Posts Tagged ‘Oakland’

About that Cultural Fit: Hack the Hood Knocks Out it’s Second Annual Bootcamp!

In Culture, Technology on September 17, 2014 at 7:46 am


Reprinted from Oakland Local, August, 18th 2014. Written by Pendarvis Harshaw. And, who’s that good lookin’ dude on the bottom of the picture?

On August 14, 2014, Oakland’s Hack The Hood celebrated the conclusion of a six-week summer program for 23 young people who all learned how to create websites for local businesses as a way to begin to train for tech careers.

The graduation ceremony was held in Oakland’s uptown neighborhood, in the new Impact HUB Oakland building. On the screen behind the stage, images of websites for local businesses were shown. The free promotion wasn’t about the locally-owned shoe store, or about the small business that specializes in dessert-making, as much as it was about the creators of the websites.

People like Arletha Grayson, a 17-year-old mother who recently graduated high school, and Teresa Flores, a student at a college in Southern California and a daughter to a hardworking mother who immigrated to the United States. These are just two of the individuals who’ve gained an expertise in web design this summer.

Hack The Hood is a technical training program, birthed out of the collaboration of a number of community organizations (Center for Media Change / Oakland Local, HUB Oakland, United Roots), and backed with funding from Google and many other funders, including The City of Oakland.

This is the second year for the organization, which runs a summer bootcamp focused on Oakland youth. Many of the young people, ages 16-20, are guided to Hack The Hood by organizations known for working with youth: College Track, Youth Uprising, United Way and Lao Family Community Development, to name a few.

This summer, the young people worked in the program five days a week, 9 – 5 every day except for Friday (when they were dismissed at 2 p.m.). Work consisted of learning the Weebly web design platform and creating websites that fit local business owners’ desires and needs.

Every once in a while, work consisted of getting out of the office for on-site visits to Google, Facebook and Weebly. “We’re not taking them there to kick it,” said Damon Packwood, Program Manager for Hack The Hood. “We want them to understand what the industry is like, and make assessments.”

Packwood continued to say that students were instructed to ask themselves critical questions during these research trips: “What is this company like? Could you work there? What if you could make something of your own?”

Packwood, one of four instructional staff members, worked alongside a team of tech-savvy volunteer mentors to aid the young people’s advancement into the world of technology development.

“Technology is re-conceptualizing culture,” said Packwood. He made it a point to stress this to the young people, many of them who came from “disadvantaged backgrounds,” be it financial hurdles, broken homes or parents who recently immigrated and struggle with language barriers.

“There’s a significant part of culture that isn’t being re-conceptualized,” Packwood said, highlighting the young members of Hack The Hood’s graduating class as valuable, because of their cultural ties, energy and talent.

At the graduation ceremony, before students were honored for their expertise in web development, they enjoyed finger foods and light refreshments near the main stage of HUB Oakland’s building. A handful of students gave speeches about their personal paths, while others shared an overview of what Hack The Hood was all about.

The event concluded with a group photo. As the students postured themselves on stage, the projected images of their websites were no longer displayed on a white wall; instead the light was now shown across their smiling faces.

For more info on ongoing programs, or to sign up or volunteer, contact info@hackthehood.org, or visit http://hackthehood.org.


How to Photograph Street Art

In Culture, Digital Photography on August 22, 2013 at 4:46 am

Reprinted from Mission Art Project blog. MAP, for short, is my thesis project. 


Day 1: Test Shoot

Lily and I did some test shots in Oakland last weekend. This was our second attempt. The first time we took a few pictures of a mural across the street from the university. We went in with nothing but a camera and good intentions. As you can guest, the mural shoot didn’t go very well, but we used it as a learning opportunity, took a lot of notes and a few weeks later I wrote up strict guidelines: “What equipment to bring when capturing artwork.”

1 tape measure, 1 roll of masking tape, 1 camera flash (attachment), 1 lens guard (attachment), 1 portable microphone, 1 microphone windscreen (audio equipment is unique to our project), 1 digital camera (can’t forget that), 2 lenses (standard zoom and 50mm lens), 1 tripod (6-7 feet?), 1 stick of chalk, 1 notepad, 1 ladder (if applicable), 1 platform (if applicable) and a stack of business cards because taking pictures of a persons building will arouse suspicion. Business cards will help you look legit.

Next I came up with guidelines on “How to capture artwork.”

1. Scout the art piece first

  • Plan the shoot in advance.
  • Pay attention to the lighting and the time of day.
  • Prepare to take pictures when the lighting is good but beware of too much light
  • Use the flash when necessary.
  • Anticipate challenges. Write them down or take photos of potential obstructions.

