All posts by Ivane Lund-Soyombo

Ivane is a writer and pop-culture enthusiast residing in San Francisco.

Online Radio: Changing the Broadcasting Landscape

The "On Air" radio sign at Mutiny Radio. Mutiny Radio is one of many internet-radio stations in San Francisco that aren't regulated by the FCC. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)
The “On Air” radio sign at Mutiny Radio. Mutiny Radio is one of many internet-radio stations in San Francisco that aren’t regulated by the FCC. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

In 2003, after nearly ten years broadcasting on 93.7 FM out of the basement of a residential building in the Castro, SF Liberation had their studio raided and their broadcasting equipment confiscated by the Federal Communications Commission.

The studio was raided because SF Liberation was a pirate radio station—a station operating without the permission of the FCC.

At the time, the Board of Supervisors voted to support the station, stating that SF Liberation had “provided an invaluable public service to the City and County of San Francisco for the past ten years” by providing a place for people whose voices were often excluded from corporate media as well as providing access to a diverse group of residents, artists, community groups, and public officials, but alas; the FCC had spoken and SF Liberation went the way most things did in 2003 and began streaming online.

The radio you listen to in your car works like this: radio waves are spread through an antenna. These waves have different frequencies, and by turning that little dial in your car to a specific frequency, you will pick up a specific signal. Radio stations operate on megahertz frequencies, so when you hear an announcer say, “You’re listening to 96.5 KOIT,” what they are really saying is “You are listening to an FM radio signal at a frequency of 96.5 ‘millions of cycles per second,’ with call letters assigned to them by the Federal Communications Commission after they pay a fee that can range anywhere from $3,500 to $5,000.”

The FCC controls every form of telecommunication in the United States, including radio. They determine what megahertz frequencies stations operate at, the channel number they receive, and monitor stations for any “indecent” content. The FCC is also responsible for issuing hefty fines if any of the rules concerning broadcasting are broken.

Since SF Liberation was forced online, many stations in San Francisco have gone digital as well. Some had their FM frequencies abruptly taken away through bureaucratic measures, some were born and have only existed online by choice, and since the FCC is not currently accepting any applications for new FM radio stations, some have no other choice but to stream online. But no matter how they ended up on the Internet, these stations are part of a growing group of community radio stations giving San Francisco residents access to a platform from which their voice (or their favorite bands) can be heard.

A few blocks past Mission Street, down the glorified open-ended alley that is Capp Street, and in-between sleeping homeless people and their wares, is an unassuming beige building with a sturdy looking gate in front of the door. You would never guess, but behind that gate and up a flight of stairs is an adult clubhouse of sorts called the Secret Alley. The Secret Alley is home to the offices of filmmakers, artists, a guy who does drone photography, and a semi-recent inductee into San Francisco’s community radio scene,

Launched in September of 2013, is the brainchild of thirty-eight-year-old Amanda Guest, aka Cosmic Amanda. For a station that is not even two years old, Bff is doing relatively well. They have won “SF’s Best New Radio Station” from The Bold Italic, “Best New Internet Radio Station” from SF Weekly, and been voted “Best Radio Station” in San Francisco in SF Weekly’s annual Reader’s Poll.

“One really cool thing about the station is we have people just on all different points in the spectrum as far as their involvement in music and their involvement in radio. We have people like [DJ] Sequoia, who has never done anything in radio before but he’s just really, really into radio,” says Guest.

DJs pay a membership fee of $50 a month to contribute toward rent and streaming costs, and also relies on monthly donations from members of the community to keep everything going.

Guest moved to San Francisco two years ago for a change of scenery after growing tired of her life in suburban Massachusetts. In between her job doing online marketing and social media for a publishing company on the East Coast, Guest had a brief stint at Mutiny Radio, also located in the Mission. After her time there she decided to realize a longtime dream of hers and start her own station.

“Obviously there’s a lot of tension in the city now and things are changing and not everyone’s happy about it, so then it kind of became like a challenge, like can you start something new that’s creative  and that isn’t fueled by a ton of money and that’s like real? So now I want to do it even more,” says Guest.

Radio DJ Steve Foxx prepares to host his show at headquarters. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
Radio DJ Steve Foxx prepares to host his show at headquarters. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine) broadcasts more thanto over sixty weekly shows, some of which have a single host, and some that operate with teams of up to four people, says Guest. Most of the shows play music and music only, but there are a few talk shows on air. There are also shows that are off-shoots of San Francisco publications like the Examiner, SF Weekly, Mission Local, and the now-defunct SF Bay Guardian, whose show’s future remains unclear.

One host, Steve Foxx, ended up at after a lengthy hiatus from terrestrial radio.

While Foxx attempted to break back into the terrestrial radio market, he came to the realization that Internet radio was becoming a “thing.” Despite being in talks with a couple terrestrial stations, Foxx decided to try his hand at Internet radio.

“Like, I left radio in ’97 and I couldn’t…there was no way for me to just go about finding a spot. No one would hire me for like one shift a week and I’d have to be playing what other people wanted. And then I Googled San Francisco internet radio and Bff came up,” says Foxx. He has been at ever since.

