All posts by Jannelle Garcia

Journalism major at San Francisco State. Lover of Jesus, social justice, coffee, and Jimmy Fallon.

Sharing Economy Apps

The new sharing economy that took rise in the mid 2000’s has introduced people to the concept of gaining goods, housing, and services through exchange instead of spending money.

According to a 2014 study conducted by PWC, 44 percent of the participants surveyed said they are familiar with the sharing economy. After taking the survey, 72 percent of the participants said that they would become involved in the sharing economy within the next two years.

Today the sharing economy is partnering with the tech industry to create different sharing communities that anyone can access on the web or on their smart phone. One of the leading sharing environment companies is Airbnb, a site that allows people around the globe to offer their homes for tourists to stay in at a chosen price. According to the PWC survey, Airbnb averages 425,000 guests per night.

With the nation’s growing interest in the sharing economy, below are five sharing apps and websites that will save you money, and serve as a gateway to the new economy that claims to be built upon community.

Bay Area Community Time Bank

Founded in the ‘80s, 2013 Humanitarian Award winner Dr. Edgar S. Cahn created the Time Banking system during his stay at a hospital while recovering from a heart attack, according to the MI Alliance of Time Banks. The Time Bank system was initially conceived as a solution to the current government spending on social welfare. In 1987 at the London School of Economics, Cahn reasoned that this new currency could be sustainable, and he later began Time Banking in America.

Today there are over 461 Time Bank communities around the globe. People create online accounts to their local Time Bank, and can then socialize with other members and choose from a wide array of different services that each member offers. The Bay Area’s Time Bank, Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE), has over 600 members.

BACE member AZ Zaidi says that Time Banking has not only saved him money, but also introduced him to a world of different people.

“It was mind-blowing to see that I could connect with a totally new demographic of people on types of services or offers or requests,” says Zaidi.

BACE holds meetings on the first Wednesday of each month at the Omni Collective.

Leftover Swap

If you ordered too much takeout and can’t finish your whole meal, instead of throwing it in the trash one can now give their leftovers to a hungry person in the neighborhood.
 Two college roommates, Bryan Summersett and Dan Newman, invented the app Leftover Swap, which launched in 2013 in response to food waste .
 With this app, people no longer have to toss out their extra chow mein. Now they can take a photo of whatever leftover food they have, and post it for other account members to see. People within the same geographical vicinity can offer to trade food or give food for free.

Barterquest

The goal of this website is stated in the name. Barterquest is a website where users can post from their computer or phone any unwanted items, real estate, or services that they want to trade in exchange for points or needed items. Founders Dr. Paul Bocheck and Michael Satz created the website in 2009 as a way for people to save money in the struggling economy and build communities within their cities that can financially support each other.

Couchsurfing

Founded in 2004 by a group of traveling students who were looking for a place to crash in Iceland, Couchsurfing is a website and app that travelers around the world can use to connect with locals and spend a couple days in their home.

Unlike Airbnb, Couchsurfing focuses on pairing foreign 
travelers with people who know their town like the back of their hand, and can guide visitors to local hotspots and gems. In addition to connecting visitors, Couchsurfing also hosts weekly meet ups at local bars and coffee shops for other Couchsurfing members in the area to connect. Today there are an estimated 10 million members and couches are opened up in over 200,000 cities.

Poshmark

Beginning in 2011, Poshmark is an app and online site that gives women around the world a platform and market to swap and sell used clothing. Founder Manish Chandra was given inspiration for this idea after hearing his wife constantly complain about having nothing to wear when she had a closet stocked with new clothes. Poshmark representative Bita Khalenghi says that the amount of Poshmark users has rapidly grown.

“Over the past three years, Poshmark has become the largest peer-to-peer fashion marketplace with millions of users and over 700,000 closets open for sale,” Khalenghi says.

Today Poshmark is one of the largest sharing companies in the world.

“Over $2 million worth of fashion inventory is uploaded onto the marketplace every day, and over 10 million items are for sale from over 5,000 fashion brands,” Khalenghi says.

So if you’re in need for some extra cash, or just want a change in your wardrobe, Poshmark can hook one up with other fashionistas in your town and across the globe.

 

How to Avoid Getting Sick During Finals

It’s the last week of classes before finals and students’ schedules are filled to the max. With nights set aside to study and pump out final papers, the last thing someone needs the day before the big test is to wake up with a fever, sore throat and a bad case of the chills. If you want to avoid the risk of catching a cold, read a couple tips from San Francisco State University professors on how to stay healthy during finals.

Kinesiology lecturer Regula Dhehdi says the preparation for a healthy immune system during finals starts at the beginning of the semester.

“Students are more prone to falling sick at the end of semester because they are run down: not enough sleep, not eating healthy, not exercising, being physically active regularly, procrastination of finishing assignments at last moment, using caffeine, sugar, etc. to maintain attention span in class and for homework,” says Dhehdi. “All this causes stress to the body and mind, and has a negative effect on the body’s ability to protect from falling ill.”

Kinesiology professor Matt Lee says students should try to maintain their regular eating, sleeping and exercise habits, even when it is tempting to give up a couple hours of sleep for studying.

