Karmah Elmusa

The West African Highlife Band leads Oakland in a Kwanzaa celebration

On Wednesday at lunchtime, Oakland’s downtown workforce poured out of their offices and into the City Center Plaza to grab a bite and take in the sounds of the holiday concert series. This week, the theme was Kwanzaa, the celebration of African heritage and culture that is held each year between December 26 and January 1.

Musically Minded offers winter break camps and classes for kids of all ages

Musically Minded, Oakland’s non-profit music school, is holding a series of camps and workshops over the winter break for kids of all ages. The Rockridge academy, which opened early this year, triples as an education facility, community center, and concert venue. Music classes that will be offered this December include a hip-hop workshop and vocal ensemble sessions, and for the lovable but tone-deaf tots out there, there are workshops in topics like jewelry making and science.

A textile exhibit brings a remote corner of India to Oakland

At a yarn store at the corner of San Pablo and Alcatraz in North Oakland, a new exhibit will transport visitors to a remote corner of India. The shop, called A Verb for Keeping Warm, is kicking off its third art show today, titled “The Rabari People, Their Culture, and Their Textiles.”

Temescal’s Sacred Wheel sells cheese with a side of cool

If the phrase “gourmet cheese store” conjures up an image of the food elite batting around unpronounceable words in a stodgy storefront, check out Temescal’s Sacred Wheel. The shop, which opened in January on a quiet corner at 49th and Shattuck, offers mostly local cheeses in a hip atmosphere.

For the Grilled Cheese Guy, the secret’s in the brick

To Michael Davidson, aka The Grilled Cheez Guy, the secret’s in the brick. This local purveyor of gooey, honest-to-goodness grilled cheese sandwiches cooks his comfort food under a brick wrapped in foil—the pressure, he says, ensures the sandwich cooks evenly and has his signature, perfectly crisp exterior.

Improv troupe Stone Soup makes up comedy on the spot

On a Sunday afternoon in a living room in Berkeley, three fully grown adults are running in circles around a fourth man, wildly flapping their arms and making bird noises. A woman sits on the couch, directing the scene—when she says she wants to see birds, the group complies. Welcome to a rehearsal with Stone Soup, North Oakland’s very own improv troupe.

Musically Minded offers classes, concerts and community

Musically Minded Academy, a brand new school, community center and concert venue in Rockridge, opened its doors to students of every age this January. Singers, drummers, and classic pianists—and no matter what their experience level—can find a place at this progressive, nonprofit facility.

Oakland celebrates Earth Day with focus on sustainability

Oakland kicked off 2011’s Earth Day festivities yesterday with its annual Earth Expo in downtown Frank Ogawa Plaza. For the seventeenth year in a row, exhibitors lined the plaza’s aisles, offering visitors a glimpse of new green technologies and innovative products, and the latest information on local options for sustainable food, energy, and businesses. “Last year it was the 40th anniversary of Earth Day,” said Earth Expo organizer Bryn Samuel, who works for the City of Oakland as an Environmental…

The Crucible offers area kids a fiery breed of summer camp

If the words “summer camp” conjure up memories of sweating in a gaggle of whiny, Popsicle-covered kids, you’ll be happy to know the children of Oakland have a hipper option. The Crucible, a nonprofit school specializing in industrial arts, is kicking off its sixth season of spring and summer youth programs with classes in subjects like blacksmithing, welding, robotics, and glass blowing.

“Oakland B Mine”: an Oakland love story

Starting Thursday night at venues across the city, this year’s Oakland International Film Festival is bringing a diverse selection of film making talent to the East Bay. One film in particular will strike a chord with locals. “Oakland B Mine,” by filmmaker Mateen Kemet, is a 28-minute, dialogue-free love story that takes place at dozens of places in and around Oakland. It’s a story of love at first sight, a story of boy meets girl.

Fist of Flour: Oakland’s newest food truck

In a tent at Art Murmur, pizza chef James Whitehead is hustling. He darts about, frantically tossing dough into the air, saucing pies, and trying to keep up with the steady stream of hungry customers waiting for a slice.

Mama’s Royal Cafe holds 29th annual Napkin Art Contest

Breakfast and lunch hotspot Mama’s Royal Café is calling all doodlers, amateur and professional, young and old: The deadline for its 29th annual Napkin Art Contest is fast approaching. (Really fast, actually. Entries need to be in by March 31. You can either send them in by mail or drop them off at the café’s 4012 Broadway storefront).

Oakland nonprofit helps California women locate reproductive health services

All over the country, and even in states like California where abortion laws are among the nation’s most lenient, many women, particularly low-income women, still have trouble accessing abortion clinics and other reproductive health services, such as finding birth control providers or prenatal care. At ACCESS, a nonprofit located in downtown Oakland, practical assistance is there for the asking.

Oakland bar The Punchdown offers natural, sustainably produced wine

If winemaking is an art, consider The Punchdown Oakland’s newest gallery. The uptown bar, which opened its doors at 2212 Broadway in December, offers wine connoisseurs and neophytes alike a polished, unpretentious space to sip, nibble and chat. But be warned: there’s no Yellowtail on tap at The Punchdown—the bar only carries natural, sustainably produced wines.