Oakulture

Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


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Women Runnin It: Interview with Ramona Webb

“Women Runnin It” features women in dynamic positions of cultural leadership in Oakland. This installment features Ramona Webb, director of the much-anticipated performance “The State of Black Bodies” which runs tonight (May 23). Ramona Webb has had her hands in many pots of cultural stewardship and leadership contributing to the shaping of slam poetry artistic community as well as the Bay Area queer community. We are thrilled to have the chance to converse and learn a little more about Ramona’s approach to theatre in this production committed to uplifting and loving Black truth.

Originally from Baton Rouge, Ramona co-founded and was President of The Baton Rouge Poetry Alliance for seven years before moving to the Bay. She has competed on the National Poetry Slam circuit for fifteen years and is the host, organizer, coach and official Slammaster of San Francisco’s The City Poetry Slam as well as the San Francisco National Poetry Slam Team, which won third in the nation in 2009. This year she will continue to hold it down as a contributing organizer, Slammaster, and event host for National Poetry Slam (returning to Oakland in 2015). Ramona’s community service includes her role as Artistic Director of Lyrical Minded415 and Project ABLE, an art-based learning for equity curriculum implemented in Title I Neglected school sites in the Bay Area. She is also the Executive Director of Eden LGBTQ Youth Foundation, whose mission is “to serve as a community, cultural and funding source for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer youth in the Greater Bay Area through grants, scholarships and initiatives.”

“The State of Black Bodies” stands as the first full-length poetic and artistic stage play by Pr3ssPlay Poets, an all-female poetry, spoken word and production company founded in Oakland by writers Audacious IAM, Chanel Timmons and Shampale. Saturday’s performance will be hosted by Sonya Renee Taylor and feature guest artists Micah Domingo (MC/Producer), Fourfamily Sam Sneak Fletcher (Poet/Performer/Host), and Valerie Troutt’s MoonCandy Ensemble.

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Ramona Webb

Ramona Webb

Oakulture: Please tell us about the screenplay and what is unique about this production.

Ramona Webb: “The State of Black Bodies” is written to engage and encourage the discussion of the current state of affairs in the African American community. The show will explore issues regarding the current state of blackness in America, and will trace the shifting nature of blackness throughout history. It will explore the intersections of the “black body” as a target, and as triumph, the conditioning of black male, female, and queer bodies in service of white supremacy, and the collective desire to be freed from its talons.

This performance feels like a staged canvas of brilliant colorful stories born through authenticity and hope.

Oakulture: “The State of Black Bodies” is named for the annual presidential address, The State of the Union. Why do Black Bodies matter and how are they related with our nation’s progress report?

Ramona Webb: Black Bodies matter in our current state of social justice affairs as we watch the gross mistreatment of African American’s spackled across the news as headliners and measurements of our value.

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Oakulture: You have had and continue to play a strong role in facilitating poetry community through national poetry slams, including SF’s poetry slam team and working with youth in the school districts, your new role as Executive Director of the Eden Foundation committed to supporting the queer community in the Bay Area, as well as event production and conducting women-centered scholarship. How does any or all of this feed into your decisions and approach as Director of this production?

Ramona Webb: My art informs my work and my work is steeped in the experiences of community collaboration, artistry and engagement. I pull from the metronome my life experience provides to fuel my passion for the great art that reflects authentic depictions of the minority experience. As a poet I understand the burning need to communicate a vision through the lens of performance. I enjoy engaging the work of performance artists and encouraging them to grow their aesthetic and curate the voice of their work with intention. As a director, I feel that the foundation of encouragement, love, artistry, support, affirmation, honesty and disciplined action that is built by a NPS (National Poetry Slam) Team coach is also required of a director encouraging the life of a new scripted theater piece. As a conservatory trained artist I personally enjoy the layering of various art forms and avenues of artistic expression. This particular show speaks to the heart of my personal investment in a just and sustainable world, which makes my investment in the work cellular.

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Oakulture: What is the connection between sacred ritual space and the space you create in the theater or at a poetry slam? How does that translate in this production?

Ramona Webb: The creation of sacred space for me speaks to my investment in honoring the art and the platform that is prepared to hold it.

