fall 2016 - Interview issue
The BCC VOICE
On Her Commitment to the 13h District
Inside This Issue
BCC Voice - Fall 2016 - Interview Issue
for the BCC VOICE
Berkeley City College's
Sign up for English 14
Tuesdays 6:30 pm - 9:20 pm
Earn 3 units of transferable credit
Write better, build your resume, rule the school
To enroll in Engl 14 use class code 21515
Returning BCC Voice students enroll in Eng 15 (21478)
For more info, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check us out online: www.bccvoice.net
1. Congresswoman Barbara Lee
On Her Commitment to the 13h District
by Sabrina Sellers
2. Sharon Coleman
On Poetry & Publishing
by Rachel Moore
4. Dara Lorenzo
On Her First Solo Show in Oakland
by James Dennehy
5. Maurya Kerr
On the Intersectionality of Dance & Social Change
by Sabrina Sellers
On Existential Ideas
by Nicolas Vargas
9. Ollie Ehlinger
On Managing the Fight Against Poverty
by Axel Stanovsky
12. Paulene Escolar
On Spreading Joy Through Cookies & Hard Work
by Angela De Mesa
15. Dr. Elouise Joseph
On Inspiring Youth in the Community
by Alizza Smith
16. Your Local Bootlegger
On Serving the Community
by Devisadaria Duchine-Khauli
Thank you to Tasion Kwamilele for organizing this for the BCC Voice.
By Sabrina Sellers
THE BCC VOICE is produced by English 14/15 students at Berkeley City College, with funding from the Associated Students. A special thank you to the ASBCC, the BCC English Department, administrators, faculty, and students who make this school great!
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
The 13th congressional district of California is dutifully represented by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has been an integral part of the Bay Area’s social and political movements since her days as an undergraduate at Mills College and graduate student at UC Berkeley. Along with fighting for the interests of the diverse residents of the East Bay, one of Lee’s most notable moments was as the lone dissenting voice in the vote for authorization of military force (AUMF) after the terrorist attacks on September 11th.
Amid her busy schedule serving the constituents of the 13th district, Congresswoman Lee graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions for the BCC Voice, about some of the issues that are important to her, following the election of Donald Trump.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in the next four years. What she hopes to accomplish in Congress and for the 13th district:
This Congress, I will continue the fight to ensure economic opportunity for all Americans and reject any attempt by President-elect Trump to roll back the clock. Creating good-paying jobs and preserving vital safety-net programs, such as housing assistance, food stamps, and Medicare, is the only way to empower struggling families to build pathways out of poverty. My bill, Pathways Out of Poverty, which I will re-introduce, is a comprehensive program that would help lift families into the middle class.
One of the Congresswoman’s pertinent initiatives is to repeal the Hyde Amendment which prohibits Medicaid funding for abortions, disadvantaging low-income and minority women. On her fight for women’s healthcare for every woman:
For too long, politicians have been interfering with a woman’s personal healthcare decision simply because of how much she earns, where she lives or who her employer is. This is simply unacceptable. Women deserve the right to make the best healthcare decision for herself and her family. We know that we are going to have to fight back against the GOP and their war on women.
On bureaucracy hindering progress:
Bureaucracy definitely hinders progress and that is why it is so important that I work across the aisle with my Republican colleagues to pass legislation that works in the best interest of all Americans, not just the wealthy.
For a lot of students, this election marks the first time they are becoming politically and socially active. On the importance of the millennial voice:
Young people need to be involved in politics, they have the most at stake. I’m so proud of all the young people in my district that got involved and continue to be involved. I did not register to vote until Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm took me to task about it and taught me that real change begins with the ballot.
This new period we are about to enter under President-elect Trump feels as though the voices of young women of color might be jeopardized in positions of leadership. To those women she says:
Despite the disappointing Electoral College results, three amazing women of color were elected to the Senate. For the first time in American history, there is more than one woman of color serving in the Senate. Their election is a ray of hope and a sign of progress that we are making as a nation.
My mentor, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, was the first woman and the first African American woman to seek a major party nomination for President. She shattered many glass ceilings and paved the way for many women and people of color including President Obama and Secretary Clinton. I advise all women, especially women of color to heed to her words of wisdom: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair”.
On the intersectionality of Dance and Social Justice
Cover Art by:
On Poetry and Publishing
Sharon Coleman is sitting in her office on the third floor of Berkeley City College, drinking tea out of a steaming mug when I arrive. She’s a petite woman with long flowing hair and a quiet but resolute voice, a woman who is confident in her words. This is no surprise, as words are Coleman’s forte. She’s an avid reader, writer, poet, and teacher, and if that isn’t enough, she also runs the “Milvia Street Art and Literary Journal” at Berkeley City College. Yet for someone so accomplished, Coleman has a serene and welcoming presence as she sits down to share her story with me.
“I did a master’s degree at New College, an MFA, and I knew I wanted to work in a community college, so that’s what I did,” she begins. “I started teaching at College of Alameda and Merritt College. About a week after classes had started— I had already been teaching, but I didn’t have any classes that semester--I came over to BCC and was given an English 1B class to teach and also what was called English 101. So that was in the fall of 2002 and I’ve been here ever since.”
The “Milvia Street Journal,” arriving at BCC around 11 years before Coleman in 1989, is a project she’s been able to cultivate and grow as much as the students that participate. “Seeing students gain a good sense of themselves, of doing something they never thought they could do and really growing emotionally and in terms of community,” is how Coleman describes her favorite part of teaching.
“Finding community and participating in community in which there’s a lot of cohesion, a lot of giving, a lot of creation. A lot of looking out for each other.”
This sense of community building and participation inspires not only the students, but her work as well. “The individual writers have inspired my work sometimes, have influenced it and changed it. But I would say…it’s really given me the skill of sequencing. When I went to make my own chapbook of work back in 2011, I just took out the poems that I wanted to be in there. And I knew which poem I wanted to open with and which poem I wanted to close with—it took me literally 20 minutes to sequence it,” she laughs lightly. “And everybody who I showed it to said the sequencing was very good. And that’s what I love the most about [the journal]. If there’s one activity that we do, it’s the sequencing meeting that I find the most fascinating and rewarding.”
Her chapbook, “Half Circle,” is only part of her publishing successes. She’s had her poetry published in a slew of renowned places, including “Rivet” and the “Berkeley Poetry Review.” So I ask her how she encourages her students to submit and share their own work.
