Category: Arts and Culture

‘White’ Challenges Privilege in Shotgun Players’ Comedy

 

Adam Donovan as Gus and Santoya Fields as Vanessa star in the West Coast premier of “White.” Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.

By Wanda Ravernell

White Fragility is getting its comeuppance as ‘BBQ Becky,’ ‘Pool Patrol Paula,’ ‘Permit Patty’ and their ilk lose face and livelihoods for calling police on Black people while barbecuing, swimming, selling water on a hot day or otherwise minding their business.

It’s a perfect time for Shotgun Players Theater’s West Coast premiere of “White,” a 2015 play by James Ijames, a prolific black author from Philadelphia.

James Ijames

In what director M. Graham Smith calls “a comedy with consequences” “White” can be characterized as a warped “Pygmalion” or “Frankenstein’s Monster” where a black woman outmaneuvers a white man at his own game.

Opening July 13 in Berkeley, the play stars Adam Donovan as Gus, a gay, white artist who is hurt when his museum curator friend Jane (Luisa Frasconi) won’t include him in a prestigious show.

Refusing to be thwarted, Gus hires Vanessa, a black actress portrayed by Santoya Fields to take on an unconventional role.

Ijames was inspired to write ‘White’ because of a 2014 controversy at New York’s Whitney Museum where a white artist hired Black actors, making them the visible enactors of a piece he created.

The question then, (and now, in “White,”) was how is racial/ethnic inclusion accomplished? How is art decreed as Black? Or, as anthropologists might put it, Who has agency here?

Is “White”’s Vanessa inhabiting her own mind and body or is it really Gus whose the driving force using Vanessa for self-serving reasons?

The coping mechanisms of bitter humor and scathing insight that Black people have used over scores if not hundreds of years are vividly expressed under Ijames capable writing.

Those old mechanisms have new terminologies: ‘Code-switching,’ refers to what W.E.B. DuBois and others called ‘double-mindedness; or ‘twin-ness.’ ‘White privilege’ is a much better term for ‘double-standard’ and ‘micro-aggressions’ are general pettiness. And BBQ Becky, Permit Patty and Pool Patrol Paula are now publically shamed on social media where the knowing laughter and scorn once heaped on delicate Miss Anne and wicked Mr. Charlie was done behind closed doors.

In the play, the ‘joke,’ so to speak, is definitely on white people, but for Assistant Director Samira Mariama “White” also validates black people’s experience with white privilege.

Vanessa’s role, says Mariama, demonstrates the tedium racial minorities endure as they navigate a sea of whiteness and exposes its ugliness. The consequences Smith referred to are the choices white people have to make.

“This is not just a matter of ‘I’ll be nicer to my Black friends,’ or  ‘I’ll go to a Black show,’ said Mariama, a recent UC Berkeley grad who was hand-picked by veteran director Smith to assist him and also understudy the role of Vanessa. “No. We’ve called (whiteness) out.”

‘White’ will run on weekends from July 13-Aug.5 at the Shotgun Players Theater, 1901 Ashby Ave. Berkeley. $7-$42 For more information, please call (510) 841-6500, ext. 303.

Published July 14, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oaklanders Urge City to Take Legal Action Against NFL and Raiders

 

Shown (L t R): Bob Bobbit, Griz Jones, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, (behind Kaplan is Geoffrey Pete), Councilmember Noel Gallo and John Jones III.

 

Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Noel Gallo stood in solidarity with community members and the “Forever Oakland” group for a press conference May 1

on the steps of City Hall urging the city to take legal action against the NFL and Raiders.

The “Forever Oakland” and “We Stand with Oakland Citizen Driven Initiative are working with Councilmembers Kaplan and Gallo as they request that the Oakland City Council retain, under a contingency-fee agreement, Jim Quinn, Michael Fay with Berg and Andropy and Eric Hochstadt with Weil, Gotsal to explore Oakland’s legal options against the NFL and the Oakland Raiders’ decision to leave Oakland.

“After a year of collecting data and working with several local based community groups, it’s time for the City Attorney’s office and our local municipalities to do what’s right for all Oakland and Alameda County tax payers and push forward to become a client for the #1 Anti-Trust Lawyers within the USA,” according to a media statement released Monday.