“Make time to eat healthy meals, breakfast included. Make time for exercise, and definitely get sufficient rest. This would hopefully allow the immune system to respond well to the stress that many students may experience,” says Lee.

Holistic Health assistant professor Richard Harvey agrees with both Dhehdi and Lee, and says that the rule students should live by, is eating healthy, well rounded meals, and avoid eating processed food.

“No, an energy drink and energy bar do not count as a meal. Instead use the 30-30-40 rule, where 30 percent of every meal has protein [such as tofu, eggs, cheese, lean meats], 30 precent has healthy oils and fats [such as olive and avocado oil], and 40 percent has healthy carbohydrates, [such as fruits and brown rice],” says Harvey.

In addition to eating well-balanced meals, Harvey says students should set aside time for 20 minutes of physical activity, from stretching to running, and also make time to catch a full night’s sleep.

Harvey says that if students want to wake up for finals feeling extra refreshed, they should reduce optic nerve stimulation.

“Practice turning off, as in powering down completely any electronic noise,” says Harvey.

In addition to eating right, getting sleep, and keeping physically active, the final step students should take to avoid sickness is avoiding stress.

According to an article by Psychology Today, cortisol, which is produced when one is stressed, is the number one factor to developing a weak immune system and chronic diseases. The article continues to say that chronic stress, which translates as stress carried day to day over the years, results in decreased resilience and mental illness, especially among young people.

In a 2008 study done by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 80 percent of college students reported that they frequently experience stress on a day to day basis.

An article by helpguide.org says that people can reduce stress by spending time in nature, playing with animals, taking a walk, and releasing any pent up emotion with close friends.

 

What’s up with Bae?

Photo courtesy of karljonsson via Flickr

New trend words are a continual cycle, with no real questions about how they became popular, and what they actually mean. In the 90’s there was “da bomb,” “as if,” and “whatever!” By the early 2000’s people were saying “crunk,” “skrill,” and “flossy.”

Since around mid-2014 to early 2015, three stand out words have been on the lips of 2015’s younger generation: “bae,” “basic,” and “on fleek.”

Bae, used as a term of affection and endearment towards a significant other, is an acronym for “before anyone else”. Because of the word’s wide popularity among couples, bae was one of the runner-ups for 2014’s word of the year, losing to “vape”. Artist Pharell Williams even dedicated a song to it titled, “Come Get It Bae,” featured on his 2014 album “Girl.”

The origin of “On Fleek” began on a Vine video by Vine character Peaches Monroe. In the video Monroe uses “on fleek” as an equivalent to the phrase “on point,” when talking about her eyebrows. The video currently has 627.9K likes, 496.2K Revines and 55.8K comments. On Instagram 1,381 posts have the hashtag “onfleek,” and on Vine 8,974 videos.

As for the term “basic” there is no specific moment or person who is responsible for coining the now trending word.  Used to describe a woman in specific, who follows trends and has no personal sense of style or identity, “basic” carries a negative connotation. Our culture has decided what makes someone basic, through articles, memes, and opinions thrown out on social media.

With these three trending words on the loose, what do SF State students think of them? Are any of these words keepers and worthy to put down in the book of eternal slang, like “cool, or are these words temporary glitches in time. Watch the video below to see if SF State students vote yay, nay, or bae.

Where are your clothes made?

One of the clothes "The Label Doesn't Tell The Whole Story" Campaign photos, created by RethinkCanada and The Canadian Fair Trade Network
One of the clothes “The Label Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story” Campaign photos, created by RethinkCanada and The Canadian Fair Trade Network

One of the garments from “The Label Doesn’t Tell The Whole Story” campaign, created by RethinkCanada and The Canadian Fair Trade Network.

 

As people browse through the clothing racks at their favorite chain and local stores, the questions of how the material was gathered or how the garment was made is usually not at the forefront of one’s mind. Yet RethinkCanada and The Canadian Fair Trade Network made a new campaign that urges customers to ponder the lengths another human being goes through to help make the shirt on the buyer’s back.

A picture of a mustard yellow, cable knit sweater, maroon sweatshirt, and a brown tweed blazer is centerpiece of the campaign. On each garment is a long tag, which holds the story of the person that created the clothing and tells of the long hours and harsh environments sweat shop laborers work in.

The maroon sweatshirt reads the story of Tejan: “100% cotton made in Sierra Leon by Tejan. The first few times he coughed up blood he hid it from his family. They couldn’t afford medical treatment and he couldn’t risk losing his full time job at the cotton plantation.” The stories on each of the tags on the campaign were created from the research and case studies done by the World Trade Organization.

Sean McHugh, Executive Director of the Canadian Fair Trade Network, said the purpose of “The Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story” campaign, was to create questions and conversations about the textile and garment industry. In the first week of April, the campaign accomplished the Canadian non-profit organization’s goal and went viral the second week of April, according to McHugh.

The concept of the campaign was formed in Fall of 2014 by Rethink, a Canadian  independent creative agency, and McHugh says he was immediately interested after Rethink pitched their vision to him.

