Friday, February 7, 2020

Black Panther Power tours

Steve McCutchen, Dr. Saturu Ned, Katherine Campbell at de Fremery House in Lil' Bobby Hutton Park
There are a number of walking tours around Oakland, especially if food is your thing. When it comes to tours focused on history, there are fewer options: Oakland Urban Paths, Oakland Heritage Alliance, city of Oakland walking tours, and Mountain View Cemetery. And when it comes to black history tours, there's only one regularly scheduled tour, the city of Oakland's "New Era, New Politics" tour, which occurs on various Wednesday and Saturdays, May through October.

"New Era, New Politics" focuses on the political changes that came about in Oakland as African Americans started being elected to city council, mayor, and other positions. I've led it a number of times, and people are sometimes disappointed that it doesn't cover more about the Black Panther Party. When I give it, I talk about Bobby Seale's run for Oakland mayor, but there's too much to cover in 90 minutes.

So once a year, Oakland Urban Paths and the city of Oakland walking tours program team up to do a 2.5 hour walking tour on black history in Oakland. That gives time to talk about more people and cover more topics, though it's still not enough time to do more than give a taste. I always encourage people to find out more, with a good starting point. But it's best to learn about a place from people who lived the history, and as well as I know Oakland history, I was too young when the Black Panther Party was active and I definitely didn't live the history.

That's why I was really excited to get an email from Visit Oakland, the local visitor's bureau, asking if I wanted to go on a Black Panther Party tour, led by a former BPP member. I went on a BPP tour of North Oakland a couple years ago (2014) with It's About Time and learned a ton, but as mentioned, there aren't regular tours, so I jumped at the chance to go on this.

And I wasn't disappointed. Saturu Ned, who started with the BPP in Sacramento led the tour, along with Kathy Campbell and Steve McCutchen. Each of them had stories to tell and personal details to add to their time with the BPP. We toured sites in West Oakland (e.g., the BPP party headquarters), North Oakland (e.g., Merritt College, where Huey Newton and Bobby Seale met and formed the BPP), East Oakland (e.g., the BPP Community School) and finished up back by Lake Merritt, where we could see the courthouse steps, site of the "Free Huey" protests, and 1200 Lakeshore, where Huey lived for a time under tight security.

If this wasn't enough, it wasn't just a one-off. It was in part to announce that Black Panther Power led by Saturu Ned will be giving regular (or at least more frequent) BPP history walking tours. The details haven't been announced yet, but you can add yourself to the email list at to learn more.

Whether or not you go on the BPP history tours or not, there's lots to do for Black History Month in Oakland. Check Visit Oakland's list of BHM events, as well as the list on the Oakland Wiki.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

signs: McCaulou's

Not the best sign ever by any stretch, but definitely a sign of the times. After who-knows-how-many-decades, the McCaulou's in Montclair Village is moving out of its distinctive building on Medau Place for smaller quarters nearby on Mountain Blvd.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Town Folk Project

There's a relatively new photo project / blog called the Town Folk Project: A photo project focused on the people & stories that made Oakland what it is today. Includes photos and short interviews with people all over Oakland—go check it out!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

52nd California International Book Fair - Feb. 8-10

The following is a guest post from Denise Lamott. I love history, and I love books, so what's not to like about old books?

Purchase Tickets
The 52nd California International Antiquarian Book Fair, recognized as one of the world's largest and most prestigious exhibitions of antiquarian books, returns to Northern California, Friday, February 8 through Sunday, February 10, 2019 at the Oakland Marriott City Center.

Sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (ABAA) and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) and featuring the collections and rare treasures of nearly 200 booksellers from dealers from around the world, the three-day Book Fair offers a rich selection of manuscripts, early American and European literature, modern first editions, children's books, maps and autographs, as well as antiquarian books on history, science, law, architecture, cooking, wine and a wide range of other topics.

Book Club of CA

This year's Book Fair will include a special exhibit by the Book Club of California, an active association of over 800 major California collectors with interests in rare books and manuscripts of all types. Founded in 1912, the Club's library is dedicated to collecting and sharing works of California fine printers; resources on book making, book design, and book history; and books of historical significance. One side of this bi-faceted exhibit will display a selection of materials by California women printers and book artists, with a spotlight on Jane Grabhorn's test prints for the illustrations of the Grabhorn Press' Shakespeare plays. Also on display will be some of the Club's oldest and most sought-after publications.

L. Frank Baum

Joel Harris, a local member of the International Wizard of Oz Club, will be loaning a portion of his collection for a curated exhibit of first edition books by L. Frank Baum and the subsequent authors of the "Wizard of Oz" series. The theme of a Saturday lecture jointly sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and the Bibliographical Society of America will be Cyclone on the Prairies: The Magic of the Land of Oz.