“The Forever Oakland / We Stand with Oakland Citizen Driven Initiative has brought “a Gift” to the table that will greatly benefit our community and municipalities. This is a “Win – Win” for everybody. We are in total support of the Oakland City Council to become a client and further explore options in pursuing a law suit against the NFL and the Oakland Raiders,” the media statement said.

According to Councilmember Kaplan, “We must stand up for the tax-payers of Oakland and Alameda County. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work together with dedicated advocates on this goal”.

“In light of these new developments and the continued public and media interest in this subject, Supervisor Miley, Councilmember Gallo, and I believe that the reasonable and responsible decision is to take advantage of this incredible opportunity and begin exploring the legal action that the citizens of our community are responsibly calling for,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta.

“These citizens have gone above and beyond to do their part. It is now imperative that we as civic leaders do our part,” he said.

In addition to Kaplan and Gallo, speakers at the press conference included Griz Jones of Forever Oakland, Ray Bobbit of We Stand with Oakland and John Jones III of Forever Oakland.

Published May 6, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

Oakland Public Library Discards African American History Books

Oakland Public Library Main

 

By Post Staff

Community activist Assata Olugbala shocked members of the community and council members when she spoke at this week’s City Council meeting, revealing that the Oakland Public Library is discarding Black history books, which could instead be utilized by community organizations and schools in the city.

Discarded library books.

Olugbala held up some of the books that she recovered: Fannie Lou Hamer, Toussaint L’Ouverture, Madam C.J. Walker, Sweet Daddy Grace, Paul Robeson Charles Drew.

Discarded library books. Photo courtesy of John Jones III’s Facebook page.

“This is all I could carry today,” she said. “I have a room full of books from the Oakland Public Library concerning African Americans that have been discarded. You should see the African American children’s books I have in my closet.”

The Oakland Post has contacted Mayor Libby Schaaf, asking if she is going to intervene to save African American Books. She replied, saying she ‘is looking into it.”

Councilmember Desley Book sent an email to the City Administrator expressing the Councilmember’s concerns.

“I watched in horror and disbelief as Ms. Olugbala displayed African American library book after library book that had been discarded. Some of the books she displayed were collectors’ items,” Brooks wrote.

“What we saw was tantamount to a quiet book burning and an erasure of a people’s history from a community.  This is a troubling visual for a city that wants people to support another library tax,” she wrote.

Published May 3, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

 

 

 

“America Untold” Storytellers Come to the Marsh Theater

 

Stagebridge’s “America Untold” Storytellers. Photo by Ken Epstein

“America Untold¨ Performance comes to the Marsh Theater A performance of ¨America Untold in Times Unseen – Stories that Let the Light Come In¨ will be held Tuesday, Dec. 12, 7:30 p.m., the Marsh Theater, 2120 Alston Way in Berkeley.

¨America Untold¨ features a series of vignettes produced and performed by Stagebridge Storytellers as part of ¨Times Unseen,” the Marsh’s ongoing project to chronicle the current political turmoil and its effects on individual lives.

This one-night production showcases the Fall 10-week storytelling class directed by Jeanne Haynes for Stagebridge, Oakland, a senior theater company.

Void of rants or insults, and with barely a mention of the administration, tellers will present their personal stories impacted by current political issues.

Honing their tales into powerful succinct bite-size pieces, with music by classical guitarist Karen Sellinger, Stagebridge tellers and their topics are:

Susan Shampanier – Economy; Harry Santi – Endangered Species; Laurie Baumgarten – Global Warming; Stuart Korn – Gun Control; Judy Kennedy – Housing; Samir Saad – Immigration;

Sarah Strong – LBGT Rights; Beverly Miles – Racism; Ellen Kaufman – Reproductive Rights; Theresa Nervis – Voter Integrity; Scott Ullman -World War III?

Tickets are $10 – $25 sliding scale, $55 and $100 reserved seating.
For tickets and more information go to:

https://themarsh.org/times_unseen/america-untold-in-times-unseen/

or call The Marsh at (415) 282-3055.

Published November 23, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Storytellers Spin True Tales About Life Under Trump

Stagebridge participant Beverly Miles: “Nobody ever sees the problem as the problem. IIt doesn’t have to do with Trump. It has to do with the (social) climate that we refused to change.

 

By Ken Epstein

The tumultuous administration of President Donald Trump caught many people by surprise. Unfolding events have rattled their daily lives and certainties like a strong earthquake, revealing hidden fault lines in how they relate to friends and relatives and causing reflections and reappraisals of values and priorities.

