Editor’s Note: As a sign of the times our July edition is reporting on more somber issues than is typically the case but this is also in keeping with our initial efforts to become less of a blog and more news oriented. Over time, you should be seeing fewer “I’s” and hopefully more bylines. You can help us by providing content and/or by sharing today’s News with family, friends and neighbors while encouraging them to subscribe. We are gratified by all the positive feedback we receive but would love to have a wider audience. Currently, we have just over 1,500 subscribers. Our immediate goal: 2,000.
The Grand Lake Theater: A Sign of the Times
by C. J. Hirschfield
Designated as one of the top ten vintage theaters in the nation, Oakland’s historic—and beloved—Grand Lake Theater opened its doors in 1926. It is known for its giant, illuminated rooftop sign, its Mighty Wurlitzer organ, its community screenings—and for the unapologetically liberal political messages proudly displayed on its marquee. The current message is “CLOSED. WE WILL BE BACK!” along with “Double Feature Coming Soon—The Death of Coronavirus, Plus the End of Donald Trump.”
And although longtime (since 1979) theater lease owner Allen Michaan says he considers the descriptor “conservative” to be a swear word, he nonetheless uses it to describe his approach to re-opening, given the current status of what he calls “the Trump Virus.”
OUSD Policing and School Equity in the News
by Ken Katz
Twice previously we have shared seventeen-year-old Samuel Getachew’s spoken word poem about “Barbecue Betty” that won him last year’s Youth Poet Laureate title, and last month we also took note of an opinion piece he’d just published in the Washington Post. This month, the East Bay Express shared a Samuel Getachew essay that focused initially on the Oakland School Police Department, which the Oakland Unified District Board has since voted to eliminate. We invited District 2 School Board Member Aimee Eng to comment on that decision. Yesterday evening, she emailed this response:
On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the Oakland Unified School District School Board unanimously voted (7-0) to eliminate the Oakland School Police Department in front of nearly 700 community members after nearly a decade of advocacy by the Black Organizing Project (BOP) and a visible city-wide campaign in recent weeks following the untimely death of George Floyd.
Music As a Diversion
by Eric Hughes
“Music As A Destination” was the focus of the June Splash Pad News music discoveries review. This month, as the pandemic surpasses 100 days, new diversions are increasingly important and, perhaps, fun to uncover.
In this month’s recommendations, there are three discoveries—Reddit, Bandcamp, and Instagram (last month we included Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Zoom, and the always controversial Internet Archive). I’ll also make one suggestion for an Internet Radio show.
- Reddit is a site of user-generated content where you need a login to post, but you can listen to or view content without having a login ID. It is quite popular with 20- and 30-somethings who have grown up with the Internet at their beck and call.
- Bandcamp is an Oakland-based site used by both famous and not-so-famous musicians to post music. It is known as a band-friendly site that is generous both to its musicians and the community. You do not need a login ID to listen to any of their huge variety of music.
Grand Lake Farmers Market
Distribution of the Grand Lake Farmers Market Bounty Boxes just reached the 200 box level this past Saturday. As mentioned previously, EBT cardholders are eligible for a 50% discount when they order online, but they do have to swipe their card when they pick up. Orders can be placed anytime after 3 pm on Saturdays. BTW: The base price has just increased to $30 but the boxes now include fruit in addition to veggies. This past week that included a basket of strawberries and a handful of very ripe organic apricots.
Perhaps the very best thing about this program is that AIM is also now donating 50 boxes every Saturday to Oakland nonprofits that are providing supplemental foods to families in need.
The City and the Farmers Market Are Now Talking Sh_t
If you’re a fairly recent subscriber, you’re probably unaware that Jerry Barclay’s Farmers Market Advisory Committee (with lots of support from Splash Pad News) had been extremely dissatisfied with the Agricultural Institute of Marin’s management and had been lobbying the City to encourage other farmers market operators to bid on a new lease. That’s no longer the case thanks to AIM’s decision to hire Andy Naja-Riese as their new CEO. Over the past year, he has totally transformed their culture and their operations. Currently, AIM is very close to reaching an agreement with the city for a new, long-term lease that we now heartily support. The only sticking point appears to be the City’s insistence that the market management is not only responsible for leaving the park clean at the end of the day but also responsible for cleaning the park when they arrive, including hazardous materials such as needles and feces.
The one consideration not open to debate is that a park that hosts some 5,000 patrons (including lots of kids) needs to be safe and free of hazardous materials.
Like tens of millions of people worldwide, Lakeshore Avenue residents, Robbin Green Yeh and her husband, Ray Yeh, watched in horror as the brutal murder of George Floyd unfolded before their eyes and they knew they had to do something. As owners of The Uptown nightclub, they would ordinarily have put up posters and hosted fundraising campaigns, but due to social distancing requirements they are currently closed. Speaking by phone, Robbin was quick to add that they are “closed”—not “boarded up”—because they trust the community to respect what they do and that trust has, in fact, been rewarded.
