Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Prince Street House

“The Prince Street House,” located on Prince Street in Berkeley’s south end, is filled with messy-hair-sporting, big-glasses-wearing, thrift-store-junkie type kids drinking cheap wine. Milling around the collection of paintings, photographs and other mixed media, Anthony Fonda instructs the crowd to go ahead and listen to that music on the Ipod nailed to the wall. It works and yes, it’s art.

Fonda, an eccentric local artist from West Oakland, was showing at the Prince Street House art show Saturday night along with many other local artists. Fonda, with his piercing black eyes and the wild hand gestures he threw while speaking about just about anything, stood out amongst the other artists by his palpable passion for creating.

Desiree Dedolce, who has known Fonda since he moved to Oakland two years ago, gushes of the passion Fonda feels for things in his life. “He goes 100 percent for whatever he wants. He just manifests things, I wish I had that trait,” says Dedolce.

Fonda, 24, originally from Santa Monica, California, moved up to the Bay Area in August 2007 to escape the dead-end road he was traveling on.

“I just worked two shitty jobs in restaurants, making no money and unable to make art from the hours,” said Fonda. “I just packed up and left trying to find an environment I fit into better.”

He could not have found a better place. Fonda lives in the Vulcan Lofts on West Oakland’s San Leandro Street. These lofts and others located in West Oakland’s warehouses are a popular place for young artists to take over.

Although Fonda says there is no “real apex” for the art scene in the East Bay, West Oakland seems to be one of them. The cheap rent and relative freedom an artist has to do what he or she wants with the property keeps the art scene strong in this part of Oakland. Young artists are able to live in the many warehouse lofts for rent hovering around $100 to $200 a person, if they decided to live with others.

Artists from West Oakland, and other parts of the Bay Area, will get together and hold events to showcase their budding talents. Interdisciplinary shows are mostly on the bill, which include an assortment of different media, music, painting, collage, performance art, and interactive art.

Fonda’s passion for art crosses many mediums, but his main focus is paint and collage. At the recent art show at “The Prince Street House,” Fonda showcased two huge oil paint portraits of a pelican and a zebra. Both, though dull in color mostly, had such detail and layering it looked as if the animals were alive within the canvas.

Swapping is a main factor Fonda focuses on in his interview. He speaks often of the “art world” and those who inhabit it with such distaste. “I’m into swaps because artists don’t have a bunch of money,” says Fonda. “The art world is full of elitists who use money to buy creativity, galleries are full of garbage.”

“People like to buy into that shit, the art scene, young people scene. It’s all about appealing to someone,” said Fonda.

Where does school fall into place with these kids, and even Fonda? Many of the young artists have been to some form of instruction yet most drop out after a few years. Elise Mahan, an art history major at San Francisco State University, says she can see where the mindset of these kids comes from.

“I think they see art as an extension of themselves and not necessarily as a career,” says Mahan, “When they are in school they feel like it is as if they are working towards a career, that takes the passion out of it, makes it mechanical.”

It’s not something Fonda has a choice in either. When asked if he ever thought about quitting art he said, “it’s not something you quit, it’s not an occupation.”

Fonda’s philosophy on life seems very Marxist in nature. The swapping of goods according to one’s ability, the communal living and the freedom of “chance operations” would suggest this.

Fonda hopes to perpetuate the environment he so craves and to keep the creative spirit alive in his neighborhood of Oakland. A steady art space and “maybe” an art buyer, someone to commission and sell his art for him, are two of his main dreams.

“I want a place where kids can come and just create,” says Fonda, “ trade pieces, just keep the flow of creative ideas out there.”

Every hello is triumphant, every good bye a heartbreak with Fonda. In his usual dominant manner he exclaims, “Here’s your theme, I’m looking to be successful as an anti-academic, which will probably fail, but I have a lot of fun.”

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Later West Oakland!

The time has come for me to say goodbye to reporting on West Oakland. Ok, take a break is probably more accurate because I'm not leaving the Bay Area anytime soon if the school budget cuts have anything to do about it.
Over the past 3 1/2 months, I've been yelled at by crack heads,  shared 40's with hipsters and walked, (well, ran) down West Oakland's notorious 8th Street past the time a woman should be walking alone there. 
West Oakland has been the greatest test of my journalistic skills that I've ever had to endure. I had my pre-conceived notions of the neighborhood and was terrified that I would not be able to finish this assignment. I've had to leave my comfort zone so many times this semester I lost track as to where it is anymore. I think it's on 7th Street somewhere actually.
Yet, the neighborhood has taught me so much about my natural abilities, its revived the spirit I've had for the craft since I declared my major almost 3 years ago. 
I've made some friends and even more contacts. Ate some great food and heard even better music. I'm a little sad it's over, but I'm sure I'll be back soon.