Seeing a need for people to reach out to express themselves and share their stories with others, longtime storytelling artist and teacher Jeanne Haynes has organized a class about the issues, “America Untold,” to help participants create short monologues about how these national and global changes intersect with their personal lives.

Jeanne Haynes

Hosted by Stagebridge, the class began Sept. 29 and continues weekly until Dec. 8. At the end of the sessions, the Marsh Theatre in Berkeley will feature an evening of on-stage performances of the artists’ pieces.

Stagebridge has been conducting classes for older adults in the performing arts since 1978. Haynes, who had spent her life working in journalism and public relations, took her first Stagebridge class 21years ago and found her passion.

“A small group of all women talked about storytelling,” she said. “My heart was just beating. I thought this is what I want to do.”

Since then, she has appeared on San Francisco Bay Area stages and as a featured storyteller for major events. Working with Stagebridge, she has taught the art form to over 4,000 local school children and more than 300 adults, as well as working as a private coach for several dozen advanced tellers.

In her introduction to America Untold, Haynes laid out her vision for the class.

“We will work on personal stories, stories based on interviews with people who have opposing views, and stories of community efforts to build bridges among us,” she said.

“While emotions can be expected to run high in such discussions, this will not be a time for rants or insults,” she said. “Civil discourse will be observed for active listening to differing opinions and the development of artfully told stories.”

At the first session last Friday, the 12 participants brainstormed some of their ideas about the issues and situations that could be incorporated into their performance pieces.

Beverley Miles, a retired university administrator, explained that her professional role “has always been to bring people together.”

“Nobody ever sees the problem as the problem,” she said. “It doesn’t have to do with Trump. It has to do with the (social) climate that we refused to change. We don’t want to see the personal responsibility that we have.”

Theresa Nervis talked about how she began to pay attention to what was going on.

“My husband was upstairs, and he was yelling at the TV. He said: ‘You should see this,’” she said.

“It’s time for me now to really look at this thing and what’s happening, “Nervis said. “There were 24 tweets about the NFL and four about Puerto Rico,” referring to the president’s public statements about events in the last few weeks.

Jeff Hanson, a portfolio manager for private families around the country, views the national conflict “as a battle between the bicoastal bubbles and the rest of the country. And I wonder which side is going to win.”
Harry Santi, a lifelong Oakland resident, has always cared about animals. He works as a docent at the Oakland Zoo.

“If Trump had his way, he would do away with the Endangered Species Act, which would really be terrible, said Santi.

Santi said he wants people to understand the connections between the survival of humans and animals.

Sarah Strong, a psychologist, has a brother-in-law who plays golf with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s resort in Palm Beach, Fla. She also has a son who belongs to a gay synagogue and fears they might be attacked.

“The same consciousness that led to Hitler is alive and well in the United States,” she said.

Samir Saad, who came to the United States from Egypt at the age of 19, said he had a friend who told him there was “no way the establishment in Washington would let this guy be president.”

“After the election, I told him, ‘you lied to me,’” said Saad.

For more information about Stagebridge, go to www.stagebridge.org/

To learn more about storyteller Jeanne Haynes, visit http://jeannehaynes.com/

Published October 5, 2017, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Oakland Steps Out for Faith with a Joyful Noise

The city of Oakland has long been considered the citadel for progressive civil rights and political movements involving activism for racial and social inclusion and equity.

 In response to neighbors’ complaints about the loud sounds of music coming from churches, ministers and churches called for a public demonstration of respect for its churches instead of using the police and fines to punish their congregations.

More than 30 pastors stood in solidarity with Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. They were joined by city and county officials along with the SambaFunk! drummers, church choirs, gospel soloists and Black Arts groups.

True to its radical and revolutionary roots, Oakland is redefining respect for religion. Ministers called for the city to declare itself, to be a sanctuary city for its sanctuaries.

The First Amendment and religious freedom were embraced by a coalition that included the Oakland NAACP, the Post News Group, Baptists, Methodists, Muslims, Mormons, COGICs, AME, Catholics, the Black Arts Movement, Soul of Oakland, Oakland Private Industry Council, Pastors of Oakland, Baptist Ministers Union, Seventh-day Adventists and many others.

