Interview With a DoppelgÄnger
Interview With a Doppelgänger
Flowers in the Garden
An Afternoon With the Remarkable Marc Huestis
UMOJA Lands at BCC
Green Day Documentarian
A Creative Space in Academic Writing
edgar j rosales
Giving a Voice to Those Who Need to Be Heard
The Christian Spin
nina m cestaro
The Career With Little Burnout
derek chartrand wallace
Education is for Everyone
by ADAM MANN
On the cover: Gabby Alexander is a creative from Sacramento, Calif. who frequents the Bay Area often for her photography. She describes her work as candid; capturing people in their essence is the inspiration for her work. The human experience is diverse, and appreciating this through the art of photography is her motivation. Follow her on Instagram @gaabbriellee.
The BCC VOICE is produced by students from English 14 and 15 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! Visit us online at bccvoice.net.
Fall 2017, interview Issue / bccvoice.net
Adam Mann, science writer for Wired, Nature, Medium and Science. Photo: Khoa Bui
My name isn't particularly common. But I've noticed for years that when I Google it with "Oakland," another Adam Mann comes up in the results. The idea for this story probably started several months ago, when I received an email from a woman at the Wall Street Journal asking if I wanted to be on their podcast. I had no idea what she was talking about. So I did a search and found that the other Adam Mann is an astronomy journalist who has written for Wired, Nature, and a bunch of other publications.
I figured it would make for an odd interview, so I went to his website, adamspacemann.com, and sent him an email. It was intended to sound a little bizarre: "This is probably pretty strange to get an email from me," I wrote, "but I also have your name, and I also live in the Bay Area." Rather than sign off with my standard, bland "Best," I ended, "Also, Adam Mann." He responded, agreeing it was indeed unusual, and we arranged to meet at Farley's East, a coffee shop in Oakland.
This is kind of strange.
I was on the phone with my mom when I was driving over here, and I was like, 'I'm meeting this guy, his name's Adam Mann, he's a journalist, he lives in Oakland.' She was like, "What?"
It sounds like the plot of a Philip K. Dick novel.
I knew there was another Adam Mann who lives in the Bay Area, in Oakland. I'd seen that person's name come up on Google. I was looking at your picture and we even look a little similar.
(Pointing to his ear) I used to have that same piercing.
I realized pretty late in life that Adam Mann is a literary name.
In what way?
In the Bible, Adam is obviously the first man ...
... and it means "man." My parents are Israeli, my first language was Hebrew. So I always knew that growing up — it's just like having the same name twice. But I don't think it was intentional on their part. My dad's parents' last name was not Mann originally, it was Mandelovich. They changed it after they moved from Poland to Israel.
My grandfather's name wasn't even close to Mann. He changed his last name to Mann because he was 'running from the law,' from what my dad says. So mine shouldn't be my last name either.
Just yesterday, my roommate and my husband and I were talking about my parents' nickname for me, "Dudi," which is a nickname for "David" in Hebrew, because they were going to call me David. And I would have been the same — David is the same as Adam. They're functionally equivalent names in my mind. But if I would have been, I don't know, "Ted" or something like that ... that feels like I would have been a different person.
Just that very small change would have changed the whole outcome of your life?
I was reading about the possibilities of some physics theories — what infinity could mean, which is that anything that occurs will repeat exactly, or with just a slight alteration. That was something I had never thought about before.
Especially when you do something dangerous. I think that's probably when I think the most about that. Like, in some other universe I died doing a thing. This time I'm fine, but somewhere else ...
This reminds me of the more eccentric theories of physics, like multiverses and parallel universes. Do those ideas cross your mind very often, or do they influence the way you see things at all?
Huh, that's a good question. There are a lot of physicists who talk about the multiverse, and it is a legitimate scientific theory and method of inquiry. And there are a lot of other physicists who say that it's all bullshit, that it's not actual science because it's an unanswerable question. We have no physical evidence or way of knowing. There's no signal we know of that could come from another universe. I tend to side with the second group more: it's an interesting idea, but I don't know that it's science, necessarily. That being said, I don't know that I base my life solely on what science says. There's a lot of stuff we don't know about and it's totally possible.
You write about astronomy. What do you think of astrology?
It's not something I believe in, but it is interesting. My birthday is in September, I'm a Libra. I feel very much like a Libra.
I'm also a Libra. Which I have to look up every time to remember when that is when people ask me.
I like systems, and astrology and those weird alchemical magical systems can get really interesting, just to know about them and know how people have constructed all these different ideas that don't all agree with one another. Do I think that the stars influence what we do on a day-to-day basis? No, I don't really think so. But I believe in the Myers-Briggs test, which many people consider astrological.
People get upset if you say you don't believe in those things. I don't believe in Myers-Briggs. I've never found much usefulness in it.
That's what it is, it's what you find use in. And I think a lot of people find use in astrology and it gives them structure and meaning. And so when you say to them that you don't believe it, they kind of balk and go, "Well how is that possible? I have all this evidence." Because they have a lot of personal investment. And that's kind of what we all do.
You've written about space travel and the toll it takes on humans who go on these missions. What would you think if you were offered the chance to go to space?
Never. Not in a million years. They'd have to pay me a lot of money to do it. When I have stress dreams, they're because I'm being sent into space, usually. Which happened at some point while I was at Wired, all of a sudden my stress dreams became about going into space, and that was when I realized I wouldn't do it if offered the opportunity.
What is it about space that scares you?
Everything. Being strapped to a rocket, which is a giant firecracker, essentially. You're in a tin can separated from very sudden death at any moment. I think one of the things that doesn't get reported and doesn't get talked about is that there is always a low-level anxiety for astronauts and people in space. Part of that is because it's part of their job — they're constantly working and they're very high-functioning, type-A people — but they report a lot of problems sleeping, they report irritation and all kinds of things, and a lot of it is that somewhere in the back of your mind, your monkey brain knows ...
... you're not supposed to be out here.
Right. I think that also, just in general, people are like, "Aw man, space! It's this wonderful beautiful place and we've got to go and it's going to change humanity." And yes, it will. But they discount the fact that there will also be a lot of terrible things that happen and it'll take a big toll. That's where I come from in what I try to write about space. I still think it's awesome, but things are not going to be better anywhere else. Kim Stanley Robinson wrote this trilogy called "The Mars Trilogy" where they start to terraform mars and make it more Earth-like. There is a faction of people who say that we shouldn't be doing this, that we need to love Mars as it exists currently and learn to deal with it that way. And in the end, the people who terraform win. When I was younger, I was like, "Yeah, sure, that's what's supposed to happen." When I think about terraforming now, I think, ‘Should we do that?'
What are the downsides of terraforming?
It's a question of whether we have the right to do with another planet whatever we want to do. Does the planet have the right to exist untouched without human interference?
Even if it doesn't have sentient beings?
Even if it doesn't have any lifeforms whatsoever, even if it's just a lifeless hunk of rock. It's who gets to decide the criteria of good or better, and we're life, so we think that living things are better than nonliving things. I don't know if I would take it that far — I still think that if we had to and if we need another home, then sure, terraform the planet and make it liveable. But can we terraform a planet? We think it's easy, but when we start doing it we realize it's actually insanely difficult. We in the modern day are very naive about these things.
This has more to do with futurism, but do you worry about human obsolescence in your lifetime?
This fear of robots that manifests in our cinema, in books and sci-fi, it's saying more about our psychology that we worry about robots replacing us than it does about something we actually need to worry about. It tells you about what our fears are, that we're somehow not good enough, that something can come along that's better than us. "Better" is a relative thing, and we also decide what is better. Computers can now beat us in chess and Go. But we're the ones who decided that chess and Go are the things that smart things do. Is that an objective criteria for intelligence? It's hard to say.
I think there's an interesting parallel with that — the way we create gods as sort of an origin story for ourselves. But then I think that leads into the fear of technology: since we've created these things, we're afraid, as modern society has effaced god in some ways, that the technology we've created will efface us.
But we still think of technology as godlike as well, and there are people in the old religious stories who fear god. When you think about astrology and gods and things about the sky, and stories people have told for thousands of years, they're all just versions of us but up there doing slightly different things. And we tweak it a little here and there, but it says more about our psychology. I don't think we need to fear technology that much.
Do you know where things go or what happens to things when they fall into a black hole?
They get crushed to an infinitely dense point. That's the best answer we have right now. But an infinitely dense point doesn't make sense physically, so nobody really knows. Black holes are really, really weird. They can evaporate. They send off this thing called Hawking radiation that Stephen Hawking discovered, where they release energy and it gets carried away. And very slowly over time, because energy is mass, their mass goes down and they evaporate and disappear.
I didn't even know they evaporated.
I once asked an astronomy professor, when I was studying astrophysics, that if he could get his hands on a black hole, what would be the one experiment he would like to do? He said if he could design one experiment, it would be to know what happens at that moment when it loses enough mass to stop being a black hole. Since it was infinitely dense, does all that stuff now come back out, whatever hasn't evaporated away? And what does that look like? Does it look like what it looked like when it fell in? Has it been transformed somehow into some other form of matter?
The Higgs boson [the so-called "God particle," the existence of which was confirmed using the Large Hadron Collider] was officially discovered in 2011. In 2017, do you think we're closer to having any kind of unified theory of physics?
I think we're further away. Physicists have been talking about "the theory of everything" for a really long time, and my bias is I think it's a wild goose chase, because I don't think there's one description of reality where you'd be able to write down an equation and be like, "Okay, we've got it all." But they built up this very careful model over decades called The Standard Model, and that's the thing that governs all the particles and forces that we know about. It's incredibly successful and they can test it out, and the equations and the experiments agree with each other perfectly. But they also know it's wrong, because there are things it doesn't explain — we don't understand how gravity works, neutrinos don't make sense and shouldn't have mass according to the theory ... they clearly don't fit in with that model. The Higgs was the last thing — the model said it should be there. And when they discovered it, it was a big deal. But it looked too much like what the model predicted.