Foxx hosts a show that airs on Sundays from 10 p.m. to midnight, appropriately titled the Midnight Prowl. He prefers this spot because it does not interfere with his weekday activities, which include teaching at the Academy of Art and running his film production company. On his show you will hear everything from Radiohead, to Rocky Erickson and Dillinger Escape Plan, all part of Foxx thoughtful approach to crafting the music that comprises the “eclectic stew” that is the Midnight Prowl.

“I think someday it would be really cool to get an actual terrestrial signal and do more traditional radio,” says Guest. “But we’re finding that we’re finding and growing an audience online and it’s been really interesting that we’ve been able to do that. And I feel like because we are online we don’t have to abide by any FCC laws or things like that so it gives us a lot more freedom to be creative and to let everyone just kind of do their own thing. Sometimes you get so excited about a song you drop an F-bomb, and that’s okay.”

Cheapskate’s Guide to Drinking in San Francisco

The famous Chinese Mai Tai is poured at Li Po Cocktail Lounge. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
The famous Chinese Mai Tai is poured at Li Po Cocktail Lounge. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

Living in a city that is home to over six hundred bars and restaurants as well as a ton of eccentric characters has its perks. But between attempting to afford San Francisco’s increasingly high rents, school supplies, and student loan interest to pay off, I can not afford to spend money on whatever high-priced drink is in fashion at any given moment. And quite frankly, I am sick of hearing people rant and rave about $12 mojitos and attending brewery tours. As a middle finger to the exclusive (and expensive) alcohol scene in San Francisco, I have provided four of the best spots in the city to get drinks while adhering to that strict budget you have placed yourself on.

Buckshot Bar & Grill

3848 Geary Boulevard, Inner Richmond

Located on 3rd Avenue and Geary Boulevard in the Richmond district, Buckshot is a hidden gem in a city with one bar for every ten people. The crowd that can be found there on any given night is comprised of people that live in the neighborhood and University of San Francisco students; if you are sound enough to observe how the two different demographics interact, hilarity often ensues. I have witnessed old men dancing in the middle of large groups of sorority girls and drunk, middle-aged women inquiring about where they could “get something good to eat,” despite Buckshot having an in-house kitchen and being located in between a pizza place and a Burger King.

There is no jukebox at Buckshot, but there is a DJ there every night of the week, and if you come on the third Thursday of any given month you will be treated to Brown Noise, a monthly party where early aughts, hip hop, and R&B are played exclusively. If that is not your style, check out Punk Rock Tuesdays.

A simple whiskey and coke here will run you around $4 and a sixteen ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon will cost you $3. Both of which you can enjoy while being stared at by the taxidermy bear, deer, and cougar heads mounted on the fluorescent orange walls or while you stare up at whatever torture-porn horror movie is playing on one of three television screens, displayed on those same walls. They have every arcade game you could ever want to play (which probably is not many if you are like me), shuffleboard, pool, darts, and skee-ball.

The cheapness of the drinks, dark lighting, and the presence of a dance floor makes Buckshot a great place to have fun with some friends or get drunk and make out with a stranger, if you are into that sort of thing.

(Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
(Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)


Trad’r Sam’s
6150 Geary Boulevard, Outer Richmond

Planter’s punch: an alternative to the scorpion bowl. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
Planter’s punch: an alternative to the scorpion bowl. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

What better way for a cash-strapped college student to lower the price tag of a night out than splitting the cost of libations with friends? If you are looking to indulge in a punch-bowl filled with alcohol with a couple of friends—or alone, no one is judging you—then there is Trad’r Sams. Conveniently located across the street from the 29 bus stop on Geary and 25th Avenue, this means you could come here directly from school, Trad’r Sam’s is advertised as a tiki bar. But, because the only light in the place can be attributed to a digital jukebox and a massive television that sits directly behind the bar playing sports, the island-y decorations are easily lost in the darkness of the room. Bamboo is huge here; it covers the front of the bar, the armrests of the worn chairs and booth seats throughout the establishment, and was even used to build a hut-like structure that covers one of the booths. Aside from the liberal use of bamboo, pastel colors of the drinks and the little umbrellas used to garnish them, there is no other indication that this is supposed to be a tiki bar.

Despite its sort of silly theme, this bar is just as popular with older neighborhood residents as it is with young college students who are just figuring out the limits of their alcohol tolerance. While one would think the combination of locals and drunk college kids would make for many awkward encounters, the two demographics rarely interact—the older women and men mostly sit on bar stools and the college students are dispersed at tables around the bar, only acknowledging each other when space is needed to be made at the bar to order drinks.

Which comes to my last point: the scorpion bowl. The scorpion bowl is what makes Trad’r Sam’s Trad’r Sam’s. It is a huge punch bowl filled with alcohol and can be ordered in its original form or in a variety of flavors, including Passion Punch. I believe I saw the bartender pour both rum and beer into the blender, but I cannot say for sure what else is in it. One thing I can say for sure—the drink is strong. A scorpion bowl will cost you sixteen dollars and I recommend splitting it with at least three other people; it will hurt your stomach and your wallet less.


