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Opposition Grows Over Proposed 40-Story High Rise in Middle of City’s Black Arts District

An out-of-town developer is trying to build a 40-story high-rise in the middle of Oakland’s Black Movement Arts and Business District against strong community opposition. At its meeting on Feb. 16, both the Planning Commission and the developer were called out by Oaklanders including the Oakland Heritage Alliance and a representative of minority builders.

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Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, established in 1993, is a cornerstone of Oakland’s Black Arts District. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.
Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, established in 1993, is a cornerstone of Oakland’s Black Arts District. Photo courtesy of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

By Post Staff

An out-of-town developer is trying to build a 40-story high-rise in the middle of Oakland’s Black Movement Arts and Business District against strong community opposition. At its meeting on Feb. 16, both the Planning Commission and the developer were called out by Oaklanders including the Oakland Heritage Alliance and a representative of minority builders.

The Planning Commission acknowledged that they went through the entire design review process for the building without even knowing that the Black Arts and Business District existed! The district was created in 2016 by city council resolution.

When the developers claimed to have Black support, Oakland community leader and owner of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, Geoffrey Pete, quoted Harriet Tubman, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more, if they had known that they were slaves.”

At the heart of the opposition to the building is the desire to further the legacy of local Black entertainment and entrepreneurship exemplified by businesses like Pete’s. His business is housed in a building that was once the all-white Athenian Club. It is now a historic landmark and the venue for thousands of people who listen to jazz and other entertainment and hold wedding receptions and memorial services.

Geoffrey’s has hosted hundreds of homeless people for holiday dinners with table clothes and fancy cutlery and offered his venue for free to groups ranging from advocates for affordable housing to academics urging Black and Brown residents to become teachers.

Residents are asking the city to make the Black Movement Arts and Business District real by investing in its corridor along 14th Street. The Black population of Oakland has decreased rapidly in the last decade because of the city’s concentration on building housing that is not affordable to people who currently live in Oakland.

Enhancing the Black Arts District could help to stop displacement. Approving this proposed building would further displacement by continuing the policy of approving developments that current Oakland residents cannot afford.

The new building would remove the only parking available in the area and threaten a historic brick building during construction. In addition, acknowledgement of racism and the experience of other cities tell us that new high-end housing developments drive out entertainment venues, especially those frequented by Black customers.

While some argue “we need housing,” others say this claim is disingenuous because this particular housing will displace more Black and Brown Oaklanders in favor of gentrification.

Said one opponent of the development, “If Tidewater wants to build in the Black entertainment district and help Oakland with housing, they should determine the rent level that the average Black family can afford and build for those families.”

Arts and Culture

West Oakland Juneteenth Event Cultivated Love for All

Since 2008, Barbara Howard of B-H Brilliant Minds’ has prided herself on holding the last Juneteenth event in Oakland. And since, unlike most other Bay Area cities, Oakland has not hosted a free observation of the holiday celebrating the end of chattel slavery in the U.S., Howard’s is also the only formally organized Juneteenth event in the city.

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Oakland Black Cowboys Association President Wilbert McAlister leads a girl on a pony ride at the B-H Brilliant Minds Juneteenth. Photo by Daisha Williams.
Oakland Black Cowboys Association President Wilbert McAlister leads a girl on a pony ride at the B-H Brilliant Minds Juneteenth. Photo by Daisha Williams.

By Daisha Williams

Since 2008, Barbara Howard of B-H Brilliant Minds’ has prided herself on holding the last Juneteenth event in Oakland.

And since, unlike most other Bay Area cities, Oakland has not hosted a free observation of the holiday celebrating the end of chattel slavery in the U.S., Howard’s is also the only formally organized Juneteenth event in the city.

From the beginning, Howard brought in grass roots entertainment that was by and for the West Oakland community. Subtitled “Reaching for Wholeness, One Love & One Liberation, the festival was held Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Running from 32nd and Market to San Pablo and Brockhurst, there were stages on both sides of the block, as well as more activities in a courtyard and inside the West Oakland Youth Center.

The day started with a libation for the ancestors by Clint Sockwell, and the ring shout, a homage to the ancestors provided by Omnira Institute’s Awon Ohun Omnira (Voices of Freedom.)

Also on stages all day were R&B, rap, gospel performances, live DJs.

The festival was lively and active, with people constantly milling about, chatting with each other, taking part in activities, dancing, and eating. Events like these are what keeps Oakland a place of community.

With so many different activities– there was really something for everyone. Present were the Made-Men Bay Area Motorcycle Club, a martial arts demonstration, and a quilting exhibit.

There were many vendors selling clothes, jewelry, bags, and even hand dipped incense and candles as well as local organizations such as Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency (BOSS) and Community Ready Corps (CRC).