The event took place Saturday, Nov. 7 in front of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church on Adeline Street in West Oakland. It was the response to a city noise complaint against Pleasant Grove that kicked off the current solidarity movement.

Speaking at the event, Amos Brown of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco said his church has faced similar attempts to silence worship.

He told the crowd that earlier this year “two rogue cops” entered his church one afternoon to tell parishioners to quiet down during a service, where a gumbo band was playing in honor of a church member who had passed away.

But he told the police: “We are going to sing, we are going to shout. We’re going to let nobody tell us to shut up.”

The arts community and the religious community are coming together, said Theo Williams of the SambaFunk! drummers, who performed at the event.

“We came here to stand with you in solidarity,” he said. “This is monumental.”

Said Mayor Libby Schaaf, who spoke after Theo Williams, “This city has some strong roots, and these roots are in our faith community and our arts community.”

“My city has some SambaFunk!,” she said.

City Councilmember and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, who is a rabbi, urged people to raise their voice and sing out in praise.

“It is a miracle that we are still here to sing praises,” said Kaplan, referring to the holocausts faced by Black people during the Middle Passage, Jews during World War II and indigenous people in the United States during the Trail of Tears.

“We give thanks that we have survived to this day,” she said. “Let us use this as a force to unite.”

Bishop Joseph Simmons of Greater St. Paul Baptist Church praised church and community members who have spoken up about attacks on the right to worship.

“I want to thank the people who complained because your complaints made us stand up,” he said.

Rev. Ray Williams of Morning Star Baptist Church said people have to stand up to forces that want to push them out of the city.

“We used to steal away to Jesus to worship,” he said. “(But) we aren’t going to steal away anymore. We’re here to take back what gentrification has taken away from us.”

“We need our council members to have the courage to challenge chase bank for reneging on it’s promise to Oakland,” said Post publisher Paul Cobb.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, November 13, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Art Exhibit at Oakland’s Betti Ono Gallery Exposes Realities Migrants Experience in Detention

Visitors to the Betti Ono gallery exhibit "Visions from the Inside" work on a collaborative mural.Photo by Tulio Ospina.     Visitors to the Betti Ono gallery exhibit "Visions from the Inside" work on a collaborative mural.Photo by Tulio Ospina.

Visitors to the Betti Ono gallery exhibit “Visions from the Inside” work on a collaborative mural. Photo by Tulio Ospina.

By Tulio Ospina

The Betti Ono art gallery opened its doors Monday evening to the public for the creation of a mural using images from the “Visions from the Inside” project, depicting the experiences and hardships of undocumented mothers and children held in detention centers in the U.S.

Led by local cultural activist group CultureStrike, exhibition is the collaborative effort between detained migrants at the for-profit Karnes Detention Center in Texas and several artists and activists from across the country, designed to amplify migrants’ stories and show that art can be used as a tool to highlight these issues.

Julio Salgado, project manager and visual artist for CultureStrike.

Julio Salgado, project manager and visual artist for CultureStrike.

“The idea for the project came out of a trip earlier this year we took to the border and met with folks in detention centers,” said Julio Salgado, project manager and visual artist for CultureStrike.

“They mentioned that writing letters was the only way they could communicate with the outside world, since other communication is unavailable or too expensive,” he said.

As a result, the project team collected letters written by detained mothers and children and asked visual artists to illustrate interpretations of the letters, exposing “the realities that migrants are experiencing inside of detention facilities, what led them to migrate away from their home countries, and the resiliency of the human spirit,” according to the project description.

“I am trusting my God who will quickly end this nightmare,” said one of the letters. Another detainee wrote, “We are not a threat for this country, all I want is refuge in this country for my children and for me.”

People and a few of the illustrators crowded into the gallery space on Monday night, water coloring the large square prints of the artists’ illustrations that lay on the floor and then pasting them onto the gallery wall.

In one corner, members of Mujeres Unidas y Activas—a grassroots organization of Latina immigrant women—offered a place where participants could write about their experiences as immigrants.

“As a Black person, I have a lot of solidarity with the migrant struggle and the whole prison system in general and how it tears families apart,” said Francis Mead, a local artist who illustrated one of the panels.

Many people do not know that these detention centers exist and that people profit from them, said Salgado. “People don’t think about what is forcing migrants to come over and how they are held in centers for profit without any due process.”

