OZONE Reflections & A Review
Activism 101 an Oakland Standard
One could tell the kids were into it—by kids, I don’t means children, just neophytes to Liberation Struggles getting their collective awakening Friday night at the Oakland Museum’s OZONE. Without the acid rain, snow, clouds or high winds the O-was certainly in a zone, scientifically unspecified. Laying it on with a spatula, as in thick and indelibly stuck to all in the ZONE that night— from the DJs spinning all the hits from a time when lyrical content meant original unsampled thoughts . . . well I take that back, nothing is original— just like the air we breathe and the land we occupy, it is all dead and reborn—like the revolutionary fever sweeping the planet, the O was a pot flavored and simmering with the spices present that evening.
Have you even had air stuck in your esophagus and couldn’t get a good enough belch? That was the O. Some call it the last days, others indigestion—the planet has had enough and now all its inhabitants have declared or given put the lords and ladies on notice—the people are taking over!
Linguistically the Oakland Standard’s OZONE (OS launched January 2011) one of its programs continues thematically –its all about opening the space to art which is art is kinetic –participatory useful—wear it, feel it, do it, be it! Art is not for lazy minds or innocents lost—perhaps it is, but for the active mind or citizen, those people who generally find themselves in museums in the first place, reluctantly as kids and then selfishly as adults, the Oakland Standard concept makes art a part of life for those who really enjoy living, really living as free citizens of Oaktown and Oak-Universe. Prophet Fred Wilson's museum space sojourns says this, he also speaks with his work to the exclusion of certain audiences when one talks about museums and other “high art.” OZONE is a way to demystify such phenomena. The audience was predominately white, even though the material or presentations were about the black aesthetic, yet typically the subjects were absent. There wasn’t even consideration given to the few black folks in the audience that evening—we couldn’t get into major lectures and concerts. Linguistically the Oakland Standard’s OZONE (OS launched January 2011) one of its programs continues thematically –its all about opening the space to art which is art is kinetic –participatory useful—wear it, feel it, do it, be it! Art is not for lazy minds or innocents lost—perhaps it is, but for the active mind or citizen, those people who generally find themselves in museums in the first place, reluctantly as kids and then selfishly as adults, the Oakland Standard concept makes art a part of life for those who really enjoy living, really living as free citizens of Oaktown and Oak-Universe. Prophet Fred Wilson's museum space sojourns says this, he also speaks with his work to the exclusion of certain audiences when one talks about museums and other “high art.” OZONE is a way to demystify such phenomena. The audience was predominately white, even though the material or presentations were about the black aesthetic, yet typically the subjects were absent. There wasn’t even consideration given to the few black folks in the audience that evening—we couldn’t get into major lectures and concerts. See http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/wilson/index.html?gclid=CMP40J2cqqcCFQUDbAode0M_Cg
This would have been okay if the sound had been broadcast and if there had been a video simulcast—in the past the Oakland Museum always provided such especially for programs where it expected large audiences. African people do not like the cold and the idea of standing in a line for 45 minutes was a turn off to many elders who left early. At midnight the majority of folks still at OM were 30 and younger, unless they were working and white.
Consciousness is hard work, yet it can be fun and in its second program since launching Oakland Standard, OZONE proves that yes, consciousness is the only way to live a full committed to justice revolutionary or change agent.
Similar to programming at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Oakland Standard, as it premise shouldn’t toss out what worked in the past—new doesn’t mean nothing old allowed: people, ideas, customs. I guess with the new exhibit on Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the old suffering Christ –nailed to a cross, bleeding is an image I couldn’t stomach, however, the newer images of this mysterious patron saint, a way of flipping the colonial baggage into something not just new, but liberating, is what I see Oakland Standard providing for its East Bay constituency—if they are extended the proper invitation.
I saw a few parents with their children out for the evening, but not enough. I know the museum has its Family Sundays which are kid-friendly, early in the day and often outdoors.
Some audiences don’t come if you open the door –one has to go get them. Audience development is still a weak area for many presenting organizations like Oakland Museum which has ethnically specific community advisory boards—I suggest OM solicit their expertise. There was no reason why there were not more black youth between the ages of 15-25 in the OZONE especially for Soundtrack: The Drum and the Oakland Standard Conversation, not to mention the Oakland Standard Political Poster Jam, even the Game On! Was a place for families and friends to sit around talk, not to mention the open galleries where in Art History in the back I heard a woman interviewed for her Oakland Story, a program of Story Corps.