Randy’s Place
1101 Ocean Avenue, Ingleside

What you can get for $6 at Randy’s. (Martin Bustamante/Xpress Magazine)
What you can get for $6 at Randy’s. (Martin Bustamante/Xpress Magazine)

I used to hear stories of my friends hanging out at Randy’s Place because that was supposedly where all the cute people that work at the Whole Foods across the street went after work. I was always reluctant to go because it takes an hour to get there from the Richmond, where I live. However, it is really close to school, a fifteen minute bus ride, which is perfect if you are looking to wind down after a day of classes, but do not want to be subjected to someone playing covers of pop songs on the piano at the school’s pub. And who could pass up a bar where you can get a shot of well whiskey and a pint of Budweiser for the low, low, price of $6?

Aside from the decorations on the wall that appear to have been remnants of a birthday party that occurred long ago, the bar is as stereotypical of a bar as you can get; there are three televisions, a pool table, a jukebox, and nine draft beers on tap.

Randy’s Place has been around since 1969, and is one of the few bars that remains on a stretch of Ocean Avenue where there used to be eight, according to the bartender, a woman named Susan. Though she has only been tending bar at Randy’s for the past five years, my suspicions tell me that Susan is one of the reasons Randy’s Place has been able to stay in business. She is super sweet and seemed to be on a first name basis with everyone at the bar – they gave her hugs, she offered them candy, apparently functioning as both bartender and surrogate mom.

In addition to Susan’s sweetness, Randy’s is great because it is located by two major bus lines–the K/T light rail line, the 29 bus stop—and sits between a McDonalds with a twenty-four hour drive-thru and another hidden San Francisco gem, Beep’s Burgers.


916 Grant Avenue, Chinatown

I have been to Chinatown maybe three times in my life. Once, to watch a Chinese New Year parade while I was in elementary school. Once because I got off of the bus at the wrong stop. And again during this cheap drink tour, at the suggestion of my photographer that we hit up Li – Po, a seventy-seven year old bar famous for a drink called the Chinese Mai Tai.

The gates to Chinatown are an eight minute walk from the Montgomery Street MUNI station, and Li-Po is about nine blocks past these gates. I timed it, and you will spend about fifteen minutes walking from the underground to Li-Po – a little less if you run half a block after seeing a roach (like I did).

Li-Po is easy to spot—it will likely be the only place open on Grant Street at 11 p.m—and when you walk in the door to the narrow entryway, you will be greeted not by a bouncer, but by a bright yellow poster board with a photo of Anthony Bourdain and a man I am assuming is the bar’s owner glued to it. The poster proudly states “Anthony Bourdain came here on layover in 2012.”

At $9, the Chinese Mai Tai is a little more expensive than the other drinks consumed on this journey, but it comes in a goblet, and just one will get you a pretty nice buzz. It is also really good, which is shocking because I cannot think of any other time mixing five different alcohols in one drink was even in the realm of goodness.

The bar itself was dingy and sparsely decorated with some haphazardly arranged lanterns, a huge altar for Buddha right behind the bar, and two televisions. There was music, but I could not see where it was coming from and did not know who was in charge of it, but I would like to thank them for playing some of my middle school favorites: “Goodies” by Ciara and “Magic Stick” by 50 Cent.

If you cannot make it to Chinatown, the bartender tipped us off on the ingredients necessary for making a Chinese Mai Tai: Whaler’s Dark Rum, Castillo’s Light Rum, Bacardi 151 Rum, Chinese rice wine, Dole pineapple juice, and Chinese rice whiskey. Feel free to make it at home, just do not call it a Chinese Mai Tai—Li-Po’s owner had that name trademarked last year.

(Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
(Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)


How I Learned to Stop Tripping and Embrace My Natural Hair

Hair is an integral part of the black female experience. Black women spend tons of money on weaves, relaxers, and various hair and hair products every year. So much money in fact, that the African American haircare industry will be worth an estimated $761 million by 2017. I have done it all; I have had a weave, braids, and a year and a half ago I finally weaned myself off of relaxers, arguably one of the most damaging processes black women put their hair through.

Relaxing one’s hair is lengthy, expensive, and super bad for your hair. It involves applying a chemical laden lotion—the relaxer—to the root of your hair and leaving it on long enough it to alter your natural curl pattern. The relaxer is mostly composed of a chemical called sodium hydroxide, which is super acidic (there is a  scene in Chris Rock’s film Good Hair where Rock looks on in horror as a chemist shows him an aluminum can that had completely disintegrated after sitting in sodium hydroxide for four hours), and if left on too long it can cause chemical burns to your scalp. I spent over eleven years willingly applying this damaging substance to my hair every six weeks, sometimes not speaking up when it started to burn because I wanted to ensure my hair came out as straight as possible. It is honestly a miracle I have any hair left. It was also costing my mother $85 a session. In an effort to manage my expenses after I got a job and mom stopped paying for my relaxers and save the hair I did have left, I opted to stop getting my hair relaxed.

