Oakulture

Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


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The Unveiling of “Her Resilience”

"Her Resilience"

“Her Resilience”

April 5, 2014 was the first time I’d heard about Kimberly Robertson. Her lifeless body was found early that morning beaten, raped and left for dead in F.M. Smith Park, just two blocks from my house. Initial media reports said she had moved to Oakland six months prior from Texas with her three year old daughter and was last seen around the corner the night before. Later it was reported that she had been waiting for a bus when a man, known to be a vendor of clothes at local farmers markets, picked her up in his SUV where the assault occurred. I kept imagining her brutalized body lying in the park. Thinking about how she was a newcomer to our town, twenty-three years old and here to make a life for herself.

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Pat Parker was another young Black woman who came to the Bay Area from Texas. From the late 60s through the 80s, she became an important revolutionary poet in the Gay Women’s Liberation, Women’s Press Collective and Black Power movements of Oakland. Her influential 1978 poem, “Womanslaughter,” described the murder of her sister as she was leaving an abusive marriage – a particularly dangerous time for anyone trying to end a domestic violence situation – and the immunity from prosecution that the ex-husband received for, Parker wrote, being “a quiet Black man” who “works well’ and “only killed his wife.”

Parker ends the poem resolutely:

          “Hear me now, it has been three years and I am again strong.
          I have gained many sisters and if one is beaten or raped or killed
          I will not come in mourning black.
          I will not bring the right flowers . . .
          I will come to my sisters not dutiful. I will come strong.


Hazel Streete is another Oakland woman who lives only a couple blocks from where Kimberly Robertson’s body was found. In response to yet another heartbreaking womanslaughter, Hazel began speaking to others and looking for a way to respond. She initiated the “Her Resilience” project and invited others to join her vision. They wanted to paint a mural in the park where Kimberly’s body was found, yet it became clear that the city’s restrictions would not allow it, due to the park’s historic landmark status. So they moved the home base of the project to Park Community Garden, the terraced garden maintained by neighborhood volunteers located about five blocks up Park Street. On Saturday March 21, 2015, almost a year after Robertson’s death, the mural was unveiled.

“Her Resilience” is an arts-based and woman-centered inquiry project centered around addressing violence against women in our community. The amount of violence that women experience both on the streets and in our homes leaves very few who don’t have a direct or indirect relationship with this struggle, yet the silence and separation from each other’s struggles contributes to a feeling of powerlessness. Through curating public imagery of women’s struggles and survival, “Her Resilience” highlights the ability of art and ritual to express and transform. Engaging the community through an open call, “Her Resilience” reached out to female-identified artists, survivors, family members and volunteers who wanted to contribute to this project.

"Greshanda" by Magick

“Greshanda” by Magick

Central to the vision of the project is its community outreach coordinator, Gabrielle Rae Travis, who gathered images and stories from families and loved ones of women lost to violence. Some of these stories were related to the artists who then sought to pay honor and witness these women through their art. Other artists addressed the history of violence within their own families.

Sixteen-year old Greshanda, who was killed by a stray bullet, is depicted twice on the wall by two different artists, insistent upon being seen. In her artist statement, one contributor, Magick, asks “What is one to do with these painful and traumatic memories that become stored inside with nowhere to go?” Another contributor, Shana La Reina, reflected on her own artistic process in her artist statement. “Addressing the cycle of violence against the women in Oakland has encouraged me to process what got broken in my own family. To create an active prayer for the five generations of women who have come up. For the ghosts that remain and for the lives that are both vibrant and vulnerable in this wounded town.”

Phase one of the “Her Resilience” public art installation (additional phases are planned) saw twelve individual panels hung on the outside walls of the community garden as well as a large central piece designed by lead artist Nicole Gervacio which was completed at a Community Paint Day, held on March 8th. The twelve artists include Melody Shaiken, Kira Marriner, Shana La Reina, Joanne Ludwig, April Lelia, Adee Roberson, Ines Ixierda, Kindah Khalidy, Angelica Padmavati, Summer “Solstiz,” Kate Klingbeil, “Magick” Monica Santos and Nicole Gervacio. These powerful works of art now hold a strong presence on Park Street as witness, storyteller, and guardians of resilience.

"Her Resilience" on Park Street

“Her Resilience” on Park Street

The day of unveiling was initiated with an opening ceremony by Calpulli Huey Papalotl, an indigenous dance group led by Maestra Pati Juarez. Ceremonial and ritual dances known as Danza Azteca called out the name of Tonantzin, mother earth Goddess of this land, over and over again. It was a prayer and an opening, a sacralizing of the ground and a call to this deity of sustenance for support of women warriors. After burning sage inside the garden and on the street, and honoring the four directions, Calpulli Huey Papalotl danced to honor our ancestors, and for Tonantzin, as well as a dance to plant the corn —  jumping and leaning in low, to nourish the new seeds of what will grow.


Throughout the day, a wide diversity of people came to the community garden, including families, loved ones and community members, who continued to arrive into the late afternoon. Organizers facilitated open dialogues about gender violence, and BAWAR was present to provide counseling. Mamacita’s Cafe–a youth-run economic development project for young women of color– provided fresh donuts and coffee, while Tamales la Qaxaqueña — another woman-run business– offered fresh traditional Mexican fare. It was quite appropriate on this day of birthing the mural project that bathroom facilities were offered by the Bay Area Midwifery Center across the street.

The mural unveiling itself was a testament to women’s memory and to the powerful energy created when women speak up and come together. In her artist statement, Angelica Padmavati spoke to the experience of the day: “this poem reflects on how it feels to be in the women’s skin and go through a transformation into freedom.”

