East Bay Yesterday show

East Bay Yesterday

Summary: East Bay history podcast that gathers, shares & celebrate stories from Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and other towns throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

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 Hoover-Foster Stories, Vol. 1: BBQ, books, and big banks | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:57:14

Oakland’s Hoover-Foster neighborhood encapsulates more than a century of Black Liberation struggles. It was a destination for migrants fleeing the Jim Crow South to find work in the East Bay’s booming shipyards or as Pullman Porters. The newcomers brought their music, cuisine, and creativity with them, changing California forever. Civil rights leaders, pioneering writers, revolutionary activists, and athletes who smashed through racist color barriers all lived and worked here. The elders who came of age during the post-World War II years recall growing up in a flourishing and close-knit community. However, as this ethnically diverse neighborhood became predominantly African American, the forces of institutional racism literally came crashing down upon it. The construction of freeways destroyed dozens of blocks of homes and businesses, displaced thousands, and encircled the area with a dangerous border of pollution and noise. Then a Drug War characterized by mass incarceration and police abuse flooded these streets with misery and death, leaving a legacy that still lingers heavily. In more recent years, predatory banks, institutional investors, and real estate speculators exploited this devastation for quick profits, pushing many long-time residents out of Oakland altogether. But instead of giving up hope, many who still remain are working to restore this neighborhood’s reputation as a beacon of Black self-determination and achievement. One of the organizations leading this push is the Friends of Hoover-Durant Public Library, who have been hosting “pop-up streetcorner libraries” to build momentum towards re-establishing a permanent library in this community, which hasn’t had its own branch in four decades. As an outgrowth of this effort, third generation Oaklander David Peters brought together a group of neighbors, artists, educators, programmers, and other volunteers to highlight this neighborhood’s history through a self-guided Black Liberation Walking Tour. For the past several months, I’ve been collecting oral histories of current and former Hoover-Foster residents and today’s episode of East Bay Yesterday is a preview of the Black Liberation Walking Tour, based on what I’ve gathered. More details will be coming soon, but the plan is to launch the first phase of this tour in June, with additional phases and attractions to follow in the coming months, including a new mural created by the Bay Area Mural Program. Many people are involved with making the Black Liberation Walking Tour happen – my interviews are only one part of a much bigger project – but if you want a taste of what to expect, listen now to the the first episode of the “Hoover-Foster Stories” mini-series, co-hosted by David Peters and featuring interviews with: Crystal and Lynette Martin of Flint’s Barbecue, Alternier Baker Cook of the Friends of Hoover-Durant Public Library, and community organizer Annette Miller. To get involved, visit: https://black-liberation-tour.vercel.app/ To see photos and more details related to this episode: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/hoover-foster-stories-vol-1/

 “We’re no longer afraid to be Black”: Before the Panthers, this group was the vanguard | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:07:31

Before Huey Newton and Bobby Seale started the Black Panther Party, they spent years learning from the leaders of the Afro-American Association. During the early 1960s, when the struggle for racial justice was evolving from a civil rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the rise of Black Power, the Afro-American Association brought leaders like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali to the East Bay for public conversations about philosophy, religion, economics, politics, and more. Members and close associates of this organization, such as Ron Dellums, Judge Thelton Henderson, and Cedric Robinson, went on to become some of the most influential cultural and political Black leaders of their generation. Kamala Harris’ parents even met at one of these gatherings. This episode explores the mostly forgotten* legacy of the Afro-American Association and its leader, Donald Warden (who later changed his name to Khalid Abdullah Tariq al Mansour), through interviews with four former members – Anne Williams, Margot Dashiell, and brothers Loye and Lee Cherry – as well as Oakland History Center head librarian Dorothy Lazard. Listen now to hear about this group’s origins on the campus of UC Berkeley, their “Mind of the Ghetto” conferences in West Oakland, and much more. To see photos related to this episode, check out: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/were-no-longer-afraid-to-be-black/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 “We’re uncovering a lost civilization”: A look at the New Deal’s local legacy | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:05:21

