April 11, 2005
Ashby Arts District
There is a fabulous movement afoot in South Berkeley!
It's called The Ashby Arts District, and its a cooperative effort spearheaded by Epic Arts (which serves as its fulcrum). The partnership includes La Peña Cultural Center, The Shotgun Players, Epic Arts Studios, The Black Repertory Group, Nomad Café, Northern California Land Trust and the Triptych Gallery. This district is unique in that it has been organized by artists and arts organizations from the grassroots up, and is now supported by the local business community, neighborhood associations, and was officially recognized by the Berkeley Mayor's office in the summer of 2003.
The recent emergence of this affiliation of arts venues in the South Berkeley/North Oakland neighborhoods surrounding Ashby BART station has finally given a name to an area long known for its proliferation of artists, writers, musicians, dancers, actors and other performers, as well as residents who appreciate community-based arts.
Through collaborative events and programs, the District’s members are working to bridge gaps between neighboring organizations, increase public awareness of the arts, and unify the communities they serve. Undertakings include:
* Publishing a monthly arts calendar that reflects events and performances throughout the Ashby Arts District
* Compiling and sharing a database of nearly one thousand local artists, musicians and other performers in order to allow broad saturation of favorite acts within the district
* Working with city officials to move new arts organizations into the area.
* Planning our first annual street festival for the summer of 2005, during which a section of the Arts District will be shut down to celebrate the 30th anniversary of La Peña and the Northern California Land Trust.
* Partnering with local businesses, organizations, and community groups to expand the reach of and base of support for the arts as an integrated part of community
* Continuing to develop public art projects such as the 2003 Ashby/MLK mural project that involve local residents as designers and architects of thier own creative environment.
The main goal is the continued development of the Ashby Arts District and the creation of a better world through art, one thriving community at a time.
April 04, 2004
No McDonalds for Grand Lake?
The Grand Lake Theater's ever-political marquee has turned local:
Seems that the grease-fest Kwik Way diner near Grand and Lake Shore is set to be closed, as the landlord is seeking a more profitable tenant. Sadly, a McDonald's has been planned for that spot. That means losing the delicious Googie-style Kwik Way frontage, to be replaced with nothing unique to the neighborhood.
Area residents are upset about a) multinational chain businesses b) more fast food near to a school c) litter and d) increased traffic pulling off 580 for a quick burger, not in keeping with the increasingly pedestrian-friendly character of that area between Lake Merritt, Lake Shore and Grand Avenue.
There's local activist information at GreaterGrandLake.org. Also, there's a community meeting on the topic on Wednesday April 7th, where people from the neighborhood will have a chance to voice their opposition to the plan in the presence of McDonald's representatives. That should be entertaining.
Grand Lake Theater Marquee Archive
Anyone who lives or drives in central Oakland near the lake has seen the indominable Grand Lake Theater Marquee. This terrific traditional grand old theater uses some of its prime advertising space for unabashedly political messages, some verging on the witty.
Musician and Grateful Dead historian David Gans has been keeping a Grand Lake Theater Marquee photo archive. Hurrah! I had been keeping my own, but he seems more disciplined about it. I've been living in Oakland on-and-off for almost six years; I don't remember these politics from my early days; I think the 2000 Bush v. Gore upset really ticked off someone at the good old Grand Lake. Outspoken business owners - makes me proud to live in Oakland.
November 19, 2003
Telegraph Avenue Bike Lanes - Stand and Be Counted!
This just in from the East Bay Bicycling Coalition:
Telegraph Ave. (and vicinity) cyclists:
Please plan to attend Oakland's community meeting about the plan for bike lanes on Telegraph Ave. on December 4 (not December 3 as originally thought). Telegraph's bike lanes are by no means a foregone conclusion and supportive bicyclists need to show up. The opposition is strong, organized, and influential.
Time: Thursday, 12/4/03, 7-9pm
Location: Faith United Presbyterian Church, 430 49th Street at Webster
Please, pencil the Dec. 4 meeting into your calendar. If you have any questions, let me know. This matter will also be discussed further at the next EBBC meeting at the Rockridge Library on Tuesday, November 25.
November 18, 2003
Late Night BART
"New York, Chicago and other major cities have public transportation that is available at late night hours; it’s an embarrassment that the San Francisco bay area cannot say the same."