Padmavati, who mixed her son’s ashes with her paint in order to bring forth his presence, said in the poem which she’d written on her mural panel, “my children and i ride the cloud in the sky and we are eternally bonded in the power of love.”

The heartless murder-rape of Kimberly Robertson– whose alleged assailant has been arrested, but not yet tried– motivated a collective reaction from women artivists which could have long-term impact. Thousands of cars a day pass by the Park St. garden on their way to the 580 freeway. They will see the mural panels and perhaps wonder how they came into existence, why has this beautiful art been created, what is the message being put forth?

More than a memorial, “Her Resilience” speaks to the need for public art created by and focused on the lives of women of color — an important consideration for the project’s organizers. Much like the freedom fighters revered on many of Oakland’s murals, the fight against violence towards women must be fed by public recognition, support and an honoring of women’s courage and leadership. “Her Resilience” is a meaningful step in that direction.

Untitled by Adee Roberson and Ines Ixierda

Untitled by Adee Roberson and Ines Ixierda

Visit “Her Resilience” on their FB page at: https://www.facebook.com/herresilience


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KRS – One Brings Boom Bap to Yoshis

Live review/ KRS-One, March 22, Yoshis.

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Blastmaster KRS, a synonym for fresh

Hip-hop legend KRS-One should have a spot in any purist’s Top Ten list of greatest emcees. In the list of greatest emcees at live performance, the “Blastmaster” is probably a Top 5 finisher. His greatest weaknesses offstage—bluster, arrogance, and an ego which probably gets its own seat on airplanes—are indeed his greatest strengths when the mic’s in his hand.

How many other almost-50-year-old hip-hoppers could rock a jazz-identified venue with just a DJ for over an hour and one half and make it seem like an event?

And how many artists could effortlessly rip off string after string of classic hits, peppering them with lesser known yet slept-on material, while keeping the intensity level high, throughout?

Because it was a KRS-One show, Sunday night’s live performance at Yoshi’s—his first time at the Oakland location—also included, gratis, a long section where KRS engaged the audience with an a cappella monologue like a motivational speaker. That was the “edu-“ part of “edutainment,” the term KRS coined during the Afrocentric 90s to describe his style. There was plenty of “–tainment,” however, especially in the last 20 minutes of the set, when a flurry of greatest hits had grey-haired 40 somethings reliving the glory days of their hip-hop youth, reciting lyrics along with the Blastmaster.

Mar 22 2015 093KRS’ accomplishments are many, as are his contradictions.  The leading force behind the Stop the Violence movement, which called attention to Black on Black crime, he committed a major PR blunder by opening up a can of whoop-ass on PM Dawn’s Prince Be – which Afrocentric rap, once a legit commercial force and cultural tastemaker, never quite recovered from. He once opened up for Nelson Mandela and crossed over to MTV via R.E.M., and may have been the first Bronx emcee to work the college and lecture circuit – despite being a vocal critic of academia. He decried the corporate commodification of rap, but once made a Nike commercial.

In more recent years, KRS has battled scholarly types over whether hip-hop is a religion and put out an uneven smattering of releases, as the boom bap style of hip-hop he championed has been almost completely overshadowed by simplistic and/or nihilistic rap — seemingly as unconnected to the genre’s late 80s-early 90s golden age as inner-city African Americans are to the history of African kingdoms like Kush and Nubia.

But his legacy should include the right to say “I told you so.” KRS was right to address such topics as the correlation between the dirty money of the drug economy and the wave of violence in the streets of America’s urban cities on tracks like “Love’s Gonna Get Ya” and “Illegal Business.” He outlined the dichotomy between culture and commodity in “Hip-Hop vs. Rap.” He stressed the value of black self-education in songs like “You Must Learn.” He examined the correlation of animal rights and diet on “Beef.” And he unwrapped police brutality and the historical role of the slave overseer in “Sound of Da Police” – a song which, in the wake of current events, has recently become an anthem for Oakland youth a cappella singing group YGB.

Through it all, one thing has remained certain: KRS is hip-hop incarnate; when he’s in the building, so is hip-hop—the real hip-hop, not the culturally-appropriated version. That was very much the case Sunday night, as KRS—wearing a hand-painted shirt with his emcee name under a plain black hoodie—turned Yoshis’ swank environment into a temple of boom bap.

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Hearing “Sound of Da Police” live was worth the price of admission alone. He followed that with his breakthrough single/history lesson  “South Bronx”—a minor hit at the time which has become an endearing classic: way back in the day when hip-hop began/ with Coke La Rock, Kool Herc and then Bam/ b-boys ran to the latest jams. The hits kept coming: “(Who Am I?) The MC,” “(Step Into a World) Rapture’s Delight,” as did lots of ad-libbing and freestyling; on several occasions, KRS directly addressed a random audience member and made an impromptu rhyme about them – creating an instant hip-hop memory.

Having warmed up the audience, he then switched into lecture mode, dropping a flurry of sound bites:

“This is KRS, not a bullshit rapper on stage.”

“It’s not Egypt, it’s Kush.”

“Don’t expect rappers to be responsible for what comes out of their mouths because they got no soul.”

“The government you’re angry with is you”

“Nothing in the US Constitution says you deserve education.”

“No one guarantees you knowledge, and if you don’t have it, you’re a slave.”

“I don’t attract bullshit people to me, because I love you all.”

“I can’t police the culture.”