There were crafts and free posters being made and the Oakland Public Library giving out books, performances, and music on the stages– there was every opportunity to have a fun and fulfilling time without spending a single dollar.

The Oakland Black Cowboy Association was there giving free, guided horse and pony rides to anyone who wanted one. Their 50-year anniversary is this year, and they are hosting a parade and festival in celebration on Oct. 5 at DeFremery Park.

The Black cowboys go to many events like these providing opportunities to ride a horse to children and adults alike who might not have this opportunity otherwise.

Wilbert F. McAlister, who has been president of the organization for 20 years, was there and you could see the joy on his face as he watched people have this wonderful experience.

B-H Brilliant Minds is a local 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that serves the Oakland community. Founded by Barbara Howard, they put on this Juneteenth every year. At the event Howard talked about why she puts this event on.

She called all the youth to the stage and told them that this event is put on for them, that they are strong, beautiful, and capable, that they are the future of Black excellence. This event is intended to show them how loved and supported they are in this community, in hopes that they will pass that love down to the next generation.

B-H Brilliant Minds does more than just Juneteenth. They lead three programs: economic empowerment, holistic wellness, and one called The Cutting Edge. The Cutting Edge focuses on self-improvement, leadership skills, and other types of personal growth. Each program consists of at least three workshops and registration is available on their website (bhbrilliantminds.org ).

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Arts and Culture

Hundreds of Revelers Cheer Parade, Join Fun at Juneteenth Festival in Nicholl Park

A bright sun greeted one of Richmond’s most important community gatherings on June 22: the annual Juneteenth Parade and Festival. Hundreds of people greeted the lengthy parade that began at Kennedy High School, passed under the recently-created Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural on 37th Street, and continued on to Nicholl Park, where a colorful festival took place through the afternoon.

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A marching band followed the parade route from Kennedy High School to Nicholl Park. Photos by Mike Aldax and Mike Kinney.
A marching band followed the parade route from Kennedy High School to Nicholl Park. Photos by Mike Aldax and Mike Kinney.

By Mike Aldax, Mike Kinney and
Kathy Chouteau
The Richmond Standard

A bright sun greeted one of Richmond’s most important community gatherings on June 22: the annual Juneteenth Parade and Festival.

Hundreds of people greeted the lengthy parade that began at Kennedy High School, passed under the recently-created Juneteenth Freedom Underpass Mural on 37th Street, and continued on to Nicholl Park, where a colorful festival took place through the afternoon.

Michelle Milam, crime prevention manager for the City of Richmond and an organizer, said the parade boasted 70 entries and the festival had 117 booths staffed with community organizations, businesses, and resources. Soul food was being served by a number of popular local eateries such as CJ’s BBQ & Fish, Snapper Seafood and Cousins Maine Lobster.

The annual event is supported via a partnership between the N.B.A., City of Richmond and Chevron.

The Standard asked dozens of community members at this event what Juneteenth means to them.

“It is a celebration of freedom,” said AJ Jelani, president of the Belding Woods Neighborhood Council.

Jelani founded the nonprofit organization A.J./Sealcraft, which honors African American individuals, organizations, groups, and businesses who contributed to empowering fellow African Americans to improve their communities.

“Juneteenth is a recognition of our culture, our history,” he said. “Our unique past was a functionality of the community. It brought us together.”

Richmond resident Gloria Wilson added, “Juneteenth is a day to remember our ancestors’ struggles for our freedom.”

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia told us the celebration is “about our community coming together.”

“It’s about recognizing the struggles that it has taken up until now, and that there is still work ahead to achieve true equity and equality,” Gioia said.

Gioia noted Richmond is unique for having had an annual Juneteenth parade and festival years before Juneteenth was recognized as a federal holiday in 2021.

“Richmond has had a great history of winning struggles,” Gioia said. “It is important for us to continue that work.”

“We all have the responsibility to uplift and celebrate how people persevered and continue to persevere in the face of challenge.”

Gioia said that is why the County has an Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice.

“I was just talking to the school board and superintendent about the work we’re doing, and the superintendent was talking about their equity plan for the school district, so it all comes together,” Gioia said. “Agencies working together.”

Richmond City Councilmember Doria Robinson, who helped carry the City Council banner in the parade alongside some of her Council colleagues, said Juneteenth is a celebration of perseverance.

“It’s the day where everyone…can reflect on what happened with slavery and can realize that we all carry that burden,” Robinson said, “and that we all have the responsibility to uplift and celebrate how people persevered, and continue to persevere in the face of challenge.”

Added Councilmember Cesar Zepeda, “Richmond has been at the forefront of making sure that our community is aware of Juneteenth. And just more recently, people are finding out about Juneteenth and celebrating it in their cities. Once again Richmond is at the forefront.”

