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BOOK REVIEW: “Corruption Officer”

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Sometimes, you have to choose sides.

 

Republican or Democrat? For something, or against it? Grateful for what you have or irritated by what you don’t? And you want fries with that?

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Sometimes you choose your sides, and sometimes they’re chosen for you. And in the new book “Corruption Officer” by Gary L. Heyward, the preferred option is outside.

 

“Big Hey” had “the shakes.”

 

Evenings, he spent almost all his paycheck shaking dice, winning some nights and some nights, not. He still lived with his Moms because of that, which was shameful – he was 29 years old, a Gulf War veteran – but, though a good friend urged him to job-search, Heyward figured that better employment was out of reach.

 

When he learned that his application to Corrections Academy was accepted, he grabbed his mother and danced in their kitchen. “Hello, pension,” he says. “Hello, Rikers Island.”

 

In the first days of Academy, Heyward had plenty to learn: inmates knew how to intimidate, which Corrections Officers were taught to ignore. Counting “mates” was essential, avoiding “undue familiarity” was important, the hours were lousy, but the money was good. Heyward was flush with cash for the first time in a long time.

 

He bought a car.

 

Then his Baby Mama took him to court for child support.

 

Weeks later, shortly after his paycheck amounted to $68 post-deductions, after the “hood booga” said she was pregnant and his car was repo’ed, Heyward started hearing temptation. Inmates had been bugging him to smuggle in cash, drugs, and smokes.

 

He’d done it once; the money was there and he knew it was easy. Other COs got away with bending the rules, and just about every male guard was doing whatever he could to pay child support. If they did it, why couldn’t Heyward do it, too?

 

“I begin to panic,” Heyward says. “I got to get this money up.” And so, he went in search of someone to introduce him to an inside partner, a move that would prove dangerously, devastatingly risky.

 

At first, I was quite unimpressed with “Corruption Officer.” There’s a lot of profanity in here, and what’s left after that is mostly sophomoric. I kept waiting for this book to grow up.

 

And then it hit me: it didn’t need to. This memoir of jail from both sides of the bars is really better suited for a young audience anyhow, since it’s ultimately more cautionary tale than not. In the end of his story, author Gary L. Heyward even writes, “Prison should be feared at all times. [It] should be thought about every time a person thinks about doing something wrong.”

 

Doesn’t that put a different spin on what, in its first many pages, felt like a jokey book? That sure seemed the case to me, as I read “Corruption Officer” in one sitting, alternately horrified and fascinated.

 

Grandma isn’t the targeted audience for this book. Young people are; they’ll like reading it and it may scare some straight. They’ll find that “Corruption Officer” has very powerful words inside.

 

“Corruption Officer” by Gary L. Heyward, c. 2015, Atria, $16, 276 pages.

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Art

Terrance Kelly, Brother Ben Lead Creative Arts Classes for Elders at West Oakland Senior Center

The Emmy Award-winning conductor and choir director Terrance Kelly leads a special choir class focused on gospel, jazz, blues and world music alongside Paul Daniels of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and the St. Columba Church.

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Ben Tucker, a.k.a. Brother Ben, leads “Straight Outta Oakland,” one of the new classes offered by Stagebridge and held at the West Oakland Senior Center. Photo courtesy of Stagebridge
Ben Tucker, a.k.a. Brother Ben, leads “Straight Outta Oakland,” one of the new classes offered by Stagebridge and held at the West Oakland Senior Center. Photo courtesy of Stagebridge

By Julius Rea

Stagebridge and the West Oakland Senior Center have partnered to offer two incredible classes to be held at the West Oakland Senior Center (WOSC), starting this month. Created for elders, these opportunities will bring out the joy in celebrating Black culture and Oakland history.

The Emmy Award-winning conductor and choir director Terrance Kelly leads a special choir class focused on gospel, jazz, blues and world music alongside Paul Daniels of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir and the St. Columba Church.

Inviting both introductory singers and experienced vocalists, “The Community’s Choir” offers a special chance to work with these two Oakland-based musical voices. Also, students are not required to learn to read sheet music. This class will be held Fridays, 1 – 2 p.m. at WOSC.