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Love it or hate it, it was vintage KRS. He prefaced a new song, “Enter the Boom Bap,” by remarking on the endearing popularity of 90s hip-hop (of which the sold-out crowd was a testament to). He showed his solidarity for immigration issues on another recent song, “The Invaders,” which continues his almost 30-year tradition of fusing hip-hop lyrics with reggae beats.

He juxtaposed the Criminal Minded oldie “9mm Goes Bang” with 2013’s more emphatically anti-gun answer track, “Nina.” He rapped over the melody from Pachelbel’s Canon.  And he sandwiched the Return of the Boom Bap track “Higher Level” around a track exploring America’s failed drug policy (“they declared a war on drugs but drugs won”) and another oldie, “A Friend,” whose looping strings make it one of the most emo hardcore hip-hop songs ever.

KRS entered the home stretch with a speed round incorporating “My Philosophy,” “The Bridge is Over,” “Hip Hop vs. Rap,” “Love’s Gonna Get Ya,” “Jimmy,” and “Mad Izm,” all of which had the audience verbalizing and fist-pumping along with the Blastmaster. The finish line sprint saw Oakland’s Jahi take the stage for yet another freestyle session, before the crowd exited into the night with a renewed appreciation for KRS’ artistry, his longevity, and his gumption.

Jahi and KRS

Jahi and KRS

Well-played, Blastmaster.


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Kev Choice: Love and Revolution (album review)

Kev Choice

Revolutionary: Kev Choice

Everyone’s talking about how K.Dot (Kendrick Lamar, for the unhip) just reinvented the hip-hop wheel with his new album, which drops the same day (today) as Kev Choice’s latest, Love and Revolution. It says here, however, that an equal amount of praise is due to the Oakland pianist/bandleader/composer/emcee, whose third full-length album is destined to be a classic, although it’s doubtful Choice will be trending on FB or sell platinum units.

Choice comes through with a solid effort which is topical, relevant, conscious, highly musical, adventurous, fearless, groovy, intelligent, mature and community-oriented (maybe even family-friendly, if your family enjoys shutting down 580 as much as BBQing at the Lake). While K.Dot can afford to enlist the services of pianist Robert Glasper, it’s worth mentioning Choice can play any note on the piano Glasper can play. No, there’s no gimmicky dialogue with a dead rapper to get tongues wagging, but Choice is far from a lyrical slouch. His musical skills were already beyond reproach—he holds a masters degree in jazz, is a bonafied classical pianist, and digs deep into funk and R&B—but it took him awhile to hone his rapping technique to perfection.

On earlier efforts, like the single “Definition of a Star,” Choice seemed to be aiming for KMEL airplay which never came, while holding back his musical gifts. But last year’s excellent Oakland Rivera broke that mold with forward-thinking tracks which raised the bar for hip-hop musicianship. Oakland Rivera also hinted at the lyrical butterfly Choice was cocooning into, particularly on the Gil Scott Heron-esque “Crazy Illusion,” which eschewed me-first braggadocio for poignant sociopolitical observations on gentrification and the changing nature of Oakland, and the hooky yet substantive “That Life” (recently treated to a club-melting remix by DJ D-Sharp).

With Love and Revolution, Choice doubles down on the conscious content, using today’s murky racial politics and growing community response to perceived systemic injustice as inspirational fodder for some ridiculous lyrical fusillades, which sounded unbelievable a couple of months back, when he debuted the album one memorable night at Yoshis. He might not be as quotable as Kendrick, but he’s not all that far behind.

It’s a testament to how well Choice has developed its themes that Love and Revolution feels like a concept album at times. Instead of tracks just slapped together willy-nilly, we get an honest-to-God song cycle, something which has been increasingly rare since the advent of the compact disc.

Choice’s “Revolution” refers to flashpoints like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin, which have resonated nationwide, resulting in DOJ investigations and counter-resistant viral movements like #BlackLivesMatter. However resonant the response to Ferguson, the fire this time really began with Oscar Grant five years ago. Given that context, it’s only natural for Choice to address those topics, in an extremely Oakland kind of way. How Oakland is the album? There are instrumentals named “Oscar’s Revenge” and “Blues for (Alan) Blueford.”  Most of Choice’s supporting cast is local; there are zero throwaway cameo tracks featuring big-name artists for the sake of featuring big-name artists. But rather than a minus, that becomes a plus, allowing Choice to concentrate on substance, not superficiality. The result is a sense of cohesiveness and collaboration missing from many of today’s celebrity-studded albums – Love and Revolution is perhaps best described as a family affair which furthers Choice’s individual musical vision.

Jennifer Johns, Antique, and Kev Choice

Movement Music: Jennifer Johns, Antique, and Kev Choice

Content-wise, Love and Revolution is arguably a “street” album, albeit an extremely jazzy, soulful and progressive one which imparts its messages without being overly ghetto  — one hopes it will be played in the ‘hood as well as at non-profit organizing rallies. But while protests, marches and rallies have informed Love and Revolution’s content, the album’s righteous indignation—anger might be too strong a word for it—is well-tempered by a drive for innovation, creative juice-tapping, and a need to create beauty, even in an uncertain, unfair world. Choice is mature enough to realize that revolutionary militancy must be balanced by passionate love, and smart enough to figure out the two together are unstoppable.