A selfie of the author wearing and her natural hair.
A selfie of the author wearing and embracing her natural hair.

Even after deciding to stop chemically straightening my hair, I still went to the salon every two weeks to have a professional wash and straighten my hair. This too was a lengthy, expensive, and damaging process. After having my hair washed, I would sit under a dryer for forty-five minutes, have my hair blown out, then have it flat ironed—with the edges being gone over with a hot comb, just to make sure my hair laid as flat as possible. The process cost $65 and three hours out of my day. The excessive amount of heat being applied to my hair in such a short period of time caused my hair to break, and I would notice long strands of hair on my bathroom floor every time I combed it at night.

Despite its damaging effects, I continued to have my hair straightened, accepting the strands lost as a small price I would have to pay for smooth, silky hair. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it was because after eleven years I did not know how to handle my hair any other way. Maybe it was because Western beauty standards had instilled into me that straight hair is beautiful hair. Maybe it was a little bit of sheer laziness. Either way, I saw no problem with having my hair altered from its natural state on a regular basis.

Until last week. After spending all day at work, I went home and washed and dried my hair. And instead of busting out a straighter to begin the two and a half hour process that is straightening it, I said, “fuck it,” and left it alone. And it looked awful. It was huge, and you could still see the remnants of relaxers past on the ends of my hair, which were bone straight in a sea of naps. I proceeded to spend the whole weekend devouring YouTube tutorials devoted to the styling and maintenance of natural hair. Overwhelmed, I eventually gave up and went to a salon and had a professional style it into a manageable afro. But I am committed to learning how to maintain my hair on my own.

Embracing my natural hair may not seem like a big deal to someone who is not knowledgable about African American hair. But for me, one of the thousands of black girls who was taught from a young age that straight hair is beautiful hair, it is. I spent years and hundreds of dollars trying to get my hair to behave a certain way. I avoided activities I enjoy like swimming and dancing just to make sure my hair did not get wet and revert to its natural state. Wearing my hair natural, I can do what I want when I want and do not have to plan for a hair catastrophe.

Why I Hate Haight Street

Last Friday, after ripping a hole in the last pair of pants I owned that was not already riddled with them, I decided to go to American Apparel to buy new ones. There are only three American Apparels in San Francisco, and two are in my least favorite places to be: downtown and the Marina. With my dislike of those neighborhoods providing me no other choice, I embarked on a trip to the American Apparel in the one part of the city I thought did not hate, Haight Street.
 My trip concluded within an hour, but as I got back on the 33-Stanyan to head home, too-expensive jeans in hand, I was in the foulest of moods. Not because I had just dropped serious coin on a garment I will be replacing in about four months, and not because I was offended by the smell of the bus, which I can only describe as a mix of bacon and urine.

Then it dawned upon me: I hate Haight Street. Not Haight as a whole, the street is too long and the bars and eateries in lower Haight too awesome, but the neighborhood often referred to as Haight-Ashbury or upper Haight sucks.
The street where I held the first of many jobs in San Francisco, the street where I bought my first bong, the street where I went to that really fun party that one time. I fucking hate that street. And if you do not already, maybe you will too after reading this.

Tourists. Everywhere.

I do not even understand why Haight Street is so big with tourists. There has not been anything special about Haight Ashbury for about 50 years now, yet every time I go there the streets are clogged with huge double-decker tour buses and slow moving tourists impeding the mobility of people that have somewhere to be. Unless you are into taking photos of the homeless youth that congregate in front of the Whole Foods on Stanyan, photo opportunities are virtually non-existent. Hell, the iconic Haight-Ashbury street signs are too high up to even really be visible. Thankfully the Ben and Jerry’s that sits on the corner of Haight and Ashbury has their own goofy looking, oversized street signs in the doorway so you can take pictures in front of those while their ice cream scoopers photobomb your vacation photos.

Overpriced everything.

Upper Haight is the land of overpriced wares. Looking for cheap clothes? Good luck. I saw a pair of overalls at one store being sold for $98. There is a Goodwill in the neighborhood, but I challenge you to find any other store in which the clothes are both reasonably priced and in the realm of fashionable.

If you are hungry and do not want to spend your life’s savings trying to eat, you pretty much only have the option of going to the McDonalds on Haight and Stanyan; that is if you can make it past the panhandlers and their pack of unleashed dogs, dealers offering you pretty much any drug you could ever think of, and wanna-be rappers trying to get you to purchase their mix tapes that have all claimed the steps to the McDonalds as their own. I was really excited when Burger Urge opened on the corner of Haight and Clayton because I thought it would be a cheap alternative to McDonalds, but I was so, so wrong. My excitement quickly faded when I found out that a cheeseburger, fries and a drink at Burger Urge will cost you a smooth $15.00. 

