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Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


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Women Runnin It: Interview with Nina Menendez

This month Oakulture premieres “Women Runnin It,” a new interview series featuring women in dynamic positions of cultural leadership. We begin with Oakland female producers and promoters. Usually behind the scenes, these women are the ones bringing your favorite concerts, shows and nights for you to soak in and live the culture of Oakland.  How do they build community and social arts networks? How do they curate a meaningful event or a club party?

Recently at a Bahamadia concert at Leo’s produced by Chaney Turner of Social Life Productions, the emcee spoke to the need to be actively engaged in creating inclusive community — a crucial component of a culturally-positive nightlife and cultural arts scene. Important to many of us, particularly women and LGBTQi persons, is the ability to go out at night, share our art, enjoy dancing or conversation and not have to defend our bodies and presence. The promoters who are committed to holding this ground for us and advancing it are bringing female artists, gender fluid and non-ratchet parties, and holding down inclusive, ‘safe’ spaces through curating social arts. They are cultural stewards that we at Oakulture value and support. We think you should too. Check out previous women highlighted in the series, including Candi Martinez and Chaney Turner.

***

The third installment in the “Women Runnin It” series features Nina Menendez, the Founder & Artistic Director of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival (BAFF). Flamenco is the creative expression of a culturally resilient people; an improvisational and exquisitely aged art form of Gitano or Gypsy singing, fierce footwork and dancing, percussive clapping, snapping, body percussion and guitar.

The Bay Area is currently one of the best places in the world for flamenco outside of Spain. A major reason for that is the entrenchment of authentic flamenco dancers and musicians in the region, dating back decades, who have inspired generations of local artists, many of whom have gone on to acclaim in the flamenco world. As both a grassroots arts organizer and world class producer of concerts and workshops, Nina has contributed her lioness’ share to the curation of these bridges of cultural exchange.

Nina boasts a rich cultural background herself: she comes from a musical family of both Cuban and Spanish extraction. Her mother is folk singer Barbara Dane and she is a singer herself, as well as being a former professor of Latin American and women’s studies. She brings her deep knowledge and respect for cultural legacy, resistance and pride to all of her programming and productions, making her a valued resource for the flamenco community. Nina’s commitment contributes to maintaining and building on the cultural legacy of flamenco. This year, she celebrates a major milestone: ten years of producing the Bay Area Flamenco Festival, which begins this week.

Nina Menendez, Founder and Artistic Director of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival

Nina Menendez, Founder and Artistic Director of the Bay Area Flamenco Festival

Oakulture: Tell us about the Bay Area Flamenco Festival shows this year and your inspiration for producing them.

Nina Menendez: It has been and continues to be a true privilege and honor to work with such extraordinary artists over the past 10 years. We’ve presented some of the most important figures in the history of flamenco – from Manuel Agujetas to Manuela Carrasco and Angelita Vargas – as well as prodigies from today’s scene – Diego del Morao, el Carpeta, el Farru – and we’ve also presented groups like Son de la Frontera or artists like Diego el Cigala who are known outside of the flamenco world as well.

The centerpiece of this year’s festival is “Generations of Gypsy Flamenco” which I am presenting here in San Francisco on Sunday, March 22. The idea is to bring together dancers from three different generations, three different pueblos and three different approaches to Gypsy flamenco dance.

Concha Vargas, Pepe Torres and Gema Moneo are dancers who I know well and have worked with on numerous occasions. All three are internationally respected dancers who are at the same time deeply rooted in the grassroots traditions of their local communities. They are each key exponents of their respective generations and are among the finest and most “flamenco” of the flamenco dancers active in Spain today. Together they illustrate the passing down of flamenco dance traditions as an expression of cultural identity and oral history. Their artistry illustrates the continuity of the traditional forms as well as their ongoing reinvention.

