Author: Haleh

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Protecting the Artist and Rejuvenating Community

The corner of Alice and 14th Street in Oakland has always drawn me in. When I moved back home to the Bay Area in 2000 I took dance class at Alice Arts Center. It was in a neighborhood I didn’t know, but as soon as I entered, it owned me. Alice Arts seemed like the heart of Oakland, and in its high flung rooms I felt I could fly. Years later when I had to move from Temescal (the house was about the collapse, I was told), I moved here instinctively, two blocks from Alice Arts, now Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts. I don’t live here anymore, but find myself in the area now and then. Recently a mural arrested me. It flashed its colors and held me fast. The first thing I thought – “Of course” and “a long time coming.” Dancer Ruth Beckford’s image rises high from the center, surrounded by the neighborhood’s historic layers of arts and advocacy. I had only lived through a shred of it, and my stay coincided …

Filming the Love Hate State of Home

It’s official. I can tell you. Rami Alayan’s Love, Theft and Other Entanglements is making its California debut here in the Bay Area. The Arab Film Festival brings it to us for two screenings, one in San Francisco on October 18 and the other in Berkeley on October 25th (with another screening in Los Angeles on November 15). Rami and his brother will be taking questions after the San Francisco show. After interviewing Rami this summer (here), I couldn’t wait to see it for myself. Now I can. Here’s the second part of our interview from July: Why do an independent film about Palestine? We didn’t need to do a European co-production for this film. Independent productions happen all the time there, for documentaries, but not for features. There’s something to be said for independent, do-it-yourself film making. It’s been done in America, Asia, Europe, why not Palestine? What’s true in Palestine, and it is true in other places, as much as people want to make a film, they have day jobs that pay the …

Youth Speaks, hip hop Oakland music festival life is living

How Life is Living with Youth Speaks

What does a community celebration look like? Through our lens, it embraces the arts and the outdoors, music and information about how to grow stronger together. This year’s Youth Speaks Life Is Living festival at DeFermery Park in Oakland shows us how a community can activate its youth, make and share art, build unexpected partners, showcase storytelling, and raise awareness about environment and health justice.  Did we mention, this is a party? Take a look:    

fairytale players golden thread productions middle east youth

Escape with the Zany Fairytale Players

This past weekend, the Bay Area was bursting with events that snarled roads and packed public transit. It happens this time of year. I found myself at an all-day theater forum, motivated, honestly, by the kids’ show.  The Golden Thread Fairytale Players enthralled.  As very grown up as I am, I’m still under the spell of children’s theater. It started when I was seven and saw a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream performed in a garden (ok, not exactly a kids’ show). When the winged fairies burst into the crowd and pulled us kids onto the stage, I was terrified and thrilled. I’d been drawn into wonderland.  It happened again on Sunday. Here’s a taste. Golden Thread’s Fairytale Players creates and performs a repertoire of educational theater performances based on stories and traditions from the Middle East. The Players employ epic story-telling, physical theatre and circus arts techniques and are trained in various theatre disciplines including traditional Middle Eastern performance styles and folk dance. Performances are designed to travel and are booked at schools, libraries, …

urban farmers san ramon harvest

The Urban Farmers Broaden Harvest

Some good grows from crisis. The idea for The Urban Farmers sprang up in the wake of the 2008 economic crash when Siamack Sioshansi’s son and his college roommate returned home to find their jobs as YMCA counselors eliminated. They decided to design a social justice project. To learn about their mission and how it’s evolved, I joined Siamack for a harvesting in San Ramon where he guides Boys Team Charity Lamorinda League in shaking down some trees. He tells the story: Social justice and environmental justice are one and the same. If someone says, I want to feed this group, but I’m going to import food, if they are destroying the environment, the first victims of that action are the poor. So environmental stewardship was a big part of the project. We asked, why don’t we plant a garden in people’s backyards, give them a basket of food, and donate the rest to people that need it? I was worried that nobody would let us in. The boys wrote a business plan, and what …

