Category Archives: Trends

A taste of Oaxaca in West Oakland

oaxacamural&owners

photos by Danenicole Williams

by Janaya Andrews

Just around the corner from McClymonds High school stands one of the most intricate, colorful and bold murals in West Oakland with corn husks, a wizzened farm worker, white doves and artisan cloths– the exterior of Tamales la Oaxaquena, a new Mexican restaurant which opened last month.

The food inside is as exquisite as the art outside, and as subtle and bold.

Tamales la Oaxaquena is the real thing, with genuine Oaxacan moles. It’s a great addition to restaurants in West Oakland, with more variety than the food trucks, as good as they are, and a personal touch in everything from cooking fresh tamales to the serving cold lemonade by its mother-daughter owner-chefs, Rosa Oliva (an ex-seamstress who learned to make mole at the age of 8)  and her daughter, Carolina Santos.

Competing with the corner store (and its equally stunning mural), which offers fried chicken, corn dogs and french fries,  this new Mexican restaurant hasn’t captured its share of local traffic.

For now, the traffic coming from McClymonds is minimal. Shamorra Washington, 16, said “I guess like everyone else at Mack,  I go to the places I know, that are already on my radar.”

But Tamales la Oaxaquena attracts local residents and workers, especially vegetarians.  At lunchtime, regular customers, Monica and Kelly, savored their tamales.

Monica said that her favorite food is the vegetarian tamale, made with corn husks with guacamole and banana leaves, but she likes the banana leaf because it’s more healthy and she became an vegetarian in middle school to avoid fats and unhealthy foods.

Kelly preferred the super burrito, chimichangas made by first toasting the shell and then melting the cheese, with mole, a special Oaxacan sauce with chocolate and hot chiles (the restaurant’s specialties are the smoky mole negro and a cinammon mole rojo).

Dropping in to grab a bite, Oakland school board member Jumoke Hinton Hodge said she prefers the mole without chocolate.

Owner Carolina Santos said the signature dish remains the tamale. “It depends on  whom we are serving: some whites mostly wants tamales and some Blacks prefer burritos.”

Part of the challenge is to satisfy both, using traditional spices and chiles as well as almonds and spicy dried peppers (guajillo, negro and arbol). These are the spices used by the indigenous people near Oaxaca, the Zapotec and Mixtec, with roots going back thosands of years.

The result is a flavorful meal, “juicy but always sweet and never beat.”

 

 

 

 

Aside

Dear, Naya My parents told me this scary story about some kids who went missing when  they were camping.  It begins with 6 kids camping in the deepest woods, called “witches’ ground.” As they come upon a house in the middle of … Continue reading

Macho can mean macaroni (and cheese)

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Opinion Piece

by Luckie Lovette

When I was nine, I scorched myself when flipping French fries:  bubbling grease splattered onto my face. LESSON LEARNED: never stand close to hot grease.

I used to cook with my mom, but now the tables are turned and I’m the only person who cooks in my household. My menu is growing as I take this responsibility seriously, cooking for my aunty and brothers: I’ve graduated from old standbys like Mac and cheese on to more gourmet teriyaki chicken, vegetable medleys, baked chicken and meatloaf.

It’s not what you’d expect of a high school senior, who should be focused on homecoming, senior ditch day and prom. Not many MALE students at McClymonds become master chefs; we don’t even have a barbecue club like at Berkeley High and at Bishop O’Dowd. Only 16 percent of high school males know how to cook.

 

The first time I cooked something was when I was 6 years and dreamed of IHop, so what did I make:  big golden fluffy pancake. Not messy, sticky or runny. Unlike other kids, I succeeded the first time around. My future was sealed.

 

I began paying close attention to what my grandmother would whip up: soul foul,  fried chicken, greens, potato salad, hot water cornbread, roast beef, fried fish, and macaroni salad. Grandma Gina inspired me to take risks, get dirty. She would chop celery, onion and bell peppers and throw them into the meat, with me by her side, staring.

 

What I like most about cooking is company, community. Sitting down at the table, I share (jokes, ideas, and stories) and food with my family and chew over the day. The meal is what binds us together:  even the cats get involved, nibbling on leftovers.  And they are clever – they smell and hear me cutting onions and gather around, because they know that meat is coming next.