“I bring in calls for submission for ‘Milvia Street’ but also for other journals. I have a, where is it…” she trails off, looking around her desk momentarily. “Somewhere, I actually have a worksheet: ‘How to Submit Work.’ So it pretty much tells them inside out what they’re facing when they decide to start publishing. Think like an editor, and think about the work that you choose to submit. Is it something that the publication would want? Is the publication publishing other similar stuff? All sorts of other points—how to follow submission guidelines, how to keep a log of every place you’ve sent something, explaining what simultaneous submissions are, explaining copyright and how copyright is handled. A list of 13 or 14 pointers and I give it to the students. I also encourage that publications aren’t the only thing, the only way, to share it—-some people might choose not to share their work. Another thing I do is I show the students my submission log and the number of rejections I’ve had. When they see that number they’re like ‘woah.’ And you know I also have a good number of places that have published my work too, but they have to understand that sending out, it’s tough. You’re going to start getting rejection letters and that’s okay. And I encourage them to resubmit to the same journal if they’re really interested in it and send different work, to try a couple of times and if they still don’t take any of your work,” she says. “Keep writing, you never know. Start becoming a better writer. That’s what I did-- I thought ‘Hm I’m getting a lot of rejections, I get some acceptances. I want to become a better writer, how do I do that?’ I start looking at the kind of writing I really love and finding ways to hit that level.”
What kind of writing does Coleman love? Her voracious reading covers a wide range of writers and genres. When she was younger Carson McCullers, James Baldwin, and Voltaire were a few of her favorites. And now, “Almost anything could influence me,” she says. “I’m interested in alternative voices in literature. I’m interested in experimental poetics, but not a work that distances the reader with its abstractions. I really want [something] that will bring in the reader through it. Which means not abandoning narrative completely, but re-examining the elements and what lies outside. So those are the different kinds of things I’m interested in. Also I really like to slow down people’s reading. You could read a book, a hundred page book, in a few hours and just go right on through it. There are poems that are very well written, but you could read them and get a lot out of them fairly quickly. I like to create a poem that you want keep reading and keep getting things out of. Not so abstruse that it’s a huge chore to try to read say, riding on BART, but poetry for one poem per BART ride. You know or get more out of it through discussion with other people, but still remain captivated. I think one writer that influenced me, and I don’t read her very much anymore, but I did at one time, is Marguerite Duras. Her novels were certainly very experimental, but I realized that somebody who wasn’t very into experimental literature could read them and get a lot out of them. And somebody who was could still read them and still get a lot out of them, so it could meet people at different places.” Her face lights up. “And I thought that was really fascinating, I really like that.”
Reading Coleman's poetry, you can find those experimental influences and that desire to deepen the reader’s experience. Poems like “Wind Gusts” and “Frozen Cities” are deft and vivid, creating palpable emotional environments. Coleman sits thoughtfully, running her fingers through the ends of her hair. “When I first started writing in graduate school really seriously, my work was very non-autobiographical. And I wrote more like a cubist, looking at perception and looking at language as a three dimensional object. Teaching in a community college, I began writing autobiographical kinds of pieces. I started writing pieces that would really go into places in which I felt wounded quite often, and try to make that wound into a good poem-- into a poem that would mean something to me and to somebody else, too. And that became sort of a challenge for me, a challenge that I liked quite a bit. In a way a lot of trauma that I had experienced began to dissipate. And I got some great poems out of that,” she says, letting out a laugh at the end. “It’s sort of interesting; sometimes your best poems are the ones that are about such taboo subjects or topics that you just wouldn’t want to share. And if you go back into those places, you can write some of the most vivid things because it means re-experiencing them. You can, you know, smell, touch— experiencing them again which is interesting. You have to be in a safe place to do that in a sense. It becomes even more emotionally difficult because you’re really reprocessing it and getting it out of your system, out of your body, out of your mind, and onto the page. I’ve been very interested in that kind of a process. I don’t know if I have anything more traumatic, I’ve probably addressed it all,” another small laugh. “But you always have things.”
Coleman's poem "Year of the Horse," has such striking form and presence, the repetition of a certain image, changed slightly in every stanza. It’s a perfect example of the sensory and emotional places Coleman has brought her writing. She smiles at the mention of it.
“That is a villanelle without rhymes—-that’s probably the only villanelle I’ve ever written. When I started it out, it was just the first stanza and,” she breaks off to chuckle, “a well known poet told me ‘That’s not going to work, just scrap it and write something else.’ And I didn’t, I wasn’t going to follow her advice, bless her heart. I love her writing, but you know, I just knew…it took me a few years to go back and finish, but I knew it was going to be something different.”
Form is a core component of Coleman’s poetry teaching. “When I put together a pack of poems I try to make sure they’re all using from differently. Because I want students to understand form, and I teach it as something that is not like, ‘Here’s the formula for a sonnet, go imitate it,’ no. Every sonneteer in England and the English renaissance recreated the form for themselves. And that’s why I try to teach students to enter the form and try and figure out what works for you, and then see about writing in it more and more and play with it. The content should somehow help to develop the form. If you’re using repeated lines like a villanelle or a pantoum, it often works well with a situation or theme in which there’s a repetition of things going on. Or sometimes memory, because memory has so much repetition, that kind of thing would work.”
Coleman herself was a student when she first got published. “The first piece I had published was in a little student journal at UC Berkeley when I was an undergraduate. And I hadn’t taken any creative writing classes, I studied literature and did writing at home. I sent in one piece and yeah, they liked it, so I went to the reading. I liked the affirmation of that. Seeing my name as a byline. "When you see your name in print, it gives you a whole different sense of self and it’s not just at school or at home, it has a public place."
That's what "Milvia Street" offers BCC and the surrounding writing community, it gives a public place to to new work. As I'm leaving, Coleman tells me that "Milvia" is often a first publication for emerging Bay Area writers. On writing, she says "I do it for myself but I also feel that it could have meaning for other people. And I hope that it brings something to people that they need to think about or bring deeper into. Or it affirms their experience. "
As I leave her to finish her tea, I'm awed and inspired by Sharon Coleman's humble presence. Thoughtful, is the word I'm left with when ruminating on our conversation. Just read her poetry or take one of her classes to experience it yourself.
By Rachael Moore
On the Intersectionality of Dance and Social Change
By James Dennehy
Photo Credit: Andrew Weeks
Last year, as a member of the Training Program with Alonzo King's Lines Ballet I spent the year quietly admiring the ferocity of former Lines dancer, artistic director of tinypistol, and social change warrior, Maurya Kerr. As a teacher for the Training Program and the Lines BFA Program with Dominican University, Kerr shared with me her thoughts on ballet, contemporary and their place within the presumed dichotomy of dance and social change.
How did you get into dance, and what made you want to stay?
I went to "The Nutcracker" when I was probably 5 or 6, and was absolutely enchanted. You just fall in love with it and there’s no reason necessarily. A woman who lived with us — she was kind of like a second mom, big sister — used to be a professional dancer, so she knew where to put me. I ended up going to a really good school, and I kept doing it ‘cause I was really good at it. I had a natural affinity for it, and I love working hard. There’s no better thing if you love to sweat and work hard and feel your body. Just the discipline of it was very appealing.