 Street Punx
 Being a “traveler” living on Haight Street seems like it would be really fun, aside from the whole not having a roof over your head thing. You get to hang out with your friends all day, harass passersby for money and cigarette butts, drink, and participate in general merrymaking. This is not a blanket request for the travelers on Haight Street to get a job or anything, if you do not want one or do not need one that is your thing. Just leave me alone and do not ask me for my hard earned pennies (which are not plentiful) or if I want to enjoy a “warm beer and a cold sleeping bag,” with you. Because I do not.

Its conflicting identities

So, am I supposed to regard upper Haight as a last bastion of the famous Summer of Love or a hip retail district? Because I cannot tell. In-between the expensive boutiques and street-wear stores, murals to people like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, and shops that literally sell nothing besides tie-dye t-shirts, it is easy for the theme of Haight Street to get confusing.
 But maybe that is the point, in 2014 we are all about being nostalgic, and maybe there is a niche market for people who want to buy a tie-dye shirt, pay homage to Jerry Garcia by eating an ice cream flavor named after him, buy weed off of a stranger, then sit down and enjoy a $15.00 hamburger. I am just not that person. And I guess I will be going to the Marina to buy pants from now on.

La Cocina gets small businesses cooking

Cristina Avantes, owner of Kika's Treats poses in her kitchen. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
Cristina Avantes, owner of Kika’s Treats poses in her kitchen. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

When Cristina Avantes moved to San Francisco in 1999, the move was intended to be a change from her everyday life in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

“I came to study fundraising and administration for nonprofits,” she said, from her seat behind a desk covered in magazines and sweets—for market research—in her production kitchen in the Dogpatch.

She soon fell in love with the city’s culinary scene, and began working in the food industry at catering companies, restaurants, and bakeries.

“I had always dreamt of having, not a candy business, but something more like pastries—like a small bakery or a coffee shop,” Avantes, a lifelong baker, said.

Avantes was seven years into her immersion in San Francisco’s food scene when, by way of a friend, she happened upon a newly opened non-profit called La Cocina, which changed the course of her life in the city.

Opened in 2005, La Cocina had been in the works since local economic nonprofits completed a study to find out why women who had created business plans for seemingly profitable businesses in a business planning program at Women’s Initiative for Self Employment, were not launching those businesses.

What the study found was that there was a lack of affordable kitchen space for these small businesses to get started.

With that information, a donated 2,200 square foot kitchen in the Mission, and one million dollars obtained through various fundraisers, La Cocina opened the doors to their kitchen, where through continued fundraising and donations, they are able to provide program participants with affordable commercial kitchen space and the resources needed to start and grow a successful culinary business.

To apply to La Cocina’s kitchen incubator program, you must present business plan and product to a panel of six people usually, staff from La Cocina and business owners, and if they think it is a viable business  plan and you meet the requirements to be considered low income—when Avantes was in the program that meant making under $30,000—you will be granted low-cost rent in the commercial kitchen.

Working in a shared kitchen space, no matter how low the rent, is not without its hardships.

“For me it was very challenging because I’m doing chocolates and there’s people frying, there’s people steaming; there’s all kinds of stuff happening in one kitchen,” said Avantes.

Despite that, Avantes credits the existencce of her business to La Cocina.

“When La Cocina opened up it really inspired me, and I got motivated to start my business. So La Cocina was the reason why I started my business. I saw the opportunity I had and I just decided to take the plunge,” she said.

Melted chocolate being mixed at Kika's Treats. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
Melted chocolate being mixed at Kika’s Treats. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

Avantes joined La Cocina in 2006, two years into it she realized that she needed more space for a piece of equipment that she saw as essential for growing her business—a chocolate enrober. A machine whose only purpose is to cover things in chocolate.

She began renting her kitchen space in April 2008, without any equipment besides the chocolate enrober. Avantes then continued to do her baking at La Cocina until December 2009—only coming to her kitchen cover her confections in chocolate.

Today Avantes is the owner of artisanal sweets company, Kika’s Treats, and  has a fully functional production space complete with ovens, fridges, storage, and yes—that same chocolate enrober.

She now only visits La Cocina during the occasional drive by on the way to her kitchen or to participate one of the various community events they put on.

When they opened, La Cocina’s mission was to serve mainly low income Latina women, and that was it. They have expanded their vision and now focus primary on women of color and immigrants. Like Claire Keane, who came to the United States from Ireland.

Keane came to the United States to study environmental sciences in 2006. In her spare time she would make sweets for her friends based on traditional Irish recipes that she used to bake as a kid. Deciding she wanted to put all her effort into beginning a food business, she applied to La Cocina in 2006.

She graduated, and now runs Claire’s Squares, where she makes a living selling those same traditional Irish treats that were so popular amongst her friends.

La Cocina now has graduates that are men, women, and non-Latinos.

Seven reasons I love Drake (and you should too)

If there is anything I remember about my formative years, it is being obsessed with Degrassi: The Next Generation. So obsessed that when I was presented with the opportunity to meet two of the main characters from the show, Manny and Paige, at a special screening of the show in Long Beach, I was somehow able to persuade my parents to let twelve-year-old me and one of my school friends fly to Long Beach for the event with my friend’s elderly grandmother and great-grandmother acting as chaperones. So obsessed that I spent a Halloween in seventh grade at home, because they were airing a special two-part episode of the show that night.

