Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Angela Davis then and now Part 2

By awoodall
Saturday, August 16th, 2008 at 12:00 pm in Oakland Museum.

Here is more about the weekend of Aug. 1, which I wrote about in the following blog entry because I was covering a Night Owl event that was intensely political and thought provoking. Art and resistance together. The entry turned out way too long for one post so I am breaking it into sections.
Aug. 2: “Port Huron Project 5 — The Liberation of our People” was about taking texts out of history, reanimating them to engage people and inserting them into contemporary politics, the creator Mark Tribe said.
He also wants to turn “depoliticized space” like DeFremery Park into a place for participatory democracy.
But not everyone saw it that way. A young woman stood up to ask what Tribe was doing to be more than just a cultural carpetbagger who rides into town to capitalize on its history then rides right back out without leaving so much as a tip. She wanted to know what he was going to do to keep the momentum going after the speech to make it more than a “creative intellectual exercise.”
West Oakland Lower Bottoms impresario Marcel Diallo said it’s up to the community to ride the energy Tribe creates by creating events around the event. “I’m not trippin’,” Diallo said. “Anyone who come in I’m going to find a way to ride it.” He showed up Saturday at the park with T-shirts, paintings and other items for sale. 
Just like when Davis made the speech, the park Saturday was full of people from all walks of life, colors and ages, Black Panther Minister of Culture Emory Douglas recalled. There was a reunion for the Gatison family. Babies were nursing, kids were running and the adults were dancing, talking, eating, having a good time.
 “It almost feels like time isn’t moving forward,” said Nato Thompson of Creative Time about the resonance between the Vietnam War era and today. The speech spectacle is part of Creative Time’s Democracy in America: The National Campaign project.  “It would be nice if there ever was democracy,” was the common reaction to the project title, a play on the Alexis DeTocqueville tome “Democracy in America,” when the Frenchman traveled through the 50-year-old United States.
The provocative project also includes the Coney Island “Waterboarding Thrill Ride,” in which viewers pay $1 to see the depiction of a prisoner being waterboarded.
Isn’t that outrageous, Thompson said the New York Times asked about the installation. “Well, is waterboarding outrageous?” was Thompson’s response.
What is it going to take to get people out in the streets? asked an activist with The World Can’t Wait group, which is planning on bussing people to Denver for the democratic national convention. “The time is now!” he added.
“Click to protest,” said another man but then someone else stood up to ask Tribe whether online politicism isn’t a case for the lack of protest that resembled the 1960s and 1970s. Tribe turned the question back on the audience, which didn’t find an answer either but someone did point out that people have taken to the streets for good old fashioned demonstrations. People see the Vietnam-era protests through hindsight glasses that filter out the rays of frustration, disappointment and confusion that marked political movements then. In other words, stop holding today’s activism up against a distorted image of activism then.
And, asked someone else, isn’t it different today because we have a black presidential candidate who won his party’s nomination over a woman? “I hope Barack Obama creates not just progress but radical change,” Guzman said.
He will have his hands full just trying to steer the country from the far far right that the Bush Administration and Republican party have taken it, Tribe said. He’s got a long way to go before even real change is on the horizon.  
 “Art is a powerful language. It gives people food for thought we can use to inform and educate,” Douglas said.

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