The weekend kicked-off at Oakland First Fridays, it was a jubilant event with diverse group of people. East Bay’s largest block party had an array of performers, artists, food trucks and vendors. Surprisingly a man dressed up as a mirrored robot with a sign engraved hashtag selfie suit had become a crowd stopper, while a few blocks down there was bearded man blowing large bubbles from a small rope. At a DJ set there was a crowd of dancers, both adults and children busting out moves, having a great time. By the end night, three African-American gentlemen galloped in horses, as crowd of people flocked to pet the horses. Immediately Oakland Police Officers on duty that night, scurried the men away from the event.
It’s been over a decade now since Oakland First Fridays held events in Downtown Oakland, the only difference this year, “January 1st we started doing these themes.” said Joshua Davis Program Operator for Oakland First Fridays. “It kinda shows diversity of the community,” OFF held a Ghostship theme honoring lost victims and survivors with featured guest, Russell Butler who DJ that night. In memory of their ex Co-founder of Oakland First Fridays, “Aura Jo passed on the Ghostship fire, she helped start first Fridays. January was also our anniversary, so we had to do a tribute for her,” said Davis.
Now outside artists come willingly to participate in East Bay Culture, “Exposure is real great, too. One thing that’s kind of unfortunate we had a culture arts grant last year. We were able to pay artists, reach out the artists to get them to come, but the grant ran out we’re trying figure out our funding situation.” Many patrons surrounded artist, Robert Vargas, in awe for his eclectic talent in creating portraits out of pastel, charcoal, and paint. “He’s great, he loves the community, he’ll do it not for the money but love of the art.” Originally from Boyle Heights in the heart of Los Angeles, has been famously known for his portraits from abroad, as well his murals in Downtown Los Angeles and Venice.
This month’s theme was “Girl Power” for International Women’s Day, and herstory; inspired by stories from a feminist perspective. Due to the rain, cancellation of last months’ theme was added to Friday night’s event, produced by Mario B Production debuting African-American women cat walked inspired looks of 1970s Fashion. Non-profit organizations also participated, including the Alipato Project from Berkeley who were selling coloring books of inspiring women as a donation for their program. Co-Founder and Attorney, Tina Katrina Taruc Canlas attended the event, “we provide free legal advice, out of our weekly legal neighborhood clinics, if there eligible of our service we represent them to sue their batterer in civil court.” Since 2012, Attorney’s like Canalas volunteer their time to provide legal assistance to victims of domestic violence. Other vendors, such as Phoebe Sherman sold uterus art with a diamond in the middle to donate ten percent of her profit to Plan Parenthood.
During the event, a line was held at Telegraph Market Store, as customers patiently waited their turn to purchase alcohol, while others lounged in front pouring beer in cups and smoking casually. In terms of business, Oakland First Fridays reported an economic growth in Oakland, with the help of Victoria Swift, a research analyst in San Diego. She produced an Economic Impact report in 2014, as a graduate from Mills College. It calculated OFF’s monthly events profiting local businesses, “over a majority, greatly impact their business. They have to hire more staff, because of festival they are making more money,” said Davis. Starting this month, OFF members will start a new survey by reporting attendees, vendors, and local businesses owners who participate in each month’s events. If you couldn’t attend last Friday’s event, next month’s theme will be, Spring Love for Earth Day, for more information go to Oakland First Fridays website.
Reporter/Photojournalist: Cristabell Fierros