My love of Degrassi and my familiarity with every character and dramatic plot is why four years ago when Aubrey Graham, who played a character named Jimmy Brooks on the show (in true Degrassi fashion, Jimmy ended up confined to a wheelchair after falling victim to a crazed school shooter) was now going by Drake and dropping mixtapes, I was floored. I laughed. I made fun of him on my Tumblr. I did not think he would catch on. Fast forward to now, Drake is a big star and I am an even bigger fan; he is the sensitive rapper boyfriend I will never have. I love Drake, and here are seven reasons you should too.

Drake is inspiring
As evidenced by the backdrop he has been using on his current tour with Lil Wayne that simply reads “DRAKE KNOWS,” Drake knows and he is offering up some premium advice. Drake is all about reminding his listeners to ignore the haters, that jealousy is rampant no matter what you do, your hustle will never go unnoticed, working with the negatives can make for better pictures, and that hard work pays off and your Strawberrita dreams can too turn into champagne realities.

He is Canadian
And Canadians are nice people. He reps Toronto super hard and is often referred to as “Wheelchair Jimmy” in his hometown—where they have also taken to slapping pictures of his face on handicapped signs to pay homage to the star.

Photo via

Drake raps about real, relatable shit.
You know what I cannot relate to? The Lil’ Waynes and 50 Cents of the world clamoring for girls to lick their lollipops and magic sticks. You know what I can relate to? Feeling both psychotic and iconic, acknowledging my flaws, having a tumultuous relationship with my father, feeling lonely, not wanting any new friends, and hating sleeping alone. You don’t love me/You just say that shit to get to me—we have all been there, right? Drake feels sad sometimes, and dammit, sometimes so do I.

Drake is true to himself
As a Jewish rapper, Drake is a minority. That did not stop him from re-doing his bat mitzvah and inviting all his Young Money friends to celebrate alongside his family and Jewish friends from Toronto. No matter how corny a white dude with a huge red beard acting as hype man for one of the world’s biggest artists is, that is Drake’s homeboy and he is sticking with him.

Additionally, Instead of pretending he did not get his start on one of the most popular Canadian teen dramas ever, he frequently shouts out Degrassi in his music. Degrassi is where I learned about bullying, rape, school shootings, abortions, ecstasy, eating disorders, and wet dreams. So I owe my knowledge about pretty much everything my parents would never think to talk to me about to Jimmy Brooks and his friends at Degrassi and it is nice he does not sweep that part of his life under the rug.

Drake likes all types of women
Whether you are a stripper, a waitress at Hooters, a single mom, a struggling college student, or Nicki Minaj, you could be Drake’s next lady love. And if you upset him enough, you could provide the fodder for his next album. Also he loves his mom. I know because he raps about that too.

He has a sense of humor
He hosted the first (and only) episode of Saturday Night Live I have watched from start to finish, during which he played Lil’ Wayne and a father trying to ward off the advances of his teenage daughter’s friends. I laughed, I cried, I DVR’d the episode.

Filter Magazine

His Instagram
Constantly watching Drake videos on YouTube does not do it for me. I want to know what Drake is doing when he is not driving around Bay Area landmarks in a convertible while wearing limited edition North Face gear. For that, there is his Instagram,  @ChampaganePapi, where he posts pictures of himself  making classic Drake faces, with his friends, and photoshopped as “DrakeO Malfoy.”

Keeping the blue, green

Bags hanging on the wall at Mafia Bag's Richmond store. The Argetina-based startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)
Bags hanging on the wall at Mafia Bag’s Richmond store. The Argetina-based startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

What do you think about when you see a kitesurfer, windsurfer, or sailor on the water?

Do you pause for a moment to marvel at their athletic prowess?

Do you wonder how they are able to remain upright on the fickle body of water that is the ocean?

Do you become saddened by the realization that they are engaged in a physical activity that you will probably never be able to do?

You probably wonder all of those things and more—but do you ever wonder what becomes of those brightly colored sails and kites when nature, user-error, or even time renders them useless?

Enter the MAFIA Bags showroom on Clement Street in the Richmond, where Marcos Mafia, his sister Paz, and two employees are single-handedly tackling the waste problem that plagues the sail industry.

MAFIA Bags’ concept is simple: they take damaged and otherwise unusable sails and turn them into bags, backpacks, wallets, and other accessories, that often feature the distinct markings of the sails they came from. According to their website, for every thousand products made, sixty-one sails will be recycled.

Windsurf sails alone can cost up to $1,090, a high-price point for something that usually ends up sitting in a landfill, someone’s garage, or in the water once it’s unable to be used, according to Marcos.

“The funny thing is, you probably have thirty or forty companies making sails, but you have a single company which recycles them,” Marcos says as he thumbs through stacks of brightly colored sails waiting to be cut and turned into MAFIA products.

Marcos, a soft-spoken, twenty-five-year- old expatriate from Argentina, has been doing water sports since he was a self- described “little guy.” He started off sailing at eight-years-old in Buenos Aires, and soon found he wanted to try his hand at other water sports.