James Patton Martizian arts and culture martinez

Stoking Arts Culture: The Martizian

I can relate with someone juggling multiple creative projects at once with no monetary guarantees. I see myself in James Patton, editor of The Martizian, a digital window into local art and its potential for reviving Martinez, CA. In addition to launching the new online publication, he’s also a musician, graphic designer and business owner. People like James define the Bay Area, a region crackling with creative life, but in economic and cultural transition.  After reading about The Martizian in my free community paper, I had to reach out. We caught up and walked about town. His thoughts on firing up the arts: Convening through New Media The idea for The Martizian came out of working together with someone named Tony Rishell on the Main Street Martinez Committee for Economic Restructuring. We wondered how we could tap into spheres of influence as they relate to culture and community here. A lot of people have pride in Martinez, but the community wasn’t engaged around an identity.  What everyone wants is to revitalize the area. Not just …

east lake oakland housing tenants rights slumlord

Cross-Cultural Unity for Decent Housing

Lessons from fights past can stir us to continue pressing for housing rights. In the late 1990s, a mixed immigrant community banded together and won a lawsuit against an Oakland slumlord.  On Saturday, Locally Grown Docs at the New Parkway Theater screened Oak Park, a short film chronicling the struggles of largely Cambodian and Mexican tenants in Oakland’s San Antonio neighborhood against extreme property negligence.  They won their suit in 2000, and the film wrapped in 2010. But the housing struggle in a landlord’s market resonates strongly today. Oak Park, named after the collapsing Oakland apartment complex, documents the abject conditions tenants fought to resolve. These included rot, infestation, leaks, mold and their ensuing health consequences. In multiple languages, tenants recount waking up in puddles of raw sewage. (The production required ample translation to capture voices from a microcosm of Oakland’s most diverse neighborhood). Watching the battle, I was both humbled and inspired that these tenants fought back in spite — or in the face — of traumas and fears from their different immigrant experiences. During …

housing crisis affordable housing Oakland East Bay Area

Housing Leader Takes the Helm

The debut of evening rain in the Bay marked the debut of Gloria Bruce as executive director of East Bay Housing Organizations (EBHO). Supporters and the curious, including me, came out to meet her and party with the EBHO staff and board. I could hear them from around the corner, as board members extolled Bruce and the crowd cheered statements for urgent solutions to Bay’s crushing housing crisis. Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf also turned out for the festivities. Building strong communities starts at home. Bruce thanked her wife and gave a shout out to her two boys as the foundation of home. She also cited her father, a Washington, DC native like Bruce, as inspiration in shaping her stance on advancing cities where people “are not lost.” Two paths brought me to EBHO. First, its encyclopedic policy director Jeffrey Levin generously helped me in my research for the Zero 2016 campaign to end chronic homelessness in Contra Costa County. Second, in my accidental conversation with him, Representative Mark DeSaulnier referred me to EBHO as a …

getting engaged media investigation

Editor’s Letter – Let’s Get Engaged!

It’s BayMozaic’s half-year anniversary and we are considering getting engaged. Since setting out on our publication adventure in March, Co-Editor Gohar and I have been refining on the fly. We have a mission to guide our content, but confess that data hasn’t played a big (or even small) role in our decisions. In a grand gesture of denial, I tell myself that she and our tech guru Tigran can do that anytime we want. We haven’t. So, it’s high time we got engaged. With our audience. But how? For inspiration and schooling, I attended a Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) event, Dissection 1: Impact. No, we are not an investigative reporting site (you know that already) but could learn from journalists about how they engage with readers and track response. CIR’s Lindsay Green-Barber suggested that stories or series of stories might hit one of three levels of impact: Macro – new policies are born Meso – changes the discussion/discourse about the issue Micro – individual changes (an individual boycotts grapes, for example) Their journalists seriously …