‘Life is Living’ celebrates art and community

October 24, 2013 4:21 PM
Local artists compete in the Estria Graffiti battle during the 'Life is Living' festivities at DeFremery Park.

Local artists compete in the Estria Graffiti battle during the ‘Life is Living’ festivities at DeFremery Park.

Thousands gathered at DeFremery Park to celebrate and contribute to Oakland’s annual “Life is Living” festival.

The festival, held on Oct. 12, was meant to bring together Oakland residents and raise awareness for important issues in the Oakland community.

The festival hosted a graffiti competition, local hip-hop artists, skateboard and BMX competitions, a freestyle rap battle, and renowned performers Dead Prez and The John Santos Sextet.

“We wanted something that reflected the brown people of west Oakland, that reflected those of us working hard in schools and other institutions and our neighborhoods to create something that validated, reflected, and supported thriving in our own communities,” said Chinaka Hodge, an organizer of the festival.

Carrying on the tradition of the Black Panther Party, the People’s Kitchen kicked off the festival by serving early-risers breakfast, asking for a “pay-what-you-can” donation.

“The goal of the People’s Kitchen is to create a de-colonized restaurant, to create a community space where we can come together around food, come together around stories, and come together around nourishing each other,” said Rakim, a chef and organizer for the People’s Kitchen.

Aside from the free breakfast, there were several food carts serving barbecue, burritos, and traditional African cuisine.  They, along with local clothing and jewelry vendors, lined a barricaded 18th Street that bordered the park.

Dotting the space between stages were artists from around the country, spattering giant canvases in spray paint for the sixth annual Estria Graffiti battle.  Each artist sprayed his or her unique interpretation of the word “Dream,” or “Justice.”

As the graffiti battle wore on, two stages in the park and one on 18th Street hosted musical artists from around the country.

The Jon Santos Sextet played the 18th Street stage while Young Gifted and Black, a musical group comprised of young locals, performed on the children’s stage.

As dusk fell and the food carts and clothing vendors began to pack up, Dead Prez headlined with their politically charged hip-hop.

The New York duo played for over an hour, performing several of their hit songs, including “Hell Yeah,” and “Hip Hop,” to a crowd of several hundred on the 18th St. stage.

“I didn’t even know this was happening-I’m so stoked to be able to see Dead Prez,” said Eric Jaffe, an Oakland local who stumbled upon the performance by accident.

Life is Living was created by a collection of community activist groups and individuals for the purpose of educating communities in several U.S. cities about environmental issues and self-sustainability.

The festival is currently held in Chicago, Houston, New York, Oakland, and San Francisco, with events proposed for Philadelphia and the Twin Cities.

Originally called the “Red, Black and Green Environmental Concert and Caucus,” organizers have downsized the festival’s name to Life is Living.

More information on Life is Living and the various groups who contributed or performed at the festival can be found at lifeisliving.org.

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