And then transitioning from a more classical base and coming to a contemporary company with Lines, how did you know that was something you wanted to do?
It totally just happened. I had been classically trained, and I danced in Balanchine companies for 5 years. And ended up retiring because I had a horrific experience. I had a director who was really emotionally abusive, and I became severely anorexic. I had to stop, basically to not die. I was hospitalized for anorexia, and I thought I had retired because I didn’t think it was possible to dance and be healthy.
I went to school full time for a year and missed dancing, so I started taking classes again and started auditioning and kept getting told I was too tall. I had heard about Alonzo’s company but, didn’t know anything [about it], and this was before the Internet.
So it’s actually a funny story. I ended up being in San Francisco over the summer with my family. I was freezing 'cause it’s freezing in San Francisco in the summer. I went and bought sweatpants, sweatshirts, scarf and went to go take class to get warm because I was freezing. It happened to be Alonzo teaching class. I didn’t know who he was at all. And at the end of class he offered me a job. And I was kind of like, “And you are?” And it was one of those meant-to-be situations, and I had no desire to change out of classical ballet. I hadn’t seen the company when I joined them, so I just showed up and I was given a videotape —“you have to learn this,”— and I was kind of like, what the fuck did I just do? I had no idea how to move like that or confidence I could move like that. So it was sort of unexpected and a trial-by-fire.
Did the difference in directors and also in experiences change how you felt about dance?
Absolutely. I vowed to myself that if any director ever commented about my weight, that I was leaving. I knew I could not survive in that environment. Alonzo has a lot of opinions about bodies, but he never had a negative opinion about mine. So he never commented in any way about my appearance. Alonzo’s philosophy around dance being a vehicle to get to freedom, completely changed everything. It changed how I danced and how I view dance and how I viewed life and myself. Absolutely. I had never been asked for my opinion as a dancer, and that’s all Alonzo wanted was my opinion. It was a big adjustment in my early twenties to come to this place where I was valued for my entirety, and I didn’t know how to navigate that.
Did that spark you to choreograph and potentially have your own company?
That was also completely accidental. I had always vowed that I would never teach and choreograph when I retire because everybody does that. And look at me now, but I was like I’m not going to do that. I was going to go to school and get a PhD and teach in academia. I was going to completely divorce myself from that world. I had to retire early because of injuries, so that alone put a wrench in the plan. I did my undergraduate through LEAP [with St. Mary's College]. So for my senior project I actually choreographed for Cardinal Ballet. It's the student-run ballet company at Stanford, and they had asked me to choreograph. So, I did it and fell in love with it, and the following summer did something for the [Lines] summer program. But I never wanted to do what I’m doing now. I am very happy about how things turned out, but I had never thought of myself as a choreographer. I only started a company, because I felt like I needed some sort of entity for grants as opposed to like, “Hey, like, it’s just me,” and I felt like I needed a [vehicle] to put myself out there for residencies and grants. That’s the only reason I started tinypistol.
What are you currently working on with tinypistol?
We’re doing Walking Distance Festival in June, which is a long ways away. Today was actually the second time we’ve gotten together. I’m trying to just have studio time with the dancers, with no pressure to produce. I think it's really necessary, but also scary to really not know what I’m doing and to come into the studio and not know. So that’s an experiment. But I feel like I need that space to not have deadlines. Generally it’s been like, I have a show coming up and I have to create, and so I’m just trying to be.
In previous works where do you draw your inspiration from? Is it random or are there usually things that you pull inspiration from?
I tend to work always from text. I started choreographing when I was injured, so I couldn’t really manifest what I wanted, so the genesis of how I started to create was transcribing text into gestural movement and then amplifying the gestural movement into full body. That’s still pretty much how things happen. Today we were working on — I call it a “demented, Trump-pocalypse alphabet.” So I’m trying to create an A-to-Z of movements that have a disoriented, demented, drunken hopelessness.
That’s what it feels like. With this Trump presidency looming above us, what do you hope for dance in the next 4 years, especially as an agent to influence social change? Dance doesn’t get as much limelight as music or film does. Do you hope that dance will have a moment to say this is what we stand for as a community?
In the direct aftermath, what I really felt is there’s no time to waste, so I don’t have patience, I mean, I never have patience for laziness, but I feel really like we don’t have time to lolli about. We just need to get to work. I'm feeling this sense of urgency, that for the people who are in these [Lines] programs, this is the vehicle to express their political pride for freedom. Our body is the vehicle. These forms are how we are going to manifest that. I think there is something really special about dance being so embodied.
There’s something we read at grad school this summer. It was about looking at the choreographies of non-violent resistance. And it really is choreographic. It was an amazing article [written by] a grad student I think at Stanford or Berkeley. But just looking at the choreographies of the body in resistance.
We had our first tinypistol rehearsal last Friday, which was three days afterwards, and it felt so necessary to get in there and kind of weep, not literally, but weep with the body and protest and scream and be hopeful and be hopeless. To be able to have that physically, felt cathartic, but also felt like this is how we are going to win: through these art forms and through insisting on expression. When there have been fascist empires all around the world, that’s the time of most creativity. It forces artists to dig deeper and go underground. There’s fertile soil in that sense of having to overcome.
None of me wishes this happened, but I do feel like there is a different energy that comes out of elation and joy. I mean if Hillary had been president, oh my god, it would have been amazing, but I feel like it’s forcing us to dig deep. I’ve seen students turn around in a week just going, “Oh right. I have a duty.”
Although it doesn't have to be, sometimes dance can be a bubble. How do we push ourselves to look outside of that bubble? Unfortunately it takes moments like this, but in other moments how do we look outside of this bubble and see what’s actually going on?
I think what this election has shown is that there’s a profound lack of empathy and ability to step into someone else’s experience. And I do feel like, again, we’ll talk about ballet because that’s what we’re in, but there are so few people of color, and it’s really the duty of everyone to step into those shoes. Like “What is it like to be the only one of something in a room?” And I’m more aware of it than ever too. I am always like, “Okay, there are two black people here.” That’s amazing. That’s ridiculous. What does that feel like to walk onto the bus and be the only black person? You know, how alienating must that be. Because I’m so light skinned, I haven’t had to experience that in the same way. I blend-in to both spaces pretty easily, and I’m even trying to be more aware. I'm also realizing that racism makes people crazy. People lose their minds. I think, people of privilege don’t want their privilege challenged. Period. So I think stuff gets really tense when you're asking people to dismantle things that put them in power.
Especially with ballet in particular, how do we make it more accessible to people of color and low income but also recognizing that ballet, or concert dance as a whole, is still an elitist, European art form? How do make people of color feel like they can be allowed in those spaces?
