Category Archives: ghosttown

I got nothing. Well… a little.

You may have noticed I was nearly MIA last week… and I’m afraid this week may not be much better.  I missed Art Murmur on Friday, again.  It’s been crazy busy with work, home improvement, weddings, housewarmings, and more.  And I have to be honest, I don’t have a lot of material right now, nor much time to generate new stuff.  So this is my guilt-ridden disclaimer… near future will be sporadic.  But hopefully I can come up with some interesting photos if nothing else.

And if any dear readers out there have something to share, well… now is the time!

In the meantime, here are some photos from a guerilla art show anonymously installed on a boarded up building on San Pablo Avenue in West Oakland… who needs a gallery, eh?

public art installation, anonymous paintings san pablo ave

san pablo paintings, guerilla art installation, oakland public art

yellow green paintings, painting of boat, painting of trees, guerilla art

abstract primary paintings, abstract landscape paintings, oakland guerilla art

Political Expression is an Act of Art.

I went to a community meeting in West Oakland last night to discuss some neighborhood issues that have been escalating to the point where many long term residents are, frankly, fed up.

I’ve ranted about a few of these issues from time to time… hopefully not too often, as I generally like to focus on the positive (“keep on the sunny side…”) But it always surprises me when people respond in a way that indicates that by choosing to live in marginal neighborhoods, we somehow aren’t entitled to the most basic quality of life rights as others.

I remember a particular incident one evening when a car full of young kids/adults was parked outside my window, partying with the stereo blasting at 3am on a school night. I threw on some clothes and went outside and very cordially asked them if they could re-locate the party. In a nutshell, they were snotty brats about it and as their car peeled out racing down the street, one of the girls shouted out the window… “you live in the ghetto! what do you expect???” Like somehow people in the ghetto don’t need to sleep like everyone else. I could forgive her because she was a kid and she was drunk, but it’s interesting how often adults have similar opinions.

The truth is, unless you happen to be a pimp or a prostitute or a drug dealer or a drug addict, which comprise a small minority of the people living in West Oakland, then you most likely are not a fan of these activities in your neighborhood. And even the people participating in these activities would likely choose otherwise if they had the means or resources to change their lives. They often have few other options…

But I digress.

I’ve been thinking more politically lately due to the upcoming election and was speaking with a local activist the other day who quoted our current Mayor about Oakland being a “model city.” She said in order for us to truly be a model city, we all need to be model citizens, which needless to say, is easier said than done. It requires time and effort. And in a rat-race society where many are working nose to the grindstone to get their slice of the pie or simply make ends meet, there’s not much time left over.

I applaud those who make the time. I am striving to make more time.

I walked to get coffee this morning because I was out of beans at home. In front of the cafe in the Dimond district, a woman wearing a volunteer vest was picking up trash along the retail stretch of sidewalk. I thanked her. She’s making a difference. And I can’t help wondering what a difference we all might make collectively, if every citizen of this city volunteered to do something. Anything.

These are a handful of political signs I saw as I made my way back home, through the lower hills of Dimond’s lushly landscaped homes… indicative of a community that seems to be really engaged.

women in politics, political signs, dimond district oakland

political signs, support teachers, oakland teachers, dimond district

political expression, political expression as art

support the troops, political signs, dimond district oakland

peace signs in oakland, dimond peace signs, political expression

Painted peace sign on garage, peace signs oakland

same sex marriage, support same sex marriage, no on prop 8

Tripping… by 2am

So I moved this weekend, yesterday evening to be precise…

After 10 years!

As you can imagine, in the course of a decade I managed to cram a ridiculous amount of stuff into various hidden nooks and crannies.   I thought I was traveling light.  I thought it would be easy.  After repeated Goodwill donations and Salvation Army pickups throughout the years, I thought I was in good shape.

I was wrong.

I’ll be digging out for days, and in the interest of keeping my sanity, and my day job, my next few posts will be short and sweet.

Here another sticker from outside what is no longer my home!  (Incidentally, it’s probably a good depiction of how my movers were feeling about hour five into the job… I can’t thank them enough… heaps of gratitude to Crispin & Eric from Anonymous Movers!)

BTW, anyone want to rent a cool loft in the hood???

west oakland stickers, stickers by 2am, tripping

Running Festival Recap

So did you check it out?!?

Hopefully you did because it was a lot of fun, and I have to say I’m feeling pretty blissed out on Oakland right now.

A ton of beautiful people were out… it was a picture perfect day with our typically warmer-and-sunnier-than-San-Fran-weather… and spirits were high!  It’s hard to really recap the experience in words, so I’ll just share a few pictures and videos from the weekend…

Saturday was the Twilight 5k at Lake Merritt kickoff event. Here are a few pics… (more on Flickr).

ella baker center, oakland running festival, twilight 5k ella baker, twilight 5k

twilight 5k, lake merritt, oakland running festival, mother & son running together

oakland running festival, st. david school, st. david school twilight 5k, twilight 5k

running for the community, promoting health, oakland running festival

oakland marathon, oakland running festival, twilight 5k

I also put together a short video with folks talking about why they decided to participate…

Here are a few photos from the Marathon and Half-Marathon finishes on Sunday morning… (more on Flickr).

Oakland Marathon, Tony Torres, Winner of Marathon

Oakland Marathon, oakland marathon 2010, community spirit oakland

frank ogawa plaza, city hall, oakland marathon, oakland running festival

post marathon celebration, oakland marathon 2010, frank ogawa plaza

broadway and telegraph, downtown oakland, oakland marathon, oakland runnning festival

And one more video interview with a half-marathon participant…

Oakland Running Festival!