It’s a testament to how well Choice has developed its themes that Love and Revolution feels like a concept album at times. Instead of tracks just slapped together willy-nilly, we get an honest-to-God song cycle, something which has been increasingly rare since the advent of the compact disc. Well-placed instrumental interludes help to pace the album without bogging it down, giving the vocal-heavy tracks “Room to Breathe” – to paraphrase the title of one of the interludes.

kev choice love and revolution rr 058

The album opener, “Feel the Love” (featuring Viveca Hawkins) bookends the track it segues into, “Gone Too Far,” setting up the love/revolution dichotomy which underscores the remainder of the disc. The combination of Choice and Hawkins is a potent one; a simple piano riff anchors the song, which swerves between soaring neo-soul expressions, down-to earth lines (“As long as justice escapes us, we live for the struggle/we keep holding on”), and a near-symphonic arrangement complete with crashing cymbals. Sampled TV news soundbites introduce an element of tense realism on “Gone Too Far,” which finds Choice commenting on police brutality and community protests “from Oakland to Ferguson, New York to Palestine” over a guitar-driven melody. “Fist up, hands up, stand up,” Choice repeats, adding, “we ain’t gon’ take it no more.”

Choice’s outrage is channeled into a jazz-fusion eulogy on the aforementioned “Oscar’s Revenge,” which sandwiches the energy-lifting “So High” (featuring Netta Brielle) around another instrumental, “Compatible,” which in turn segues into the single “My Cause” – whose lyrics fuse the love/revolution dichotomy into a single purpose (“ride for you like you was my cause”).

Lyric heads get treated to a showcase of verbal dexterity on “Noose”, which continues the social commentary and includes a blistering verse by Locksmith, as well as the super-duper soul vocals of C Holiday. A sampled monologue from the sci-fi classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still” goes on a bit too long – one of Choice’s few missteps – before giving way to “Another World,” which features HNRL’s Trackademicks and 1-O.A.K. (who supplies the mind-elevating hook, “when it all sets on fire/ for tonight brings truth to the light”).

1-O.A.K.

1-O.A.K. brings truth to the light

Perhaps the album’s best song, though, is “Movement Music,” another posse cut which showcases some of Oakland’s finest talents: Jennifer Johns, Ryan Nicole, Antique, K.E.V., and Aisha Fukushima. The uptempo pace goes well with the song’s lyrical themes of rhythmic uprising. Each guest slays when it’s their turn, while Choice takes a swipe at commercial radio: “they say we’re not hot in the streets/ but every time I’m there, you are not in the streets.”  Ouch. An exclamation point is added on the following track, “Young Oakland Interlude,” which literally features the voices of the next generation, chanting “jobs, peace and justice, if we want the dream, it’s up to us.”

After another instrumental, “Meet Me At The March,” Choice returns with “Daddy,” a heartfelt dedication to his daughter, Anya, which solidifies the “love” theme. The album closes with the melancholy solo piano track “Ballad for Blueford,” whose sad notes spotlight Choice’s composing skills.

When it’s all said and done, Love and Revolution accomplishes what every album’s objective should be: to be a soundtrack for our lives. Undoubtedly contemporary, there’s nothing especially trendy or faddish on the entire disc, which means it will remain relevant, as long as its themes continue to resonate. And while this album loudly screams “Oakland,” it’s worldly, sophisticated and nuanced enough to escape the trap of regional limitations – providing one has a chance to hear it.

Love and Revolution is available for digital download here.


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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.

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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.


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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.


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Oakland Mardi Gras Celebration [Photoset]

 

mardi gras parade and katdelic 275

Live Music Review/ Oakland Mardi Gras Celebration, Feb. 17, New Parish.

The tradition of Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is one of New Orleans’ most enduring. But it’s also taken up residence in the Bay Area, as evidenced by Mardi Gras parades and celebration concerts on both sides of the Bay Bridge last week. Both parades were curated by the Parish Entertainment Group, owners of the New Parish and Leo’s in Oakland, and Brick and Mortar and Place Pigalle in San Francisco. The Oakland parade featured a Grand Marshal, several brass bands, and dozens of costumed revelers with the signature colored beads which are a symbol of Mardi Gras. Oakland isn’t a city which misses many chances for dancing in the streets, and who doesn’t love a good second line?  While local Mardi Gras festivities can’t rival New Orleans’, they still offer an opportunity to bring out one’s inner spirit of joyous revelry, as well as make the OAK-NOLA bond even tighter.

The parade began in front of Awaken Café at 15th and Broadway, and slowly marched its way down to San Pablo, in front of the New Parish, where it became a full-fledged street party. The celebration continued on into the night, as the party moved indoors to the New Parish. There, two brass bands continued to horn in on the groove, setting the stage for headliner Katdelic, a funk-rock outfit in the P-Funk mold. After all that brass, the change of musical style sounded refreshing, and frontman Ronkat was on a mission to funk up the venue (which proved successful). Ronkat showed his groovalliegance to the funk with a killer set, including a rendition of Parliament’s “Funkentelechy,” then brought MJ’s Brass Boppers to the stage for the final few numbers. The show ended with the Brass Boppers descending to the dancefloor level, which in turn encouraged the booty-shakers to work it out even more seismically.

Check out the pics from Oakulture shutterbug EKAphotography, which offer some visual clues as to how much fun was being had:

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The Coup Stay Relevant with Lyrical, Musical Bad-Assery

Live Review/ The Coup, January 23, 2015 @ The Independent

Got Boots?

Got Boots?

If you live in the Bay Area, it’s easy to take The Coup for granted. But the simple fact is, no other region can boast a group like this. Six classic albums over a two-decade span which range from underground, sample-based hip-hop, to avant-garde, Afro-futurist post-funk. A canon of lyrical expression incorporating punchline after punchline. Radical politics combined with narrative storytelling in a non-preachy way. A killer live show which has evolved to the point where it’s now an outlandish hip-hop/funk/rock & roll circus. And, above all, a classic rapper who cares more about the substance and content of his raps than getting props for being a classic rapper.