I do feel like Misty Copeland has upped the black audience a hundred fold. So I think having those examples…. It’s always about starting at the beginning; having programs for young children to come in, and demystifying and decolonizing and decolorizing all of those systems, so that it isn’t abnormal to have black people doing ballet. Ballet actually needs you. The form needs people of color. It needs people of different body types. It needs people with different experiences so it doesn't remain this out-of-touch, elitist form that no one wants to see. It is a dying form because it is catering to a very elite, old, dying, white society. You know it’s not going to survive in that atmosphere.
Dance is a female dominated field, but surprisingly not dominated up at the top. How do we change that encouragement towards women in dance?
I feel like a lot of it is just letting women know that they have a voice. I think very few women, at least in my generation, grew up wanting to be choreographers and every man does. The expectation just hasn't been there that women choreograph. You need to have an opinion and a voice, which again, in the ballet paradigm women are stripped of. There’s going to be more luck in contemporary programs, and I do feel there is a lot of encouragement for young women to be choreographing. But it’s a question of having the young people grow up until they’re old enough to be in power, and also just the people who are in power, realizing they need to step down. There just needs to be new blood in there that’s aware of race and gender issues. We can’t have an all white male season for the tenth season in a row. It’s so ridiculous. It’s not even fathomable. There’s also fear of even when you’re given the platform how to express and how to stand up for one’s self. We need women of color speaking. We just do. So it becomes more normalized.
Do you think that this election, could potentially help ballet change? Or do you think it would take something else completely?
I have no idea what’s about to happen under Trump, I really I can’t. I think it’s going to be horrific, but we also live in a bubble in California and I feel really grateful. I think a lot of the toxicity is not going to hit us. I’ve been doing Facebook rants for a year and a half against San Francisco Ballet (SFB) about the lack of women and people of color in positions choreographing or even in the company, and I think that until there is financial pressure, they are not going to change. They have no reason to change. There’s not enough people that are going to boycott them — people that matter. Until white people with money decide black lives matter, it’s not going to change. I don’t know what it’s going to take. A bunch of people of color boycotting, SFB is not even going to feel it. So I think that is has to be the positions of power, and they are loathed to recognize otherness and dismantle their own complicity.
At Lines, the climate is different than at other places, but for those who are still in the rigid constructs of classical ballet, how do we let them know that it’s possible to find a voice both in and out of dance?
The institution of ballet silences women and silences people of color. It offers space for white men. That’s society too, but I think that ballet — even the fact that women are expected to be underweight; being underweight silences you. Period. You don’t have enough energy to speak. I think that the institution itself is not set up for people, particularly women and people of color to speak their mind. So I don’t know if that’s going to change. So then it’s the question of like, “Do I want to be in that institution?” And it’s even a question of self awareness; being aware that I’m being silenced because most people in those places don’t know that. They’ve grown up and they’re like, “Oh I’m supposed to be ten pounds underweight. This is just the way it is,” and it’s [not] until you step out, it’s hard to realize that you’re being oppressed. That the actual system and expectation is setup to diminish you. I mean literally and figuratively. So in those places, I don’t know that it’s going to change. [In regards to the election], we can protest. And I think even in the face of these regimes, all you can do is immerse yourself in your art. If we can’t actually fight back in any tangible way, in terms of policy, you can fight back by being a fucking amazing artist and not getting distracted by stuff that doesn’t matter.
Photo Credit: Dara Lorenzo
On Her First Solo Show in Oakland
I met Dara Lorenzo, an Oakland-based printmaker and artist, at Studio Morey in Oakland where her works are currently showing to inquire her thoughts on art school, Baltimore, and the influences of her unique medium: Mono-type print- making.
I see that you attended the San Francisco Art Institute for grad school. What are your opinions about the different art schools around the Bay?
Academy of Art is a little bit more corporate, and when I say corporate I mean that there’s a lot of them. I don’t know much about the different programs, but my roommate and friend in graduate school works at CCA as the photography department coordinator. I didn’t hear a lot of good things about CCA, but I’m very interested in that school, especially their printmaking program. I see a lot of really good relief prints coming out of that school. They’ve had the same long-term printmaking instructor for a while. San Francisco Art Institute was a really good program for me. I felt it really challenged me.
Do you think college is necessary for someone who wants to be a professional artist?
Well maybe not grad school, but taking classes can be really helpful. I went to Towson University for undergrad and West Virginia University for painting, and it was never really a focus, this idea of conceptual art. I just did art and talked about it. I knew what I liked, but once I was asked the questions in grad school, “What are you doing, what is it about this, what is it about you that makes you wanna make these marks?” These were significant questions that I had no answers to! So I feel like grad school, in a sense, challenged me to really think about “why.” I mean we do stuff all the time, but rarely think about why is it important to us or investigate yourself or your process. So it was a good experience for me. It was very challenging; there were times when I’d go home crying because critiques could be brutal. And that’s not just with grad school; with my students we get into a lot of the critique process, and people just want to be mean. Like instead of giving constructive criticism and trying to help someone, it’s just “Oh let me say something nasty and hurtful because I don’t like that” I don’t think it really matters what somebody else feels for someone to make art.
You grew up in Baltimore but spent your most recent years herein the Bay. In which place do you feel most at home?
I would say that I’ve started to feel that Oakland is my home. Hence this show, I feel like it is really important. Because when I was a teenager in Baltimore, I used to take a lot of photos and it was something about just capturing the city, capturing the people, capturing the interactions. My interactions, my relationship to it in an image of something I walk by every day is really important to me. And then I moved here, and Oakland had a lot of similarities to Baltimore, in good ways and bad ways. And so I've been here for six years and it’s become a home. However, this is my first solo show! I’ve shown at Studio Morey quite a bit in the last year, but this is my first solo one.
Personally, I’ve never seen screen printing like this before so I’m wondering what were your influences for it.
My process started because I was always taking pictures, that’s been a part of my process for a long time. It’s more about what I like and what I want to capture for me to kinda root through later. After that it goes through the whole process of photo etching: there’s a surface and there’s a light source and then the process of transferring the image to the plate and getting the topography on the plate; after that I can play and do whatever I want with it.
The influence came from when I was in undergrad. I started doing printmaking after I was a painting major for a long time (I switched to printmaking because I felt like I had hit a wall with painting). And printmaking is so different, its interdisciplinary so you can paint, you can draw, you can write; it’s all part of the process and there’s a lot of science involved. So, I got really interested in it and in one of my classes the professor showed us photo emulsion. I like taking photographs but I don’t like the photograph to be the art; well it’s part of it but I don’t like it to be the only layer of what’s going on. For me there’s so much more. So when I went to grad school I decided to focus on it. I asked the studio coordinator who to talk to about photo etching and he said Mark Zapheran. So they sent me over there and he was like my mentor and showed me all his stuff. He had made this film “Zapheral," his own photo emulsion film and I used it in the classes, I taught it for a long time, and used it myself for a long time, but when he died it was so sudden that he kept all his secrets. He showed me everything and I took what I learned and turned it into my own way of doing things.