“I like the idea when we look at a garment, we see a simple label, it doesn’t tell us much, when the reality is there is so much more,” McHugh says.

While the campaign has stirred up conversations and awareness about sweatshops and the violated rights of factory workers, McHugh says the “The Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story” has one downfall.

“There aren’t many viable solutions,” McHugh admits.

McHugh says The Canadian Fair Trade Network aims to direct the public to viable solutions with all of their campaigns, but McHugh knows that in order to put an end to sweat shops, there needs to be a shift among customers.

“The biggest problem is the mass market,” McHugh says, “People need to stop buying the product.”

Instead of a decrease of imported textiles and garments from companies, there has been a higher demand.  McHugh says 25 years ago Bangladesh exported no textiles. Today 76 percent of Bangladesh’s exports are textiles.

Kyle Buetzow, a representative of Made in a Free World, an organization based in San Francisco that works to stop modern slavery, says “The Label Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story” was a successful and “thought provoking” campaign, but agrees with McHugh that the end to slavery begins with the customer.

“The everyday consumer needs to put their money where their mouth is,” Buetzow says.

Buetzow says a mast majority of child labor lies at the beginning of production, like the shrimp being peeled and readied for packaging, and the cotton of our clothes being picked.  Most companies are unaware of how their goods are gathered and created, and Buetzow says Made In A Free World partners with companies and helps them discover where their materials come from and who is involved and possibly harmed in the gathering process.

Buetzow says in order to stop slavery, customers need to show companies that they are interested in how there products are made.

“People need to ask companies about their practices,” Buetzow says.

Made In A Free World created an action center called “Slavery Footprint” that tells people the average amount of slaves that have worked for them based on the amount of products one normally buys. It then gives one the option to write a letter to the companies they shop at.

If you no longer want to buy from stores that use sweat shops and child labor to make their products, look up fair-trade clothing stores like Mia Bambina, Good & Fair clothing, Brain Tree clothing, or Biblico. Go to Fair Trade USA and The Canadian Fair Trade Network for more information on where products, clothing, and food come from, and for more options of fair trade goods.

Oakland Opportunity: Chapter 510

Margaret Miller has been working as a volunteer and site coordinator at Chapter 510, an Oakland literacy and writing project, for the past year. Photo by Kate Nevé

 

A group of 10th grade students gather in a room at MetWest High School, located in East Oakland. “Independent work time” is in session. Students are huddled together, or off alone in the corner as they work on writing assignments that range from book reports to critical responses. However, due to Chapter 510, no student truly works alone.

In January of 2014, Chapter 510 project director and founder Janet Heller, and her team of 16 volunteers, began offering one-on-one writing tutoring to MetWest’s freshman class. Now, after a year’s worth of growing in volunteers and resources, Chapter 510 has volunteered a total of 1,000 hours with MetWest’s freshman class.

The summer prior to Chapter 510’s beginning, Heller said she sensed a vital need for a youth-oriented writing organization in Oakland – something that teaches youth how to empower themselves through writing, providing them with resources, such as experienced writers, to enhance their literary skills.

Heller followed her instincts, rallied up a staff and volunteers, and launched Chapter 510.

In addition to tutoring at MetWest, Chapter 510 offers free creative writing and poetry workshops throughout the year to students, ages 5 to 18.

Heller said Chapter 510 is the most ambitious project she has ever ran.

“I feel a strong sense of satisfaction, people are excited about Chapter 510,” Heller says.

Heller chose the name Chapter 510 because the organization is rooted in Oakland, and is considered a chapter of 826 Valencia, a nonprofit organization in the Mission that offers tutoring and writing workshops to youth ages 6 through 18. The program’s funding comes from private donors and partnerships with other foundations, such as the Oakland Public Library and the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation.

Heller decided to partner with MetWest because she was already involved with the school’s mentoring program. When Heller questioned the school’s staff about what areas needed improvement, they said the ninth graders needed the most assistance with writing.

Volunteer Margaret Miller, a recent graduate of Mills College’s Master of Fine Arts program, tutors twice a week at MetWest. In the large sunlit classroom, Miller walks over to one her favorite groups, three 15-year-old girls, and brainstorms with them, helping them discover what they want to write about for their next response paper. The trio decide to write analytical responses to two articles written by feminist authors Roxane Gay and Clementine Ford.

Miller scans the responses for run-on sentences, removes unnecessary commas, and points out when the student’s voice changes from third person to first person. Her advice is taken with no offense by the students, because after a year of volunteering, Miller is no stranger to the class.

“Janet and Margaret are my two favorite volunteers. I like their attitudes and they’re really encouraging,” says Kayla Keith, a 15-year-old sophomore at MetWest.

Miller said tutoring at MetWest presented her with the opportunity to see MetWest students mature as writers, and as individuals. However, gaining the students’ trust took time and consistency.

“I think those first couple of weeks are the hardest,” she said, recalling her first tutoring experiences, “Because they need to know you and know that you’re actually going to continue to show up.”

