Monthly Archives: February 2023

Hayward and People of Change Mourns Tyre Nichols

In the wake of Tyre Nichol’s death on Jan. 10 at the hands of Memphis police officers, the violence caught on video hit home in the Hayward community with residents. 

The Bay Area is a culturally rich place to live, and Hayward is no exception. With such a diverse population, it is no surprise that such a violent public death for yet another person of color is beyond disturbing and evokes strong emotions in the community. This type of sentiment motivates the need for change, and the best place for this to start is by listening directly to the voices of the communities affected by the policies that govern the police. 

Discussion and engagement can bring people together, which is precisely what transpired within an organization known as People of Change (POC). On Feb. 1, a vigil was held outside the Hayward City Hall at 5 p.m. in response to police violence and the killing of Tyre Nichols. The night was cold, but that didn’t stop some residents from coming out to convene and express how upset they were to see yet another person of color killed by police in the news.

The vigil was hosted by Amelia Bonilla, Jordan Leopold, and Leonardo Nicolas Huerta. Jordan opened the night and gave a heartfelt speech on race relations and policing in our local Bay Area communities, particularly Hayward. Although some of the members had impassioned speeches to provide, the event was purposed to be an open mic night, and it was indeed. 

“No justice, no peace,” the crowd chanted, a familiar rallying cry for social justice warriors as they listened to Jordan speak about the tragedy of the loss of Tyre Nichols. “This is a national problem,” he proclaimed and noticed how many others have experienced this execution style of force used most often on people of color. Some of the more known recent names are Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd. The feelings of anger and sadness come to the surface yet again as it is expressed with deep emotion, wondering, “when will the discrimination and killings at the hands of police end?” Said Jordan. 

Jordan also mentioned a lack of training and de-escalation practices; in its place, police are just shooting people of color who are viewed as a threat or physically beating them to death. The data for this misconduct should be public. Still, the organization believes, along with many other community members, that the facts and numbers behind this data are withheld from the public view. The consequences for police officers involved in misconduct are disciplined and retrained in-house with unreleased data; that is a fact. This procedure is standard within a department to investigate internally but keep what happens as a result off the public record. 

How can there be accountability and trust in a community if there is no feedback after people in the community report police misconduct? These people who are victimized in one way or another by private citizens or police officers treat people like the enemy or criminals depending on which neighborhood they live in and their socioeconomic standing. Why do people of color face roadblocks to obtaining equality in the justice system? 

The sentiment was that of frustration, stating openly within the crowd’s feedback to Jordan “that they were tired of hearing about people of color being killed like this.” 

A Black mother from the Hayward community took the stage after Jordan and gave a very emotional speech about the danger she and her children were facing every day. How worried she was about the future lives of her children, ages six and seven. She was very upset about needing to have “the conversation” with them about the dangers of police and why we deserve to live. The fact that simply wearing a hoodie could mean death for them as Black children living in the Bay Area brought this mother to tears on stage. “We must demand change for our kids, or they will pay the price. Our babies don’t feel seen or heard; how can we make people care about Black lives and be seen as human beings,” She proclaimed.

Several more community members took the stage and, in one form or another, expressed the same distrust, frustration, and anger toward the police. Latino members of the community joined with Black residents and together shared the problems that face Black and Brown people. “Staying silent is not an option,” one community member exclaimed and mentioned in particular “the stereotypes used to discriminate against Latinos such as viewing them as lowriders and cholo gang members.” 

This discrimination is universal as there are many cases over the decades of discrimination in the Latino community at the hands of police dating back much further than the 1930s. Still, it was these years that led up to a famous event. During the 1930s, dance halls were trendy, swing dancing and releasing some of the economic stress felt during the Great Depression. 

In a New York neighborhood of Harlem famous for the Harlem Renaissance. The violent clashes of the Zoot Suit Riots, where mobs of U.S. servicemen, off-duty police officers, and civilians brawled with young Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles. The June 1943 riots got their name from the baggy suits worn by minority youths during that era. Still, the violence was more about racial discrimination and not about conflict over fashion.