What role does the artist have in society?
As an observer and to take those observations and kinda regurgitate it in a way, because I feel like you have. Real artists need to make art; hence the 30 pieces that are surrounding us, I feel like I’ve got to constantly make work. You take everything that you see and everything that you feel and pull it through yourself and push it out there and show everybody how people can think in a different way.
Dara's most recent project will be on display at Studio Morey, 5500 MLK Ave., Oakland through December. http://www.daralorenzo.com/
On Existential Ideas
The summer of 2015 I encountered the ethereal and energetic sounds of Worn-Tin, pseudonym for Warner Haitt, a 22 year-old multi-instrumental singer-songwriter from Los Angeles. A close friend of his that I met from school passed me the baton of sonic bliss, and since that day I’ve been hooked. His last album, "Thanatophobia", was played, written, recorded and mixed, all by Warner in his home studio.
His music comes from a place of self-expression and youth spirit. It’s a radiant lo-fi masterpiece that borders the lines of garage rock and breezy indie-pop. It speaks to the kid in all of us.
Luckily for me, Worn-Tin was stopping in Santa Cruz for a house-show during the last leg of his Bay Area tour and I got the chance to catch the show, along with a short interview with Warner himself.
I read on your Bandcamp that a lot of your inspiration came from a car accident. Can you tell me about that?
Before the last album I made, I was involved in a pretty bad car accident. Two friends and I were in a car that flipped and practically got crunched to half its size. When my two friends and I exited the incinerated vehicle, we didn’t have a single scratch on us. We were so lucky to be safe and able to walk away. The next few months after the accident, I started thinking to myself that I may actually be dead and my reality was all just a comatose dream that I made up.
So you think you’re trapped in a never-ending dream?
The idea I'm in a coma, in limbo between life and death is producing this reality I’m currently in. So imagine every time I have an instance of pleasure that there's some dude comatose in a hospital with a boner.
That’s really interesting, I have had a lot of theories on the nature of my reality, but I feel like I haven’t had time to ponder them because of all the stressors of the material world.
We could all be octopuses in a human body and everyone's ignorant to our true form.
Do you think your music and art is a product of this way of seeing the world?
Most definitely. I really enjoy cartoons, mostly because in those realities anything is possible. The characters can move and express themselves in ways that our human forms can’t. So if I allow myself to believe in the dream reality that I slipped into after the accident, then I am more likely to act according to my more creative and spiritual inclinations.
How different would your outlook be if you were to wake up today from the coma as your younger self?
I would relive my life, making less mistakes than I did before, and not take things for granted. I don’t think I’d have regrets if I had the chance to live my life again.
Say you are in a dream right now, which means you are a master of your own destiny and you control everything that happens to you, but you don’t realize that until you wake up. Then you find out everything in life is exponentially more difficult and none of your dreamed experiences help you because they don’t reflect reality. What then?
Well, I think I would continue to live; I’ve never had any other choice. I wouldn’t give up; life gets hard. It’s a fact. There are an infinite number of possible realities we could be existing in, but we can only work within the one we are present in. I think the best we can do is be as free and open as possible now, to insure we make the most of it, regardless of what our real reality is.
We both believe in reincarnation to some degree. Imagine if you were reborn into a socio-economic class less privileged than yours, like an under-resourced Black boy on the south side of Chicago.
Listen, I’m a Caucasian, blue eyed, blond-haired boy. I was born into the most privileged position on the planet. So, to imagine a life where I were to experience things almost in an opposite sense would be hard, no doubt. I have been thinking about this a lot recently. This election and Trump has brought about a lot of that perspective to people like me. People who are well assuming and good intentioned but have a really big disconnect from the realities of other people that don’t look like them. To answer your question, if I was born as a different person, in Chicago, with a different trajectory than mine currently, I would get the hell out of Chicago. I can’t do cold weather. I would move to where it’s warm, and riot. Not actually, I’d would probably start a band.
Warner is a young man of immense talent and creativity. His forward approach to life and art is refreshing. Following some disturbing shifts in social paradigms—white supremacy having a place in the white house and all that noise—my Utopian outlook on life has depleted. On top of that, living in the East Bay urges young adults to focus a lot of their energy on places outside of themselves. It is only necessary for us to take a vacation from the burden our psyche caries everyday. My prescription: a heavy dose of spiritual and emotional digging, then healing, with a healthy dose of Worn-Tin’s wonderful music.
You can check it out on Bandcamp at:
By Nicolas Vargas
Photo Credit: Alessandra Rosser
Ollie Ehlinger Esq. is a manging attorney at Legal Services of Northern California (LSNC), a non-profit providing free legal services to help the poor. I talked with Ehlinger about his work, and the intersection between law and poverty in our society.
As I understand it, LSNC primarily works to provide free services to tenants who need legal help. Tell me more about the scope of your organization.
We do much more than that, it just happens to be that housing is our largest practice area because that is a problem most people have, but we do public benefits, educational rights, veterans work, consumer work, criminal records remedies, foreclosure prevention; its just that a plurality of our cases are landlord tenant.
How would you describe the broader vision of LSNC?
It’s to act as an anti-poverty organization, to help people with legal problems that might be keeping them in poverty and to assist them and educate them so that they can take more control and advocate for themselves. So that’s, I suppose, the founding aspirations of our group.
There is a federal pot of money that is for civil legal services for the poor. When our organization started in the 60s we bid for that pot in Sacramento County and then we’ve been expanding into new counties ever since.
Before there was federal money involved, this work was done either pro-bono or there were one or two non-profits across the country. The federal money [that came] with the war on poverty made sure there was an office in every county.
Congress passed legislation creating the legal services corporations which give money to corporations like ours, to help do civil legal aid. It helps grow that model or disseminate that model because it was only being done in those few cities, and it was part of Linden B Johnson's War on Poverty.
So, it sounds like a majority of your funding comes from the federal government. Is your work in jeopardy with the most recent election, and Trump’s impending presidency?
Sure, there are kinds of ebbs and flows in how popular legal aid is among the political class. When Reagan was president he cut legal aid funding and increased the restrictions, so it reduced the types of cases we could do. Then, when Newt Gingrich took control as Speaker of the House, he did the same thing again. Ever so slightly, these restrictions and funding cuts have been relaxed over the last eight years, so there is definitely that concern. But there is no indication that President Trump is even aware that there is a program such as this that even exists, because, you know, it’s a drop in the bucket of the federal budget. We don’t take up that much money, so it’s sort of a line item that people go back and forth about. That being said, if there is no veto threat at the presidential level, it certainly is a risk that we would lose our federal funding, but we have many other sources of funding, and we’d survive one way or another.