You wrote about that — that it didn't give them anything to go on.
Exactly. They were looking for direction. Nothing about the Higgs was different or weird in any way, so I think physicists — they don't really say it, but they are are in a bit of a crisis in terms of the current theories, which they know to be incomplete, but there's no good direction on where to go next.
It sounds sort of like they found a key to unlock a room, and they entered the room ...
... and it's empty. I don't know what it is that physics needs right now. I think they are in sort of an unsaid crisis with the Higgs boson, and you have a lot of these wings of physicists who are like, "Oh, the multiverse," or, "Oh, string theory," but none of those have actually panned out in any way. We still can't test them, we still don't have any evidence for them.
I read somewhere in a blurb that you're working on a sci-fi novel?
Yeah, I'm writing a book. It's about aliens and going to another planet, and learning that the aliens are more or less impossible to understand. It's about science and knowledge, and my overarching idea behind it is to create a problem that should be able to be solved by science, but can't for some reason. Learning to understand another species is essentially a problem that science should be able to tackle, but I don't know that we can actually do it.
Why did you decide to become a journalist?
I never thought about it, actually. I thought I was going to be a scientist ... and then I did some science. It requires a very particular mindset and constitution to be a scientist. You have to be willing to study some very, very tiny aspect of reality for a very, very long time before you can do what it is that you're more passionate about. I worked at the Berkeley labs for about a year and I hated it, and then I spent a few years just being like, "What am I going to do with my life?" I went traveling in New Zealand right after college and I kept a blog for my friends and my family, and a lot of people said the writing was very good. But it was my stepmom who found this program at University of California, Santa Cruz that takes people with a science background and teaches them how to be science writers. So I used my blog posts as my writing sample, because I hadn't written any journalism beyond that. It was a great decision, I can't believe I haven't been doing this from the beginning.
You seem to write a little differently for different publications. I noticed you wrote something for NBC, but your stuff for Medium is more dense and for a more learned audience. How do you tailor your writing?
You have a lot of help. I'm writing right now for Nature, a scientific publication that's going to be for a scientific audience. I've written for them before, and they have a very particular voice. And it's really just the editing process that gets rid of your voice and turns it into their voice. Some of the ways you wanted to write it slips through, but it slowly gets transformed into this other thing.
It seems like journalism school pushed you in the right direction. Do you know a lot of people who didn't go to journalism school who are in the industry?
Yes. I know science writers, mostly — some of them went to programs, some of them did not. Some of them were journalists in some other capacity before and they fell into science writing. A friend of mine did the journalism program at Laney College and now he works for a Japanese newspaper in New York. He's making it, and he seems to be enjoying it as well. The thing I always tell people is that it never goes to waste, the stuff that you did [in the past]. You're never like, "Well, that was a total waste of ten years and I didn't learn anything or get anything out of that." You will use certain skills that you learned in one way or another.
What strikes me is how hard it is to get ahold of people. I don't know why that was such a revelation to me.
A lot of what you do as a journalist is ask favors from people. You're asking favors of their time, and they have no reason to give it to you.
It's fascinating that anyone wants to talk to you, really. It's just the compulsion for people to want to talk about themselves.
Everybody has a lot of thoughts about what it is they do, and sometimes they just want to tell someone who's interested.
Meets Adam Mann
There are a lot of physicists who talk about the multiverse, and it is a legitimate scientific theory and method of inquiry. And there are a lot of other physicists who say that it's all bullshit, that it's not actual science because it's an unanswerable question.
Adam Mann, writer of this story. Photo: Cheri Hudnut
Filmmaker and Rwandan Genocide Survivor
Top: Habimana meets with humanitarian and former Force Commander of UNAMIR General Roméo Dallaire. Photo: Brian Chou; Bottom Left: Habimana behind the camera at the Los Angeles Film School, Photo: Brad Toomoth; Bottom Right: Habimana speaks after a screening of his documentary at Pacific Lutheran University. Photo: John Froschauer
Flowers in the Garden
33-year-old film student and humanitarian Emmanuel Habimana. Photo: Carl Wilkens Fellowship
on Trauma, Storytelling and Resilience
I have learned that we have so much in common...[we] are like many types of flowers in the garden. When you look at this garden, you see the beauty, not the differences.
by MAYA KASHIMA
Emmanuel Habimana didn’t know what to expect when he moved to Los Angeles. Sure, he’d lived in big cities before, residing for most of his life in the Rwandan capital city of Kigali, which boasts a population of 1.2 million. He’s spent plenty of time in America, too – eight months in Lincoln, Neb., a year in Portland, Ore., and four months traveling across the country. But L.A. is not like most of America. It’s hardly even a big city, really. L.A. is a sprawling metropolis, a collection of disparate communities united only in name. In almost every way, L.A. is different. That’s the word Habimana lands on when talking about the place, using it seven times in less than a minute. “L.A., it has its own way of living,” he says. “Life is different. People interact differently. People behave differently.”
He moved to the city in early 2016 to study film at the Los Angeles Film School in Hollywood. “In the beginning," he says, "it was really, really tough for me to assimilate.” Even after two years, he still struggles. He is acutely aware of the ways in which he stands out there. He’s 6 foot 1 inch, but seems even taller. He’s a Black man in a majority white and Latinx neighborhood. He has an accent, a mix of his native Kinyarwanda, Swahili and French. He doesn’t move about the world with the kind of fluency the city seems to demand. Because of that, people aren’t always so welcoming. “They know when you are not from here. They notice in a second,” he says, snapping his fingers. For a moment, his voice takes on an intensity uncharacteristic of his normally mild demeanor. “They start to ask you questions. Or some ignore you, they don’t even want to talk to you. They think you’re crazy. Well, sometimes I think they’re crazy, too. But it’s a good experience to have in life.”
Habimana tries his best to look at the positive side of things, to extract some lesson from every struggle he faces. As a survivor of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, resilience has been his life’s work.
He was only nine years old when the killings started. Extremist members of the country’s Hutu ethnic majority had come to believe a rebel group of Tutsis, an ethnic minority, were responsible for the assassination of the Hutu presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. No one ever found out who was behind their deaths, but that made no difference to the Hutu. They had long harbored hatred for the Tutsis, and as if waiting for an excuse to kill, immediately began mobilizing militias and systematically slaughtering anyone they could find.
Habimana’s Tutsi family suddenly found themselves with targets on their backs. On the first day of the killings, he was out with his father in their small village of Shyrongi when a group of Hutu soldiers approached. The last words he ever heard his father speak were: “Run! Save your life!” He later returned to find him on the ground, dead.
His mother and four of his siblings were then shot four days later in a mass execution. One of his sisters, Rose, only survived because she was holding their baby sister Cadette, whose body slowed the momentum of the bullet.
In less than a week, he had become an orphan.
To survive, he pretended to be Hutu and was taken to a refugee camp in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He almost starved to death before being rescued and taken back to Rwanda, where he was raised by his sister.
“How do you learn to live your entire life without having any example of a good father, a good mother, or almost any other loved ones in your family?” he asks. At times, it felt almost impossible. As he grew up, though, he began to use activism as a means to heal. In high school, he became vice president of his school’s Unity and Reconciliation Club. He worked as a peer counselor to other survivors. While studying law at Kigali Independent University, he worked with the Interdisciplinary Genocide Studies Center, teaching students from other countries about the conflict.
It was through his work with IGSC that he met Natalia Ledford, then a student at the University of Nebraska. She was majoring in Broadcasting and International Studies, and learned that like herself, Habimana had a passion for filmmaking. They received a grant from National Geographic to produce a documentary exploring the lives of those orphaned by the genocide. “Komora: To Heal” follows Habimana as he speaks to other orphans, former UN officials, and even Hutu perpetrators.
Difficult as it is, he forgives them. “It’s painful, it’s disgusting, it’s traumatizing,” he says, but he sees it as his duty to tell all sides of the story. “I have to cope with it. I have to embrace and make the pain my friend, make the sorrow my friend. If I don’t tell this story, somebody else will. And when it comes to the narrative of Africa, I feel the history of genocide has always been mistold.”
The desire to correct this narrative is what inspired him in 2012 to apply to study English at Lewis & Clark College in Portland through the Roméo Dallaire Scholarship, which, according to the Lewis & Clark website, is awarded to "students who demonstrate a dedication to promoting human rights in sub-Saharan Africa.”
“I’m not a native speaker, but I was trying to be an activist, I believed I had a message for the world, and I felt like maybe, if I could share my story in a language that many people can understand, that would help me carry the message further than just my country. And I wanted to see what the world was saying about my country, my culture, and what I went through, too. Like, okay, this is their perception of us, and I have my perception of them, Westerners. So, I always wanted to see how I could draw a sort of common ground.”
After leaving Portland for Kigali in 2013, the Dallaire Scholarship Foundation asked Habimana to reflect upon his experience of living in the U.S. "I had always assumed that it was almost always impossible to live with people with whom you did not share the same ethnicity or race," he wrote. "This year, I have learned that we have so much in common … Our race and ethnicities, skin color and many other differences are like many types of flowers in the garden. When you look at this garden you see the beauty, not the differences."
Habimana is currently writing a script for a short film project. “It’s about two guys,” he says. “One is from a poor village in Africa, and he gets a chance to travel to the United States. The other is from the United States, from an underprivileged neighborhood. They’re both struggling, and eventually, they end up being friends, trying to help each other to make it out of there. You know, they’re both going through similar challenges, just from a different perspective. So they travel, go on a journey, and then…” And then what? I ask. “Well, I haven’t written the ending, not yet, not yet. I just know I want to make it a happy one.”
San Francisco's Castro Theater. Photo: Tobias Kleinlercher
by STEPHANIE MILLER
An Award-winning, Internationally-acclaimed Showman With a Historic Perspective on Coming of Age During Hollywood's Golden Era
An Afternoon With the Remarkable
It's easier to tear things down than to build them up, but building them up is the way that I chose to live my life.