The vigil lasted about an hour or so, and afterward, residents came together and embraced each other, although some were meeting for the first time. The feeling of caring and concern about the death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis was felt all the way over here in Hayward, 2,069 miles away. These killings happen far too often to people of color across the United States. 

Hayward police are not exclusive, sharing in the disenfranchisement of people of color and sometimes providing unequal justice. It was on this night that residents of Hayward felt they could keep their silence about Tyre’s death no more and vowed to bring change, starting with their local police department.      

To the right of the stage, there was an elegant memorial display of remembrance set up for Tyre Nichols, along with food items and informative handouts for the community members in attendance. Although the night was cold and attendance was not as good as it could have been, improving the weather will bring out more community members looking to get involved and create change. These residents didn’t take notice because they were there to break their silence. The passion that drove this event is a response to police violence, and unfortunately, this violence will most likely continue well into the future. 

How did POC begin, and what is it all about?

  In May 2020, in response to the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, a group of people came together to discuss social media. A discussion was born from participating in protests with the Hayward Community Coalition (HAYCOCOA). A discussion group on Instagram was started for this purpose, to have engagement about the topic of police brutality.

“We drew inspiration and thought we’d do better as a collective. We didn’t know what would happen, just that we wanted to bring people together to form a discussion. To help unite and inspire the black and brown community for social and economic prosperity. We felt that we needed to take a stance on police accountability,” said Jordan Leopold, POC Organizer.

The discussion went well, and they moved forward with a history post about the City of Yanga, which was founded after a group of enslaved Africans, led by Gaspar Yanga, rebelled against colonial rule in 1570. Veracruz, enslaved Africans lived under strict laws in New Spain’s royal system. Africans who were able to liberate themselves could expect the following:

“…the Negro or Negro woman absent from the service of his or her master for four days shall suffer fifty lashes of the whip… and if they should be away more than eight days, for a distance exceeding one league, each of them shall suffer a hundred lashes, iron fetters weighing twelve pounds shall be tied to their feet with a rope, which they shall carry for two months and shall not take off under pain of two hundred lashes for the first offense; and for the second, each shall take two hundred lashes and shall not take the weights off for four months,” William H. Dusenbarry Historian.

Yanga would be one of many enslaved Africans to rebel against the slave system. Yanga’s rebellion was a combination of several hundred enslaved Africans who fled to seek shelter near the Veracruz mountains—going from Cofre de Perote to the Sierra de Zongolica mountains. The rebels established a small town where they could live on their own. For 30 years, the Yanguícos harvested their foods (sweet potatoes, sugar cane, tobacco, corn, and many others). They used machetes and sticks for the raiding of supplies from passing Spanish caravans.

Locals would transport goods in caravans that traveled from the Veracruz port to Mexico City, MX. But as African and Indigenous people fled slavery and sought refuge in the surrounding mountains, they took to raiding caravans regularly. These Yanguicos were a threat to the colonial order. In 1609, when a rumor started circulating that the Yanguícos were planning to overthrow local Spanish authorities in the neighboring towns and appoint Yanga as the king, the Spanish Crown’s Viceroy Luis de Velasco sent a battalion of a few hundred troops to kill them. The Yanguícos and the Spanish suffered numerous casualties during their battles, but Yanga would not be defeated. Yanga ultimately negotiated a ceasefire: the Spanish Crown consented to a treaty that, in 1618, allowed the Yanguícos to establish their government and live in peace.

Yanga serves as an inspiration for the Afro-Mexican movement. As the rebellion’s leader, Yanga negotiated a peace settlement with the Catholic priest Alonso de Benavides and Captain Manuel Carrillo, which granted the Yanguícos freedom as long as they did not allow any other self-liberated enslaved people to join them. Although the Spanish Monarchy tried to back out of this peace treaty, it remained in effect until Mexico gained independence in 1821. Since 1976, Yanga has held “Festival of Negritude” and “Primer Pueblo Libre de las Américas” (Festival of the First Free Pueblo in America) celebrations honoring the town’s creation.

This historical post on Gasper Yanga went viral and was picked up by mitú on Instagram and went on to pick up 35,000 likes and started a discussion that went overseas. It was after all of this engagement and interest that they decided to make POC official. “We knew the policy was needed to have an impact and to equip people with talking points so they could apply pressure,” Said Leonardo Nicolas Huerta, POC Organizer. 

