Hack the Hood is turning five this year, and to celebrate this milestone we are highlighting the young people who have brought their skills and passions to our program. We'll be profiling a different young leader each month, with Paco being our May feature.
1. What made you decide to join Hack the Hood (HtH)? When did you start with HtH?
When I was a freshman in high school, I saw Hack the Hood’s Bootcamp poster at my high school. On it, it said I’d get a computer, professional skills, and learn to make things.
It sounded interesting to me because ever since I was a kid I would make these weird art combinations - combining things from my vivid imagination with various colors. Attending Bootcamp would mean I’d have an opportunity to see more of the world...how people outside of my neighborhood functioned and thrived. And I was grateful to see this small part of the world.
I was really happy to be a part of the program. Isaias [HtH’s former Regional Membership Manager] had this way of getting me to talk and inspired me to do more. Seeing another Mexican doing this great work, was really special. If he could be doing all this great work with the community, then so could I.
2. What did you learn, that was unexpected? Was there anything that surprised you about the program?
When I went on our business trips to Adobe, Pandora, and TechCrunch, I was so amazed by how few people of color I saw. It was sad to see the void, but that void inspired me to step-up my game.
During Bootcamp, I learned how to deal with clients…I had a particularly difficult client who wanted me to do all these things I wasn’t skilled in doing nor was it a part of the learning for the program, but then I had to learn patience, how to ask for help, and how to deal with discomfort/hastiness that sometimes comes with dealing with clients.
3. What are your favorite foods?
On Van Ness in San Francisco, there’s this sandwich place next to the AMC movie theater. I’ve been going there since I was kid. It’s run by Mexican folks and Guy Fieri visited the place too. My favorite sandwich to get is their pastrami sandwich...just thinking of that sandwich is making me hungry...I can almost taste it in my mouth now!
4. What do you do for fun?
Music! I’m rapper, singer, and musician. T.H.C (The Heroic Comeback) is my group. My MC name is KO. My friend Javier Mejia is known as JMC. We formed this group in 10th grade and started making poems for school. We both went to Youth Speaks and my mentors there, when they heard me, they were so impressed! They asked me to come back when I was ready to practice my beats and raps.
My friends are my inspiration with Javier being my main inspiration. Music and art is all about community, unity, and sharing. I can’t write alone, but I can write a lot more when I’m around my friends. People say I got a little bit of Tupac in me...nothing is ever the same in me and that’s what makes me unique (from singing to how I create art).
We’ve performed at the Malcolm X Jazz Festival in Oakland.
5. What’s your favorite TV show?
“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” because it’s weird and the comedy is so dark. Even though their lives really don’t change, they change the people around them (most of the time not in the best way).
I also enjoy “Samurai Champloo” because of the animation style and color – this inspires my art style. “Bezerk” is an anime show that’s brutal but I enjoy the content and details in the manga. The manga pushes me to think outside of the box, helping my art stand out.
6. What are three places you enjoy visiting in Oakland?
I like Josie’s Park in the Fruitvale…a lot of memories from childhood are here. I like sleeping in the park when my family goes on outings together. Love my house and being around my family. I have a strong and playful connection to my Mom. I have 3 brothers and a sister and they empower me…especially with how we’ve overcome some great struggles together
7. Who are your top three music artists?
Joey BadA$$ (his sound is very unique), Santo & Johnny (instrumental), and of course myself!
8. Who do you follow on insta?
Studio_Odin (great for artwork)
9. Where’d you grow up? What do you like about Oakland?
My mom was pregnant walking the border. Then she started having contractions while walking the border. Luckily family friends came to rescue, picked her up, and brought her to the Bay. I was born in Castro Valley. I’ve lived my whole life in the Fruitvale…East Oakland proud and strong!
I love how close knit we are here in Oakland…every time I walk the streets I can chop it up with the people in the neighborhood, which I don’t get to see elsewhere, especially in other Bay Area cities.
10. What’s something you’d like to see change in Oakland? What do you want your contribution to that change to be?
There’s a lot of programs here in Oakland (like HtH, Eastside Arts Alliance, Roses and Concrete) and I hope more young people take advantage of going through programs like these. My family made a lot of sacrifices to get here and I owe it to them to make something of myself. I hope there’s more people out there who want to explore their talents.
I helped make a mural in the Fruitvale (purple background across from the Wendy’s), and every time I walk by there, I can proudly say I made my neighborhood even more special with art.
My contribution to Oakland is to do these kinds of interviews to help spread the word on the importance of taking advantage of the great programs available to us AND create more art (music and public art). Currently, I’m making a coloring book, “The Colors of the Revolution” and creating music as a way to showcase the power of all of these programs present in the East Bay. If you give it your all, you can be a part of this giant world!
11. What do you appreciate about today’s technology?
I love my iPad Pro (that I got with being a HtH Demo Day winner and through my own savings from work). This tablet has allowed me to make my coloring book.
Technology allows me to share my artwork with the world and without it I wouldn’t be making unique and creative art. Technology allows me to explore all avenues of art.
12. What type of technology do you wish you had, but hasn’t been invented yet?
Cicret bracelet! I know it’s being made, but the fact that you can project your phone-screen onto your wrist, blows my mind! I love showing all these new gadgets to Mom so she can keep up with how technology is changing and improving the world.
13. What would be your dream job? What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to publish my coloring book, “The Colors of the Revolution” and want to continue pursuing the arts - music, public art, and even create children’s books. I’d like to really continue creating ideas and see them come to life.
I really like science…still figuring out though which field in science I should pursue.
Photography by Christine Cueto.
Hack the Hood Blog
News items and musings on tech inclusion, youth development, buying local and more.