The Village Bottoms Open House: an interview Duane Deterville of the Village Bottoms Cultural District
by Minister of Information JR
M.O.I. JR: What is the Village Bottoms Cultural District about? When and what is the open house about?
Duane: Village Bottoms Cultural District is a movement to uplift the historically Black neighborhood in West Oakland formerly known as “the bottoms.” We’re based on several blocks of Pine Street between Eighth and 12th streets. The Village Bottoms is the continuation, in the face of rampant gentrification, of the cultural legacy that Black folks brought with them from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and other Southern locales in the ‘30s and ‘40s while fleeing the domestic terrorism of the KKK and white citizens’ councils.
Our predecessors were seeking a new future here out West working in the shipyards. They brought a style of blues with them that developed into West Oakland Blues and created a great cultural district, just walking distance from Pine Street, on Seventh Street. These dynamic Black folks brought enough self-determined energy that they produced great historical figures such as CL Dellums, co-founder of the Pullman Porters, and Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party. Both organized and worked in West Oakland’s neighborhood now known as the Village Bottoms.
M.O.I. JR: What are the Soul Food Co-op, the Black Dot Cafe and the Juju Shop? What is their connection to each other?
Duane: These three businesses are part of the plan for economic, cultural and spiritual self-sustainability envisioned by culture worker Marcel Diallo. All three of these businesses are located in the Cannery Lofts on Pine Street. The Soul Food Co-op is a natural food store specializing in produce. Some of the produce comes from the Village Bottoms Farm located just one block from the store.
Marcel and his group of ritual theater and spoken word artists known as The Black Dot Collective founded the Black Dot Café in 1998 in the Fruitvale District. The current Black Dot Café is continuing that legacy by making a cultural space that is conducive to political organizing, creative self-expression and economic sustainability.
Café culture has long been the location of radical intellectualism and Black Dot has continued that tradition with speakers such as Carlos Moore, Amiri Baraka and Cynthia McKinney all speaking at our location. Creative self-expression happens because there are art shows, spoken word artists and musicians that perform and network in the café. The economic sustainability comes from people purchasing fine espresso and vegan snacks while they enjoy the Black Dot Café experience.
The Juju Shop, which is called Mganga Diallo’s House of Common Sense, is a botanica, reading room and used bookshop that carries the spiritual sustainability aspect of the cultural district that I mentioned earlier. Spiritual practitioners can purchase their incense, candles and other items at the Juju shop.
M.O.I. JR: What is becoming a friend of the Black New World about? Why is this necessary?
Duane: The Black New World is a social aide and pleasure club with a performance space located at 836 Pine St. It has hosted performances by the Hot Eight Brass Band, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Dwight Trible and Amiri Baraka, amongst others. Two years ago I produced the Sacred Jazz Symposium that had members of the John Coltrane Church performing and Rev. Franzo King on the panel discussion.
Anyone who wants to support our efforts as a cultural district can do so by becoming a friend of the Black New World. You can do this by going to the website http://www.blacknewworld.com/ and donating a minimum of 10 dollars a month. It will put you on our mailing list and you can be informed whenever we have dynamic performers come to our venues. People always ask how they can support us and this is currently the best way that you can do so.
M.O.I. JR: Who will be speaking at the Black Dot Cafe in the beginning of November?
Duane: We will be honored to host the legendary Amiri Baraka on Nov. 7 to celebrate his 75th birthday and on Nov. 8, POCC activist Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. will be speaking about the murder of his father, the legendary Black Panther Fred Hampton, by Chicago Police.
M.O.I. JR: How do people get in touch with you?
Duane: We can be reached via our Facebook account Legendary Black Dot Café or the website http://www.blacknewworld.com/.