August is Joe Capers’ Month in Oakland: Joe Capers’ film is done!

Joe Capers with his dog

by Leroy F. Moore Jr.

If you were in Oakland in the ‘80s and ‘90s, you’d have heard of the likes of Tony, Toni, Tone, young MC Hammer, Digital Underground, Too Short and Dawn Robinson of En Vogue, just to name a few, and back then there were only a few home studios. Joe Capers, aka Blind Joe, a blind musician and producer, was one of the creators of the sounds of the Oakland music scene in the 1980s and early 1990s. 

Joe Capers and friends built the first completely accessible studio in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was in the Oakland hills, opened in August 1989 and recorded the artists above and many more who went on, as we now know, to be legends in the Hip-Hop and Soul arena locally, nationally and internationally. Joe Capers took youth off the streets of Oakland and taught them to produce and engineer, making his studio affordable in a time before home recording studios had become what they are today.

Joe Capers passed away on Nov. 27, 2002, and in 2009 I was a part of a radio collective at KPFA in Berkeley that covered issues, news, arts and music of the disabled community, called Pushing Limits. After doing a show on musicians with disabilities, I got a call from a friend of Joe and she told me about his work in the music scene and counseling newly blind people in Oakland. 

That info started a trail of events involving Krip-Hop Nation, an international network of Hip-Hop and other musicians with disabilities that I started. Under Bethany Stevens, who worked at Georgia State University at that time, we held the first ever Joe Capers award ceremony and gave the award to Joe Capers’ family, who live in Georgia, on Oct. 13, 2010. 

After that event, I came back to the Bay Area looking for people who knew Joe, and that’s when I reconnected with Naru Kwina of Oakland, who knew the late Joe Capers and used to go to Joe’s studio, J-Jam in East Oakland. Naru listened to what Krip-Hop Nation and I were trying to do for the legacy of Joe Capers. 

. . . we received the official proclamation by the Mayor of Oakland that said from now on August will be Joe Capers Month.

At the end of the conversation, Naru offered to work on a documentary of Joe Capers and what his work meant to the city of Oakland in 2010. Naru pulled a great team together to work on the documentary. 

In February of 2013, Krip-Hop Nation put together a Bay Area concert tour to raise the awareness of the work of Joe Capers. After the tour, Naru and I applied to the city of Oakland to have the month of August to be Joe Capers’ Month and we received the official proclamation by the Mayor of Oakland that said from now on August will be Joe Capers Month.

Now in 2020, 10 years since Krip-Hop Nation’s first Joe Capers event in Atlanta, we’ve finished the Joe Capers film. We – Naru and I – had big plans for Joe Capers Month, August 2020. This year in August we were planning to put on a Black Disabled Komics Karacters Summit, a Krip-Hop Visual Art Show and show Joe Capers’ film at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St.

But because of COVID, we had to limit the celebration to Zoom in Joe Capers’ month, August 2020. Ten years in the making, the film that Naru and I and the film crew are so proud of, that the film is done and that recognition has been bestowed onto a man who changed Oakland forever. 

We love you, Joe Capers! This film his brought to you by Alternative Minds. For more info, go to http://www.alternative-minds.com/2017/04/12/the-joe-capers-project/

Drop us a message at hiplearning@hotmail.com or narukwina3@gmail.com.