In 2005, Kelly received the Local Heroes Award from KQED Television for his directorship of the Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir and was also honored at the Gospel Music Awards. In 2013, he was awarded the Dr. Edwin Hawkins Excellence Award. He currently serves as Minister of Magnification at Oakland’s Imani Community Church.

Ben Tucker, a.k.a. Brother Ben, will teach “Straight Outta Oakland,” a class inspired by the history and culture of West Oakland. He will lead students in developing a showcase of five-minute stories. Focused on telling personal narratives in a clear, concise manner, this class will be a bridge to mapping and crafting one-of-a-kind journeys. The class will be held Tuesdays, 1 – 2 p.m. at WOSC at 1724 Adeline St., Oakland, CA 94607.

A retired University of California administrator, Tucker has been a community-focused storyteller for several years while taking classes at Stagebridge. He has performed at the San Francisco and Berkeley Marsh Theaters, Oakland Main and San Francisco Bayview libraries, and many senior centers and schools. Brother Ben is also a singer and author.

Students who are registered members of the West Oakland Senior Center will be offered the classes for free. Those who are not members can register today at www.stagebridge.org. For more information on these classes, call the West Oakland Senior Center directly at (510) 238-7016.

Julius Rea is the director of marketing and communications for Stagebridge.

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Activism

Giving Machines Come to Oakland’s Temple Hill in ‘Light the World With Love’ Event

The Giving Machines are vending machines that, rather than dispensing drinks or potato chips, dispense love, hope and support to those in need. Three Giving Machines are available at Oakland Temple Hill through Jan. 3. These machines allow all to purchase a gift for one of six humanitarian organizations. Simply pick a particular gift such as a chicken for a family overseas or warm clothing for a local need, then use a debit or credit card to pay for the tax-deductible charitable donation.

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From left to right, Elder Jay D. Pimentel and Elder Steven C. Merrell of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Linda Ashcraft Hudak, CEO of George Mark Children’s House; Candace K. Andersen, Contra Costa County Supervisor and MC of the launch event; S.F. 49ers offensive tackle Corbin Kaufusi; daughter of Sheng Thao with Sheng Thao, Oakland’s District 4 Councilmember; Bobby Miller, director of Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program; Christine Dillman, associate director of Tri-Valley Haven; ECAP founder Nellie Hannon; and Bruce Bird of JustServe. Photo by Kourtney Jex Jarvis.
From left to right, Elder Jay D. Pimentel and Elder Steven C. Merrell of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Linda Ashcraft Hudak, CEO of George Mark Children’s House; Candace K. Andersen, Contra Costa County Supervisor and MC of the launch event; S.F. 49ers offensive tackle Corbin Kaufusi; daughter of Sheng Thao with Sheng Thao, Oakland’s District 4 Councilmember; Bobby Miller, director of Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program; Christine Dillman, associate director of Tri-Valley Haven; ECAP founder Nellie Hannon; and Bruce Bird of JustServe. Photo by Kourtney Jex Jarvis.

By Post Staff

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, Oakland City Council President Sheng Thao and Contra Costa County Board of Supervisor President Candace Andersen were joined by San Francisco 49er offensive lineman Corbin Kafusi to launch Giving Machines on Oakland Temple Hill.

The Giving Machines are vending machines that, rather than dispensing drinks or potato chips, dispense love, hope and support to those in need. Three Giving Machines are available at Oakland Temple Hill through Jan. 3.

These machines allow all to purchase a gift for one of six humanitarian organizations. Simply pick a particular gift such as a chicken for a family overseas or warm clothing for a local need, then use a debit or credit card to pay for the tax-deductible charitable donation.

Participating nonprofits include three local and three global organizations. Tri-Valley Haven, the George Mark Children’s House (George Mark) and Emeryville Citizens Assistance Program (ECAP) serve adults and children in the Bay Area while UNICEF, Church World Service (CWS Global) and Water Aid address humanitarian crises around the world.

Councilmember Thao told those assembled, “It truly allows for thousands of people to come and actually touch the lives of so many people around the world.” She and her daughter helped heft the huge scissors to cut the ribbon.