Marc Huestis is a world-renowned independent filmmaker. His career range is dynamic, spanning from grassroots activism and ground-breaking documentaries, to being the tour guide impresario for many celebrity-guests of The Castro Theater.
Huestis boasts a nearly half-century-long career in the film industry. Compared to the average independent filmmaker, this is an inconceivable amount of time to remain relevant in the field.
Huestis graced The BCC Voice with a get-together at his long time dwelling in the sunlight center of the Dolores Park neighborhood. We met to discuss his journey through the wild phases of camp culture, what it means to be an "impresario," and to get an insightful look at what inspired him from a young age to become a local pop icon.
So tell me about your background, you're from Long Island?
Yes, I'm from Long Island. I have an interesting gene pool. My mother was a stripper, and my father worked for NBC. He worked right on "30 Rock" back in the 1960s cutting together a show called "Hullabaloo", where they would have guests and musical acts of the time. I got to visit the set all the time when I was young. It was a combination of my father's editing skill and mother's showmanship that made me what I am today.
Can you tell me about "Hullabaloo" ?
"Hullaboo" was the best. They featured the music stars of the day and had go-go dancers in cages.
Huestis took the time to pull a clip of the black and white variety show. The introductions boasts acts from The Animals to The Mamas and the Papas, all at the height of their fame.
Is this what got you interested in theater and show?
I got to visit the set, and I was drawn to the razzle-dazzle. I instantly began singing, and dancing and doing the "theater thing." I was in every school play. My mother and I would also go to the Million Dollar Movie together back then, and see all kinds of films that inspired me. My father was hardly home, and an alcoholic. It was my mother running the show when they split when I was 14.
When did you decide that San Francisco was the place for you?
I was going to college in New York, and I hated it. One day I was in Provincetown, Mass. at The A-House, the popular gay bar. I met these guys from the Angels of Light (a San Franciscan theater company that was a subset of the much bigger, Cockettes.) They came and said "You should really move to San Francisco." They told me, "we would love to have you in our productions." I asked if I had to audition and they said, "No! We love you!"
And is this when you decided to go to The City?
I was attending Binghampton University, which was part of the State University of New York (branches.) I hated my college, and hated where I was. In my third year, halfway through, I left. I had a friend that was going too, so we got on the Green Tortoise, which was a famous hippie bus back then. It had no seats, it was just a bunch of rugs and mattresses on the floor.
And what was it like for you when you got here?
I started doing shows with the Angels of Light right away. They thought that shows, performances and everything should be free so that everyone could see them … I won't even tell you how they financed them.
Huestis pulled up a clip of him as a young drag performer, "Ellen Organ" as a play on Helen Morgan, and a quintessential scene in his advent as a developing performer played. He sings and acts out a long swig of a milk bottle, pausing the clip as the bottle hits midair.
...and that bottle right there, I ended up, on the third performance, throwing it into the crowd, where it caught the head of one of the audience members who had to immediately be rushed to the hospital. So, I decided right then that I shouldn't have a career as a performing drag queen.
Can you give some context for the scene that was alive in the late '70s and early '80s in SF?
When I arrived, I was living in my first apartment on 18th Street and Castro Street. Everyone lived in these communes back then. There was a commune for everything; magazines, food, everything. I lived in an adjunct commune to the Angels of Light, and we were in the middle of everything. We were right around the corner from Harvey Milk's camera store.
Where were you when Milk died?
Actually, you'll love this story. When Harvey died, I was on a bus. We were all on our way to a Talking Heads show at Sproul Hall in Berkeley. They had just started out as a group then — this was right when "Psycho Killer" came out — and I remember someone ran onto the bus and said, "Harvey has been shot." And that was it.
Did you go to the Talking Heads show?
No, we just turned around and went back to City Hall (in San Francisco.) When we got there we all just sat and stared into space. No one could believe it.
So this was around the same time of year it is now, late November?
Yes. This was what I called "Dark November," because Jonestown had just happened and also, earlier in the month, there was an initiative on the ballot to stop gay people from becoming teachers. Luckily due to a lot of the things we were doing to stop it at the time, it didn't pass. But it was a dark time for the community, and it was also when the AIDS crisis began to hit. There were people with this life threatening illness and the rest of the world was completely silent and just ignored it, like it wasn't even happening. Our president (Reagan) went seven years, never even saying the word "AIDS." Watching your friends die all the time with no one acknowledging the issue killing them, that was hell.
Was this inspirational to your work?
After the milk bottle incident, I spent a week locked in my apartment out of sheer embarrassment. I decided afterwards that I was going to become a filmmaker instead of a drag performer. I enrolled in City College San Francisco and began learning how to make films there. We would make our own features with our own means. This was when "Whatever Happened to Susan Jane" came out. The Castro (Theater) actually had a showing of Susan Jane just recently. That was my first big movie.
"Whatever Happened to Susan Jane" is a San Franciscan cult classic that follows Susan Jane, a round-peg-wild-child escaping the fate of being forced to fit through a small-town-square-hole. This journey was archetypal to the average resident of Huestis' community at the time, and spoke to the runaway culture of the Castro District and surrounding art scenes. It launched him into prominence as an independent filmmaker in San Francisco.
Tell me about the time in between your first feature, "Susan Jane," and your most popular feature, "Sex Is …"
"Sex Is ..." wasn't until 1993. A lot happened in between. "Sex Is ..." broke the box office at the Castro opening weekend and ran in 60 different theaters around the US. It was advocacy for people with life threatening illness. In that time there was a need for activism in the community for people living with the disease (of HIV and AIDS.) After that I spent some time in Berlin, Germany, and I loved it there. That launched my international film career. In that time I had also started a film festival, called Frameline, which is the first LGBT film festival ever. It still occurs every year.
When did you start doing your famous events at the Castro?
We started doing screenings at The Castro later on when it became harder for us to make the types of films we wanted to. We would produce parodies of movies that were popular at the time and we thought, "why not invite some of the stars." So we started inviting the stars of the originals to attend.
I've heard you've had a great array of different talents there — all kinds of stars that you personally hosted in your signature hosting style, called "impresario," is that right?
Our first guest was Carol Lynley. This was when we were doing the take-off on "The Poseidon Adventure." It's a great movie, you should look it up and watch it. It was funny movie, you'd hate Carol's character in it — so annoying. She doesn't die, but you wish she did. We had Jane Russell, too. She was a big star, starred opposite Marilyn Monroe and everything. Her 13-year-old granddaughter was in the crowd and had never seen her on screen. And I told Jane at the premiere, "you don't have to stay for our tribute to you. You can go back to the hotel after five minutes." Forty-five minutes later I looked up, and she was still there and crying. She said, "Marc, that was wonderful." We always treated our guests well and with respect. We know that "has-been" is a dirty word We want to make it a great experience and make sure they feel respected.
You hosted Debbie Reynolds and Tony Curtis, along with many others. Your forthcoming book mentions Curtis — did he give you that lithograph on your wall?
Yes, Tony sent that to me. I remember when we had the show for him. When he got in I thought "he shouldn't be traveling." He looked very frail and unwell, but as the night went on I realized why he was there. The montage we made for him was later used for his memorial service. We knew he was there because he was saying goodbye, and this on the wall is something he sent to me when he was going back over all of the people who mattered to him.
Can you tell us more about running projects, like The Frameline Festival?
Frameline is the oldest LGBT music festival, with 42 years running. It just had it's 40th anniversary, and we expect 80 thousand people to attend in June.
How often are your events held at The Castro Theater?
They occur about two or three times per year.
What's next for you?
I hope to have my book out in June, in time for The Frameline Festival this year. It's been long enough now that a lot of the people included are dead and can't sue me for what I write about them. It's called "When You Wish Upon a Star," and it's in two acts. Act I is about San Francisco days and "Susan Jane," and Act II is more about my documentaries and being "impresario of The Castro Theatre."
You leave a lasting legacy with impresario, more specifically your brand "Camp Impresario." Can you tell me about what Camp Impresario means to you?
It was a title given to me once by a friend, she put it that I'm the "impresario." I describe it as "producer with pizazz."
In our last few minutes Huestis talked about his cabin near Tahoe where he retreats from the city when he can, and also about the cultural and social climate of the media.
He left The BCC Voice with the inspiring message that "it's easier to tear things down than to build them up, but building them up is the way that I chose to live my life." "When You Wish Upon a Star" will likely be ready for eager audiences in 2018.
When asked what the future of UMOJA looks like, Penn, whose eyes lit up with joy, said that it warms her heart to think about it.
UMOJA students/staff represent BCC at annual regional conference. From left to right Anndrea, Tyler, Omar, Shannon, Rafael, Amanda, Vanessa, Esther. Photo Courtesy of: Shannon Penn .
Shannon Penn came to Berkeley City College nine years ago as an adjunct professor to teach in the learning community Persist. But recently she stepped into the UMOJA coordinator role, a new learning community here on campus serving primarily African American students. The BCC Voice sat down with Penn to discuss UMOJA's second-year at BCC.
When asked the inspiration behind her work for UMOJA, Penn warmly said that aside from the fact that she is a proud African American there is a practical issue when it comes to support for African American students. Penn took on the role to make sure that Black students have a voice on campus, and are able to advocate for things that have not been done on campus. There has not been a forum around academic issues or concerns for Black students. However, Penn does share that the Berkeley City College Black Student Union has been active and strong for many years.
Jerry Brown, Californian governor, recently signed assembly bill no. 19 to provide funds for students at the community college level who are amongst the lowest performing groups. African American students populate that category in large numbers. Penn believes that the outcomes of Black students in terms of retention and graduation rates clearly demonstrate a need for support programs like UMOJA. When African American students come to this campus, they should feel as though they are welcome and that there is a space for them — the UMOJA village space is a safe space for Black students. Penn says that it is important for Black students to feel as though they are moving from a world where they are not seen to a world where they are seen and heard. Creating a gathering space helps alleviate the sense of isolation that many Black students feel at school and the fear that nobody around you understands you.
