Oakland’s art scene is bubbling right now. The city was just named among the Top 12 nationally by ArtPlaces, which specifically noted the Downtown/Uptown area as being particularly artcentric. That’s cool, but what makes Oakland art hot is Oakland artists. It couldn’t happen without them.

One sector of the O-Town art scene that’s churning out impressive works is the urban Diaspora: artists who bring a multiculti street sensibility to studios, galleries, and exhibitions. A bunch of these talented types have banded together to create a new collective, known as Alpha-Omega.

Last Friday, the collective launched a new show at EarPiece Records in South Berkeley. Curated by “Black Futurist” and Black Diamonds Shining founder Deadeyes, the exhibit is the first public showing by the collective, a legion of acclaimed visual artists and photographers, including Shaun Burner, Miguel “Bounce” Perez, Ozi Magana, Kee Na Romano, Oree Originol, Sage, Ash Rose, Scott La Rockwell, Terrance Jerod, Chris Granillo, Aswad Arif, Franklin Cartagena, and Deadeyes himself.

The art on display ranged from abstract imagery to finely detailed portraits, often referencing hip-hop culture and a graffiti-style aesthetic without being overly rooted in that paradigm. I particularly dug Ash Rose’s contribution — an octopus grasping a human heart in its tentacles– as well as Scott La Rockwell’s killer photographic portraits and Miguel “Bounce” Perez’ evocative curlicues. Definitely watch for more from Alpha Omega in the future.


Speaking of Oree Originol, on Friday night, the painter, a protégé of Oakland art maven Favianna Rodriguez, debuted a new show at Era Art Bar. Titled “Alchemy,” the featured art presents geometric patterns on top of cosmic spacescapes and planet-like spheres with tribal-style line work, reminiscent of Aztec or Huichol culture. Oree told me he assembled the entire show quickly, painting three new pieces in less than 24 hours.

Asked what “Alchemy” means to him, here’s what he had to say: “Alchemy for me is all the transformations that I’ve been going through, especially in 2012.  It was a year where I broke through artistically and I started getting involved in a lot of projects, by way of Favianna, who I work for. The reason I called this show ‘Alchemy’ is, I’m going through a lot of changes, a lot of transformations. These pieces are dedicated to that.”


Bobby Seale is a human history book. The Black Panther Party founder, a robust 76-year-old, is still as fiery and outspoken as ever. However, Seale’s not too happy with the way Panther history has been portrayed in books and film, and has started a new IndieGogo campaign to help fund his upcoming project, “Seize the Time: the 8th Defendant,” a feature film based on his life. Seale says the movie will correct the historical revisionism around the Panther era by showing what really happened.

During a meeting with me and my Black Cinema at Large partner Rocky Seker at Awaken Café over a Black History Month fund-raiser at the Grand Lake Theater (details TBA), Bobby regaled us with stories around the murder of Fred Hampton, which he said was an assassination by the FBI, and the famous “Chicago Eight” trial, when he was bound and gagged in the courtroom.

Everything that’s been done on the Panther era to date, he said, hasn’t actually told the real story; he’s producing his film independently because Hollywood producers he’s spoken with wanted, among other things, a “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”-style treatment of the relationship between Seale and Huey Newton. Seale’s screenplay opens with Hampton’s murder, and from there proceeds to flashback between the Chicago 8 trial and other notable moments in Seale’s life. Here’s a suggestion: everyone who complained about the lack of historical accuracy in Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” could contribute $10 (or more) to Seale’s project. Just saying.


Tonight (Tuesday), Shabazz Palaces are at the New Parish. That’s exciting news for true hip-hop heads — the ones who cling to their Raekwon purple cassette tapes and recoil with abhorrence whenever Nicki Minaj appears on TV. In case you’ve been out of the loop, Shabazz Palaces is the new project by Digable Planets frontman Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, who landed a deal with Sub Pop, the label best known for Nirvana and the Seattle grunge scene. On their debut album Black Up, Butler and co-conspirator Tendai “Baba” Maraire strike a blow against brain-dead, overly-commercial rap, reclaiming the artform with intelligent lyrics and thoughtful musical backgrounds. Looking forward to seeing their live show.


If you haven’t yet seen Byron Hurt’s documentary “Soul Food Junkies,” you’re in luck. There’s a free showing of the film –which explores the dichotomy between African Americans’ culturally-reinforced reliance on fatty food and health disparities–Wednesday at the Oakland Asian Cultural Center, followed by a panel discussion featuring the director, along with Ashara Ekundayo, Co-founder of Hub Oakland and Green for All Fellow, Dr. Gail P. Myers, founder of Farms to Grow, Doria Robinson, Executive Director of Urban Tilth, and Saqib Keval, founder of the People’s Kitchen. Before the movie, you can enjoy healthy food from local providers.


The 45 Sessions is one of my favorite club nights. There’s just something about DJ’s spinning not only all-vinyl, but all-45s, that results in much better music than a typical nightclub session. Maybe it’s because the DJs themselves challenge each other to come up with obscure, yet awesome, selections, attempting to one-up each other with the most buttery or bugged-out 7-inch in their collection. This Friday, the first 45 Sessions of 2013 commences with resident spinners Platurn, Enki, and E Da Boss, along with special guests O-Dub (sole-sides.com) and Muddbird. As usual, Jern Eye hosts, and the Hella Records sale in the mezzanine offers plenty of platters for purchase. It all goes down at Disco Volante.


I’ve always had a soft spot for international hip-hop. It’s always inspiring to hear how cultures outside the U.S. have embraced the artform and voiced it in their native tongue. Cuban hip-hop in particular is especially amazing in that regard; its artists have not only absorbed the key foundational elements of American hip-hop, but embellished upon it with their own musical and vocal touches. Wednesday night, the New Parish presents “The Voice: Cuba meets Oakland,” featuring Kokino, a member of controversial Cuban hip-hop act Anonimo Consejo – whose affinity for sociopolitical themes led to numerous run-ins with the government. Also on the bill: Oakland’s own the Attik, DJs Treat U Nice and Leydis, Jairo from Bayonics, Jesus Diaz, Miki Flow, and Yussef Breffe. Wow! Should be a magical evening of Afro-Cuban vibes in Oakland.


For dancehall reggae fans, the name Sanchez brings back sweet memories of innumerable big tunes. The singer, who has released at least 32 albums since 1987, has long remained a fan favorite due to his adherence to romantic themes and affinity for killer cover versions of other people’s songs. He’ll be playing live thisFriday at New Karibbean City, one of Oakland’s most consistent venues for live reggae music.


Oakulture appears weekly on Tuesday; send info for stories to eric@oaklandlocal.com

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