this is what I ended up doing because I thought it would be interesting to see what happened: I tried calling the customer, who didn’t answer. Then I called the company and asked them what I should do. So they’re like, “Alright, Ted. Hold tight. We’ll call the customer and we’ll figure this out.”
They’re gonna get on this sauce situation as fast as possible.
Right. So I sat there; 30 minutes later my phone rings, and it’s the guy with DoorDash, thinking he was calling the customer. Again, this is half an hour lost just sitting. That’s fine if you’re paid hourly.
You don’t make any money for that time?
No. I’m paid per delivery, and I’m paid $5 per delivery. Usually a delivery takes, start to finish—if you’re absolutely the luckiest person in the world—30 minutes. If that was always the case, $10 an hour, that’d be great—good enough—but more often it comes out to around $5 an hour. That’s the problem.
You also deliver groceries for Instacart. What is that like?
It’s actually harder to buy groceries than you’d think. It’s easy when you’re buying for yourself, but all these little things come up. Maybe there’s a size of ketchup you’re used to and they don’t have it. That’s actually one of the easier things. It’s one thing when it’s kinds of manufactured food, but Instacart gives customers the option to choose the level of ripeness of an apple or an avocado. So here they are, quantifying it in the app, and I have to make these very qualitative judgments, because ripeness is not objective, you know? And here’s the thing that’s really wild—this hasn’t happened to me yet, thank god—but I can bring the groceries to their house, and they can look through and say, “Actually… I decided I don’t want this; I need to return this.” So I have to go back to the store. Again, it’s a per delivery fee, so I don’t get any more money if I have to go back and return things than if they just accept everything.
How are the tips?
Not great. It’s funny, though, with all these companies, a common figure is that they claim you can make up to $35 an hour. Then, underneath that, they’ll say—I’m thinking of DoorDash’s website in particular—“Make $35 an hour and keep 100% of your tips.” First of all, boasting about keeping your tips seems wild to me. Of course you keep your tips; that’s what tips are. Uber has actually withheld tips, and they dealt with a lawsuit. Anyway, the ads make it sound like you’re making $35 an hour plus tips, but you would be really lucky if you made $35 an hour with tips. Frankly, I’ve never come close. I’ve never made more than, I don’t know, $20 an hour including tips.
Does that factor in car-related expenses?
No. That’s just gross.
So you’re not making $20 an hour then, right?
Not at all, no. Gas, maintenance, insurance, parking… and I, um… I park… illegally, a fair amount. Often there just isn’t another realistic option. That’s another thing that frustrated me at that damn bookstore. I parked illegally because I thought, “Well they’re not making it; it’s not a burrito. It’s just there—the newspaper—to pick up.” I didn’t expect to be there for half an hour, and I was parked illegally the whole time. I didn’t get a ticket, but that was a risk.
When I worked for Starbucks, in New York, they sent me to deliver something to another store, and I thought it was very respectable that they gave me a subway card, so I didn’t have to waste my money. That’s not how these companies work, in any way.
So is it possible to earn a living working these jobs?
I’ll put it this way: it’s very expensive to live in the Bay Area, but I’m finding that it is possible to pay your rent working these jobs. But, I do think that the companies are very dishonest. What I’m trying to highlight is that, as investors get excited about these companies, workers get screwed over, and because it’s not great for workers, I don’t know if it’s going to grow the way it has been growing. The companies that exist today depend on this incredible flow of people coming through, who then realize that it sucks, and quit. That’s not going to last forever.
Behind Company Lines
Bay Area Reporter Investigates the Sharing Economy From the Inside
By Marcus McAlpin
Visual appeal has always played a major role in the hip-hop machine, but now it seems the aesthetically pleasing aspects of an individual can surpass their musical talent. Airy synthesizers, auto tune, hypnotizing melodies, $1500 jeans, dyed hair, gold teeth, drug addiction, Caucasian women—these elements, among many others, have become an industry standard aesthetic for a new wave of artists. The balance in this new sub-genre has been altered from the previous norms, while the idea of what is and isn’t talent is slowly becoming a blurry debate.