Standard implies a flag or flagship idea which is self-promoting; carry it long enough and it becomes you. Certainly Oakland needs a new standard and with a new mayor and a revised vision for an Oakland institution, the Oakland Museum of California, the concept is timely and necessary, but historically Oakland seems to be receding from focus—after all museums are nothing without people—human beings are the greatest work of art imaginable. The African presence seems the first to go when institutions are formed or changed—I am rattling the cage so OM doesn’t follow in the footsteps of its many predecessors.
Activism 101 an Oakland Standard: A Review
I was in the OZONE February 25-26, as Oakland toasted February goodbye and with it—black history. Well actually, February 25 at the Oakland Museum of California did just the opposite. With “resistance” as the theme of the evening—from the classic poster art of Emory Douglas and Faviana Rodriguez, to the tasting revolutionary tortillas, with cheese and Angela Davis on the outer shell—to roses for Rosa Park, and a Huey (fig) Newton—all edible –a new line called consciously delicious—patrons had a multisensory experience at the museum—an idea which is a part of the OM motif.
The place was full to capacity with patrons forming lines early for the special celebration Sountrack—the Drum, with Anthony Brown and CK Ledzekpo narrating joined the Stanford Steppers, the CAL Drumline from UC Berkeley and as a special treat, Mr. Hambone himself: Derrick McGee—it was a wonderful walk from Africa to California –Oakland, to be exact (smile). Drums filled the stage—African percussion drums played by CK and students and/or members of his ensemble from East Bay Center for the Performing Arts—the trap drummer, another student of CK’s who is traveling to Boston to attend Berkley College of Music this summer.
As CK explained the music he was playing and where in Africa it originated—dancers led by Mrs. Ledzekpo performed to the music—at one point the audience was invited to participate—I was one of the first persons on the floor—a cold night, dancing warmed me up.
Duane Deterville gave a lecture on resistance in black music, while a distinguished panel with former Minister of Culture, Emory, artist Favianna, Carol A. Wells, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and political poster historian Lincoln Cushing, discussed art and politics—that room filled to capacity early and I couldn’t get in—I met a brother named Jesus who is a visual artist –Refa One and one of the youth designers featured in the AeroSoul 2, Youth Exhibit which is up through early March, said he explained to security that there were hardly any black people in the room, and to tell two-four white people to leave so he and Malik, the young artist could go inside.
From what Refa shared, it sounds as if those persons in the audience really didn’t know how are can change minds, even hearts—think about the power of music to “soothe the savage beast—right?
The brother coming out of the lecture looked like a work of art, as did his striking friend. Most of the events repeated at least once—the only problem was I was attending another event at the same time—then as one walked between classrooms, the tent, or the Blue Oak café—there were art stations where one could silk screen a political poster: I made three: Nina Simone, singing Mississippi Goddam, another Free the San Francisco 8, the last one a poster celebrating the end to tyranny on North Africa—across from that very popular table—at any given moment there were two and three clothes lines filled with posters drying. There was another artist across the way doing spray can art—his image was of the Wiki-links founder. What was interesting was watching him apply the multiple layers.
The Oakland Standard Poster Jam participants were, the San Francisco Print Collective, Great Tortilla Conspiracy, Eddie Colla & Jesus Barraza. Patrons were able to silk screen posters with Nina Simone, Drop the Charges SF 8: Francisco Torres and a “The People Want the System to Fall” with a woman kissing the cheek of an Egyptian soldier. There were postcards with actions planned for the next month and an e-list.
Revolutionary Art 101!
The finale was the Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble featuring members of Fela Kuti & the Africa 70, Sonny Okosuns and others. DJ Wonway Posibul with a live percussionist was excellent—his jams were right on. In the café, there were board games out for people to play from 9-11:30 PM.
I missed Bill Bell and the Jazz Connection Trio with Eddie Marshall, on drums and Jeff Chambers on bass. I heard they were fantastic! The new exhibit Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest was pretty gruesome in especially the graphic details of the crucifixion. I had to turn my head on some, the torture too unsettling. I wonder why in Oakland would there be such a large exhibition on missions—that’s like celebrating the various slave dungeons where Africans were held captive before shipped to other lands. Most of the missions are further south and of course in San Francisco to Oakland’s west.
Missing was the African Diaspora use of Catholicism to practice Ifa, big in Oakland presently and in California. In the section, which I enjoyed the most there was nothing and within the exhibition itself I didn’t see an African presence or perspective at all. When one thinks about California, named for an Amazon Queen Califia, one has to consider the impact of missions or Catholicism on African people in California.