Nina Menendez at Oakland Flamenco sessions

Nina Menendez at Oakland Flamenco Sessions

They will be joined by a group of musicians who I hand picked for this production because of their compatibility with all three of the dancers. This will be the first time guitarist El Perla and singer Jose Valencia come to perform at the Festival and we are very excited to host them and to welcome back guitarist/singer José Gálvez and singer Luis Moneo. It will be an unforgettable evening. We are also thrilled that Latin-Grammy nominated cantaora, Esperanza Fernández and the outstanding cantaor, José Valencia with be performing at the Brava theater in the Mission on Friday, March 27th. This will be a concert emphasizing flamenco cante and a rare chance to experience two of the finest flamenco singers of today’s generation, both representing deep family legacies and rooted in a rich legacy of Gypsy flamenco singing.

And finally, in celebration of International Women’s month, we close the Festival in Santa Cruz on Sunday, March 29th with ¡Flamencas! where dancers Concha Vargas and Gema Moneo and singer Esperanza Fernández will come together will blend their intense female energy and telluric chemistry to present an evening of flamenco puro, reminiscent of what you might witness at a Gypsy family gathering in a pueblo in Andalucia.

Video footage of dancer Gema Moneo, one of this year’s BAFF performing artists with El Momo at the Festival de Jerez in memory of Barullito Moneo.

Menendez with flamenco dancer Farruquito

Menendez with flamenco dancer Farruquito

Oakulture: What values do you bring to your work as a producer and how do they impact your decision-making?

Nina Menendez: Certainly values of social justice have a fundamental impact on my work. These values inform my curatorial vision and the decision I make as regards programming. They also have a lot to do with the community partners I seek out for collaborative work and mutual support. I believe that the arts should be a part of everyday life for all human beings and all communities. Increasingly culture is seen as corporately produced goods meant to be purchased and consumed rather than a shared community activity that expresses individual creativity and a common cultural legacy; a part of everyday life that is key to a community’s survival and growth. Much of our programming features Gypsy artists from Spain who share their expressions of cultural resistance and pride through music and dance with Bay Area audiences. These events help to increase awareness of the culture, traditions and history of the Gypsy/Romani people and illustrate the role of the arts in the everyday life. The culture of flamenco is rooted in the legacy of Spain’s Gypsy population, a marginalized subculture with a strong history of resistance to oppression and cultural co-optation. By creating cultural exchange opportunities through performances and workshops by visiting artists from Spain’s Gypsy community, we foster increased understanding and respect among people of diverse backgrounds. Our programming emphasizes how music and dance traditions can serve as a vessel for the transmission of cultural identity and oral history through the generations.

 Nina Menendez on NBC Bay Area's "Comunidad del Valle"

Nina Menendez on NBC Bay Area’s “Comunidad del Valle”

Oakulture: What relationship is there between your artistic work and your work as producer and director?

Nina Menendez: I put a lot of thought and intention behind it. Which makes it a little easier to promote/produce. Flamenco-singing has been a major creative outlet for me but most of all I’m an “aficionada” which in flamenco-lingo refers to a person who is immersed in the culture of flamenco, loving it deeply. For me it’s been a life-long passion that started in my teens when I fell in love with cante gitano (Gyspy flamenco singing). In my 30s and 40s I sang with many of the local flamenco groups and was a professor of Spanish and Latin culture. Later I directed the Encuentro del Canto Popular in San Francisco’s Mission district for several years and managed tours for Cuban artists. So when I founded the Bay Area Flamenco Festival 10 years ago in 2005, I brought all of those parts of me together.

“So many artists and people of all ages and walks of life are making creative waves at the grassroots and bringing the arts and culture into Oakland neighborhoods that have been plagued by urban blight, making them vibrant and exciting places to live and work. There is some degree of gentrification but it is counterbalanced by the inclusive, open and affordable cultural initiatives that are blossoming all around us.” -Nina Menendez

Oakulture: What approach or strategies do you use for creating and maintaining an inclusive space?

Nina Menendez: We are in the process of deepening our partnerships with several grassroots community arts organizations and applying for funding that will allow visiting artists from Spain and local Bay Area-based flamenco artists to offer free or highly-subsidized classes according to economic need on an ongoing basis to low-income children and youth. This goes hand-in-hand with our plan to build and expand our Artist Residency programs, making them a regular feature of our year-round programming, allowing for a deeper level of cultural exchange and tradition sharing.

Oakulture: What do you wish people knew or understood more about the behind-the-scenes?