Ian Connors has been coined "the modern day Renaissance man." At 22, he's a controversial stylist and homie to stars such as Kanye West and Asap Rocky. The general consensus is that once you're taken under this young man's wing, you blow up over night. Enter new artist, Playboi Carti, with his slow flow and immense fashion sense. He has known Ian for quite some time, so a collaboration was inevitable. Playboi recorded in Atlanta among the Awful Records crew, but with Ian Connor's new management came great change. The visuals he began to incorporate were beautiful. Whether the bizarre scenes in the video for “Broke Boi,” or the premeditated fashion choices for the Icytwat remix of the “Talk” music video, it's blatant Carti has found a solid identity in this new aesthetic scene.
With rappers like Playboi Carti and Lil Yachty getting comfortable at their crafts, the notions have bent on what it takes to become a game-changer in the current industry. New faces surface every day via the Internet. From World Star to Noisey, one finds themselves weaving through new musicians. But it's finding out the essence of this new scene that proves harder than stated. Calling some of these guys rappers just doesn’t fit the profile. Not because they aren’t impressive with their musicality, but rather, the music just flat out doesn’t sound like ordinary rap. Take Madeintyo for example, an Atlanta up and comer whose short bursts of flow encompass a new way to express oneself, or flex, rather. While not extremely intricate, the feelings in his songs still give off magnetic vibes to the subculture of pure youth. In his simplicity, the listeners uncover analogies and metaphors that seem to define current pop culture points left and right.
Father and his Awful Records camp from Atlanta, Georgia, Goth Money from Washington, D.C., Divine Council from Richmond, Virginia—all these groups have somber lyrics and are fully involved in a dark wave. But there’s another side of this new movement in music where happiness prevails alongside bands of crisp $20 bills. In the recent past it seemed essential for these young (usually black) men to show their strong connections to a street life, to their neighborhoods, and their willingness to commit violence. There are now more artistic facets allowing these individuals to present their expressions thoroughly. It’s through this new element that artists are finding fresh audiences with open ears and open eyes.
Lil Yachty has cherry red braids capped off with beads straight off the head of a 12-year-old girl circa 2002. His songs have been categorized as "bubblegum trap," while his prominent voice blankets listeners in a narcotics-fueled drawl. Despite his sound, the young man from Georgia claims to not partake in alcohol or drugs. Yachty seems to have blown up over night, at least to the public eye. Formerly known as Lil Boat, Yachty, along with Ian Connor, was front and center in Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 show, modeling for the hip-hop legend's fashion line. His new found fame is a perfect example of this methodology emerging in hip hop.
Hip hop and rap are growing in almost every aspect. This is simply one example of a guy like Lil Yachty bringing a modern renaissance effect to the table. Diving into enchanting melodies that seem to capture the crux of today's lost teenagers is proving quite effective. With producers like Burberry Perry and Gold well-established, exploring new avenues of voice projection and vocal effects has become common. Wintertime Zi, Lil Yachty, Spooky Black (Corbin Raps), and sometimes even Post Malone, are all bringing melodic remnants of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Nate Dogg. With these unique, new fashion trends, emerging styles of music are born every day.
By Mia Dirito
Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” are just a few examples from pop culture that show society’s serious misunderstanding of consent. As a young woman in college, I have seen first hand the measures we are expected to take in order to prevent being assaulted in such a harmful rape culture. On September 28, 2014 Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 967, also known as the “Yes Means Yes Law.” The goal of the bill is to clarify what consensual sex is on campus. Consent is now defined as “yes means yes” rather than implied consent “no means no.” This change in rhetoric is also intended to prevent rape rather than make victims prove they were raped.
The law requires any California community colleges, state universities, and universities receiving state funding to implement an ongoing affirmative consent standard, and put victims' best interests first.
There are people who oppose this new law and even more who ignore it. Complaints include placing too big of a burden on the accused and too much government intervention. Judith Shulevitz, of the New York Times, rejects the law because teaching people to talk while hooking up is “too big of a task.” The rape culture we live in discourages communication between partners because it's not sexy, or it kills the mood.
