Artists, Theaters, and Communities Making Change

EC Reems 8th Graders’ Performance Pieces
In May 2012, Ms. Vallianos’ students worked with Cal Shakes teaching artists Elizabeth Carter and Alyssa Evans to create stories based on their own communities. Inspired by Zora Neale Hurston, they were asked to take on the role of anthropologist and interview someone at least 20 years older than them. In these interviews the following questions were asked:
  • When was the first time you missed home?
  • What is your first memory of home?
  • Who do you think is the most extraordinary person?
  • What is the most extraordinary place in Oakland?
  • Where do you feel most at home?

The students took the answers to these questions and turned them into performance pieces.

Contributors: Janiya Beverly, Demahjiae Bibbens, Dorian Cleveland, Charionne Drain, Tahlor Ellis, Ladrea Evans, Kendrick Fobbs, Aki Gholston, Jasmine Henry, Special McGee, Esmeralda Nava, Marcela Orizaga, Juan Patino, Justin Powell, Anthony Walker, Diamond Washington, Mykela Widemon, Eric Willis, Ashanae Zeno


Anthony Walker, Sr. Interviewed by Anthony Walker, Jr.

I was born Anthony Craig Walker on March 27, 1956 to Barbara and William Walker on Tennessee St in the Mission District of San Francisco. At first life as young boy was fine, but as teenager my life started to turn a different channel. My dad died when I was 14 and there were 6 of us, 3 girls, two younger brothers, so my mom needed me to help with my younger brother, so I worked odd jobs trying to help out and going to school.

Also, at times I started to rebel because I still wanted to have my fun as a teen. My brother and I were put into our own apartment. When I was 18, we had to live life on our own. We went through changes. We were forced to grow up, and eventually moved and went our separate ways. We all have our own families in different parts of the U.S. I’m here in Oakland with my family. I’ve worked for chemical tank cleaning for 20 years and now I’m retired. Oakland is fine but I would love to be back in S.F because the city is so much better to me. Oakland is like living in the country and S.F. is the city I enjoy. Some of my best memories of growing up in San Francisco include spending time on Ocean Beach, playing volleyball with my friends. Now I enjoy spending time with my kids in Oakland.


Gloria Nava Interviewed by Esmeralda Nava

Q: What was Oakland like when you were a kid?

A: Well, when I first came to Oakland it was almost the same as today, not a lot of violence, but surely it was less dangerous than it is now.

My name is Gloria Nava and I am 37 years old. I’ve lived in Oakland for 17 years. I was born in Mexico and coming to Oakland, California was a huge difference. Oakland had a lot of streets and houses

compared to the ranch I grew up in. My first memories of home was when I went to a small school, made my first dish of food, and when I first milked a cow because my parents helped me with all of those things. The first time I missed home was when I got married because at that moment I knew I had to live my life with my husband and live without my parents, which have been in my life for a very long time. For me knowing Oakland has been a new experience from my home back in Mexico. The most extraordinary place in Oakland is the Cathedral in downtown because it reminds me of a beautiful church in Mexico I used to go to. I feel most at home when I go to my husband’s sister’s house in Chino, California because it’s like the ranch I grew up in. Oakland has changed a lot to being more dangerous. I hope one day that Oakland would change to being like before or even better. I want to see Oakland as a peaceful place where no parent has to worry about their kids being outside.


Doyle Beverly Interviewed by Janiya Beverly

My name is Doyle Beverly and I’m 50 years old. I’ve lived in Oakland for about 34 years. I was born in Crowley, Louisiana. I moved to Oakland when I was about 16. Oakland was a beautiful place. Now, I ain’t sayin it didn’t have its flaws but it ain’t as bad as it is now. Everywhere in Oakland now is extraordinary. It brings a surprise. When I first moved to Oakland it was a breath of fresh air, but later on, maybe about a month after, I first started missing home. I can say being with my family out here and in Louisiana is where I feel most at home. My Uncle Persey was the most extraordinary person I know, because he was a great man. My first memory of home was when we would go play in the cemetery or in the ditch. I remember those amazing family nights. What I smell in Oakland is the smoke from a gun just going off. What I feel about Oakland is that it need to change. I feel that Oakland has changed for the worst. What I see in Oakland is killas. They’re everywhere, baby killahs, teenage killahs, grown killahs, and the worst, OG killahs. What I hear in Oakland is ambulance, sirens, and killahs killing. I really think Oakland need change and it won’t start with just one person. It will need to be all of us getting together to helping our city. Before it be completely destroyed.


