San Francisco Bay Area Craft Week Street Scene N°5 ⟶ Fueling a Movement and Nourishing Creative Oakland

The People's Kitchen Collective (PKC, @peopleskitchencollective) works at the intersection of art and activism as a food-centered political education project. Based in Oakland, California, our creative practices reflect the diverse histories and backgrounds of co-founders Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik (@sitabhaumik), Jocelyn Jackson (@justustkitchen), and Saqib Keval (@saqibkeval). Written in our families' recipes are the maps of our migrations and the stories of our resilience. It is from this foundation that we create immersive experiences that honor the shared struggles of our people. The goal of PKC is to not only fill our stomachs but also nourish our souls, feed our minds, and fuel a movement.

Join us in acknowledging this Ohlone land including the first flavors of Oakland shared by food and culture project mak-’amham (@makamham), soon to be sharing food delivery after the closure of Cafe Ohlone. We further acknowledge the temporary closure of important projects like the Berkeley South Asian Radical Walking Tour and the overcrowding of many popular areas to gather. If you are able to responsibly volunteer, consider submitting an application with East Oakland Collective (@eastoaklandcollective), St. Vincent de Paul, and the City of Oakland. We don’t recommend doing all of these visits in one day to limit exposure to yourself and others. These are a few places that inspire us and our annual Free Breakfast honoring the legacy of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. This year, on October 10th, we’ll celebrate this history as part of the Life is Living festival with a distribution of food.

Cover image of Mia Birdsong's brilliant new book How We Show Up, available signed at Marcus Books.  

10:00 a.m. Start your morning in West Oakland with a visit to Marcus Books (3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609 @marcus.books), the nation’s oldest Black-owned bookstore, and talk to one of the owners about the ways this 60-year-old institution has shaped history. Marcus Books is not just about the exchange of merchandise, notes Jasmine Johnson, whose grandparents founded Marcus Books. “We’re really about congregating around the diversity of black living and thinking.” Despite the continued need to justify their existence and combat racism, decades of gentrification, online competition, and now a global pandemic, Marcus Books continues to advocate for Black narratives, Black creativity, and Black genius. Find signed copies from brilliant Black writers like Mia Birdsong (@miabirdsong), whose new book, How We Show Up is available by stopping in or calling the bookstore at (510) 652-2344. Marcus books ships nationwide.

11:00 a.m. Just up the street, pick up dessert at It’s All Good Bakery (5622 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, CA 94609 @itsallgoodbakery), the site of the first Black Panther Party office where there is a display of covers from the Panther newspaper.  Kim Cloud opened the bakery with his family in 1996. As a child, Kim participated in the Free Breakfast for Children program created by the Black Panther Party. Originally suggested by choreographer, dancer, and community leader Ruth Beckford, the Free Breakfast served thousands of school children every morning across the country at its peak. Today, at It’s All Good Bakery, 90 percent of the handmade baked items are “mom’s” and “grandma’s” recipes, according to Kim, including the shop’s staple 7-Up Pound Cakes they craft and serve each day.

11:30 a.m. Continue up to visit the former college campus site of Merritt College (5714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way), where Huey Newton and Bobby Seale first met. Here, they read, debated, and organized in an emergent Black nationalist tradition inspired by Malcolm X and others. Around the corner is Dover Park (5707 Dover St, Oakland, CA 94609) home to the Fresh Fellows Food Program and the Dover Street Edible Park.

In 2018, PKC gathered 500 community members for a meal in the streets of West Oakland at the intersection where Little Bobby Hutton, the first member of the Black Panther Party, was murdered by police 50 years before. Photo: Brooke Anderson

12:30 p.m. Pick up lunch at the Mandela Foods Co-op (@mandelagrocery) and eat at Little Bobby Hutton/deFremery Park (1200-1248 16th St, Oakland, CA 94607), site of the Free Huey Rallys, the 1972 Survival Conference, and the free breakfast that PKC  holds annually to honor the legacy of the Black Panther’s Survival Programs. As part of the Life is Living Festival by Youth Speaks (@youthspeaks), last year PKC hosted a 50th anniversary celebration of the Free Breakfast program with Panther Legacy Group It’s About Time, serving over 600 community members.

Betti Ono Gallery is grateful to bring life, healing, and love back to their walls in collaboration with Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith. Photo: Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith

2:20 p.m.  Spend the afternoon in downtown Oakland checking out the Black Lives Matter murals, beginning with the exterior of Betti Ono Gallery (1427 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612 @bettiono), site of the first Oakland-based PKC meal. Rachel Wolfe Goldsmith (@wolfe_.pack) is bringing life, healing, and love back to the building on this new installation currently going up. Betti Ono is a cultural arts venue, gallery, and store owned and led by Black women. Their mission is to build power through culture. Also be sure to see the soon-to-be-opened BIPOC & QTPOC cooperative bookstore and community space Moments (410 13th St, Oakland, CA 94612 The Black Cultural Zone (@blackculturalzone), Betti Ono Gallery, additional Black-led arts organizations, and ally organizations like the Oakland Museum (@oaklandmuseumca) and the Oakland Art Murmur (@oaklandartmurmur) are documenting murals in the area.

Miss Ollie’s in Swan’s Market remains open for patio seating and takeout, is offering free bush tea (good for Oakland’s current climate), and is about to release make-at-home meal kits. Photo: D. Ross Cameron / Bay Area News Group  

4:30 p.m. Before dinner, be sure to swing by Swan’s Market (538 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607 @swansmarket) known as “Housewives Market” for generations. It was the place to buy your food in Oakland. It is also where PKC held bimonthly pay-what-you-can meals for two years in collaboration with grassroots projects like the Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity (FACES, @facesolidarity), VietUnity, the Black History Bowl, and Phat Beets (@phatbeetsoakland). We recommend picking up food at Miss Ollie’s (@missolliesoakland) and eating on the patio or taking your meal home. After dinner? Stay indoors, be safe, enjoy your treats from Mandela Foods, and read one of your books!

What’s the day-to-day reality of the makers scene in the Bay Area, including both the opportunities and difficulties like selling, marketing, finances, production and just simply getting work done?

Oakland holds an incredible past, present, and future in social justice work. We often talk about “on whose shoulders we stand” and what we love about the Bay is that so many of our heroes are so active and accessible. These are the people and organizations who have fought for our ability to live life as our full selves. The challenge of the Bay Area is that this is constantly threatened by income inequality, gentrification and the high cost of living.

If you had one project that would make the Bay Area a better place to live, what would it be?

In the Bay Area, the impact of colonialism and genocide of Ohlone peoples is often overlooked or spoken of in the past tense. The exclusion of native leadership can be seen in so many interlocking issues including the fires currently burning in California. To make the Bay Area a better place to live, the answers are with the indigenous people of this land.