 

I’m not very talented in working with my hands so this gives me an outlet for that, because I don’t stress when cooking, my main focus is to listen to the sizzle, to inhale the garlic.

 

I love good food but that’s not why I cook. Cooking is my artistic expression. Even though I cook for the entire time I’m at home, I feel recharged at the end.

 

Ask Naya: stormy relationships

 

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Dear Naya,

The advice you gave me is really great, but there’s one little thing,

My boyfriend cheated on  me  with  my  best  friend, claiming that  they didn’t do anything, but I saw them kiss. OUCH.

Fool that I am, the  next  day I  forgave him because he was the only guy who ever caught my eye.

But he had eyes for other girls — and had the moves too.

Totally Confused

Dear Totally Confused,

Sometimes, it’s worth forgiving the person you love. It’s your move. Not his.

Dear Naya,

My life without him is nothing if he’s not there with  me so  are  you  saying I  should dump  him  and move on? The advice you dish out sometimes confuses me but I know  that  you probably went  through the same thing so  what  should I  do?

Totally Confused

Dear Totally Confused,

What I am saying is that nobody can trust a cheater.  What they say is never true  and they will do anything just to win you back. I’m sorry that my advice confuses you. Just trust that you will make the best decision.

You will find someone special when  you least  expect  it. Te di mi corazo`n para darme la mano para un u`ltimo soporte – Naya

* that means: I gave you my heart so give me your hand for one last stand

Why we’re late to school — long commute, need more sleep

lateness

opinion piece

by Nicole Funes

Daily agony: my alarm rings, as I stumble out of bed at 5 a.m. way before the blue jays start to squawk. Shower, dress, quick juice and race five blocks to the bus stop. That run downhill gets my heat beating.

It’s now 6:45 and if I’m lucky I’m on the first of two buses that cross Oakland from East (south) to West (others have to transfer twice). It’s an hour and 20 minute ride and I have to be lucky — the buses have to be on schedule and follow their route without “incident” for me to make it to school on time.

There are a handful of us loyal to the West: we were displaced by gentrification but we identify with West Oakland and its community spirit and “family-like” feel.

Nevertheless, school administrators greet us with curt remarks “Late again?” and stony stares, as though we stopped at the corner store for a chat or overslept.

Anywhere between 12 to 40 students arrive late to school every day, said Will Blackwell, who teaches manhood at McClymonds. Tardiness can affect grades, other teachers said.

It’s clear that we need more sleep and less stress about the commute.

Just look at the newest study: a study by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement showed that later start times for high school students are better. The three-year study involved 9,000 students at eight high schools in three states.

Earlier studies in Minneapolis showed that later start times (and more sleep)produced higher graduation rates.

Even McClymonds students recognize that sleep deprivation affects their school work.

“I’m tired and irritated in the morning,” said Kaya LaForte, a freshman at McClymonds, who is an A student but feels she could do more if she were not so tired.

Part of her problem is the long commute. “It can take an hour or more. The bus driver could be making a lot of stops. Some people might have to take 2 more buses, and BART, then have to walk sometime and then might not make it,” she said.

Like others, she often skips breakfast.

She feels targeted when she comes in late. The response to the bus saga at school: “That’s not an acceptable excuse. You need to leave 5 minutes earlier.”

Sleep affects performance, the study showed. More sleep, researchers found,  improves grades and standardized test results.

“We did find that there was statistically significant improvement in their grades in English, math, social studies and science, all the core academic areas,” said Kayla Wahlstrom, director of the University of Minnesota Center and the study’s author. “And we found improvements on standardized tests, like the ACT test.”

The study showed that schools with start times at 7:30 a.m. had just 34 percent of students who reported getting eight or more hours of sleep, while schools with  start times of 8:55 a.m. had 66 percent of students getting eight or more hours of sleep.

Wahlstrom also said coaches told her that the athletes were more able to remember plays and could perform better physically with more sleep.

“It’s easier to get up in the morning when you get enough sleep,” said Anthony Beron, a sophomore who played JV football and is a long distance runner. “When you’re rested, you can run faster, longer and compete harder.”