How great of an impact do you feel that your organization and others in the legal services field are able to make on poverty?
Oooh. I think that’s a pretty interesting question and one that gets to some of the decisions we make about the work we do, because, you know, we could just open up our door and just say “We’ll help people with a legal problem,” and we’d be packed and we’d be full and we’d never have any time to do anything else. Or we could start looking for, instead of one individual with a problem, we could start looking for one bad landlord that has a problem, or one bad government agency, or one bad housing authority, and in one case make a difference for 30 people or 50 people or a hundred people. So, that’s a very tangible and practical problem we face monthly in how much time we spend taking in new clients and how much time we try to spend finding impactful litigation. To me, thinking about how much impact we have: poverty is structural, it’s institutional, it’s even in a sense tribal. As long as there is a scarcity of something, some people will drift to the bottom and some people will drift to the top, so it will never be solved, it will never be impacted in a way to minimize it. In some ways, I think that just treading water, just being out there to help one person on one day with one problem. There’s meaning in that, right? That means that we are part of the system that kicks back and tries to help re-equalize.
In one sense we try to help one client and that’s one part of the system and in another sense we try to take on these bigger impact cases. We’ve done much bigger work and effected much bigger change. Take a case that I worked on: There is an odd overlay when you can take food stamps if you are on federal social security, and the general rule is that when you get federal money you aren’t allowed to take food stamps. We found some instances where we thought the way the states were using food stamps was against the federal social security regulations, so we went to court and got a federal regulation overturned and now about a thousand people across California, who essentially have no money, can now get food stamps and get something to eat. That’s a tangible difference that we made for a discrete number of people. So, in some sense we can quantify it, such as in that instance, that’s a drop in the bucket, and in another sense we can’t quantify it, but it’s important just to be there. So, I think what impact do we make?
I think that we are:
A- Empowering people to do their own work, and
B- Reminding people that there is still work to be done. And perhaps that’s the biggest impact.
People have called this the second gilded age. Income disparities in our countries are the largest they have ever been. So the fight against poverty is more important now than ever, but it sounds like you guys are maybe behind on funding and fighting fires. What could be done? You deal with poverty on a daily basis, do you have insight into what is systematically wrong?
Guys like you and me, even as late as the 80’s, but in the 60’s and 70’s our one salary would be enough to buy a house, right? But now it’s not quite as much. With new debt, student debt, and housing prices, pricing us out, the idea is that the value of our work isn’t enough to make the living that our parents used to make. If you take that down to people in poverty, social security has money for people who are essentially unemployable, (SSI). Supplemental Security Income, and it's very difficult to get. You get it if you just can’t work a job, and that money is $881 a month right now, and that’s been increased ever so slightly, about 1% every five years, but back in the 70s and 80’s a mid-level professional salary was enough to buy a nice home, and SSI was enough to rent a room in a residential facility. It’s just not that much anymore. It’s priced out. And that’s why you see homelessness increasing and that’s why you see more pressure on multi-generational families, families housed within the same unit.
I think that a very practical thing that can be done to make an impact is make housing cheaper. That doesn’t mean everyone has to live in a beautiful condo overlooking the bay but there’s just not affordable places for people to live. And you know that’s not just the guy on SSI, but the mom working two part-time, low-wage jobs. That’s not enough for her to rent, right?
Yeah, not even close in the Bay Area.
Precisely so we’ve got to find more funding sources to support people to find stable housing. That’s one thing that can be done, and the one thing that can combat the sort of larger cyclical trend that prices are increasing and the value of people’s work is decreasing.
There were a few items on the ballot in the Bay that looked like some impactful affordable housing initiatives that were passed in this last election, do you have a sense for what scope of change those will bring?
I think it's minor. I think everything in California is sort of trying to fill the void of redevelopment money. Redevelopment was essentially where if jurisdictions were to pour money into a building in economically depressed areas, like city centers, some of that money would be matched by state tax money. That was dissolved in 2011, I think, or 2010, and then upheld by the California Supreme court so all these local initiatives are trying to fill the void, trying to find a local fund of money to subsidize. You know, you build an apartment building and you apply some sort of credit to it so that an apartment that cost $1500 only costs $500 per month, right, but you’ve got to have that money there so that the developer will build it without getting the profit that they expected.
To the extent that the local jurisdictions are doing it and to the extent that the local voters are willing to put money behind it, I think that’s where the change is going to come, because it's not going to come at the state level. So, they are probably not sufficient now but that’s probably the wave, that’s probably where we are going to make the change and make communities such that all levels of people who contribute to the community can live there with the local jurisdiction pitching in and local citizens saying “Yeah sure, bump up my taxes, it means that much to me.”
It sounds from your description that it might sort of slow down development at the same time that it might creates space for affordable development.
Sure, I think that’s another tension in the community. Something’s slowing down the supply of housing and that’s affecting the price of it right now. We have pretty strong regulatory protections in California. You know we have CEQA, the California Quality Control Act, so things can’t get built without going through this process, and to some extent it has been a great success. If you look at how fragile California environments are, you know people live packed into these small canyons, right? The Bay Area is this big old crater canyon, and so there’s not a lot of room. Being smart about how you do development has certainly protected our environment, so you know these are competing interests.
I will say that I think people in general are against high density building, but I think that might be the way to go and a lot of development schemes have bonuses for high density. You get a tax break for building high density and that’s probably just the way we’re going to have to do simply by the land constraints we have here in California.
Wow, I appreciate your perspectives on that, because you know, it's on a lot of people's minds in the bay area. On a more personal note, in your life, what has prepared you to take this important role in the fight against poverty.
Oh shoot! I don’t know about all that. I think I am pretty fortunate about timing. I really think less of my life experience, its just the five years I spent working at Legal Services. I worked in many different offices, in many different programs and I got to see many different leadership and management styles. That helped sculpt me into a better attorney, and probably a better manager.
And then, I like to get outside. I like to go for a run, go explore all of, you know, enjoy the vastness and beauty of nature. You tire yourself out and that’s the perfect compliment to working hard on people’s stressful issues.
You step out of the office, and you’re done with you’re day, and you have to use the rest of your time to refresh yourself.
So that’s how you are able to deal with the stresses of the job?
Oh. I mean I’m able to deal with it, because my life is fine. I work with people who deal with stresses and issues that I can’t even imagine. So, keeping that perspective is helpful. My life is fine, not through my hard work or my amazing effort, but through a lot of dumb luck to some extent. Keeping that in mind makes it pretty easy to relax and step away from these things. Do what you can and then take a break and then go back in there and do what you can again.