Oakulture: Rather than a traditional play in which the actors are acting out characters, the performers in this production are a collective of spoken word poets. How does that make for a different theatre experience?

Ramona Webb: The experience of this performance in the context of poetry allows us to expand our vision of metaphors being rooted on stage. When poetry takes the stage in theater work we are allowed to breath new life into the language of expression on stage.

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Oakulture: As the #BlackLivesMatter movement evolves with each day, how has this affected both the production of the play and the experience for the actors, stage crew and yourself if at all?

Ramona Webb: We continue to hold the work’s mission at the forefront and expand our vision of what needs to be reinforced in the story of black communities.

Oakulture: Though often in the media the #BlackLivesMatter movement is framed as focusing on black men, three queer women of color from the Bay were at the start of this movement, as are the primary players in this production. Why is it important that we hear queer women of color’s perspectives on race and politics right now?

Ramona Webb: Often the voices of queer women of color are excluded, devalued or unheard. At this time it is especially important to expose our community to a vision of us that is honest, courageous, inclusive and recognized as necessary. We hold a stake in the conversations about race, gender and politics as well.

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Oakulture:
What is exciting to you
about Oakland’s culture
right now?
Any current collaborations
or projects you are particularly
interested in?

Ramona Webb:
The National Poetry Slam 2015
is coming back to Oakland
for another amazing week long festival
and competition with workshops and activities
for youth and adults you don’t want to miss it.

 

 

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“The State of Black Bodies”
Saturday, May 23rd, 2015
8pm
Tix $12
La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley

Follow Pr3ssPlay Poets & Productions:
FB: www.facebook.com/pr3ssplay poets & productions

Get to know the women previously highlighted in the series, including Candi Martinez, Chaney Turner, Nina Menendez, Gina Madrid aka Raw-G, DJ Zita and the Soulovely crew Lady Ryan, Aima the Dreamer and DJ EMancipacion.

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Oakulture’s Guide to International Women’s Month Events in Oakland and Beyond

March has become known as international women’s month dating back to 1909, when organizers in New York initiated International Working Women’s Day on March 8th to honor striking garment workers. Now, around the world, events happen throughout March committed to honoring, loving and inspiring women’s lives. In Oakland, the herstory of women’s cultural activism includes Chinese-American suffragettes’ work in the early 20th century, the Gay Women’s Liberation and Black Power movements of the late 60s, all the way up to #BlackLivesMatter today. Now, every March brings many opportunities to revel in a wealth of informative, educational, and/or dynamic events celebrating international women’s impact, and the many incredible women we all live amongst every day, who have birthed the very fiber of our culture.

In Oakulture, those threads include hip-hop, artivism, solidarity, love, Bomba, ritual, #pussypower, truth-speaking and women singing, dancing, speaking and listening to each other — covering a wide range of ethnic/cultural diversity and artistic mediums, from visual art to spoken word to dance to music to film and more.  With that said, we present our guide to woman-centric events happening this March. Be a part of the culture you want to live in and join “El Mes de La Mujer” (The Month of Women).

*We will be making additions to this calendar regularly throughout the month of March. Follow Oakulture on WordPress.com and Like Us on Facebook to keep up. More events and information will be posted as it is available.


March 6th
Bites & Beats: A Celebration of Women in Hip Hop
Youth Radio’s Remix Your Life presents a special Bites & Beats celebration with a panel of women hip-hop artists/journalists, youth advocates, poets, authors, producers including MADlines, Coco Peila, Dom Jones, Rocky Rivera, Hazel Rose, Jazz Monique Hudson and Talia Taylor. “This panel allows community members to be part of a special artist-to-artist conversation, and an opportunity to witness and receive knowledge from a powerhouse of women who have and still are greatly contributing to the arts and society.” Youth performance showcase of artists follows at 7pm. Free Admission. 5:30pm, Youth Radio, 1701 Broadway, Oakland.