Nina Menendez: That this is a labor of love and requires endless hours of planning and work. That we don’t have an endowment or any consistent source of funding and depend almost exclusively on ticket sales to cover all the expenses entailed in bringing world-class artists from Spain’s Gyspy flamenco community to the Bay Area. We depend on community support – it truly does take a village – and we are committed to finding ways to make this work sustainable through increased involvement of dedicated volunteers, expanded support from grant making agencies and foundations and the development of a pool of committed donors.

Nina Menendez at Oakland Flamenco Sessions

Nina Menendez at Oakland Flamenco Sessions

Oakulture: What’s exciting to you about Oakland culture right now?

Nina Menendez: So many artists and people of all ages and walks of life are making creative waves at the grassroots and bringing the arts and culture into neighborhoods that have been plagued by urban blight, making them vibrant and exciting places to live and work. There is some degree of gentrification but it is counterbalanced by the inclusive, open and affordable cultural initiatives that are blossoming all around us.

Nina Menendez with her mother, singer Barbara Dane

Nina Menendez with her mother, singer Barbara Dane

Oakulture: Role models? Who do you admire artistically and why?

Nina Menendez: Role models in the realm of producing: Chris Strachwitz (more of a record producer but key for roots music), artistically: My mom, Barbara Dane. I’m her number one fan.


Oakulture: Who are your Oakland heroines?

Nina Menendez: Trombonist Angela Wellman founded the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music downtown on Broadway in a storefront in 2005, several years before the current “renaissance” began. This is the first and only public conservatory of music in the United States where youth of all backgrounds have affordable access to world-class multi-cultural music education. Bobi Céspedes, Afro Cuban vocalist, educator and Yoruba-Lucumi priestess. Does Barbara Lee qualify as an Oakland heroine? Well she is definitely a heroine. Yoshie Akiba, founder of Yoshi’s jazz club is also on my list.

Oakulture: If you could book anyone, who would it be?

Nina Menendez: Diego del Gastor, el Perrate, la Fernanda. La Niña de los Peines and Melchor de Marchena. Terremoto de Jerez and Manuel Morao. Carmen Amaya. Moraíto.

Oakulture: Words to live by?

Nina Menendez: Ole! Aché! THANK YOU!
Honor your ancestors, contribute to your community, stand up for justice, love your family, appreciate your friends, be yourself and don’t buy into the mainstream media’s version of reality.

Bay Area Flamenco Festival:

Sunday, March 22nd, 7pm
Generations of Gypsy Flamenco
Featuring dancers Gema Moneo, Pepe Torres & Concha Vargas
with singers Jose Valencia & Luis Moneo

Guitarists Jose Galvez & El Perla
Percussionist Luis de la Tota
Informal pre-show festivities in lobby from 6-7pm

Tix $35-75
Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco

Friday, March 27th, 8pm
Cante Jondo – Cante Gitano
Featuring singers Jose Valencia & Esperanza Fernandez
with guitarists El Perla & Jose Galvez
Percussionist Luis de la Tota

Tix $30-75
Brava Theatre, 781 24th St., San Francisco

Sunday, March 29th, 7pm
!Flamencas!
In Celebration of International Women’s Month
Featuring dancers Concha Vargas, Gema Moneo & singer Esperanza Fernandez

with guitarists El Perla & Jose Galvez
Percussionist Luis de la Tota
Tix $30-65
Crocker Theatre, Cabrillo College, Aptos (near Santa Cruz)

Monday, March 23rd through Saturday March 28th
Festival Workshops & Classes
Featuring singing, dance, guitar, palmas and improvisational skills with artists from the Festival
East Bay, San Francisco & Santa Cruz locations


Bay Area Flamenco Festival Twitter & Facebook

*Also check out Oakulture’s Guide to International Women’s Month Events in Oakland and Beyond for more woman-centric events throughout the month of March!

Follow Oakulture by entering your email above and Like Us on Facebook to keep up.


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Women Runnin It: Interview with Chaney Turner

This month Oakulture premieres “Women Runnin It,” a new interview series featuring women in dynamic positions of cultural leadership. We begin with Oakland female promoters. Usually behind the scenes, these women are the ones bringing your favorite concerts, shows and nights for you to soak in and live the culture of Oakland.  How do they build community and social arts networks? How do they curate a meaningful event or a club party?

