Friday, July 8, 2011

Black Diamonds Shining Collective Spreads Love at Oakland's Rock Paper Scissors Gallery

    When I walked into the Rock Paper Scissors Collective gallery in Oakland last Friday, the word that kept running through my mind was affirmation. It was what I felt when I looked at the intricate murals and installations that covered the walls from top to bottom. It was the work of Black Diamonds Shining, an "Oakland based afro galactic black arts collective" comprised of artists Ras Terms, Safety First, Deadeyes, Antjuan Jones, Brooks Golden (Be Golden), and Larry Dobie.

    The best thing about gazing upon the work of these artists is that it serves as a reminder of our humanity and our beauty as people. I can't tell you how many times I stumbled across their work and it caused me to hold my head a little bit higher, or put a smile on my face and remember where I came from. The message they deliver is a powerfully positive one.

     The way that BDS transformed this space truly has to be seen to be believed. There are messages and images in every corner, and they all come together to form a beautiful narrative.
    Another wonderful thing about this collaborative work is how seamlessly it is woven together in this space. It's hard to tell where on artist's contribution begins and another ends.

 Iconography of the African Diaspora and the message of ancestral reverence is strong throughout the mural, as evidenced by an area dedicated to elder and ancestor movers and shakers  like Octavia E. Butler, George Clinton, and Malcolm X.

The Bay is home to some amazing graffiti and street artists, and they definitely have a unique aesthetic that celebrates the diverse cultures and natural beauty of the Bay Area. There are giant wheat pasted drawings of owls and foxes done with intricate detail, stencil pieces of cowrie shells and legendary afro beat musician Fela Kuti (shout out to ESU), and writing urging people to rise up and take a stand.    

You can keep up with the work of Black Diamonds Shining Collective on their Tumblr page

You can view more graffiti and murals by Bay Area artists on Endless Canvas . And if you're in the Bay, don't miss the show at Rock Paper Scissors, 2278 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. They're open Weds. through Sunday, 12-7pm 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Soul Food: "The Gods Must Be Crazy--Reviving The Black Supernatural Experience'

There is a cultural renaissance taking place in Oakland. Creative people are coming together to not only support each other and collaborate as artists, but also to find ways to make positive things happen in the community. '"The Gods Must Be Crazy"--Reviving the Black Supernatural Experience', a two part event presented by Top Ten Social kicked off at Oakland's Fox Theater Thursday evening with a panel discussion featuring singer Jennifer Johns, spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and DJ Rich Medina. Each artist (along with moderator Abel Habtegeorgis and host Ashara Ekundayo) lent a unique perspective, and what was most refreshing about this panel was the optimistic outlook of the speakers. Each has played a major part in the creative landscape for quite some time, so they had a lot of insight not only into the problems faced within the arts and our society but also solutions. There were many wonderful ideas presented, I thought I would share some of my notes with yall:

Create your own definition of success and victory, don't focus on someone else's.

Art can be the core for addressing social issues, which was the idea the Life Is Living Festival is based on. Art can be at the center of a larger movement, as a way of bringing people together.

A "creative ecosystem": people with shared values coming together through different modalities (i.e. a painter and a civil engineer both working for access to healthy food in their neighborhood)

The issue of budget cuts and art programs being eliminated in public schools: We need to develop small communities around the arts to make up for what is not being taught in school. Artists and community members must find ways of coming together to give young people what they need.
Spoken word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph

How do we fortify future generations? How do we interact with/speak to the movement we benefited from (i.e. Black Power Movement, Civil Rights Movement, etc.) as the first generations to grow up with more opportunity than our parents and ancestors?

Gentrification sends more low income people of color further away from urban centers in search of affordable places to live. But what happens to these communities as the prices of food and fuel continue to rise? Resources will be more costly to access in spread out areas. Cities need to remain an affordable option for all people.

Dancer/choreographer Adia Whitaker's concept of "neo folklore": Diasporic people of the hip hop generation creating folklore
Singer Jennifer Johns

The body as a folkloric instrument, a radical revolutionary instrument to create new folklore

DJ Rich Medina

"I sing from a place of intelligence, letting them [the audience] know that I know who they are."     -Nina Simone

There was so much food for thought, and the energy in the room was electric. Part 2 of  'The Gods Must Be Crazy' takes place tonight at The New Parish in Downtown Oakland, with a party featuring live performances by Jennifer Johns, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Martin Luther, Kev Choice, DJ Rich Medina, Scorpio Blues, and Ashara Ekundayo (who told last night's audience "don't show up trying to be all cute in your heels, come prepared to DANCE!" ) 
Nina Simone

This event presents an exciting model for what is possible when combining art and social change: Having a consciousness raising session and presenting questions, ideas, and things to work on in the community, and then following it up with artistic food for the soul. 
Gil Scott Heron
If you're in the Bay Area, come out for what is sure to be a night to remember at The New Parish, 578 18th Street in Oakland. Show is from 8pm-2am, tickets are $20. Wear your flats and sneakers!
And if you'd like to see photos from last night's discussion, check out the Top Ten Social Flickr page