Wandering around my home stretch of West Oakland, I am always amazed how, after more than 10 years, I can still find things I’ve never seen before. Just this past weekend I came across a new cafe, new art installation, new community garden plot, and more. All within a couple blocks of the BART station I’ve been to hundreds of times. This is what I love about Oakland. And West Oakland in particular, with its vast assortment of abandoned manufacturing sites and empty lots, seems ripe for this kind of discovery.
I have to be honest and tell you I was on a bit of a mission when I came across these things, so it wasn’t completely by chance.
I went to the Oakland Indie Awards Nominee Mixer last week. Do you guys know about the Indie Awards? An annual event hosted by the California One Foundation in partnership with the East Bay Express, to promote and highlight local artists and businesses doing amazing things in Oakland. You have to be nominated by a community member, but after that, it’s strictly a juried process and finalists in a number of categories are chosen by a panel of judges after a series of interviews. The awards party is on Friday, May 14th and should prove to be a huge event with local food & drink vendors, live music, DJs, and more. (tickets here)
But back to the mixer… last week was an opportunity to rub elbows with other nominees and even meet the judges and pitch your business or art a bit. I talked with a bunch of talented & creative peeps, one of whom was Keba Konte – artist, business owner, and self-proclaimed “waffle curator.” The owner of Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley as well as one of the founders of Kijiji Grows (featured in Oakland Youth Center post), he recently worked in conjunction with Mo’ Better Food and numerous other organizations in the establishment of Mo Better Food’s East Bay Farm/Garden one block from the West Oakland Bart Station. The garden workday took place on January 18th in honor of Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, and Keba organized a community installed art piece entitled “The Beautification Art Project,” directing volunteers to tie thousands of colorful ribbons onto a chain-link fence to create a portrait of the great civil rights leader. Fantastic.
Apparently Kijiji Grows set up an aquaculture garden on site, but I didn’t see that during my visit…
East Bay Urban Gardeners (EBUG) assisted volunteers in constructing numerous raised planter beds. Here are a couple…
Folks from Urban Releaf (formerly Oakland Releaf) planted numerous trees on the site, and it looks like this formerly abandoned lot is well on its way to becoming a beautiful green zone for food production and recreation. Way to go Mo’ Better Food!