On March 17, Interim Vice President of Student Services at BCC, Josefina Baltodano, told the BCC Voice that steps will be taken next semester to better educate students and faculty about sexual assault, however no official plans have been made.
Our patriarchal roots shape how we communicate, and the term “consensual sex” is an example of that. It isn't consensual sex or non-consensual sex; it is sex or rape. Even though in general, obtaining consent before and during sex isn’t always seen as mandatory, this law is bringing us one step closer to eliminating rape culture.
According to the BCC catalog, students who have been a victim of sexual assault "are encouraged to notify the Vice President of Student Services," (currently Josefina Baltodano: Room 242, 510-981-2820, firstname.lastname@example.org) for a list of resources and help notifying the campus police.
By Rose Hanson
Palm Oil is in products ranging from ice cream to laundry detergent and even lipstick. Growing and processing palm oil is destroying third world countries as well as the environment. For example, hundreds of sacred rain forests have been destroyed in places such as Indonesia, South America, West Africa, and Australia, just to name a few. The palm oil industry is a big one, as in 50 billion dollars a year big. With monetary means on their side, government regulators and local environmentalists have been bribed to keep silent about these practices. This topic is kept under wraps, so most BCC students have no idea the extent of the problem.
Oxfam, a global organization that works to fight against injustices, states that in Peru, the big banks and corporations who own the palm oil plantations are destroying indigenous people's language and culture by forcing them off of the land that they have owned for hundreds of years.
Similarly, in South East Asia, many residents of the forest are facing problems such as flooding and irrigation issues due to this deforestation.
Liberal media outlets have spoken out against the corruption happening in many of these countries. Their stories covering the growing list of concerns regarding palm oil are important, but working alongside local protesters who are spreading awareness about the plantation conditions, in addition to the environmental consequences palm oil induces, could reach a much larger population, rather than just those who have access to big media outlets.
In the town of Aceh in Indonesia, some residents have fought back against corporations by stealing an excavator from a company and lighting it on fire.
While Indonesia is one of the largest producers of palm oil, companies are beginning to see a shift towards more production in South America. According to Oxfam, the area of South East Asia doesn’t have much continuous land, considering a lot of it is comprised of islands. Places like Peru however, have the ideal specifications for palm oil: heat, humidity, and large land. In a study conducted by the Latin American Science Organization, two groups hold as much as one third of the entire palm oil production in Peru. Since more than sixty to eighty percent of the world’s palm oil comes from illegal establishments worldwide, this means more than 150 million hectares of endangered forests could be affected.
As consumers of these goods, we must view our money as votes. When our money goes to companies and corporations who support practices that are detrimental to our planet, we become unconscious consumers. If this doesn't stop, Florida could be underwater within the next twenty years. Children will have to wear masks to avoid breathing in harmful smog. Death to the Amazon because of palm oil could cause death to oxygen in that entire area of the world.
As students of BCC, by understanding research and choosing unprocessed products that don't contain palm oil, we can reduce the damage to the planet and work together to prevent the harmful effects of the palm oil industry.
The Problem in the Palms of Our Hands
Materialism or Self-Expression?
Illustration Credit: Xylia Willow
Yes Means Yes
Photo Credit: Alan Do
By Alan Do
At 2:00 a.m. in a random Berkeley neighborhood, a blue Toyota Prius sits parked among many other cars. The difference between this car and the others is that a Vietnamese-American student is sleeping in it. This is the predicament I found myself in recently, after struggling to find affordable housing near BCC.
With asking prices soaring all across the Bay Area, my difficult situation is not a unique one. Many students, and even new working professionals, are finding it increasingly difficult to find decently priced housing. This has led to people seeking alternative options such as abnormal apartment configurations.
UC Berkeley graduate Chris Ng currently resides in a living room and feels that it is the norm. "It's not the worst situation, but there are moments when people come over and it’s not a good look." When asked specifically about some of the drawbacks, he laughed. "Don't get me started on the dating situation."