Eating in class: will we concentrate more?

eatinginclass opinion piece

by Anthony Beron

Some of us come to school hungry, usually because we got up late. It affects our whole day. We can’t concentrate, daydream instead of eating crunchy Doritos or sweet mandarins. So why not let us eat in class?

At McClymonds, students can’t eat in class, said assistant principal Clayton McKinney. His reasons: possible ant or rat infestation; distraction in the classroom.

“Food makes a cleanliness and rodent issue, and it’s distracting for the students. However, we’ve been pretty lenient in the past,” he said. But McKinney acknowledged, “Students should have between four and six meals a day.”

Not so in math teacher Mark Rizkallah’s class. Although Rizkallah could eat in class in his high school in Riverside, California, he supports school rules that prohibit eating in class.He doesn’t eat himself and believes that it distracts from learning. “It’s about who has authority,” he said.

Students disagree with all the reasons for prohibiting food in class. Some teachers eat in class. Students need to eat more frequently and have fewer breaks.

“The food becomes a distraction only when all you’re focused on is trying to sneak a snack,” said Brandon Aninipot, a junior.

In San Francisco, nine high schools and two middle schools have a program called Grab N Go, breakfasts conveniently packaged in bags with all of the components of the meal so students can grab a meal quickly from the cafeteria line or from carts on school grounds. These breakfasts can be eaten in class.

“The Grab N Go Breakfast is one of the best things we offer our students at school,” Mission Principal Eric Guthertz  told The San Francisco Chronicle. “To know that even in the morning rush all of our students can grab a bag, head to class, and have a full belly to begin the day, is powerful.  It is a joy to stand in the hallway greeting each student by saying, “good morning, grab your breakfast and have a great day!”

Food helps teenagers because it strengthens memory, energy levels, and concentration.  Research shows that the brain obtains energy from glucose and that fatty acids strengthen synapses, which are related to memory.  Antioxidants reduce stress by destroying extra oxygen in the body’s cells.  Amino acids — found in protein-rich foods — help concentration and alertness, as well as mood, sleep, and memory.

Because food helps regulate stress, strengthens memory, and provides energy, students should be have the opportunity to eat during the school day more often than just lunchtime.  How can someone succeed in school without remembering what happened in yesterday’s class?

Why “Licks” was powerful: it’s based on a true story

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by Janaya Andrews

It was no ordinary Friday afternoon at McClymonds, as 25 students and community members talked to the Berkeley director who filmed the award-winning “Licks.”  He was with two of the actors, who both grew up in the Lower Bottoms.

The event was organized by Alternatives in Action and featured a panel on “manhood.”

“The movie shifted between humor and sadness and anger,” said freshman Dazhane Labat, who attended the event. “It had moments of redemption; like when the baby is brought to a family to save him from his drug-addicted mother.”

The movie hit home. It actually shows us  teenagers how  life is  in  Oakland and how  things work out; with the realistic scenes of places you know, and dialogue that rings true, you recognize how the  hood works.

The movie follows guy named “D”, as he moves back  to his hometown Oakland where he was charged with robbing a store and wielding a gun.

The most compelling scenes centered on personal relationships. At home with his girlfriend, she told him,”Promise me you wont hit up no more places. His response: baby, look i’m with you now and  she  expresses her doubts and warns him not to bring back his stolen merchandise.”

In his oustside life, friends become more prominent, asking him, “Are  you ready to go make hit this lick.” He answers, “Yea, man let’s go to their approval, “alright that’s my boy.”

Minutes later, they drove to a meat market and went in the store with a black masks on.  Then they  told  the  store clerk to  get on  the  floor;  they held his  head down  on  the  counter making  sure he couldn’t get  a  good  look  at  their faces.

“Licks” touched us all, because of the real hard times we face and the choices we make: the film shows, with  great compassion, that thugs have problems with money and only rob because they are trying to get money for their families.

For Jonathan Singer-Vine, a 24-year-old writer and director who was born  and  raised in Berkeley, California, “Licks” is  his  first feature film. It opened in Oakland’s Parkway Theater in November and won several awards.

He said the film was aimed at 16-year-olds because they will understand how and why the movie was made and its real message.