Recently at a Bahamadia concert at Leo’s produced by Chaney Turner of Social Life Productions, the emcee spoke to the need to be actively engaged in creating inclusive community — a crucial component of a culturally-positive nightlife scene. Important to many of us, particularly women and LGBTQi persons, is the ability to go out at night, share our art, enjoy dancing or conversation and not have to defend our bodies and presence. The promoters who are committed to holding this ground for us and advancing it are bringing female artists, gender fluid and non-ratchet parties, and holding down inclusive, ‘safe’ spaces through curating social arts. They are cultural stewards that we at Oakulture value and support. We think you should too. Check out part one in the series, featuring Candi Martinez, here.
Follow Oakulture by entering your email above and Like Us on Facebook to keep up.

***

Our second Q&A interview is with Chaney Turner, founder of Social Life Productions, an event promotion and production company. Chaney is beloved by many and holds down a realness which contributes to the degree to which she is valued in many different communities. An Oakland native and one of the most well-known promoters inside and outside the LGBT community, she is a cultural activist, community organizer, dance floor igniter and style trendsetter who has helped to shape Oakland’s inclusive, gender-fluid club scene with parties like “The Social Life” and “SpeakerBoxx,” as well as being the former Entertainment Director for Eden Pride SF co-producing EDEN San Francisco Pride from 2012 to 2014 and co-owner/producer of fiveTEN Oakland Pride. “The Social Life”‘s mantra “Be Seen on the Scene” has resonated through Chaney’s work, which continues this month with the Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase” this Saturday. Oakulture highly recommends joining their events on Facebook to check out the posted videos.

Chaney Turner stays reppin The Town

Chaney Turner stays reppin The Town

Oakulture: What values do you bring to club promotion and how do they impact your decision- making?

Chaney Turner: I take the relationships that I have with venue owners and their staff seriously. Communication is very important when creating space, it’s a team effort. I work with clubs that are about building community and respecting the patrons who support their business.

Oakulture: What’s exciting to you about Oakland culture right now?

Chaney Turner: Oakland has always been full of culture. That’s what attracts so many newcomers. These young up-and-coming artists are doing some amazing work! I’m really loving the music and fashion that’s coming out of the town. Many talented artists might not be recognized in mainstream media, but are making an impact world-wide and putting Oakland on a larger map.

Oakulture: What relationship is there between your artistic work and your promotional work?

Chaney Turner: I consider myself a visionary, when curating an event I put a lot of thought and intention behind it. Which makes it a little easier to promote/produce.

Hip-hop legend Bahamedia performs at a Social Life produced-show.

Hip-hop legend Bahamadia performs at a Social Life produced-show.

Oakulture: What approach or strategies do you use for creating and maintaining an inclusive space?

Chaney Turner: When creating events, I try to bring together the perfect elements and people. I’m a Queer Black Masculine Identified Woman who’s an Oakland native. I consider myself to be a part of multiple communities and I try to represent that in the events I produce. Bringing together like-minded individuals who respect and admire each other is important to me. Oakland has always had an inclusive scene, especially in the art community. I’m just trying to remind people of that and preserve the culture.

chaney turner oakulture 013

Oakulture: What do you wish people knew or understood more about the behind-the-scenes?

Chaney Turner: LOL, great question! I love the work I do, but people think it’s easy because they only see the results of the work and it looks fun. This is my full time job, I have to wear multiple hats on a daily basis. There’s tons of logistics involved, meetings, contracts and schedules that have to be met. You need guts, integrity and a backbone for this work. Event production, promotions & nightlife, period, is a boys club. Women are rarely recognized for the work we do. [That’s] one of the main reasons why I take this work so seriously and grind hard.

“Oakland has always been full of culture. That’s what attracts so many newcomers. These young up-and-coming artists are doing some amazing work! I’m really loving the music and fashion that’s coming out of the town. Many talented artists might not be recognized in mainstream media, but are making an impact world-wide and putting Oakland on a larger map.” — Chaney Turner

Oakulture: Role models? Who do you admire artistically and why?