So the people who typed those words have set up an online petition: Keep BART running to 3:00 AM.
I drive a car everywhere at night, so I can't drink much and I've got to park. If BART ran late, I might think about partying past twelve without my wheels!
November 08, 2003
Vote Nationally, Blog Locally
I think of the East Bay as a political incubator, both for practices and ideas. Alameda and Contra Costa counties have more than 2.4 million people, more than some states with flags and U.S. senators (Vermont? New Hampshire?). Three local groups are operating web sites.
East Bay 4 Dean was the first. It runs a local bulletin board but mostly pimps the local meetups, very successfully, I might add. A few design observations: Three photos make it local: a bayscape, a Dean rally with marching band, and an even larger crowd in an auditorium watching Dean announce he's running. The message: Jump on the Bandwagon.
East Bay Kerry came along next. Full disclosure: I started it. An active group weblog, the site is mostly about issues, a bit about the campaign, and a little about organizing. Most real organizing seems to happen on mailing lists. I'm shooting for the blog to look at national events through East Bay eyes and listen to campaign spew through East Bay ears. As important, EBK can inform national policy with East Bay issues. Blogging is such a first-person activity, I hope personality comes through. Built with TypePad. The message: Campaigns are Conversations.
East Bay for Clark is the most polished looking, has the most engineering underneath it. Sparse content but useful "upcoming events" info. Built by national campaign staff, the site feels like an empty shell at the moment. That may change if more people participate in feeding the site. Someone on the Clark campaign gets that politics is fundamentally local, so they built dozens of these sites so locals can move in. The message: Clark is in the East Bay.
Where are local sites for the other 6 candidates?
October 23, 2003
Balloons at Berkeley Bowl
From Worker's United:
Sunday, October 26, 2-6pm
Here's the idea: In their last-ditch effort to break the workers' solidarity, the management of the Berkeley Bowl has told the workers that they cannot even talk about the union. Through intimidation and threats, they have attempted to create an environment in which "union" is a four-letter word.
Now the plan: Hundreds of helium balloons, with handwritten messages written on them with markers, given out to all the customers who enter the store. If you were able to make it to the Bowl last Sunday and were able to see all the balloons inside the store, then you know how the environment was shifted to a very pro-union one. With your help, the next two Sundays will be even better than last Sunday.
How you can help: It takes many hands to blow up the balloons, tie string to them, write messages on them, and distribute them to customers. We also have buttons and flyers and other information to get out to the shoppers. It would be great if you could help support the workers with your donation of time these next two Sundays. If you can not be there for the entire four hours, that is fine. Last Sunday there were a lot of people who came to the store to shop and spent about an hour helping with balloons before going inside. Anything you can do to help the workers is very appreciated. Please help spread the word about the struggle the workers are facing at the Berkeley Bowl, and we hope to see you there on Sunday!
October 20, 2003
Save The Shipyard: Final Use Permit Hearing
Heads count in many situations, and this-here is one of them.
Do your part to keep Berkeley a place where art can thrive! (Free tacos, too!)
On Thursday, October 23rd, get yerself on down to:
City of Berkeley Council Chambers
2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, 2nd Floor
People's Republic of Berkeley
Taco truck catering starts at 6PM. Hearing starts at 7PM.
The Shipyard is a shipping container artist community in Berkeley. The Shipyard is yet another amazing Bay Area artist resource and venue that has been struggling for survival the last couple of years and could really use your help.
This report from Jim, tireless leader of The Shipyard:
The hour of reckoning has arrived for the Shipyard.
Two years and $12,000 after we started the Battle of the Papers and
Processes with the City of Berkeley, the Final Use Permit hearing for
The Shipyard is scheduled and guaranteed to happen October 23rd at 7pm.
This is the hearing where they decide whether we get to continue to
exist or we rent a truck and haul away all the containers.
We have submitted all the required drawings, environmental studies,
statements of intent, paid the fees, talked and retalked, redid the
drawings 4 times, brought in high end architectural consulting and
services, and all the rest of the stuff that always happens in these
And now the whole thing is on the line a! nd we need a big showing to
convince Berkeley that people care about the place and want to see it
continue to exist. Exist not just to collect large machine tools and
build unlikely edifices to misguided hubris, but also to have events,
workshops, gatherings, and shows- all those things we haven't been able
to do for two years while we were under the thumb.