By Axel Stanovsky
Photo Credit: Frank Lee
On Managing the Fight Against Poverty
On Spreading Joy Through Cookies and Hard Work
We are living in a time where college students are thinking about their endless career possibilities and how each choice a low- to-mid-20-year-old makes seems detrimental to their entire future. It is nice to discover someone who seems to find her own balance throughout this roller coaster like stage in life. Paulene Escolar, a full-time manager at Cookie Bar and a part-time freelance architect. She has a full schedule discovering and spreading joy through her work.
Getting the chance to interview Escolar gave me a feeling of relief. It proves that sticking to your gut and being kind along your career journey can lead to a bright future.
Where are you from, Paulene Escolar?
I’m from Alameda, California in he great Bay Area of San Francisco.
How long have you been living here?
I was raised in the East Bay. For all of high school and part of college I was also living in Tracy. I was commuting back and forth to Alameda to see friends and family, and to SF State for school.
What did you study at San Francisco State University?
I was in the interior design program during the second half of my college career. The first half I focused on all the pre-reqs for it and all the general classes.
I also know you did classes at Peralta. How was that?
I mostly did that because sophomores had last priority in picking classes at SFSU. So, getting the general education classes was the hardest thing to do. I figured commuting from Tracy to San Francisco… damn near an hour and a half. It costs a lot of money, so I might as well do half time at SF State and do half time at Peralta to get the general education classes. It was more flexible, it cut down commute time and money, and classes were available. I liked that I did that.
How long have you been working at Cookie Bar?
For 3 years… since they opened.
It must have been exciting starting from the beginning of the new store, so how was that process? How was it building from the ground up at Cookie Bar?
Yeah! Let’s talk about that!
Well, it was at the end of summer after graduating college. I already had a part-time job at a dry cleaner, but quit because I wanted to do what I went to school for. I was still intimidated to go into the field. I was contacted by my brother’s friend, Rob. His good friend of many years. He asked my brother if I was looking for a job and I said yes.
So, he took me on as a regular team member. And it was still new to him. He didn’t know anything about cookies and ice cream. He just knew that he wanted to bring something fun and exciting to his hometown. He brought me on board. I just shined and proved I could take lead in anything. This was good too because he didn’t know exactly what he needed...and we kind of just grew together. We grew into it. Being there from the beginning and not knowing, then learning together. It really became us.
Especially, since you guys started on the same day, right?
Our soft opening was actually everyone’s first day. We didn’t know we were doing! Our arms were aching at the end of the night, since we didn’t know how to scoop ice cream. We just learned within that night and we mastered it because we were just scooping all night. It was a lot of fun because we were the talk of the town. Alameda is our favorite town and it is cool to be part of something new here when it rarely has new things.
So, tell me about a regular day at Cookie Bar?
When I open the shop, I am usually there by myself before actual business hours. I’m there prepping the store and making sure everything is clean, ready, and stocked. I bake cookies for the day. It’s pretty important because you have to predict how much you’re probably going to sell during that day.
That’s how the day starts, and then we’re open for business. Earlier in the day it’s a little slower, then it picks up when kids get out of school. It slows down, then picks up again during the dinner rush. It definitely is busier toward the end of the day. We are pretty much scooping… serving smiles and happiness all day. That’s a big thing too. I learned that attitudes are contagious. Even if you are just serving cookies and ice cream that could really make someone’s day. And even the other way around, you’re having a shitty day and someone is really happy to get their cookies and ice cream from you. You think, "Oh, okay. THAT’S cool!"
Along with being a manager at Cookie Bar, you are also a freelance architect. How long have you been doing that for?
A little bit after the beginning at Cookie Bar. It’s in the more recent years and months that I’ve been in more full swing with the architect. Working at Cookie Bar and my boss knowing what my degree is they always wanted to feed that. They knew I had other talents and other skills. They wanted to see what else they can do for me and what I can do for them them. That was really cool and this is another process of us growing together. So, they happened to know an architect who helped them with another project. They pushed me his way and have been with him since. I’m very thankful.
So, now tell me about a day with the architect?
When I would work with him, I assist him in measuring houses. It only took a few times for him to say okay I can go do it on my own. At first, I wasn’t too comfortable. Then it was fine [laughs]. So, some days I would go out on the field and measure houses and commercial buildings. A LOT of measuring. You got to have that detail. You got to see every corner… and every corner on the corner [laughs].
And would you also draft for him?
Yes. It was mostly drafting existing space that needed construction. I pretty much translate what’s in real life onto the computer. From doing the measuring and drafting I slowly got more duties, like actually organizing all the construction documents. There’s so much into that… every detail...Every material and every size. And even all the detail notes. You have to put everything that will be helpful for anyone to understand.
He knew that I did go to school for that, but he didn’t have to see too much of my work. He trusted it already. He was the first architect I’ve ever worked for and I’m the first person he’s ever hired. It was another person I got to grow with and to learn together.
So, after talking about both of your jobs. If you were to pick your favorite part of working at Cookie Bar and your favorite part of working for the architect, what would each be?
There’s so much I can pick from. It changes often too. For the most part, working at Cookie Bar and for the bosses I have, it’s really just seeing it grow. Being part of its success and its failures. We help each other.
For the architect, I just really like looking at houses. That’s really cool to me. But, for the work part, it all ties back into my community. Working and growing in the place that raised me. All of his work is in Alameda. He doesn’t leave Alameda. It’s pretty cool working in places within my community that I’ve always seen and now I get to be a part of that. I’m learning a lot about myself, man.
Out of the two, which would you consider your passion project?
I think… Cookie Bar. Although working for the architect is what I studied and went to school for. Working at Cookie Bar I didn’t think I was going to be the manager. I always hoped going in I’d be something big, but I didn’t know I was really going to be the big one. It’s pretty cool… it’s my passion project. There’s always something I could help and work on for the company and myself… like guiding, managing, or more. I know nothing about being a manager. I just know what needs to get done and how I think it should be done.
Who do you look up to?
In work, my bosses. I respect them so much. They’re just like us. They’re just kids. They barely made it out of high school and then they knew the hustle. They continued to feed their hustle and pursued it all. With them, possibilities are endless. If you want to do it, then go do it and there’s always a way. There’s resources all around you. Your friends and family will support you.
They’re so positive and they have relationships with everyone. They collaborate with everyone.. With shoe stores, clothing stores, coffee shops, and even a football player.. Marshawn Lynch. I don’t know what else about them, but they’re somethin’.
You talk a lot about Alameda, why do you love it so much?
