New Skool 

This week's Gliffs notes

SAT 5/14

"Our goal is to be an urban hip-hop Burning Man, but without the fires and naked people," says Higher Gliffs coconspirator Sam Mulberry, who started running with the crew of young, starry-eyed graffiti writers back in Chicago in 1991. Sam emerged in the scene by painting a splashy tribute to Harold Washington, the city's first black mayor, on one of the blank storefronts in his neighborhood. Meanwhile, the mostly Chicano founders of Higher Gliffs were jazzing up Chicago's urban landscape with aerosol murals that combined Mayan and Aztec symbols with hypermodern, wild-style lettering -- a combination of space-age cubism and traces of their indigenous roots. Sam and the Higher-Gliffs-style writer Zore took a trip around the world in 1999, and wound up in East Oakland -- a city that won them over with its sideshows, good taco trucks, and clement weather. After all, the Fruitvale district where Sam eventually settled had the temperate, healthful climate of an eternal April in the Bronx River Projects -- not to mention scads of talented B-Boys like emcee Nac 1 and DJ Gigs. The Higher Gliffs crew members began teaching break-dancing and graffiti classes at Urban Arts Academy, and throwing free shows in Josie de la Cruz Park -- originally dubbed "Doin' It in the Park" and rechristened "Weekend Wake Up" -- where they would set up turntables on a cement stage and roll out linoleum mats for break-dance competitions. "It was one of those things where everybody in the community knew about it, and no one else would come," Sam says, indicating that such local celebrities as Sake 1 and Zion I would make an occasional cameo to judge the B-Boy contests, or spin a couple breaks on the ones and twos.

Now in a hiatus as they await the city's permission to relaunch Weekend Wake Up, the Higher Gliffs members are summoning their energy for such youth-oriented events as Skool Yard Skolars, to be held at Calvin Simmons Middle School (2101 35th Ave.) this Saturday, from noon to 5 p.m. Originally set up so that community organizations could recruit kids for summer programs, the event now includes a fat hip-hop show featuring the East Bay freestyle kingpin Orukusaki, along with Shamako Noble, the Mamaz, SENECA, and many others. "We're not stuck in the '70s," Sam says, "but it's the same kind of energy." Admission is free. – Rachel Swan



Bend it like Gumby

What is there about a little glob of green clay named Gumby that makes him so lovable? Is it the worried but hopeful expression on his face, or merely the fact that he, his horse Pokey, Nopey the dog, and the rest of Art Clokey's claymation creations were basically harmless little guys? Rediscover the Gumby mystique this weekend at the opening of Gumby and Friends: 50 Great Years, a touring art show bending into Lynn House Gallery in Antioch (809 1st St., 925-779-7018). Animator and artist Clokey appears in person for the reception (4-6 p.m.) and a film screening (7 p.m.). – Kelly Vance

FRI 5/13

Spring Squirrels

Don't let the "old-time" moniker fool you -- the music at the Giant Berkeley Old Time Music Convention Spring Square Dance is filled with high-kicking fire, spring-chicken-style. The evening begins with a family dance from 7 to 8:30 p.m., called by the Stairwell Sisters' Evie Ladin , with music by the Rays (featuring fiddler Ray Bierl of the Earls and the Hillbillies from Mars). Then, at 9 p.m., you grown-ups can cloverleaf and cross-fold to music by Seattle's Squirrel Hunters and San Francisco's Squirrelly Stringband (award winners, both), with calls by Tony Mates of Seattle. Get strung along at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. $15 general admission, $13 student. -- Stefanie Kalem

SAT 5/14

Oh, Mama

Augment last week's card and Red Lobster dinner by spending Saturday at Oshun's Garden's Festival of Motherhood at Oakland's Malonga Casquelourd Center, comprising workshops, professional healing, and discounted healing services from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and from 4-7 p.m., a dinner reception with keynote speaker Shafia M. Monroe; tales by Oriki storyteller Fatai Ibikunle; and a dancing and drumming tribute to the "great mothers" by Emesé. $25/$15 kids. Info: 510-763-3859. -- Stefanie Kalem


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