Saturday, December 6, 2008

Black Renaissance on Pine Street

So I'm eating breakfast at this cafe on Adeline in Berkeley. The guy at the table next to me has just finished a bowl of something ... some kind of greenish cooked cereal or some sort of Split Pea soup. A short stack with home fries follows. (Hmmm ... interesting. Either this guy is from some Eastern European country or he's just a very hungry fellow who knows how to eat.)

So I strikes up a conversation. Turns out the couple are far-left Berkeley types. Not many left these days. I tell him a bit about me, and then he pauses, and tells me about this brother down in the Lower Bottom (a.k.a. "West Oakland") who is creating this whole movement around black art, music and writing.

It takes me a week, but I find the scrap of paper deep in my pocket, and read, "Marcel Diallo's" name on it, along with the words, "blackdotcafe magazine".

Google then name in, and BaM! There's all these stories and links about a new urban revival of da creative arts in an area once labeled Oakland's Buttermilk Bottom. West Oakland. Once home to Pullman Car Porters, Southern Pacific and Sante Fe trains, Chinese Cleaners, and a strip of African American bars and night clubs linked to the infamous "Chitlin Circuit" that ran under the South's Cotton Curtain, up to Harlem, across the Midwest, and even out to Northern and Southern California.

So, here's this Marcel Diallo sitting next to actor Don Cheadle. (Ya gotta click on some of these links and read this stuff..) They're talking about how developer Rick Holliday came up with the idea of renovating the dead heart of West Oakland's 7th & Pine Street area. The surprising part of all this to me is that this has been going on for some time ... and like the West Oakland Farmer's Market, far too few people know about it.

I'm sooOOOOoo glad to read about all of Diallo's work ... even though it's a bit too urban for me. But it's important ... because like the cliché says ... "the artist, the poets, and the musicians create the consciousness of the race."

We've had 30 years of Korporate State control of the music. Started in the 70s actually ... when they took the stage out and this thing called, "Disco" suddenly appeared. All that great, REAL, music ... gone. The Great Communicator (Ronald Regan) came in and university scholarships began disappearing. A tragic thing called, "Homelessness" appeared in both America's cities and its rural areas. Drugs began pouring in from "no where" and high school drop-outs were suddenly getting all the contracts that people like Aretha Franklin, O.C. Smith, and James Brown once had. The Giants of Rhythm and Blues suddenly couldn't BUY a job ... but high school drop-outs like "Too Short" and "Snoop Dog" couldn't find pockets deep enough to hold all the money that was thrown at them.

Like Aristotle once said: "You write the laws, but let me write the songs because the youth will act out the songs."

It's been a long, dark, night upon the land folks. We need visionaries of every hue at the table ... writing, sculpting, painting a path to a New Renaissance that will stop the killing, free some souls, and fill some hearts, minds ... and stomachs.


Revvy Rev said...

Well said! My prayer is that the Renaissance fever will be contagious, spreading from West to East via midwest. How sorely missed!

Anonymous said...

Excellent Post. I'm glad to hear that good things are happening in West Oakland.

Hagar's Daughter said...

It makes me want to come up there and see what's happening.

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