by The People’s Minister of Information JR
After the gentrified death of Oakland’s beloved poetry house, the Air Lounge, a few months ago, the Golden Stair has swiftly moved in to remedy the void of not having a place for people from the Town to verbally express themselves.
Siraj Fowler and his wife, Daaimah Waqia, are fixtures in Oakland’s spiritual, political and cultural communities. This entrepreneurial family has created a new popping poetry spot in North Oakland, on Tuesdays, called the Golden Stair. Only in their second month of operation, local celebrities like musician Kev Choice and poet Yaddos have scheduled appearances coming up.
I sat down with half of the dynamic duo, Daaimah Waqia, to discuss the need for venues for and operated by Oaklanders so that our homegrown artists have a place to express themselves. Check out Daaimah in her own words.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell me a little bit about this poetry event that you and Siraj started?
Daaimah Waqia: Our objective is to create an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation filled with performers and spectators to enjoy one another’s company and talents while eating appetizing treats from the house kitchen. When and where is it? It’s every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in North Oakland at 608 55th St.
M.O.I. JR: What kinds of poetry and poets do you want to feature?
Daaimah Waqia: We are welcoming a variety of poets with a vast selection of poetry that ranges from thought provoking to comical, about love, life etc. We want to be an outlet for people to express themselves in a positive manner and go home respecting poetry as a form of therapy.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your catering business?
Daaimah Waqia: Our catering business is called Yes Ma’am Food Service, and we started off providing food for people who have dietary restrictions, serving those who had mild ailments to terminal illnesses. We firmly believe that because something is good for you, it doesn’t mean it has to be out of reach.
We’re making well prepared food available to all in need. We pride ourselves on working within anyone’s budget. Now our focus will be event based from our 608 location, ranging from business meetings to intimate parties and selling some of our more popular items, targeting neighborhood businesses who want to add something different to their menu options.
M.O.I. JR: What kinds of food do you sell?
Daaimah Waqia: We prepare healthy comfort food made with the best ingredients, such as Yes Ma’am’s fruit filled cupcakes that are uniquely delectable and our remarkable pancake parfaits with house turkey sausage that gets your day started right.
M.O.I. JR: Why do you think that the culture of Oakland needs this event?
Daaimah Waqia: Everyone here is fed up with fly-by-night venues, and there has been a lack of home grown bases that provide longevity to existing and up-and-coming artists to have a platform of expression. Given Oakland’s rich history and our own personal history here, we feel obligated to help give our people a voice, not just today or a year from now but for years to come.
We want to be known as that home away from home that’s always there when you need it. Stability should be the new motto; it helps everyone feel secure. We know what the community needs and how to stick with making sure they get it – because we are the community.
M.O.I. JR: How do people keep up with you?
Daaimah Waqia: Like us on Facebook and sign our email list when you join us at the Golden Stair on Tuesday nights!
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.