An Unsual Tour Of Art in East Oakland

Entrance to the 23rd Yards
23rd Ave. East Oakland

 

 

The 23rd Yard in East Oakland graciously opened its doors to Cynthia Gorney and her husband Bill Sokol on Sunday June 1st, 2014.

 

Bill is a big time labor lawyer in the Bay Area, and his wife is a top reporter for National Geographic, both of them also work as professors. She’s professionally inquisitive and he’s naturally adventurous. When they called me to ride out, they were on a random bike ride to Cam Huong; the Chinatown restaurant with the top notch $3.00 Vietnamese sandwiches– one of MANY personal favorite destinations in Oakland.

I was with my boys, not too far from there… So, we mounted up & mobbed out.

We met them on 9th and Webster, biked to 14th Ave. in a dash and ended up near the Burger King in the San Antonio District. That’s where the tour started.

Solano Way Alleyway.

That’s where I pointed out the first “TDK” tag. Spray painted on a wall was a yellow race car, and written in black paint were those three letters. Cynthia, or CG as I call her, was familiar with the story of “TDK”; she was in the audience during the screening of my thesis film, The Dream Kontinues. She urged me to tell Bill what “TDK” means…

“Those Damn Kids”.

 

The eyes behind Bill’s thin glasses frames lit up as he let out a wholesome laugh. He was evidently enjoying this.

 

Yoda.  (A new piece in the Solano Way. Alley) Left to right: Rich, Bill, CG, G and Offie.
Yoda.
(A new piece in the Solano Way. Alley)

And then we took photos.

We biked under the shoes on power-lines,  hit 19th ave, busted that left, and headed down East 12th st.

CG, Bill, and a couple of my homies: Feelthy Rich, G and Offie. A bunch of random folks rolling on spokes.

Someone out of the crew said it looked like they (CG & Bill) had four security guards with ’em as they toured the hood. Maybe.

I had to admit, it was something out of the ordinary to be biking with older white people through the “Murda Dubbs” in East Oakland.

I met CG during my first year of grad school, she was my journalism professor. She taught me stuff about the English language that my K-8th grade experience in Oakland Public Schools didn’t teach me, nor my high school years at a college prep school in Danville.

Way before I met CG, I was introduced to her husband. Back when I was just learning how to turn a camera on, I met thee Bill Sokol. I was a student at Youth Radio, and he was the company’s lawyer. One day, I got an assignment to film him yap away about free legal advice. I showed off my mighty camera-turning-on-ability on that day!

I’d bet my degree that neither of them imagined: one day I’d be taking them on a mini-tour through East Oakland– I know I didn’t see it coming.

When we got to the Safe Storage facility on 29th Ave. CG kindly asked an employee if we could access the legendary “Oakland Wall Of Fame”, which was behind the storage facility’s security gates. The nice young lady behind the desk granted permission to our band of biking Baby Boomers & Brothas– and we walked into my thesis film.

The Wall of Fame
The Oakland Wall of Fame

 

The Dream Kontinues, is a 20-minute documentary film about a graffiti artist (a writer) named Mike “Dream” Francisco, his contribution to the art world and how his crew still paints to this day. Dream and his crew ,”TDK”, used to paint on the walls of East Oakland’s 23rd Yard. I mean, they’d hit everywhere: all around Oakland, SF, Berkeley, and even moving busses all around the Bay Area. They were Those Damn Kids. And they lived up to the name.

 

But, the place where they earned their name, that was the 23rd Yards of East Oakland.

 

The 23rd Yard.
The 23rd Yard.

It has always been an industrial side of town, with a whole bunch of train tracks and loading docks for the surrounding factories.

After a couple of decades of artistic vandals staking their claim, it’s grown into a museum. An outdoor art gallery. A half-mile stretch of self expression, brought to you by generations of Krylon-paint-can-toting juvenile delinquents… Some of whom grew to be artists. Really, really good artists.

The “Oakland Wall of Fame” is dedicated to one of those really-really good artists. His name was Mike Francisco; they called him “Dream”. He used to paint in the 23rd Yard back in the day. In the late 80’s he did a couple of pieces that put the Yard on the map– including this one piece called The Best of Both Worlds.

As we walked and talked, Bill pulled me aside and told me that his son used to write graffiti– and he used to depend on pops to hide the spray paint from the fuzz… aka CG.

I told the married couple, and my homies what I heard in interviews from Dream’s family and friends. About his run-ins with the law, his growth from hustla’ to artist and how he played an essential role in founding the TDK crew– a collective of artists who still write to this day.