Coco Peila (r.) is featured at Youth Radio's "Remix Your Life" showcase

Coco Peila (r.) is featured at Youth Radio’s “Remix Your Life” showcase

March 6th
First Friday Featuring Three Women-Fronted Bands
Oaktown Indie Mayhem presents a First Friday show with three women-fronted bands: Meerna, Kelly McFarling and La Dee Da. Free Admission. All ages. 8pm, Awaken Cafe, 1429 Broadway, Oakland. 

March 6th
Friday Night Kick-Off for the 30th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference
This year’s Empowering Women of Color Conference, “No Better Time Than Now: Transnational Resistance, Solidarity & Love” starts off with a Kick-Off Concert featuring Stephanie Yun, Ruth Kelly, Milani, Turtle Women Rising, DJ Agana, Joy Elan, Aurora Masum-Javed, Ruzove Sny, Amani, Ka’ra Kersey and Pluma Sumaq. Confirmed keynote speakers for the conference on Saturday are Favianna Rodriguez, CeCe McDonald and Corrina Gould. Free Admission & First Round of Drinks, 7-8:30pm, La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.

EWOCC

March 6th & Ongoing
Black Women Artists On Art
Black Artists On Art’s The Legacy Exhibit reconfigures and refocuses for the latter part of their exhibit with “Black Women Artists On Art.” The main gallery features new and previously-exhibiting work by Sydney “Sage” Cain, Tasin Sabir, Virginia Jourdan, and others. 6-10pm. Oakstop, 1721 Broadway, Oakland.

March 6th & Ongoing
Oakland Through Our Lens
Betti Ono Gallery along with Michelle Ternus, Melonie and Melorra Green co-curate an Oakland International Women’s Day month-long exhibit, “Oakland Through Our Lens,” featuring photographs of life in Oakland taken by women of color, queer women and first time photographers. Opening night performance includes Valerie Troutt, Pr3ssplay Poets & Productions and The Singing Bois. Exhibiting artists include Amber Avalos, Andrea Barros, Cicely Day, Caity Fares, Angela Fernandez, Kristen Flury, Jay Gash, Angelica Gutierrez-Cruz, Idris Hassan, Melinda James, Diana Kampa, Morgan Parrick, Alejandra Perez, Rachel Perez, Sandra Ramirez, Julissa Rodriguez, Charise Sowells, Fran Ternus, Sunshine Velasco, and Karis Wallace. 6pm. Betti Ono Gallery, 1427 Broadway, Oakland.

Photo by Amber Avalos. Courtesy of Betti Ono Gallery.

Photo by Amber Avalos. Courtesy of Betti Ono Gallery.


March 6th & Ongoing

Rebirth: New Land, New Life, New People
Gallery owner and local art pioneer Joyce Gordon presents “Rebirth: New Land, New Life New People. Capturing the San Francisco Bay Area and its Diversity.” This exhibit features works by artist Nina Fabunmi, whose artist statement reads, “As an African Ambassador, art is my language and as you appreciate the work of my hands, you become a part of it.” Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland.

March 7th
Sift & Uplift
Nicia de Lovely presents Sift & Uplift, an international women’s day celebration and fundraiser honoring the mighty spirit of woman. Featured artists include Jacalyn Evone, Carla S. Dancer, LeDre Entertains, Ike the Performer, Prettymuggin Illustrations, Black Hippie Boutique and guest of honor Dr. Ellen Foster-Randle, classical opera singer and African-American scholar. The night will bring poetry, choreography, singing, praising, fashion, stories of glory and includes food and a champagne toast. Contact niciadelovely@gmail.com. Tix $15, 3-6pm, Imagine Affairs Art Lounge, 408 14th St, Oakland.

Carla S. Dancer, featured at the Sift & Uplift International Women’s Day Celebration

Carla S. Dancer, featured at the Sift & Uplift International Women’s Day Celebration

March 7th
“Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth”
IHO Women’s Film Forum screens “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” with an in-person Q&A with director Pratibha Parmer. The feature documentary film focuses on the internationally-famous womanist writer and “Color of Purple” author, with appearances from Yoko Ono, Quincy Jones, Steven Spielberg and Danny Glover. 7-10pm. Tix $10-12. Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway.

