Category Archives: News
We’re really proud of what’s been happening in these walls and across the Bay during the OPC’s last fiscal year. Check it out here!
by Marvin K. White
Paying homage to black funerary practices; artist and professor Angela Hennessy and The Oakland Peace Center’s Artivist-In-Residence Marvin K. White, hosts free community grieving and performance rituals.
A black boy is not a broken bottle.
A black boy is not a unlucky cat.
A black boy is not a bus stop.
A black boy is not an ant colony.
In the midst of displacement and gentrification, historically black funeral homes rarely close. In fact, large funeral conglomerates are buying up historically black-owned funeral homes. Black people have always sat with the dead, have always meditated on death as we mourned the loss of loved ones and community folk. And now it’s a get-rich-quick scheme.
A black boy is a powder keg.
A black boy is a revolution.
A black boy is a sister city.
A black boy is not a puddle.
In the Wake of The Quiet Hours… is a monthly, site-specific community container and grief ritual. It is now more important than ever to hold space for our collective grief, disbelief and fear. “The last one”, the last shooting of an unarmed black person, the last killing of a black or brown trans woman, the last young woman forced into sex trafficking, was not “the last one”.
A black boy is not a snapped tree.
A black boy is not a flash flood.
A black boy is not a run over skunk.
A black boy is not a Newport.
The “Quiet Hours” are facilitator-led meditations, conversations, and rituals that collects the grief, that the people in Oakland carry, gives space for it to be spoken, whispered, cried, broken and learn from it. We offer those in attendance, a “Quiet Hour” (silent meditation centering on the attendees historic and contemporary, past and present, deaths, passages, and losses. We then move into the “Wake”, where those gathered read the names of their dead that they are carrying with them and introduce them to the other people’s dead that they carry with them. Mothers, fathers, friends, victims 400 miles away and 400 years ago have all been brought in. The evening concludes with the “Visitation”, where storytelling about the names entered into record become transformed into lessons and strategies of survival, resilience and love.
A black boy is not spearmint gum.
A black boy is not a briquette.
A black boy is not a double yellow line.
A black boy is not a dropped grocery bag.
With the proliferation of images, videos and livestreamed killings of black people, and the ways that marginalized people have been forced to witness the killings, our communities have always had to have meditation practices to move the fear, anger, rage, grief, tears and distrust, through our bodies. We have always known how to meditate because there has always been the killing of black people.
A black boy is not folk art.
A black boy is not a cast shadow.
A black boy is not motor oil.
A black boy is not a “Candy Gold” Camaro’s donuts.
In the Wake of The Quiet Hours… is where we gather, where we sit sangha with death, where we embrace the living, and where we leave a little more aligned and reconciled in our bodies, after having lived with and under various oppressions. We know that in front of grief, as well as going through grief, and ultimately coming out of grief, that there is joy. If the community becomes a “wake”, then it speaks to itself a vigilance that we have always needed and called upon. We sit with the dead but we listen for joy. We sit to hear what lessons were on their lips as the living became the bullet’s dead.
A black boy is not hopscotch.
A black boy is not a Coors can.
A black boy is not sunflower seeds.
A black boy is not a telephone pole.
This, first of its kind community grief ritual, is a “community mind renewal” practice, and it, through the meditations that are created, allow for the din of violence that is anti-black, anti-woman, anti-lgbt, anti-immigrant, anti-homeless, and anti-religious, to be blocked out, for several house, so that we remember that we are here, alive, breathing, surviving, possible, and thriving.
A black boy is not a fire hydrant.
A black boy is not a manhole.
A black boy is not an altar call.
A black boy is not a god.
In the Wake of The Quiet Hours are held monthly at the Oakland Peace Center. They could be as easily held in the busy historic black funeral homes of East and North Oakland. While there is no body, we are mourning the loss of our lives and livelihoods by displacement, state violence, poverty, racism, white supremacy, ageism homophobia and misogyny. our feelings of belonging here. And depending on the wisdom in the room we will also provide to each other resources for how people can engage in resurrection practices: engaging in renters’ rights campaigns, collaborating with organizations and community spiritual, social justice & creative activators addressing HIV/AIDS in the Black community, joy in the black community, senior housing access work, organizing, dignity, access, and equity.
Marvin K. White, MDiv, is a graduate of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. He is currently the ARTivist in Residence at the Oakland Peace Center. He was the Public Theologian in Residence (’17-’18) at First Church Berkeley and a recent Yerba Buena Center for the Arts “Equity” Fellow (’16-’17). He is the author of four collections of poetry: Our Name Be Witness; Status; and the two Lammy-nominated collections last rights and nothin’ ugly fly. He is a highly sought-after preacher, poet and performer. He is articulating a vision of social, prophetic and creative justice through his work as a poet, artist, teacher, collaborator, preacher, cake baker, and Facebook Statustician.