After realizing that wave quality at the river near his house was not ideal for surfing, he chose something that the ample wind in his region would lend a hand to: kitesurfing. He has been doing it for fun – and professionally for the last five years – ever since.

Marcos Mafia, Mafia Bags founder, shows a wall of potential bag designs. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

Marcos Mafia, Mafia Bags founder, shows a wall of potential bag designs

Marcos’ lifelong affinity for the water has made him hypersensitive about the environmental impact of waste that ends up in the water. Polluted water in his native Argentina often made him sick if he accidentally ingested the tiniest bit of it. For him, MAFIA bags is a way to do his part to minimize human’s impact on water.

He goes out on weekends to collect sails that are ready to be retired. After big events, companies sometimes contact him to make use of their sails and banners—like Vans did after this year’s United States’ Open of Surfing.

“Since I was eight years old, I’ve been getting into the water and that made me really conscious about what happens when we throw stuff on the streets and throw away bottles,” he says. “Just being in touch with water from sports and it being something I really love just made it so that I wanted to know where things end up and where things come from.”

A few years ago, when Marcos found himself working for a number of the companies that also sponsored him, he realized that there was a need to be met in terms of bridging the gap between sail production and sail waste. He also realized something else: he does not like working for other people.

“I just realized I was really into [these] companies and that’s not what I wanted,” he says.

Taking the skills he learned about product development and the inner workings of running a small company, he decided to go into business for himself, and thus MAFIA Bags was born.

With an initial investment from a friend’s father and his sister Paz acting as the cofounder, Marcos started the company in 2011. With the help of their friends, they were able to build a name for themselves selling MAFIA products in their native Buenos Aires and across South America.

Last year, in an effort to break into a more international market, create jobs, and ensure that their production remained hands-on and transparent, the company decided to make the move to the United States.

With $26,000 raised from a Kickstarter campaign, they headed for San Francisco because of its large water sports community. It also helped that the city has a soft spot for “green” businesses.

“Just bringing the whole production to California was strange because people are used to hearing that things have been outsourced, but we are bringing it here,” says Marcos.

Instead of going the way of similar start-ups and other San Francisco-based bag companies and setting up shop in the increasingly hip Mission or South of Market neighborhoods, they renovated a formerly decrepit storefront in a mostly residential part of the Richmond district.

Bags hanging on the wall at Mafia Bag's Richmond store. The startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials produced in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)
A collection of Mafia’s vibrant bags.  The startup is beginning to produce bags made of recycled watersport materials produced in San Francisco. (Ryan Leibrich / Xpress Magazine)

While MAFIA bags would not be able to exist without kite and wind surfers and sailors, Marcos notes that MAFIA bags are for everyone.

“We’re not just focusing on people who sail or kitesurf. We’re focusing on people who like to feel the wind on their heads, people who like to ride bikes, people who like to go to see the view at Ocean Beach, and just go enjoy life as it is.”

For now, production is being handled by a local seamstress and tailor hired by Marcos, who comes up with the designs for the items. They cut all the sails by hand, then sew the pieces together and attach a MAFIA label. Prep for each bag takes about an hour and a half to complete.

“It’s a lot of work in a way but it’s like super rewarding,” says Marcos. “You don’t need to make another backpack that’s already on the market or another thing how everybody does it.”

The biggest challenge for MAFIA in San Francisco has been not having the same support of friends and family as the company had in Argentina, says Marcos. “It’s a whole new industry and world,” he says.

Lucky for him, if there is one thing San Francisco residents love, it is products that are made within the city limits. With companies like Chrome, Timbuktu, and Rickshaw Bags proudly boasting their “Made in San Francisco” credentials and arguably competing for the same clientele as MAFIA, finding their place in the sea of bag producers may prove to be difficult.

However, where some might see a challenge, Marcos chooses to look at competitors as colleagues instead of competition.

#BlackTwitter Addresses Cultural Appropriation

After years and years of trying to tame large backsides “in countless exercise classes,” we can finally relax because according to an article published by Vogue last month, we have officially entered the era of the big booty. According to the article, Jennifer Lopez succeeded in making butts kind of cool in the early aughts (who could forget that Versace dress she wore to the 2000 Grammys?), but ample butt was nothing to be proud of until recently.

Never mind the fact that having and celebrating sizable derrieres has long been a part of black music and culture. As far as Vogue is concerned, none of that mattered before they cosigned butts with their article.

In response to Vogue’s article, which gave a nod to a total of four black artists, black Twitter users began using the hashtag #VogueArticles to suggest other story ideas for the magazine, all of which praised white people for things that have been a part of black culture for what seems like forever. The hashtag quickly began trending, and has been included in more than three-hundred thousand mocking tweets.
The #VogueArticles hashtag is just one shining example of the way Black Twitter, the name used to refer to black Twitter users en-masse, utilizes the site.