Due to Berkeley's large student population, it is not an easy task to navigate the housing marketplace. Berkeley resident, Minh Nguyen, commented on his recent housing search, and compared the experience to a daunting race.
"I was constantly refreshing pages trying to see the new listings. You have to literally be one of the first people because everyone is thirsty out there for this stuff. It's brutal."
Besides having to worry about about the lack of available housing, there is an additional concern for apartment seekers. Apartment listing scams are becoming a real issue in the online marketplace. I know from personal experience.
Recently, I was led into a Craigslist scam without even realizing it. A tantalizing advertisement for a one bedroom apartment drew my attention, so I started an online dialogue with the owner. After several emails, I learned that he was supposedly a deaf man who was renting out his apartment due to a job relocation. He attempted to accelerate the renting process with an oddly worded email:
"We are very excited and willing to let you move in our property, I already made conclusions... on accepting payment for the first month and a security deposit, this enables me to hold the space for you till whenever you are ready to move in."
This interaction ended with him asking me to mail him the security deposit without me viewing the apartment due his limited availability. When I replied that I was suspicious of him he responded by saying, “I'm a good Christian and I cannot cheat on you when I know the consequence of doing that, the Bible even says ‘what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?’" Needless to say, I did not move forward with the transaction. When asked to comment on this story, he did not reply.
This constant struggle to find a place to live exhausted me. I no longer wanted to compete against my peers on platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook. Hence, three weeks after this interaction, I took my backpack, my gym membership, and two pillows to my car, and camped in various areas, from Berkeley all the way out near Oracle Coliseum in Oakland.
When sleeping in a car, it becomes apparent that you are in a vulnerable position. The lack of insulation in the car left me feeling cold. The quiet of the night coupled with being in unfamiliar areas made me uneasy. The lack of bathroom options led to awkward searches for bushes, and also to self-reflection. The showers at my local gym are a minefield for the senses—with an excess of nudity, smells, and unclean floors. Car camping is not for everyone. While I cannot say that I enjoyed this experience, I did prefer the physical discomfort of my seat cushions over the financial discomfort caused by a $1,200 room in Berkeley.
However, this is merely a temporary solution to a greater problem. Besides car camping and long-distance commuting, there are resources in the East Bay that accommodate students in need. For example, The Berkeley Student Cooperative is a non-profit cooperative providing affordable living in houses and apartments for college students. They are able to reduce costs by having the tenants engage in work shifts, general maintenance, and weekly cooking.
For more information: https://www.bsc.coop/housing/
In the meantime, the next time you see a parked Blue Toyota Prius in Berkeley, don’t tell anyone that someone might be sleeping in it.
Bay Area Housing Blues
A Student's Struggle to Live (Comfortably)
My temporary home.
Photo Credit: Regina Moreno Hernandez
What Nourishes BCC Students?
Tips to Save Your Wallet From Starving Because of Your Hungry Stomach
By Regina Moreno Hernandez
Tired of spending hundreds of dollars on groceries? The BCC Voice went on a hunt to find the best prices for the food students want.
If paying for college isn't expensive enough, college students face another problem: eating healthy on a budget. Food prices in the Bay Area are high, sometimes even unaffordable. Yoseph Alkahli, who is majoring in accounting said, "Prices [are] slowly increasing, making it hard for college students to survive."
Another student, Peter Chung, said, "Food prices are related to increasing housing prices in [the] Bay Area, due to gentrification."
Concerned about this issue, the BCC Voice asked students to list the basics inside their refrigerators and pantries necessary to survive through school, so we could find out where to get the best deals. Rice is one of the most common products, along with chicken, fruits and veggies, eggs, milk, fish, and ingredients to make sandwiches. A majority of the students follow a regular diet and consider themselves to eat healthy.
Many students complained about how ridiculously high food prices are. Fareeza Ali, who is majoring in Political Science, lived in another city before, and said she expected produce to be cheaper in California. Unfortunately, she was wrong.
Students spend between $200 and $450 per month on food, an amount that doesn't include all the times they eat outside of their home. Even though most try to have at least half of their meals be homemade, some of them have to work a lot (to pay those big bills), while others are still living with their parents.