Pilot programs often face difficulty. Penn, who has a background in nonprofit social work, is not a stranger to difficulty. "Working to establish UMOJA has been a labor of love, whenever you are the first person to do something different or when you are the catalyst for change in a particular industry, it is always challenging to start something from the beginning." Alley Young, now retired and a former UMOJA coordinator, brought the UMOJA program to BCC only a year and a half ago. Penn says that UMOJA is still dealing with the growing pains. However, a visibly passionate Penn says, she would not want to be anywhere else. Penn is dedicated to getting the needed resources and to get people to align with UMOJA so that the African American experience is more comfortable at BCC.
Penn believes we are already "there" as a wider BCC community in making African American students feel comfortable on campus. The fact that Alley Young and Shirley Slaughter, Director of Business and Administrative Services at BCC, were able to secure funds and to cultivate our plans speaks volumes. Penn points out that there is still work to do, mainly in the financial sector, which is not a problem specific to UMOJA but for many programs. Penn adds that we need to advocate for UMOJA at local levels, to make sure that the program prevails. Penn highlights that she is not the sole person doing this, but has a whole network of supportive people behind her. One of the major successes for UMOJA this year has been that as a district all the UMOJA programs were able to attend the eighth annual UMOJA regional conference in Sacramento this year. A feat that required the acquisition of secured funds and meticulous planning.
When asked what the future of UMOJA looks like, Penn, whose eyes lit up with joy, said that it warms her heart to think about it. Though unclear of the future, Penn is working on creating a community for friends of UMOJA. There is a spirit at BCC that upholds UMOJA and wants the program to stay. Penn wants students in UMOJA to grow in their potential as leaders and to embrace their strength and beauty as Black individuals. UMOJA will continue to carry the energy and spirit through the semesters and years. There is a knowing that something great will come from UMOJA. It starts with BCC coming together and claiming this space for our community.
by DORIS KIAMBATI
UMOJA Lands at BCC
On Creating a Safe Space for Black Students at Berkeley City College
Local Filmmaker Gets Weird
I was wearing a priest outfit and I couldn't remember my lyrics. All my words were in a Bible and I did it like a sermon.
Anthony Marchitiello is a weird guy. He is also hard to nail down, because he is so busy. When he agreed to meet me on Telegraph Avenue on a bright Tuesday morning, I was both surprised and pleased for the opportunity to talk with him. He was willing to chat my ear off for a couple hours about growing up in the East Bay and how he came to be a filmmaker. We walked, talked, drank coffee and eventually ate some burritos while he told me about how he fell in with the East Bay punk scene, became friends with Green Day, and accidentally got a Master's in film at the San Francisco Academy of Art.
Marchitiello grew up in San Pablo, California and was raised on movies. He loved them all, regardless of genre. After testing out of high school early, he stumbled upon a group of guys while working at a local Round Table Pizza who said they had recorded a punk record. They also had written some scripts and wanted to make movies. Marchitiello was blown away, “I didn't know that regular people could make movies," he told me. He promptly moved into their house, even though he claims they didn't like him that much. Marchitiello describes this group of friends not as “punks," but as “suburbanite dorks who listened to Weird Al."
One of those dorks was Corbett Redford, who would continue to be Marchitiello's close friend and artistic collaborator for two decades. Through Redford and the house they shared, Marchitiello eventually went on to meet the members of Green Day. Although he didn't get closely involved with the band until the recent past, they were in the peripheral of his social and artistic circle for many years.
Marchitiello has been a film student, a director, a teacher, and also a rapper. Those with a deep knowledge of the early 2000's Bay Area independent-hip hop scene may recall a rapper named Finky Binks. On the album "Taking Back My Samich," you can find poetic song titles such as "Afghanistan's My Homie," and "Oh Fuck, It's Raining." I personally prefer the 2002 high-concept album "Charlie Bucket: Cosmonaut," where Binks imagines what happened to Charlie after he left the Chocolate Factory in the glass elevator and took off into space. While Finky Binks has been largely laid to rest, Marchitiello told me that on occasion he will run into fans while traipsing around Berkeley and Oakland. "There was so little work put into my rap career, but I still walk around and people are like 'Aren't you Finky Binks?'"
As ridiculous as he claims his rap career was, it is what landed him at the San Francisco Academy of Art. One night he performed at a rap show at the Maritime Hall, "I was wearing a priest outfit and I couldn't remember my lyrics. All my words were in a Bible and I did it like a sermon," Marchitiello explained. In a strange turn of events, he ran into a some fans who had attended the show. They would end up helping to get him into college. “Weird convergence of fate," is how he described falling into art school, getting a scholarship and eventually obtaining an MFA in film.
While at film school, Marchitiello managed to make an award-winning short film called "Ikea Indian." It's a 16mm film he developed in coffee and urine. It clocks in at about two and half minutes long. It was named Best Experimental Film at the SF Academy of Art in 2005 and was an official selection at a number of film festivals in 2006. Winning the award at the SF Academy of Art ended up being somewhat ironic. Marchitiello explained to me, not long after the film won the award, the Academy began to use it as a marketing tool for the film department. Concurrently, Marchitiello was told he that his scholarship was being rescinded, claiming he should never have been given one in the first place. "They were like 'you gotta pay up, or you gotta go'," he told me. He said he was infuriated and that as he was raising hell about it. "Ikea Indian" was being displayed on television screens that lined the halls of the Admissions offices. Eventually he sorted out the money and the credits he needed. He finished his thesis and received his Master's. He laughed about not having ever seen the actual document, saying "I know I had to pay money for it. I think my mom did. I think she has it, maybe."
After finishing school, Marchitiello followed an odd and random path of jobs. He worked on a show for the Discovery Channel called "San Quentin Film School" that was released in 2009. "It changed my entire life because I was in a prison for four months." He said he walked away from that experience with a new perspective and an ability to teach. As a result of the experience he was offered other teaching jobs at various public and private schools.
Marchitiello also spent a few years running a local TV station, where he was given carte blanche to create and produce TV shows as he pleased. He took it and ran, coming up with ideas like "Tiny Oprahs," which he described as a show in which "two girls would come in, drink tall cans, and just talk." The job ended when the city's funding for the position ran out. Marchitiello used this as an opportunity to leave the city behind to make coffee and bake scones in his own small town café in Forestville, California.
Marchitiello has a lot of restless energy. You can feel it when you talk to him. It doesn't come across as nervousness, but rather it gives one the sense that he is a mad genius. He is too smart, too bored with things, and too interested in what he can do next. Because he is clearly not a man who enjoys staying in one place for too long, he decided he needed to sell the café and move on to the next adventure. While he was looking for a buyer for the café, Marchitiello was approached by Redford about a potential big project, something to do with Green Day.
Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong wanted to make a documentary about the East Bay punk scene from the '70s to the present. Armstrong enlisted Redford to direct it and when Redford realized he may need help with directing a film of this magnitude, he turned to Marchitiello. They started the project in 2014 and the movie was released in spring 2017. "Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk" has been well received. Several years of shooting interviews and scanning decades of footage paid off. In addition to being a co-writer and supporting director of the film, Marchitiello was asked to come along as an official photographer for Rancid, who were joining Green Day on an international tour that commenced after the release of the film.
Marchitiello spoke very highly of Green Day, his experience with making the film, and being part of the tour. He described a moment, behind the curtain while Rancid was playing, when Armstrong came up to him to express his gratitude. "Billie Joe's like 'I just want to tell you the movie is great, you guys killed it, be proud. You made a major motion picture.' And I was so happy." Marchitiello explains that this important moment happened minutes before jumping off a stage in order to take a photograph, which resulted in a broken foot. He gives the impression that the injury did not take anything away from the excitement and success of the tour.
When I asked Marchitiello what's next on his plate now that the tour is over, he told me he formed a close friendship with Tim Armstrong, lead singer of Rancid and Operation Ivy, while on the tour. With Armstrong, Marchitiello has been splitting his time between the East Bay and Los Angeles to work on a TV show. "It's a horror show set in the East Bay." Marchitiello said he also has at least one personal project he would like to finish at some point in the future. The project that he would be most excited to complete, he told me, is a documentary about "the late, great East Bay punk rock god, Dory Tourette." Marchitiello lit up when talking about this project, "I just love that dude...When we're in a place where we can do work for just passion, it will happen then. But for right now I'm trying to keep the lights on."
Marchitiello paints a picture of someone who has fallen into work and success by happenstance, but behind this persona is someone with passion for what he does. His love of film is real and palpable. We talked about Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock as two of his biggest influences. When he described being moved by their films, he spoke with an endearing sincerity. Marchitiello talked about having a mom who loved movies and how she "let us watch whatever we wanted at a young age." It wasn't long before he was making his friends watch Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" at sleepovers. Later, while in his first year of college, he describes having a somewhat religious experience while watching "The Shining" on LSD. The movie changed the way he thought about and watched films. Marchitiello recounted "All of sudden being overwhelmed with how beautiful and perfect of a movie it was. I remember at some point getting down on my knees and being like 'Yes!'"
While discussing his love for movies, Marchitiello lamented the fact that in general, people care about film less and less as a medium. "The fact that I have a major motion picture playing in theaters at this moment and nothing is happening [in my career] as a result, is proof that film ain't the shit that it used to be." Marchitiello and I went on to discuss how television shows have been steadily surpassing film in cultural significance. Hence, his next project is in that realm of entertainment.
Anthony Marchitiello is a razor sharp and interesting fellow. Everyone should look forward to any future projects he is involved in. His delightful weirdo-vibes and passion for creating is evident when you talk to him or watch anything he has been a part of. Exploring both his work as a filmmaker and a rapper is highly recommended.
You can view Marchitiello's award winning short film, and other videos he has made, at www.bigsteamy.com. "Turn It Around: The Story of East Bay Punk" is still being screened locally. You can find more information at www.eastbaypunk.com. You can find Finky Binks albums by some easy Google searching. Enjoy the journey.
