Oakulture

Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


3 Comments

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.


Leave a comment

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:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


2 Comments

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

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?


3 Comments

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!


Leave a comment

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

black<3matters_opening_010915

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

OIM_jenn_johns_010915

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

mark_curry_YOK_011215

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!


2 Comments

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.

 

 


Leave a comment

TV One Offers A New Look At the Black Panthers

Television review/ Celebrity Crime Files: “Violence is Necessary,” Monday Nov. 3, TVOne (check local listings for airtimes)

P-Frank Williams, Elaine Brown, James Mott, Marcus Osborn, and D'Wayne Wiggins at the screening of "Violence is Necessary"

Jeannie Mott, James Mott, Elaine Brown, D’Wayne Wiggins, P-Frank Williams, and Marcus Osborn at the screening of “Violence is Necessary”

 

The week prior to TV One’s airing of a Black Panther-themed episode of “Celebrity Crime Files,” former Panther Chairperson Elaine Brown was in the news. Brown’s latest project, Oakland & the World Enterprises — announced at a press conference alongside Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, City Councilmember Lynette Gibson-McElhaney, representatives from congresswoman Barbara Lee’s office, Housing and Community Development director Michele Byrd and neighborhood activists David Roach (founder of Mo’Betta Farms and the Oakland International Film Festival), and D’Wayne Wiggins (an original member of Tony Toni Tone) — is a West Oakland business center which will create employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.

The timing was purely coincidental, but seemed entirely symbolic of the lasting perseverance and relevance of the Panther legacy. Though often portrayed as a militant group whose internal squabbles were just as controversial as their brushes with police and Federal agents, at their core the Panthers had a simple mission: to improve the quality of life for African Americans, not just in Oakland, but all over the country. The new West Oakland center, for instance, speaks to two of the points outlined in the Panthers’ Ten-Point Program: “we want full employment for our people,” and “we want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, and peace.”

Elaine Brown

Elaine Brown

Brown was also on hand, as was Wiggins, radio personality Marcus Osborn and former Lumpen member James Mott, for a special VIP screening of the Celebrity Crime Files episode, hosted by producer P-Frank Williams (an Oakland native), at Berkeley’s 44 restaurant. Titled “Violence is Necessary,” the episode – which airs tonight, Nov. 3rd— traces the history of the Panthers and their frequent run-ins with authority figures. Narrated by a gravelly-tongued Ice-T, the episode pulls no punches in its retelling of the story of how Merritt College students Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded a revolutionary organization which openly challenged the Oakland Police department and the FBI, and how the Black Panthers declined in the late 70s and early 80s, decimated by government counterinsurgency, legal troubles, violence, sexism, and drugs.

The episode’s first half is its most compelling, as Ice-T’s voiceover introduces “a new generation of civil rights activists coming out of Oakland, California.” Frustrated with the perceived ineffectiveness of Dr. King’s nonviolent, civil disobedience approach in the face of rampant police brutality against the black community and spurred to action by the assassination of Malcolm X, Newton and Seale organized like-minded recruits to open-carry guns and observe police actions in then-majority-black neighborhoods of North and West Oakland. But, as the episode notes, the Panther platform also included political education, self-defense, legal aid, and free breakfast for children as well as the right to bear arms.

At the time, it’s stated, OPD was “almost exclusively-white.” The lack of integration in the department, as well as its practice of recruiting officers from the Deep South who were less likely to have tolerant attitudes toward black people, put the Panthers on a collision course which culminated in the shooting death of Officer John Frye, allegedly at the hands of Newton, who’d been pulled over for a traffic stop after OPD identified his vehicle as a Panther car. Even today, the details are sketchy: there was a shootout, and Frye was mortally wounded. But ballistics later revealed that all the bullets fired came from OPD weapons. Newton was sentenced to jail, where he spent months in solitary confinement and wrote the book “Revolutionary Suicide.” Although his conviction was later overturned, his arrest and incarceration succeeded in neutralizing the Panther leadership and fermenting dissent and internal conflict among the organization.

The episode also traces the story of how Seale came to be one of the Chicago 8, and his trial, during which he was chained, shackled, and gagged, and eventually sentenced to four years in prison for contempt of court.

With Newton and Seale off the streets and the FBI’s COINTELPRO program infiltrating and assassinating Panther members, a climate of paranoia began to infuse what remained of the Panthers. “I remember the sense of not being able to trust people,” former Panther Joan Tarika Lewis is quoted as saying. A Panther member suspected of being an informant is murdered, as is another man suspected of having an affair with Seale’s wife while he was in prison. The murder of John Huggins and Bunchy Carter by a rival organization (later found to have been on the FBI payroll) is also recounted by Huggins’ widow Ericka.

Elaine Brown and P-Frank Williams

Elaine Brown and P-Frank Williams

While the first part of the episode strikes a note of contemporary relevance around Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and Oscar Grant, the second half is much more somber, as it recounts how Newton changed after being released from prison and how in Brown’s words, “unrealistic expectations” were placed on him. “You felt he was a superhero,” Wiggins says at one point. Newton’s activities became less revolutionary and more criminal; he surrounded himself with thuggish bodyguards and developed a bad cocaine habit. Author Rickey Vincent (“Party Music”) describes how doing blow with Newton in the backroom of Oakland bars became a bragging right for those inclined toward “radical chic.” Newton’s continuing legal issues, which included being accused of the murder of a prostitute and embezzlement from a Panther school accelerated the decline of the organization, which finally disbanded in the early 80s. Newton is portrayed as an increasingly tragic figure, who comes to an ignoble end in 1989, murdered in a dispute over crack cocaine.

By that time, Seale was long gone, having fallen out with Newton years past. The episode highlights his run for Mayor of Oakland in 1973 as one of the last high points of the Panthers—he finished second, but the political base he helped to build led to the election of Oakland’s first African American mayor, Lionel Wilson, in 1977.

The use of archival footage and testimonial interviews with surviving former Panthers makes the show a compelling, eye-opening watch. During the screening, all the side conversations in the restaurant ceased while the episode played. And even though the subject matter is heavily weighted toward examining the Panthers’ legal and criminal history, it strikes a balance between describing police and government actions against the Panthers, and alleged crimes committed by the group. The end result is more revolutionary than perhaps one might expect from a nationally-syndicated TV program, and a show which qualifies as must-see viewing, whether one is a Panther historian, or a neophyte who simply wants to learn more about what’s behind their leather-jackets-and-beret mystique — and why it has endured for 45+ years.

(Full disclosure: the author appears in the episode, but received no compensation; David Roach is a board member of Urban Releaf, an organization for which the author serves as Communications Director.)