Documenting the Oakland cultural renaissance


12 More Days of Black History Month! Fall in Love with Black Beauty

So far, 2015’s Black History Month has been an amazing whirlwind of cultural goodness, especially here in the Bay Area — proving the point that Black Art Matters. Here at Oakulture, we thought you might appreciate a handy-dandy guide to the remaining BHM events this month, which include some incredible visual art representations, art workshops, kid-friendly events, musical appreciation nights, tributes to Black Power and Civil Rights martyrs, global reggae, movement-inspired jazz, spoken word, discussions of black love, reflections on Africa, dance exhibitions and classes, second-line parades, drum lessons, food/wine, and much more!!!


Black Artists on Art Legacy Exhibit celebrates the 46th anniversary of Black Artists on Art Volume 1 and commences a series of activities that will surround the new books in their development phases, Through 3/28, Free Admission, Oakstop, 1721 Broadway, Oakland.

"Heirloom" art by Bryan Keith Thomas

“Heirloom” art by Bryan Keith Thomas

Joyce Gordon Gallery presents “Heirloom” by Bryan Keith Thomas. “Heirloom” is the celebration of the Black experience through its historic symbols; cotton, roses and the African and African American image. Through 2/28. Free Admission. Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 Fourteenth St, Oakland.

Jeff Blankfort’s ‘Fight the Power!’ photography exhibition. ‘FIGHT THE POWER‘: Exploring similarities in the lived and photographed expressions of Black American and Palestinian resistance movements against ethnic persecution. Through 2/28. Free admission. African American Arts & Culture Complex (AAACC), 762 Fulton Street, SF.

Ryan Nicole Austin stars in "Xtigone"

Ryan Nicole Austin stars in “Xtigone”

African-American Shakespeare Company presents Xtigone with Ryan NicoleEmerging Chicago playwright Nambi E. Kelley’s contemporary urban adaptation of Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone is an impassioned response to the recent untimely deaths of children in her native city as a result of gang violence, which has risen sharply in the past several years. Through 3/8, $15-34, Buriel Clay Theatre, African-American Art & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton Street, SF.

Motown on Mondays (MOM). This popular weekly dance party plays one thing: music from Motown, the groundbreaking Detroit label which gave us Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder. Of course, that also includes cover versions and rare gems. With resident DJ Platurn and special guest DJs. Monday evenings, 9pm-2am, Free admission, Legionnaire Saloon, 2272 Telegraph Ave, Oakland.

"Palestine Solidarity," by Deadeyes

“Palestine Solidarity,” by Deadeyes

“Mindful Visions”Seven black male visual artists offering positivity as a way from ambiguous obstacles during life’s stage. Featuring Deadeyes, Jarvis Corner, Jimi Evins, Raymond L. Haywood, Raymond Holbert, Bryan Keith Thomas, and TheArthur Wright. CD release party 2/17 for Sound Oasis: Composer Darryl Pulley, Keys Dave Moltzen, Bass Gearon Crockett. Suggested Donation $5/adult. Through 3/3, Public Viewing Hours Mon-Fri 12:30-4:30. Contact (510) 208-5651 or receptionist@prescottjoseph.org. Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Advancement, 920 Peralta St, Oakland.

Oakland is Hellzapoppin #4 Lindy Hop Intensive with legendary Norma Miller and other special guests. Ms. Miller is again inspired to share with the black community the rich legacy of dances from the Harlem Renaissance through dance workshops, films and history talks. All levels welcome. Feb 15-25, Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd, Oakland. Buy Tickets.

The Arts Council of San Leandro presents “The Mind’s Eye” a group photography exhibit by Oakland Renaissance Photographers Collective. The show features the work of Kamau Amen-Ra, Edward Miller, Tasin Sabir, Tumani Onbiyi, Jim Dennis, Malaika H. Kambon and Asual Kwahuumba and is a continuation of a series of exhibits that document the life experience of people from Africa to the Americas and beyond. Free Admission. A reception with the artists will be held on Feb 22nd 12-3pm, San Leandro Main Library Auditorium, 300 Estudillo Avenue, San Leandro. Exhibit extends thru Mar 31st. Contact Missy Brooks (510) 567-2621.



MJ's Brass Boppers

MJ’s Brass Boppers

Feb 17th
MARDI GRAS DAY PARADE will start at 5:30 pm at Awaken Cafe (1429 Broadway) and proceed towards The New Parish (579 18th St) including the following groups: East Bay Brass Band, MJ’s Brass Boppers, BatalaBlue Bone Express, Dimensions Dance TheaterSambaFunk! Carnaval Explosion, and more. Family-friendly event.

Fat Tuesday with Katdelic, MJ’s Brass Boppers, East Bay Brass Band & DJ ManCub. 9pm, $10-15. New Parish, 579 18th St, Oakland.