In order to come up with advice, we went to three different grocery stores with our shopping list compiled from students’ responses, to find out which is the best option for their wallets. These were our results:
Berkeley Bowl: $196.54
Trader Joe’s: $146.18
We also asked an employee from each location what some of the possible advantages are when buying from their store. A woman who works at Safeway said it is a "convenient" place to buy and it's easy to get there. On the other hand, a crew member from Trader Joe's said they offer "quality customer service," they also have great prices (the reason why they don't offer discounts), and they're well located. Finally, a person working in customer service at Berkeley Bowl, said the advantage of buying there is their variety, quality, quantity, price, and the fact that they have fresh products.
One of the main differences between their prices is how much fresh produce costs. Even though Trader Joe's has the best prices, Berkeley Bowl has more variety in its products and fresh fish, meat and chicken. Also, they have a section where they sell soups, Chinese food, and burritos.
Finding the best prices is not easy, but there are better ways to shop. For example, Sharon G. said she shops at various places to get the best prices. While another student recommended buying in bulk at Costco.
None of these grocery stores offer discounts for students. However, Berkeley Bowl has monthly sales, and Safeway has a Club Card and an app called "Just for You," where students can find discounts.
Photo Credit: Zach Adams-Dominik
Photo Credit: Zach Adams-Dominik
Oakland's Monthly Street Party
A Celebration of Art, Food, and Community Every First Friday
By Zach Adams-Dominik
“First Friday is something that we can share and take pride in as a community,” says John Mardikian. “It’s a chance for everyone to express themselves and embrace the creativity that Oakland provides.”
Mardikian is the owner of the Telegraph Beer Garden, a local hot spot that participates in First Friday, a sprawling monthly street festival held in Uptown Oakland’s KONO district, between West Grand and 27th Street along Telegraph Avenue. In this city-supported bacchanal, locals, entertainers, vendors, and artists, all come together to create an immersive community experience. Originally orchestrated by Oakland’s Art Murmur as a way to promote a collective of galleries in the Northgate and Temescal neighborhoods, the event’s popularity resulted in its evolution into a monthly celebration of local art, multinational food, and Bay Area eclecticism.
Every month, within hours, a significant portion of Telegraph is transformed into an overpowering melee of noise, bodies, and temporary art installations. A phalanx of food trucks fill the air with the intoxicating aromas of Salvadoran pupusas and Pakistani curries at one end of the street, while a frenetic energy radiating from a rotating set of bands on two stages occupies the other. The entire event is an enthralling assault on the senses.
Further vying for position from an overly-taxed attention span, a veritable kaleidoscope of stalls crowd the sidewalks, offering an atypical assortment of goods.
Looking for a hat made from patterns and materials gathered from a recent trip around Europe? Maybe a handcrafted, airtight, bamboo container? How about jewelry made from an assortment of animal bones? It’s all there. No? What about a job, then? A local marijuana delivery service was hiring people on the spot at the April event.
While a siren’s song of erratic entertainment encompasses the center of the milieu (replete with dancers on roller-skates, a group specializing in popping and locking, and an enthusiastic teenager in a T. Rex costume), the backbone of the festival remains an exposition of local art. Galleries dotting the street hold free exhibitions, and a large percentage of the vendors is comprised of talented painters and graphic designers. The cover artist for this issue of the BCC Voice, Dan Schmatz, is one such illustrator who plies his strangely captivating pieces monthly at the festival.
Not to be missed, the many restaurants and shops located within Uptown's KONO, district, such as The Good Hop taproom, La'Christa's Cafe, and the aforementioned Telegraph Beer Garden, keep their doors open late, add to the already dizzying assortment of food offerings, and afford a temporary refuge from the chaotic din of performers and revelers.
With an absent entrance fee and a multitude of experiences to enjoy in a lively, energetic environment, First Friday promises to be a memorable evening for both East Bay natives and newcomers alike. Further information about the festival can be found at http://oaklandfirstfridays.org/ and http://oaklandartmurmur.org/