March 2013 First Friday: Band members march past Oaklandish on Broadway
By Joe Sciarrillo
The normally vibrant and rambunctious street festival that accompanies Oakland's First Friday was toned-down this past Friday, compared to last month’s event. Due to the fatal shooting of Kiante Campbell after February's gathering, event planners and artists set a more reflective, somber tone, hoping to bridge the arts community with the long-running movement in Oakland to stop violence in the city.
Event organizers scattered themselves along Telegraph Avenue, between West Grand and 27th Street, wearing bright green Respect Our City T-shirts. The event was scaled down in length and size, only going from 6-9pm and blocking off only five blocks. This is in contrast to the past few months when the event often went past 10pm and artist displays were interspersed near Broadway and Telegraph from Jack London Square all the way to 27th Street. Also, beer sales were restricted during the street festival, although some galleries still sold wine.
Mayor Jean Quan and District 3 City Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney made their presence known throughout the event, mingling with the crowds and oftentimes flanked by TV crews and security guards.
Most artists and vendors observed the moment of silence at 7:30pm and 9pm, and there were candlelight memorials set up for Kiante Campbell at West Grand, and at the site of his fatal shooting at 20th Street and Telegraph Ave. The First Friday street festival also featured fewer soundsystems and amplified musicians, out of respect for these calls for silence.
More police were present, but local media didn't report any major issues or altercations. The "FTP" march, including anarchist groups and residents speaking out against police brutality passed through the crowd at 9pm. Councilwoman McElhaney approached them, exclaiming, "This is not the time for that! This is a time to honor our city!" There were approximately 25 marchers. It was much smaller and more civil than the last FTP march at the August 2012 Art Murmur where some participants broke windows at an Obama campaign headquarters. However, despite these incidents, First Friday continues to be Oakland's top-reviewed cultural event on Yelp.
The over 30 galleries and mixed-use spaces that run along Telegraph Ave. were much more packed than they were a year ago, when only 23rd Street was blocked off. But compared to the Art Murmur turnout for the last few months, it appeared that half as many people came out in March as came out the previous month. Galleries which had lines extending for half a block at prior Art Murmurs, now had short or no lines most of the evening. As police ushered the crowd out of the event at 9pm, what drew a lot of attention on the street were the low-riders and classic cars parked at Giant Burgers. Crowds gathered at the parking lot at 22nd Street and Telegraph as the drivers put on "hydraulics" shows.
Even though the participant turnout was subdued, the media presence was the greatest it’s ever been for Art Murmur. A year ago, Art Murmur was covered by few local media outlets. Now, it was swarmed by dozens of journalists, from local news stations doing live reports from the event, as well as documentary film crews, and international journalists and photographers from publications such as GEO (the French equivalent of National Geographic magazine).
By 9:30pm, as artists were still closing up their stands, Jean Quan continued to socialize with event-goers, explaining to one artist why she hadn't gone home yet, "I gotta be out here - we need to outreach to the community!"
Matt Werner also contributed to this report. Joe Sciarrillo and Matt Werner are the authors of Bay Area Underground, a new photobook featuring photos from the major protests and social movements in the Bay Area over the past five years. Contact them at editor[at]thoughtpublishing.org. Check out their book release party at SoleSpace in Downtown Oakland on March 15.