Those Damn Kids
Those Damn Kids

 

The letters TDK are now on walls in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Cuba and of course- East Oakland. What once started as “Those Damn Kids”, morphed into “Tax Dollars Kill”, “The Dark Knights”, “The Damn Kings”, and slew of alternative acronyms.

Mike “Dream” Francisco was murdered in 2000, in what has been reported a robbery. He was 30 years of age. Aside from a long lasting art legacy and crew of writers, he also left behind a son, Akil.

Akil & lil John, Dream's son & brother.
Akil & lil John, Dream’s son & brother.

The art on the walls near the tracks still stands. Persevered for people like CG, Bill and my crew to see. And even though some of  the tags, pieces and murals get  painted over, they never get erased. The paint is still on the wall, it’s just buried. Waiting for someone to discover the story behind it… And tell a friend or two.

UC Berkeley Essay: Reporting on Oscar Grant.

UCB ID.
UCB ID.

Damn! It’s already the second month of the second semester… The 1st semester flew by. I mean, I made friends. I wrote. A lot. And of course: I partied… a little bit.

Ok, 1st semester highlights:

1. I learned.

2. I produced.

( My favorite pieces:

A story on Bay Area journalist and mentor of mines, Kevin Weston, and his bout with Lukemia : http://oaklandnorth.net/2012/11/30/bay-area-journalist-kevin-westons-fight-against-rare-cancer/

A story about a teacher named martel Price and his battle with disciplining his students … and himself.: http://oaklandnorth.net/2013/01/10/one-oakland-teachers-lesson-on-discipline/

And the rest of my pieces:

http://oaklandnorth.net/author/pendarvis-harshaw/

3. I got the best grades ever ( do grades matter in grad school?)

I wanted to write about the racial interactions on campus in comparison to Howard. I wanted to talk about the way the administration handles their business in comparison to Howard. But all I spent too much time reflecting on it…

A moment (or hour) of reflection before I start producing stories for my 2nd semester caused me to dig up the big idea that got me here in the first place… Here is that idea in words.

… The essay that got me in to school …

8 Days on Oscar in Oakland

by Pendarvis Harshaw

When the news of Oscar Grant’s death broke I was rushing to leave Oakland, literally. I was sitting passenger seat in my aunt’s car en route to an early morning cross-country flight. From the moment I landed in the Nation’s Capitol, I watched the Oscar Grant related events closely through news sites, social media, and phone calls.

18 months after the morning that left Oscar Grant dead, I was back in the Bay, home from school for summer vacation and just in time for Grant’s case to be heard in a Los Angeles County courtroom. It just so happened that the trial for Oscar Grant’s case was scheduled in the middle of my coming of age experience; June 30th to July 8th, 2010 is an eight-day stretch that I mark as an early apex in my career.

I worked as one of Youth Radio’s lead reporters on their body of coverage on this issue. On June 30th National Public Radio aired a piece I produced titled, “Oakland Awaits Verdict In Subway Shooting Trial”, an audio montage of Oakland residents speaking about the impending verdict in the trial of Johannes Mehserle. Two days later, on the morning of July 2nd 2010, I was granted a rare candid interview with the Mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums. We discussed Oscar Grant’s killing, resident’s feelings towards law enforcement agents, and the future for Oakland. I asked the Mayor about the possibility of renaming the Fruitvale Bart Station after Oscar Grant; this would lead to an audio project I co-produced by the name of  “The Grant Station Project”. On the evening of July 2nd I documented downtown businesses boarding up in preparation for Oakland’s reaction to the verdict. The entire next week I worked with Youth Radio as a correspondent on the trial deliberations.

On July 8th at 4pm the verdict of involuntary manslaughter was released. As I stood in the center of the city, 14th and Broadway, through my headphones I could hear whispers of the words “involuntary manslaughter”, and then the phrase was repeated in question form, “involuntary manslaughter?”. And the question was answered in an emphatic statement, “Involuntary Manslaughter!”

I spotted a girl I attended elementary school with standing about 15 feet adjacent to major gathering where I was standing. She was in tears as she expressed her disgust with the situation; her image would be on the cover of a major Bay Area newspaper the following day.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the helicopters swarmed and the news cameras rolled. In the large sea of people, I recognized faces from all walks of life: teachers, teammates, and Oakland’s top talent, like musician Dwayne Wiggins and actor/comedian Mark Curry. The community was out in force.

That night, I left before the vandalism and uprisings. I grew up in Oakland; I had been in similar situations and knew what was to be expected at nightfall.

On the morning of Friday of July 9th I recall walking through downtown Oakland; the town was wounded but still breathing. Storefronts had been vandalized. Trash was in the street and graffiti was on the walls. But at 9am there were people going to work. I was one of those people; as I headed to Youth Radio’s headquarters at 17th and Broadway, I remember being extremely excited about going to work: We were scheduled to have cake! We were celebrating making it through the prior eight days… as well as my 23rd birthday, which was July 6th. I hadn’t had time to properly celebrate. I was too busy growing.