Personally, I like close-knit things. And Alameda itself already is since it is a really small island. Everyone knows everyone and some people think it’s bad. I think it’s cool. You just have extended neighbors everywhere. It’s like why not have a whole bunch of friends? Why not be friends with everyone? It’s a sentimental thing. I really like long-run things. Like I’ve had this jacket for 10 years and I could get a new jacket, but why? It’s been with me for this long.
When you’re older at like 85 and a cute grandma with all kinds of experience and wisdom where do you see yourself?
Well, 85. Hopefully, still around, haha. Somewhere with my future grandkids and hopefully still around my friend’s grandkids. So, there it is again my close-knittedness...wherever they are, I’m happy. For me personally, where everyone’s at, that’s where I’m at. I would not be mad if I’m still in Alameda. The city that raised me. I can try living somewhere else, but this is home.
Above: Paulene Escolar celebrating 3 years of Cookie Bar in Alameda.
By Angela de Mesa
Photo Credit: Paulene Escolar
Spreading Joy Through Cookies & Hard Work
Above: Outside of Cookie Bar-Oakland during an ice cream release event.
Photo Credit: Tue Nam Ton
By Alizza Smith
On Inspiring Youth in the Community
I first met Dr. Elouise Joseph at the Richmond Clinic when she was still a practicing doctor. I remember she had a huge smile and after my checkup, she told me all about the All Stars Project of the San Francisco Bay Area, a non-profit program that works to "transform the lives of youth and poor communities" through performance opportunities.
Dr. Joseph grew up poor in New Orleans. Her younger brother died at the age of two because her family could not afford to go to a good hospital.
“We had to pass several hospitals along the way that we could not afford,” remembers Dr. Joseph. After the death of her younger brother, her father also died at the age of 55 years old.
“I became a doctor so that my family and community would have quality, accessible medical care,” she said.
About her father, Dr. Joseph had this to say:
“My father and I had a special relationship when I was a young child. Then as it happens, our relationship was strained. When I became a teen I did not agree with him on certain rules, so we argued a lot." She said she appreciates him more now that she is an adult.
I also asked Dr. Joseph, about her relationship with her mom.
“My mom was a huge part of my life. She attended my graduation at Stanford Medical School, taking the Greyhound bus all the way from Louisiana because she was too nervous to fly. I miss her to this day."
Now that she's retired from practicing medicine, Dr. Joseph is an important leader of the All Stars Project. Her job is to help teens and young adults to have a good work ethic, instead of running in the streets without a real purpose.
Do you miss being a doctor?
"Not really. The way I see it, I merely expanded my clinical practice to include the entire SF Bay Area community. Using a methodology that has a much larger impact than I could have as a pediatrician in the limited confines of the medical clinic. And I still get to work with young people of all ages and their parents!"
I asked about how the program engages young people.
“One of the ways we reach the young people is performing speaking engagements in high schools. And we have done several at Berkeley High School and continuation high schools in Berkeley. We have done some grassroots organizing at the Berkeley Flea Market and young people who live in Berkeley refer other youth to our programs."
When asked how she got involved with All Stars Program, Dr. Joseph said:
"I was introduced to a New York City volunteer who had come to the SF Bay Area to build the volunteer base to launch the All Stars Talent Show Network, and I said a big fat 'Yes!' based on what I had heard about the impact on NYC youth. We launched the program in the Bay Area in 2002 with our first talent show in Oakland."
How does All Stars inspire and transform lives?
"All Stars Project has a very out-of-the-box and innovative way of looking at the world and how small changes can lead to big changes. Our mission is to 'use the power of performance to transform the lives of youth and poor communities in partnership with caring adults.'"
Who is eligible for the All Stars Project?
"In the Development School for Youth, 16-22 year olds partner with business leaders who conduct workshops and provide paid summer internships. So if Berkeley students want to be a part of the program they can. Our goal is to work both broadly and deeply in the poor communities."
Do you love your job as City Leader for the All Stars Project?
"Absolutely! My position allows me to do more bridge building across ethnic, economic, gender, and generational divides. We bring people together who don't usually go together, to create how we will all live on this planet together. I think it is needed now more than ever! I am thrilled to be working in a job that is challenging, exciting, and having an impact."
Dr. Elouise Joseph
ABOVE: Dr. Elouise Joseph (third from the left) at All Stars Project, Inc.
By Devisadaria Duchine-Khauli
A small, wiry guy came up to me at the Berkeley Flea Market about five years ago, and asked if I wanted to buy pirated movies. Some years later, this same guy opened up a small store. Clean and well-maintained, the store sells average things like bath soaps, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, toothpaste, clothing, shoes and socks. But what’s not so average is the pirated movies for sale here.
The movies are neatly displayed on a wall and on tables. The gentleman selling the pirated movies is polite and professional. He runs his business like many great businessman—he’s always willing to exchange a movie for his clients if they’re unhappy with it.
Based on the nature of the business, I expected the bootlegger to tell me no when I asked for an interview, but to my surprise, he agreed. We met up at the shop, on a Friday afternoon.
Why did you start pirating movies?
I got I into bootlegging because I realized for the price of one movie ticket, a whole family could see a movie. Think about this, you have a family of four and by the time you buy movie tickets, popcorn, and drinks; you’re out about $80.00, but for less than $5.00 the whole family could see a movie.
Do you do anything else besides this?
I remodel houses and work on cars. You can’t just do this and think you’ll make a living at it. You have to do something else. This is a side hustle to make ends meet and get my project off the ground.
How much are your movies?
I sell one movie for $2.00 or three for $5.00
How much money do you typically make in a month?
I’ll pass on that question. Just put enough to pay for the lights. [laughs]
Do you give back to the community?
Yes, because people can’t afford to go to movies. You could pay $20.00 or more just to see one movie. I provide a service for the community by giving them something they might not otherwise be able to afford. I don’t just sell bootleg movies; I also sell other stuff in my store at a lower price than many stores.
I notice that your movies have numbers on them. What do they mean?
The numbers are how I rate the movies’ qualities. Like, if a movie is clear but the audio is not as good, it might get a 7 out of 10 rating. If the movie has perfect audio and video, it will get a 10 out of 10 rating.
Where do you get your movies to sell?
From the Internet.
What do you want this audience to know about you or what would you like to convey to this audience?
I’m not just bootlegger. I’ve been going to school for film-making. I want to make movies for the community. Once I make movies, I don’t care if people bootleg them because I know that the money will come from elsewhere, and I’m making them for the community anyway. I just want to get my movies out there.
Where do you see pirating going? I mean, will it last?
No, everything changes up. This is not here to stay. I mean, there’s streaming and everything else. Technology is changing and people are not into discs as much as they used to be. I’m getting out of this soon anyway. I want to be the one to make the movies, real movies, not bootlegs. I’ll keep my store front though, to continue to provide a store for the community.
On Serving the Community
Your Local Bootlegger