Our arts and community reporter Azucena Rasilla interviews Oakland artist Agana. Credit: Carla Hernández Ramírez

Hello, readers! Azucena Rasilla here, arts and community reporter for The Oaklandside. As a lifelong Oaklander, a product of OUSD schools, and a resident of East Oakland, I’m honored to be reporting about and for the hometown that I love so much.

If you were an early subscriber to our newsletter or have been following our reporting on Berkeleyside, then you know our team has been covering Oakland since mid-March, when the pandemic hit and changed our lives forever. I was a part of those early efforts, having joined as a freelancer in April to report on the effects of COVID-19 on undocumented Latinx immigrants, a community I’ve written about extensively in the past through the lens of arts and culture.

Azucena Rasilla interviewing Julian Castro, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Credit: courtesy Azucena Rasilla

In my new role at The Oaklandside, I’ll be bringing you news about Oakland’s “shakers and makers,” the artists and creators who make the Town thrive. I’ll be covering well-known aspects of the local arts scene, like the incredible work at the Oakland Museum of California, as well as lesser-known artists who may have never shown their work at a prestigious gallery, but who are pushing the culture and surviving as creatives in our ever-more-expensive city.

But the lives and work of Oakland artists are not the only topics I’m interested in covering. During a series of community listening events we organized in the spring, residents weighed in on what stories they thought our newsroom should cover. One thing people told us is that folks who move to Oakland often know very little about the rich histories of the neighborhoods they’re coming into. For example, how many people are aware that Oakland’s original Latinx neighborhood was not Fruitvale, but West Oakland? Or that in Fruitvale you can find the former home of the Peraltas, a Spanish family of settlers that came to own much of the East Bay? I look forward to weaving much more history about Oakland’s neighborhoods into my reporting.

Then there is the ongoing pandemic. What will the new normal look like for artists, and how will the city’s cultural events and festivals be impacted? Without the ability to gather, how will Oakland’s culture be preserved? It will be a long time before we can enjoy a live concert, a play or a festival. Will we find new ways to support Oakland’s creative community online? I’ll be reporting on how artists are organizing behind the scenes, as well as sharing information with readers about how they can support our local artists, musicians, and beloved arts and culture establishments.

We are living through a moment that future generations will read about in history books. There’s so much to cover, and we cannot do it alone. We need your continuous input if we are to be held accountable to The Oaklandside’s mission of bringing quality and impactful journalism to the community. In that spirit, I encourage you to be a part of the conversation by reaching out to me on Twitter at @ChroniclesOfAzu, shooting me an email at azucena@oaklandside.org, or getting in touch through our website.

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.