In the aftermath of July 8th, I was overcome with a feeling of fulfillment I had never experienced. The feeling of doing something meaningful, in a place that is meaningful to me, is nothing short of amazing.

I’m sure the actual videos, photographs, and my twitter records document this time period far more dramatically than I can, especially now that I am so far removed from that time

I am passionate about reporting, documenting, and telling stories. I love traveling; I’ve spent a week or more reporting on issues in Senegal, Ireland, and Denver during the Democratic National Convention of 2008, which was a world unto itself.

These experiences were all remarkable and formative, but it turns out my richest experience was at home in Oakland. There is nowhere I would rather pursue my passion for and master the many facets of telling meaningful stories than at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Through this tremendous opportunity to be exposed to journalism at a higher level, I hope to grow just as I did the week of my 23rd birthday, both professionally and personally.

Happy belated birthday Oscar Grant, here is my latest article: http://oaklandnorth.net/2013/02/12/oscar-grant-family-reaches-out-to-mother-of-kenneth-harding/

An Oakland Local on OaklandLocal…Dot.Com

 

 

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Fresh on your virtual newsstand !

Oakland Local.
Oakland Local.

The good people at Oakland Local messed around and gave me a page:

http://oaklandlocal.com/people/og-penn

 

Here are a couple of articles that i’ve produced through thisOakland Local:

An article on a digital arts and culinary center in the heart of East Oakland…

http://oaklandlocal.com/article/east-oaklands-new-digital-arts-and-culinary-academy-dishes-out-recipe-success-community-voic

 

An article on America’s Got Talent and Oakland’s own “The PopLyfe” and their run to the (near) top…. dang.

http://oaklandlocal.com/article/oaklands-poplyfe-makes-finals-americas-got-talent-watch-them-tonight

Older articles….

An article on Augusta Collins, Bay Area Hall of Fame Guitarist…(Re-published by SF Gate)

http://blog.sfgate.com/inoakland/2011/01/24/music-mondays-oaklands-augusta-lee-collins-has-what-it-takes-to-play-the-blues/

 

An article on the classic debate of W.E.B. Du Bois vs. Booker T. Washington, and how that argument applies to today’s job market…

http://oaklandlocal.com/article/who-asked-us-young-blacks-vocational-training-or-liberal-arts-community-voices

 

Be sure to check Oaklandlocal.com

More articles to come!

Peace.

 

Free Bikes!!!

I got a new bike! for free! and you can too!

( not my bike- but this cool bike can be found at the Bikery)

I don’t have too much time to write this blog… because I have a new bike… and that means I don’t sit still too long.

This is how you can get a new bike :

1. log onto:  http://thebikery.weebly.com/ ( phone : 510- 536- 6732)

2. call and schedule an appointment. (Tues, Thurs, Sat, or Sun)

3. show up to the scheduled meeting, and participate in the 4 hour tutorial on bike culture.

4. Eat snacks in the middle of the Four hour tutorial

5. leave the 4 hour meeting at the 3 hour mark- to go enjoy a test ride on your bike.

6. come back to do a final check in on the same day… and then the bike is yours!

(The Bikery asks that you check- in some time down the road to make sure the bike is being well kept as well.)

But that’s it! no strings attached (unless you get a bike with streamers).

I attended the meeting just one week after I had gotten my bike stolen (RIP RANGER), I brought my sister along for the ride. We sat through the tutorial where we learned how to properly lock our bikes, how to properly hand signal while in the streets, and even how to properly wear a helmet… yea, my big ole dome in a helmet- picture that!

… There are no pictures of me in a helmet, but there is a picture of my sister in a helmet, smiling ear-to-ear on her new bike…

East Oakland’s Bikery is located on the corner of E. 14th and 23rd Ave, just minutes away from the Fruitvale Bart Station.

The Bikery’s storefront location in East Oakland is a part of the bigger, “Cycles of Change” East Bay nonprofit program that works to get bikes in the hands of the youth. The Bikery takes the same mission as Cycles of Change, while also aiming to get bikes in the hands of lower-income young professionals, especially young Black men.

I am extremely appreciative of my new bike; I’ve been able to make it to make it to my odd-jobs ( teaching and producing media) . I’ve been able to see friends and family. And I’ve even been able to get away from it all, and ride all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge!

my bike. my Bay.

“#Action”- London.

He is a young R&B singer who takes his life experience and expresses them in a universal way. He makes music for the fly kids and through it, you might be able to understand how his life is… His name is London. and he’s talking about #Action.