March 8th
105th International Working Women’s Day March & Celebration
This year’s International Women’s Day march theme is “Uphold the Legacy & Power of Women’s Resistance Here and Abroad!” and it culminates at 1:30pm with a celebration for women’s strength & resistance. Contact: gabrielawomen@gmail.com. 12-3pm. Lake Merritt Amphitheater (12th st. & 1st ave.), Oakland.

March 8th
Dia Internacional de La Mujer Concierto 
La Pena Cultural Center presents an International Women’s Day Concert musical collaboration with Las Alma’s, Yeye Suarez, and the Mujeres Taller Bomba y Plena. All music written and performed by women. Come live the values and knowledge of International Women’s Day in this community concert. Family event. 5:30pm, Tix $12, La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.

International Women's Day Celebration at La Pena

Mar 8th
Community Paint Day for “Her Resilience: A Mural For Women Affected By Violence”
Her Resilience” is a mural to honor, celebrate, and commemorate the lives of women affected by violence in Oakland. In April 2014, a young woman named Kimberly Robertson, new to Oakland, was the victim of violence and left dead in a local park. In response to this, an artivist collective of several women have initiated a community mural “Her Resilience” in a nearby park to honor and claim space and now invite the community to help complete the painting of the mural. A paint by numbers template allows for the community painting and the paint and brush supplies are provided. Contact: herresilience@gmail.com. 11am-5pm, Park Community Garden, Corner of Park & Cleveland, Oakland.

March 9th
“A Place of Rage,” “Angela: An Icon Reflects,” & “June Jordan: Wrong Is Not My Name”
IHO Women’s Film Forum screens works by director Pratibha Parmar and in-person Q&A.“A Place of Rage” looks at and celebrates African American women and their achievements through interviews with Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice Walker. Also screening are Parmar’s films “Angela: An Icon Reflects” and “June Jordan: Wrong Is Not My Name.” Tix $10-$12. 7-10pm, Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway. 

Alice Walker (l.) with filmmaker Pratibha Parmar (r.)

Alice Walker (l.) with filmmaker Pratibha Parmar (r.)

March 12th
Woman Song – Girl Power!
Highly-respected Oakland non-profit MISSSEY presents “Woman Song-Girl Power!” celebrating the freedom of women and youth from exploitation and trafficking. Catherine Wanjohi, founder and director of Life Bloom Services International of Kenya, and Falilah Bilal, executive director of MISSSEY, will share stories of inspiration and heartache, victories and challenges such as Project H.O.N.E.Y (see video below). Betsy Rose and other Bay Area performers will lead in raising our voices in song and finding a deeper connection to women and youth at risk. Light refreshments. 6-8pm. Contact: 510-251-2070, MISSSEY Offices, 436 14th St, Ste. #150, Oakland.


March 14th

Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase
Chaney Turner and Social Life Productions bring you “Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase” featuring MC MADlines with DJs AGANA, Lady Ryan & Thatgirl and hosted by Mona Webb. With live art, dancers and vendors this is sure to be the women’s hip-hop throw down that you really want and need. Free Admission before 10:30pm/$10 After, 9pm-2am, Berkeley Underground, 2284 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley.

DJ Agana performs at "Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase"

DJ Agana performs at “Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase”


March 14th
The Benefit of Words
Marcus Books presents ‘The Benefit of Words,’ an intergenerational performance experience fundraiser. Packed with an incredible powerhouse line-up including many women such as Ryan Nicole, Jennifer Johns, Chinaka Hodge, YGB, Youth Speaks and many more artists this night is dedicated to celebrating and empowering the next generation. “Marcus Books is where I learned to read and now I teach upwards of 40,000 young people how to use their words everyday,” says Chinaka Hodge. Family friendly, Tix $20 online/$25 at door, 7pm,  Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, 401 14th Street, Oakland.

March 14th
Respect Where You Come From
Local favorite radical shoe store and art gallery SoleSpace hosts an artist talk with Oakland artivist Favianna Rodriguez on her recent works and exhibition “Respect Where You Come From” focusing on sexuality, feminism, #pussypower, climate change and human rights. Free Admission but only 50 seats, Doors at 6:45pm, SoleSpace, 1714 Telegraph Ave, Oakland.

