Culture

Oprah picks 19-year-old Oakland author’s book for her club, saying it ‘wowed’ her.

Leila Mottley, the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, began writing novels when she was just 14. Now, at 19, her debut novel, “Nightcrawling,” has been selected for Oprah’s Book Club. “I think that I just have instinctually always been writing,” Mottley said during a Zoom interview this month. “But I think from a young age it felt very natural to me.” The Oakland native began writing “Nightcrawling” at 16 and hopes it will represent the lives and thoughts of people…

Five years after Ghost Ship: How local organizations are fighting artist displacement

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Oakland’s industrial zone bustled with canneries, metal works and warehouses. As the global economy changed, industries moved out and artists moved in. The low-rent buildings, with their vaulted interiors, were suitable for live-work studios.  Over the years, landlords looked the other way as tenants nested in spaces that were never coded for housing. On Dec. 2, 2016, the deadliest fire in Oakland history broke out in the Ghost Ship, a former warehouse in Fruitvale…

Boxes, buckets, Buicks and Chevies: Sideshows are at a crossroad

Tires screech and cars dance on the streets of Oakland as sideshow culture fills the air, along with the smell of burning rubber.   Originating in Oakland in the 1980s, sideshows have gained traction in the Bay Area, exciting audiences, frustrating motorists and irritating police. Oakland recently unveiled a bold plan to crack down on sideshows, which are classified as reckless driving and punishable as a misdemeanor. Richmond City Council recently took action to deter sideshows. And a state law signed…

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…

Fruitvale community prepares for El Día de Los Muertos festival Sunday

With marigolds, banners, altars and sugar skulls, El Día de Los Muertos observations are underway in Oakland, where a festival is planned for this weekend and altars already are up in homes and gathering places. During Sunday’s downpour, in a kitchen strung with intricately patterned papel picado banners, visual artist Daniel Camacho delicately separated the marigold petals he made with orange tissue paper. It is believed that the strong scent and vibrant gold of marigolds can lead loved ones back…

‘Long live the legacy of Dr. Huey P. Newton’: Sculpture honors Black Panthers co-founder

During an unusually stormy Sunday in West Oakland, about 150 people sang and danced in the rain to celebrate the unveiling of a sculpture honoring Huey P. Newton, who co-founded the Black Panther Party in the city. The bronze bust of Newton is the first permanent art installation to honor the activist, who started the Panthers with Bobby Seale in 1966 to provide educational, and economic support to the Black community. The party developed services to meet the everyday needs…

‘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…

Pepper spray and alarms: Chinatown clinic teaches personal safety

Chinatown residents are concerned for their safety after instances of assault and robbery against seniors. The Oakland Chinatown Safety Committee hosted a personal safety and pepper spray clinic to train community members on how to be more aware of their surroundings and defend themselves.

African-American Shakespeare Co. returns to the Oakland stage with free weekend show

Oakland is the newest playground for the African-American Shakespeare Company’s upcoming tour of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged, Revised.” Coming to Jack London Square this Saturday, the play challenges three actors to perform 75 characters from 37 of the bard’s plays in just under an hour and a half. The Complete Works was slated to hit the stage in September 2020, but as COVID-19 devastated the theater industry, AASC joined many of the nation’s theater companies in pushing…