Boos, jeers, guerrilla filming, and a live hip-hop/rock act atop an Oakland police vehicle erupted just after midnight Saturday, September 11, when officers handcuffed and detained Oakland arts commissioner Devin Satterfield in front of more than three hundred guests at his Liminal warehouse party.
Satterfield, a 23-year-old underground culture promoter, Oakland cultural affairs commissioner, and recent subject of an Express cover story, had a bench warrant for an unpaid jaywalking ticket. He said police used it as an excuse to remove him and shut down the party.
Neighbors had been complaining about the noise coming from the live/work warehouse at 2000 Myrtle Street in West Oakland. Satterfield said police even gave him a warning and told him to keep it down, but returned an hour and a half later. "They forced their way in, got onstage, took the mic out of the hands of the rapper, and forced the sound guy to unplug the PA," he said. Police asked for the head of the party, and took Satterfield into custody when he identified himself.
The jaywalking incident occurred at least four months ago, he said. He recalled tearing up the ticket the night he got it.
Some guests speculate that Satterfield's recent rise in visibility, combined with Liminal's parties, is drawing police ire. Satterfield said he thinks it just had to do with the 9/11-themed party, which sported multiple loud music acts, politically subversive art, and more than three hundred people. "Everybody was pretty irritated once I got cuffed," he said. "People started yelling."
At least two cameras captured the arrest on tape. Kyle Canfield, who performs as Inspector Double Negative, said his band did an impromptu set on a police vehicle while officers arrested Satterfield. "We didn't think it would escalate to the level it did, given that Devin is on the arts commission and it wasn't an underground party," he said.
Ever the optimist, Satterfield said: "I hope it's a catalyst for some serious discussion between Oakland police, the city, and the warehouse community." The young arts commissioner said he intends to meet with the city this week.
Meanwhile, Satterfield owes hundreds of dollars in fines for the jaywalking warrant, plus three new citations from the party: no cabaret permit, unnecessary noise, and no dance hall permit. Oakland Police Lt. Paul Berlin said no police report exists, as Satterfield wasn't committing a crime, but was taken in for an outstanding warrant.
Satterfield said he has no prior arrests, though police and fire officers have been to Liminal Arts on several occasions because of loud parties. Ever the promoter, he hopes to get everything dismissed and throw some more events to raise money.
"I was in the cop car thinking, 'This could be a really good thing; get a little street cred. And we got it on film,'" he said. "Hopefully we can make the videos into something and have a benefit." -- David Downs
For the past three years, the Oakland Box Theater has been a prime factor in the resurgent arts scene that has emerged in and around the downtown district known as "Oaksterdam." The term "community-oriented" gets bandied about a lot these days, but Box founders Steve Snider, Laura DuBois, and Joey Yovino-Young have remained dedicated to their stated mission of community building through the arts, working closely with youth groups, nonprofit organizations, and up-and-coming artists. Since its inception, the Box -- originally called the Black Box before changing its name to prevent confusion with the East Oakland-based Black Dot Collective -- has worn its commitment to multicultural diversity on its sleeve. After all, at what other venue could you hope to see queer cabaret, women-of-color burlesque, underground hip-hop showcases, gallery shows by incarcerated artists, independent film festivals, orisha-affirming record-release parties, new and improvised works by experimental composers, and spoken-word slam-poetry smackdowns? And that's just a typical month's worth of programming.
"The Oakland Box has been one of the most important cultural institutions to hit Oakland in the past several years," said Aya de León, whose solo show Thieves in the Temple played last year at the venue to rave reviews. Carlos Mena, a Box boardmember who held his Hip-Hop Meditations record-release party there, noted that "they have continually put art before capitalism."
And that's at the heart of the venue's current crisis. Snider, DuBois, and Yovino-Young recently discovered that not only did they owe unpaid assessment and permit fees to the City of Oakland in the range of $25,000, they were also violating a variety of building codes. Getting up to code could cost them as much as $75,000 -- for a grand total of $100,000. Which is fine if you're Donald Trump, but if you're a performance space for starving artists, it's almost impossible to raise that kind of dough, which you won't find between the cushions of your couch.
The key word there is almost. DuBois emphasizes that the Box's financial situation is a mess of its own making -- "We just didn't do our homework," she said, adding that the city and their landlord have been as sympathetic as can be expected, given the circumstances. "There's no bad guys, there's no us against them." Faced with the possibility of having to close its doors forever, the venue was granted a one-month reprieve by city officials following a hearing on September 13. Which means ... it's fund-raisin' time!!!
The Box has until October 15 to raise $100,000, and the word has been circulating within the arts community, which would be devastated by the loss of the space. Singer Sparlha Swa, whose record release party is scheduled for October 5 at the Box, said "For the size of the space and the size of its funding, it far surpasses what seems possible in providing rich, diverse, and culturally-relevant arts to the Oakland community."
Meanwhile, DuBois said efforts are being made to secure a loan or foundation dollars. Benefit concerts are also a possibility. The Boxsters will be holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, September 23 at the Humanist Hall (390 27th St., Oakland) to discuss solutions to the funding dilemma. For more information on what you can do to help, go to OaklandBox.com/events.php -- Eric K. Arnold
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