According to Amanda Irwin of Centro Legal de la Raza, Alameda County and Oakland in particular are among the main destinations of undocumented minors who enter the country without a guardian.

If these young people are picked up at the border, they are immediately placed in detention centers under the oversight of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and held there indefinitely until a relative or acquaintance is located somewhere in the U.S. who is willing to sponsor the child.

If the resettlement office is unable to find a sponsor, the minor could face possible deportation back to the country they had fled.

“These are young people who have experienced extreme violence and for them to come and then be put in a sterile institutional environment is really damaging for young children,” said Irwin.

Currently, there are 618 reported unaccompanied minors living in Alameda County and over 400 are enrolled in the Oakland Unified School District.

The exhibit is on display at the Betti Ono gallery until Sunday, Nov. 1 at 1427 Broadway in Oakland.

For more information on “Visions from the Inside” or to purchase an illustration, visit culturestrike.org.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Gentrification Threatens Oakland Churches and Artists

Coalition of faith-based, housing and cultural groups join to protect sacred spaces, say speakers at Post Salon

Speakers at the Oct. 25 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were (L to R): Pastor Thomas Harris, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Pastor Phyllis Scott of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; Anyka Barber, owner of Betti Ono gallery; Theo Williams, SambaFunk!. and co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery. Photo by Tulio Ospina, First Presbyterian Church. Photo by Tulio Ospina

Speakers at the Oct. 25 Post Salon at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle were (L to R): Pastor Thomas Harris, Pleasant Grove Baptist Church; Pastor Phyllis Scott, Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; Anyka Barber, owner of Betti Ono gallery; Theo Williams, SambaFunk!; and co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery, First Presbyterian Church. Photo by Tulio Ospina

  By Ken Epstein

Oakland and other Bay Area cities are in the throes of a market-driven surge in evictions and rent increases, as long-term residents, small businesses and nonprofit agencies are being pushed out of their communities at an increasingly feverish pace.

Tensions are reaching a flashpoint in Oakland, where veteran residents are finding that a handful of gentrifiers  – perceived as acting out of a sense of entitlement – are trying to suppress the culture and religious worship that many see as the expression of life and breath.

At the heart of the conflict are two incidents that have become emblematic of the deepening tensions.
One of the incidents occurred in August when a resident called 911 to complain about an evening church choir practice at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in West Oakland, which received a city letter threatening penalties.

The second occurred in September when a resident approached drummers at Lake Merritt, tried to take away their drumsticks and called police to press assault charges against the musicians.

Exacerbating tensions, the city has seemed to side with the complainers – by threatening the church with penalties and filing charges against two of the drummers – though all charges were ultimately dropped this week.

Many residents see a double standard on the part of city agencies, which rarely respond when neighbors complain about a crack house next door or when garbage and other trash are piling up on their block.

These were concerns raised last Sunday, when residents, members of church congregations and cultural workers packed into a space at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland for a community discussion led by a panel of religious and arts’ leaders about how to come to grips with the current threat.

“(Our) church has been there over 65 years, and Wednesday night is choir rehearsal,” said Pastor Thomas Harris of Pleasant Grove.

“We were shocked, stunned when we heard that we were a nuisance in the community,” he said.  “We want to embrace change, (but) we also want the community to realize there is a tradition.”

Pastor Harris said he was also surprised by the widespread support his church has been receiving.
“I didn’t know this was going to take off like this,” he said, adding that he has heard from someone in Colorado, who told him, “We can’t hear you – you’re not loud enough.”

“I can’t believe all this is going on,” Pastor Harris said. “ If I’m the instrument to be used to make a change, I’m ready to be used.“

Co-moderator Pastor Debra Avery of the First Presbyterian Church of Oakland emphasized the connections between the churches and cultural expression, saying, “The church and the artists belong together.”

Another speaker, Theo Williams, is head of the drumming group SambaFunk! Funkquarians and co-founder of the Soul of Oakland coalition.

“We are all in this this together – this monster is coming to devour our community and devour our soul, ” he said.   “Just know we are standing with you. It is our job to come together now, not to look at our differences,” he said.

Drumming is rooted in African culture, Williams said, and, “We go to church almost every day of the week (somewhere in the city), and you are saying that it is going to be prohibited and restricted – that is our culture.”

Williams said the city should pass an ordinance to protect its cultural institutions. New residents who are moving next door to churches and cultural spaces should know they are protected by law.