The group addressed the people in power for their education, the school board, and the city council. Eventually, it was able to have school resource officers removed from some schools and brought half a million dollars back to the school district. The organizing members all have higher education, including Jordan Leopold, having been a student body president at one time. Although currently, there is no POC club or official affiliation with any schools.   

“It is crucial to what we do; education on historical figures is intersectional for black and brown folks to come together as a people and overcome the oppressor. Even though we’re showing historical figures, we are highlighting issues today like the Bay Area’s sea level rise, climate crisis, and the Bay Areas’ impact on that and highlighting the impacts in the east bay, given that there are many waste sites where Black and Brown people are living in those zones. We feel it’s our duty to help with education by doing something about it,” said Leonardo.

There are nine prominent organizing leaders in the organization currently. Their official “People of Change” website and mission statement state that “People of Change is on a mission to advance the social, political, and economic well-being of underserved communities of color through direct service and research. We aim to mobilize community members and organizations through social engagement, historical education & political empowerment.”

Who does the organization help and represent?

“We’re building a plan to help students while expanding our reach, having been in student government. I know all too well that students need resources and living assistance. Currently, we are growing in numbers and want more student involvement. Student leaders behind movements to expand beyond the community to be a movement. We are Bay Area residents, most of the team is in Hayward and some in Oakland, east bay, but we aim to reach the entire Bay Area. We recognize that although there are a lot of non-profit groups that help communities in the Bay Area. We also see that a good number of the people who work within these organizations don’t live in the neighborhoods of the communities they serve,” said Jordan.

The movement is said to involve all people and is open to all cultural backgrounds, but the group’s primary focus is empowering Black and Brown communities. 

What kind of events does POC organize?

POC looks to provide community circles, speaking engagements, and a space for folks to talk about what’s happening to them. Currently, there is a plan in development to facilitate more conversation. Getting in front of people basically with a “soapbox.” Getting ideas and solutions to people who need them.

Additionally, POC would like to start a (Black & Brown) b&b market to highlight other Black & Brown small businesses, farmers markets, and block parties to check out other people’s arts. This collaboration could bring much-needed income to local community members, a new “Black Wallstreet.”

“We need to start small and keep our ears to the community, we can’t assume the value, but we want the actual impact to provide immediate value to people in need. Entertainment as culture, music, and art is of great interest to us; we’re looking to partner with the city of Hayward and local record stores, connecting with the Hayward Chamber of Commerce, blocking off a street, or a southland mall parking lot. Requirements, paperwork, and money are always a concern. We realized if we wanted to do something big, we needed to be more massive without diving too deep into our own pockets. Starting small allowed us to go further with our dollars by getting help within the community. Through coordination and challenge, we ultimately became a lot closer, which was good for the future of the organization,” said Jordan.  

POC experienced growing pains and challenges in organizing events with obtaining permits, perishable food they could give out, sanitization, and a wide range of issues around “red tape.” Handing out water on the street to community members in 101-degree heat to people outside wandering around the lake. Hotdogs fed families, and they started connecting with people on a universal level, exchanging pamphlets with religious groups such as Christians and Muslims. 

“It never comes down to funding; it comes down to creativity and low-cost, high impact. Getting in front of people, asking what they are looking for, what would benefit and improve their quality of life. Live physical community engagement, we see a lot of value in these, food, water, shelter, clothing, and economic opportunity. Basic level and ensure folks are taken care of and using those engagements. We are hearing the community’s experiences and using that to figure out what else can be done—trying to figure out who can do what and trying to close that gap. We see what works and what doesn’t work to improve our impact. 

Coming in and listening based on what we hear, figuring out how we can help, we don’t assume ahead of time. Startups and business circles use this framework, trying to think strategically and not just momentarily.

Having more conversations with folks to see what we can learn and collaborate with other organizations,” said Jordan. POC’s first event was in Oakland at Lake Merritt. The second was with Pamoja Magazine, giving out free water snacks and showcasing art in Palo Alto. “It was a great catalyst culturally for people to see where we were coming from,” said Leonardo. 

