Yesterday’s 12th annual Malcolm X Jazz Festival encapsulated what I love most about Oakland. A diverse gathering of families, youth and young professionals celebrated Malcolm X’s birthday and legacy of protest and community spirit with music, art and food. There were also many local businesses selling their goods and community-based non-profits raising funds and awareness of community issues.
It could be argued that First Fridays feature better art or that Art & Soul Fest has more recognizable musical acts, but neither feel as much like the Oakland I know and love as Malcolm X Jazz Fest. Perhaps it’s that the festival is coordinated by local CBO the East Side Arts Alliance, its location east of the lake, the lack of police presence, the rabble-rousing speakers between performers, the amazing ethnic cuisine, the eclectic gathering of people or the collaborative spirit of the proceedings. Most likely it’s a combination of all these things.
Food vendors included No Worries Filipino vegetarian cuisine, Willie’s BBQ and the always long line at A Taste of Africa. The elementary and middle school kids representing Young Gifted & Black gave an amazingly executed and heartening spoken word and acapella musical performance. The parents of Alan Blueford, the 18 year-old Skyline student who was recently killed by Oakland Police, gave an impassioned plea to those in attendance to take a stand against police violence. Headliner Kev Choice and a host of other musical acts, dance crews and martial artists entertained the crowd and the always dancing group of children who would gather on the lower stage.
Be sure to come out next year to celebrate the legacy of Malcolm X and Oakland culture. And this summer let’s gather frequently to build with all the beautiful people we talked to and danced with yesterday.