The city should also eliminate policies that penalize or undermine cultural spaces.  “It’s time to look through all the municipal codes,” he said.

Pastor Phyllis Scott of Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries said churches receives complaints because, “We do a major work the city does not do. We feed the hungry, and we have HIV testing.”

Some people are complaining because they don’t want the “flood of homeless people coming into the neighborhood,” because the churches are feeding those who are in need, she said.

Anyka Barber, co-creator of the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition and owner of the Betti Ono art gallery, explained she was born in Oakland and is committed to fight for the city’s cultural identity.

“It is my responsibility as a native, as a business owner (and) as a mother to step up,” she said. “There is no disconnection between the churches and the cultural workers. Everything I know I learned in church.”

Barber called for the city to reestablish its Cultural Arts Commission, “made up of residents who really represent our interests.”

She criticized the city’s process for creating a downtown development plan. “This planning process is not indicative of the community,” she said. “A lot of people feel like it should be scrapped and start all over. That’s my sense of it.”

Post publisher Paul Cobb, co-moderator of the event, called on the City Council to pass a “Church Pride Day” to acknowledge the churches, “so Oakland can be a sanctuary city for our sanctuaries.”

City development plans should include a “faith-based zone,” where affordable housing can be built around the churches, he said.

“The city needs a master plan for downtown that protects all the nonprofits, community groups and small businesses that are being pushed out because of gentrification,” Cobb said.

He also suggested putting out a national call for people to come to Oakland to hold sit-ins and picket lines at some of some of the city’s hip new restaurants that do not hire Black workers, “to integrate the jobs in these new restaurants in the same manner that we integrated southern lunch counters and restaurants in the 60s.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

New Biography of Loren Miller, Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist

Loren Miller was one of the nation’s most prominent civil rights attorneys from the 1940s through the early 1960s, particularly in the fields of housing and education.Loren Miller biography

With co-counsel Thurgood Marshall, he argued two landmark civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, whose decisions effectively abolished racially restrictive housing covenants. One of these cases, Shelley v. Kraemer (1948), is taught in nearly every American law school today.

A new biography by Amina Hassan, “Loren Miller: Civil Rights Attorney and Journalist recovers this remarkable figure from the margins of history and for the first time fully reveals his life for what it was: an extraordinary American story and a critical chapter in the annals of racial justice.

Born the son of a former slave and a white mid-westerner in 1903, Loren Miller lived the quintessential American success story, both by rising from rural poverty to a position of power and influence and by blazing his own path.

In her book, Hassan reveals Miller as a fearless critic of the powerful and an ardent debater whose acid wit was known to burn “holes in the toughest skin and eat right through double-talk, hypocrisy, and posturing.”

As a freshly minted member of the bar who preferred political activism and writing to the law, Miller set out for Los Angeles from Kansas in 1929.

Amina Hassan

Amina Hassan

Hassan describes his early career as a fiery radical journalist, as well as his ownership of the California Eagle, one of the longest- running African American newspapers in the West.

In his work with the California branch of the ACLU, Miller sought to halt the internment of West Coast Japanese citizens, helped integrate the U.S. military and the L.A. Fire Department, and defended Black Muslims arrested in a deadly street battle with the LAPD.

Hassan charts Miller’s ceaseless commitment to improving the lives of Americans regardless of their race or ethnicity. In 1964, Governor Edmund G. Brown appointed Miller as a Municipal Court justice for Los Angeles County.

The story told here in full for the first time is of a true American original who defied societal limitations to reshape the racial and political landscape of twentieth-century America.

Dr. Amina Hassan is an independent historian and award-winning public radio documentarian whose productions include a 13-part series for National Public Radio on how race, class, and gender shape American sports.

Former a member of the staff of radio station KPFA in Berkeley, she currently works as a media content consultant and researcher for the Azara Group.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, Oct. 30, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Community Turns Up the Volume to Defend Residents and Businesses

Activists demand “Development Without Displacement” after mayor’s staff says there is no housing crisis in Oakland

Community members and anti-displacement activists surround city Planning and Building Director Rachel Flynn Oct. 19 at the Downtown Specific Plan design workshop. Photo by Tulio Ospina

Community members and anti-displacement activists surround city Planning and Building Director Rachel Flynn Oct. 19 at the Downtown Specific Plan design workshop. Photo by Tulio Ospina

 By Ashley Chambers and Tulio Ospina

Community members are raising the volume on their demands that the city protect Oaklanders’ rights following a number of noise complaints by a few residents targeting Lake Merritt drummers and Black churches.

