Archive for the ‘Black Oakland Renaissance’ Category

Real Oakland Folks – Sarah Kirnon of Miss Ollie’s

In Black Oakland Renaissance, Culture, RealOakFolks on January 2, 2013 at 11:09 pm

The second piece in our RealOakFolks series was posted on Oakland Local Sunday! Unfortunately, we were unable to get a video up for this one. Interviewing Sarah over the break was difficult. She was busy. We were busy. It was freezing cold out, and Bilen and I wanted to be in the house sipping cocoa and catching up on old movies. Alas, we were unable to get enough footage to make a quality piece. I was really disappointed about this because the first few minutes were really good. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get some extra footage at some point to finish the piece, but if that doesn’t happen I’m sure I can use it for something else.

Otherwise, the time we spent with Sarah was fantastic. I’m really excitied about the new restaurant and the food looks delicious. If you’re reading this and you are within spitting distance of Oakland you must eat at Miss Ollie’s in Old Oakland. Trust me!

Here’s a quick excerpt:

Since opening its doors on December 4, Miss Ollie’s has quickly become a popular standout in Oakland’s restaurant scene, with customers lining up for a taste of Caribbean comfort food in a casual format. Currently open for lunch Tuesday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the menu features mouth-watering flavors inspired by Kirnon’s childhood: Curry goat with buttered collards and roasted mixed potatoes. Grits, Smithfield ham and red-eye gravy. Oxtail pepperpot, cornbread, turnips and black-eyed peas. Escoveitch fish with cassava cake. And of course, Kirnon’s legendary fried chicken, a recipe handed down from her grandmother.

Damn! I get hungry every time I read that paragraph. You can peep the rest of the article here and don’t forget to holla at us on twitter at #realoakfolks.

Real Oakland Folks

In Black Oakland Renaissance, RealOakFolks on November 28, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Great news! My boy Manny Black and I have been filming people who we thought were major contributors to the culture of Oakland for the last four years. Some of the brief little snippets can be seen here if you’re interested.

We believed the black community in Oakland was experiencing something of a renaissance and we (as in black people) needed to get out there and document it. We were especially interested in doing this because we were living right in the middle of it. Many of these people were our friends. They even lived in the same neighborhood as ours.

Well, after four years of filming off and on we’ve hit a significant step forward with the project. My wife pitched the idea to Oakland Local and they agreed to run 1-2 stories per month about Oakland’s Black Culture makers for a full year. We’re calling it RealOakFolks for short.

The first two are up and the reception thus far has been good. You can check out the video of community organizer Effie Tesfahun above and the full piece here. Effie recently wrapped up an event called “Keep Oakland In the Black” which was intended to help promote local businesses on Black Friday.

The event was a success. Effie is doing amazing things and we had a great time interviewing her. Check out the introduction piece here and stay tuned for the next two in a few weeks. Also, we’re trying to encourage everyone to keep the conversation going on twitter #RealOakFolks.

O.R.P. – Urban Stitch (Re-Posted on Vimeo in Full)

In Black Oakland Renaissance, Culture, Film on April 3, 2012 at 4:26 am

I’ve been a little quiet with the Oakland Renaissance Project but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on it.

Over the summer we interviewed aspiring fashion business owner Alanna Rayford when she was a few months away from owning the keys to her downtown store front. Her business — the Runway Style House — is currently being constructed but to kick off the space she has since opened the Runway Style Lounge upstairs. The lounge is a community space, a chill spot and a venue for local designer Baba Afolabi to sell his SuRu clothing. I followed Alanna around for a few weeks to document the opening of one of Oakland’s most recent Black owned businesses.

* The title Urban Stitch is the property of Alanna Rayford. SuRu Apparel is the property of Baba Afolabi. Stay tuned for a short on Baba later this Summer. 

Interview: Oakland lawyer Haregu Gaime

In Black Oakland Renaissance on July 27, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Haregu Gaime graduated with degrees in African American Studies and History from the University of California, Berkeley and earned her JD at the University of San Francisco School of Law.

Attorney Gaime is a Commissioner in the Immigrants rights Commission of San Francisco. A Commission that is dedicated to highlighting and speaking for the rights of Immigrants. Raised in San Francisco, her office is actually in the heart of Oakland. As a part of our series on the growing Black community of Oakland, we decided to talk to Haregu about Oakland, her experiences here as a professional Eritrean woman working in the East Bay. 

1. How would you describe Oakland?

A. The three words that I would use to describe oakland would be: Welcoming, Beautiful, and Cultured

2. As a San Francisco native, why did you decide to start your law business in Oakland?

A. My practice caters mostly to African Immigrants and most of the African immigrants in the bay area are located in Oakland. I wanted to make sure that I was available to them without having to worry about them having to worry about BART costs or worrying about getting lost in a big city like San Francisco, which can be difficult to navigate.