The third event for POC was attending “First Fridays” in Oakland, handing out pamphlets and water to people coming out of bars or musicians leaving gigs. This event is a regular occurrence, and POC continues to attend, handing out water and information regarding services for people in need.   

“We are proud of our communication with communities, and the thinking of this brings to mind my time growing up. I was always discriminated against where I grew up in Palo Alto; my neighbors were treated very badly, which always bothered me. My parents moved from Mexico City to Palo Alto and have been there since the 60s. Myself and my family have not just been discriminated against by police officers but by the fire department and EMTs as well. I have been forced to remove my cultural clothing, including my sandals and stripped down in the middle of the street, and treated as less than human. I communicate about this with friends and family in So-Cal, some of them police officers and I tell them my experience, and even they ask why someone would do that,” said Leonardo. 

You can find People of Change at upcoming “First Fridays” in Oakland, the next being this Friday, 2/10. Their website and mission statement can be found at and [email protected]

  • Protest sign on the ground that reads "cops out of traffic stops."
  • A protest sign that reads "r.i.p., Stony Ramirez, Roy Nelson, James Greer, Augie Gonsalez Murdered by HPD.
  • A table and photo dedicated to the memory of Tyre Nichols decorated with candles and buttons.
  • Two people on stage in front of City Hall. One is giving a speech and the other is holding a sign dedicated to Tyre Nichols.
  • Two people on stage, one speaking and another is holding a sign dedicated to Tyre Nichols.
  • A man stands on stage speaking passionately about bringing change to an audience at night in front of city hall.
  • Two people standing on stage, one is speaking and the other is holding a sign dedicated to Tyre Nichols.
  • One organizer on stage in front of City Hall speaking while other organizers and audience members listen.
  • One organizer on stage in front of City Hall speaking while other organizers and audience members listen.
  • One organizer on stage in front of City Hall speaking while other organizers and audience members listen.
  • One organizer on stage in front of City Hall speaking while other organizers and audience members listen.
  • One organizer on stage in front of City Hall speaking while other organizers and audience members listen.

We Were Hyphy Film Viewing

We Were Hyphy is a 2022 documentary about the Hyphy Movement in the Bay Area that was Screened in Chabot College’s  Event Center (700 bldg.) on Feb 2. The screening was presented by RISE, EOPS, and UMOJA. The event was hosted by E.O.P.S Counselor Charlie Moraliez. We Were Hyphy is directed by Laurence Madrigal, a Bay Area Native who spoke in a  zoom call meeting for the viewers before the viewing. The term hyphy is a slang that is used in The Bay Area which means hyperactive.

We Were Hyphy was the Official Selection of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, San Francisco Documentary Festival and Cinequest Film Festival of 2022. The film had interviews with great Bay Area producers and hip hop artists like G-Eazy, Mistah Fab, Keak Da Sneak, and more. 

The music documentary trails and examines the influence on the hyphy culture which involves; the dances, the music, the cars, the fashion, and the slangs that they use. The film takes the viewers on a special time when the Hyphy culture was big.

Host Charlie Moraliez talking to Director Laurence Madrigal before the viewing via zoom.

The Hyphy Movement started with rapper Mac Dre and Thizz nation in  1999. Mac Dre has hits like Thizzle Dance and Feeling Myself.  Dre was the influential figure that started the Hyphy Movement. He brought his own dance styles, bass line, fashion and his style of rhyming was different thus came the Hyphy Movement. Dre was murdered in 2004. Yet still the Hyphy Movement continues only making it bigger.

The height of the culture was in 2006 When Bay Area artists like E-40, Keak Da Sneak, and Too $hort  videos were played as the regular rotation on MTV and BET’S  106 & Park, a top 20 countdown of the latest and hottest R&B and Hip Hop Music. 

E40 Feat Keak Da Sneak Tell me when to go and Too Short’s Blow the Whistle is both produced by Atlanta, GA rapper and producer Lil Jon. 

“I grew up in Antioch, then went to SF State to study film making. It was intentionally going to be a short passion film project, but we got in contact with a lot more people to interview.” Says director Madrigal during his zoom meeting.

