Oscura Cafe & Bar serves up craft culture to Downtown Bradenton

As evidenced by the ongoing “revitalization” of new storefronts populating the 13th street and 6th Avenue west corner in downtown Bradenton, native Bradentonians Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene of Oscura Cafe and Bar are hoping to make Oscura the hub of local, craft culture.

“I think we’re trying to create a cultural outlet for people here, something for the artists, and the musicians, and the people who are interested in that,” said Nasewicz. “We want to be the flagship for it and see where it grows, and hopefully we’re trying to get this street really developed and turned into the ‘mecca’ of trend and art and music for 13th street in Bradenton.”

Nasewicz and Greene’s journey towards building their own “mecca” in Bradenton began years before in 2005, as the two Manatee High School students would orbit the now-closed V Town Surf and Skate III skateboard shop where Greene worked. The two cite the V Town’s casual meeting spot atmosphere as a precursor to what is now Oscura.

Oscura Cafe and Bar (Photo: Alex Buono)

The two spent years apart as Nasewicz went off to college to study psychology, briefly flirting with becoming a psychologist before pursuing a photography career that rekindled his creativity. Greene’s post-high school years were spent traveling nationwide with a touring “metal-core” band at 19, where his curiosity in the music business inspired him to start his own music label.

Coffee being prepared at Oscura Cafe and Bar. (Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura prepares various menu items, including a Cuban sandwich. ( Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura Cafe and Bar. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

After his time in the music business, Greene’s interest in business grew into becoming a full-fledged serial entrepreneur in recent years, where he launched several startups locally. Nasewicz meanwhile was burning out on the heavy traveling of his photography career, where he later transitioned to launching tech startups of his own centered around application development.

According to Nasewicz, it was around this time Greene approached him about starting a business in Bradenton.

“Growing up, I mean, you would hear it so often your friends saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get out of Bradenton, Bradenton’s lame, there’s nothing to do here,’ when in reality there’s so much opportunity here,” Greene said. “We have some of the best beaches in the world, we still have that small-town feel, everybody’s friendly, everybody’s cool here. And so coming back to that as an adult and seeing its potential was exciting,” Greene added.

In conceptualizing their vision for what would become eventually become Oscura as their business, Nasewicz and Greene knew that they wanted to start a cultural trend for other businesses in the area to blossom.

“When we did our research we found that a meeting place, something like this, where there’s more of a curated experience; whether it’s the high quality of the coffee or the food or the drinks that we offer, things like that, and it developed more into a coffee shop as the primary focus,” Nasewicz said.

When trying to figure out what they would eventually name this new business, the idea of coffee as a ‘dark matter’ that gives energy that “binds the universe” became a prominent theme. Greene credits Nasewicz with the trending idea of changing the language, where they discovered the Latin translation of dark matter as “materia obscura.”

Oscura Cafe and Bar owner Keith Nasewicz chats with customers. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Formerly the location of Foster Drugs and Surgical Supplies that bookended the 13th street west corner for over fifty years, Oscura’s bright white exterior storefront and DIY aesthetic was self-financed and designed by Greene and Nasewicz themselves. According to Greene, Nasewicz’s preoccupation with interior design has been evident since the beginning of their friendship.

“He will straight up be reading an interior design catalog when we’re playing Call of Duty or just goofin’ off,” Greene said. ” He’s just so into that and so good at it.”

The exterior of Oscura Cafe and Bar on 13 Street and 6th Avenue West (Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura’s ornamental DIY design features vintage box cameras and a variety of vegetation. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Oscura’s DIY aesthetic also influence their approach to their ever-changing menu. Greene and Nasewicz do not have formal culinary training but credit their research in traveling to the cities on the forefront of contemporary restaurant and coffee culture. From experimenting with the coffee soda to new tasting and pairing menus as well serving beer and wine trivia nights for the over 21 crowds during the evening, Greene and Nasewicz explained that Oscura’s goal of being the craft destination for Bradenton includes a plethora of upcoming events.

“We want to develop our own market in our area, something new for the craft person to get plugged in with,” Greene said. “We’re definitely trying to shake things up, get people excited.”