Feb 19th
Afia Walking Tree
 & Drum Mobile Kick-off FunDRUM Raising Party provide the snacks, drinks, irie ambiance, and great experience. You bring your phone, laptop or ipad and come network, sing, and dance! The DRUM MOBILE will provide self-sufficiency skills for people (including peoples of African descent with limited resources) to feed themselves through learning hands-on permaculture practices and bringing the experience of music (drum, dance, songs of the African Diaspora) to children who would otherwise not have access. Free Admission, 5-9pm, Urban Drum Ranch, 320 Oakland Ave., Oakland.

The Nile Projectmore than a dozen instrumentalists and vocalists from Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Uganda have collaborated to use the power of music to raise awareness of the cultural and environmental challenges along the world’s longest river. The result is a new sound of a shared Nile identity, resulting in the album Aswan, and a world tour which comes to Berkeley in time for BHM. $18-$36, 7:30pm, Zellerbach Hall (UC Berkeley campus).

The Nile Project After-Party: Balkan & Beyond Presents: A Benefit for the Nile Project. Join the Nile Project in a post-Zellerbach homecoming night of celebration with East African music and DJ Zeljko. Proceeds will benefit the Nile Project’s university programs in Africa. Bissap Baobob Oakland, 381 15th St.



Sonido Baylando y Kulcha Latino present ALIKA & NUEVA ALIANZA with Andrés DJ-Stepwise, Deuce Eclipse, DJ EL Kool Kyle, Orlando Torriente, Ras Rican, Erick Santero y mas, Pre-sale $10, 8pm-2am, Berkeley Underground, 2284 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley.

Mau-Mau Tech: The Making of a Black University at Oakland’s Merritt College. On March 15, 1971, Black students took over the administration building at Oakland’s Merritt College to protest the relocation of the campus from the city’s flatlands to the hills. This presentation by journalist and scholar Rasheed Shabazz will cover Oakland history and education politics in the 1950s and 1960s, leading up to the relocation of Merritt College, but will primarily focus on the vision for what might have been called, “Huey P. Newton College.” Free admission, 8pm, Quilombo, 2313 San Pablo Ave.

Feb 20th
“Speeches of A Dream: Black History Month Celebration”: A Night of Poetry, Art, and Music celebrating Black History Month. Open Mic welcomed, Free Admission, RSVP Required. 6-8pm, Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts1428 Alice St, Oakland.

50th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Al-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, 1-10pm, Lighthouse Mosque, 620 42nd St., Oakland

Brass Magic,  Zakiya Harris, the Jurassic: Zakiya Harris’ future soul is not to be missed! $7-$10, 8pm, Awaken Cafe, 1429 Broadway, Oakland.

Zakiya Harris

Zakiya Harris

February 21-22nd 
The Art of Living Black (TAOLB) Open Studios 2015 is the Bay Area’s longest running annual African American exhibition of its kind showcasing a wide range of visual media. Artists include Tai BelizeAjuan ManceKaren Oyekanmi, Atiba Sylvia Thomas, Howard Mackey, Valerie Brown Troutt, Lyn Rockwell, and AJ. 11am-5pm, Mills College Student Union, 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland.

February 21-22nd
The 11th Annual Black Choreographers Festival:
Here & Now celebrates the legacy of African & African American dance, art and culture with performances, master classes and special events. Weekend 1 features Byb Chanel Bibene, Antoine Hunter in collaboration with Ellen Sebastian Chang, Brontez Purnell (Sat only), Carmen Roman, Phylicia Stroud, Nafi Watson, Kharyshi Wiginton & Jene Levine-Snipes (Sun only), Jamie Wright (Sun only) 7:30pm. Tix $10-20. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF.



Feb 21st
Learn to Jook with Ladia Yates
. She is a youtube sensation, has danced with Missy Elliott and was most recently featured in Janelle Monae’s music video “Tightrope.” Currently she is dancing with Usher. 12-1:30pm, $15 Advance TixMargaret Jenkins Dance Lab, 301 8th St, San Francisco.

Turf Inc. dancers at Art & Soul Festival

Turf Inc. dancers at Art & Soul Festival

Feb 21st
TURFinc 14 x The LAB present TURFIN AGAINST THE WORLD Part II All Styles Dance Battle. A 2 on 2 All Style Tournament hosted by Phat Boi & Johnny 5. Special Performances by Oakland Boogaloo Conservatory (OBC) BRYCE – OGMIKE -DOC with special guests YAK Films. All Ages, Family Friendly, Cover $15. 1-8pm, THE LAB, 2948 16th Street, SF. 