Photo: Anthony Marchitiello
Green Day Documentarian
by ANDI RUSK
A Creative Space in Academic Writing
Julianne Leigh is an English professor at Berkeley City College. She teaches two of the general education requirement English composition courses: English 1A and 1B. But there is nothing general about Professor Leigh's classes. As a writer of fiction herself, Leigh broadens her lectures to allow for creativity, and teaches students that they have "permission to not be perfect." This is not to insinuate that Leigh's classes are without pressure and expectations, but she truly finds joy within her students' triumphs in finding their voice in writing.
If you could teach any kind of English class what would it be?
If I could create my own? It would be a creative analysis class. Every time I can do an exercise both in 1A and 1B where I can have a creative opening the response I get from the students is so exciting and when I go home I'm just like, thrilled. If I could rewrite English 1A, I would love to be able to do it that way. But there are limitations because of the requirements of the course.
But you still did a really good job of incorporating that.
Do you think creativity and fiction writing skills have a place in formal academic writing and, if so, in what way?
Absolutely. I'm thinking about the way we think when we're doing straightforward, traditional linear analysis, it's extremely important. The kind of analysis you do when you're creative is equally important, and I think [educators] are talking about that. The real development of ideas — it comes from the creative side as well. I mean, it's a synthesis of both. But I think what happens is that we get in a time-crunch, and that comes from all sorts of different factors, so then we focus on the most straightforward process: the traditional five paragraph essay structure that is used so often — that more deductive pattern where you state your main point and then you prove it, as opposed to doing the inductive style where you come to it at the end. We don't tend to teach that so much in the early writing classes because, again, there is no time. See, I have limited the number and the range of creative assignments because I believe that there's a need for a strong foundation in the basics. If you don't have an understanding of language — if you don't have a foundational understanding of what you're doing with the language — then I think it's more challenging to be powerfully creative. But you know how my opening line goes, "There's no such thing as wrong language." It's just a matter of when you're going to use what language and for what purpose.
Yeah, that's something I really admired about your classes always.
It is hard, I have to say I think this is probably obvious and I think a lot of instructors find themselves in this position: I hate the grades, because they're so limiting and they're a value judgment that's overly simplistic. But again, I have no choice, so I have to work with that. But it's constantly my challenge. I think you know how much I want to share the power and the joy of learning how to write and discovering how we think through language. I do find it hard trying to keep everyone excited about that and to keep going, and at the same time have to be someone who critiques with a grade.
Right, and the stress.
And the stress involved, yeah. I always cared about those kinds of scores too, so I'm very sympathetic. But it's a little bit like, if you want to be an artist or a dancer or do any kind of athletics, you have to pay attention to form. So that's part of it.
That's a really good point. I feel like I learned a lot in your class and it was really — it was a great class. But I didn't feel the same sort of stress over deadlines that some of my classmates expressed. I don't feel like it interfered with my learning at all, I feel like it enhanced it actually.
I think some people are going to do well with as much room as possible and some people really need that rigid timeline. Working with adults, working in the Program for Adult College Education for so many years, I've developed a flexible style, with deadlines. Not every instructor does that, and I totally respect every individual instructors take on that. And I've always said that I believe in giving a little room to students. I was given it, and I had a wonderful professor when I was in grad school who basically said she wants to give people as much room as possible but she doesn't want to get them in trouble by it.
Do you have any advice for someone who always struggled with English class or with writing in general?
Try to balance the challenging aspects of the process with enjoyable writing — the type of writing that is purely for exploring what you can do with language — so you can take that edge off. And again, that's one of the philosophies behind the in-class writing exercises where there's no judgment at all — it's just totally free — to see what we can do, both for ourselves and others, without anyone else's sort of intervention at all.
So, practice free-writing?
Mmhmm. Free-writing, but then the hard one is to give ourselves permission to not be perfect.
That's a really big one.
I think that takes a lot of practice. I have a friend who teaches an art class, and she just basically feels that when you're taking a beginning instruction, of course you're not going to know everything. It is a work in progress, and that's okay.
I have a question that stems from something I've noticed that's happened in my classes. How do you feel when, near the end of the semester, the class size shrinks in terms of attendance?
It's hard, especially when it gets really small — I'd even use the word "devastating." And it's frustrating, because I don't really know what to do about it. I've tried to set up the class to make it as practical for adults and young adults, who obviously have many different obligations, but there is just so much work required in these composition classes and it's time consuming. What I do to keep myself from getting too disappointed by the smaller class size is just put more time and energy into the students that are there, and sometimes the discussions that come up in a small group are really valuable.
I can definitely attest to that.
I went to a number of different schools, and I took a number of different kinds of courses and writing workshops in grad school, they were pretty small. I mean the first weeks of school the room is packed, and everyone is excited about being there — that is great! I think students have to remember to give themselves a lot of credit for hanging in there.
So this is sort of a similar question but, English 1A and 1B are required GE's, why should we be excited to sign up for your class?
Because knowing how to write is helping you know yourself better, and it's a political act. And it gives us the tools to make change, and I'm passionate about that.
Do you have anything in particular that you love about teaching at BCC?
Oh, oh the students — and I'm gonna get all emotional — I get so much from the students. Always. Always. It's a very meaningful experience. I find that working with people who have so many obligations ... I find it inspiring to see the amazing thought and care and energy that students put into their work.
Photo courtesy of Julianne Leigh
Knowing how to write ... it's a political act. And it gives us the tools to make change, and I'm passionate about that.
by Abbey Kingsbury
Writer and Berkeley City College Professor
Photo Courtesy of: Raymond Telles
by Edgar J Rosales
"The Storm that Swept Mexico" is a documentary examining Mexico's evolution as a state and a country. The film is constructed through personal accounts, archives and professional analysis. This was the first Raymond-Telles-directed film I had seen. What got my attention was the personal connection I developed with the documentary. After meeting Telles in a "Q and A" presentation at Berkeley City College, he agreed to a personal interview with The BCC Voice. This interview was held in the Center for Latino Policy Research near the University of California, Berkeley main campus. As Telles greeted me with the hospitality of a Chicano relative — rather than that of a professor or director — I rejoiced in the same unparalleled feeling of personal connection I had experienced while watching his film. This was the impetus behind why I wanted to interview Telles, his work connected to its audience. More than just a dull documentary, he offered a true glimpse into individuals' lives.
What drove you to pursue filmmaking?
I started out in literature, double majored in Spanish and English. Then went to University of California, Los Angeles where I got my master's in Latin American Literature. At the time, some of my friends were making films, and they were the ones who exposed me and taught me the basics of filmmaking. Since I already had a career, I needed a program where it was intensive and fast. I wanted to learn all of the fundamentals of filmmaking in just a couple of years, so I applied to UCLA's film graduate program and got in.
I started working at the bottom, as a production assistant for a television producer by the name of Jack Webb, where I basically just drove around delivering scripts. Since I knew how to shoot I was offered a job with Univision, which at the time was called Spanish International Network. I worked my way up for a couple years, where I was learning how to produce and direct, and at the same time I was writing scripts on my own. After moving to the Bay Area I started to do freelance work and got involved with KQED, and that's where I kinda fell into documentaries. Originally, I wanted to do narrative feature films but I ended up doing documentary and that's where I've been ever since.
What drew me into documentaries was that it was story telling but with real people, and because of documentaries I met people and went to places I never expected to go. I was learning about life through this work and that's why I love it and it's where I've been for the last 35 years.
In an interview with HIPGive you stated, "My give is giving voice, storytelling from people from our community whose stories need to be told." What made you want to dedicate your life to telling other people's stories?
It's an evolution. As a journalist and a filmmaker, people inspire you and make you see the world through a different lens. As a Chicano, I grew up with my version — my family's version of history — which is as valid as anyone's else's, but I wanted to explore beyond what my family knew. That's how we ended up working on the film "The Storm that Swept Mexico." Many people have studied the Mexican Revolution for over one hundred years, and I had the opportunity to hear the story through my grandparents perspective. I figured, these are personal stories that I want to explore a bit more and they are also individual stories that tell a personal perspective of a bigger history. My passion for the last 20 years as a filmmaker has been to tell those stories that I think are interesting and important for all of us to hear. That's what I hoped to achieve doing "The Storm that Swept Mexico" and "Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer's Journey."
That is why I am working with student-filmmakers and journalists, to encourage them to tell other people's stories, whether it's in the form of an article, or a film. Our families, our relatives, our friends and our people all have stories to tell and if we don't tell them who will?
Who is your target audience?
It depends on the film. For example, in "Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer's Journey," I appealed to people who were interested in photography, architecture and art. Since [Guerrero] was Latino, there was a bicultural audience of Latinx who were discovering this kind of field. You want your films to be seen by as many people as possible, but we knew in particular who the target audience was — architects, photographers, and Latinos who were discovering a passion in photography.
In the case of the "Storm that Swept Mexico," this film was a national broadcast. It was recently screened in festivals and the Mexican-American audience loved it. Chicanx and Latinx communities hardly see ourselves on PBS or on other national outlets, because not a lot of films talk about the Chicanx and Latinx communities' history. But in general, I go for the broadest audience possible.
What is the hardest part in creating a film?
The hardest part, besides getting the funding, is finding what is the essence of the story. With the film "Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer's Journey," we had 46 minutes to tell his story. It's basically taking all of the information you have about the subject and condensing it to an accurate story that works. It's being able to tell the story with the least amount of words possible and letting the images work for you. That is the challenge — having every line, and every image reveal something. To me, filmmaking is like poetry. Editing, condensing, and writing, being able to convey the story in the simplest way possible, it's a challenge.
You've emphasized in previous interviews the importance of mentorship. Who was a mentor for you? Both in life and in your field?
My parents were always my support system throughout life. But in my professional life there was a guy I worked with in KQED by the name of Spencer Michels. He took me under his wing and showed me the importance of writing. I see Spencer as one of my biggest mentors. Every once in awhile we do a story together. I got to be good friends with him and still am.