A lunchtime business meeting held at Oscura (Photo: Alex M Buono)

In looking towards future expansion, including an outdoor wine and beer garden, to partnerships with local breweries for Oscura-brand beer and friendly city flea market on Feb. 23, Greene and Nasewicz praise their longtime friendship and their connection to the local business community for Oscura’s continued success.

“If you’re looking to start a business, surround yourself with the people who have the experiences and have the strengths, and realize you have weaknesses that you need those people as a team to help you with,” Nasewicz said. “And work with your community, don’t fight them. That’s a big part of it.”

For more on Oscura Cafe and Bar’s list of events and updates, visit Oscuracafe.com.

Cafe Oscura owners Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene. (Photo: Alex M Buono)


The Immigrant Youth Project Hopes to Inform Central Florida and Lawmakers

According to Dr. Heide Castaneda, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, and co-founder of The Immigrant Youth Project, recruiting undocumented youth to speak on their experience for the federally funded research project has been a challenge after the DACA recision.

“When people had DACA, they felt certainty with their status, they were more willing to talk about how they felt, what they experienced,” Castaneda explained. “As soon as the DACA recision was announced, people shutdown,” she added.

The project began in Sept. 2017 with the aim of investigating the social and emotional well-being of undocumented young adults living in Central Florida and across the United States. The legal battle to decide the uncertain fate of DACA recipients is still being waged in U.S District Courts. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that DACA protections should remain in place, and the government must continue to accept new applications.

According to Dr. Castaneda, the goal of the project’s research is to inform policymakers and the public on the social implications of undocumented young adults who are living in a transitional status.

“We’ve talked to people who are afraid to enter long-term relationships because they don’t know what’s next for them, and I think that really impacts their ability be full members of society and express themselves as humans,” Castaneda said.

 Castaneda is a co-creator of the project along with University of South Florida Assoc. Prof. of Sociology Dr. Elizabeth Aranda and former USF faculty and now Assoc. Prof. of Sociology at George Washington University, Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera. The three professors met at the University of South Florida in 2007, and all shared a common interest in immigrant families, youth, and incorporation into society. According to Castaneda, The National Science Foundation awarded their project proposal in June of last year and provided the perfect opportunity to combine their research efforts into an interdisciplinary focus on “an urgent issue In their own backyard” in Central Florida. The project has also extended an outreach partnership with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, where the researchers themselves take part in events and clinics held by the coalition.

In Castaneda’s and the researchers’ view of their preliminary findings, participants have shown a variety of responses, ranging from high levels of emotional distress, depression, and suicidality to high levels of political engagement and activism. According to a Jan. 2017 article from the National Institute of Mental Health, child of immigrants born in the U.S. may have a higher risk for mental disorders than their parents. According to the Pew Research from Sept. 2017, two-thirds of DACA recipients are ages 25 or younger.

 President Trump continues to press Democrats on the issue of immigration, where on Monday Trump tweeted out on Monday that he has instructed Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen P.Nielsen to, “not let these large Caravans of people into our Country.”

According to Castaneda, the key for Central Florida to understand the plight of its undocumented immigrant youth is how ingrained they already are in the community.

“The key thing to understand is that what passport you are holding and how valid your visa is, it’s not that it’s not important, but for the everyday experience of living in our communities here in Central Florida, it’s not as important,” Castaneda said. “These are people who have jobs in all sectors of society,” she added.

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As the project heads into the summer, their recruiting push is expecting an increase in participants, with the overall goal of reaching 140 individual experiences for the project’s total.

“More and more people in the US are living in a family where there is at least one undocumented person,” Castaneda said. “Immigration doesn’t just affect the immigrant, it affects their family members and their communities,” she added.

For more information on how to get involved with the Immigrant Youth Project, click here.

Manatee Democrats Hold Saturday Workshop to “Build on the Blue Wave”

On Saturday morning, the Democratic Party of Manatee County held a training event for prospective volunteers in advance of the 2018 midterms at IMG Academy Golf Club in Bradenton. The local party is hoping to build on the momentum of last week’s special election win by Sarasota Democratic Challenger Margaret Good, as reported in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Good’s win was amplified by national media, as Saturday’s workshop in Manatee called on volunteers to help the party “Build the Blue Wave,” in advance of November’s midterm elections.