It’s nearly impossible to summarize the magnitude of the New Deal’s impact in the Bay Area. From the creation of Lake Anza, Woodminster Amphitheater, and Treasure Island to countless murals, schools, and other public amenities, federal funding dramatically transformed the local landscape and culture during the 1930s. President Roosevelt’s decision to invest in arts and infrastructure as a response to the Great Depression is one of the greatest success stories in the history of American politics. Could something on this scale ever happen again? As a new Democratic administration takes power amidst a crisis of unemployment and vast inequality, today’s episode explores the lessons of the New Deal with historians Gray Brechin and Harvey Smith of The Living New Deal, an organization dedicated to uncovering and preserving public works from this era. From airports to sewers, the legacy of the New Deal is still utilized by millions, even if the history connecting these crucial components of modern society has mostly been forgotten. Listen now to hear about how a trip to Berkeley’s rose garden inspired a lifelong obsession with “uncovering a lost civilization” – and why the New Deal is still such a controversial topic. See images for this story here: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/were-uncovering-a-lost-civilization/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 BART, bathhouses, and beyond: The friendship behind “The Cruising Diaries” | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:43:28

Two decades ago, Brontez Purnell fled his Christian family in Alabama, landed in a warehouse full of punks in East Oakland, and quickly got to work hooking up with as many guys as he could get his hands on. Janelle Hessig, creator of influential zines like Tales of Blarg and Desperate Times, urged Brontez to chronicle his eclectic trysts, and in 2014 they published an illustrated compilation of this self-described “anti-erotica.” The combination of Brontez’s gleeful debauchery and Janelle’s laughably lurid drawings made “The Cruising Diaries” an instant Bay Area underground classic, with the first print run (that Janelle financed with settlement money from getting hit by a car) selling out rapidly. Since then, Brontez has written three acclaimed novels and been celebrated by the New York Times as an essential “Black male writer for our time.” In this episode, Brontez and Janelle recall the roots of the friendship that helped launch this distinguished career. First, we discuss the thriving 1990s/2000s warehouse culture that incubated a generation of broke Bay Area artists and musicians. Then, Brontez takes us on a tour of some notable East Bay cruising spots of yesteryear. Listen now to hear stories of nefarious potlucks, horny wizards, landfill parties, go-go boys, and more. Images for this story can be found at: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/bart-bathhouses-beyond/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 “We were here before California was a state”: Talking Latino history with Jose Rivera | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:02:00

When Jose Rivera started researching the Bay Area’s Chicano history, he was frustrated by how difficult it was to find information. To remedy this problem, Jose created Oakland Latinos Unidos as a platform for sharing stories that are often left out of mainstream narratives. We recently met up at a picnic table in San Antonio Park where Jose laid out some of the archives he’s amassed over the past two decades – newspaper clippings, grainy black-and-white photographs, and rare, out-of-print books. Under a redwood tree, we discussed everything from the De Anza expedition to the gang wars that Jose lived through while growing up in Jingletown. See images for this episode here: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/we-were-here-before-california-was-a-state/ Follow Oakland Latinos Unidos: https://www.facebook.com/Oakland-Latinos-United-353349838807/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 “It was like a carnival”: The betrayal of Oakland’s 1946 General Strike | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:46:46

In 1946, a few hundred department store employees, mostly women, walked off the job and started a picket line in downtown Oakland. Within a few weeks, more than 100,000 workers joined them, filling the streets with protesters who danced under holiday wreaths hanging from downtown lampposts. “This seemingly small action turned into the biggest challenge to corporate domination of American workers in the postwar years,” according to Erik Loomis, author of “A History of America in Ten Strikes.” Despite an unprecedented outpouring of support, the story of those department store workers turned out to be a cautionary tale, rather than a triumph, for workers seeking to unionize. In the backlash that followed the strike, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, legislation that continues to hobble labor organizing to this day. Featuring interviews with Erik Loomis, labor historian Gifford Hartman, and archival recordings of workers who participated in the 1946 uprising, this episode explores why Oakland was the site of “America’s last great general strike” – and the connections between this 74-year-old conflict and the struggles of today’s “gig economy” workers. To see images related to this story, check out https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/it-was-like-a-carnival/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 Goodbye, Telegraph Avenue: An audio time capsule of the past decade | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:37:21

Greetings to whoever finds this time capsule. If you want to know what’s inside, you’ll just have to listen.

