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Morrie Turner and “Wee Pals” blazed a new trail in the comic strip world of 1965

From the Oakland Tribune comics page in April 1965.

Martha Ross has written a nice piece on cartoonist Morrie Turner, who died Saturday at age 90.
The piece notes that Turner “broke racial barriers in the 1960s when he became the first African-American to have a syndicated comic strip — the gently humored, ethnically diverse ‘Wee Pals,’ which still runs daily in the Oakland Tribune and Contra Costa Times.”

It might help to have some perspective on the world of comic strips when “Wee Pals” debuted in the Oakland Tribune in April 1965.
At the time, the only other sign of something on the comics page even remotely resembling diversity outside of Turner’s new creation was the strip “Li’l Abner” by Al Capp, which definitely reflected sensibilities of an earlier era with its world of hillbillies and “Injuns.”
Turner introduced a new sensibility to the comics page, delivering an ongoing message of equality and inclusiveness, and dropping in countless tidbits of otherwise unsung history along the way that educated young and old alike.

Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Under: Art and entertainment, Berkeley, History | No Comments »

El Cerrito: Musical Teens production of ‘Grease’ this weekend at Contra Costa Civic Theatre

The Musical Teens program at Contra Costa Civic Theatre will perform the 1950s musical “Grease” this weekend.

“Rydell high is filled with rebellious, thrill-loving students. Enter,
Sandy Dumbrowski, the new girl and things go crazy.
All of your favorite rock-and-roll songs with vibrant dancing and incredible voices will be on stage this coming weekend performed by the young actors from musical teens.”

Shows are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 18 and 2 p.m. Jan. 19 at CCCT, 951 Pomona Ave.

Tickets are $10, available at the door or online with more details at

The cast members are Abram Blitz, Aidan Mulqueeney, Amelia Meacham, Arianna Bertucco, Bella Mercurio, Chelsea McPheron, Devin Elias, Franny Beck, Gloria Leon, Hannah Miller, Jackie Davis, Jaya Pyne, Jenna Englund, Jordan Beck, Kyla Dullum, Lindsey Lam, Lucy Malamud-Roam, Marina Carlstroem, Mary Elsbury, Millie Kaufman, Natalie McCosker, Owen Storey, Sophia Acker, Terra Baer

Christina Martin directs and choreography is by Deirdre Ashby.

Posted on Friday, January 17th, 2014
Under: Art and entertainment, El Cerrito | No Comments »

El Cerrito: Watch a time lapse of Sundar Shadi display setup

El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford, one of some 60 volunteers who turned out to put the Sundar Shadi Christmas display in place on Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive on Dec. 14, also set up his camera and took this remarkable time lapse video documenting the work.
Crawford notes that it took 30-plus hours to upload the video.

Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2013
Under: Art and entertainment, community, El Cerrito, History | No Comments »

5-year anniversary celebration for RYSE Youth Center



RYSE YOUTH CENTER CELEBRATES FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY & Hosts 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland Community Event

What: RYSE Center 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland and FiveYear Anniversary Community Event

Where: RYSE CENTER, 205 41st  Street (at Macdonald Avenue), Richmond, CA

When: Saturday, December 14, 2013, 12 noon – 4 p.m.

RICHMOND, Calif… The RYSE Youth Center will be celebrating five years of youth empowerment and community service by hosting its 2nd Annual Winter Wonderland Community Event.

RYSE’s Winter Wonderland, a free community event, will include a toy giveaway for newborns and kids up to 12 years old, music, arts and crafts activities, tree decorating and more! The purpose of this event is to bring communities together, support youth and their families in celebrating the holiday season, and honor RYSE’s fiveyear anniversary and commitment to serving young people in the community.

The Center opened its doors to the community on October 18, 2008 after a string of youthrelated homicides near Richmond High School in 2000 mobilized students to take action to address the violence and lack of safety at school and in the community. Students organized vigils and community forums with more than 1,500 youth and community members, and met and worked with local officials and stakeholders on a comprehensive assessment of youthidentified priorities and solutions.

RYSE Youth Center

Grounded in social justice, RYSE builds youth power for young people ages 1321 living in Richmond and West Contra Costa County to love, learn, educate, heal and transform lives and communities.

Since 2008, more than 3,000 young people have participated in programs and activities. For more information go to


Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Under: Art and entertainment, Cities, community, Contra Costa County, Crime, development, History, Politics, Richmond, Schools | No Comments »

Visit this Albany teen’s haunted house and help a good cause

Albany Haunt as it looked Friday morning with the donation barrel to the right.

If you are looking to do something for Halloween for the family or even just yourself, consider going to Albany Haunt, a homemade attraction at 1048 Peralta Ave. in Albany that will be open from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. this Saturday and again on Oct. 31. You’ll have some homegrown fun and feel good about it at the same time because admission is a donation — canned goods or monetary — to the Alameda County Food Bank.
You’ll feel even better because the attraction is the creation of a teenager wanted to do something for Halloween, but also wanted to help people in need.

From Michael Altfest, communications manager of the Alameda County Community Food Bank:

There’s a 13 year old boy building what seems to be an elaborate haunted house in his driveway – and he’s asking for food and fund donations for the Food Bank as the admission. He’s a really neat kid – seems to be really talented (you can check out his haunted house facebook page: When I asked him why he was doing this he said he really loves Halloween, but he also “realizes that there are a lot of people in our community who are struggling and he wanted a way to help.”

You know the food bank would love to see a full barrel.

The attraction looks much spookier at night.


