According to the Weather Channel, it was 70 degrees in Oakland this past Saturday. Yet to the thousands who attended the Malcolm X Jazz Festival, the temperature seemed much hotter. This was ice cream weather, cold beer weather, spread-a-blanket-on-the-grass weather. A perfect day for chillaxing in the sun and touching base with community. The annual May festival, now in its 13th year and presented by East Side Arts Alliance, marks the traditional beginning of the summer season in Oakland, and folks in San Antonio Park sported the sun dresses, shorts, and sandals to prove it.

Named in honor of the late African American social justice advocate Malcolm X, this year’s event took on added poignancy, coming just days after the death and subsequent funeral of Malcolm Shabazz, X’s grandson. A makeshift shrine set up across the street from the park, on Foothill Boulevard, paid tribute to X, Shabazz and other icons who have transitioned to ancestors: George Jackson, Betty Shabazz, Richard Aoki, Patrice Lumumba, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and Tupac Shakur. Several speakers, including OL contributor Reginald James and activist Yuri Kochiyama, commented on Shabazz’ passing – which some seemed to think was an recent example of counterinsurgency against revolutionary activists.

Moving on to more positive themes, the park was filled with beautiful people. They were everywhere—420ing on the hill, picnicking with family and friends, browsing local artisan stalls, listening to jazz emanating from the main stage, pop-locking at the b-boy jam, waiting in line for a plate of ndole rice at Taste of Africa. There was a lot going on, but for every person who worked the crowd, socializing, there was another who kicked back and took it all in. Thanks again to ESAA for producing this event every year.

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Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi is a triple threat: a filmmaker and photographer, he’s also known as DJ 3rd Degree. Jacobs-Fantauzzi is also the founder of the Fist Up Film Festival, currently in its 4th annual iteration. The festival opened last week with a party at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, followed by a screening of “Doin’ It In The Park,” the Bobbito Garcia film about pick-up basketball in NYC. Jacobs-Fantauzzi says the screening went so well, the New Parkway booked the film for several additional days.

The festival came about, Jacobs-Fantauzzi says, because as a filmmaker he got fed up with the rigamarole around showing films on the festival circuit, which was sometimes more trouble than it was worth. “I wanted a way for people to show their films for free and… really bring them to the community,” he related. So he chose the DIY approach, using Berkeley venue La Pena Cultural Center as the festival’s home for its first three years. This year, he adds, “we’re doing it all over the Bay,” with screenings in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley.

The remaining films in the festival are:

  • “Crimes of the Police”–which screened earlier this year at the Oakland International Film Festival – a film which touches on the all-too-relevant subject of police murders of young black men, offering an alternative narrative from the mainstream media perspective by interviewing family members of the victims of police homicide. (May 22nd at Berkeley City College)
  • “Coming Home,” a film about a Cuban hip-hop group, living in Miami, who visit their homeland and are forced to reconcile what they see with their own eyes with their long-held perceptions. (May 31st at the New Parish)
  • “African Cypher,” a film about African street dance, which Jacobs-Fantauzzi says has parallels to the Bay’s own indigenous hyphy, sideshow, and turf dance subcultures. “The similarities are incredible,” he insists. (June 4th at the New Parkway)

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Jinho “Piper” Ferreira, the Flipsyde MC turned police officer and playwrite, recently wrote one of the more interesting guest commentaries to appear in the Oakland Tribune of late. Like much of the Trib’s reporting, the piece is on violence in Oakland. But unlike many of the if-it-bleeds-it-leads crime stories and state-the-obvious columns, the article offers an insightful look at the culture of drugs, crime and violence, from a first-person perspective.

“The first time I held a gun I was 11,” Ferreira writes. By age 13, he was “looking up to the most notorious drug dealers in West Oakland. Most were between 17 and 25 years old, the youngest 14. I was what you would call a “little homie.” I was by no means a gangster, but I loved feeling like one.”

He goes on to describe life as a young shorty on the verge of being sucked into street life by older mentors, and facing a moment of truth: “After the entire older crew was convicted of murder, I remember all of us “little homies” deciding whether we would inherit the block or walk away. I walked away.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, Ferreira currently stars in “Cops and Robbers,” a one-man play at the Kaiser Center’s Lakeside Auditorium. Drawing from Ferreira’s experience growing up on the Oakland streets, and later as a member of the Alameda County Sherriff’s Department, the play, which has been lauded for its authenticity and credibility,  touches on hot-button subject matter, such as an officer-involved shooting, told from the perspective of the officer. “Cops and Robbers” runs until June 1.

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This week’s picks:
“Crimes of the Police” screening, and Q&A with filmmaker Ansar el Muhammad plus opening performance by Young, Gifted, & Black, 5/22, 7 pm, free, Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St., Berkeley

The Oakland Slam’s All-WIDE-Open Mic Show, 5/23, 9pm, $5-$10, New Parkway Theater, 474 24th St.

Bike-In Movie: “Premium Rush”, 5/24, 6pm-10pm, Trumer Pils Brauerei, 1404 4th St., Berkeley

thePeople – Oakland, 5/25, 9pm, $5 adv., New Parish 579 18th St.

Got tips? eric@oaklandlocal.com

 

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