Oakland is one of those cities in which gentrification is running wild at the same time that young artists and entrepreneurs of color are busy staking ever larger claims. It’s one of those paradoxes of modern urban living; and Oakland is the petri dish in which competing claims may learn how to create art out of that tension as is happening again this weekend at the EastSide Arts Alliance.
If you haven’t yet been to the ESAA for festivals, music/spoken word performances or lively discussions, get yourself there this weekend-or next Saturday. The Anastasio Project is a collaboration of community organizers, cultural icons and artistry that will make you mad, sad and, hopefully, propel you to action all at the same time.
It takes its name from Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas who was beaten to death by border guards as he attempted to return from Mexico to his family in San Diego. No one has yet been charged with that brutal murder which took place in 2010. The collaboration seeks to make the connections between state violence towards immigrants in the border zone, immigrants who are struggling to live in California and on-going police brutality against those who have lived here for centuries.
It is a research project wrapped in spoken word, music, and dance which attempts to utilize all the media available to represent the varied experiences of people whose lives don’t matter to the mainstream media (MSM.) These programs have been presented before but the organizers NAKA Dance Theater along with the Alliance have added topical forums to extend the discussion.
If you go tonight, September 12th, you will hear from Birdie Guttierrez, a San Diego organizer, dealing with how families in that area cope with the brutality of ICE and other agencies with the help of Mujeres Unidas y Activas. MUA has been active in fighting for Latina women’s rights for twenty-four years here in the Bay Area and is a national model of organizing for empowerment.
If you go tomorrow night, Sunday, September 13th, you will hear from our own Cat Brooks, Oakland political activist, artist and dynamo of creative resistance (ONYX and the Anti Police Terror Project) who will talk about the criminalization and murder of Black Women in America and where the #BalckLivesMatter collective goes from here.
Then next Saturday, September 19th, Matt Gonzalez, San Francisco politician and lawyer in the Public Defender’s Office-for whom I trekked many a hilly block in his mayoral campaign in the early 2000’s-will speak on the needs to protect our sanctuary cities in the face of a serious right wing threat. Members of MUA will also contribute to this forum.
The forums run from 4 to 6 and the play starts at 8pm and there are two more performances on the 18th and 20th at 2277 International Boulevard in the San Antonio district of Oakland.
People talk about the Temescal, West Oakland and the Fruitvale as models of or battle grounds for displacement and change but the San Antonio district I remember, the one I raised my kids in for four years, was one of the most diverse and unknown neighborhoods of Oakland. We lived there in the height of the crack epidemic-my kids and I watched as Felix Mitchell’s funeral passed by a block away. This neighborhood still represents so much of the peril and promise of Oakland even as it stays under the MSM radar.
But the EastSide Arts Alliance draws together all these cultures and forces, not to neutralize or homogenize them but to listen and learn from all their stories. So get there soon, this weekend would be a good time to be introduced to issues of national, international importance, through art and community,