Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Marvin X and Aries Jordan on The Black Arts Movement District, downtown Oakland CA, photo essay by Adam Turner

The BAM/City of Oakland planning committee voted to make The Black Arts Movement Disrtrict the official name of the proposed BAM District, a cultural and economic area along the 14th Street corridor, downtown Oakland. The BAM District will give honor and respect to Oakland's radical tradition of artists as artistic freedom fighters (Paul Robeson). According to Ishmael Reed, "If not for the Black Arts Movement, Black culture would be extinct!" BAM co-founder Marvin X says, "We give all praise to the Harlem Renaissance artists who expressed Black consciousness, inspired by the teachings of Marcus Garvey. We who are part of the Black Arts Movement give praises to the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Think of writers Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), Sonia Sanchez, Last Poets, Askia Toure, Sun Ra and Marvin X, all influenced by Islam. Muslim American literature originated with the BAM poets, writers, musicians, painters, dancers, actors. BAM artists were "sisters of the Black Power Movement" (Larry Neal). Marvin X says BAM was the Mother of the Black Power Movement because many students and young people came through BAM, then joined the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, Black Students Union. Even the American Prison Movement was influenced by BAM after the staff of Black Dialogue Magazine visited the Soledad Prison's Black Culture Club, chaired by Eldridge Cleaver and Alprintice Bunchy Carter.

BPP co-founder Dr. Huey P. Newton said, "Marvin X was my teacher. Many of our comrades came through his Black Arts Theatre: Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Emory Douglas, Samuel Napier."

The Black Arts Movement District gives honor and respect to the artistic and political freedom fighters who fought to liberate Oakland and America from the addiction to white supremacy. We think of dancer/choreographer Ruth Beckford, Ellendar Barnes, Raymond Sawyer, Ed Mock, Judith Holton, Suzzette Celeste, Deborah Vaughn, Halifu Osumare, Malika Jamillah, Nisa Ra, et al. We think of Avotcja, Adam David Miller, Sarah Webster Fabio, Dr. Nathan Hare, Dr. Julia Hare, Bob Chrisman, Robert Allen, Abdul Sabrey, Aubrey LaBrie, Duke Williams, Saadat Ahmad, et. al. We especially recognize actor Danny Glover who was with us at San Francisco State University and was a member of Black Arts West Theatre, San Francisco. Danny is in the Paul Robeson tradition of the Artistic Freedom Fighter.

As was noted in the BAM/City of Oakland planning meeting: BAM was/is an international Black Arts Movement, that expressed itself nationally and internationally, from Europe to Brazil, Peru, Columbia, Mexico, Africa and elsewhere.

Oakland's Black Arts Movement District serves as the model of a national and international/Pan African artistic movement. Those who think BAM is something from the past are simply lost and turned out on the way to grandmother's house (Whispers). They need to get a healing and come into the present era. After all, we are yet free and thus the mission of BAM continues until freedom is won. Oh, Ancestor Harriet Tubman, speak to us tonight, "...I could have freed more slaves if they had known they were slaves...."
--Marvin X, BAM Planner, December 7, 2015
Next meeting: Oakland City Hall
January 4, 2016, 2PM-5PM
Be there or be square!
Information: 510-200-4164

Graphics design by Adam Turner


Oakland City Council President Lynette McElhaney addresses planning session on establishing an Arts Commission and the Black Arts Movement District

Oakland Post Publisher Paul Cobb making a point. "Lynette, why didn't you include or sync the BAM agenda with your agenda?"  

Anyka Barber, Director of Betti Ono Gallery, Elder Paul Cobb and Aries Jordan, all BAM District planners

 Menhuaim Ayele, holds a Masters in Architecture, is author of  a book on creating an Afrikatown. His dream is coming true! He is a member of the BAM District planning team. To left of Menhuaim is Duane Deterville, Editor of Black Artists in Oakland. He is a member of the BAM District planning team.

The next meeting of the Black Arts Movement District is January 4, 2016

BAM Notes by Aries Jordan

On Monday 12/7/15 the 2nd planning  meeting for the Black Arts Movement District began with a review of norms and the ambitious agenda to finalize recommendations for BAM District and Arts Commission. Participants acknowledged the past efforts of  many culture keepers who  also  envisioned a Black cultural district in Oakland . Participants were also  challenged to move past grievances and grief towards a collective vision for  the next  100 years.  The large group was broken into  two working groups to explore the scope of  BAM district and   reestablishment  of the Oakland Arts commission. Both groups passionately shared the need for  protection for Black artist and businesses leaders in Oakland and beyond. 

A consensus was reached on the name “Black Arts Movement”  District  for the 14th street corridor.  The Black Arts Movement is  a part of Oakland’s history of resistance to oppression and was a catalyst for the spread of Black consciousness in the 1960’s.  The BAM district would serve as a place for cultivation of Black art and economic prosperity. The BAM  group  identified the creation of a BAM Land trust as a top priority; also, an assessment of City of Oakland Properties that BAM district can acquire for performance space, artist space, housing, business space. 

The BAM members envisioned a green space that incorporated Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.  The BAM committee also proclaimed that they will support and not compete with our brothers and sisters in east Oakland working on creating a Black Arts Movement district

The Oakland Arts Commission group made recommendations on the process going forward which included partnering with the Oakland's Department of  Race and Equity to ensure protection of existing Black cultural institutions. Moreover, it was also clear that once the Oakland Arts commission is re-established the arts fund needs to be restricted for sustainability, including a citizen review board.

Lastly, the group recommended the establishment of Oakland Entertainment Commission to address the challenges of obtaining permits and licensing. The meeting concluded with closing remarks from City Council President Lynette McElhaney on next steps for the  proposed legislation before the City Council.  Participants departed the meeting  with a sense of hope, fierce determination and commitment to move thoughtfully and swiftly to turn the BAM District into a reality.  
--Aries Jordan

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