2. Measure the vertical distance b/w the art piece and the camera before your first shot.

  • Maintain this distance if you’re taking pictures in sections.
  • Ideally, the distance should be long enough where you don’t have to angle the camera to capture the intended image.

3. Mark the spot of the camera/tripod location w/ chalk or masking tape.

  • Keep the horizontal line as straight as possible while taking pictures in sections. This will make the image quality consistent, and it will help limit image manipulation in Photoshop.
  • There might be a camera feature to make this process easier.

4. Draw a horizontal line parallel to the art piece w/ chalk or preferably masking tape.

  • The camera should not go above of below the horizontal line.
  • Don’t worry about measuring the distance b/w sections, as it will be too cumbersome. This will get sorted out in post-production.

5. Write down the lens measurements and the vertical distance.

  • The camera could be repositioned for a number of reasons (traffic, wind, people on the street, you may want to take a break). This will make it easier to get back to your position and it will save you time.

6. Always position the camera at the dead center of the artwork

  • Using the tape measure Measure the length of the art piece.
  • Position the camera at its mid-level (i.e., if the art piece is 6 feet the camera should be adjusted to 3 feet).

7. For large pieces, take photos in sections.

  • You will put the sections together in post-production.

8. Film the art piece for 60 seconds.

  • For each shot, take your photographs and film it for 60 seconds.
  • Keep the camera straight.

9. Take a picture of the entire piece in one shot, if possible.

  • Using a 50mm lens to capture an art piece in one shot is always preferable.
  • The image quality on a 50mm lenses are excellent.

10. Don’t do any of this alone.

  • Bring a partner with you.
  • Establish roles ahead of time.

By following these guidelines results of our last shoot was night and day. We captured much better images and because we had a nice blueprint on how to do it we did one extra mural before we went home. But, it wasn’t all roses. We did have three takeaways from Sunday’s shoot.

Day 1: Test Shoot

Day 1: Test Shoot

One, the mural we shot is across the street from a supermarket. During the week the supermarket isn’t very busy but Sundays are when everyone does their shopping. So, the street traffic was much higher than it was the first day I visited. Another this. I didn’t realize that the mural was next door to the storage house of the grocery store. It isn’t very noticeable during the week but on a busy day people were coming in and out of the place every 15 minutes. What did we learn? The day you scout should ideally be the day you shoot.

Two, when capturing the second mural — a long, beautiful piece behind an Oakland gym — we realized a problem on the 4th section. The angle of the shot was off. We realized that the ground dipped a little. Essentially, we were walking uphill and every time we moved the camera our shot was off. What did we learn? Measure from the highest point of the artwork to the bottom. The angle of the ground may change but the top mostly stays the same. You will still have to adjust your shot but your reference point will be more reliable. Be prepared to do some cropping in post-production.

Three, at some point during the second art piece we realized that we didn’t need to measure distance and height. When we looked at the artwork more closely we noticed that a pair of eyes were painted at the center of the wall. Of course, we thought, a good artists will be cognizant of the center of their canvas. Also, the artwork was done in a parking lot so there were white dividers on the ground to indicate parking sections. We used the dividers the way we would use tape measure and chalk. Finally, the piece was done on a brick wall, so instead of measuring the artwork we started counting the bricks. If a section seemed higher than the other counting the bricks gave us a clear way to measure the difference in height. What did we learn? When possible, use your environment.

Real Oakland Folks: Michael Orange

In Culture, RealOakFolks on June 27, 2013 at 8:38 pm


Bilen and I did a profile on Michael Orange back in April for Oakland Local as a part of our RealOakFolks project. You know, the one that we swore we could do twice a month while she worked seven days a week building her business and I worked as a full time multimedia graduate student. Then there’s the whole marriage thing. That’s sort of important too.

Needless to say, we did get this profile done but I neglected to post it up on Danger Brain until now. Interviewing Michael was awesome. His views on Oakland’s reconstruction, gentrification and community was so honest and concise that regretfully we had to edit some of it out. I hope one day he lets me put this entire interview out there. He brought the heat on a lot of topics. People forget this brotha has been at the literal center of Oakland during this transition. However, until the day come you’ll have to settle for Michael waxing about the Broaklyn Film & Theater Company.

Broaklyn Film & Theater Company presents the stories of historically ethnically rich communities, particularly amidst heightened social displacement via gentrification and redevelopment. We are impassioned by a belief that through story, we may transcend traditional barriers such as geography, race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomic class.

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.