Posted on Saturday, October 26th, 2013
Under: Albany, Art and entertainment, community | No Comments »

Free North Richmond Green festival set for Saturday


You are invited to attend the “4th Annual North Richmond Green Festival,” which will take place this Saturday, October 19, 2013 from 10:00am to 4:00pm at the Shields Reid Park and Community Center located on 1410 Kelsey Street in Richmond, California. This will be a free, family friendly, outdoor event, to celebrate efforts that are being made to improve the environment and the health of the community.


The festival will follow a beautification project where volunteers will plant flowers in target locations at the Shields Reid Community Center and at the North Richmond Missionary Baptist Church.

Once the festival begins at 10:00am, the highlights of this community event will include giveaways such as free food, free blueberry bushes, pomegranate trees, olive trees, t-shirts, and reusable water bottles, along with live entertainment, arts and crafts, wild animal tours, jumpers, informational booths and more…


Click here for flyer: 2013-GreenFestival-Flyer-N To register as a volunteer, or for more information, please contact, Carla Orozco, at 510-776-7568, or at


Please come join us for a healthy day filled with family fun and community enjoyment!!


Posted on Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Under: Art and entertainment, Cities, Contra Costa County, History, Richmond | No Comments »

Albany/El Cerrito: Alberrito Street Play event returning


That cross-border, hybrid, healthy activity, feel good event known as Alberrito Streets is returning in Albany and Berkeley on Sept. 29.
The two cities can’t agree on a name for the street that will be closed to traffic that day (it’s Key Route Boulevard in Albany and Ashbury Avenue in El Cerrito) but they do agree the roadway will be open to recreation and community building into the early afternoon that day between A Street/Lynn Avenue and Brighton Avenue.
From the El Cerrito announcement:

The event is co-hosted by the cities of Albany and El Cerrito to encourage people to get outside, be active and have fun! Attendees are encouraged to bring their own picnic lunch, as well as create their own fun (such as bicycle, skates, croquet, basketball, ping pong, etc). There will be outdoor fun summertime activities including sports games, art activities, chess, live music and more!


Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Under: Albany, Art and entertainment, El Cerrito | No Comments »

El Cerrito: Margo the Z Bomb at the It Club (1954) and dancing in “Mambo Girl” (1957)


The El Cerrito night club scene was not as vibrant in the 1950s as it had been in the 1930s and ’40s, when people came to town from a wide area for drinks, adult entertainment and (frequently) gambling. By the 1950s, the rising popularity of television was also choking off the night club scene, but there was still an audience and several of the San Pablo Avenue clubs carried on — particularly the It Club.
Above is an ad from May 1954, when the It Club offered three shows nightly at Central and San Pablo avenues. Headlining the It Club bill, and we presume appearing in all three shows, was Margo the Z Bomb.
Margo was a popular performer at the It Club and other strip joints around the Bay Area, but found greater popularity in the Far East, as noted in a post on, which also offers a definition of “Z Bomb”:

According to War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War, a Z-bomb is “a mythical bomb of such power that exploding it would ‘end it all’. The term was used in the 1950s, and a stripper of that period, Lolinda Raquel, billed herself as Margo the Mexican Z-Bomb ‘The Absolute End’.”

Below is a clip of Margo the Z Bomb dancing in the 1957 Hong Kong musical “Mambo Girl.” We don’t imagine the It Club stage was that large.

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Under: Art and entertainment, El Cerrito, History | No Comments »

Point Richmond hosting free concert Sept. 13

The Dornan Drive Tunnel is scheduled to reopen today and Point Richmond Music serendipitously has a concert from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. as part of its summer series.

Orquesta Dharma and Viento y Marea will perform Latin jazz and salsa on the stage at Park Place and Washington Avenue, not far from the repaired tunnel.
The concert series finale will feature world music by Empress Meditations and jazz by Nicolas Bearde on Sept. 27.

Posted on Friday, September 13th, 2013
Under: Art and entertainment, Richmond | No Comments »

El Cerrito: Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records are subject of new documentary to be screened at Mill Valley Festival

Above is a trailer for “This Ain’t No Mouse Music! The Story of Chris Strachwitz and Arhoolie Records,” a new 92-documentary by Chris Simon and Maureen Gosling that will be screening twice next month as part of the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival.

Strachwitz founded Arhoolie Records just over 50 years ago and for the past 40 or so years it has been headquartered with his retail store Down Home Music on San Pablo in El Cerrito (the official street address, even though the building is actually within the Richmond city limits).

Here is the description of the documentary from the film festival website:

In English, Spanish and French with English subtitles. American folk in all its ragtag glory—from New Orleans Dixieland, hipslapping country and front-porch blues to Tex-Mex, Cajun and Deep-South R&B—provides the rollicking soundtrack to Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon’s downhome documentary about an unlikely yet endearing champion of regional music. Born a German count, Chris Strachwitz fled the advent of World War II as a teenager and immersed himself in his adopted country’s musical roots. With ever-alert ears and rudimentary recording equipment, Strachwitz has traversed the back roads and juke joints of the heartland for more than 50 years, tracking down homespun musical talent for his Arhoolie Records label—eschewer of the corporate pop Strachwitz gleefully dismisses as “mouse music.” “If not for people like Chris, this music would have fallen out of cultural history,” says Richard Thompson in this revelatory film, as musicians and fans of all stripes (including Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal) rejoice in his sonic obsessions.

Screenings are scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Sequoia 2 and Oct. 11 at the Rafael 1. There will also be a concert in conjunction with the Oct. 8 screening at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. “San Francisco Chronicle music journalist and author Joel Selvin will host a rollicking performance by Southern roots music masters Eric and Suzy Thompson, Mexican roots music revival pioneers Los Cenzontles and Cajun/Creole dance band Creole Belles, with more special guests to be announced.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Under: Art and entertainment, El Cerrito, History, Richmond | No Comments »