Laurie Loftus, 47, began volunteering in the fall of 2014. She compared the moment of waiting for a student to choose a volunteer to a girl waiting for a boy to ask her onto the floor at a high school dance.

“You’re just waiting for someone to pick you, you have to drop your ego at the door and not take anything personally,” Loftus says.

Miller said that the combination of race differences and being a stranger also affected students’ decision to open up and trust her. Standing at 5’2″ with light brown eyes, cropped bleach-blonde hair and a light complexion, Miller is the minority at Metwest. Of the 136 students, half are Latino, 30 percent are African-American, 13 percent are Asian-American, and 7 percent are white.

“Students are typically more scared off or skittish at first because they are like, ‘Are you just doing this because you’re white and feel bad?’” Miller says. “And it’s like, ‘No, I actually really like working with you and I’m doing this out of my free time, but not because I feel sorry for you.”

Kayla Keith, a 15-year-old sophomore at MetWest high school and an intern at Chapter 510, poses among the shelves at Pegasus & Pendragon Books, after a reading of recent works from Oakland based youth poets. The poets reading their work have all been featured in the most recent publication of Chapter 510, a book of poems from the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Program.
Kayla Keith, a 15-year-old sophomore at MetWest high school and an intern at Chapter 510, poses among the shelves at Pegasus & Pendragon Books after a reading of recent works from Oakland-based youth poets. The poets reading their work have all been featured in the most recent publication of Chapter 510, a book of poems from the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate Program. Photo by Helen Tinna

Kayla Keith said that at first she was hesitant to work with the volunteers. Reaching almost 5’10, with brown, shoulder length hair, light brown skin, and brown almond eyes, Keith felt wary about creating a relationship with Miller.

“I was like, ‘Oh great, now I’m going to have other people hounding me to do my work, and now I’m going to actually be productive,” Keith said.

Yet her decision led to her success. After deciding to open up to Heller and Miller, Keith said that her writing abilities and confidence rose. When it was time to complete the writing portion of the California High School Examination Test, Keith was prepared.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, I am so thankful I have people other than my teacher to help me get ready for this essay. I was on top of the world because I know I did everything right,” Keith says. “I know how to use commas, I know all of these things, and that was all because of Chapter 510 and working with them for a year and a half.”

According to the Chapter 510 first semester evaluation report, 80 percent of students reported feeling more confident with their writing abilities, and 92 percent reported overall improvement in their school work.

Besides advancing MetWest students’ writing, creating mentor-like relationships between the volunteers and students is another byproduct of Chapter 510.

One of Miller’s favorite moments when volunteering was when she explained reverse racism to two male students.

“They were really frustrated how white police officers treated them and they had an adult tell them at some point that they were being racists, and I thought that was a great moment to talk to them about how there’s no such thing as reverse racism,” said Miller.

Miller concedes to the certain advantages she had as a white woman, and in response to her honesty the students opened up.

“They were just totally blown away by the fact that I was willing to have that conversation and acknowledge my own privilege in front of them, not only as a volunteer but as someone that’s white,” said Miller.

Chapter 510’s next move is to reach out and work with an Oakland middle school, but according to Heller the decision on which middle school is still in the works. Another goal of Chapter 510 is to secure a permanent location with programs such as homework assistance for kids K-12. Until then, Chapter 510 will continue to partner with Oakland schools like MetWest, and offer students academic support and mentor-like relationships.

“It really isn’t about some form of resource like a laptop or scholarship that will make the student do the work or walk through an opportunity. It’s about feeling confident, and that’s what we’re bringing to kids,” Heller says.

Y Generation: Afraid of dating?

Artwork by Alec Fernandes/Xpress Magazine

Comments that Judah passengers left online at "We Met On the N"
Comments that Judah passengers left online at “We Met On the N”

The comments above are just some of the many posts on the new matchmaking website, “We Met on the N” , created by Alex Lee at the beginning of February. Similar to Craigslist’s “Missed Connection” page, “We Met on the N” is an online site where Judah passengers can write secret admirer notes to people on the Muni train in a passive effort to set up a date. This new online dating site is just one of the many websites and mobile apps that is used by people to find the perfect match.

Online dating has been an option for the single and ready to mingle since the birth of the notorious Match.com in 1995.  According to The Pew Research Center Online Dating & Relationships report, 38 percent of current single U.S. adults have used an online dating site or dating app. Now with a plethora of smart phone dating apps on the market, like Tinder, Hinge, The League, OK Cupid and Grindr, the dating world is an oyster for people who don’t have a relationship status listed on their Facebook.

Big Data Seeks Online Love states that one in 10 Americans have used a dating site or mobile app. The Pew report states that 22 percent of online dating sites and app users are in their mid twenties.

Dating apps and online sites are helpful for someone with a busy lifestyle who simply doesn’t have time to go out to new bars and scan the room for that special someone. But are apps like Coffee Meets Bagel simply used as a cop-out for someone who doesn’t have the confidence to go up to that cute guy at Philz and ask him on a date? Does our generation prefer to hide behind a screen and accept rejection in the privacy of our room, instead of taking the risk of being publicly denied?