 “We’re not selling a neighborhood”: A new guidebook spotlights landmarks of conflict and resilience | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:58:00

Amidst this year’s bombardment of campaign ads and nonstop election news, it’s easy to forget that the ballot box is only one of many ways that people participate in politics and drive systemic change. Although often ignored by history books, which tend to focus on politicians, “bottom up” movements led by students, workers, and other “regular people” have been a major force in shaping the Bay Area. From criminal justice reform to LGBTQ equality, the changes happening now at the policy level emerged from years of organizing, and are built upon mountains of frustrating setbacks. At a time when the federal government is characterized by gridlock and dysfunction, looking back at the strength of local activism through the decades is a healthy reminder that much can be accomplished between elections, far from the halls of power. If you’ve been staring into the soul-sucking abyss of cable news or doomscrolling through the implosion of American democracy, delving into the stories of anti-eviction battles, Ohlone resistance, strikes, and resilient celebration featured in “A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area” (UC Press) will provide a welcome glimmer of hope. Not naive optimism, but the kind of tempered determination that comes when you remember how bad things have been before – and how people successfully fought to keep them from getting worse. This might be hard to believe right now, but some things even got better. (Case in point: Many of the Bay Area’s most beautiful parks are located on the sites of former military installations.) Although formatted similarly to popular travel books, “A People’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area” does not include the region’s most obvious tourist destinations. Instead, it explores the landscape from a historical perspective, highlighting significant places associated with social conflict, ecological restoration, and radical activism. For those wishing to combine their education with a bit of exercise, it even includes a series of thematic tours organized by themes such as “Youth in Revolt” and “The Intertribal Bay.” This episode features interviews with co-author Rachel Brahinsky, an associate professor at the University of San Francisco, and Diana Negrín da Silva, who contributed many of the book’s East Bay entries and also teaches in the geography department of UC Berkeley. Listen now to hear us discuss Oakland’s long history of dancing during protests, the origins of Contra Costa County’s “fossil fuel corridor” and much more: Apple / SoundCloud / Spotify. East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday See images for this story here: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/were-not-selling-a-neighborhood/

 “A home burned every 11 seconds”: A deadly tragedy that could happen again | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:30:41

On the morning of October 20, 1991, towering clouds of black smoke blocked out the sun as “diablo winds” whipped flames hot enough to melt gold throughout the hills above Oakland and Berkeley. By the end of that day, 25 people were dead and more than 3000 homes lay in ashes and charred rubble, little remaining but chimneys and the blackened skeletons of trees. Nearly 30 years later, as California suffers its most widespread wildfire season in living memory, this episode looks back at the inferno that gave us a terrifying glimpse of the future we’re now living through. Retired East Bay Regional Parks Department firefighter Bill Nichols provides a first-hand account of battling the blaze and the lessons he learned that day that shaped the rest of his career. Risa Nye, author of the memoir “There Was a Fire Here,” discusses how she coped with watching her entire neighborhood burn down, including her home and all her family’s possessions, and explains how she navigated the lengthy recovery process. See images for this story here: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/a-home-burned-every-11-seconds/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 “They insist on being here”: Oakland’s official bird refuses to be moved | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:48:44

A few years ago developers destroyed downtown Oakland’s largest rookery of black-crowned night herons. Workers removed dozens of nests before chopping down the curbside ficus trees where the birds had lived for years. The plan was to relocate them to a grove near Lake Merritt, but the night herons never agreed to this arrangement – and they weren’t tricked by the decoys meant to entice them away from their preferred territory. They simply found other trees in the downtown vicinity where they remain to this day. When Oakland declared the black-crowned night heron the city’s official bird in 2019, the resolution described the species as “a resilient bird with remarkable adaptability in urban areas while remaining wild and retaining their natural behaviors.” This defiant attitude, along with the bird’s unconventional beauty and deep local roots, is why I’ve chosen to feature the night heron on East Bay Yesterday’s first t-shirt, a collaboration with Oaklandish illustrated by T.L Simons. This project is a celebration of those who refused to be displaced. But, of course, the story is never that simple. That’s why today’s episode digs into the local history of night herons and explores the relationship between development and Oakland’s natural ecosystems – featuring interviews with Golden Gate Audubon Society’s youth programs manager Clayton Anderson and journalist Sam Lefebvre, who recently asked “Is Oakland failing its official bird?” in The Oaklandside. Get the t-shirt here: https://oaklandish.com/collections/east-bay-yesterday See images for this story here: https://eastbayyesterday.com/episodes/they-insist-on-being-here/ See more work from T.L.Simons here: https://www.tlsimons.com/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 Why Dorothea Lange still matters: Q&A with Oakland Museum's Drew Johnson | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:02:29