3. What differences do you see in the Black community of San Francisco vs. the Black community in Oakland?

A. I think the biggest difference is the variety. In Oakland there is variation of black people even within one group. There is diversity in economic, education, culture which gives a fuller insight into black people as whole. Where as San Francisco, due to the limited number of black people who can afford to live in the city, we get a single type of black person maybe two types.

4. How did Oakland become such fertile ground for the Eritrean community?

A. I think it is the weather. The air here is very similar to that of Eritrea, so people feel comfortable really quickly, therefore they make it home.

5. Do you believe Oakland’s Black community is experiencing a renaissance?

A. Absolutely especially in the last 5-6 years.

6. (If so) Do you believe the Eritrean community factor into this renaissance? Or, does the Eritrean community consider their development to be separate. Let me explain: Oakland has a long and rich history of native African American people. However, in the last 10 years or so Oakland has experienced a “budding” community of East Africans. At the same time, Oakland has also seen a growing community of African American people from other parts of the country. What I find interesting is that 1) a significant portion of these transplants (as they’re called) are East African and, 2) there is a lot of interaction or, dare I say, camaraderie between East Africans and transplanted African American natives.

A. I believe that the Eritrean as well as the Ethiopian communities are a great part of the renaissance, especially the second generation. You can see the budding appreciation and respect for the different cultures in all three communities. And respect and appreciation equals to supporting each others development into greatness.

B. I apologize if I’m being too wordy. I believe a person of known African descent living in the U.S. is just as African American as someone like myself. However, I do believe that the Eritrean community is its own community.

7. Considering the tense history between Eritrea and Ethiopia do you believe the intimacy of Oakland provides an opportunity for the two communities? Please explain.

A. Yes. For the most part, those that emigrate from their home countries emigrate because the conditions are so difficult in their native land, so to come to a different country and continue the same fight seems senseless. People for the most part just want better opportunities for themselves and their children, and Oakland is providing these opportunities for both groups equally.

8. What is the greatest challenge for Oakland’s Eritrean community? Or, what is the greatest challenge for a renaissance in Oakland?

A. Language barriers and the younger generation abandoning their culture, this is true for all three groups. The youth are completely abandoning the teachings of the old ways.

9. What is your favorite experience in Oakland?

I LOVE OAKLAND. And I have had many great experiences, but I do have to say that feeling like I can walk anywhere in Oakland and feel at home and welcome is my favorite experience. Oakland/San Francisco, (San Francisco/Oakland) to me feel like one big city.

For more on Haregu Gaime, check out her business site here

What Does Oakland Need, Michael?

In Black Oakland Renaissance on March 31, 2011 at 5:57 am


I did a really fun spread a few weeks ago featuring three people as a part of my “Black Oakland Renaissance Project.” I thought it turned out pretty well and have received some fantastic feedback about it. If you’re interested (and you should be) you can check out Brandon Brown of The People here, Jenna Burton of Red, Bike and Green here and Michael Orange of Top Ten Social Club here.

Speaking of Michael Orange, above is a clip I was going to use for the Portraits of Oakland spread but it ended up on the cutting room floor, so to speak. However, I did like it. It was brief but, it said a little something about how far Oakland has to go despite how far we’ve come.

I believe we’ll get there but I must admit, I’m a little sensitive about gentrification. I hope Oakland can get to a place that is healthy, sustainable and successful without dismissing the heart of the city: its Black community. Unfortunately, there are already signs of this happening.

I Love Black Love

In Black Oakland Renaissance on March 18, 2011 at 6:53 am

I have a wonderful friend who organized a wonderful event a few weeks ago called B.L.I.P. (Black Love In Public). Now, check this out! She got a bunch of black people together in Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza for the single purpose of expressing public love and affection for each other. In public! In the center of downtown Oakland! And, guess what? They showed up and it worked.

I was not present for the event but I hear that it was amazing! The people who attended the event were filled with enthusiasm. Amid the depressing report that Oakland has lost 20% of their population (although I hesitate to believe they are including our African and Carribean brother and sisters) it made me feel good to hear about a group black, brown, caramel, mocha and chestnut colored black people hugging and smiling each other for no reason other than to just do it.


For more amazing pictures and video check out the C-Proof site. They took some great pictures and video of the event. And, Eboni? Eboni is a beautiful spirit and courageous, I think, for putting something like this together. Check out the video of her explaining BLiP below. And, stay tuned. I should have my own interview of Eboni – soon. If she would return my emails, that is. Too busy hugging black folks in Oakland.


