I am Oaklandish // 8+9+10 // Oaklandish Grab Bag

Posted on September 17, 2011

There’s some phenomena in Oakland that I don’t understand all of the way; a couple of things that can only come to fruition in a town like ours; happenings we take as commonplace that wouldn’t jump off anywhere in the country, but are essential threads in the proverbial fabric of our town.

I know my Saturday readership is lighter than my weekday audience, so today, I’ma load you up with 3 quintessential people, places and/or activities that only go down here. We’ll jump right in.

1.) Tyler Thompson I first saw this wonder as part of the City of Oakland’s Art Commission granting process. Oakland is replete with more dope artists than a couple, so the funding process is always a thrilling, heartbreaking, arduous process for applicants and grant makers alike. Tyler, however, is both an anomaly and an undeniable intersection of our city’s values. I’d wager, if I were a betting woman, that he has no trouble standing out in both local and national funding circles. The boy is that good.

A product of Purple Silk and its Chinese cultural immersion programs, Tyler Thompson strives for mastery of Traditional Chinese Opera.

I think it’s important to note that while the focus of this particular video is Tyler, there’s an entire orchestra of Oakland-based musicians behind him, each of them focused on technique, aesthetics and dynamics. In short, my city gets it in. Maybe all you’ve heard about the town is on that super hyphy business, and that’s real, too. But we also go hard for some of the oldest performative arts in the world.

Tyler, if you’re reading this, I hope to see you at the Oaklandish October 7th party. Would love to meet you in the real world, to shake your hand, and to slide you your complimentary “I am Oaklandish” Tee. Thank you for complicating the notions of what a Black man can and will do within and beyond the walls of Oakland.

2. The Mormon Temple has always been the most iconic building in the city’s skyscape, as far as I’m concerned. When I was a child, my brother, sister and I used to beg our parents to take us there, convinced that it was, in fact, the castle of Mickey’s Magic Kingdom.

As an adult, I’m well aware that it isn’t Disneyland, but still, it is a breathtaking feat of architecture — and a monument to Oakland’s religious diversity. The building, constructed in 1962, sits on 18.3 acres of hillside property — and is coincidentally right next to The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Ascension, a gorgeous building in its own right (and a darned good place to visit during their annual Greek Festival). I can’t stay away from the Mormon Temple during the holidays. Come on. It looks like this:

While I’ll be the first to admit I don’t comprehend all of the rites and rituals of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I don’t pretend to get ALL of any organized religion. For any number of reasons, I’ve never been inside of the church. Still, from the parking lot of the temple (which in my experience is open to the public), you can see the whole of the city. The grounds look out on the sparkling lights of Buddhist Temples, Sikh places of worship, Mosques in numbers (Sunni, NOI and Shiite), Synagogues galore (from orthodox to reform) and more than a couple C.O.G.I.C’s. If nothing else, Oakland is a city driven by belief — in equitable education, in marriage equality, in the power of force greater than us.

Whether or not you’re likely to “like” the Oakland Mormon Temple, you gotta admit that the sight of it is captivating, and its worshippers are likely devout as the rest of us. Thickwit acknowledges the Oaklandish nature of the building and nods its hat to the glowing castle on the hill.

3. The New Parkway. Okay, so the thing about The Parkway is that it doesn’t exist. It is a cause that many of us think is worthwhile, have donated towards, blogged about, rallied around. The momentum sustains, even though The Parkway hasn’t been open for a few years, now. If you’re not from here, you probably wonder what sort of movement has so many Oaklanders riled up.

Movies. We’re in it for the film. And Beer. And Gourmet Snacks. The Parkway, which once sat at the base of Park Boulevard in Oakland, is a speakeasy, cinema and performance venue. Arguably, the best first date location in Oakland, you could see first and second run films, seated on a comfy love seat, while sharing locally brewed ale with your new boo. But back in 2009, Kyle and Catherine Fischer, Parkway’s management at the time, shut its doors, amidst a dispute with building landlords, though the financials suggest that the business was undeniably profitable.

We all groaned in despair. Community groups sprung up. Petitions were signed and filed. Two years later, The New Parkway is underway, led by J Moses Ceasar (pictured below), who is furiously working to secure a new venue, and to get the speakeasy off the ground again. Based on Summer 2011 rumor and article mill, it seems that Broadway Auto Row and North Oakland (I refuse to call it Temescal, ask me why later) are both possible locations.

Only in Oakland would we rally around an idea with no physical space, no films, no food, no events and no sofas. We are inspired by potential here, and hope, relentlessly, that our beloved theater will re-open its doors. The Fischers, who created the legacy, and Mr. Ceasar, who continues it, are all invited to Oaklandish’s October 7th Bash. Come shake a few hands, kiss a couple babies, collect donations and grab your free “I am Oaklandish” tees. We appreciate you, and your drive to improve the nightlife in The Town.

If you’re interested in finding out about The New Parkway, hit up THE NEW PARKWAY.

This blog is brought to you, in part, by local textile and cultural purveyors, Oaklandish. Oaklandish will be throwing a party on the 1st Friday in October at their new Downtown Oakland store. Everyone I profile is invited to attend as an honored guest and will receive a limited edition “I AM OAKLANDISH” t-shirt. In a city of roughly 500,000 residents, there’s no way I can cover everyone or everything, but I’ll do my best to rep a cross section of folks that reflect our city’s varied perspectives and populations. Also, it is important to note that none of the honorees know that they’re being highlighted until the blog post is up, because surprises are sometimes fun, cuzzo. This means that some folks profiled might not closely align themselves with Oaklandish — and that’s fine by me — I mean no ill intent, nor make any assumptions — just want to shout out some folks who make a real impact on the world, from this pearl of a city on the East Side of the Bay.

1 Reply to "I am Oaklandish // 8+9+10 // Oaklandish Grab Bag"

  • Dana
    October 6, 2011 (6:22 pm)

    Great blog.. what’s up with the Temescal comment?
    Broadway .. Auto Row is not Temescal.. And North Oakland is a broader area than a small neighborhood. What do you consider Temescal? Oakland sure has decided for us with the new signs that include streets past 51st. 15 years ago it was between Broadway and Tele and 51st and 40th..

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