Lee said watching a passenger ask a girl out on a date was his inspiration for creating the site.

“It was maybe a Thursday or Friday evening [when] I saw a guy sit down and introduce himself to a girl. Bold move,” Lee says. “And that just made me think there must be a lot of people who want to introduce themselves to someone they find interesting or attractive, but it’s just too painfully awkward.”

Do people in their 20’s now turn to using apps and online sites to find a date because we don’t want to risk a painfully awkward moment? Watch the video below to hear what SF State students have to say about their experiences on dating apps.

Free Muni helps seniors and disabled

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Starting March 1, 67-year-old Joyce Calagos and all San Francisco seniors and disabled citizens will no longer be required to pay 75 cents for Muni fare. The SFMTA board unanimously voted for the Free Muni For Seniors and People With Disabilities proposal on January 20.

Calagos, a San Francisco native, says she’s thrilled the proposal passed.

“I’m excited and I’m spreading the word to everyone,” Calagos says.

“It’s been something that I’ve wanted for the past 20 years. I couldn’t believe that it was finally true,” says Mira Ingram, 47, who uses a wheelchair due to her diabetes and neuropathy.

After three weeks, 20,000 applications for the free Muni pass have been filed, ranging close to the estimated 27,000 seniors and disabled who meet the income qualifications and have a qualified disability.

Donna Willmott, a Senior and Disability Action employee, says the success of the proposal was due to a community effort. Senior and Disability Action, Chinatown Community Development Center, and 48 other community groups partnered together and voiced their need for financial assistance to the SFMTA through several rallies, letters and testifying at board meetings over the course of a year.

Calagos says she testified at a SFMTA board meeting in November, spoke at a City Hall press conference in December, and attended the Free Muni for Seniors and Disabled City Hall rally January 20.

“People really put a lot of efforts into making this happen,” Willmott says.

The approval of the Free Muni for Youth Program in April of 2014 exposed another San Francisco demographic in need of social justice: young people. But for seniors, Willmott says free transportation helps overcome the financial limits they face, with many living day to day off their social security checks.

“It means that people don’t have to choose between paying for medicine or a Muni pass. They can buy that $10 pair of shoes and still afford transportation,” Willmott says.

“I’ll be free to go anywhere that I need to go,” Ingram says. Living off a monthly $900 income that she receives from disability, Ingram is forced to ration her funds. With a replenished bank account at the end of the month, Ingram said she could substitute her electric wheelchair for a bus ride if her destination was nearby. For farther trips, Ingram said she was forced to stay home.

“I’ve had to cancel several doctor appointments,” Ingram says.

SFMTA’s hesitation to pass the proposal was tied to the loss of funds. Estimated cost for the program ranges from $4 million to $8 million, but revenue from recently passed Prop A and Prop B should provide enough funds to upkeep the program.

Willmott was ecstatic once she heard that low income seniors and the disabled could board Muni free of charge, and said SFMTA was bridging the city’s increasing social gap.

“They’re taking one step towards acknowledging the differences that are getting more announced in San Francisco. People will be able to remain apart of the community,” Willmott says.

The last mural standing

Culture contains the seed of resistance. 

Latin music floated down the street, artists painted on wooden fences, and over one hundred people stopped to admire the vivid, aged, and descriptive murals that lined the walls of an alley tucked away in the heart of the Mission.

Local vendors, musicians, and community groups staked out along the alley to rally onlookers.

People of all ages and backgrounds flocked to the Balmy Alley Community Celebration on October 19th to honor the unveiling of the refurbished mural painted by PLACA muralists Miranda Bergman and O’Brien Thiele, and the screening of the new documentary, “PLACA” by event organizers Carla Wojczuk and Julian Rowand.

As part of a blessing ritual, SF State alumni Jorge Molina shakes a maraca, blows in a conch shell and directs the audience to follow his rotation of the cardinal directions during the unveiling ceremony in Balmy Alley Sunday, October 19.  Photo by Annastashia Goolsby
As part of a blessing ritual, SF State alumni Jorge Molina shakes a maraca, blows in a conch shell and directs the audience to follow his rotation of the cardinal directions during the unveiling ceremony in Balmy Alley Sunday, October 19. Photo by Annastashia Goolsby

Bergman, sixty-seven, from Oakland, and Thiele, seventy-three, from Berkeley, painted their mural, “Culture Contains the Seeds of Resistance that Blossoms into the Flower of Revolution,” thirty years ago in 1984 during the Nicaraugan Revolution.

The two hundred square foot mural is painted on two sliding doors of an old stable, and depicts two different worlds in Central America during Ronald Reagan’s Presidency and the Contra War.

Reagan’s snarling face with clouds overhead, and Nicaraguans armed with artillery and holding pictures of their loved ones who had been killed by the war, is painted on one of the sliding doors. Rich abundant crops of corn, joyful farmers, colorful fruit, and a mother sending her daughter to school cover the other sliding door.

Theirs’ was one of the many murals created by the PLACA project, a rallied group of thirty community artists from the Bay Area who painted murals on Balmy Alley that protested against Reagan’s policies and demanded liberty in Central America.