Portraits of Oakland: Brandon Brown

In Black Oakland Renaissance on March 10, 2011 at 5:13 am


I love the interview footage we got of Brandon Brown. He’s such a lecturer. You can tell he is a serious reader and thinker (it was honestly the reason why we decided to film him with books in the background). You can’t tell from this particular clip, but the brotha is sipping a warm cup of tea and sitting on African pillows. I thought it was most appropriate.  Julian and I had a great time interviewing Brandon which felt more  like a conversation amongst men. Brandon was comfortable with a camera in his face. Thankfully he wasn’t too distracted with the demanding direction I gave a few times, in the interest of a peaceful editing process, of course.


This was our first interview and in many ways it laid the groundwork of our focus. Brandon’s thoughts on Oakland really fell in line with our own instincts around what we were seeing in Oakland. Also, he provided some insightful opinion of the power of House Music and the Oakland cultural relevance of the People parties.


In this clip, Brandon makes a very interesting case, and perhaps even a blueprint, for Oakland as an American hub of innovation. Let me tell you, I’ve spent a lot of time looking over his footage and the brotha might be on to something. Give it a look. And, while you’re at it check out the clips of Michael Orange and (my new neighbor) Jenna Burton.

Portraits of Oakland: Jenna Burton

In Black Oakland Renaissance on March 9, 2011 at 2:02 am


One day I was walking up the street with a buddy of mine. It was a beautiful Oakland Friday. We were heading to Pete’s Coffee to get our caffeine fix on when we saw a large gathering of young black people on bikes. Now, this was a peculiar sight for two reasons. One, a bike riding black man or woman is not usually considered the thing to be. And, I was looking at least twenty to twenty-five black folks. Two, I knew most of these black people. Some of them were even close friends.


They started interrogating me and my friend. “Where’s yo bike?” “When you gone ride with us?” This was in the middle of the street in front of a lot of people. I was being put on the spot. Once they told me that they were participating in a “Red, Bike and Green” event I told them I was starting my own club. “Red, Walk and Green.”


Soon after, they rode off into the evening, a crowd full of young black men and women on bikes laughing and yelling into the Friday evening air. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. With such a simple and cool idea I was seeing an example of a hip, healthy and happy slice of young black Oakland. I told myself that day that I had to find who started this and put a camera on her.


In the clip above, Jenna Burton talks about being a transplant in Oakland. Like Michael Orange and Brandon Brown, she is not from California. She’s been living here for the last few years and has quickly found a niche in the Black Oakland scene. Not a pretentious one, mind you. “Red, Bike and Green” is a club that promotes health and togetherness around a Black bike culture. It’s a great idea and a perfect example, I think, of a Black Oakland Renaissance.

Portraits of Oakland: Michael Orange

In Black Oakland Renaissance on March 8, 2011 at 7:59 am


I moved to Oakland five years ago. At the time there was no downtown Oakland apartments. The Whole Foods on Harrison and Bay was an abandoned warehouse. It was quiet out here. Relatively boring, but nice. Fast forward a few years later and suddenly it was obvious that Oakland was seeing a boom, particularly a boom of young black men and women. And, once they got here things in The Town began to grow and change.


“Are we living in the middle of a Black Oakland Renaissance?” If so, “what is it? And, “what does a Black Oakland Renaissance mean? How do other black people in Oakland feel about this?” A year ago a friend and I decided to explore this idea. So, we identified a couple of people who we felt were adding color and diversity to Oakland.


I’m sure everyone can agree that Michael Orange is one of those people. He is a classic example of the new black Oakland. Michael wasn’t born here (he’s from North Carolina) but within a short period of time he managed to land a job working at the newly developed Uptown Apartments in downtown giving him a unique perspective on Oakland’s new developments. Also, in true renaissance fashion he moonlights as a promoter for the widely successful Top Ten Social.


I’ll be posting of series of snippets from the conversation between Julian and Michael but, for the first one I think this is most appropriate. In this clip Michael shares what he thought when he first saw downtown Oakland. Enjoy.

And, Just Plain Goofin’

In Black Oakland Renaissance on March 3, 2011 at 12:16 am


The nickname for Julians beat studio is the Death Star. He had this idea a while back of filming himself making beats. We come up with ideas like this all the time and usually just go for it. Most of the time, what we come up with is LOL. Actually, now that I remember, I was over his house that day to shoot something else.


I don’t know if you remember, but there was a big shoot out with the Oakland Police Department and a guy who was on his way to kill people from the ACLU (seriously, look it up). Well, this happen near Julians crib. He shot the footage aired on the news from his flip camera. I was over his house a few days later to film a response to the gazillion hits he got (he decided later to trash it). Before we started filming we decided to fool around with his “Beat Lecture Series.” We were checking the lighting; doing a sound check. I was ready to move on but Julian started to get into it.


So, I kept filming. What do you think? Should we keep doing more?