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Prior to The Coup’s sold-out Independent show last Friday, it has been a few months since these guys had played a Bay Area date—their last local gig was the premiere of their performance art piece, “The Coup’s Shadowbox” last September—but Boots Riley and company were anything but rusty. Their nearly two-hour set touched on every Coup album (save their debut, 1993’s Kill My Landlord), highlighting a catalog which has yielded ‘nuff fan favorites, despite a lack of corresponding radio and video play.

Silk-E  and Boots Riley

Silk-E and Boots Riley

The show itself was bananas—kick yourself if you missed it—showing just how tight The Coup have become as a live outfit. They’ve subtly transformed themselves into the most subversive band on the planet, and that can’t be a bad thing. Because we need subversion through sonic insistence and lyrical deliverance, and The Coup supply that, in spades. Riley’s seemingly endless on-stage energy—he’s one of the more kinetic frontmen you’ll find, in any genre—is matched by vocalist Silk-E, a total bad-ass who appears to be channeling Tina Turner in her prime.  Silk-E plays Riley’s foil to the hilt, offering the audience another focal point for their viewing pleasure, and ensuring there’s never a dull moment. Keyboardist Kev Choice is always a solid musical maestro who makes the genre and tempo swings seem effortless. Drummer Hassan Hurd kept steady time, and bassist JJ Jungle mainly kept to the background, but guitarist Grego lapped up some spotlight for himself during a couple of extended vamp segments, during which it occurred to Oakulture that the Coup had reclaimed rock as a black music form (in an Afro-punkish kind of way). Indeed, this is a black rock band masquerading as a hip-hop outfit. Instead of being hit over the head with tired rap clichés, you will be rocked. And hit over the head with intelligent, witty lines which openly oppose capitalism for capitalism’s sake.

Silk-E

Silk-E

From Oakulture’s perspective, the highlights of the show were energetic renditions of “The Magic Clap” and a sped-up, balls-out version of the oldie “Fat Cats, Bigger Fish,” which ground out the refrain “get down get down get down” like a chant at a political rally. Interspersing newer material like “Gods of Science” and “The Guillotine” with classics like “Nowahlaters,” the band injected a formidable live presence into their set which spoke to their continued relevance, just as much as Riley’s lyrics did.

Grego rocks the house

Grego rocks the house

There aren’t too many groups from hip-hop’s classic early 90’s period which are still touring, and fewer still who are still making compelling new music which pushes their envelope in unexplored creative directions. And while their sound has evolved considerably from the Kill My Landlord days, Riley hasn’t changed much at all. Sure, he’s gotten older, wiser, and grown comfortably into his frontman/ringleader role. But who he is as a person has remained constant the whole time. He’s still that guy you’ll see onstage raising a ruckus one day, and run into in the neighborhood with his kids the next.

The Coup: Fierce 'n' Fonky

The Coup: Fierce ‘n’ Fonky

Simply put, there’s not another act in all of music like The Coup. And no matter whether it’s your first time seeing them or your 20th, they never fail to bring the funk, bring the noise, and bring the lyrical substance. Did we mention, they’re from Oakland?


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Sly Stone Tribute Show Takes the Musical Legend’s Legacy Higher

This is what 175 local musicians onstage at the same time looks like

This is what 175 local musicians onstage at the same time looks like

Reportedly, some 175 local musicians were involved in UnderCover Presents’ production of “Sly & the Family Stone’s Stand,” a tribute to the Bay Area band’s classic album, released in 1969. Seemingly all of them were on the Fox Theater’s spacious stage simultaneously during Saturday night’s encore of “Thank You Fallettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin.” Having already tacked all nine proper songs on the Stand album, not to mention sneaking in snippets of other Family Stone hits, it seemed only natural to end what had been a monumental undertaking with yet another of Sly’s eternal  classics.

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The wide expanse of humanity onstage resembled nothing so much as the personification of “Everyday People,” Stand’s biggest hit, and one which had been performed earlier in the evening by rock & roll act Tumbleweed Wanderers. From left to right, the stage was awash in colorful, vibrant folks of several ethnicities singing, dancing, and playing instruments together – MLK’s dream rendered in stage lights for all to see. At the time of its release, “Everyday People” was a manifesto of social acceptance, an urging for “different strokes for different folks.” Despite our cultural, political, and ideological differences, Stone pleaded, “We got to live together.” The statement remains as true now as it was then.

Marcus Shelby (l.) and Tiffany Austin (r.)

Marcus Shelby (l.) and Tiffany Austin (r.)

More triumphant celebration than nostalgic remembrance, “Sly & the Family Stone’s Stand” at once upheld and advanced Stone’s musical vision. Groundbreaking at the time, there was nothing on the musical landscape quite like Stand, an album which infused the revolutionary activism of the late 60s into a wide-reaching blend of progressive musical influences, mixing R&B, soul, funk, psychedelic rock, and pop in a way even Motown had yet to imagine – it would be years before Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye incorporated social consciousness into their music. Saturday’s show added jazz, orchestral strings, vocal choirs, salsa, and hip-hop to an already-bubbling musical melting pot. The result was pure alchemy.

Freddie Stone

Freddie Stone

Unfortunately, Oakulture arrived one-third of the way in, after the Awesome Orchestra Collective, Ensemble Mik Nawooj, and Zakiya Harris featuring Elephantine had already warmed up the large-capacity venue with “Stand,” “Don’t Call Me N*gger, Whitey,” and “I Want to Take You Higher,” respectively.

