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State Champion Parade

 (bryan farley)

The McClymonds High School Warriors won their first state football championship on December 17, 2016. On Friday January 6, 2017, Oakland celebrated at City Hall and West Oakland.

 (bryan farley)

I attended their last playoff game with my son and his friend. (McClymonds lost to Sacred Heart Prep in the Northern California final on 12/12/15.) I also photographed one of their home games the previous year. (My post with photos was called, “Back at Mack to Pay it Back.”)

 (bryan farley)

Even though I did not attend any games this year, I have been to Mack many times. I brought my daughter to the parade. When she was younger, her track team competed at Mack. My friends have worked at the school. If my life had turned out differently, I would have taught at Mack during this year’s state championship season.

 (bryan farley)

McClymonds is called “The School of Champions.” Coincidentally, I attended a high school in Fresno that was also “The School of Champions.” Fresno High are also Warriors.

 (bryan farley)

Both schools have similar histories with similar success stories… and many forgotten heroes.

 (bryan farley)

The celebration and parade will help the community remember this team. This team might provide the next Mack trailblazer who changes the world.

For more photos from the rally at City Hall, see the photo gallery.

Echo Brown Black Virgins

Two weeks ago, I photographed Echo Brown and “Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters “at Oakland Tribe. I included this 34 image PHOTO GALLERY; the photos in the post are also in the gallery.

 (bryan farley)

Originally, the November 27, 2016 performance was scheduled as Echo’s final 2016 show; however, she has scheduled three more Oakland performances for December. Echo will also appear on KQED’s Forum tomorrow with Michael Krasny at 10:00 am.

 (bryan farley)

After I met Echo at an art education event a couple years ago, I have wanted to attend her one-person show. Our schedules never aligned until late last month. Even though she claims that she doesn’t “have a background in theater,” she intuitively understands performance. She is creative, energetic, funny and smart. She is engaging.

 (bryan farley)

Echo may not have had formal theater training before she wrote her current play, but her journey prepared her for the stage. Echo has been code-switching since she was a young person. Code-switching requires that a person be able to read an audience and understand place and time. Perhaps even more fundamental, when a person is forced to code-switch, a person understands that humans perform their societal roles. We perform gender roles too. Echo has been performing since she was a smart high school student. She continued performing when she attended an Ivy League university. She probably does not stop performing when she leaves the stage.

I realize that some people will misunderstand my compliment. My comments were written as a person who has “performed” for much of my life. I have hidden to survive.

 (bryan farley)

Throughout “Black Virgins,” Echo addresses many sensitive topics. Some audience members might become uncomfortable, but Echo creates an arc that allows for feelings to build and release. (There is also a discussion period after the performance which I highly recommend.) Perhaps because I am recently divorced, I was touched by some of the lighter moments. Echo’s character expresses a lonely vulnerability that feels universal.

 (bryan farley)

I would probably write much of this remaining section in my “Notes on a Blog” over at www.morethankids.com, but it seems appropriate to continue writing below considering recent events.

 (bryan farley)

I saw Black Virgins the Sunday before the Ghost Ship Fire and the same month as the 2016 election. After the performance, Echo led a discussion. Audience members, many of whom are women of color, shared concerns about living in the Bay Area. They shared the experience of living in a so-called liberal part of the country, yet feeling left out. The Bay Area is not the safe place for women of color as many people think.

The greater Bay Area community can learn a great deal from Echo Brown and her audience members. In the post-election/post-Ghost Ship Fire Bay Area, it is too simplistic to claim that Donald Trump’s campaign “provided a platform for white supremacists.” How do Bay Area Liberals provide a platform for racism to continue? How did Oakland provide a platform for the Ghost Ship Fire?

Black Girls Are Not For Virgins forced me to ask basic questions that many white folks are afraid to ask publicly. I think that white folks would rather discuss vague definitions of diversity, equity and policy. We don’t want to ask real tough questions about our Time, Treasure and Talent.

Who do we love? Who do we love romantically? Where do we love and where do we live?

Where do we send our kids to school? Why do we send our kids to THAT school? Is it because we don’t want OUR kids to go to school with THOSE people? Do we really love THOSE people?

Where do we work? How does our business recruit new staff? How does the HR Department help talented people code-switch so they don’t get stuck behind the latest automated HR software? When we do not challenge our employers, what platform do we think we are providing?

I think we need to question our priorities. In Oakland, we have passed a soda tax to increase safety. Our city council passed a gun measure (for safety). Did those actions become our priorities? Did those actions improve health and safety or were they merely safe actions?

Echo acknowledges that when people ask difficult questions, it comes with a cost. I am grateful that Echo Brown presents these issues so forcefully. It provides space for the rest of us to ask the difficult questions, even if asking those questions might come at a cost.

NOTE: I edited the post on 12/12 (and again on the 14th). I might still add a notes section on my older blog and if I do, I will include this source about performing roles.

Oakland Ghost Ship Fire

Updated December 29, 2016; originally posted December 9, 2016.

I have started writing at 11:25 pm. About this time one week ago, a fire started in a warehouse two miles from my home. Thirty six people died.

 (bryan farley)

I visited the Ghost Ship Fire memorials in the Fruitvale District a few times this week. Even though I brought my camera, I felt more like a community member trying to make sense of the tragedy. For this post, I created a photo gallery. I also categorized the post in the journalism section, although I wonder if there is a better category.

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I have photographed death and dying. This felt too close and too big.

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Local, regional and national news organizations covered this story. In Oakland, the Ghost Ship Fire will remain an important story for many years.

 (bryan farley)

I wonder how the young people will remember the fire. Will the young people become afraid to act or emboldened? Will the community leaders remember the children when creating new policies?

 (bryan farley)

How will the first responders carry their memories? Will those who saw the worst of the fire receive help?

 (bryan farley)

I am especially concerned about the families who lost someone. The families might ask unanswerable questions about their loss. Meanwhile, the larger community might turn to the families with our own questions.

 (bryan farley)

On the first day, I left a paintbrush. On the second day, I left my plastic fork from a “fork in the road” series. (Another artists gave me the yellow paint.) It feels that our community, and perhaps our country, has reached a fork.

What are our priorities? Not what we say, but where do we spend our time and resources?

Added December 29, 2016

Since publishing the original story, I visited the Ghost Fire site two more times. I visited on Tuesday, December 13th and again today. Photos have been added to the slideshow.

 (bryan farley)

The tragedy still does not feel real. When I visit the site, I am usually unable to access most emotions unless I am downwind from the building. The smell reminds me of an old house that burned near my childhood home in Fresno. I remember my mother’s fear as we drove back to our neighborhood. Whenever I smell a burned building, it triggers that childhood memory.

 (bryan farley)

Many of us carried emotional memories to the memorials; we also left with emotional memories.

 (bryan farley)

I suspect that many people left something at the memorials to ease the burden of those families who were affected more profoundly by the Ghost Fire. It was an unorganized attempt at creating community… everyone doing their part. (bryan farley)

Organizations from across the country visited Oakland this month. Billy Graham’s Rapid Response Team drove from Charlotte, North Carolina. I enjoyed my conversation with the chaplains. I shared a story about my grandmother who wasn’t sure about God, but believed in Billy Graham.

 (bryan farley)

If there is silver lining to the Ghost Fire, it is a reminder that humans care about each other. Even in a divided country, people care about people they do not know and might not understand. It’s a start… a painful, difficult start.