But there have been a number of people who have mentored me throughout the years. I'm constantly learning from other people, producers and even my students. This is why I enjoy teaching, I read papers on films that I've watched a dozen of times and occasionally I read a paper with a perspective that I have never thought about. I'm constantly learning.
What is a Chicano film?
The concept of a Chicano is something I grew up with. From the late '60s to the mid '80s I was involved in politics, and during this time we were establishing our identity as Mexican-Americans. This was a political statement. A Chicano was first interpreted as a Mexican-American who was born or raised in the United States. A Chicano film is a film by a Chicano with a Chicano theme. However, Chicano films have now shifted to Latino films. I teach a Latino film class and show Latino films that are not always made by Latinos. For example, I just showed "Sin Nombre." This is a film about a migrant family coming from Honduras, through Tapachula which is by Chiapas, Mexico, with the overall goal of arriving in Texas. This film has a Latino theme but is made by a Japanese-American writer from Oakland, Calif., Cary Fukunaga. That is a Latino film, that term has now shifted. But at the same time a Chicano film would be "Zoot Suit," a Chicano theme film, made by a Chicano director. That is what is considered a Chicano film right now. There are very few Chicano films because of its requirement of needing to be made by a Chicano filmmaker. But I think we need to think bigger than that because the term is expanding now, Chicano is also part of the Latino experience in the United States.
What are some tips you can give to young filmmakers and producer?
Best advice I can give is to never give up. If you really believe in what you are doing, never give up. I spent over ten years on "The Storm That Swept Mexico," and there were times I wanted to give up, but I stuck with it. You have to have faith and believe in your story. Believe that what you are doing is the right thing. If you believe and stick with it everything will work out.
An Interview With the Emmy Award-Winning Director and Professor.
... having every line, and every image reveal something. To me, filmmaking is like poetry. Editing, condensing, and writing, being able to convey the story in the simplest way possible ...
Ray Telles, on the hardest part of filmmaking
Giving a Voice to Those Who Need to Be Heard
by ANASTASIA LE
If someone who is Catholic, Buddhist, or Muslim says, "You're in my heart" or "I will pray for you," I accept that and thank them, because it is a lot for anyone to pray for someone they don't know.
Friendly, unassuming, your average small-town girl grounded in her faith. The second of nine children, my longtime neighbor and friend Sabrina Tonkin, 19, sat down with me to talk about the two most important things in her life: family and church.
What is your opinion of big families, in a culture in which young people are having fewer children?
I've always loved being in a big family. There is a different bond from just having one brother or sister. [All of my brothers and sisters] are there for each other, to talk and support one another. We have more of a friendship bond. I've never met any other families like ours. Having a big family is considered abnormal, and some think it's unnecessary to have so many children. A big family is different, especially when you bring homeschooling into the picture.
Can you describe your homeschooling experience?
Homeschooling was the best option for me. I'd always wanted to go to a normal high school, which I never ended up being able to do. It affected my life in good and bad ways. I didn't have the social experiences or the dance or the programs of a normal high school, but because of that, I fell deeper into my church and its youth programs, which was good for me spiritually. I still wish I could have had the normal high school experiences, but that's okay, because it brought me closer to my faith.
What is your relationship to the church like?
My church, Three Crosses, is huge. I love it. I got more involved in its youth groups when I started homeschooling, which helped me hold onto myself spiritually and emotionally, and in that way, I connected more with God. I grew closer in my faith and church family. It was for the better.
How would you describe Christian values to someone who is unaware of what they are?
My parents' rules and our family's rules are founded in Christian values, the main one being to keep God first, above family, friends, schooling, above everything you could need in life. This isn't the case for all Christians. This semester I spent my time at the church to think my plan and future through because I wanted to stay in-touch spiritually and talk to God about what my path is really meant to be; what I'm supposed to do schooling-wise, future-wise. Where does he see me? Through prayer, I found my answers.
What do you see yourself doing after you've finished school?
I've always loved working with children, and especially women. The program I'm doing, the Clinical Assisting Program, will allow me to get a job at a reproductive clinic, which is where my mom was seen. The reproductive clinic isn't just a medical facility, it's more about having a relationship between the professionals and the patients. You get to know a lot more about the patient's history, their feelings about specific procedures, and if they're not only physically but mentally prepared for their pregnancy.
What was the influence behind your goals?
Seeing my mom go through the process of not being able to conceive naturally for five years until receiving in vitro fertilization treatment really influenced my decision to go into gynecology. I saw the medical side of everything — how her gynecologist helped her, how her IVF specialist worked with her, how she did special procedures. I was young when my mom was going through the actual process, and was a lot more present when she was going through the pregnancy. My mom has always pushed me and my siblings to go into the medical field. It's all we'd ever talk about.
Can you describe your experience interacting with Christians who hold different values from your own?
I have a friend who bases his faith back in the Old Testament more than I believe. He very much believes that if you only focus on prayer and completely avoid medical treatment, you will be healed. Having been raised to believe in the medical field, and wanting to work in the medical field, I do believe if you pray you can be healed, having seen and experienced that in my own life and my mother's life, but I also believe in the capabilities of the medical field.
What is your idea of a fulfilling life?
Life is about being happy. It's about doing the right things for yourself and your life. Happiness to me, beyond the job I'm currently working towards, is staying close to my faith and my church, and in the future hopefully my family will be in that community beside me. I plan to live in the Bay Area into my adult life. I love my church family. It's where I was baptized, it's where I found my life. When I start my own life, I still want to be present in my mother and siblings' lives, attending the same church, all the things I do now.
Do you think everyone should be Christian?
Christianity isn't for everyone. I don't believe in coming into conflict with anyone else's faith.
I don't think arguing about faith is very Christian of me. I wouldn't want anyone to argue with me about my beliefs. I will always spread the word of God and I will always preach, but that doesn't mean I'm telling you to be Christian. I'm telling you that I will pray for you. It's the way I feel, that it will benefit you if I pray for you or if I open my word to you. Maybe my words will affect your life for the better.
If someone who is Catholic, Buddhist, or Muslim says, "You're in my heart" or "I will pray for you," I accept that and thank them, because it is a lot for anyone to pray for someone they don't know. You never know how hard it is on someone. For me, I like praying for people who believe in different religions even more so than Christians because it's opening their heart, not just my heart.
How do you think we can foster a community from so many different people?
We are all human, we all are capable of being kind, of being emotionally supportive. It doesn't matter your race or the way you were raised or what job you have or what values you have; as long as you can be there to support one another.
Supporting gay rights is a big conflict in the Christian community. We don't shame anyone, but we also don't really talk about it. I don't want to speak for all of Christianity, but I support gay rights and I support equality through all aspects of life, whether that be race, religion, the LGBTQ community — that's their own life, in my eyes that's none of our business. Just like I don't believe in pushing someone Catholic to be Christian, I don't believe in telling someone who is gay, "You're not supposed to be gay."
I've heard a lot of Christians say, "You shouldn't be friends with him, he's a sinner" but to me, we're all sinners. We all have sins, we all go to church to work on our sins, and you should never push someone away because they are gay because you don't know why they're at church in the first place. We are all human, we all have our flaws, we all sin; it doesn't matter in which way you sin. In God's eyes, every sin is the same.
What is it like to go to church?
It's an awesome feeling I also feel outside of church, from talking in small groups to reading the Bible on my own. I've walked into other kinds of churches and I've never experienced the same emotions. That's what I like about my faith, that the responsibility to be faithful is put on you and only you, not enforced by others. When I'm not feeling well or feeling disconnected, I'll drive to the church, sit there and take the weight off my shoulders. The weight can easily come back as soon as you return to those places of stress, but you can always come back to the church.
There's this great sense of relief. I feel so at peace, especially when I sing with everyone. I feel connected and in touch with my spirituality. I can let go.
After an hour's worth of modern Christian schooling, I began to understand the appeal of a God who can promise stability and safety in a world spiraling blindly into the future. I was amazed to have experienced a world view so devoid of the political fervor that ricochets off the walls of the Berkeley City College campus. I was left with a sense of rightness in the world which immediately dissipated once I stepped outside.
on Big Families and Being a Young Christian in the Bay Area
The second of nine children, Sabrina Tonkin (right), with her youngest sibling, Reign (left). Photo: Anastasia Le
The Christian Spin
Mike McPhate Quit the New York Times to Get Stuck in Your Spam Folder Every Morning, and He Loves It
It was Wednesday, Nov. 29, and tied to the tail of an amused chuckle came Mike McPhate's state of the state — "I don't think that's true here," McPhate asserted, "I think most Californians really do think of themselves as Californians. Even though it's a huge state, you identify with the state as a whole. That has a lot to do with, I think, being proud of our role in the nation as an innovative place, and being proud of the landscape … of how beautiful California is."
McPhate is a Californian by birth and by trade. A navy brat raised in San Luis Capistrano and now residing in Los Osos, he spent 14 months curating and collating the Golden State's goings-on for the New York Times under the banner "California Today." "The New York Times was an amazing place, it's an amazing institution," opined McPhate but, "Newsletters at old-guard media companies have been seen traditionally as vehicles for driving subscriptions to the main news product or promoting their own internal content. I feel that to do a successful newsletter you need that independence, where you're not beholden to push anyone's content."
And so, he left.
"I split about three weeks ago to start this new thing." It's a lot like the old thing, but it hasn't been easy. McPhate and editor Andrew Zahler pressed send on the inaugural edition of their new email newsletter "The Golden Stater" on Monday, Nov. 27 and were almost immediately served with a cease and desist letter. "It's extremely disheartening," admits McPhate. An entity, whose identity McPhate has chosen not to reveal, has staked claim to the Golden Stater vein.
"I really like the name. I don't want to change it and I feel backed into a corner," McPhate explained, "but I'm trying to be realistic about it and the smartest path is just to change the name. Ideally, we'll come up with something we like even better." Discussions with three separate trademark attorneys have convinced McPhate that, though the claimant's case appeared weak, the cost of engaging in legal action is prohibitive for he and Zahler's fledgling endeavor.
