Ujamaa Parties: World’s Fair comes to the Bay Area!

by Paradise Free Jahlove

Give thanks! The first leg of Paradise’s 2012 Cultural World’s Fair was “on the good foot” and moved from start to finish at the speed of delight. The opening reception was held Sunday, July 22, from 3 to 8 p.m. at Tease Me Boutique in Berkeley before a packed house at 1701 University Ave.

I have adopted Tease Me Boutique as a Black business to frequent with events because it is barely a year old and one of the few new Black owned businesses in Berkeley. It is a very spacious and elegant building merchandised like a Black Victoria’s Secret. And most importantly it is owned and operated by the very personable Robinson family, Danica and Jarvis and their brand new baby.

I encourage everyone to adopt a Black business establishment. Black foster children need parents to nurture them and Black businesses need patrons in the community to frequent their businesses and help make them strong and viable.

Paradise’s 2012 Cultural World’s Fair was put in motion to help set the template of what Buy Black Wednesdays is all about. The opening reception was like an “Ujamaa Party.” Ujamaa is a Kiswahili word which means “cooperative economics.” And an Ujamaa Party is when people get together and go and support a Black business as a group.

Unlike a World’s Fair, where merchandise is moved and buildings and rides and things have to be built, this “Cultural World’s Fair is intended to move people and build culture and communities. Where will your first Ujamaa Party be held? Geoffrey’s Inner Circle on 14th Street, one block east of Broadway, just reopened in downtown Oakland, next to Joyce Gordon’s Gallery. And his renowned and regal estate I’m sure would be glad to see you. Also Jesso’s Restaurant, which closed down a few years ago on Washington Street, just reopened about a block away from Geoffrey’s and has several “feast” plates on the menu that serve 10 to 12 people at about $10 a piece.

I encourage everyone to adopt a Black business establishment. Black foster children need parents to nurture them and Black businesses need patrons in the community to frequent their businesses and help make them strong and viable.

At the World’s Fair, we feasted on culture and entertainment as well as good food. One of the many highlights of the afternoon was Dr. Ellen Foster-Randle, who sang the classic Negro spiritual “How Come Me Here, Lord?” in spectacular fashion. Before bringing folks to tears with her rendition of the song, she spoke on how the spirituals are a dying art form, although they are the original American music that would later give birth to the blues, jazz, soul, funk, gospel, hip hop and all the others. Fortunately the music still lives and thrives in Ellen, who is one of the few souls on earth keeping it alive.

Other key performances were by Tres Santos (Three Saints), a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-generational and multi-talented performance group, and Declareit, a brother who performs what I call hip gospel because he uses music from the whole Afrikan diaspora to spread the word with rap, poetry and song.

Black business collectives

As well as adopting Black businesses and having Ujamaa Parties, I look forward to starting and seeing more Black business collectives, Black businesses working together as a family unit or syndicate to make sure if you go to one of their businesses you see business cards and fliers etc. and hear about the others.

The second leg of Paradise’s Cultural World’s Fair was at J. Posh Design Studio, Saturday, Aug. 18, 3 to 8 p.m., at 3824 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. J. Posh, my choice for Black Business of the Month, just celebrated its one year anniversary in July and is owned and operated by Janina Aubry-Roberts. The merchandise is like its namesake, posh, and specializes in “art fusion” – posh art work, paintings, sculptures, antiques, novelties and various artifacts that fill the place up with artistic elegance.

On the 18th I facilitated a Poetry, Creative Writing and Communications Workshop and following it up with live theatrical performances of Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama and others, and we welcomed home the maestro piano player and master jazz musician, Rudi Mwongozi, returning from a triumphant four-year stint in New York City.

We were also at J. Posh on Friday, Aug. 3, for the monthly First Friday Art Murmur, which is an incredible boon for the city of Oakland, financially and publicity-wise, and is like an Occupy Uptown with its plethora of newfangled art galleries, stores, clubs and businesses. It has turned downtown Oakland on weekends from a ghost town to a host town.

Unfortunately I have been hearing murmurs that Art Murmur is being gentrified – after only two years – by suburbanites who are acting like they own the place instead being gracious visitors. So we need more people of color to get involved and come out and say with a show of presence, “This is our town.”

And as Marcus Garvey used to say, “Be Black. Buy Black. Think Black.”

Paradise is president of the International Black Writers & Artists Local 5 in Oakland and was recently honored by the City of Oakland with “Paradise Day,” on Oct. 6. He may be reached at oaklandworldsfair@yahoo.com. Paradise also facilitates the Buy Black Wednesdays Facebook page and group, hosts the Black Wednesday Show every Wednesday at 6 p.m. on www.harambeeradio.com and blogs at www.blackwednesdays.blogspot.com.