Amir Sulaiman

Amir Sulaiman 

Feb 22nd
Amir Sulaiman I & I Poetry Workshop Spend a day with Amir Sulaiman, Visiting Harvard Fellow, Def Poet, author & performer explores how identity and perception impact the creative process. This workshop is not just for writers and artists, but for everyone interested in exploring the spirituality of creativity. Advance Tix. 10am-4pm, Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California,1433 Madison Street, Oakland.

Honoring El Hajj Malik Shabazz (Malcolm X), 1-4pm, Oakland Islamic Community Center, 7901 Oakport St., Ste. 4400, Oakland.

Feb 25th 
Opening Night of sfnoir Wine & Food Festival: Shrimp, Grits & Greens. Celebrate Black cuisine, culture, and contributions to the arts. The region’s best in Black Cuisine showcases time-honored dishes with fresh adaptations from within the Diaspora. $30-50. 7-10pm, Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway.

Afro-vegan chef Bryant Terry

Afro-vegan chef Bryant Terry

Feb 26th 
In Defense of Food: A Spoken Word Affair. Hosted by Bryant Terry – Chef, Educator, Author and Food Justice Activist. The spoken word artists this evening all speak about food in very different ways: its power to create and help define culture, how certain life experiences are shaped around the act of coming together to break bread, or the injustices found in people’s access to healthy and nutritious foods. Advance Tix $15. 7-10pm, Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St, SF.

Feb 27th
MoAD After Dark in Conversation presents Collaborating Across the Aisles: Continuing the Civil Rights Movement with #BlackLivesMatter featuring keynote speaker Dr. Clarence Jones, Dr. King’s speechwriter, advisor & attorney. Panel and discussion with Dr. Joe Marshall, Dr. Mary J. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, Ms. Neva Walker, and Mr. Jarvis Givens. 6-9pm, Tix $10-75Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St, SF.

Feb 27-28th
Yemanja Festival 2015
celebrates the spirit of Yemanja, the African deity that honors the essential, beautiful and sometimes dangerous nature of water. Inspired by the original Yemanja Festival celebrated in Bahia, Brazil the Yemanja Arts Festival brings together celebrated artists and dancers as interpreters of art forms from the African diaspora (Brazil, the Caribbean, and the United States) that pay homage to Yemanja through their respective folkloric and spiritual traditions. Featuring Conceisao Damasceno, Kimberly Miguel Mullen, Tania Santiago, Danda da Hora, Ramon Ramos Alayo, Renni Flores, Wagner Santos, Mestre Beicola, Curumins & Borboletas Dance Group. 8pm. Saturday after-party 10pm. Tix $10-22Casa De Cultura, 1901 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley. 

YGB Gold

YGB Gold

Feb 28th
Black Voices in Love: Africa ft. Marc Bamuthi Jospeh, Antique, YGB Gold, Dayo Milon and Keba Konte. Panel discussion featuring slides from recent journeys to Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa, and Ethiopia, African dance and drumming, and Ethiopian coffee ceremony. 6pm. Tix $12Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St, Oakland.

Concha Buika On her latest and most diverse album, La Noche Más Larga, the Spanish-bred singer of African descent continues to break down the walls that surround flamenco, the root source of everything she does, but a tradition that can’t contain her ever-evolving vision. 8pm. $35-100, 8pm, Nourse Theatre, CIIS, 275 Hayes St, SF.

Black History Month Celebration with Terrence Brewer. The American improvised musical art form called jazz doesn’t exist without the roots of the African-American experience and, particularly, without gospel music. Terrence Brewer will explore gospel compositions through the eyes of a modern jazz improviser and share his own stories of growing up playing in the church and how he was inspired by sacred music and the large role gospel music played in his development. Featuring Terrence Brewer on guitar, Kevin Wong on piano and organ, Dan Parenti on acoustic and electric bass and Deszon Claiborne on drums. Tix $15California Jazz Conservatory,
2087 Addison St, Berkeley.

Feb 28-Mar 1st
The 11th Annual Black Choreographers Festival: Here & Now  celebrating the legacy of African & African American dance, art and culture with performances, master classes and special events. Weekend 2 features Christal BrownGregory Dawson, Mauya Kerr, Robert Moses, Reginald Ray Savage, and Raissa Simpson. 7:30pm. Post-performance Q & A  on Mar 1. Cake & Chat following every BCF performance. Tix $10-20. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St, SF.




Turfin’ USA

Dance Review/ TurfInc. 2nd Anniversary all-styles battle, 7/26/14 @ Classic Cars West; YAK to the Bay 2-on-2 all-styles competition, 8/2/14 @Frank Ogawa Plaza

Oakland is celebrated for many things, but one of the Town’s greatest cultural inventions is turf dancing or turfin’. For those unaware, turfin’ is a street-oriented dance form. It draws from many influences, including popping, boogaloo, b-boying, and krumping, but it has its own unique flavor. It’s an urban ballet of sorts which can be both graceful and aggressive in approach – sometimes simultaneously.

