Flower Power 

An idea grows in Oakland

SAT 8/16

Every once in a while we get the sense of being in the presence of something truly great. Enter the Black Dot at 1431 23rd Ave. in East Oakland and meet Letitia Ntofon, the lady of the house.

The savvy and generous woman speaks in waves, becoming impassioned as she explains the many functions of the Black Dot, then pausing in a low hum to make sure her listener is getting all that she?s saying. What she?s saying now is that Ghetto Flowers, an independent clothing line of her own design, is yet another way to draw attention to the cause (her eyes widen), to reinforce the concept of community, of possibility (her spine straightens), of creativity, and of wellness. This is a lot more than a business: it?s a dream and a personal mission.

Ghetto Flowers, named after a song by Black Dot co-founder Marcel Diallo, is launching its stylishly illustrated T-shirt line on Saturday evening (7 p.m.) at Film, Food, Folks, and Fashion, a free event with performances by Ahsabi Moniques, the Black Dot artists, Olevette and Paris of Colored Ink, and other special guests on the nonexistent marquee. Nope, no huge marquee, not even a sign, making it even more amazing that behind this nondescript facade beats the heart of it all -- the clothing line, the cafe, the gallery, the performance space, the magazine, and one comfy couch for taking everything in.

It?s all part of the same thing, Ntofon explains: finding different ways to arm a despondent and neglected population with tools of expression and maybe, in the process, redirect their focus from material to immaterial. Although the Black Dot attracts a mostly young, black crowd, it vows to be nonexclusionary, which seems to be the crux of its philosophy -- include lest you be excluded. With a little help from its friends and a lot of love, Black Dot continues to thrive despite only partial financial aid and a location that at times has been impermanent.

After introducing her latest enterprise, Ntofon leaves us with the promise of a bright horizon, including an expanded clothing line and even plans for a health food co-op. Tell me that?s not great. For information or to take a peek at the T-shirts, visit GhettoFlowers.com or come to the Black Dot itself, which will soon be open for regular business hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. -- Justine Nicole

8/16-8/17

Orin-Arabia

Hummus a few bars

A little bit of Oman in Orinda? Believe it. This weekend, the grounds of the Holy Shepherd Lutheran Church (433 Moraga Way) is the site of the Tenth Annual St. John Middle Eastern Festival. From 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, enjoy shawerma and falafel, live music and dance, a fashion show featuring historic dresses, and much more. The kids? activities are pure Americana, though -- Astro Jump, Super Slide, face painting, and the like. Info: 925-258-4255. -- Stefanie Kalem

FRI 8/15

Beg to Differ

You?d think that attending Yale and Columbia, publishing work in the New Yorker and National Lampoon, and dining with Elizabeth Taylor would preclude a person from begging for change by the roadside. But that?s what happened to Crockett?s Bruce Moody (right) at the age of sixty. Laid off from his day job, Moody?s circumstances went from bad to worse, until a chance conversation with a panhandler led him to explore the art of the cardboard sign and the outstretched hand. Moody writes about his experiences in the inspiring memoir Will Work for Food or $, sharing the unexpected joy and wisdom of this kind of outdoor enterprise. He appears at Borders in San Ramon (120 Sunset Dr.) at 7:30 p.m. 925-930-1190 -- Stefanie Kalem Let other communities gush over their garlic or artichokes -- Hayward is proud of its zucchinis. And it?s especially proud of its 21st annual Hayward Zucchini Festival , Saturday and Sunday at the city?s Kennedy Park (19501 Hesperian Blvd., 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. both days). Musical headliner both days is oldies rocker Frankie Moreno (he impersonates Jerry Lee Lewis), with at least five other acts daily. Don?t miss the pro wrestling, the Zucchini Rangers, kids? rides, and classic car show. Info: 510-264-9466 -- Kelly Vance

8/16-8/17

A Zucchnin at 21

Let other communities gush over their garlic or artichokes -- Hayward is proud of its zucchinis. And it?s especially proud of its 21st annual Hayward Zucchini Festival, Saturday and Sunday at the city?s Kennedy Park (19501 Hesperian Blvd., 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. both days). Musical headliner both days is oldies rocker Frankie Moreno (he impersonates Jerry Lee Lewis), with at least five other acts daily. Don?t miss the pro wrestling, the Zucchini Rangers, kids? rides, and classic car show. Info: 510-264-9466 -- Kelly Vance

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