Such an immediate hurdle was an object lesson in why the "lot of journalists [who] secretly fantasize about doing this kind of thing," confine the aspiration to fantasy. "It's painful, but it's good that it's happening now instead of later on," rationalizes McPhate. "I don't think anyone's attached to the name in any meaningful way … I don't think it's going to affect reader loyalty."
And he's probably — hopefully — right.
Mike McPhate has some grand and utopian ideas about what the newsletter can be and what it can achieve. "It's hard to wrap your arms around the cacophony of news out there. I think a lot of people just feel overwhelmed. That's the problem I'm trying to fix with this newsletter," McPhate explains, "There's a demand for trusted guides to … the stuff out there that's flying by them on their computer screens." And admirably, McPhate is trying to make his readers' lives better, rather than merely more convenient.
"I want to give you the important stuff, but I want to delight you as much as I can," says McPhate, the smile is audible in his voice, "I always try to include a handful of items in the news that I think are just delightful or inspiring."
Inherent in McPhate's words are an indictment of the glut of information so eagerly, and often ignorantly, ingested by modern consumers, and a sincere concern for others' well-being. The raw news-scape is a geography fraught with ulterior motives, grown fat on fluff and frightening spectacle, and McPhate positions himself squarely within it to condense and curate for Californians the information of importance to their communities.
"It's exhausting," confides McPhate, everyday, "the major newspapers in all the major cities … I look at probably 40 news sites, which are focusing on news throughout the state, then I'm also looking at trending news … reddit … CrowdTangle … Twitter … social media ... everybody else's newsletters ... It's an arduous process."
The swathe cut by McPhate's foraging is wide but, "I'm just one person," affirms McPhate and, "I only go for established news outlets, and if I do grab something from somewhere I've never heard of then I will do some vetting to make sure its legit. But I do tend to stick to places which have that capital of reliability built up over time because it's the only way you can really know if they're reliable or not."
"It's gotta be current. It's gotta be proximate. It's gotta be surprising or delightful. It needs to affect people," emphasizes McPhate. "I have one original item in the newsletter everyday ... what I don't want to do is write the twelfth take on the same story. Part of the reason I have no objection to aggregating is that I just don't think readers care all that much that this or that thing was written by me. They're perfectly happy to get it from The Mercury News or the Los Angeles Times or some other place, and if they've done a competent job — and they always do — why not just link to them?"
But, says McPhate, ideally "you should be able to read the newsletter without clicking on anything and get a pretty good gist. I'm relying on the time-tested strategies of writing good copy that are employed across journalism. Succinct, engaging, short copy."
McPhate envisions the newsletter as more than just an aggregator though, and the thousands who have already signed up to receive The Golden Stater are a bolster to his confidence and ambition. "The working vision I have for it would be to do additional regional versions of the newsletter. There's no reason why you couldn't do a really fantastic San Diego version of what I'm doing now, or one that's focused on the far north or on Fresno. There's definitely an opportunity to do something like that, whether it's me or somebody else, I feel like it's something that somebody should be doing."
The email newsletter may do for written journalism what podcasts are doing for the medium of radio. "There's kind of a natural marriage between newsletters and podcasts," offers McPhate, and with "half as many journalists here in California as there were fifteen years ago" newsletters like McPhate and Zahler's may be part of a catalyst for a reinvigoration of the field.
If, that is, they can make some money at it. "I'm not good on that question," shies McPhate, "I'm trying to get smart people to tell me what the business model should look like, but I'm picking up on a few themes."
Subscription. Advertisement. Donation. "You can ask people to pay a little bit, which I'm not averse to. I could potentially, if I get a big enough audience and people have come to rely on it and value it and are loyal to it, see them being comfortable chipping in ten bucks a year and that would make it profitable," offers McPhate optimistically. "Other people are relying on ads. I'm not sure how I feel about that," and for McPhate even the words feel a little cumbersome, "It's a lot more work doing the sales and obviously people don't like seeing ads in their newsletter, so it'd be nice to not have to do that. Then there's the donation model, which I'm interested in as well. So, [news organizations] like Voice of San Diego, and Voice of OC and this place What The Fuck Just Happened Today? are relying on donations."
Profitability isn't the only constraint on the medium. File size limitations, load times for users with poor connections, and automated clipping by email clients collude with the short attention spans, demanding schedules and shifting interests of readers to create a formidable challenge to success. Assuming, of course, McPhate manages to make it to the inbox, "I think my newsletter is hitting a lot of people's spam folders, I keep hearing that." And I could hear the disappointment and frustration in his voice when I informed him that that morning's newsletter had indeed required resurrecting from my spam folder. But that's mostly a short-lived problem as people tend to go looking for something they've asked for.
McPhate's marketing for the newsletter has been grassroots thus far, "It's been limited to asking friends and family to promote it, posting it on Twitter, posting it on Facebook, posting it on LinkedIn. I am concerned that I'm not getting exposed to a broader audience. My hope is to, after doing it for a few weeks, try and do some more aggressive marketing — probably on Facebook, because everyone is on Facebook. Other than that, I'm going to be asking my readers to share the newsletter as much as possible."
Despite the warm reception from friends, family, colleagues — and total strangers — McPhate exudes the telling fragility of a man who's taken a leap of faith and is still falling. "I would just like more people to know that it exists," says McPhate. "I want to make people's lives easier, better." If you give it a try, you might find it does just that.
Photo courtesy of: Mike McPhate
I couldn't be a bigger California fan-boy, I love this place. I grew up here and I'm just kinda overwhelmed on a regular basis — any time I walk out of my house — with just how gorgeous it is. It's a spectacular place.
by ALEXANDER COATES
A long-time veteran of playing music in a wide range of clubs, Fred Randolph knows how a working musician keeps himself inspired. “It's strange, the passion is always there with music, always has been. The burn out happens in other jobs, such as selling typewriter ribbon or dishwashing or DJ-ing for KCSM. There is no burnout in a musician's life. I didn't start having a music career until much later in life, and it wasn't until playing bass that I was a professional. Also, I surround myself with better musicians, that way I am always having to strive."
To discover what the daily activities of a musician's life are like, The BCC Voice asked the versatile and esteemed Berkeley City College and Contra Costa College Music Instructor and jazz musician Fred Randolph a few questions. Randolph is a medium-tall brunette man growing a goatee, with large muscular hands and thick fingers that would lend nicely to carpentery work if he hadn't chosen to play bass and piano. He relaxes people easily and gets along well with anyone.
The BCC Voice asked what early influences contributed to his musical genius, “As far as musicians who I was inspired by and influenced me — Jimi Hendrix. Musically, guitar was really my first instrument. I grew up in Hawaii, so I also played ukulele," said Randolph.
“Then there was a music teacher from my Honolulu high school, named Oliver Stone,whom I had a chance to do a lot of independent study with as well as theory. Then there was a jazz guitar teacher at University of California, San Diego too. I grew up in that era when to become a rock star was what everybody wanted to be, which was much more important than sports. You may have musical passion, but it's the aspect of getting girls, having a social outlet and being a famous musician. Gradually as you mature, then you realize it's the music itself that becomes important and the other things fall away".
“When I was young in Honolulu, a small town, the guy all my friends and I were looking up to and taking jazz guitar lessons from was Bill Valdez. He was a nut, but the only game in town. He used to say, ‘Fred, remember Valdez is coming. 'He was really anti-rock, because rock was a big threat to jazz musicians, so he got me listening to Kenny Burrell, Les Montgomery and people like that. We had a little guitar clique in school. “
Then his travels brought him closer to the Bay, “I went straight to San Diego, but the water was full of kelp and cold, and then studied with Steve O'Connor who got me into horns, and he asked me to listen to sax players. Then eventually I just went into a pawn shop and I bought my first sax and then drove up to Berkeley to attend UC Berkeley and found bass and knew that's the instrument; it would be it for me."
After gigging he says, "My hands are fried but last night was so much fun. Monday night I was performing with an incredible group of people: a piano player, drummer and singer at the Black Cat in the Tenderloin ‘til one in the morning. The Irish woman, Melody who sings in the place is remarkable. We really take a journey every time we play together."
The BCC Voice asked how he fills his spare time, he said, "I enjoy playing, practicing with my bands, listening to music, and composing in my spare time — but that takes another head space entirely. The hardest thing though, is if you're studying an instrument but not applying it, so not currently playing with a band or whatnot. If you're a music geek you like to be around other music geeks. Now, if you play in the orchestra or a band, you're using your ears, and you're forced into instantaneous reaction, not just confined to theory or practice. I am teaching myself violin right now and practice at least fifteen minutes a day, in addition to drumming, piano-playing, bass-playing. I may never be a virtuoso in violin, but my goal is to be as proficient as my students, since I teach it as part of the high school symphony at Bishop O'Dowd, a private Catholic High school in the Oakland Hills."
Randolph glows as he shares his greatest joy in teaching music to high school students and college musicians. “Teaching kids is always having a parent behind every child, so you have to think carefully about what you say, and often they don't get your humor. But the kids are great. They have so much enthusiasm and are wild and loud, but when the times comes two rehearsals before a big performance, it's quiet. I mean nobody will tell you leading a high school music band is easy, but at times it's satisfying. I have guys that come back to me years later and say, 'man, that class I took with you really changed my life.' Or I have a former student who did his scales and the right homework etc. and he is offering me gigs and vice versa now, and that's great.
When asked about his current projects and performances, Randolph mentions The Sound Room on Broadway at Grand in Oakland, California, which was the last performance there before that club closed and may reopen elsewhere. Also, his website www.fredrandolph.com has all his upcoming shows. "My original compositions were recently featured in a film entitled Fourth Movement that was entered into the Sundance Film Festival and it's currently at the Mill Valley Film Festival. It was directed by a Bay area filmmaker, Rob Nilson."