Bergman says the group chose the name PLACA because it meant to make a mark.

“It was to leave a mark, to make a sign, about what we, and probably a majority of people in the U.S., were opposed to happening [during the Contra War] in our name,” Bergman says.

PLACA received a $2,500 grant from the Zellerbach Foundation that only covered the cost of paint, and the rest of the materials and labor was volunteered.

“We felt like showing, demonstrating with our paint and brushes, that we could transform this alley. We could and we did,” says Bergman.

Miranda Bergman and O'Brien Thiele, the two original painters of the mural "Culture Contains in the Seed of Resistance That Blossoms into the Flower of Liberation," embrace each others company during the unveiling ceremony in Balmy Alley Sunday, October 19.
Miranda Bergman and O’Brien Thiele, the two original painters of the mural “Culture Contains in the Seed of Resistance That Blossoms into the Flower of Liberation,” embrace each others company during the unveiling ceremony in Balmy Alley Sunday, October 19. Photo by Annastashia Goolsby

Thiele says the organization and work of PLACA was a call for action.

“As artists, we get very excited when we’re doing something positive, saying ‘I don’t like this so I’m going to paint about it,” says Thiele.

Thiele says a strong sense of camaraderie filled the alley as artists gathered to paint their opinions and statements about the government’s actions.

Over the span of several months, the walls of Balmy Alley were no longer bare but covered with twenty-eight murals about the injustices and consequences of the Nicaraguan Revolution, Oscar Romero and the Guatemalan Civil War.

Bergman says the bustling of activity and painting of the murals in 1984 was a metaphor for transformation.

“The power to transform the alley could be translated into the power to transform the world if we get together,” Bergman says.

Decades later, younger artists took over the walls of the alley and painted new murals that tell different stories and speak out against different injustices. One by one PLACA murals were given a different coat of paint, but “Culture Contains the Seeds of Resistance” remained and is the last full PLACA mural standing.

Wojczuk, thirty-two, says the power of storytelling, its influence to unite groups and act as a form of resistance, was her inspiration to create a documentary about PLACA.

“This collective of artists that came together and painted murals on the whole alley, it felt like a very powerful moment where the crossroads of organizing, political activism, art, and social consciousness and celebration met,” Wojczuk says.

Wojczuk and Rowand began making the documentary in 2013 and completed it this October.

Sharing the rich history behind the pictures on the alley walls was another inspiration for Wojczuk to create the documentary, and organize the community celebration.

“I wanted people to feel honored and never forget the fact that there is local history right in their backyard,” Wojczuk says.

Paying homage to the founders of Balmy Alley, and the seeds of transformation and creativity PLACA members planted in their murals, was a goal Wojczuk aimed to achieve in the documentary. To allow current demographic and cultural change erases remnants of the past is a trend Wojczuk is determined to stop.

Part of the unveiling ceremony of the mural "Culture Contains in the Seed of Resistance That Blossoms into the Flower of Liberation," included a wall that was open to everyone who wanted to show their artistic spirit Sunday, October 19. Photo by Annastashia Goolsby
Part of the unveiling ceremony of the mural “Culture Contains in the Seed of Resistance That Blossoms into the Flower of Liberation,” included a wall that was open to everyone who wanted to show their artistic spirit Sunday, October 19. Photo by Annastashia Goolsby

Change is undeniable in the Mission, with gentrification of the tech and startup employees moving in, and families who have lived in the neighborhood for generations forced on the daily to leave their home.

A majority of PLACA artists were forced to leave the Mission and move to different parts of the city or different cities.

“Just about all the artists that have painted here can’t live here anymore, they can’t afford to live here,” Bergman says.

Bergman grew up in the Mission, and was forced to move to Oakland.

Bergman and Thiele noticed the change rapidly affecting their old neighborhood, and change was one of their motivations to restore the mural.

“We just really wanted to return, and it was super interesting to see that return. The neighborhood has changed,” Bergman says.

“Restoring the mural is a resistance to amnesia, remembering this time for the whole history of San Francisco. Balmy Alley is famous now,” says Bergman.

Despite new additions to the Mission, Bergman and Thiele’s mural will hold its ground for a couple more decades, and both Bergman and Thiele can count on the community for support. The whole alley was hushed to a whisper when the mural dedication and blessing began. A hundred people gathered around the mural, and listened to Bergman and Thiele share their story behind the painting, and their message.

“Part of the restoration is really encouraging and inspiring some creative thinking. What can you do? What do you want to do? What is possible? Because history has shown us over and over again that it always start with a small group and things don’t have to be connected in any obvious way,” Bergman says.

Q&A with Creative Action Network co-founder Max Slavkin

429481_10100687588129705_1060506645_nMax Slavkin, twenty-seven and an LA native, is the co-founder of the small startup Creative Action Network.

The startup is a website that runs a crowdsourced campaign and sells prints, apparel, and other goods that promote a cause. All the merchandise is created by artists around the country who want to contribute to a movement: preserving the environment, protesting against gun laws, or any cause that that will enhance and better our world.

