With just a handful of days between us and the spring semester at UC Berkeley’s graduate journalism program, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the work I’ve done this past fall for UCB’s Oakland North and KALX 90.7 FM.
Shrimp Falafel Mix: how one family-run food truck thrives in Oakland
Rounding out my semester was an opportunity to follow Oakland’s Shrimp Falafel Mix, an Egyptian and Mediterranean food truck owned by two brothers in law, and operated by them and other family members. From October to December, I spent time with the two at the truck and in their home, reporting on their experiences navigating the city’s food vending program and building community around their food and values as immigrant, as Egyptian, and as a family. As an Egyptian-American myself, it meant a lot to have the opportunity to report on this, and know that a lot of what I was able to access and connect with during my reporting was due to a partially shared experience of being. It also made me happy to see an Egyptian family integrating into Oakland culture (since the 90’s) in a way that felt authentic to them and respectful to pre-existing communities around them.
After 3 months of reporting sessions, what came out was a multimedia project titled “Shrimp Falafel Mix: how one family-run food truck thrives in Oakland.” You can listen, watch, and/or read the project’s components — created by Jess Alvarenga and myself — on Oakland North.
Tales of Two Cities Podcast: RePurposing
This past fall I also had the opportunity to produce an episode of Oakland North‘s Tales of Two Cities Podcast. The podcast’s final fall episode featured stories on repurposing from reporters Ashley Omoma, Nina Sparling, Alyson Stamos, Meg Shutzer, Sarah Trent, Ali DeFazio, James Tensuan and Wyatt Kroopf. The stories centered on re-use, ranging from the creative repurposing of buildings to Lyft rides, names, school meals, and cannabis. The cool thing about this experience was that, for the first time, I had the opportunity to not only work directly with audio as I’d previously done, but also provide minimal creative direction to the reporters and hosts, without directly reporting or hosting myself. This gave me a different perspective on what the role of the producer can be outside of the range I’d previously experienced. It also taught me that even if I’m not reporting, and even if I’m not hosting, that doesn’t mean my voice isn’t present in the creative choices that I make, and the perspective with which I evaluate, synthesize, and prioritize information. What was even cooler was the opportunity to do all that with sound as my medium. If you’re finding yourself approaching a 30-minute commute, cleaning session, or any other less-than-engaging task, take a listen here.
More for Oakland North: health + access
As a science, health, and environment (equity) reporter for the publication this fall, I got to report a few stories relating to health and access within the city of Oakland. That ranged from reporting on the city’s first QTPOC-centered gym in Fruitvale to ongoing developments in West Oakland around food security — from one of the area’s few full-service grocery stores incentivizing the buying of shares by community members to plans moving forward on the stalled school district’s new industrial-sized kitchen.
Perhaps one of the stories that taught me the most about the power of local reporting this past fall, as well as the power of trusting your instincts, involved the city’s Livable Oakland initiative, an effort by city officials to make physical and social infrastructure more accessible to all ages — after reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) showed older adults are an expanding demographic worldwide.
With that in mind, city officials began holding listening sessions at different senior centers to solicit feedback from community members ages 55 and older on what’s working, what’s not, and what’s needed. According to commission vice chairperson Bryan Ricks, about 17% of the city’s residents fall within that range. I got to hear from community members and city officials about different challenges seniors face in navigating day to day activities in a safe, informed, and independent way. Turns out there’s a wide range depending on where in the city you live as a senior, what your income level is, and a many other factors. The initiative continues today and is worth following.
You can find more of my online text, audio, and video stories for Oakland North here.
As I enter this semester, I find myself excited by the possibility of all the skills I will get to build and refine. For one, I’ll be taking a class focusing on audio specifically with Ben Manilla and another course on tech reporting with NPR’s Laura Sydell. I’ll be learning the basics of coding for journalists, and what it takes to make kickass multimedia stories, under Jeremy Rue and Koci Hernandez. Finally, I will get to keep hosting, and producing, my beloved Women Hold Up Half the Sky on KALX 90.7 FM for the fourth year!
Here’s to prioritizing experiences that professionally grow me, to being open to new, and to trusting that inner voice even more.