Pastor Ric Maiden Interviewed by Demahjiae Bibbens

My name is Pastor Obe Ric Maiden. The reason I still live in Oakland is, ah, because I have lived here for awhile, since the sixties. I came to California when I was 13 years old, and came from Stillwood, Louisiana in, ah, 1968. I left there, because I knew what I had to do, instead of just doing what I wanted to. So, as I got older and married, I had children and I started a ministry. My children had children of their own.

I think life in Oakland is different than in Louisiana. There was racism in Louisiana whites against blacks. Here young blacks are killing each other. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Young people can make a change if they want one.


Faye Custard Interviewed by Special McGee

My name is Faye Custard. I was born in Louisiana. When I was four years old I remember I used to go on the sun porch and ride my bike around it. By nighttime I would be scared, because I didn’t like

sleeping alone in a big bed in a room. So, I would cry so my mom could come in. I would hold her shirt so she wouldn’t leave, but in the morning when I woke up I would have a cover in my hand instead of a shirt. Once I got older and married, I began to miss home, the things about home, and the most extraordinary person who happens to be my mother, because she was quiet and strong in the toughest situations.

I also missed the extraordinary places like Lake Merritt, because it was clean, different, and I like water. Over the years, I’ve noticed that Oakland has changed a lot from years ago. Mainly the way they talk and it was safer and peaceful. Even though I lived in Oakland for a long time there is absolutely nothing I like about it. I’m only glad I stayed in Oakland is because there was prejudice in Louisiana. So I’m proud of the decision I made for myself.


Kenneth Fobbs Interviewed by Kendrick Fobbs

My name is Kenneth Fobbs. My son Kendrick Fobbs interviewed me on how I feel about Oakland. Now I have a lot of memories in Oakland, because I was born and raised here. So I feel home when I come out here. The best memory I had would be my childhood. I love being a child so I didn’t have to face all these bills. The only thing I would change from Oakland is all the violence. Oakland would be a great city if there was no violence. So everybody in the community needs to do something not just one person. Oakland is a good city and I wouldn’t trade anything for it. I have many good memories and some bad ones. Once, I hit my brother with a frying pan. We get along better now and see each other every day.


Genine A. Mills Interviewed by Ashanae Zeno

My name is Genine A. Mills and I’m 45 years now. I don’t have an interesting story, but I can try . Well, umm, Oakland has changed a lot since I was a kid. First of all, you could walk to the store no problem. If you got in a fight, it was no guns, just a straight up fist fight, you know. Now you got ya mama and daddy in it with your uncles wit guns. Just so much ignorance. I missed times I spent with my grandpa. He was a snazzy guy, the person you always liked. I remember I came home from the hospital and calling him saying I’m having triplets. He went wild, you know, just so joyful. He didn’t live long enough to see only two made it so their middle names are named after him. He was my most favorite person.

I’m very disappointed in Oakland’s medical department, especially in special needs. I feel like you need to go hunting for help. It’s desperately lacking, but you can’t stop it. See, when I was little, you could play on the streets wit no problem. Everyone on your streets knew each other but you don’t have that luxury anymore. These black people these days, only now ignorance and madness.

Well, dang, you sure do ask a lot of hard questions. I think Oakland can change. But I wish I could still go to my grandpa’s place, a great place to have a laugh.


Marian Cooper-Presley Interviewed by Tahlor Ellis

My name is Marian Cooper-Presley. I am from Mississippi and 55 years old. I have one child and three wonderful grandchildren. I learned when I first moved to Oakland it was a very friendly place where everyone said hi to each other. Now kids will sit at bus stops and be loud and not even get up to let a old lady sit down. Darn hoodlums! I first missed home when people started fighting with guns instead of words or fists. Ya sinners. My first memory of home was when my daughter and I moved into our first apartment.

The best place in Oakland? Lake Merritt. I walk it every day. The most extraordinary person in my life is my mother. She was always there for us but she could throw down when she wasn’t being a lady. “Go get that switch off that tree!” she would say, and I would know what was happening next.

I feel most at home now when I’m with my daughter, her children, and my husband, together just bonding. I would never leave where I am because it is my home away from Mississippi. I love this place, even with all the violence. Now, sit down, Chan, I mean Tah, I mean Daem, I mean…you know your name! What was I…oh, right, I love this place.

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Posted on July 5, 2012
Categories: Triangle Lab @ the Bruns