Madrigal grew up during the Hyphy Movement and fell in love with the music. The director went into making this documentary not knowing the full hyphy culture other than music but soon learned, “Making this film I learned beyond the music I learned what Turfin (hyphy dancing) and Ghost riding the whip (hyphy car culture) because I was never into it, but I learned more of it. It was like writing an amazing essay.” Says Madrigal.

“We choose this film to kick off Black History Month by sharing the influence that hip hop has, especially the sub-genre which captures the region. We want to show something that can uplift people and this film shows that.” Says Moraliez.

There were many people  who lived through the movement that came to the viewing, and watching the film was very nostalgic. “I’m from Oakland, CA and watching this brings back good memories. I remember that the word Hyphy first came out. It was Keak Da Sneak who said it first. I’m here to support the event and I’m excited that we showed it.” Says UMOJA counselor coordinator Tommy Reed.

Many  viewers who are not from Chabot came to show love for the movement. “What I love about this a lot of people don’t know what impact the movement had on the Bay Area. The movement is something I grew up on. It was important that they highlighted that.” Says Nate Nevado, founder of Rock the School Bell Hip Hop Conference, an academy located in San Bruno where they use Hip Hop as a platform to serve and educate youth in the community.

We were hyphy is not available on any streaming services. The film is Only on KQED or the PBS website

Max’s Cakes The New Great Bakery in Town

Food Network TV show ‘The Big Bake’ winner Max Soto opened his bakery named Max Cakes and began selling out of his great baked desserts daily in downtown Hayward. In addition to making pastries, he makes custom-made-to-order cakes, cookies, and more.

Mr. Soto, now 22, was the youngest participant in the adult baking contest on the Food Network show ‘Big Time Bake’ at the age of 19. “The producers were hesitant about my age. To get on the show, you must be 21 or older (especially in adult competition shows). I went through an interview to show that I was qualified for baking. The producers saw my potential, which is how I got on the show as the youngest.” says Mr. Soto.

Mr. Soto was born and raised in Hayward, CA. He never took any cooking classes nor went to any culinary schools. He is a self-taught baker who started baking at the age of nine. While watching the TLC show ‘Cake Boss,’ he was so captivated by it that one day he had to make a cake like those on the show. His Goal was to turn anything edible into artwork.

Max Cakes is a family-oriented bakery. The business is co-owned by his parents, along with help from sisters with baking, assisting the customers, and more. Mr. Soto’s family pays a huge contribution to his success. “I give my family credit for a lot of my success. Without my family’s support, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. My family takes the cake when it comes to support,” says Mr. Soto.

Regarding taking care of the customers, Mr. Soto gets an A grade. He is never too busy to meet and greet his customers. “He (Soto) is always nice when I come in, friendly, greeting me, and so are the employees.” says customer Rubin Rochester. Max Cakes is customer friendly.  

Mr. Soto says, “I try to greet my customers as much as possible. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without my clientele. I love talking to my customers.” 

Max cakes get rave reviews from his customers, and his Yelp reviews are five stars. “I love the Carrot and Champagne Toast Cake. His food doesn’t taste like all the other bakeries I’ve been to,” says customer Robin McCullough. 

I Give my family credit for a lot of my success. Without my family’s support, I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. My family takes the cake when it comes to support”

-Max Soto

Max Cakes appeared prominently on The East Bay List of Best New Bakeries.His bakery was ranked seventh out of the 10 bakeries in the Bay Area.  “I go mostly to the city (San Francisco) when I want good Peach Cobbler or Cakes, but a couple of weeks ago, I came here and ordered the Peach Cobbler, and I loved it.” Says Hayward resident and customer Shaimar Hawkins.

Max Cakes is a friendly bakery that will satisfy that sweet tooth craving with very reasonable prices. Max Cakes is at 1007 B St. Hayward, Ca. Max is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. 

Chabot Transfer Center

The Chabot College Transfer Center, located in building 700, is a great resource for students who plan on moving forward to a four-year university. The transfer center’s mission is to “support students through the transfer process from exploring and applying so you can achieve and earn your bachelor’s degree.” They also encourage students to “become experts of their own transfer path by providing information, resources, services, and learning opportunities so students can make informed decisions about their transfer goals and destinations.”