Chaney Turner: Oprah is my #1 role model. I admire Sean “P. Diddy” Combs for his work ethic and hustle. I really love and admire the art that Ava DuVernay and Shonda Rhimes are doing, creating opportunities for Black women and black people as a whole and being unapologetic about it. I’m proud of the work they’re doing and I’m beyond inspired. 

chaney turner bandw

Oakulture: Who are your Oakland heroines?

Chaney Turner: My Grandmother, Ida Mae Crisp. I thank her and my Grandfather for moving here and raising five children. She also played a major part in raising me. So she is my hero. Also I love admire and respect my sistas. Candi Martinez, Brianna Smith, Chinaka Hodge, Amy Nabong, Traci Bartlow, Jahmese Myers, Alicia Garza.

Oakulture: If you could book anyone, who would it be?

Chaney Turner: Erykah Badu. Missy Elliot.

Oakulture: Words to live by?

Chaney Turner: Create the life you want.

Oakulture: Your next show is the second one this month celebrating international women’s month. Could you tell us a little about why you are producing this next one “Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase”?

Chaney Turner: Women are still under-represented and over-sexualized in this industry. I wanted to highlight the four elements in a positive light. Dance, Art, MCing and DJing are the foundation of hip hop and women have been a part of it since the beginning. Each artist involved is extremely talented, diverse and I respect their craft. I hope our allies and brothers come out to support us as we take charge.

chaney turner oakulture 087

Social Life Productions’ next show:

Saturday, March 14th, 9pm
Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop and Art Showcase
Featuring MC MADlines, DJs Lady Ryan, AGANA & Thatgirl
Live Painting by Joanne Ludwig
Hosted by Mona Webb
Vendors
Free Before 10:30pm/$10 After.
Berkeley Underground, 2284 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.
Social Life Productions Twitter & Facebook

 

*Also check out Oakulture’s Guide to International Women’s Month Events in Oakland and Beyond for more woman-centric events throughout the month of March!

**This version has been updated with additional details from an earlier published version.


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Women Runnin It: Interview with Candi Martinez

In honor of International Women’s Herstory this month, Oakulture premiers “Women Runnin It,” a new interview series featuring women in dynamic positions of cultural leadership. We begin with Oakland female promoters. Usually behind the scenes, these women are the ones bringing your favorite concerts, shows and nights for you to soak in and live the culture of Oakland.  I’m sure many of you have wondered, how do they build community and social arts networks? How do they curate a meaningful event or a club party?

Recently, at a Bahamadia concert at Leo’s produced by Chaney Turner of Social Life Productions, the emcee spoke to the need to be actively engaged in creating inclusive community — a crucial component of a culturally-positive nightlife scene. Important to many of us, particularly women and LGBTQi persons, is the ability to go out at night, share our art, enjoy dancing or conversation and not have to defend our bodies and presence. The promoters who are committed to holding this ground for us and advancing it are bringing female artists, gender fluid and non-ratchet parties, and holding down inclusive, ‘safe’ spaces through curating social arts. They are cultural stewards that we at Oakulture value and support. We think you should too.

***

Candi Martinez of Skin

Candi Martinez of Skin

Our first Q&A interview is with Candi Martinez. As an industry vet of twenty years, Candi has booked for numerous local venues and worked with internationally-known artists including James Brown, The Wailers, Les Nubians, Antibalas, Zap Mama, and Carlos Santana. Currently, Candi is the master dreamer and curator for SKIN World Wide, a dance party dedicated to sharing and celebrating the music, art and tradition of the African and Latin Diasporas. This Oakland-based collective brings unique events like their recent boat parties on the Bay with DJ, dance performances and live drumming. Tomorrow night (Friday the 13th), SKIN brings Osunlade, the legendary “Messiah of Ancestral House Music” of Yoruba Records to an Oakland country club (!), which is sure to be a spiritually-transcendant dance experience.

Oakulture: What values do you bring to club promotion and how do they impact your decision- making?

Candi Martinez: All of my work stems from a genuine joy in bringing people together. The intersections of different musical and performative traditions are defining elements in how we engage in the world. Music can be traditional, ritual, remixed and expressive. I’m inspired by the ways diaspora, urban migration and intercultural fusion speaks to a Bay Area experience. I’m interested in drawing community into a conversation through rhythm and movement, and keeping art integral to social change.

candi martinez oakulture 011Oakulture: What’s exciting to you about Oakland culture right now?

