Andrew Lopez

New documentary celebrates Oakland’s ‘last Black cowboy’

Half a dozen people sporting cowboy hats and boots stood in a queue outside of Eli’s Mile High Club, chatting in hushed excitement, some squeezing together for selfies.  The occasion was the Oct. 2 premiere of “Cowboy,” a documentary about the life of “Oakland’s last Black cowboy,” 80-year-old Wilbert Freeman McAlister. He is president of the Oakland Black Cowboy Association, which is a non-profit focused on preserving the history of African Americans who were crucial to the establishment of the…

Ella Baker Center celebrates milestone in bringing restorative justice

With guest speakers and live music, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights celebrated its 25th anniversary Wednesday night, highlighting its work to close prisons and bring opportunities to Black and brown communities in Oakland. “I believe that you can’t have strong communities if you don’t have strong community-centered institutions. And this is that place,” Executive Director Zach Norris said. Named after the famed Civil Rights and NAACP leader, the Ella Baker Center is dedicated to shifting government resources from…

The lights are on but flickering at Video Room, where you can still rent movies and chat with cinephiles

One of the  last video rental stores in Oakland runs on a hope, a prayer and an infusion of cash from owner Joseph Lum’s retirement savings.  Close to 40,000 DVDs line the narrow shelves at Video Room, which Lum opened in 1983 on Broadway and College Avenue but was forced to downsize — three locations later — to a storefront on Piedmont Avenue. That the business has survived the rise and fall of corporate video stores, the advent of Netflix…

‘It’s just a sweet, magical little event’: Autumn Lights Festival unites artists and gardeners

This year’s Autumn Lights Festival brings together over 300 artists and 70 illuminated light displays ranging from carved-out gourds to a steampunk-esque snail car fully equipped with pyrotechnics.  The festival, which is celebrating its 10th year, opened to a sell-out crowd Thursday at The Gardens at Lake Merritt. Aside from art, it also gives space to local food vendors and live musicians. Director and founder of the festival, Tora Rocha, said the garden gives local artists an opportunity to show their work…