Bayonics

Bayonics

The vibe was indeed elevated as we made our way through the art deco doors into the auditorium hall.  Fortunately, the Marcus Shelby Quintet didn’t let the energy dip. Their take on “Somebody’s Watching You” gave the song an entirely different musical context while reaffirming the power of the lyrics (which are ostensibly about the conscious mind, but could just as easily be about the surveillance state). The MSQ wrapped the song in resonant jazz chordings which allowed the melodies space to breathe freely, highlighted by some impressive vocal work by Tiffany Austin. Bayonics’ version of “Sing a Simple Song” expanded the tune’s territory into funky salsa grooves, overlaid with rap verses, and the aforementioned Tumbleweed Wanderers offered a slightly folksy version of the ubiquitous “Everyday People.”

Con Brio's Ziek McCarter

Con Brio’s Ziek McCarter

Earlier, many former members of the Family Stone, including bassist Rustee Allen, saxophonist Jerry Martini, trumpeter Cynthia Robinson, drummer Greg Errico, and guitarist Freddie Stone, were introduced, to wide applause. But something was missing: Sly himself, who reportedly appeared on a panel at an afternoon convention held in the Fox’s Den bar. A press release hinted that he might take the stage, but that never happened.

Ricky Vincent

Ricky Vincent

All was not lost, however, as Con Brio frontman Ziek McCarter’s serpentine-like dance moves and channeling of kundalini energy put the sex in “A Sex Supreme,” a reimagining of Stand’s lengthiest number, “Sex Machine.”

Bassist Allen, who replaced Larry Graham in the Family Stone, joined Will Magid & Everyday People for “My Brain (Zig-Zag)”—an instrumental recorded around the same time as Stand which appeared on 20007’s reissue version of the album—which segued into “If You Want Me to Stay” (from 1973’s Fresh, which featured Allen on bass). The Jazz Mafia & Crossroads Collective closed out the set with “You Can Make It If You Try,” another of Stone’s message-laden tracks, which mixed horns and strings with vocals from Trance Thompson, Nataly Michelle Wright and Tym Brown.

Rustee Allen

Rustee Allen

All of which led up to the all-hands-on-deck encore, which riffed on what  for many is the quintessential Stone song (just as Stand is probably his best album track-for-track), and one evidently  infused with deep personal meaning: We don’t know exactly who Sly is thanking for letting him be himself again, but the appreciation seems soul-deep and heartfelt. Speaking of heartfelt, the work that went into coordinating the show (an earlier incarnation of which played at the Independent in 2013) had to be considerable, yet the product of all that work was undoubtedly a labor of love.

Awesome Orchestra Collective

Awesome Orchestra Collective

This was easily the biggest splash yet by UnderCover Presents, which has been assembling local bands for remakes of songs from classic albums since 2011, so it wasn’t surprising to see Executive Director Lyz Luke dancing with overflowing joy during the encore. Props also go out to co-producer Yosh! Haraguchi and music director David Moschler, as well as emcee Ricky Vincent, author of “Funk” and “Party Music,” who dressed for the occasion in a multihued tuxedo jacket, topped with an Afro wig and John Lennon shades.

Rickey Vincent (l.) and Lyz Luke

Rickey Vincent (l.) and Lyz Luke

Look for an upcoming airing of the performance on KQED (who videotaped the proceedings), as well as CDs and digital downloads of the live show. And mark your calendar for the next installment of UnderCover (at  the Independent April 3-5), which tackles Bob Marley’s Exodus. Performers reportedly include Boots Riley, Black Nature Band, Rupa & the April Fishes, Sean Hayes, Almas Frontierizas, the Broun Fellinis, T Sisters, Quartet San Francisco and more. That’s a great lineup which should build on all the momentum—and positive energy—generated by the Sly tribute.

Thank You Fa Lettin Me Be Mic Elf Agin

Thank You Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin

Lastly, Oakulture would just like to note how great it is to have the doors of the Fox open, finally, to local musicians—even if just for one night. It always seemed a little unfair to have this beautiful, restored venue right in the middle of the downtown do major shows which rarely offered local folks opportunities  to perform on that big stage, in front of big crowds. Here’s hoping that “Sly & the Family Stone’s Stand” not only broke that mold, but sets a new, welcoming, trend for the future.

Stand!

Stand!


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This Week in Oakulture: Pharoah Sanders, BLACK<3MATTERS, Jennifer Johns, “Made in Oakland” Inaugural Festival & Mark Curry (Jan 8-12)

Pharoah Sanders

pharoah_sanders_SFJAZZ_010815

The new year is off to an eventful start in our beautiful city!  We kick off this week’s list of best event bets with tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, a former John Coltrane collaborator and free jazz pioneer. Sanders got his start playing music professionally in Oakland in the 1950s, and lived in the Bay Area off and on through the early 2000’s. If you’ve never seen him live, prepare for a near-religious experience as he takes audiences to church with abstract, spiritual melodies and prayer-like chanting. Sanders kicks off a four-day SFJAZZ Center residency tonight through Sunday.

Pharoah Sanders, 01/08-01/11, 7:30 p.m. (7 p.m. Sunday), $25.00-$65.00, All Ages, SFJAZZ Center (Miner Auditorium), 201 Franklin Street, San Francisco. www.sfjazz.org. » Buy Tickets.

BLACK<3MATTERS: Opening Reception & Artist Talk

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On Friday, start off your weekend at the opening reception and artist talk for  the “BLACK<3MATTERS” art show at Impact Hub Oakland’s Omi Gallery.  Prolific husband-wife dynamic duo Karen Seneferu and Malik Seneferu will unveil what they call “Afro-futuristic technokisi”: mixed media artworks featuring assemblage, paint, sculpture, and textile. The show runs until January 30.