Looking online for other options, Robbin discovered a gallery titled “Justice For Our Lives,” which consists of open source digital portraits (by Bay Area artist, Oree Originol) of people of color who have been killed by U.S. law enforcement dating back to 2014. As of early June, there were eighty-four portraits in the gallery, which the Yehs turned into the poster now displayed in Uptown’s front window. To reach a broader audience with a bigger impact, they also printed larger copies that were laminated and mounted on poles. Assembly of the resulting “Know Justice. Know Peace” memorial was very much a group effort that included Ray and Robbin plus Uptown’s manager, Julio Palacios, and Robbin’s sister, Brigid Wilson, along with her children, Zaria and Giannis.
As we ease into June, we are starting to find more creative ways to support our beloved Lakeshore businesses and community. Slowly but surely, we are seeing more people walking on Lakeshore and enjoying more of our local businesses and services again. On June 19th, Alameda County Department of Public Health eased some shelter-in-place restrictions, so restaurants can now serve food outside and retail can have a limited amount of customers inside (following precautions). Many businesses are open, even if they are boarded u. (due to vandalism a few weeks ago). You can enjoy murals on the outside of Silver Moon Kids and Good Vibrations.
Topics include the Lakeshore Love Campaign, New Business Openings and the attack on the Oakland LBGTQ Community Center that was vandalized during Pride Week.
Grand Avenue Business Report
by Ken Katz
In the midst of an ongoing pandemic, the state of virtually everything seems to be in flux. New regulations from the Alameda County Health Department regarding efforts to minimize transmission of the Corona Virus that went into effect on June 19 were revised ten days later. Overall, the goal is to allow businesses to reopen to the extent possible while practicing common-sense rules including the wearing of masks, provisions for hand-sanitizers, cleaning of surfaces and social distancing.
Thanks to C.J. Hirschfield for alerting us to major changes at what used to be Perch, the cafe at 440 Grand. It’s now called MudLab and, in addition to food to go, they’re also offering groceries, cleaning products and more. Their major focus is on providing zero waste products and improving the environment which includes a commitment to help clean Lake Merritt on a regular basis.
In case you haven’t been paying attention, twelve ground-floor spaces on Lakeshore and Lake Park are currently vacant. That list includes the former locations of Sprint, Namaste Yoga, George’s Laundry, KFC, CVS, Flavors of India, Hair Merritt, Dynasty Cleaners, Footlocker, Izek Day Spa Salon, and Greetings.
The closure this past month of the Sprint store likely had little to do with the COVID-19 virus and everything to do with their merger with T-Mobile. For Greetings, the pandemic was the last straw as it was for Namaste as well. This past August, owner Kimberly Leo closed her Namaste Studio in Berkeley which she’d operated for seventeen years due to the “stresses and increased costs of running a small business in the Bay Area.”
According to this May 14 ABC News report, Kimberly agonized over the decision to close her remaining two studios including the location on Lakeshore that she’d operated for nearly ten years and finally concluded…
Help Out the Oakland Public Library
by Sheila McCormick
The Bookmark Bookstore in Old Oakland (721 Washington St.) sells books, DVDs, LPs, and even jigsaw puzzles (all donated) at VERY favorable prices, and all the proceeds go to help the Oakland Public Library. The store is temporarily closed, due to shelter-in-place guidelines, but now there is a Virtual Bookstore where you can browse. If you find something of interest, email the store (email@example.com) and find out if the book(s) that you want are still available, and what they cost. Only some of the extensive inventory is pictured in the Virtual Bookstore; if you are looking for something specific, email the store and they will check the shelves for you. Curbside pickup of your purchases is possible at the store (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, 11-2), and FREE contactless delivery is available in Oakland/Piedmont, if you spend more than $25.
Odds and Ends
The Oaklandside, which began publishing a couple of weeks ago, is an extremely welcome addition. Unlike other news sources, they are clearly committed to providing in depth reporting on super-local stories that are otherwise given short shrift. A perfect example is their fascinating report on the origins of the OUSD Police Force – which we listed as “Recommended Reading” in our article on the subject of school equity. You can subscribe on their website for free – but donations to support their efforts are welcomed.
Sarah Van Roo forwarded some updates regarding the Gardens at Lake Merritt including their efforts to resolve severe staff shortages by the end of the summer. Meanwhile:
1. The Bonsai Garden will be closed on Sundays until further notice.
2. The Gardens are open daily 8:30-3:30, except Sundays when they close at 2pm.
3. The Gardens will be open Fourth of July 8:30-3:30.
The monthly Grand Lake Neighbors meeting is scheduled for July 15th beginning at 7 pm. Look for the agenda and the Zoom login info on the GLN Facebook page.
Speaking of Zoom meetings, you can hone those skills by watching “Stu’s Tips for Zoom Video Calling” available for free viewing online courtesy of Stu Sweetow, the Chief Zoom Officer (CZO) at AV Consultants.
Last month, we shared a video of a presentation that Walter Hood made via Zoom to the Oakland Rotary Club at one of their weekly, Thursday afternoon meetings. This month’s schedule is available on this Facebook LINK.
This month’s Grand Crew volunteer work day at Splash Pad falls on July 26 beginning at 9 am. All are welcome to join. Gloves and garden tools are provided.
Warning: Effective July 6, the City of Oakland will resume enforcing all parking regulations with the exception of residential permits and street sweeping.