No one is sure when Black Twitter started, or who even coined the term ‘Black Twitter’, but the virtual community has become a way for African Americans in the United States to voice their contempt, joy, and other feelings about the black experience in America. If you’ve never heard of it, it is likely because the issues and references that are worked out through the community’s often playful hashtags are ones that have never impacted you. But if you can relate, and are capable of curating a Tweet funnier than the last guy’s, Black Twitter is open to you too.

“I use Twitter every day, if not every couple of hours,” says Barbara Cummings a black, 22-year-old, recent graduate of SF State.

Cummings isn’t alone in her frequent Twitter use, the same Pew survey showed that of the twenty-two percent of black people that access Twitter, eleven percent log on at least once a day, compared to just three percent of whites.

Though the hashtags are often humorous (after ABC news published an article titled ‘Twerking: A Scientific Explanation’, Black Twitter created the hashtag #ABCReports, and began suggesting titles for other investigative pieces like: Is It Scientifically Possible to Smack the Taste out of One’s Mouth? A Roundtable Discussion #ABCReports) trending hashtags are also used to highlight the plight of blacks in America and spark social change.

“I can’t really speak for all black people, but I can say what I see a lot of. If something pops up in the media that may have an underlying racial motive my black twitter followers will bring it to my attention or look at it in a perspective that’ll really leave me thinking like, ‘This whole racism thing never really died,’” says Cummings.

After the death of Mike Brown, an unarmed teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, protests began and the small town’s residents began to clash with the local police.
Meanwhile, the news coverage of the events transpiring in Ferguson focused mostly on the well being of the police force and painting Mike Brown as a thug through pictures found on his various social media accounts, instead of using pictures that showed the teen had a soft side.

In response to the way the Mike Brown and the countless black victims of police brutality are portrayed in the mainstream media, Black Twitter started using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown and users began posting pictures of themselves in which they were drinking, smoking or joking around alongside pictures of themselves graduating from college, posing in family portraits and doing other non-threatening activities and asking the simple question #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, what picture would they use?

Similarly, shortly after George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder last summer, one of the jurors responsible for coming to that verdict, known in the media as Juror B37, announced that she would be publishing a book about her time on the jury in what was a highly publicized case that was an extremely sensitive topic for a lot of black people.

Upon hearing this news, Twitter user @MoreAndAgain disseminated the contact info of the literary agent who was responsible for offering Juror B37 the book deal in the first place and encouraged other black Twitter users to contact the agent and voice their opinions on a potential Juror B37 book.
Soon after, the agent contacted @MoreAndAgain to let her know that Juror B37’s book deal was off the table.


Good vibes and music take over Haight Street

DJ Apollo spinning records at the First Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
DJ Apollo spinning records at the First Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)

Throngs of people flocked to Haight Street on Sunday for the 1st Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Festival.

For the adults, there were drink specials at the many bars along Haight Street, an impromptu car show, and three musical stages featuring local artists and DJs. Bigger names like Talib Kweli and Erykah Badu also made appearances to DJ for the massive crowds.

“We have closed down the streets, we’re not allowing any outside vendors because we want people to really come and shop and spend their money on the merchants on Haight Street instead of having outside vendors,” said Katrina Belda, who was providing event information to guests in addition to passing out free balloons to younger festival attendees.

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  • Overall shot of the First Annual Haight St. Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
  • 49er fan poses with a street performer at the First Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
  • Nicky Diamonds (center) at the First Annual Haight Street Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)
  • Orly Locquiao (bottom left) setting up a booth at the First Annual Haight St. Music and Merchants Street Festival on Sunday September 7, 2014 (Henry Perez/Xpress Magazine)

Sponsors FTC, Pink + Dolphin, Diamond Supply Co., and Derby SF orchestrated the inaugural event, and saw that Haight Street from Stanyan to Masonic blocked from traffic. There were activities for all ages, including bounce houses, the aforementioned free balloons, and face painting stations.

The mix of activities brought families, street-wear enthusiasts, and curious neighborhood residents out to the event, which felt more like a huge block party than a festival.

After one DJ opted to play a song with a few curse words in it, he apologized. “They want me to keep it clean and family friendly – which I will, after this song.”

“We do plan to do this annually, and hopefully if this year is good we can keep doing it every year,” said Belda.
Clothing retailers Diamond Supply Co. and Pink + Dolphin, who are both relatively new to Haight – Diamond Supply Co., opened for business in August and Pink + Dolphin will be celebrating their one year anniversary in October – coordinated exclusive merchandise releases in honor of the festival.

The first hundred people in the blocks-long line in front of Pink + Dolphin were rewarded with tickets that granted them access to the exclusive gear the shop was selling.

FTC, which has been in its space at 1632 Haight Street for over 20 years, hosted both skate and BMX demos for curious onlookers.

The festival  – not to be confused with the Haight Ashbury Street Fair that has happened every summer for the last 37 years  – was a collaborative effort between older Haight Street businesses and the newcomers to the street.

And unlike the Haight Ashbury Street Fair, which brings in outside food and merchandise vendors, organizers of the Music and Merchants Festival wanted the event to benefit, well, Haight Street merchants.