The next Culture Makers will take place on Thursday, Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at the New Parkway Theater. Guest and ticket info coming soon!

Since launching in June 2020, The Oaklandside has been telling stories about the many people — muralists and musicians, activists and entrepreneurs, dancers and filmmakers, poets and educators — who keep our city on the cutting edge and make life in the Town so interesting and enjoyable. Now, we’re bringing these stories to life with “Culture Makers,” a quarterly in-person event series featuring live performances and rich discussions with Oakland creatives—some well-known, and others making waves just beneath the surface—who are putting a unique stamp on our city.

Upcoming events

  • December 15, 2022

Past events

More about Culture Makers

June 23, 2022

Our second event in the series took place on June 23 at the New Parkway Theater and explored themes of food and social justice. Our guests were local chef Tu David Phu, restaurant owner Reyna Maldonado, and community organizer César Cruz. Live music was provided by Los Bahianatos.

Tu David Phu

“Top Chef” alumnus, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and Oaklander Tu David Phu cut his culinary teeth in the kitchens of some of the nation’s top restaurants, including Daniel, Acquerello, and Chez Panisse. He has cooked across a wide range of cooking cultures—but it was what he calls “the memory of taste” that pulled him back to his roots: the practices, ingredients, techniques, and flavors of Vietnamese cuisines.

Reyna Maldonado

Reyna Maldonado’s mother, Ofelia Barajas, spent 16 years selling tamales as a street vendor in the Mission District where she raised her family. Maldonado, a Dreamer and DACA recipient, was still a full-time college student when she and Barajas joined La Cocina’s incubator program, which helped them to start La Guerrera’s Kitchen, now located in Oakland’s Swan’s Market. The pair’s delicious tamales, pozole, and barbacoa are rooted in traditional family recipes from Guerrero, Mexico.

César Cruz

César A. Cruz runs Homies Empowerment in East Oakland, which serves 400 meals to community members every week through its FREEdom store. The program grew out of Homies Dinners, where local youth crossed gang lines to break bread and participate in civic engagement programs. Raised in Compton, Cruz was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He went on to study at UC Berkeley and earn a doctorate in educational leadership from Harvard. But as Cruz likes to say, none of his accolades are his alone—it took a barrio.

Los Bahianatos

Los Bahianatos, led by Oakland native Jose Rivera, spread their love of Colombian dance music at performances throughout the Bay Area. The band features the sound of the button accordion and traverses musical styles ranging from cumbia to vallenato to Colombian salsa. 

March 24, 2022

Our first event in the series took place on March 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the New Parkway Theater and featured a terrific slate of Oakland culture makers: Kev Choice, Niema Jordan, and Akintunde “Tunde” Ahmad. The evening was emceed by The Oaklandside’s arts and community reporter, Azucena Rasilla. 

Akintunde “Tunde” Ahmad

Akintunde “Tunde” Ahmad’s clothing designs have been turning heads. His journey into fashion began in 2016 after a trip to Ghana. Inspired by the fabrics and custom clothing, he launched his brand, Ade Dehye, using custom textiles sourced directly from West Africa. Ahmad adheres to an ethical business model that supports, rather than exploits, African labor and culture. 

Kev Choice

The multi-talented Kev Choice is no stranger to lots of folks in the Bay Area and he’ll be familiar to many of our readers—he performed and spoke with us last June for The Oaklandside’s one-year anniversary Live-ish special. But Kev is about a lot more than just the music: He’s an educator and a champion of the arts in our city, as the vice-chair of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Commission

Niema Jordan

In addition to her own directed works (like the 2020 short film Labor), journalist and filmmaker Niema Jordan has worked on HBO’s Eyes on the Prize, Apple TV’s The Me You Can’t See,  the Pete Nicks-directed documentary The Force, a most recently, Dawn Porter’s Bree Wayy: Promise Witness Remembrance. She also serves on the board of directors at the youth leadership nonprofit, Oakland Kids First.

Azucena Rasilla

Azucena Rasilla, host and moderator

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland 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 the associate editor for the East Bay Express.