Slavkin, and his business partner and childhood friend, Aaron Perry-Zucker, formed the idea for Creative Action Network, while working on a design project in 2008 for President Obama’s election campaign. After witnessing how many artists were willing and excited to create art for a cause, Slavkin and Perry-Zucker

The startup officially launched in January 2013, and has had more than ten thousand artists contribute art to a campaign.

Slavkin says the business averages two-hundred and fifty new artists a month. Slavkin and Perry-Zucker raised and invested the funds to start the business through campaign consulting.

Wanting to correct any kinks or errors in the business before launching, Slavkin and Perry-Zucker applied to Matter., a San Francisco startup incubator, and participated in a five month program with six other startup teams, that workshopped, refined and improved the future startup plans and businesses.  Once the program ended, Matter. gave Slavskin and Perry-Zucker a $50,000 investment.

Slavkin says the prospect of creating revenue to keep the business running in 2014 is still unclear.

“We might or might not raise money in January,” Slavkin says.

In his interview, Slavkin talks about and what it’s like to run a startup in the heart of SF, the tradeoffs that come with manning your own business, and the successes that keep him going.

*In a previous version of this article, we introduced Slavkin as Matt, not Max. XPress Magazine would like to apologize for this error.

America the Beautiful: Blames Media for Sexualizing America’s Youth

The porn industry, child beauty pageants, and the media were once again the painted culprits of twisting the younger generation’s view and approach to sex in the premiere of Darryl Roberts’ film, America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth.

Darryl Roberts, former radio host and former host of the Chicago news program Hollywood Hype, is on tour promoting the latest addition to his controversial documentary series, America The Beautiful. All films focus on Roberts’ beliefs, the U.S’ obsession, exploitation, and distortion of beauty.

Around forty people filled the Fillmore’s Clay Theater earlier this month to watch Roberts’ latest film. Interviews with beauty pageant mothers explained why they dressed and showcased their scantily clad four-year-old daughters. Graphic behind the scenes of women working in porn showed the emotional and physical pain during sex scenes, and young women and men expressed their own sexual experiences and thoughts.

Roberts uses a variety of critiques and opinions to show that the U.S. media portrays sex in an unhealthy light, and aims that portrayal to children and teenagers. He speaks with therapists, psychologists, model agency representatives, and men and women in their early 20s.

One section of the film covers the porn industry and the culture surrounding it. The ease of access to adult films and clips on the internet creates an unrealistic expectation of women and demeaning view of women in young men.

A professor in the film says the goal of porn is to dehumanize and violate women, porn feeds into and cultivates rape culture, and when young men habitually view porn, they begin to objectify women and expect them to be sexual.

Roberts made a statement in the Q&A panel after the film, and said if there was less gonzo porn, a form of porn that focuses on the verbal and physical violation of women, there would be less rape.

Another part of the film displays the world of child beauty pageants and the defenses of mothers who put their daughters in that environment. One Georgia mother says she sees no problem with dressing her daughter up and letting her dance and sing in front of a panel and crowd. She says it is all fun and games, both for her and her child.  A former model who was interviewed says that pageants help build the foundation for self-esteem issues at a young age because they enforce and teach comparison.

America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth covers many concepts that link to the media’s portrayal of sex to the objectification of women, and their self-esteem issues. But Roberts does not reveal anything new, he simply restates long held theories. He does, however, inspire a rise of awareness for sexual harassment.

“I thought it was just crazy just because, I mean I knew sexual harassment was happening, everyone knows it’s happening, but just the way the film was formatted, it just made it look like, ‘Oh my gosh, I could be sexually harassed,” says SF State student Olivia Foster, after watching the film.

The film aims to encourage a discussion between parents and children about sex, and to help youth establish what a healthy sexual relationship looks like before they are bombarded with different messages from the media.

“Nobody really knows what a healthy sexuality is and I would like to start the dialogue, especially for adults, for parents, the finding out what is a sexuality, like how can we present sex to the youth in a manner that empowers them, make them healthy, and help them to make right decisions so they don’t get in as much trouble,” says Roberts.

28/28L 19th Avenue changes at the expense of others

Disapproval of the new bus route was made clear by community members at the Muni Forward 28/28L19th Ave Rapid Project open house, at Mercy High School on Thursday, November 6th.

A total of fifty-one proposed changes are in the new route, with eight stop removals, eight stop relocations, three local only stops, ten new transit bulbs, eighteen new pedestrian bulbs, and one bus zone extension.

All the changes were printed on ten poster boards scattered across the room. Two SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) employees were stationed next to each board, ready to answer any inquiries and write down concerns.

According to the SFMTA website, a total of fifteen thousand customers use the 28 and 28L 19th Avenue route on the daily.  The proposed changes claim cut down the 28 route time both ways by 20 percent, which is equivalent to nine minutes total, and will reduce the 28L transit time by 8 percent, three minutes total.

While reduced commute time is a benefit to a majority of Muni passengers, a quicker bus ride is available at the expense of others.

“The people who came up with this aren’t our age, or disabled,” says Debra Haas, who is in her early 60s and has lived in the Sunset district for fifty-six years.

