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AfroTech conference a huge success in Oakland

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Oakland – AfroTech celebrated its fourth year and historic move to Oakland.  The event has been previously held in San Francisco.  This past weekend, 10,000 Black techies, startups, and entrepreneurs swarmed the city of Oakland for a chance to connect with some of the biggest names in media and tech during AfroTech’s 2019 Conference.

Held at the Oakland Convention Center in downtown Oakland, the conference saw another sold out event.  Speakers from all over the U.S. came to network, promote and discuss Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Genentech who talked about new programs and projects that will encompass diversity and inclusion.

Pictured Twitter’s Tami Floden (Leads Sales and G&A Recruiting Teams ) and Raphael Williams (Recruiting Program Manager)

“We want our company to reflect on our service, and we’re continuing our journey to bring inclusion and diversity to how we work and who we are.  Our goal is to be transparent and do our work at Twitter out in the open.  Through increased openness, we believe we can learn together, discuss together, and make greater strides together.” – Twitter

The world of technology is growing by the minute and young entrepreneurs can’t wait to become more knowledgeable. AfroTech EXPO gave you an opportunity to interact with at least 25 or more companies who discussed their plan to incorporate Diversity and Inclusion.  Free swag, demos and a really cool way to network with ideas on bettering technology in the future.

I spoke with Gerren Wilson, Head of Patient Partnerships at Genentech.  Wilson’s current project involves building relationships with patient communities.  Genentech will bring awareness to communities with lack of healthcare especially to those who battle diseases unable to find a cure.

“I have a specific focus of some work that we’re doing within the organization that we’ve titled “Advancement Inclusive Research,” said Wilson.  “Which is about broadening inclusion with historically under represented patient communities into our clinical research programs.  We want to help make smarter treatment decisions for patients.”

Afrotech Community Park

AfroTech provided a path for networking among entrepreneurs, companies, talent and people who work in Technology.  To share, connect and discuss ways to push the culture forward is an outstanding opportunity.  More companies want to breakdown barriers and create more platforms for African-Americans.  From starting your own company to recruiting more people of color, AfroTech is about more than Technology. 

More than 100 partners, sponsors and vendors took part in this years AfroTech conference.  Black owned food trucks to vendors packed the Community Park which was free to all.  Music, food, and a lounge area gave many of the attendees a chance to relax and take selfies.    Events and parties were held after the conference sessions ended.  The conference was held from Thursday through Saturday.  

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 09: Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson attends AfroTech 2019 at Oakland Marriott City Center on November 09, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Robin L Marshall/Getty Images for AfroTech)

Bernard Tyson who was a prominent mentor, leader and advocate while employed with Kaiser Permanente for 34 years.  Tyson spoke at the AfroTech conference on Saturday morning and then passed away in his sleep early Sunday morning.  He was the first African-American to hold a CEO position which he began in 2013.  His opening statement at the conference began like this.

“I got into Healthcare because my mother was always sick, and I always spent a lot time in the hospital.  I struggled to get into what we call today disparities of care where people are treated differently based on race.

I first joined Kaiser Permanente in getting my Master’s degree in Health Administration and I needed to do a residency program.  So I selected Kaiser Permanente because we use Kaiser so much in our case studies.  So I went to San Francisco medical center fully expecting to do a six months residency program.  So about three months into the program I got involved in having to open the Open Heart unit in San Francisco.  And one day the executive of San Francisco medical center asked me to do this massive assessment of one of the departments. So I went in and did that assessment making a bunch of recommendations and she said, ‘really good job now go implement them.’  I literally started a conversation saying this is really hard to implement as a resident but as a manager I could make it happen and I started as a Manager. So I started down that path.

This executive I was talking about was the hospital’s Administrator of the San Francisco Kaiser and she was an African-American.  She gave me that first break.  And the reason why I  talk about it is because throughout my journey at Kaiser Permanente, while she was there, she was both a mentor and a sponsor and I talk to a lot of people today about the difference between a mentor and a sponsor and hopefully in your career you will have both of those.”

Art

Marin Fair Competitive Exhibits Open for Entry

“We are thrilled to provide an array of online competitions for our community during our outdoor only 2022 Fair,” said Director of Cultural Services Gabriella Calicchio. “The Competitive Exhibits program is the heart and soul of the Fair and we’re excited to bring our talented community together again to participate.”