A Turf Inc. dancer catches wreck.

A Turf Inc. dancer catches wreck.

One signature aspect of turfing is the footwork; while turfers often glide and moonwalk, they make a point of balancing on their toes. Another is the intricate hand and arm movements, which require tremendous flexibility:  turfers can become contortionists, twisting their limbs seemingly to the point of muscular dislocation. Acrobatic, gravity-defying displays are not uncommon during a twisting, turning exhibition of turf skills. There’s also an element of pantomiming, of telling a story through physical movements. Turfers will sometimes pop their collars while foot-gliding, and use their t-shirts or hoodies as a prop. Body isolation—looking one way while moving in another direction—is another common aspect of turfing. And of course, dreadlocked turfers will often shake their locks like whirling dervishes.

Yet for all its explosive expressiveness, turfing can be very subtle at times; in this regard, it’s not dissimilar to flamenco, another improvisational artform which started on the streets and relies on passion to power the emotional intensity of its performances.

The most skilled turfers will have an arsenal of techniques, which they will deploy as necessary, according to the emotion they may feel at any given time. Which brings us to perhaps the most significant aspect of turfing: it’s highly-improvisational. While individual dancers, duos and groups will sometimes choreograph routines, probably 90% of what you see at a turf dance battle literally happens on the fly. So there’s always an element of surprise – you never know what could happen next.

Dummy demonstrates a signature move at Art & Soul.

Dummy demonstrates a signature move at Art & Soul.

Turfing first came to prominence in 2006, when two of the preeminent Oakland crews, the Turf Feinz and Anamaniaks, were featured in the video for E-40’s hyphy-era anthem, “Tell Me When to Go,” shot at East Oakland’s Youth Uprising.

Hard to believe, but it’s been almost a decade since then. In those years, turfing has become a national and even international phenomenon. With that being said, the artform is still alive and well in its place of origin, and a new generation of turf-happy youngsters, along with seasoned veterans who have become cultural stewards of the artform, are keeping it thriving.

Turfer Girl Watches as Android does the splits during the Turf Inc. all-styles battle

Turfer Girl Watches as Android does the splits during the Turf Inc. all-styles battle

Recently, Oakulture was blessed to witness two huge turfing exhibitions. The first was an all-day event held at Classic Cars West, presented by Oaktown Indie Mayhem in conjunction with Turf Inc., celebrating Turf Inc. – an organization created by turfing OG Johnny 5 – ‘s 2nd anniversary. Besides the colorful bunch of folks who came out, the event was significant in that it featured the first-ever all-styles, all-female competition. That battle, which attracted participants from as far as Atlanta and New York, was won by Oakland’s own Turfer Girl. While not as limber or athletic as some of her competition – NYC b-girl Android, who went up against Turfer Girl in an early round, was clearly the more flexible of the two; while Atlanta’s Angel, who placed 2nd, had a nice fluidity to her – Turfer Girl’s mastery of pure turf skills clearly won her technical difficulty points with the judges.

Eventual winner Turfer girl shakes her dreads at the Turf Inc. all-styles battle.

Eventual winner Turfer girl shakes her dreads at the Turf Inc. all-styles battle.

The second big throwdown was at this year’s Art & Soul festival, which featured turfing prominently during an all-styles 2-on-2 battle presented by YAK films and witnessed by thousands of festival attendees. The big story of the battle was the emergence of the diminutive wonders, Dem Bague Boys — two elementary school-aged brothers who deftly and nimbly served up an array of b-boy/breakdance skills and beat several more-established, older teams on their way to a final showdown against Krow and Intricate.

One of Dem Bague Boys busts a headspin at Art & Soul

One of Dem Bague Boys busts a headspin at Art & Soul

Dem Bague Boys had heart, and somehow weren’t intimidated by Krow, who made some of the scariest faces this side of Freddy Kreuger as he contorted himself into a human snake, crab, and scorpion. Despite excellent footwork, freezes, poppin, and even an extended headspin by the precocious kids, Krow’s unbelievable mastery of his body, performed at a ultra-high level of technical difficulty – combined with Intricate’s eponymous, precise display of turf moves – ultimately won over the judges. Festival organizers later announced that attendance had doubled over last year’s event, and the popularity of turfing was clearly a huge reason why.

Crow twists like a pretzel at Art & Soul.

Krow twists like a pretzel at Art & Soul.

When all the dust cleared, one thing was obvious: Turf dancing isn’t going away anytime soon, and has earned a foothold in the cultural history of Oakland. If you’ve never seen a battle, follow Turf Inc., YAK Films, and Oaktown Indie Mayhem on Facebook for information about upcoming events in Turf City, USA (and elsewhere).