The transfer center provides students with a plethora of resources, including: 

  • Connections with university transfer representatives, transfer guarantee programs, Chabot College counselors, and programs.
  • Workshops for CSU, UC, Private/Out-of-State transfer, application assistance, Funding Your Transfer Education, Transfer Transitions, Transfer Admission Guarantees, UC Personal Insight Questions.
  • Transfer guides, application tips, handouts, university view books.
  • Computer lab with a print station (print card needed) to do your homework, conduct transfer research, and apply to transfer schools and scholarships.

In addition to these resources, the Transfer Center provides students with “Transfer Tuesdays”. This workshop provides students with Online transfer tools to research transfer options, and university majors, monitor transfer progress, and how to connect with prospective transfer destination schools. This workshop is every Tuesday from noon to 1:30 p.m. Students can register for these workshops on the “Transfer Tuesday” page”  on

Chabot college student Chris has frequently sought help from the transfer center. “I’m thankful for having a resource like this available on campus. I would feel very lost throughout the process without their help. They have given me great advice on what schools I should look at in regards to my major, have also provided help with personal insight questions. I highly encourage students who plan on transferring to take time out of their day and go visit the transfer center. You won’t regret it.

The Transfer Center also urges students to meet with their counselor. Program instructor Francis Fon states, “Your university representatives, counselors, and instructors have an immense amount of knowledge and recommendations. It is good practice to meet regularly throughout your time at Chabot as each session will result in you refining your plan and making progress toward your goal. Also, make sure to attend ​​the Transfer Application Workshop Series for help making sense of admissions offers, denials, waitlists, financial aid awards, and  enrollment decision deposits.

Students can contact the Transfer center via email: [email protected], Phone: (510) 274-1550. Services are available Monday – Thursday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Is Fungus The Next Doomsday Killer?

Infected person stuck to the wall and completely transformed by Cordyceps fungus.

HBO’s current hit series, “The Last of Us,” debuted on Jan. 15. In it, creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann portray a beautiful nightmare where an elaborate network of thriving parasitic fungi cause a global pandemic.

How real is this fictional show when compared with reality?

There is a genuine threat from fungi, but they provide many benefits as well. There are hundreds of thousands of fungi species, 600 or so discovered in the Cordyceps genus as of today. First discovered in China and used as medicine, it was believed by an emperor that digesting infected silkworms held the key to a longer life.

The history we know of Cordyceps dates back as far as the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and is mentioned in the Huang Di Neijing, otherwise known as the Chinese bible of medicine. Now, Ophiocordyceps Sinensis is specifically used for cancer treatments and a wide range of ailments in Chinese medicine, which is currently rare due to the difficulty in cultivation.

In addition, it’s because of fungi that we have everyday essentials such as penicillin, cheese, beer, and other commonly used products. Fungus also has a living cell structure, unicellular and multicellular, compared to a virus that is not living. So it needs a food source, and for the particular species mentioned in the show, insects are the primary source of nourishment.

That’s not to say that reptiles and mammals can’t become host to fungi because they can, indeed, just not by Cordyceps currently. Arthrobotrys is a predator of nematode worms. By snaring and trapping them, hyphae begin to grow through the worm and consume it from within. So overall, besides getting sick with a range of symptoms, the zombie-like mind control is more fiction than reality.

According to Biology Professor Rikki Edelman, certified Horticulturist and member of the Mycological Society of San Francisco, “even if there were to be a Cordyceps fungus attacking a human body, it would have a hard time breaching the internal walls and bones required to reach the human brain and numerous systems it would need to infect which is all highly unlikely. The show depicts what looks to be an amalgamation of fungi as it is growing everywhere, on the walls of buildings and through people.”

For this to happen in people first, according to Chabot College Microbiologist Robert Cattolica, who holds a (Ph.D.) in Pharmacology and Toxicology as well as a (BA) in Molecular Cell Biology, “there would need to be a rare crossover event, where the reason would be unknown to science. This crossover event would be something like going from an ant to a wasp or a small mammal.”