Candi Martinez: Oakland has it’s own flavor because of the many diverse communities that call our city home. We are known for our unapologetic display of creative passion. We are known for community resilience through various forms of art and music. The energy behind sustaining an artistic and culturally vibrant community is crucial in our response to oppression, police brutality, gentrification, displacement and environmental racism.

Oakulture: What relationship is there between your artistic work and your promotional work?

Candi Martinez: It feels very symbiotic. I DJ, dance, teach yoga, and play upright bass. These avocations give me an understanding of what it means to create, to embody a practice, to be disciplined and to collaborate. It’s important to me to build inviting spaces that allow artists to showcase their work and experience a shared narrative in addition to shaking it on the dancefloor.

SambaFunk shakin it at a SKIN party

SambaFunk shakin it at a SKIN party

Oakulture: What approach or strategies do you use for creating and maintaining an inclusive space?

Candi Martinez: My shows come with lots of intentional planning and love. The artists, the space, the location, the outreach all have to align with what I hope to create and offer to the community. Whether it’s safe environments, wheelchair accessible spaces, affordable tickets, promoting emerging artists, creating links between communities and genres or traditional and modern rhythms…when I see a room full of people of different ages, backgrounds, orientations and interests all getting down, I know I’m exactly where I want to be.

“Oakland has it’s own flavor because of the many diverse communities that call our city home. We are known for our unapologetic display of creative passion. We are known for community resilience through various forms of art and music. The energy behind sustaining an artistic and culturally vibrant community is crucial in our response to oppression, police brutality, gentrification, displacement and environmental racism.” — Candi Martinez


Oakulture: What do you wish people knew or understood more about the behind-the-scenes aspect to being a promoter?

Candi Martinez: Doing what you love can be risky business. As an artist, every day is a choice. Every event for an artist is a commitment without the promise beyond doing what they love. Most artists and curators do this because we can’t imagine doing anything else, it’s an experience that makes us feel alive and connected. I’ve never taken any of it for granted.

SKIN's boat parties offer Bay views and plenty of room to dance

SKIN’s boat parties offer Bay views and plenty of room to dance

Oakulture: Role models? Who do you admire artistically and why?

Candi Martinez: I get my kindness and perseverance from my Mom. My commitment to social justice comes from my Father. My fiance holds me accountable to my dreams. Artistically, I’ve admired Frida Kahlo since childhood. I relate to her tenacious spirit and her fight for life. Chinaka Hodge because she is an amazing scholar and kills it in a dance cypher. Angela Davis, Chimamanda Adichie, Sandra Cisneros and Ntozake Shange, for writing toward the change they want to see and for offering a voice and light to follow.

Oakulture: Who are your Oakland heroines?

Candi Martinez: Amy Nabong, Chinaka Hodge, DJ heyLove*, Dr. Shari Hicks, Favianna Rodriguez, KinFolkz, Naima Shalhoub, Nayomi Munaweera, Shadi Rahimi and Zakiya Harris, and if I can throw in a past Oakland resident, Nanci Pili Hernandez.

Oakulture: If you could book anyone, who would it be?

Candi Martinez: I’d like to pair Seu Jorge and Sergio Mendes up with San Francisco’s Bomberas De La Bahia and then get Oakland’s Sistahs of The Drum on stage with the “Fela!” Broadway [cast] and see what happens.

candi martinez oakulture 193

SKIN World Wide’s next show:

Friday, March 13th 8pm
with Osunlade of Yoruba Records
Resident DJs: Cecil and Son of Son
Percussion Line: Jeff Pierre & Soul Mojo
Oakland Songstress Zena & Upright Bassist Gary Johnson
Artisan village with James Gayles, Nikila Badua, All Attractive, Brass, Bone & Honey, and Sankofa Vine.
Complimentary Hor D’Oeuvres
At the unique Sequoyah Country Club with patios, fire pits, cigar bar and Bay views.
Tix $30-35

**Also check out Oakulture’s Guide to International Women’s Month Events in Oakland and Beyond for more woman-centric events throughout the month of March.