Did you know there’s a marathon in Oakland this weekend?!? It seems like big news, as this is the first marathon being held in our city in over 25 years, but I’m surprised by how many people have no idea this is happening.

So here’s a little plug for what is surely to be an amazing event…

Oakland Running Festival

There was a great article in the East Bay Express about this history of this event (and other marathons) called Can Oakland Go the Distance? by Dan Schoenholz.

Some highlights…

Long time Oakland runners and race organizers… see the Oakland Running Festival as an opportunity to promote both Oakland and running, and as a way to unify a community that is often divided by racial, economic, and geographic differences.  Marathons are big events in many cities – New York and Boston, famously, but also Baltimore, Cincinnati, Houston, and countless others – and serve as a source of civic pride and unity.  Why not Oakland?”

The festival is based on a more modern, all-inclusive model, not just for hardcore athletes, but one in which a variety of races are provided so that folks can participate at any level they choose.  It’s designed to be runner-friendly, walker-friendly, family-friendly, and most definitely, celebratory. There’s the marathon (26 miles!), half-marathon, a 5k, a kids fun run (two age categories & distances), and a four-person relay.

Strikingly different from the marathon course run in 1981 which was fast, flat, and through heavy industrial areas, this year’s course is designed to be scenic and show people what “Oakland has to offer.” The course starts at City Hall… the first high-rise government building in the U.S. and the tallest building West of the Mississippi at the time it was built.  Runners then progress through the newly redeveloped Uptown section through to Temescal, and Rockridge.  Then the route parallels the BART tracks heading up Keith & Broadway to Lake Temescal Park, and continues through the lovely hills of Montclair before entering the Dimond  District to head back down towards the flats.  Runners will then head down Fruitvale Avenue into the melting-pot district of Fruitvale, and continue along International Boulevard through the Arts district of Jingletown, and on to Jack London Square.  Tired yet? There’s still much more.  After Jack London, runners will pass the West Oakland BART station and through West Oakland, rich with African-American history.  Then they’ll make their way up the lovely redeveloped greenway of the Mandela Parkway, just up to the border of Emeryville, where they’ll hang a right and head through my neighborhood of Ghosttown.  This is so cool! They’re almost in the home stretch.  Then on to 27th Street to hit Lake Merritt and make their way almost the full circumference around, branching off at 19th street to head back to City Hall… the finish line!

Here’s a link to the marathon map, and another link for the half-marathon map.

Here’s the schedule of various events:

  • Saturday 6:00pm – Kick Off Party at Lake Merritt
  • Saturday 6:30pm – Twilight 5K at Lake Merritt (starts at Lakeview Branch Library)
  • Saturday 8:00pm – Twilight 5K Awards Ceremony
  • Saturday 6 – 9pm – Celebration Village at Frank Ogawa Plaza (live music, merchandise, food & drinks, etc.)
  • Sunday 7:15am – Opening Remarks and National Anthem at City Hall
  • Sunday 7:30am – Marathon and Team Relay Races Start (14th & Broadway)
  • Sunday 8:30am – Kids Fun Run Starts (Frank Ogawa Plaza)
  • Sunday 9:00am – Half Marathon Start (14th & Broadway)
  • Sunday 12:00pm – Awards Ceremonies (Frank Ogawa Plaza)
  • Sunday 9 – 3pm – Celebration Village at Frank Ogawa Plaza (live music, merchandise, food & drinks, etc.)

I know I’ll be out both days.  While picking up my Press Pass this morning I nearly bumped into the Mayor, the downtown unbelievably abuzz with activity.  This weekend is a great moment to show the world what a beautiful and vibrant city Oakland truly is.

Please come out to support the runners and support our city!

city hall, us first skyscraper, oakland marathon finish line, oakland marathon starting point

City Hall - the starting point & finish line for the marathon & half-marathon

More reading…

Oakland Marathon a step in the right direction by Chip Johnson

Oakland marathon builds steam with charity donations by Sean Maher

Elements of Power ~ Voices of Change

oakland mural, oakland mural art, ghosttown mural art

I love this mural, despite its dilapidated state. Painted 10 years ago by folks from Laney College, the East Bay Institute of Urban Arts, and Pat McElroy on the corner of 31st and MLK, it’s definitely showing its years, not to mention the heap of dump-destined-junk dumped in front of it. I thought about going back to snap another shot without the pile of junk, but then decided it was more authentic to just show you how I saw it when I first came across it.

This is typical in West Oakland, and the symbolism does not escape me.

Here you have symbols of power and change for people of color – activists, political leaders, artists, musicians, migrant workers, athletes, and more – all stitched together into a positive tapestry of, dare I say, “hope”, and some thoughtless person obscures it with a bunch of trash they’re too lazy or cheap to dispose of properly. It makes me mad. Trash gets dumped here daily, and I don’t just mean kids throwing their candy wrappers on the sidewalk as they walk home from school (which also happens). I mean large trucks advertising dumping & hauling, who likely charge folks to take their trash away, and then come dump it in my neighborhood so they don’t have to pay the city dump fees. Argh. The city still ends up paying for it, through blight clean up crews, and even more so, reduced property taxes.

It sometimes feels like a losing battle… which reminds me of this essay I read yesterday. It’s a breakup letter to the city of Oakland, from a resident who, after many years of struggling to make this city a better place, has given up. She’s movin’ to the country. Check it out… Ode to Oakland.

I’m not there… yet.

mural artists in oakland, laney college mural

Directed by: Edythe Boone and Meera Desai (if that name rings a bell it’s because she was also involved in the Martin Luther King Jr. mural I covered when I first started this blog – To Ignore Evil…)