The BCC Voice learned from Randolph that a day in the life of a full time professional musician is more domestic now than it once was, “Before, it was like 'get up when you feel like it after jamming all night,' but nowadays when you gig all night and during the day you rise at 5:30 a.m. to teach — I have to catch a nap in the car and the next day catch up on sleep. It's a little weird socially when you're a single musician, you don't see anyone regularly. The only social interaction you'd really have is the next gig, a lot of people get depressed with that, it's common, because of the loneliness. Your parents are gone, you might see a relative or two once in a while. So, once I got this full time teaching gig everything changed, I mean it's a trade-off of time and working days but then I get to interact with high-school children, the faculty, staff. Then the promoting is another mode entirely. Not everyone is a born businessman or likes to promote, but the composing is the main thing."
"A song is a collection of emotions," says Randolph. And apparently music even enters his dreams at night, and he said "Yeah that happens often and it's funny because I think I have a great new song only to realize it's a Miles Davis song or another written track."
Events that Randolph looks forward to are “once a year I have a new album with the quintet coming out. My album, "Song Without Singing" is out now. That album took two years to produce because in the middle of recording we had a major house flood from people upstairs leaving a sink running, but it still came out on time."
The BCC Voice asked him whether a funny thing had happened recently. Randolph explains, "when he came to school during Spirit Week/ Halloween and sees Stephen Toliver, a freshman, dressed up like a Michelin man with a generator inflating the costume, and he's already a tubby kid, to which I ask him how he's gonna fit, sit and play the trumpet. So he unplugs, immediately his costume deflates, and he starts playing his trumpet. A slice of life in teaching."
Finally, The BCC Voice listened as he explained, “I never started out thinking I'll be a music teacher but it was an accumulation of all my experiences of learning different instruments and playing that dovetailed nicely into what the community needed."
...a rock star is what everyone wanted to be...gradually as you mature, then you realize it's the music itself that becomes important and the other things fall away.
The Career With Little Burnout
An Interview With Berkeley City College Music Instructor Fred Randolph
by NINA M CESTARO
Fred Randolph poses with his bass at the Sound Room in Oakland, Calif. Photo: Nina M Cestaro
by Derek Chartrand Wallace
I would like to be able to help students not have to go through so much in the way of securing housing, mental health services and food ...
Ramona Butler is EOPS/CARE Coordinator at Berkeley City College. Photo: Derek C. Wallace
Education is for Everyone
Going Over and Above With the EOPS Program
Genial and jovial, Ramona Butler exudes an air of confidence and compassion sometimes lacking in today's college atmosphere. Nestled in the center of Berkeley City College's six stories, the third floor's EOPS (Extended Opportunities Programs and Services) office is the saving grace of BCC's otherwise marginalized students. A state-funded program for those educationally and economically disadvantaged, it is designed to increase the opportunity for students to enter and succeed in college by providing support services and financial assistance. In a recent interview with The BCC Voice, Butler dishes the inside scoop:
"My name is Ramona Butler and I am the EOPS/CARE (Cooperative Agencies Resources for Education) Coordinator at Berkeley City College. I also work in the CalWorks and NextUp programs. An offshoot of EOPS, the CARE program is for single, head-of-household parents who receive either CalWorks benefits, or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits for themselves or their children. NextUp is a program for former or current foster youth between the ages of 16 and 25.
EOPS is a state-funded program, designed to assist students that the state deems as “educationally disadvantaged.” This could mean that you are a first-generation college student, or that you are formerly-incarcerated, or it could be that you are a single parent. You could also be an English-as-a-second-language student, an African American man, or low-income.
Some of our services are one-on-one academic and career counseling. Book vouchers for our students help to offset the costs of education associated with books and supplies. We have a fully-functioning computer lab for students and go on campus tours to local universities and cultural events, which helps our students to connect with other cultures.
Students can come to the EOPS area to pick up an application, or they can go to the Berkeley City College website, do a quick search, find EOPS, and there is a link to the application there. Unfortunately we don’t have a secure site where students can submit the application, so they do have to print it off and bring it to the EOPS lab. To be eligible for the program, you have to be a full-time student (unless you are registered with the office of DSPS — Disabled Students Program and Services — in which case a student might be eligible to be enrolled in less than 12 units). You have to be a California resident and you have to meet the Board of Governors Fee Waiver requirement for low-income.
The program is good as far as supporting students in their academics. Being in the Bay Area, there are a lot of students who have housing and food insecurity, so, textbooks especially for those gatekeeper courses for transfer — math and science, sometimes English, anthropology, things like that — those books are very expensive. The EOPS program helps students with those costs.
The EOPS program also has cost-of-living funds available to help with transportation, some housing costs, even to help students purchase internet services for a semester. In certain circumstances, if funds are available, we can help students with car repair costs. I don’t mean if you need your brakes or engine done, but you might need an oil change or something.
Our philosophy is “Over and Above,” so we provide services over-and-above what the campus already provides. For example, Peralta has an EZPass, a bus pass available for students, what EOPS can do is give them a Clipper card which will help them with transportation costs. Say, for example, you live across the street from BART, that’ll take you 15 minutes to get here (sometimes a little longer), while the bus would take you an hour. In those circumstances we can give over-and-above services.
For CARE students who are single head-of-household parents, we help them with additional transportation costs and childcare stipends, especially if a student is here at nighttime and they need additional child care. Berkeley City College doesn’t have daycare like Laney and Merritt, so a lot of students might have a licensed provider, they might have a parent or a spouse, someone who can help them, while they are pursuing their academics. We do our best to support them in that and make that cushion available, so they don’t have to worry. And even if they don’t have anyone, they could find someone and say, 'Hey I have this stipend, would you be willing to watch my child for a couple of hours, while I go to school?'
The NextUp program for foster youth, because of their circumstances, the over-and-above services could include what I mentioned previously, but perhaps they also need mental health or counseling services. The services are available to all, but things are on a case-by-case basis because we are using state money and we have to account to the state for everything that we do.
The state allocates funds to us every fiscal year based on the college’s number of program participants. Berkeley City College has fewer than 500, a smaller program than Laney or Merritt. The state gives us a certain amount of money. They let us know what percentage can be used for administrative costs, what percentage should be used for books and supply services, and what percentage should go to direct student aid. Now we can manipulate those funds based on services we want to provide, but the one thing we can't do is go over the cap for administrative costs and computers and things like that. Because the state wants to make sure that we are not spending all of their money on employees and computers. Most of the money has to go to servicing the students. Even though they give us a certain amount for book services, we usually go over that amount because we want to have as a robust a program as we can.
We also have a book loan program. We purchase some books for our lending library and students can donate books to the EOPS program too. Now that a lot of math and science subjects are moving online, the challenge is a lot of work is not being done on paper — students will have to purchase a key code to an online service that can only be used for one semester. But we do what we can. What I like to do — especially with math, for those instructors who still use paper for their assignments and tests — sometimes we can print out the assignments so we can give other students copies. We have print capability; we have internet coverage; we have RITMOS, the Spanish online service, on one of the computers; we have Kurzweil for disabled students on two of the computers; we try to open it up for all EOPS students.
I have been the EOPS coordinator for about two years now. I came to this position working for Brenda Johnson, Dean of Student Services and the director of EOPS/CARE at Berkeley City College. When I came to the district, I was working as her staff assistant. Oftentimes, I would help students with the computer, or I’d be able to answer questions about financial aid, admissions and records — general questions about the college. When the former coordinator left and the position opened up, I interviewed and I got it! I had been working with the program and the students for a little while, so it was an easy transition. I really love working with the students and helping them to be successful.
Education is actually a second career for me; I came from the medical field, where I was an oral surgery assistant for about 25 years. When the dentist closed his office around 2004, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I never expected to be working at a college! Here I am, a 40 year-old woman, and I was like, 'What am I gonna do?' But then this opportunity opened up, so I went back to school. I knew someone who worked here at BCC and they said there was a position available, 'Why don’t you come here and see if you can apply?'
I was a little scared because it was something I hadn’t done before, but I came and started working and retraining myself. With a lot of help, I was able to make it work. So, here I am!
I love the students, the diversity of our campus and being able to help students to expand their ideas. We live in a technological era where people can sit behind their computers and disguise themselves. We live in an era where many cultures are characterized negatively. So, being able to connect people with people directly as opposed to through the computer screen is really such a joy. I’ve seen a lot and I’ve done a few things in my lifetime, and I’m not afraid to share those experiences. It’s really nice to be able to help students open up their thought processes about what life is all about, and to stop characterizing people based upon what you think is going on or what somebody told you is happening. Everybody can come sit or walk around and listen to who's talking to whom and who is saying what; we’re a little melting pot here in EOPS and that’s a lot of fun.
And I get to learn too! I get to learn about students, about some of the challenges they go through. We’re able to help. Even if it’s just a kind word, something like 'you’re gonna be okay, don’t worry.' I even get called 'Mama.' It’s nice to be able to help somebody get through Passport or give them a warm hand-off to financial aid, so they can get what they need, or have them talk to an administrator to help that administrator understand where they are coming from. It’s nice to help someone be heard.
As far as the EOPS program's potential for growth, I would like to see the program serve more students. I would like to see the district provide some housing. The gentrification of our community is stopping students from coming; even though they would like to be here, sometimes they just can’t. I would like us to have more physical space. I would like us to not be so political, but be more student-centered. And I would like to be able to help students not have to go through so much in the way of securing housing, mental health services and food, just to receive an education. I want to help students be more centered, calm and focused on their academics, so they can be successful.
To students, I just want to say, 'Hang in there! Education is for everyone.' People will say that not everyone is necessarily suited to go to college, but I would say that everyone should go to college — it helps to expand your ideas about what you want to do and who you want to be. Once you get to college and start meeting people and talking to professors, you open up your possibilities."
Students who have questions or want to apply for EOPS/CARE are encouraged to visit the office on the third floor, call 510-981-2819 or send an email to BCC-EOPS@peralta.edu.