WE NEED 200 PEOPLE IN THE ROOM FOR THIS HEARING.
200 people cannot be said no to.
Our neighbors are happy with us so I don't expect them out in force
against us, but who knows what will happen. These hearings are
arbitrary and you stand there helpless as decisions are made over the
foundation upon which you and many, many other people create, play,
live and generally do the things that matter most to them. Everything
could be fine, (as it was at the last hearing for design review, which
we passed), or everything could suddenly be all wrong. That is why we
ALL need to be there- to make sure it will all be OK, and not yet
another art space gets axed in the Bay Area, as has been the recent
So, with humility, concern, deep gratitude and all the other soft
things, I ask, actually plead, that you consider joining us for this
The hearing starts at 7pm. You have to submit a speakers card by
7:15pm to speak. Speaking in favor of the project is good, especially
if you are a Berkeley resident, or even if you are not.
There will be a taco truck catering the event (at the curb) out front
from 6-8pm. Free tacos and horchata for all who show.
Again, the meeting is at:
Council Chambers, Berkeley
2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, 2nd Floor
Thursday, Oct 23rd, 7:00 p.m.
There will be a party (celebrating our success) afterwards at the
yard. More details on the after party will emerge soon.
Thank you in advance for helping to bring all this silliness to an end.
- Jim Mason
directions for west bay folk:
-off 80 at University, go east for about a mile.
-turn right on Martin Luther King Jr Way.
-go three blocks and find taco truck and venue on your right.
October 18, 2003
Panel on Election 2004 at the Hillside Club, Sunday, 10/19
Cybersalon: Digital Democracy in 2004?
6:00-8:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 19
Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley
Will the Internet encourage more people, including political candidates, to participate in the next Presidential elections? Joan Blades, cofounder of moveon.org, will relate how moveon.org has moved hundreds of thousands of citizens to take direct action; Garrett Gruener, former gubernatorial candidate and founder of search engine Ask Jeeves, will describe the implications of the Internet for candidates; and Tyler Ziemann, 23-year-old founder of Affinity Engines, will talk about why a major Presidential candidate is using Affinity's software platform to mobilize and monitor voter support.
Also on our panel is Lauren Gelman, assistant director, Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society, and Zane Vella, executive director, Campaign Video Project.
Notice: We're starting later and ending earlier, serving light refreshments (not dinner!), and lowering our donation request to $10. RSVP to email@example.com and feel free to bring friends and family.
Directions: From the Bay Bridge or Oakland and points south, take the
University St. exit off 880, bear right and go straight (north) along
the frontage road for about half a mile. Make a right onto Cedar Street
and continue 2.3 miles. The Hillside Club is three blocks east (up the
hill) of Shattuck Ave, between Spruce and Arch Streets, and there is
parking in the neighborhood. For BART travelers, get off at the Central Berkeley BART, and take any bus going along Shattuck and get off at Cedar.
May 12, 2003
Secret Service Questions Students
Three weeks ago, an Oakland High teacher ratted out two students to the U.S. Secret Service for classroom conversation. It's a great drama. Civil liberties and the right to counsel vs. homeland security. Academic freedom vs. safety. Agents telling kids "we own you, you don't have any legal rights." In the crucible that gave us the Black Panthers and the Free Speech Movement.
KRON reported this story (terse, appropriate for the evening news), as did Alex Katz of the Oakland Tribune (more detail and interviews with the Secret Service), and JR at San Francisco Bay View (Long, with pointed commentary as you might expect from the National Black Newspaper of the Year).
March 27, 2003
Great show for a great cause!
Tonite (Thursday, March 27th, 8 PM)!
a benefit for RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)
featuring Charming Hostess, 20 Minute Loop, Faun Fables, Jou Jou
Oakland Metro (201 Broadway @ 2nd, Jack London Square)
March 26, 2003
Throwin' it down for peace
On Saturday, April 5, Oakland will have a peace march, starting at 10:30am at Mosswood Park (Broadway and MacArthur), and marching downtown to Frank Ogawa Plaza at 11:30am.
Brought to you by the People's NonViolent Response Coalition.