The first part of this episode originally aired three years ago, when the Oakland Museum opened an exhibit of Dorothea Lange photos called Politics of Seeing. Now, the Oakland Museum is launching a huge digital archive of Lange’s work, so I’ve decided to re-run the original episode plus a new interview with Drew Johnson, OMCA’s Curator of Photography and Visual Culture, about why these photos are worth a new look in 2020. Here’s the description for the original episode: Dorothea Lange is one of the most famous photographers of all time, but the local work she did during her many decades as an East Bay resident is often overlooked. This episode explores how she went from taking portraits of the Bay Area’s wealthiest families to documenting the poor and working class. Dorothea’s goddaughter, Elizabeth Partridge, and Drew Johnson, curator of the Oakland Museum’s new Dorothea Lange exhibition, share insights on what makes her photographs so iconic—and why they’re still so relevant. To see the Dorothea Lange Digital Archive, visit: https://dorothealange.museumca.org/ To see images and links to related to this story, visit: https://eastbayyesterday.com/ East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 “How you organize that rage”: Challenging the police before Black Lives Matter | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:17:01

Massive protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death have brought unprecedented attention to the intertwined issues of police violence and structural racism, but the legacy of challenging police abuse in the East Bay goes back many decades. This episode explores several pivotal confrontations in the long struggle to hold police accountable for brutality against people of color. To read more about this story and see additional images, visit The Oaklandside: https://oaklandside.org/2020/07/24/oaklandside-east-bay-yesterday-police-violence-oakland/ This episode features interviews with: Xavier Buck, Deputy Director of the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation Andrea Benavidez and Veronica Salazar, sisters of Barlow Benavidez Tony Valladolid, attorney Brenda Payton, retired journalist John Burris, civil rights attorney

 EBY Q&A Live: Opening up about oysters | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:49:11

Oysters may seem like a simple creature at first glance – they can’t even move on their own – but their presence can determine the health of an entire ecosystem. Just like tree rings hold clues to Earth’s history, oyster shells can reveal much about past millennia. In the San Francisco Bay, studying the rise and fall of oysters illuminates Ohlone culture, the Gold Rush era, industrialization, public health, and much more. Today’s episode, which was originally recorded as a virtual event, explores the history of Bay Area bivalves with Casey Harper, deputy director of Wild Oyster Project. Although local oyster populations were nearly wiped out following decades of pollution and habitat destruction, a few survivors were discovered in recent years, leading to a surge in restoration efforts. Despite challenges ranging from invasive predators to ocean acidification, groups like Wild Oyster Project are hopeful that these projects will grow to provide shelter for marine life, filter pollutants out of the water, and eventually mitigate sea level rise more effectively than concrete barriers. Listen now to hear all about the past (and potential future) of Bay Area oysters. Thank you to Daniel Wolfe of Creative Mornings Oakland for organizing this virtual event and to Christie Goshe from Tiny Oak Media for recording it. East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 A town within The Town: Oakland Army Base workers on its rise and fall | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:08:04