Hass says the excess amount of transit and pedestrian bulbs would increase the lack of parking for residents and create further walking distances for the elderly and disabled community.

“It’s called no one using their brains … Putting bump outs on a state highway is insane,” says Hass.

Hass’ mother, Janet Haas, ninety-one, was worried about the petition for stop relocations.

“People who live in the retirement home will have to cross the street,” Hass says, concerning the Lawton stop relocation, which currently stands in front of the retirement home, Vintage Golden Gate.

“Some are good, I don’t agree with all of them” says Gregory Sensibaugh, thirty-three, in regard to the new changes.

Sensibaugh has lived in the Sunset for eight years, and said while the SFMTA is addressing the issue of wait times, the city is not wisely using its resources.

“My concern with this is Prop A just passed and they’re blowing all this money.  At least they’re acknowledging we have a problem,” Sensibaugh says.

Dustin White, the 28/28L 19th Avenue Transportation Planner, says community feedback at meetings and from online surveys has been beneficial to the planning process.

“It’s just a great reminder that every detail has a tradeoff,” White says.

Meeting attendees had no hesitation listing their concerns on the feedback boards standing next to each route explanation poster board.

“Do not understand need to eliminate limited steps at Lincoln, Quintara, and Sloat.  Would result in long distances between stops and lack of connection to GGP,” “on weekends traffic backed up from GGB to Pacheco and 19th,” “bus bulbs make it harder to park,” and “many seniors and children use Irving stop” were just a handful of concerns listed on the feedback boards by community members.

White says the most prominent complaint about the 28/28L 19th Avenue route change was the removing of stops, “particularly for the older people.”

All the feedback and accommodating route changes will be presented to the SFMTA Board, who will make the final route decisions, White says.

Road work for route development will begin in late 2016 and the SFMTA aims to finish in 2018 White says.

Planning and Implementation director Matt Brill, says no matter the outcome, compromises will have to be made.

“It’s a tradeoff.  Reliability and quick time versus shorter walking distances,” Brill says.

Effect of Caffeine overload and addiction

Caffeine and college students are two nouns that are often associated with one another. During midterms and finals, ordering the extra cup of French Roast or nursing another mug of Earl Grey in order to get your caffeine fix is a given. But can too much caffeine produce negative affects?

Unfortunately, yes. The “Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” added “Caffeine Intoxication” to the list of disorders in its newest addition.

Symptoms of coffee intoxication include rapid irregular heartbeat, restlessness, the jitters, nervousness, stomach cramps, and muscle twitching according to the Huffington Post article “DSM-5 And Caffeine Intoxication: Could Coffee Drinking Brew a Mental Disorder”.

Too much caffeine also produces the heightening of the body’s stress response, and the interference of the body’s awareness of stress levels, according to a 2002 study from Duke Medicine.

The effect of caffeine intake and the gauge of how much caffeine is too much depends on a person’s sex and size, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 2007 report. Some doctors suggest that one hundred or two hundred milligrams of caffeine, which converts to two five ounces cups of coffee, is a healthy dose of caffeine, according to the report.

While uncomfortable and inconvenient effects to your body stem from caffeine intoxication, the likeliness of sever health effects or fatally is extremely low.

In the Wall Street Journal article, “How Much Caffeine is Too Much?” fatalities caused by too much caffeine would require an intake of over fourteen thousand milligrams of coffee, which equals one hundred and forty cups eight ounce cups in one day.

Caffeine addiction is also related to caffeine intoxication, according to the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Lack of awareness, fatigued muscles, and intense headaches are some of the symptoms from caffeine withdrawals.

Cafe employees at SF State said there is a noticeable fluctuation of students ordering caffeinated drinks during midterms.

“Definitely during midterms we notice a lot of coffee and red bull orders,” says Cafe Rosso employee and child development majorJill Shiraki.

Shiraki, who has been employed at Caffe Rosso for two and a half years, says the students will order coffee two to three times during midterms, but the caffeinated drink with the highest rise in sales are energy drinks

“Red Bull is the top seller during midterms,” Shiraki says.

Michelle Parker, recreation parks and tourism major and five month employee at Cafe 101, says the amount of coffee order doubles during midterms.

“We’re twice as busy during midterms. You see repeat people more often, and they’ll say stuff like, ‘Midterms man, this paper is crazy!’ ”

Peets employee Jesse Reynaga says both the amount of customers and customer moods change once midterms begin.

“It’s very busy, we get a lot of angry customers,” Reynaga says.

Coffee and caffeine intake can be beneficial if, like all things, you consume it in moderation.  Drinking a sixteen ounce cup of coffee, equivalent to the size medium or grande, not only keeps you from dozing off while writing a paper of sitting in class, but it also prevents Alzheimers and diabetes, according to this Huffington Post article.

Instead of backfiring yourself by overdosing with too much caffeine, and becoming too distracted to study because of shakiness, stomach cramps or anxiety, limit the caffeine intake to under six hundred milligrams a day, according to the FDA report, which equals to either three lattes, nine Coca Colas, and seven cups of tea.