Artivist Favianna Rodriguez

Artivist Favianna Rodriguez

March 14th-15th
Cold Piece of Werk
Written, directed and produced by an accomplished champion of women’s voices, Tracie Collins, “Cold Piece of Werk” is a stage play about a seventeen year old girl named Midnight caught in the sex trafficking epidemic of East Oakland. While her father is the pastor of the largest church in Oakland, the play asks how she ended up on the streets and how will she get out? Tix $25, 3pm and 7pm, *Doors close 10 minutes after show begins, Kaiser Center Lakeside Theater, 300 Lakeside Dr and 20th St, 2nd Floor, Oakland.


March 19th

“Free”
The much-anticipated Oakland premiere of “Free” screens the award-winning documentary about Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company and their use of art “to transform violence, poverty and isolation.” This beloved local dance/theater company for youth, well-known for their high quality performances and pioneering youth empowerment programs, Destiny Arts gets its shine as the documentary follows the intimate stories of five teenagers in the program.  Academy Award-nominated director Suzanne La Fetra and David Collier will be in conversation as well as project members. The screening also features a live performance by Destiny Arts. Tix $7. 7pm, Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave, Oakland.

Mar 21st
Her Resilience Part I: Mural Unveiling & Ceremony
The Her Resilience collective of female artivists will unveil their new community mural for women affected by violence in Oakland with ceremony, community dialogues on safety and resiliency, healing circles for all genders, a kid zone and child care. Coffee, drinks, and donuts sponsored by Mamacitas Cafe. Contact: herresilience@gmail.com. 11am-3pm. Park Community Garden, Corner of Park and Cleveland, Oakland.

Her Resilience

March 27th
Empress Unification
The musical collective of female artists, Empress Unification, is committed to joining their forces to promote and support positive woman-centric reggae and world music artists and using their clout to financially support women’s charities. Empress Unification is a collaboration between Irae Divine, Razteria, Sol Atash and Kimiko Joy singing in english, farsi, french, hebrew, spanish and portuguese. Backed up by the Fyah Squad band, the Empress show will also bring in special guest Sister Molly Rose and others. The night is hosted by Sweet-T and this show will kick off their tour, “Strength in Unity.” All ages. Tix $10-15. 8:30pm, Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley.

March 27th
A Leaf of Voices: Plant Myth and Lore in the African Diaspora with Luisah Teish
The Ohlone Herbal Center presents “A Leaf of Voices: Plant Myth and Lore in the African Diaspora” with author, storyteller, ritualist and elder in the Ifa/Orisha tradition of the African diaspora, Luisah Teish. This event features a lecture on medicine systems of the world lecture and hands-on workshop series on “how herbalism fits into the dynamic practices of these community leaders.” Teish’s recent book, co-authored with local Kahuna Leilani Birely, is titled “On Holy Ground: Commitment and Devotion to Sacred Land.” Tix $10-25, 7-8:30pm, The Ohlone Herbal Center, 1250 Addison, Berkeley.


March 28th

Out of Control
The Lower Bottom Playaz present a staged reading of “Out of Control.” Written by Opal Palmer Adisa and directed by Lower Bottom Playaz‘s own Ayodele Nzinga, this performance focuses on domestic violence when they say ‘Love Ain’t Supposed to Hurt . . .’ For more information and partners interested in a full production contact: wordslanger@gmail.com. Tix $5 suggested donation, 7pm, Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd., Oakland.

March 28th
Pecha Kucha Night Oakland
Pecha Kucha Night (PKN) is an event focused on speed inspiration and community. Invited presenters are allowed 20 powerpoint slides with 20 seconds of narration per slide. Oakland PKN presents a special International Women’s Month edition with an all-woman line-up including architects, artists, chefs, curators, designers, entrepreneurs, fabricators, fashionistas, historians and scientists: Anyka Barber, Miranda Bergman, Melonie & Melorra Green, Navina Khanna, Ebony McKinney, Dr. Gail Myers, Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl with DJLN on the turntables. Doors at 7pm, Tix $10, SoleSpace, 1714 Telegraph Ave., Oakland.