From World War II until Desert Storm, the Oakland Army Base was the U.S. military’s largest seaport West of the Mississippi. This site had been a sandy marsh the previous century, and for millennia before that, but at its peak during the Vietnam War, it grew into “the largest military port complex in the world.” Situated at an industrial confluence of roads, rails, and shipping lanes, it served as a supply hub for the entire Pacific. Although hundreds of thousands of service members passed through en route to overseas assignments, most of the day-to-day workers at this “town within The Town” were civilians. For decades, burly ILWU members hoisted a nonstop stream of cargo, college girls working as part-time secretaries filed mountains of paperwork, determined clerks climbed the ranks of civil service, and countless others staffed the Base’s grocery store, morgue, bowling alley, night club, and other facilities. After the Base was decommissioned in 1999, during a wave of closures that wiped out the Bay Area’s formerly substantial military presence, UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center spoke with dozens of people (military and civilian) about their connections to this site. The interviews, compiled in “The Oakland Army Base: An Oral History,” span topics ranging from an astonishing tale about President Roosevelt’s visit to resentments still lingering over the Base’s unexpected termination and controversial redevelopment process. In these stories, whiskey flows, fists fly, foundations are driven deep into mud, careers flash by, trust is earned, orders are disobeyed, victories are celebrated with songs and parades, roads crumble, and cold, wooden coffins are draped with American flags. Instead of contextualizing these memories with narration, per this podcast’s usual format, I’ve decided to present these voices as an audio collage, assembled in roughly chronological order. Hearing these interview tapes felt like time-traveling and my goal was to create an episode that captures the feeling of taking a four-dimensional guided personal tour through the kaleidoscopic history of this sprawling complex. If you want the full, immersive experience of tasting the salty wind while you listen, head down to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park (which is adjacent to the former Base site) or the path that parallels Burma Rd. Social distancing shouldn’t be a problem – truck drivers far outnumber pedestrians in this flat, grey stretch of far West Oakland. I wouldn’t recommend walking along Maritime St, the main drag that cuts through the heart of the Base site, due to the constant flow of noisy semis and gritty construction dust, which tends to get in your eyes during the often gusty days. To see images related to this episode, visit: https://eastbayyesterday.com/ Special thanks to Oral History Center’s project team: Martin Meeker (director), David Dunham, Vic Geraci, Lisa Rubens, Ann Lage, Robin Li, Jess Rigelhaupt, and Julie Allen. Additional thanks to the interview subject whose voices are heard in this episode: Eleanor Bollinger, Mark Braly, George Bolton, George Cobbs Gordon Coleman, Steve Darrow, Grant Davis, George Gabler, Aliza Gallo, Thomas Galvin, Margaret Gordon, Fred Gowan, Jim Johnson, Robert Lippincott, Janice McDonald, Rose Medina, Mary Meyers, Monsa Nitoto, Bob Nordan, Leo Robinson, Stan Rudney, Lee Sandahl, Sydney Santos, Robert Taylor, Davetta Thibeux, Michael Thomas, Queen Thurston, and Cleophas Williams. Here’s a link to additional biographical information and full interview transcripts: https://bancroft.berkeley.edu/ROHO/projects/oab/transcripts.html East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday

 From war to love: My grandma remembers the Oakland Army Base | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:32:47

I never planned to make an episode of this podcast about my own family history, but I’ve been spending more time thinking about my relatives, who are scattered across the country, ever since the coronavirus pandemic started. In particular, I’ve been worried about my grandmother (I call her Oma), who has been isolated in a Florida nursing home that banned visitors more than a month ago. From 1971 until 1975, my grandfather, Col. Jim Driscoll (I called him Opa), was stationed at the Oakland Army Base and during that time Oma volunteered there. I interviewed her a while ago about her East Bay years, but I never listened to the conversation until recently. Hearing it now, during this time of isolation and uncertainty, was a powerful experience. We discussed the improbability of finding love amidst war, the challenges of balancing military service with family, and the unexpected ways that life can spontaneously intersect with historical events. I’ll admit that revealing so much about my family make me anxious, but I hope that hearing my Oma look back on her tumultuous life with the kind of amused serenity that comes with old age will provide some solace, or at least a momentary escape, for everyone struggling with the surreal horrors and grinding frustrations of present reality. Another motivation for releasing this episode – and I say this with as much humility as possible – is that I’m hoping that it might inspire some of you to talk with your elders. Or, if you are an elder, to talk with the young people in your family or community. With loneliness spiking during this time of social distancing, what better remedy than dusting off that old treasure chest of distant memories and bonding over the process of unpacking them (and recording them)? If this prospect sounds intimidating, UC Berkeley’s Oral History Center has shared some tips for getting the most out of these kinds of conversations. Throughout my years of interviewing people about their lives, one thing I’ve realized is that the first few minutes are always the most awkward. People who have never been interviewed before are often self-conscious or shy about unearthing long-buried memories. With a bit of patience and encouragement, however, tiny trickles of recollections will inevitably start flowing together and a flood of stories will eventually pour forth. You just have to be willing to listen. East Bay Yesterday can’t survive without your support. Please donate to keep this show alive: www.patreon.com/eastbayyesterday


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