A number of creative artists, singers, and community and faith leaders made their voices and musical instruments heard Monday evening at the Rally to Defend Oakland’s Culture, calling on city government to stand up for cultural equity in Oakland.

The rally in front of the Rotunda Building at Frank Ogawa Plaza, organized by the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC), included performances by poets, the Oakland Creative Voices Choir and spoken word by the group Young, Gifted & Black.

Speakers included Robbie Clark of Causa Justa; Chaney Turner of Black Lives Matter, Bay Area chapter; artist and director of CultureStrike, Favianna Rodriguez; Pastor Phyllis Scott, Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries; and Post publisher Paul Cobb.

The speakers loudly defended the freedom of creative and cultural expression, and voiced their concerns that the local arts and culture community has been left out of the city’s planning process on the development of downtown Oakland.

“They can develop, but they are not going to displace us,” said Cobb, speaking at the rally.

“We wanna give the drummer some,” he said. “We want to make sure that our gospel singers don’t have to close their windows, and we want to make sure that our creative artists and our nonprofit organizations have a place to exist in this city to serve the population.”

The protest was held in front of the first of the city’s workshops to inform residents of the Downtown Specific Plan and designed to receive input on the area’s redevelopment, but arts and culture activists are saying they have not been invited to the table.

The workshops were created following a report released by San Francisco Planning & Urban Research (SPUR), funded by the city, that community activists say is a roadmap to gentrification.

According to Eric Arnold, a member of the OCNC steering committee, the SPUR report, titled “Downtown for Everyone,” is “a blueprint for exclusion of people of color and low-income residents, as well as the creative arts community” from downtown Oakland.

The SPUR report also contends that speculative construction in the downtown area is being inhibited by commercial rents that are too low and a lack of big tenants. Critics of the report say nonprofits and small commercial tenants are already being pushed out of downtown area by recent uncontrolled rent increases.

As the rally ended, attendees flowed into the workshop to make sure their opinions were heard throughout the chambers.

“We want cultural equity, affordable housing and anti-displacement protections for the existing residents and commercial sector throughout the city that have made Oakland such a vibrant and desirable place to live,” community members demanded.

OCNC demanded that the city’s Cultural Arts Commission be restored and called for a fully staffed Cultural Arts Department to ensure prioritization for Oakland’s historically underrepresented communities.

They also want to pass ordinances to preserve Oakland’s cultural diversity. Earlier this year, Mayor Libby Schaaf showed support for creating a Black Arts Movement Cultural District down 14th Street in downtown Oakland but has not yet acted on the proposal.

During the workshop on Monday, Rachel Flynn, Director of Planning and Building, was surrounded by activists demanding clarity on a controversial statement she made earlier this month claiming that there was no housing crisis in Oakland.

Faith leaders are also reacting to the city’s support for complaints from a handful of residents who are saying church worship is too loud.

“Our music and the way that we worship God is an expression of our heritage and our creativity,” said Pastor Scott at the Monday night rally. “Nobody should tell us that we have to express our creativity in the way they say so. We need to keep the creative juices flowing through Oakland.”

Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in West Oakland is potentially facing $500-a-day fines from the city. In response, Pastor Thomas Harris of Pleasant Grove is bringing local clergy together for an outdoor worship service on Saturday, Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Adeline St. between 10th and 14th St.

He said it is a time for churches to worship in the streets and invite to neighbors and people of all backgrounds to join in community fellowship.

Defending community voices, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spoke at this week’s City Council meeting.

“Psalm 98:4 says make a joyful noise unto the Lord,” she said. “The laws require us to respect freedom of religious practice, and it is certainly my hope that we will do just that.”

According to Theo Williams of the SambaFunk! Funkquarians and journalist Zenophon Abraham, the problem isn’t the complaints but that the city and police are listening to them.

“If the complaint came from a 911 call, then that’s against California Penal Code Section 148.3 on ‘False Reporting of an Emergency,’” said Abraham in a letter to several city officials.

“You specifically allowed a single person to violate (the law) and without action,” he said. “You can’t get by with the idea that someone did not report that the complainer was in violation of the law.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, October 23, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)