In the show, it is implied that climate change was the culprit in forcing adaptation to a warming planet where the fungus can then withstand the temperatures of the human body. This factor is stated as “being a real possibility where climate change and deforestation can destroy species or a food source and create the need for a new one. This, however is very unlikely in Cordyceps as it has evolved alongside its food source, which is mainly different insect species. This would take numerous exposure events on the part of humans to provide the opportunity for adaptation in the body. Not to mention the amount of tissue the fungus has to infect which is elaborate and extensive compared to the body of an ant.

“It would be more likely to infect a certain area of the body like the liver or mucus membrane. Spores being the optimal delivery mechanism and more infectious through ingestion compared to the biting depicted on the show” said Professor Cottalica.

Which fungi are currently dangerous to humans?

“The Cordyceps in the show seems to ignore animals and lacks the spore element that is extremely vital to fungus reproduction,” said Professor Edelman. The Cordyceps Militaris Fungus hijacks the body of ants mainly, filling it with a biomass of mycelium. It is a gruesome sight close up, the ant is flooded with chemicals and compelled to climb to a great height where it will perch and die until the fungus has fully formed and prepared to spore beginning the next life cycle.

In humans, spores are deadly and can cause long term respiratory illness or acute respiratory failure. This fungus is more commonly known as mold which can be found just about anywhere. More alarming is the 2009 discovery of Candida Auris which grows as yeast and is anti-fungal resistant. This fungus has climbed in infection rate, spread to several continents and is currently being tracked by the CDC. This fungus can cause illness and death in horrific ways, especially for people with immune deficiencies. Climate change is having a huge impact on the future of fungi, where the line that separates humans as hosts is starting to disappear. “Resistance is old in the fungi’s defense because antibiotics are used by fungus at war with each other to kill,” says Professor Cattolica.

Candida is super communicable in the form of spore dispersal which can be a problem for patient treatment in hospitals. There is even the possibility of being mistreated as infection from Candida can be hard to identify and made worse. Then there is Claviceps Purpurea which is an Ergot fungus that can cause hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, gangrene, spasms, convulsions, unconsciousness, and death. It grows on the ears of rye and can contaminate grain and seeds. This fungus was believed to influence the madness behind the Salem Witch Trials. These are just some of the known fungi dangerous to humans as science is still discovering unknown species and unseen behaviors from the fungi kingdom.

Can this fungus outbreak be engineered?

Humans have been known to experiment on just about everything and fungus is not exclusive. Anthrax and Smallpox are good examples although not directly fungi related. “If I was a mad scientist, I would bet on a virus over fungi as it is already designed to kill humans by nature. There needs to be significant breakthroughs and human experimentation that would need to take place for this type of engineering,” said Professor Cattolica. There are examples of this on a commercial scale as most of the safe products in one form or another can be purchased and used for pest control.

Cordyceps fungus can be used for insects and Arthrobotrys for nematodes. Because of the super combined elements of the show’s fungus, it has mixed characteristics when it comes to the infected people we have seen so far. For instance, the fungi located on the split heads, arms and necks of it’s victims are more shelf-like. According to Professor Edelman, “they look more related to the fungus Ganoderma, known as Reishi, which has healing properties for humans including cancer. This fungus can be very deadly for trees causing root and stem rot, yet safe everyday products are derived from this fungus and taken directly by humans for medicinal purposes. If you drink a coffee, you don’t become a coffee.”

Edible mushrooms are used on a daily basis for cooking or your pizza toppings. So the jury is still out on future possibilities, “as there are still so many functions never observed by science in the fungi kingdom,” said Professor Cattolica. Overall the show is really good from the opinion of these biology professors and brings a much-needed interest to the world of biology and climate change.

HBO’s “The Last of Us” show details

"The Last of Us," key art/main promotional material.

No spoilers: “The Last of Us” depicts a zombie-like outbreak caused by a Cordyceps fungus that initially grows with substrates in flower, grain, and bread factories. It stars Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie portraying an unlikely pair forced to come together by chance. Joel must get Ellie to a destination in this post-apocalyptic world safely. The show currently sits at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and has already been renewed for a second season, announced after the airing of only the second episode. Airing on Sunday evenings, becoming successful overnight, the show now boasts a viewership of twenty-two million and growing, making it the second biggest premiere for HBO in a decade.