London talks #Action.

We talked for 30 minutes about his rise into the R&B game, his college experience in Atlanta at Morehouse, and returning home to Oakland, California where his latest hit single “Action” has gained much fanfare without much radio play. Now, local radio stations are slowly starting to wake up to London’s movement.

Local radio station 106.1 KMEL recently played “Action” for the first time. I was shaking off a mean cat nap on a Saturday evening, as I groggily checked my twitter timeline: all I saw was #Action.

An overwhelming percentage of my twitter timeline heard the track, and were tweeting the word #Action all over the place.

I had to get to the bottom of it: who is this London guy and what is this “#Action”?

A notable Bay Area Hip-Hop site, 38thnotes.com featured the “Action” video

The song was dope. the video was dope. but I was still a little lost…

What does #Action really mean?

One week after my twitter timeline was full of #Action, I had the opportunity to sit down with the man himself, and ask London, what is this “#Action” is all about?

I conducted a brief audio interview, but here is a little video footage of London discussing his concept for the video, and how it applies to his music…..

A longer audio version of the interview aired on KMEL’s Street Soldiers

(http://streetsoldiersradio.org/soul-spotlight-london/)

on Sunday July 25th. The local stations, much like myself, are no longer sleeping on London.

#Action.

More Cars…

 

Rod and his Box Chev

 

On Saturday July 17th, 2010 I spent the day riding shot gun with the big homies Rod, Reg, and Benardo. The trio rode back to to back through the town in their candy painted Box Chevys… this is how we rolled….

Reg's Ride

 

We ended up attending the informal Saturday car show at Treasure Island in San Francisco. Mustangs, Camaros, and Old School cars of all kinds were in the building.

Benardo and his ride...

 

Check out this video of all the fly cars…

 

…and then, of course, the boys showed what their toys could do…

This Camaro got kicked up a lil dirt while spinning doughnuts and getting sideways...Video

 

…and this Camaro and Mustang duked it out in a drag race…Video

 

…this train of thought is just a lil sumn to let you know i love cars… again.

 

100 Spokes

My NPR Piece on Oscar Grant.

(This audio piece and transcript was originally published at NPR.org by youthradio.org)

As part of NPR’s continuing coverage of the Oscar Grant trial, Youth Radio brings us this audio postcard — not from Los Angeles where the trial is happening, but from Oakland where the case began New Year’s Day in 2009. That’s when then-BART Transit officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed an unarmed 22-year-old man. Last year, the city erupted with angry protests, some of them violent. And now that the officer’s trial is nearing a close in Los Angeles, Youth Radio’s Pendarvis Harshaw, an Oakland resident, traveled to three distinct spots throughout the city to ask how people are feeling about the case.

CLICK HERE to hear the story…

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128220858&ft=1&f=1091

DJ Fresh and the Legend of the “Tonite Show”.

DJ Fresh is a DJ and producer who makes more rounds than his turntables.

His original home of Baltimore, Maryland is just one of the many places DJ Fresh has called Home. He moved from B-More when he was nine years old, landing him in the South Bay city of San Jose. It was at this time in his life, the nine year-old “fresh” kid decided to add the DJ to his name, and committed himself to his music.

DJ Fresh is now a veteran producer and DJ, who’s name rings bells- just as his beats rattle trunks. His resume boasts projects and performances with Hip-Hop heavy weights such as Nas, Common, and Raekwon. And his travels have lead him to the East coast, the West coast, and now, he is poised to go on an international tour with Lil Kim.

But before he made that move to embark on his next journey, I caught up with DJ Fresh, as the workaholic was poised to record yet another track for the upcoming Tonite Show project. He and rapper San Quinn couldn’t spare a minute to pause the track as they were grinding away on the next track for the upcoming DJ Fresh album.

In this brief video interview, Fresh gives us insight into the formula behind the Tonite Show series…The Tonite Show with DJ FRESH from New America Media on Vimeo.

DJ Fresh’s “Tonite Show” album series can been seen via advertisements floating in the bay area streets, and can be heard rattling trunks in the Bay Area and beyond.  He has teamed up with a number of talented producers, and formed the group, “The Whole Shabang”. The Whole Shabang production team works with the top Bay Area artists, such as J- Stalin, D-Lo. , and Messy Marv; amongst others. To get a taste of what the combination of talented producers and top artists sounds like, here is a three piece special:

A new track titled “I Am” by an up and coming artist, Young Gully

Secondly, a track titled “Hardest in the Bay” by D-Lo.

And lastly, an older track, but still one of my favorites, “We go dumb in the Bay” by Mistah Fab.

This article was originally posted on youthoutlook.org