Monday, November 30, 2009

BART officer injured at fight in West Oakland

At 5:40 p.m. on November 21 passengers on the Pittsburg/Bay Point bound train alerted BART police of a disturbance while at the West Oakland BART station. 37-year-old Michael Joseph Gibson of San Leandro,  appeared to be drunk, was acting erratically, yelling racial slurs and profanity at BART riders and trying to pick fights with them.
 A BART police officer was at the West Oakland station and responded to the distress call. The officer removed the man from the car and while he was attempting to arrest him against a wall, shattered the glass above it. The officer and the suspect suffered multiple injuries in the attack, the officer requiring stitches.
Gibson now faces battery on a police officer with injury, public intoxication, obstructing and resisting an officer and disorderly conduct.
 “This is a use-of-force case that we will thoroughly investigate,” BART Police Patrol Commander Daniel O. Hartwig said. “We will review all available information and video and are requesting anybody with any other video or information to please come forward.”

Portions of the incident were captured by BART security cameras on the platform and inside the train, as well as passenger's videos which have started to appear on YouTube.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mandela Foods Cooperative

Mandela Foods Cooperative, located at 1430 Seventh St. in West Oakland's Lower Bottoms , signals a positive new change for the neighborhood. Born out of the effort of the Mandela Marketplace, a nonprofit business incubator, Mandela Foods is unlike many of the "grocery stores" you see in this part of Oakland.
West Oakland has 53 liquor stores within its boundaries not to mention the countless convenience stores that take up almost each corner. The lack of grocery stores within West Oakland force many residents to shop at either the convenience stores or the 99 cent only store, located just a block from Mandela Foods. I don't have to tell you the quality of food that these stores carry.
Unlike the convenience stores, Mandela Foods is a worker-owned and operated healthy grocery store. It carries local, fresh produce, bulk items, a drink case and deli.Walking in the Mandela Foods is refreshing. The store doesn't smell stale like a lot of the convenience stores I've been in and the staff are really friendly. Being a Whole Foods employee, I had to see just how "health store" it really was. The sure way to tell this is to see if a store carries Kombucha. Sure enough, there they were. The Chinese fermented teas seemed to sing to me from their cold case that yes, I was in the right place!
I was astounded by the selection of bulk items they had for such a small space they occupied. Rows upon rows of granola, muesli, nuts and dried fruit waiting to be scooped out, weighed and consumed by the neighborhood customers.
Many people would doubt that such a store could exist in the neighborhood of West Oakland. Program Director of Mandela Marketplace thinks differently."It's a fallacy that low-income people don't want to eat healthy," says Harvey.
1430 7th St.
Oakland, CA 94607
(510) 452-1133

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New From AK Press!

AK Press, the largest anarchist/radical distributor of books, video and other media in the world, have a few new items coming out this month.
First up, the new "AK Press Snack Packs." These "snack packs" consist of three or more books in a series that instead of buying them separate you can get them at a discount all together. From the Working Classic Series to the Anarchism 101 pack, it's a great deal for so much literature.
A fan of fiction and supporting your local publishing company? Well, AK Press publishing is also pushing out some new merchandise. Just one title is Mythmakers and Lawbreakers: Anarchist Writers on Fiction, by Kim Stanley Robinson (introduction)  and Margaret Killjoy (editor). The book is a collection put together by the two women highlighting famous radical fiction writers who used their pens to analyze and criticize society. 
In this economy who couldn't use a break? AK Press has you covered! Introducing the option to pre-order upcoming AK titles for 25 percent off. The latest titles are; You Don't Have To Fuck People Over To Survive by Scott Tobocman, Italian Anarchism: 1864-1892 by Nunzio Pernicone and Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-petro World essays collected by editor Kolya Abramsky.

You can find all the titles in this post and many more at the  AK Press website, calling (510) 208-1700 or stop by their warehouse at 674-A 23rd St. Oakland, CA

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Third Place

“Oh yeah, this is a great place,” whispers the eccentric couple behind me in line as the BART rail rushed overhead of the Revolution Café on West Oakland’s 7th Street. A quick glance at the magazine rack gives notice that all demographics of the community enjoy this place. Men’s Health, Lucky, Vogue, The New Yorker and O magazine grace the rack for the next flood of people to enjoy.

But this is no library. Whether it’s the community activists discussing their next fundraiser, the biochemistry major studying alone in the corner or the old couple enjoying their morning coffee this café is a host for interests to foster. Every day that I have walked in there has been a different assortment of people slumped into the cozy chairs and perched on the bar stools. Yet everyday I hear the staff refer to people by their first names when they walk through the door.

The unpretentious interior of the café is filled with cluttered plastic toys, old street signs and brightly colored walls seemingly to serve as a way to make people feel more at home amongst items they find ridiculous.

The community corkboard is literally for everyone. A hand made note with a stick figure drawn on it asking for boarders to live in the author’s garage accompany the local artist’s announcement about

her first art show. The cozy homey atmosphere of the café makes people feel at ease and the conversations flow from there.