West Oakland's Annual Hip-Hop Themed "Life Is Living Festival" @ DeFremery Park Was A Peaceful, Positive, Uplifting Event

Posted by Billyjam, October 11, 2011 06:00pm | Post a Comment
Further proof that a hip-hop event in Oakland can be a peaceful, positive & uplifting, as well as extremely entertaining occurrence was offered up once again this past Saturday (Oct 8th) at the annual hip-hop themed Life Is Living Festival in West Oakland's historic DeFremery Park. Now in its third year the multi-faceted hip-hop themed event, that featured live music performances (including Los Rakas, Pete Escoveda, Jennifer Johns, and ?uestlove), interactive art, graffiti art (Estria's 5th Annual Graffiti Battle Finals), and lots of speakers and booths disseminating information on healthy living. It was just fantastic, as was balmy Bay Area Indian Summer weather that accompanied it.  I arrived mid afternoon at the event that began at 11am and unfortunately missed the set by Latin music legend Pete Escovedo and his orchestra. Luckily however I was there in time to catch another Latin flavor East Bay group: the hip-hop duo of Los Rakas who live in Oakland but are from Panama and rap mostly in Spanish. Their set, while not quite as long their recent one at the Hella Fresh festival at the Fillmore, was pure energetic fun with the audience of several hundred grooving to their infectious melange of contemporary Oakland hip-hop and reggae flavors.

Meanwhile scattered around the grounds of the East Bay park, which as one of the speakers on stage reminded folks features as its centerpiece a beautiful century old Victorian building, were drummers, art tables, food and clothing vendors, and various live graffiti installations. These various vibrant live aerosol art installations were all part of the weekend long 5th Annual Estria Graffiti Arts Festival which began two nights earlier with the Can Film Festival in SF and an exhibit at Oakland's SMSHBX Gallery, and continued the night before in downtown Oakland with various events that coincided with First Fridays and included the Pecha Kucha Night at the Oaksterdam University with all women artists under the title "Women Creating Public Art." The graffiti artists on Saturday, as part of the Life is Living Festival in DeFermery Park, included Doves (NY), Meres (NY), Woier (LA), Level (LA), Katch (HI), Ckaweeks (HI), and Vyal (LA) who took the title this weekend for the second year in a row.

After wandering around DeFermery Park and taking in all of this and the other urban art on display, as well as all the other urban living themed exhibits and info booths I arrived back at the stage where Jennifer Johns had just finished a short set and a speaker was making some excellent points about living in an urban area like West Oakland and dealing with the challenges it presents. For examples of these challenges been faced he didn't have to look far, pointing to the nearby Oakland Public Library building that also sits on the Oakland DeFremery, noting how it is a victim of the budget strapped City of Oakland's controversial cutbacks on library hours that fall on Saturdays - the one day when many folks can take advantage of this community resource. The speaker reiterated a valid point made by others, who are outraged by this action by the city, that library closures of any type hurt low-income neighborhoods the most and risk the future of a generation of young readers. Soonafter the speaker then announced the headliner of the day ?uestlove of The Roots who, as he was been introduced, was still sauntering across the back side of the park (suitcase in tow since he came straight from the airport - he had done the Jimmy Fallon Show in NYC night before). Once onstage he began his well received, musically diverse DJ set that kicked off with Michael Jackson.

Unlike so many big events these days, that are clearly purely profit driven, the Life is Living Festival appears to be one that is genuinely all about giving & sharing; offering good entertainment & imparting invaluable positive information. "We understand that crimes against human life are just as important as crimes against other forms of life in our world," say the organizers of the event in their statement of purpose for the event that continues. "We believe in messages that recognize environmental crimes against communities like West Oakland & the South Bronx are just as pressing as those in the Western Arctic & the Southern Amazon."All of this they managed to convey to those in attendance. I can't wait for next year's festival.

Relevant Tags

Estria (5), Graffiti (52), Life Is Living Festival (1), Hip-hop (217), Life Is Living Hip Hop Festival (1), West Oakland (5), Defermery Park (1)