Fast on the heels of Juneteenth, Richmond will get a jump on Independence Day by celebrating along the waterfront Wednesday, July 3.

The City of Richmond will celebrate the “3rd of July Fireworks & Celebration” July 3 from 5-10 p.m. at Marina Bay Park. The fireworks will start at 9:15 p.m., with the show lasting approximately 20 minutes. Along with the fireworks, festivities will include live music, a selection of food choices and an interactive Fun Zone for the kids. Marina Bay Park is located at Marina Bay & Regatta Blvd. in Richmond.

Also on Wednesday, July 3, “Fireworks at the Point at Riggers Loft Wine Company” will take place from 6-10 p.m. Andre Thierry, a.k.a. “the Zydeco king,” will entertain the crowd while they enjoy a choice of cuisine from five food tents prepared by Chef Frank Miller.

Games, wine, cider, and sodas will also be part of the mix. At 9:15 p.m., the venue—and its bayside patio—are perfectly poised to take in the City of Richmond’s fireworks show, for which beach chairs and blankets are suggested.

Tickets are $35 for adults, $15 for those under 21 and free for kids 5 and under. Purchase tickets here and find Riggers Loft at 1325 Canal Blvd. in Richmond.

For those heading to San Francisco on the Fourth of July, the city’s fireworks are set off via two locations in front of Fisherman’s Wharf: The end of Municipal Pier and barges in front of Pier 39. Transit options from Richmond to San Francisco include the San Francisco Bay Ferry, which will operate on a weekend schedule from Thursday, July 4, through Sunday, July 7—learn more https://sanfranciscobayferry.com/holiday-ferry-schedule

BART will run a Sunday schedule (8 a.m. until midnight) on Independence Day— go to https://www.bart.gov/guide/holidaysfor more information. And visit AC Transit for info on catching a bus.

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Arts and Culture

Rooted in Tradition: The Intricate History of Black Hair Braiding

Braids are a multicultural hair fashion. Braiding has been identified in Africa, Greece, Italy and Egypt dating as far back as 2000 BC. Along with the many cultures, there are many types of braids including Micro braids, goddess braids, Ghana braids, snake, mohawk, Dutch, French, halo, fishtail, waterfall and so on. There appears to be as many types of braids as there are types of hair. African American braids hold a rich and significant history that goes beyond mere aesthetics, deeply rooted in culture, tradition, and resilience.

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Portrait of Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV. Public Domain.
Portrait of Ethiopian Emperor Yohannes IV. Public Domain.

By Tamara Shiloh

Braids are a multicultural hair fashion. Braiding has been identified in Africa, Greece, Italy and Egypt dating as far back as 2000 BC. Along with the many cultures, there are many types of braids including Micro braids, goddess braids, Ghana braids, snake, mohawk, Dutch, French, halo, fishtail, waterfall and so on. There appears to be as many types of braids as there are types of hair.

African American braids hold a rich and significant history that goes beyond mere aesthetics, deeply rooted in culture, tradition, and resilience. These intricate styles, which have adorned the heads of African people for centuries, carry with them stories of identity, resistance, and cultural pride.

The history of braiding dates back thousands of years to ancient Africa, with evidence of complex braiding found in ancient Egyptian artifacts dating as far back as 3500 BCE. Braiding was more than a hairstyle in many African societies, serving to classify its practitioners, too. Different styles could communicate a person’s age, marital status, wealth and tribe. The Himba of Namibia are masters of elaborate braiding, employed to denote stages of a woman’s life.

The early Africans put to good use their ancient knowledge of coded languages against their masters. One of such means was through the multifaceted African black hair. It was in this time that the cornrows patterns on Afro hair became more complex. Communications between slaves were restricted but the braids and cornrows they wore could send the necessary messages where needed. These included locations to meet, thoughts, and responses.

African women would braid rice and other grains into their hair, or their children’s hair, to ensure they had food during the Middle Passage, the 80-day journey that transported enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to America. This practice was called cornrows and involved hiding other seeds and grains, such as okra, peanuts, benne, and watermelon. The women would braid these items into their hair before traveling, or before separating children between plantations.

Enslaved Africans also used braiding to maintain a sense of community and to pass on traditions and knowledge through generations.

Braids are not just a style; this craft is a form of art. Women and men of all ages are getting their hair braided on a day-to-day basis casually or for an elegant event. The art of hair braiding has evolved beyond the original cultural purposes.

From ancient African societies to contemporary fashion runways, braids have remained a powerful symbol of identity and resistance. As we continue to celebrate and honor these intricate styles, it is crucial to remember and respect their rich historical and cultural significance.

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