Saturday, February 21, 2015

BAM News Update: Life and Death in West Oakland

Wendy’s Cheesecake Bakery & Le`RoyaltyLadies Catering Service
Presents: The 18th Annual Black History Celebration
We invite you to participate in this years celebration themed: “Our Roots Run Deep.” Join us in honoring our Ancestors, whose shoulders we boldly stand on, recognizing the Blood, Sweat and Tears, that built the foundation of American History.
This year’s Celebration will be held at The West Oakland Youth Center, at: 3233 Market Street, Oakland, Ca. 94608; Friday, February, 20th 2015, 6:00pm 9:30pm. Admission is FREE. Hors-d’oeuvres and Refreshments will be served from 6pm 6:45pm.

Our Guest Speakers: 

Ms. Elaine Brown - Legacy of Black Panthers Movement 

Marvin X (Black Arts Movement)
Pastor Larry Austin - (Oakland City Church – 180 Degree, African American Male Achievement) Pastor James A. Long, Jr. – (True Faith Baptist Church - Our Souls Run Deep)
David Roach - (
Letitia Henderson (Olivet IMBC – History)
L. Karen Monroe - (Alameda County Superintendent of Schools)
Melody Powers - (The Bay Area Black United Funds)
Allensworth Descendants Association
Brenda Brumfield-Ross & Paula Kirkendoll - (Sister Cities International)
Douglas Steward - (Covered California)
I80 Degree Program / Piedmont Avenue Elementary School Gators
BOP - (Black Organizing Project)

Spoken Word Artist:
Dance Group
Musical Selections
Voices of Freedom “Keren Beloved”
Piwai of Acoustic Soul Stories

Montoya Mayo Aries Jordan Downtown TAY LaShawn Rabon

Participating Vendors:
The Bay Area Black United Fund KulCha Coloring Works, Inc. Montoya Mayo
Marvin X, Black Bird Press

Covered California
Bay Area Headwraps
Allensworth Descendants Association Aries Jordan
Women’s Chamber of Commerce The Aieste Star Foundation, 501(c)3 Sankofa Vine
Ankara Style

Chocolate Platinum Soul Line Dancers

 Marvin X at the West Oakland Youth Center Black History Event
photo Cathy Gent
As we came up on 3200 block of Market Street in West Oakland, we passed the flashing lights of police cars and saw the block of 32nd between Market and San Pablo was roped off by police tape, indicating a homicide. We slowed but continued to find a parking place so we could speak at a Black History program  at the City of Oakland's Youth Center.  We parked and went inside to find people lined up to eat dinner before the program began. While the OPD investigated the crime scene down the block, people inside were preparing to enjoy an evening of presentations on Black History. Elaine Brown was scheduled to speak on the Black Panther Party of which she was former chairwoman. I was representing the Black Arts Movement. The program was produced by Barbara Howard. The MC was George Pearson, PA, a former student of mine at Mills College.

As people ate dinner, I could hear them whispering about the homicide around the corner in the area we used to call the Dirty 30s. It is an area well familiar to me since I once lived at 32nd and Market as well as 32nd and Magnolia. Thirty Second Street was a freeway for drugs back in the day and apparently still is alive with medication for the oppressed.

The Dirty 30s is also known as an area for sex workers, one of whom was immortalized in my essay The Maid, the Ho, the Cook (In the Crazy House Called America, essays, Marvin X, Black Bird Press, 2002). The character with the triple crown was based on a sex worker I befriended and who came to live with me for a time. It was a time when I was already giving shelter to the director of my play One Day in the Life, Ayodele Nzinga, and her six children. The prostitute shared my one bedroom apartment along with Ayo and her children who were homeless at the time. Often when the prostitute came home from her runs up and down San Pablo, she would find us rehearsing One Day in the Life, a docudrama about my addiction and recovery from Crack, including a scene of my last meeting with Black Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton in a Crack house near the infamous Acorn Projects. She pretended not to notice us rehearsing and would often fall asleep on floor from exhausion, sleeping anywhere she could find space. But the play apparently seeped into her subconscious since she eventually gave up her sex work and went into recovery. She went to San Francisco and enrolled in a job training program to become a paralegal. So there is hope for those caught in the Dirty 30s. For sure, the Youth Center is making an impact, despite the fact that there are victims falling every minute in America's 400 year old war with North American Africans.
--Marvin X

 BAM Poet's Choir and Arkestra, University of California, Merced, 2014

 Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at Laney College BAM celebration
LtoR: Paul Cobb, Dr. Leslee Stradford, Conway Jones, Jr., Marvin X, Naima Joy in arms of Mayor Schaaf, Jah Amiel (grandchildren of Marvin X), Laney College President, Dr. Elnora T. Webb, Dr. Nathan Hare, President of Oakland City Council, Lynette McElhaney
photo South Park Ken Johnson
 Marvin X and daughter Nefertiti at the Laney College BAM 50th anniversary celebration; they participated on the BAM/Black Power babies panel

photo South Park Ken Johnson

Marvin X and the BAM 27 City Tour is coming to San Francisco, Berkeley and Sacramento. Stay tuned to or call 510-200-4164 for booking in your city.

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