We are really thrilled to announce that esteemed poet Marvin K. White is joining the Oakland Peace Center team today, and we wanted you to share in the excitement! One OPC partner has already asked if I can get him to sign her copy of his latest poetry collection.
To introduce you to Marvin, I interviewed him briefly, but I’ll be honest: to really know Marvin, you need to meet him in person. I hope you’ll get to do that as he creates arts programs this year that help empower us to address the displacement crisis that is taking away the possibility of peace from so many in our communities.
Marvin will be co-creating some projects with our partners (he’s already percolating ideas about lifting up the art of our brothers behind bars with one of our partners and helping us connect creatively to the Poor People’s Campaign with another friend of the OPC…and keep an eye on your local bus stop in the near future to get a glimpse of art helping us talk about displacement in new ways, although that’s all I’m at liberty to say right now).
You’ll learn plenty about Marvin from our conversation below, but we first began dreaming this collaboration when he performed at our International Day of Peace event and he realized he was supposed to be a part of the work we are about at the OPC, preserving culture and community and creating peace in the city of his birth.
Marvin K. White is just completing a stint as “First Church Berkeley 2017-2018 Public Theologian in Residence.” He is currently an arts liaison and a co-facilitator of the “Faith Leaders Round Table” at The Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. He is the author of four collections of poetry published by RedBone Press; Our Name Be Witness, Status and the two Lammy-nominated collections last rights and nothin’ ugly fly. As a public theologian and community-based artist, he is articulating a vision of social, prophetic and creative justice through being a poet, artist, teacher, facilitator, activist, community organizer, preacher, homemaker, cake baker, and Facebook Statustician.
Join me in welcoming Marvin, and do feel free to support our new staff and program addition by investing in the Oakland Peace Center today.
Sandhya: Marvin, the fact that you live the values of the OPC around equity, access and dignity as the means of creating peace, and the fact that you do it so creatively through the arts (and with more than a little playfulness) is pretty amazing. I’m really excited we’ll be getting to work with you over the course of the next year. What are your hopes for how we’ll be partnering together?
Marvin: I am a cultural activator, thought partner, and collaborator. It is my practice to first honor the groundwork that has led us to this place where our political and prophetic express, can be our creative expression. It is my hope in this partnership to lift up and surface the many creative gifts and skills that peace workers have gathered. I want to collect the chants organizations have chanted, the poems peace workers use as sacred text, and the origin stories of peace, that guide those who believe peace is possible. I want to help create a front facing, a public creative offering that calls out to communities, who are doing peace work, but by other names.
Sandhya: There’s something about what you’re cooking up that is deeply Oakland, deeply spiritual and deeply collaborative. I’m really excited about how your work will draw in folks who didn’t realize they were or wanted to be peace workers. Have you had experiences before with your work that helped people from our community realize they were artists or activists?
Marvin: I have always been the one to proclaim, “You’re a writer.” Or “You’re an artist.” Or “Your mama was a profound visionary.” Or “Your grandmother’s kitchen cooked up revolutions.” My work is not to convince people they are or want to be peace workers, but that ultimately everything we do is leading us to peace. I think my work is to demystify artistic practice and merit. The work is to decolonize art and wrestle it out of the capitalist grip on our imagination and remember that we are inherently creative, creators, co-creators, and the authors of our stories.
Sandhya: And demystifying it is the right word…you had folks riding on bart and writing poems about it! Mind telling the OPC folks about that?
Marvin: I believe that in a city that is experiencing deep dispossession and displacement, that we must look to “time” as a space. The “time” we use participating in the rat race of commuting to and from work, is “time” and space that can be transformed into creative time and space. The BART “Writers & Riders” series was about not being numbed out by the grind of having our creative capital ripped from us for a check. That commute became a creative writing workshop on “Journey, place, home, love, stopping, starting, openings, closing, transference, and return.” We boarded at one station, rode and wrote for three hours and returned home different. Not deplenished of our power, but empowered to tell a new story, our stories.
Sandhya: Amen. That is pretty amazing. So, one of the reasons I’m excited to work with you is that I really see the project we’re looking at (a series of events grounded in the arts and connected to ending displacement) as a way to address something really tangible that is happening to people we love and that is happening to this city where we “live and move and have our being,” and also inviting people into acts of grief and resistance and joy. The displacement crisis is something I carry in my heart all the time. Anything you’re excited to explore in that work particularly?