All administrative costs of the machines, from construction to installation to operation and even the credit card fees are covered by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “100% of all donations collected will be delivered to the nonprofits displayed in the Giving Machines,” Jay Pimentel, a spokesman for the Church, said.

The annual Temple Hill Christmas Lights and Days of Christmas Concert Series run concurrently with the Giving Machines. The Lights, Concerts and Giving Machines are all part of the Church’s 2021 worldwide campaign to Light the World with Love. Oakland Temple Hill is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 4780 Lincoln Avenue in Oakland. All are invited to come and enjoy the decorated grounds and to see if there are charities in the Giving Machines they would like to support.

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Arts and Culture

Vallejo Holiday Concert Features Vocalist DeAnne Brewer, Bassist Tony Saunders

DeAnne Brewer’s schedule is usually filled with singing functions in the Bay Area at churches, weddings, banquets, conventions or other civic events. However, in the current pandemic era, Brewer takes no performance opportunity for granted and while reflecting, gives thanks for her musical journey.

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DeAnne Brewer and Tony Saunders. Facebook photos.
DeAnne Brewer and Tony Saunders. Facebook photos.

By Carla Thomas

“It’s That Time Again,” a gospel and smooth jazz concert will be held at the Empress Theater in Vallejo on Saturday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

DeAnne Brewer, a singer/songwriter and pianist will be joined by Emmy Award-winning bassist, composer and producer, Tony Saunders, keyboardist Gail Johnson, and jazz saxophonist and flutist, Paula Atherton.

“Guests should be prepared to hear Christmas songs meant to inspire and uplift our spirits,” Brewer said.

Brewer’s schedule is usually filled with singing functions in the Bay Area at churches, weddings, banquets, conventions or other civic events. However, in the current pandemic era, Brewer takes no performance opportunity for granted and while reflecting, gives thanks for her musical journey.

As a child, Brewer performed for her family and family events. The daughter of a minister father and educator mother, Brewer was encouraged to pursue her musical endeavors. Growing up in New York, Virginia, Ohio, Louisiana and California, Brewer continued to develop her musical abilities as a singer and songwriter in the making. In Ohio, Brewer learned from fellow classmates Lawanda Maupin and Mark Gordon who were part of the group Levert.

After obtaining a degree in communications, Brewer explored the world of broadcasting and studied music with more opportunities to sing with Mark Kibble, Claude McKnight and Mervyn Warren of Take 6.

As a gospel radio host in New Orleans even more doors opened for her to sing with BASIC, The Raymond Myles Singers, The Moses Hogan Chorale, Word of Comfort, and the Brewer Sisters.

“It’s also been an honor to share the stage with gospel icons Tramaine Hawkins, Bebe and CeCe Winans, Daryl Coley, Dorinda Clark-Cole, Donald Lawrence, and Tonex,” said Brewer. “I’ve enjoyed performing with mainstream artists Howard Hewitt, Miki Howard, Levert and the O’Jays.” Having performed in the Bahamas, Canada, and Italy, Brewer says she wants to see the world healed one song at a time.

Bassist, producer, and son of the legendary Bay Area keyboardist Merl Saunders, Tony Saunders says guests at the upcoming concert are “in for a treat. This pandemic has really challenged us in the music world, but we will continue to produce great music and performances to wow our audiences.”

Saunders’ life has been infused with one musical adventure after another. At 14, he earned the first of his two Emmy’s for collaborating with his dad on the PBS documentary “Soul Is” and by 17, he was playing with Merl and the late Jerry Garcia on their collaborative projects. The second Emmy was earned for his contribution on the TV show, “Digital Journey,” in the episode on China’s new digital economy.

Though he took one of his first musical lessons on piano from Herbie Hancock, the bass he received from John Fogerty’s brother Tom — and watching recording sessions with famed bassists Anthony Davis and Lee Miles — greatly influenced him. Saunders is now a major force in contemporary jazz. “The bass seemed to spark a lifelong passion,” Saunders said. “I have now romanced my bass guitar for 50 years and [I’m] loving every minute of it.”

For tickets, visit: www.TicketFairy.com

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