When Suzanne Lacy and Chris Johnson volunteered to teach media literacy at Oakland Technical High School in 1991, they intended to show teenagers how to scrutinize the ways they were being portrayed on the news -- as low-class criminals, down-and-outs, or people with a generally bad attitude. According to Unique Holland, who started the program at age fifteen and eventually became an artistic collaborator, teenagers' voices are often muzzled because the adults who run things "rarely show that young people have anything important or articulate to say." The workshops at Oakland Tech became a blueprint for the organization Teen Educators, Artists, and Media Makers (TEAM), through which youth, police, teachers, city administrators, and other community members collaborated for a series of performances showing young people telling their own stories. The series culminates with the video Code 33, featuring unscripted dialogue between 150 youth and 100 cops about issues of community and safety. What most intrigued Holland about making Code 33 was that once the two sides started breaking shit down, "they realized they had more in common than you'd think." After all, many were from the same neighborhoods and cultural backgrounds.
This Thursday, TEAM and Oaklandish Gallery will launch the ACT ART series at Mills College (5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland), which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with concurrent screenings of the retrospective slide shows City of Dreams and The Legendary '80s. Resurrected after a brief hiatus since Oaklandish stopped doing guerrilla slide shows on the sides of Grand Lake Theater, the airport, and the Kaiser Building, these are two of the most dazzling alternative histories of Oakland that weren't written by Too $hort or Malcolm Margolin. City of Dreams features 130 images of the city's "patron saints and sinners" -- all the way from Ohlone tribe members to folks who are getting down today, such as Living Legends and Blackalicious.
Compiled by the Bay Area Aerosol Heritage Society, The Legendary '80s shows the personal city beautification project launched by master style writers such as Phresh, Dream, Razer, and Refa1. In the words of Oaklandish coconspirator Bobby Peru, the ACT ART series provides "a cool venue, and a nice historical context" for old standard-bearers to bring the funk back. Admission is free. -- Rachel Swan
To Die For
Not quite up to speed on your Japanese Anarchist Martyr lore? Bassist Devin Hoff and UC Berkeley historian Barry Pateman are here to help. Tonight (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.) at Oakland's 21 Grand (449-B 23rd St.), Hoff and vocalist Miya Osaki will make music and Pateman will speak, both on the subject of Kotoko Shusui (pictured above with his partner, Suga Kanno), a socialist and antiwar journalist who reportedly introduced anarchism to Japan in the early 20th century -- and who so upset the status quo he was executed for treason into the bargain. The evening is a benefit for the Kate Sharpley Library, where Pateman works when he isn't laboring on the Emma Goldman Papers Project. Info: 21Grand.org -- Kelly Vance
Tonight at downtown Oakland's premier supperclub, the Stork, Chef Barbie will be serving up a three-course meal of local fare. The repast begins with the horny (as in brass, yo), knuckle-busting blues-rock of Top Brown. Then, since you'll probably be on your way to the munchies, Chow Nasty provides the evening's centerpiece, celebrating the release of a 45 of danceable, sample-studded smirk-rock. You'll be exhausted from the entrée, so you'll probably guttle up your dessert without noticing it's just some Dead Hensons, serving up their own new 45 of Sesame Street and Muppet Show cover tunes. Seating begins at 9 p.m. $5, 2330 Telegraph Ave. 510-444-6174. -- Stefanie Kalem
The word "samba" comprises everything from the slamming Carnival soundtracks of sambas de enredo to the gentler, jazzy rhythms of bossa nova. Developing along a relatively parallel track is choro, a primarily instrumental genre that began at the start of the 20th century, using piano, flute, saxophone, stringed instruments, and lots of improvisation -- think Dixieland via Brazil. The two styles meet in a subgenre called samba-choro, and a little to the right of that is chorinho, an all-acoustic blend of choro and samba-choro practiced by the Brazilian trio Showrinho. Ask them to clarify all this for you Thursday night at La Peña. 8 p.m., $10. www.lapena.org, 510- 849-2568. -- Stefanie Kalem
Culture Spy - April 20, 9:52 AM
Culture Spy - April 13, 12:18 PM