Marvin: I think public practice and public offerings are key to removing the blame from oppressed people. I am looking forward to creating creative containers and community pouring-outs around grief, state violence, physical and metaphysical displacement, and sharing. Sharing is key. “You mean, it’s not just me?” is often the first self-affirming thought people have when they know they are not alone, that they saw what they saw, heard what they heard, and that they cannot be gaslighted any longer. I want to explore liberation and freedom as well creative and prophetic placemaking. I want to know how we know our ways home in a city that destroys our monuments to make way for unaffordable housing.
Sandhya: That is so real. Thanks. So, you haven’t met all the partners yet, but anyone you look forward to working with and want to give a shout out to?
Marvin: I am hoping that we can send a “Creative Gifts Assessment” to the partners and ask them about the ways that art and culture has informed their work. I want to know who and what kinds of arts are practiced and weaved into the work of our partners. I want to know the knitters and the metal workers, the cooks and the gardeners, the dancers and the preachers, the poets and journalists, those who write it all down. And I want to find patterns and connections and synergies to help think across sector and build networks that are wired creatively.
Sandhya: So the revolution won’t be televised but will definitely be crocheted.
Marvin: And lip synced and signed and postered and rapped and DJd and gardened and walked and churched and accessible and free.
Sandhya: I wonder if there are any things you’re looking forward to particularly about working with us at the opc considering all the super high level arts communities you’ve rolled with like Yerba Buena and BAM/PFA, and whether you have any final thoughts for the 1,500 OPC community members who will get this.
Marvin: I’m looking forward to being a creative matchmaker. I want us all to be in love. And I want our movements to be fueled by love and creativity. I am looking forward to circling back to the institutions that I have presented in and introduce them to the communities associated with the Oakland Peace Center. But mostly I want folks to know that I am in my most creative place in my life; I call it my “Harriet Tubman” and I am ready to run with whoever is ready to get free.
If you want to send Marvin a congratulations or welcome message, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Creating spaces of Peace: Here in the Bay it can feel like there are no real spaces of peace. But every one of us has the ability to create peace in our communities and in our everyday lives. Whether it be through silent meditation or by attending a rally to stand with marginalized peoples. And when you do a little something to create a space of peace, it can start a chain reaction!
OPC’s Creating Spaces of Peace is a project that highlights our collective stories of peace and allows us to acknowledge the actions we make toward creating peace everyday.
During winter 2018 people will have the opportunity to share their stories of peacemaking and reflect on how that action affected themselves and the broader community. Thanks to generous donors, for every person who reports how they made a space of peace, we get $1…all the way to $1,000 if 1,000 people participate! This is a way you can help the community with your actions and the OPC also benefits financially!
So we are asking you to go to the OPC’s Action Network site between now and the end of the year and report something you did to create a space of peace! For every 100 submissions we get, we’ll share them (anonymously) with the community through social media to get people inspired! We hope this will make for a more peaceful Oakland this year.
Since the term peace is so broad, it can be confusing to know whether we’re actually doing stuff that results in peace. It turns out, though, that creating peace is a lot more than meditating silently in the Himalayas. It can be pretty everyday stuff! Also, doing social justice stuff creates peace. (Check out this list of nontraditional ways to make peace thanks to our friends at American Friends Service Committee!)
We have constructed 10 Creating Spaces of Peace Categories and examples to help get you thinking. Each category is based on a section of the Satyagrahga Foundation’s Wheel of Integral Nonviolence (to learn more about “integral nonviolence” from someone who works with OPC partner East Point Peace Academy, click here!):
Creating Spaces of Peace Categories –
- Forging connections: Connecting with people across all lines of difference
- Fruits of Our Labor: Being less reliant on things found in stores
- Spiritual Practice & Fellowship: Engaging in spiritual practices and community
- Action, Engagement, Resistance: Taking matters of resistance into our own hands (??)
- Accompaniment: Walking with the oppressed in mutual empowerment and service
- Building Community: Creating interdependence (hosting a meal of spaghetti or beans and rice when you were just going to eat by yourself)
- Honoring Creation: Being present to the earth (planting or caring for a tree where there isn’t enough green, volunteering at a community garden or advocating to create a community garden, getting into nature instead of absorbing a violent tv show or movie)
- Self-care and Wholeness: Being present to the needs of yourself and your body (turning to meditation and mindfulness practices instead of anger or violence)
- Power to the People: Taking our money away from institutions that create injustice and lead to war (moving your credit card balance from a big bank that took away people’s homes during the foreclosure crisis and putting it with a credit union)
- Passing the Torch: Using your knowledge and sharing the lessons (sharing stories of peace and justice with a child, mentoring a youth so they can get better opportunities down the road)