Kamala Devi Harris (D) was elected as California’s new Senator. Harris won the seat that was vacated by Barbara Boxer. On Jan 3, 2017 Harris will be sworn in as the new Senator from California, and will step down from her role as Attorney General of California.

Do we retreat, or do we fight asks Harris in her election night speech. “I intend to fight,” she says. “We all have to fight…this is a pivotal moment in the history of our country.” She mentions how her parents met in Berkeley during the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Harris has an interesting heritage. Her mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan Harris came from Madras (now known as Chennai) to study at the University of California In Berkeley. She worked as a breast cancer specialist at Lawrence Livermore Lab. Her father Prof. Donald Harris was from Jamaica, who taught economics at Stanford University.

This post by Harris’ aunt or “chitti” Dr. Sarala Gopalan makes for an interesting read and give you peek into Harris’s Indian heritage and her love for South Indian food. I wonder if Harris speaks Tamil?

You can subscribe to our podcast and  YouTube channel, where every week we feature new interviews.



The Black Panthers

The Black Panthers

Filmmaker Stanley Nelson’s new documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution opened in the San Francisco Bay area on October 2, 21015. The film traces the complex history, influence and legacy of the The Black Panthers in America, and specifically in the African-American community.

The Panthers were founded in 1966 in Oakland by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Using archival footage and interviews with historians and members of the Panthers the film takes you back to a pivotal period in American history that took place right here in San Francisco Bay area. The party fought for the rights of the African-American people.

Police brutality in Oakland was the catalyst for the founding of the party and word about their method of fighting back spread quickly throughout the country. The Panthers went from a local group to a national organization and attracted the attention of local and national media. Many organization members were teenagers, who were drawn to the party and their fight against police brutality, equality and better housing. And the Panther’s rise to fame also attracted the attention of FBI’s Edgar Hoover, who launched a counter intelligence operation and infiltrated The Black Panthers. As a result of the operation the movement eventually petered away, but not before leaving  behind a strong stamp on the country and the African-American community.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution is dense and packed with information and helps you understand why this protest movement started and how it gained traction within the African-American community. We find out more about their leaders including the colorful and controversial Elridge Cleaver, the minister for information for the party. We hear from Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown and others.

Nelson takes you through the complex and chequered history of The Black Panthers including both the positive and negative aspects of the movement. The film took seven years to make and the timing of the release of the film coincides with a troubling time in our history on race relations and police brutality. Telling a tidy story about the Panthers is not an easy task, but Nelson succeeds in presenting a story that demands your total attention. You do come away with some questions like why was Seale not part of the film?

I have an interview coming up with Nelson, where we talk about the film and why Seale was not part of the film.

  • Running Time: 116 minutes
  • Status: Released Oct 2, 2015
  • Country: USA

Photo credit: Firelight Media


I kept missing the various screenings of East Side Sushi in San Francisco Bay area. The film screened at the 2014 Cinequest Film Festival  and I marked it as “must-watch” film, but never got around to watching it. It won the audience award at Cinequest. The film then screened at CAAMFest and I missed that screening too. Finally, I got to see the film earlier this month and really enjoyed it.

East Side Sushi is the story of a quiet and determined woman, who wants to become a shushi chef. The trouble is most sushi chefs tend to be men and therein lies the tension. This is not a film filled with loud emotions and heated dialog. Instead this is a film with strong and determined emotions, where the points are made in a quiet and understated manner. That, I think, is a refreshing approach.

Anthony Lucero wrote and directed East Side Sushi and filmed it in Oakland. Juana (Diana Elizabeth Torres) is a single Latina mother, who lives with her father (Rodrigo Duarte Clark) and her young daughter. Juana and her father eek out a living selling food from a food cart. Determined to improve things for her daughter and herself Juana applies for a job at a local Japanese restaurant. She hits it off the chef Aki (Yukata Takeuchi), who discovers she has all the ingredients of a good cook: great knife skills and a multi-tasker, who works without complaining under pressure. Juana is not particularly fond of Japanese cuisine, but under the gentle guidance of Aki she discovers the complexity of Japanese food and learns to enjoy it. She starts to pack leftovers so that her family can enjoy her new found discovery of Japanese food. That experiment fails initially, and then her family learns to enjoy Japanese food.

As her interest in Japanese food deepens, Juana is drawn deeper into the world of sushi. With quiet determination she starts to master the craft of making sushi and helps out Aki when the restaurant gets busy. But, there is a catch. Women are not allowed to stand in the sushi bar and roll out sushi, and the owner of the restaurant is aghast that Juana is being allowed to make sushis for his customers. He banishes her to the kitchen and forbids her from making any sushi. Aki tries to makes a case with the owner that Juana is an excellent sushi chef, but his words fall on deaf ears. At first it looks like Juana goes along with the owner’s decision. And then she decides to stands up for her rights to become a sushi chef and makes a case to the owner. The owner is a traditionalist, who does not believe in women sushi chefs. When he does not budge, Juana quits.

Undeterred by her restaurant experience, Juana decides to join a sushi competition. She, of course, is the only woman in the sushi competition. To find out what happens next and if Juana realizes her dream of becoming a sushi chef  you have to watch East Side Sushi.

East Side Sushi is a gentle and undemanding film, and Lucero manages to keep your interest. Torres’ portrayal of Juana as a quiet and determined woman is very convincing.  I enjoyed watching East Side Sushi and the fact that this is a local film was an additional bonus.


  • Running Time: 107 minutes
  • Status: Released Sept 18, 2015
  • Country: USA