Other highlights of the Book Fair include an interactive and entertaining exhibition that showcases local artists and organizations specializing in book arts. Calligraphers, bookbinders and a small press operator will once again be creating unique souvenirs for attendees to take home.

The Book Fair is the perfect introduction for those new to the world of rare books. Sunday, February 10, will present a variety of seminars and discussions. During Book Collecting 101, visitors can learn to create a strategy for collecting books, as well as how to spot a "first edition," judge a book's condition, and learn bookish terms and jargon. Presented by ABAA president Vic Zoschak, Jr., Tavistock Bookshop. During What's This Book Worth, Zoschak will discuss the primary factors that give books commercial and monetary value, as well as strategies for appraising and selling books. Discovery Day is the public's chance to discover if those old books gathering dust are worth something. The public will receive free, expert oral appraisals on up to three books. Appraisals are limited to a first come, first served basis – within the scheduled times.

Designed with the budding collector in mind, "Book Fair Finds" is a program in which dealers spotlight items priced at $100 or less. Visitors can look for the Book Fair Finds sign in participating booths.

For the full schedule, visit and plan your visit today!
February 8th 3 - 8 | February 9th 11 - 7 | February 10th 11 - 5
Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland, CA.

Tickets are available online or at the door. Friday admission tickets are $25; Saturday and Sunday tickets are $15 and all tickets allow return admission for the remainder of the fair. For more information about tickets or exhibiting, visit

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Oakland Urban Paths: Walk of the Dead

After the smoke from the fires up north forced a reschedule, we had a small but "lively" group for the Walk of the Dead. In addition to clearer skies in December, we also had great weather—sunny and not too warm. After talking a bit about customs around death like the Day of the Dead, a brief glossary of terms, and some of the symbols we might see on grave markers, we headed off.

Our first stop was Chapel of Memories, also known as the Oakland Columbarium. It opened in 1901 as an independent business, but now is run by nearby Chapel of the Chimes. The buildings are mostly full of smaller niches. While a few are tagged "before need", most are occupied.

Just up Howe St. is Oakland's oldest existing cemetery, St. Mary's Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery which started a bit before nearby Mountain View Cemetery. There were earlier cemeteries closer to downtown, but as Oakland grew, they got in the way of development. The Oakland Cemetery (1852-1857) was at 8th and Oak. The Webster St. Cemetery (1857-1867) was between Webster and Snow Park. Most of the residents
moved to Mountain View or St. Mary's c.1872-76, but not all:
An excavating machine hit a metal coffin and spilled the contents: “the left hand and arm
nearly to the elbow protruded from the ground, the hand drooped over gracefully from the
wrist. Portions of the coat and vest were visible, as were the outlines of the face, but over these
still rested a coating of fine earth.”
Oakland Tribune April 28, 1877

After a brief stop at 4460 Howe Street, which was home at different times to a superintendent of St. Mary's, a florist, and a granite and marble showroom, we went in the top entrance of Chapel of the Chimes. That took us into the newer areas, but down some flights of stairs and around a couple of corners, and we were into an older part, which was designed by noted architect Julia Morgan. Five different architecture firms worked on the structure over the years. The oldest part was originally a station for the streetcar which stopped at the top of Piedmont Avenue.

From there it was through the gates of Mountain View Cemetery, but into Home of Eternity Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery run by Temple Sinai. They purchased land from Mountain View in 1865. Besides more familiar religious symbols on the grave markers, there we saw some kohanim hands, which mean the person was of the priestly tribe of Aaron. Leonard Nimoy used a modified version of the gesture as the Vulcan greeting in Star Trek.

Stepping past a row of trees took us into Mountain View Cemetery, which at 224 acres, is by far the largest cemetery in Oakland.

First we went into one of several large mausoleums on the Mountain View grounds, which contains the remains of Oakland city council member Frank Ogawa and his family. He and his wife were imprisoned in an internment camp along with other Japanese Americans during WWII. Their daughter, Nancy Lynne Ogawa, was born in the Topaz camp and died there. That mausoleum also contains the remains of my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my aunt's father, Dr. Edward Lundegaard. Dr. Lundegaard served as a surgeon in the county coroner's office from 1946 to 1954, and then was elected coroner in 1954.

We wound our way up the hill to "Millionaire's Row", where the likes of "Borax" Smith, mayor Samuel Merritt, and the Crockers of Crocker Bank fame are buried in some sizable and lovely mausoleums. The air quality was better than November, but it was hazy enough it didn't show off the great view. That view, plus the park-like setting (MVC was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City) are part of why people used to visit their grave sites before they needed them, and countless Oaklanders still walk, run and admire the views today.

We finished by the Infant's Plot by the Main Mausoleum, in view of the Pauper's Plot. We didn't have time to continue down Piedmont Avenue and check out the cemetery-related businesses, including florists, grave marker carvers (former), and funeral homes, but we got a nice overview of part of Oakland inhabited mostly by the dead.