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Marin County Fair “So Happy Together!” returns June 30-July 4

Courtesy of Marin County

2022 Marin County Fair Poster depicting a variety of farm animals with the Marin County Civic Center and Marin Fairgrounds property in the background. San Rafael, California — With Marin County Fair’s June 30 opening day just around the corner, the Competitive Exhibits categories for the 2022 Fair are now available on the Fair’s website MarinFair.org.

The competitive exhibit program, which usually takes place indoors, will remain online for one more year and will include competitions such as fine art and photography, decorated cakes and cookies, wine and beer label design, clothing and textiles, cartoon art, exceptional art, poetry and creative writing, hobbies and crafts, and more. The Plein Air painting competition on the first day of the Fair will take place outdoors. The agriculture competitions will remain outdoors and will include poultry, rabbits, sheep dog trials, pocket pets, dog care and training, and small animal round robin showmanship, to name a few.

“We are thrilled to provide an array of online competitions for our community during our outdoor only 2022 Fair,” said Director of Cultural Services Gabriella Calicchio. “The Competitive Exhibits program is the heart and soul of the Fair and we’re excited to bring our talented community together again to participate.”

The full list of categories and entry guidelines is available online at MarinFair.org. Submissions will be accepted from May 6 to May 31 and winners will be announced online during Fair time.

The 2022 fair will also focus on outdoor entertainment including the headline concerts, performers roaming the grounds such as jugglers, unicyclists, and stilt walkers, and interactive art experiences for fans of all ages. Returning fair favorites will include traditional carnival rides, the Global Marketplace, the Barnyard, food and drinks, and fireworks every night over the Civic Center’s Lagoon Park.

Early bird tickets sold out within one day of release. Discounted Fair tickets are still available for adults and teens through June 29. The Fair is a one-price gate featuring 28 carnival rides, exciting exhibits, spectacular firework displays, first-rate concerts and exciting attractions are FREE with gate admission. Tickets are available online only at MarinFair.org.

Headline concerts will soon be announced, and reserved gold circle tickets will go on sale May 16. Reserved concert seating in a special section is $60 per person and includes Fair admission.

Special Admission Days:
Kids Day at the Fair – Thursday, June 30
Children 12 and under are FREE on Thursday, June 30.
Senior Day at the Fair – Thursday, June 30
Seniors 65+ are admitted FREE

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Activism

Installation Invoking Black Struggle for Justice in Opens May 14 at Oakland City Hall

Society’s Cage is an open air, accessible pavilion featuring 500 hanging steel bars that form a cavernous cube with a habitable void allowing visitors to experience the symbolic weight of institutional racism. This immersive experience offers the opportunity to consider the severity of racial biases within our institutional structures of justice and allows for moments of reflection and healing. 

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Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
View of ‘Society’s Cage,’ an immersive exhibit at Oakland City Hall. Photo courtesy of the organizers.

By Randolph Belle

A traveling exhibit that invokes the history of repression of Blacks in the United States arrived in Oakland for installation this week at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Support Oakland Artists, an Oakland based 501(C)3, partnered with Society’s Cage to bring the acclaimed social justice art installation as a feature in front of Oakland City Hall from May 9-30, 2022.

Society’s Cage is an open air, accessible pavilion featuring 500 hanging steel bars that form a cavernous cube with a habitable void allowing visitors to experience the symbolic weight of institutional racism.

This immersive experience offers the opportunity to consider the severity of racial biases within our institutional structures of justice and allows for moments of reflection and healing.

The designers, Dayton Schroeter, Julian Arrington, Monteil Crawley and Ivan O’Garro, created the installation to contextualize the contemporary phenomenon of police killings of Black Americans within the 400+ year continuum of racialized state violence in the United States.

It is a data-driven installation shaped in response to the question “What is the value of Black life in America?”

The Oakland installation will be the first on the West Coast as it travels nationally to sites of symbolic power related to justice, freedom & democracy. Originating in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall in response to the 2020 murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Society’s Cage has continued its journey as an interpretive lens highlighting the historic forces of racialized state violence in the United States.

Other sites have included War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore, Maryland, and the site of the Vernon AME Chapel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street.

Oakland is an ideal host site for the installation as the home of the Black Panther Party, which was founded to combat the legacy of police oppression, inequitable incarceration practices, and remnants of slavery in the form of state-sponsored terrorism against Black people.

In 2009, the killing of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old, unarmed Black transit rider by the BART police in Oakland set off local and regional organized protests that catalyzed a national movement.

Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“We were inspired to create the installation as a response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” explains Dayton Schroeter, lead designer of Society’s Cage and design director at SmithGroup, which has offices in San Francisco. “The pavilion is a real and raw reflection of the conversations about racism happening now. It’s a physical manifestation of the institutional structures that have undermined the progress of Black Americans over the history of this country.

“The name Society’s Cage refers to the societal constraints that limit the prosperity of the Black community,” says Julian Arrington, who led the design with Schroeter, and is an associate at SmithGroup. “The pavilion creates an experience to help visitors understand and acknowledge these impacts of racism and be moved to create change.”

 

 

 

“It only took an instant for me to commit to this project,” said Randolph Belle, executive director of Support Oakland Artists. “In my over 30 years in Oakland as an artist and community developer, I’ve strived to utilize the arts to engage the public in thoughtful ways around important and timely topics. This project, this site, and these times are an unprecedented example of that.”

Visitors are encouraged to participate in a shared experience upon entering the pavilion. After holding their breath for as long as they can, evoking the common plea among victims of police killings, “I can’t breathe,” visitors then post a video reflection of their experience on social media using the hashtag #SocietysCage. This exercise is meant not only to build empathy but expand the installation’s impact online to allow anyone to participate in this shared exercise.

The pavilion was fabricated by Gronning Design + Manufacturing LLC in Washington, D.C., and Mejia Ironworks in Hyattsville, Maryland. A soundscape was commissioned from a pair of composers, Raney Antoine Jr. and Lovell “U-P” Cooper.

Comprised of four pieces, each eight minutes and 46 seconds in length in recognition of the time George Floyd suffered under the knee of police, they are themed to reflect each of the four institutional forces that sculpted the pavilion’s interior — mass incarceration, police terrorism, capital punishment and racist lynchings.

Early sponsors who have made the hosting of the Society’s Cage Oakland installation possible include the Akonadi Foundation, Tarbell Family Foundation, individual sponsors including principals from SmithGroup’s San Francisco office, corporate sponsorship including SmithGroup and many community partners including BIG Oakland.

Jeremy Crandall and Emax Exhibits were the Oakland Installation team.

A public unveiling is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2022, at 11 a.m., and a programmed event featuring local cultural artists is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2022, at 7 p.m. Participating individuals and organizations include original members of the Black Panther Party, the Black Cultural Zone, HipHopTV, and a host of local artists.

For more information, visit www.societyscage.com to find a link to the donation site. Additional donations will assist with programming and documentation related to the Oakland activation.

Randolph Belle is the executive director of Support Oakland Artists and RBA Creative studio in Oakland.

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Arts and Culture

Four Seasons Arts Honors Founder Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams with Annual Concert

Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams was one of the first African American presenters of a major classical music concert series in the United States. Dr. Williams presented artists of all races and organized racially diverse audiences, and for over 40-plus years in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, he introduced to the world some of the finest musicians of our time.

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Pianist Dr. Rochelle Sennet is a well-known performer, teacher and scholar. She has performed throughout the world as a soloist and orchestra collaborator and is a sought-after guest lecturer and adjudicator.
Pianist Dr. Rochelle Sennet is a well-known performer, teacher and scholar. She has performed throughout the world as a soloist and orchestra collaborator and is a sought-after guest lecturer and adjudicator.

On Saturday, May 7 at 3 p.m., Four Seasons Arts will honor Founder Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams with a piano recital by Dr. Rochelle Sennet. The concert takes place at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. in Berkeley.

Sennet’s May 7 program, entitled “Bach to Black,” features two Partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Four Dances for Boris” by African-American composer Jeffrey Mumford (b. 1955) and “In the Bottoms” Suite by African-American composer R. Nathaniel Dett.

Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams led the concert organization from its beginning in 1958 until his death in 1999, and it is because of his vision that the concert series continues.

Dr. Williams was one of the first African American presenters of a major classical music concert series in the United States. Dr. Williams presented artists of all races and organized racially diverse audiences, and for over 40-plus years in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, he introduced to the world some of the finest musicians of our time.

Pianist Dr. Rochelle Sennet is a well-known performer, teacher and scholar. She has performed throughout the world as a soloist and orchestra collaborator and is a sought-after guest lecturer and adjudicator.

Free tickets to this event are available by emailing fsa.info@fsarts.org, calling 510-845-4444 or clicking the “Get Free Tickets” button at www.fsarts.org/2022-founders-concert/.

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