On Saturday morning, the Democratic Party of Manatee County held a training event for prospective volunteers in advance of the 2018 midterms at IMG Academy Golf Club in Bradenton. The local party is hoping to build on the momentum of last week’s special election win by Sarasota Democratic Challenger Margaret Good, as reported in the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Good’s win attracted national media attention, as Saturday’s workshop in Manatee called on prospective volunteers to help the party “Build the Blue Wave” in advance of November’s midterm elections. The all-day event was MC’d by Manatee Democratic Party Chair, Sheryl Wilson, who shepherded the day’s events of fundraising and strategy sessions amongst district and precinct members, in addition to introducing up and coming Democratic candidates.

“I don’t want to make apologies for the fact that this is a working meeting,” said Wilson to attendees on Saturday. “If we do our job, so they can do theirs and stand for these beliefs we all hold,” Wilson added.

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Manatee Democratic Party Chair, Sheryl Wilson (above) introducing democratic challengers for 2018. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

According to New York Magazine’s The Cut, 2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for women running for elective office.  One first-time candidate in Manatee County is Liv Coleman, an associate professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Tampa. Coleman, a Minnesota native, is running against GOP incumbent Rep. Joe Gruters for the District 73 house seat and cautioned against the rise of the ‘alt-right’ on the Gulf Coast.

“We have some people who are willing to cut democratic corners and who have embraced an alternative form of nationalism,” said Coleman in a video message to attendees on Saturday.

The Republican party now holds a majority of those elected to office in Manatee, as GOP congressional incumbent Vern Buchanan has held onto his seat in the U.S House of Representatives, since 2007. To Buchanan’s 2018 Democratic challenger David Shapiro, who stopped by the event on Saturday, female political engagement is essential in this year’s election.

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Democratic U.S congressional candidate David Shapiro gave a speech at the workshop on Saturday. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

“They are the one’s making the difference in voter turnout,” said Shapiro in an interview on Saturday. “We’ve seen it all over the country, and we’ve just recently seen it with Margaret Good,” Shapiro added.

For more information on the activities of the Manatee County Democratic Party, Click here.

For more information on the Sarasota/Manatee Democratic Black Caucus, click here.

Protest Rally Calls for More Oversight In Wake of Mobley Shooting

On Saturday evening, protesters arrived at the Desoto Mall in Bradenton to host another rally challenging Manatee County Law Enforcement’s account of the Jan. 23 shooting death of 38-year-old Bradenton resident, Corey Mobley. The “Justice 4 Corey Mobley” rally was organized by local activist organization Answer Suncoast, where protesters called for independent oversight of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office ongoing investigation.

“The Sheriff’s account matches to the T the number one racist stigma that black men have super powers,” said Ruth Beltran of Answer Suncoast. “We want to demand that there is community control and independent oversight of both the City Police and the Sheriff’s Department,” Beltran added.

According to the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sheriff Rick Wells asserted during a Jan. 30 press conference that witnesses accounts verify that Deputy Patrick Drymon was threatened by Mobley before firing his weapon, as Mobley continued to approach Drymon after being shot. Beltran and the protesters reject the Sheriff’s Office official account of the incident, and accuse the department of promoting a false media narrative to vilify Mobley, where Body-worn cameras could have clarified the situation for the public.

“He was a loving father of four kids and also a member of a bible baptist church in Palmetto,” Beltran said.

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Demonstrators continued to protest after sunset on Saturday. (Photo: Alexander Michael Buono)

Traffic temporarily shut down on 301 Boulevard West, as protesters marched across to the nearby Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and continued their demonstration eastward at the intersection of Route 41 later that evening. Protesters chanted, “Black Lives Matter,” and “No Justice, No Peace,” while being escorted by Manatee Police, as motorists driving by honked their horns in support of the demonstration.

For Beltran, it is now a waiting game.

“We would like the sheriff to actually initiate the independent investigation,” Beltran said. “He has the power to do so, and I feel it’s the right thing to do,” she added.

For more information on Answer Suncoast, click here.