“BLACK<3MATTERS” Opening Reception & Artist Talk with Karen Seneferu and Malik Seneferu, and Gallery Director, Ashara Ekundayo, 01/09 (Exhibition closes 01/30), 7:00 p.m. – 10 p.m., Free Admission, All Ages, Omi Gallery at Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway, Oakland. www.oakland.impacthub.net/omi-gallery. » RSVP.

Jennifer Johns, Aisha Fukushima, Coco Peila & RyanNicole

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Also on Friday, Oakland Indie Mayhem curates a can’t-miss show at one of Oakland’s newer and more intimate music venues, Leo’s Music Club. This evening presents a triple threat all-female lineup, featuring food justice activist/soulful vocalist Jennifer Johns,  raptivist Aisha Fukushima, and self-described feminist/panther/hip-hop heroine, Coco Peila. The host and Mistress of Ceremonies for the night is spoken word artist/actress/rapper RyanNicole — look for her to join Johns on the Oakland anthem, “Town’d Out.”

Oaktown Indie Mayhem presents Jennifer Johns, Aisha Fukushima and Coco Peila, Hosted by RyanNicole, 01/09, Doors 8:30 p.m., Show 9:00 p.m., $9.00 – $15.00 General Admission (Under 21 must buy $5 drink ticket at the door), 18 and over, Leo’s Music Club, 5447 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. www.clubleos.com. » Buy Tickets.

“Made in Oakland” Inaugural Fest

Inauguration_Fest_011115

On Sunday, join Mayor Libby Schaaf at an Oakland-themed, free arts and community celebration. The “Made in Oakland” Inaugural Festival will take place at the country’s largest industrial art warehouse, American Steel Studios, and will feature live music by the Kev Choice Ensemble and the Bay Area Blues Society, a dance performance by vertical dance pioneers BANDALOOP, a Burning Man-style sculpture exhibit, art cars, a curated art gallery, aerialists, local filmmakers, an interactive kids zone, local food vendors and trucks, Oakland wines and craft beers, and much more. Special guest Glynn Washington, host of NPR’s Snap Judgment, will emcee the event.

“Made in Oakland” Inaugural Festival with Mayor Libby Schaaf, Glynn Washington, Kev Choice, Bay Area Blues Society, BANDALOOP, and more, 01/11, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., Free Admission, All Ages, American Steel Studios, 1960 Mandela Parkway, Oakland. www.americansteelstudios.com and www.libbyforoakland.com/inauguration.

Mark Curry

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We round out this week’s picks with a good laugh Monday evening, with none other than Oakland native, Los Angeles-based, actor/comedian Mark Curry. Known for his acting roles in TV sitcoms “Hanging’ with Mr. Cooper” and “See Dad Run,” his cameo in the Too $hort video “I Ain’t Trippin,” and performing standup comedy on Comedy Central, Curry returns to his hometown on Monday to perform his signature classy stand-up routine at Yoshi’s Oakland.

Mark Curry, 01/12, Doors 7:30 p.m., Show 8 p.m., $23.00, All Ages, Yoshi’s Oakland, 510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakland. www.yoshis.com. » Buy Tickets.

Oakulture’s event picks are compiled by Zsa-Zsa Rensch. Connect with Zsa-Zsa on Twitter at @zsazsa.

Subscribe to receive Oakulture blog posts directly in your inbox (click “Follow” to subscribe), and stay in touch on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Thank you for reading!


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Fear of a Multicultural Planet: Jeff Chang Tackles Race in “Who We Be”

who we be display

Multiculturalism is inevitable. This much we know from population trends, which show that America is getting less demographically-white by the decade, year, hour, and minute. The rise of an ethnic majority represents an obvious conflict with the concept of monoculturalism, represented by the assimilationist notion of a melting pot—an America with one great big shared identity—as well as the concept of white supremacy, represented by the notion that blacks (and other races) are genetically inferior to whites, thus justifying inequity and racial disparity across social, political, economic, and cultural lines.

Author Jeff Chang at an Oakland book release party for "Who We Be"

Author Jeff Chang at an Oakland book release party for “Who We Be”

This dichotomy is at the heart of “Who We Be,” an ambitious new book by Berkeley-based scribe Jeff Chang, who tracks the growth of ethnic identity across a historical tableau, contrasted by ideological barriers and seemingly-endless waves of sociopolitical backlash which all revolve around the construct of race and the perception of racial consciousness – whether in the art world, the political landscape, or the funny pages of daily newspapers.

Before Garner, Brown and Martin, there was Grant,

Before Garner, Brown and Martin, there was Grant,

Arriving as it does just as the 1-2 punch of the failure to indict the uniformed killers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner has crescendoed into America’s latest race-based flashpoint—resulting in the hashtag-driven #blacklivesmatter movement—”Who We Be” could not possibly be any more timely or relevant. It offers a wealth of historical context and background to firmly disprove the notion that either incident was isolated; rather, such events are part of a larger continuum which has made pop culture martyrs out of Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Michael Stewart, Lil Bobby Hutton, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Emmett Till (to name a few).

America’s racial dynamics haven’t just played out on a political chessboard, Chang reminds us. They’ve also been stretched across a cultural canvas which constantly vacillates between progressive movement and backwards regression, like an ocean tide. While the “Southern Strategy” of the Nixonian GOP established a race-based benchmark originally fashioned as a response to precedent-setting civil rights legislation and later dutifully continued by the Reagan-Bush Republican regimes, “Who We Be” assigns equal importance to a cultural narrative in which the white segregationist marketing of “Ku Ko Kola” eventually gives way to the multicultural kumbaya of Coca-Cola’s “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” commercials and Benetton’s rainbow-hued marketing strategy.

