Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


Women Runnin It: Interview with Chaney Turner

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

Recently at a Bahamadia concert at Leo’s produced by Chaney Turner of Social Life Productions, the emcee spoke to the need to be actively engaged in creating inclusive community — a crucial component of a culturally-positive nightlife scene. Important to many of us, particularly women and LGBTQi persons, is the ability to go out at night, share our art, enjoy dancing or conversation and not have to defend our bodies and presence. The promoters who are committed to holding this ground for us and advancing it are bringing female artists, gender fluid and non-ratchet parties, and holding down inclusive, ‘safe’ spaces through curating social arts. They are cultural stewards that we at Oakulture value and support. We think you should too. Check out part one in the series, featuring Candi Martinez, here.
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Our second Q&A interview is with Chaney Turner, founder of Social Life Productions, an event promotion and production company. Chaney is beloved by many and holds down a realness which contributes to the degree to which she is valued in many different communities. An Oakland native and one of the most well-known promoters inside and outside the LGBT community, she is a cultural activist, community organizer, dance floor igniter and style trendsetter who has helped to shape Oakland’s inclusive, gender-fluid club scene with parties like “The Social Life” and “SpeakerBoxx,” as well as being the former Entertainment Director for Eden Pride SF co-producing EDEN San Francisco Pride from 2012 to 2014 and co-owner/producer of fiveTEN Oakland Pride. “The Social Life”‘s mantra “Be Seen on the Scene” has resonated through Chaney’s work, which continues this month with the Check the Rhyme: Women’s Herstory Hip-Hop & Art Showcase” this Saturday. Oakulture highly recommends joining their events on Facebook to check out the posted videos.

Chaney Turner stays reppin The Town

Chaney Turner stays reppin The Town

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

chaney turner oakulture 013

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

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

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

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

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

chaney turner bandw

Oakulture: Who are your Oakland heroines?

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

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

Chaney Turner: Erykah Badu. Missy Elliot.

Oakulture: Words to live by?

Chaney Turner: Create the life you want.

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

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

chaney turner oakulture 087

Social Life Productions’ next show:

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


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

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

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This Week in Oakulture: The Lower Bottom Playaz Present “Jitney”, Bahamadia, The African Film Festival National Traveling Series, Martin Luther McCoy & The 18th Annual Bringing The Noise for Martin Luther King, Jr. (Jan 14-20)

The Lower Bottom Playaz Present “Jitney”


West Oakland’s Lower Bottom Playaz have been cycling through August Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle, a series of works focusing on black life in the 20th Century. This Saturday, they present a one-off encore performance of “Jitney,” at West Oakland’s McClymonds High School. “Jitney,” which had an earlier run at the Flight Deck, chronicles the travails of a gypsy cab company in 1970s Pittsburgh, and is the eighth installment in Wilson’s series. The play is a fundraiser for the “CultureKeepers” program, which hopes to send 20 adults and 10 students to South Africa.

MACK Presents: Lower Bottom Playaz in “Jitney”, 01/17, 7 p.m., $20, All Ages, McClymonds High School Auditorium, 2607 Myrtle St., Oakland. www.lowerbottomplayaz.com and www.sendmacktoafrica.com. » Buy Tickets.

Bahamadia, Jern Eye, Kandi Cole, Miki Vale, DJ Davey D & DJ Pam the Funkstress


One of hip-hop’s legitimate Queens, Philly MC Bahamadia, is set to play Leo’s Music Club this Saturday in a makeup show for a December date. Known for her meticulous, soul-affirming lyrical flow, Bahamadia’s twenty-year career has yielded critically-acclaimed albums, as well as collaborations with Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Sweetback, Dwele and numerous others. Bahamadia will be joined by Oakland MC Jern Eye and LA’s Kandi Cole and Miki Vale, plus DJs Davey D and Pam the Funkstress will hold down turntable duties for the night!

, Jern Eye, Kandi Cole, Miki Vale, DJ Davey D & DJ Pam the Funkstress, 01/17, Doors 8:00 p.m., Show 9:00 p.m., $15-$20 (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.

The African Film Festival National Traveling Series


Every year around this time, UC Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive (PFA), in partnership with the Department of African American Studies and the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley, hosts The African Film Festival National Traveling Series. New York based African Film Festival (AFF) programs the annual National Traveling Series in collaboration with cultural institutions in ten to thirteen cities nationwide to make African cinema more available to a wider audience. This year’s focus of films from Africa and the African Diaspora, will be Liberation movements in Africa — past and present. There’s also a noticeable gender-balance with women filmmakers represented in this year’s lineup. Six evenings of film screenings will take place between January 15th and February 15th.

The African Film Festival National Traveling Series, 01/17-02/17, Days and screening times vary, $5.50-$9.50, All Ages, Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu. » Buy Tickets.

Martin Luther McCoy


SF’s “Rebel Soul” Rocker Martin Luther McCoy, who is known as simply Martin Luther, heads East to Yoshi’s Oakland for his annual MLK weekend concert tradition. The soulful singer/guitarist and his band will celebrate the release of Extra Terrestrial Brother Vol. 2, a follow up to 2011’s self-released Extra Terrestrial Brother Vol. 1, which you can stream in full to get a taste of what’s to come.

Martin Luther McCoy
, 01/18, Doors 8:30 p.m., Show 9 p.m., $18, All Ages, Yoshi’s Oakland, 510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakland. www.yoshis.com. » Buy Tickets.

18th Annual Bringing The Noise for Martin Luther King, Jr.


We close this week’s picks with Youth Speaks’ annual celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and legacy at the historic Nourse Auditorium in San Francisco. Some of the Bay Area’s best and brightest poets will share their work in honor of Dr. King along with a musical performance by members of the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, as well as performances by UNIVERSES, Young Gifted and Black, Youth Speaks alum Dahlak Brathwaite, Youth Speaks Grand Slam Champions, and more!

18th Annual Bringing The Noise for Martin Luther King, Jr., 01/19, 7p.m.-9 p.m., $10 ($5 for Youth Under 24), All Ages, Nourse Auditorium, 275 Hayes Street, San Francisco. www.youthspeaks.org.  » Buy Tickets.

This Week in Oakulture is compiled by Zsa-Zsa Rensch.  Connect with Zsa-Zsa on Twitter at @zsazsa.

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