Acclaimed writer Zora Neale Hurston was passionate about documenting the everyday language and stories of people, from the Carribean to the American South. As part of California Shakespeare Theater’s production of Spunk (stories of the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston and adapted by George C. Wolfe) the Triangle Lab invites Oakland residents to join us in imagining the past, present, and future of their city through Imagine Oakland. “If Zora were here now, Oakland is the kind of place she’d want to write about. She believed in going home to tell the stories of your places,” says Spunk director Patricia McGregor. The Imagine Oakland project invites Oaklanders to tell stories of their places, sharing and experiencing communal reflections in a variety of arenas—online, in person, pictorial, verbal—to paint a complex portrait of this dynamic city.
Imagine Oakland includes:
- TILT media instructors training youth at Youth UpRising to create videos exploring their East Oakland neighborhood
- Artist residency at EC Reems middle school working with students to create “imagine Oakland” performance pieces
- story circles with different groups of Oakland residents
- “Tell us about your Oakland” online survey
- Interactive art installation at Cal Shakes’ Bruns Ampitheater created by artist April Banks exploring the themes of home and journey
- Audio excerpts from work by playwright Chinaka Hodge
The Triangle Lab collaborated with TILT, the youth program of the Ninth Street Independent Film Center to offer youth mobile media workshops that invited San Francisco and Oakland youth to tell the stories of their neighborhoods on video. Participants from each city created short pieces based on the idea of a video postcard to a youth in another city, offering a glimpse of their vision of the places they live in.
In Oakland, TILT instructors collaborated with Youth UpRising, a center dedicated to community transformation powered by the leadership of youth. Participating youth will learn how to write, script, cast, direct, shoot, and edit videos using flip cameras and mobile phones, creating finished videos documenting Oakland through their eyes.
In San Francisco, TILT worked with youth at City Crossroads to explore their neighborhood and the journeys their families took to arrive there, part of a larger exploration of immigrant stories statewide. At the end of these workshops, youth from both sessions and their families were be invited to a film festival-style showing of all the films at Intersection for the Arts.
Filmmakers: Cristian Bambilla, Luis Miguel DeGuzman, Kevin DeVera, , Rennan DeVera, Hiul Dulalas, Zoe Glover, Jessica Guevarra, Jael Imani, Lidell McIver, Kevin Munson, Joshua Rivera, Kenneth Serafin, Ricky Tavita, Cardell Thomas, Samuel Tishkovskiy, Chris Vargas, Chester Wade, De’Mario Williams, and Gerald Williams.
Instructors: Zara Ahmed (San Francisco) and Vincent Cortez (Oakland)
Click here to view all the youth videos. These videos are also on view as part of the Triangle Lab exhibit at Spunk.
Read more about the mobile media workshops in Oakland:
TILT Workshop at Youth Uprising: Week One
Mobile Media Workshop: The Game
As part of the Imagine Oakland project, the Triangle Lab is held a number of story circles to explore residents’ experiences of Oakland. Participants included students from Oakland Tech, EC Reems Middle School, seniors from Mercy Care Alliance, and Cal Shakes subscribers with a relationship to Oakland.
Patricia McGregor – director of Cal Shakes’ production of Spunk (stories by Zora Neale Hurston) – visited the Bay Area for several days in March to lead our first set of circles. Using a methodology she learned working with Junebug Productions Patricia led participants through a series of exercised designed to prompt memories and reflections.
Residents of Mercy Care Alliance in their 90s tell about a long-ago Oakland
Participants reflected on their first memories of home, their favorite places in Oakland, and their vision of Oakland’s future. At Mercy Care , where some of the participants were 100 years old, we heard stories about a pre-war Oakland with no Bay Bridge. One woman told about her family arriving in Oakland by sneaking onto a troop train, another remembered listening to Amelia Earhart’s plane take off, and a third talked about being the only German girl at a Catholic school filled with Irish and Italian families. At Oakland Tech, students were asked to do an exercise where they closed their eyes and imagined what Oakland sounded like. ”That guy on the corner who keeps telling me to stay in school,” said one. ”The music in my aunt’s dance studio” another shared. The group envisioned what a future Oakland might look like: ”Food trucks everywhere!” One young girl said simply “I wish I could wake up to my alarm clock, and not to the sound of sirens.”
Students from Oakland Tech share their Oakland stories
In all three circles we heard a complex picture of a beloved but troubled city. A place people feel pride in, feel at home in, but dream about improving. Above all a place full of storiesthat we all need to listen to.
Click here to listen to some of these stories.