“Who We Be” opens with a scene in which the late Morrie Turner, the Oakland-born cartoonist whose strip “Wee Pals” was the first integrated comic to be syndicated nationally, learns of Barack Obama’s election and cries. This segues into an examination of Turner’s efforts at advancing multiculturalism, one comic strip at a time, then backtracks into an analysis of decades of dubious racial stereotypes embedded in cartoon commentary. It’s a history rife with coonery, minstrelism, blackface caricatures and outright racist cartoons, which show the progress Turner represented.

The blackface animals were gone. Instead Turner drew kids… having profound discussions about race and community,” Chang writes, noting, “The ink on the Civil Rights Act had not yet dried. The Voting Rights Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act were soon to be signed. But ‘Wee Pals’ already belonged to the future.

A "Wee Pals" strip

A “Wee Pals” strip from 1978

In another vignette, Chang revisits Black Arts icon Ishmael Reed’s concept of Neo-HooDoo, the idea that “all of American pop—its rhythms, its poetry, its swagger—descended from African and indigenous religion,” and the central concept behind Reed’s 1972 novel “Mumbo Jumbo,” as well as a sprawling manifesto/poem which Chang describes as “1,794 words of rapturous provocation.”

Reed’s journey from the East Village to the Bay Area allows Chang to wax poetic over an emergent Left Coast counterculture which organically linked the Black Panther Party, the Free Speech Movement, “Chinatown leftists,” “Raza artists,” and Native American activists into a loose grouping called the Third World movement.

Chang writes: “Grassroots arts movements led by people of color were blooming across the United States, but nowhere were there the kind of proliferating, overlapping circles of artistic, political, and intellectual intensity that there were in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Willie Horton: Black Bogeyman

Black Bogeyman: Willie Horton

Despite such superlative-laden praise, “Who We Be” is far from an altruistic, overly-optimistic take on its subject matter. By the time it concludes, with a description of five young schoolchildren delightedly eyeing a Byron Kim installation of “429 chipboards of wood… colored within the spectrum from pink to bister” at a Washington, DC art gallery, readers have been dragged along for a bumpy ride through Lee Atwater’s demonization of Willie Horton and his ironic infatuation with black music, the Republican backlash against Obama, the death of Trayvon Martin, failed government policies which created the subprime loan crisis and led to the Occupy movement, the flap over a black visual artist attempting to reclaim the N-word, and a controversial Whitney Museum biennial exhibition.

Perhaps surprisingly, hip-hop is all but absent from “Who We Be.” Chang painstakingly traces what he dubs the “culture wars” of the late 80s and early 90s, but chooses not to revisit ground he previously covered in “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop,” i.e.  the PMRC’s censorship campaign, the “Cop Killer” controversy, and the repercussions of their impacts at the major label level. To paraphrase dead prez, “Who We Be” is bigger than hip-hop—both in ambition and scope—yet the “culture wars” cipher feels incomplete at times. Chang’s insistence on name-checking obscure artist-activists and their quest to bring identity politics to the gallery world makes it seem as if those efforts occurred in an art-scene vacuum, when in fact, identity politics have become a defining characteristic of the overall pop culture landscape — just ask Macklemore or Iggy Azalea.

Shepard Fairey's "Hope"

Shepard Fairey’s “Hope”

Amidst all the discussion of “Post-Racial,” “Post-Black,” and even “Post-Post,” it’s perhaps understandable that “Who We Be” is Post-Hip-Hop Generation.  Chang calls it a “dub history,” which means that while there are echoes and reverberations, there are also drop-outs; Chang doesn’t trace a strictly linear path nor attempt to connect all the dots – which might have been an impossible task. The visual art/identity thread which takes up much of the book’s middle section culminates with an unpacking of the backstory behind Shepard Fairey’s iconic “Hope” poster which symbolized the emergence of a new electorate, before becoming an ironic reminder of the weighty, and perhaps unrealistic, expectations placed on Obama.

But even when “Who We Be”’s narrative gingerly dubsteps over continuity gaps, Chang’s writerly flow makes it a pleasure to read. Eschewing the dry tone of an academician, Chang alternates prose-filled descriptions with solid reportage and telling statistical evidence, like a mutant hybrid of Carl Bernstein and Amiri Baraka. Obama’s 2008 election–the meta-flashpoint in a collection of flashpoints–is bookended by P.Diddy’s voter-registration efforts and what Chang calls “demographobia” on one side, and the birth of the Tea Party, the Great Recession, and Karl Rove’s failure to buy the 2012 election on the other. “It was easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of racism,” Chang says of a period ironically yet accurately named “post-hope.”

Chang’s brilliance as a writer is apparent, even when the subject matter he tackles leads to more questions than answers. It’s impossible to thoroughly address the identity politics of multiculturalism without also addressing the identity politics of whiteness, and “Who We Be” shows in no uncertain terms that for one to be fully realized, the other must be diminished. If the worldview of mainstream art critics, anti-immigration activists, and Tea Partiers relies on projections of “Whitopia,” as Chang posits, the rise of multiculturalism represents a gradual yet inexorable reality, as signified by shifting demographics which have already resulted in what he calls a “minority-majority” in California. The future of America, Chang suggests, isn’t a return to its racist, xenophobic past, but a world in which gay Iranian immigrants barely raise an eyebrow. We’re not quite there yet, as recent events have proven, but it seems to be only a matter of time until MLK’s mountaintop finally becomes a level playing field.