ON TECH & THE PRISON SYSTEM

ON TECH & THE PRISON SYSTEM

Pendarvis Harshaw dives deep into the ways technology is changing the world for the incarcerated

All praises due to our good friend Pendarvis, for helping to tell stories that matter. As the journalist, and photojournalist, behind OG Told Me, Pen’s photo-interview-essay series with Oakland’s assorted elders is just one of the many storytelling exercises he’s been a part of. More recently though, Pen set up shop in a new position at SF’s Fusion to continue on the journalistic path, with a newfound focus on the strange, exciting, and frequently troubling space that is the tech sector.
Pen’s latest project, a collaboration with Fusion’s Senior Editor Kevin Roose, sheds some light on the fascinating but under-covered intersection between tech and the prison system. “Tech Behind Bars” is split into three pieces, each focused on a different issue–the first on the illicit market for digital devices behind bars, the second on the difficulties inmates encounter on entering a “digital society,” and the third on “video visitations” and the range of new tech devices being introduced into the corrective industry’s institutional framework.

For those of who mostly encounter tech reporting through stories about either how many hundreds of millions some enterprise software startup just raised, or which cool ass neighborhood landmark is about to get bulldozed, reporting like this is always refreshing. As we keep on grappling with the big questions–like say, whether all this new technology will keep opening up lanes for empowering people, or whether powerful people will just have more efficient weapons at their disposal to shit on everyone else and sell them things–it’s cool to talk about the impact of all these advances on people who tend to get left out of the conversation. In any case, Pen and Kevin have more insight than I do on the subject, so peep the excerpts below, and follow the links. More than worth the read.

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RARE COLLECT

RARE COLLECT

Oakland's own Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment is a video game archive for the people

The first time I walked into The MADE, it was a trip. A trip because I hadn’t expected to confront my childhood and feel the nostalgia of remembering how dope it was to be a kid. As the bleeps and bops, loading screens, and box art images flashed in my head, I kept asking myself, “how haven’t I heard about this place?”

If at some point in the past, you were obsessed and consumed with video games, The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment is quite literally a safe place you can go to relive and reflect on a time when NBA Jam Tournament Edition was all that mattered and which one of your homies got all 120 stars in Super Mario 64. Looking around at everything for me started to trigger vivid memories of once meaningful video game achievements and that one time on my birthday when I wanted Street Fighter 2 for the SNES but that shit was sold out everywhere. Haven’t fucked with birthdays since then.

The MADE is a non-profit museum that houses a collection of historically significant works in video games. It is dedicated to educating and teaching the public about how video games are created, and how they’ve changed over the years. Its main goals are preserving the history of video games and heralding them as an artistic medium.

Oh, and you can play them.

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THE REAL U.S.

THE REAL U.S.

American Matthew quit his day job to create stuff; now he's on a cross-country, crowdfunded tour

Matthew Nelson is an artist from Fort Worth, Texas who believes in himself so much, that he devised a plan to traverse the Northeastern and Southern United States playing free DJ shows for which he does not get paid. Belief: that’s the central tenet of his musical tour, called BIYDIY (for “Believe in Yourself, Do It Yourself,”) on which he’s embarking with his longtime friend Blue, Anthony Blue, Jr., sometimes called Stonie.

Matthew, 29, known by his moniker, “American Matthew”, currently lives with his business partner Wayne Wilson in San Juan, Puerto Rico—a jewel of a place, one that he says is lit up with clear waves, blonde beaches, palm trees—the kind of stuff you’d see on a faded poster in a travel agency. But from today ’til February 28th, American Matthew will be stateside, playing shows in cities including but not limited to: Philly, DC, Miami, Houston and Denton. The latter is a city in Texas that he pronounces with a marked twang, Deyntin, home to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and the only place in the Lone Star State to ban fracking. Blue’s middle brother (also named Blue, which gets confusing sometimes), has a residency at a bar in Denton, and while Matthew and Blue were home for the holidays, they threw a party at said bar, then another one at a warehouse the very next night. Back to back shows, and they pretty much killed.

DJing those two nights ultimately planted the seeds for what would become BIYDIY, what Matthew calls an independent DJ show. Money: that’s the other essential aspect in this series of performances. Matthew’s what you might call a bohemian. But in actuality, he’s more political than that. He says everything has a financial implication, and that there is always a money conversation happening. He moons over things that won’t cost him much, because he says cash is complicated.

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DOMA YOGA

DOMA YOGA

Malidoma Collective's donation-based approach to community healing

Malidoma Collective

Malidoma Collective is a powerful group force of female vision for creativity, community, and wellness. And for anyone paying attention in the town these days,the group and its members are an integral piece of Oakland’s social and cultural fabric. Through their unified productions, as well as individual endeavors, Malidoma offers opportunities for cultivating cultural empowerment and social regeneration through art and engagement, not unlike their beautiful and experiential installation at our original Feels event last May. The latest development to evolve out of the Collective is Doma Yoga–a donation based yoga series dedicated to healing people of color, their communities, and specifically West Oakland, through radical self-restoration.

Doma Yoga manifests as a series of three-month-long intervals, with a one month break in between, and rotating instructors and locations. During a given series, classes take place from 11am to 2pm each Saturday and include two yoga sessions and one guided meditation. Instructors are invited to facilitate a class on the basis of their representation and engagement in yoga and communities of color.

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YOUTHFUL KINFOLK PRESENTS: REVOLVE

YOUTHFUL KINFOLK PRESENTS: REVOLVE

A meaningful show on the way from the Town-based creative collective

Over at Youthful Kinfolk’s site, setting the stage for the official preview of their upcoming gallery show, Revolve, is an image of the Oakland protests that shut down 580 last month. In the description below, the show itself is positioned as a reaction–to a fraught political climate, to dysfunctional systems of one kind or another, to what they see as a less-than-inspiring media landscape. With those themes in the foreground, the Town-based collective has assembled an impressive, dynamic group of creatives showcasing work meant to spark new conversations.

As the mission statement tells us, the lineup of artists–anchored by YK members and collaborators like Valentin Saqueton (AKA Veeejzilla), Amir Aziz, and Carina Moreno–“brings together artists that push for an agenda bigger than themselves and are looked at as the “other” within what it is that they do.” Working across a variety of mediums, from photography to graphic illustration to video work, the crew will take over Oakland Terminal this Friday, the 9th, with a selection that promises to be visually stimulating and thought-provoking. Needless to say, we’re juiced to see what our slightly more youthful contemporaries have been working on. Below, a brief selection of work from artists in the show, but for the whole scoop, spend some time with the full preview here.

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COMPUTER LOVE

COMPUTER LOVE

An Oakland entrepreneur hits it big with a music-based dating app, to the tune of $1.5M

Admittedly, W&B has always been geared more towards art and culture than technology. But given the climate in the Bay these days, it’s hard to ignore some stories unfolding around us. The tech industry has a complex–and not always harmonious–relationship with the Town, and change is happening fast. But when we got wind of a tech entrepreneur making major moves here in our own community, it only seemed right to shed a little light on the subject.

Malcolm Gibson hails from the East Coast, but he’s been in the Bay for almost two years now grinding as a software engineer. A regular at W&B functions, he reached out to us recently with the news that his latest venture has secured seed funding from some highly esteemed angel investors. His venture? A dating app that he plans to launch right here in the Town, centered around something we can all relate to–good taste in music. Always excited to support young creative cats doing their thing, we sat down with Malcolm to learn more about the service and give our W&B readers an pre-launch look at a dope new app, LuvNote, grown locally here in the Town.

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WRITING WITH PURPOSE

WRITING WITH PURPOSE

A conversation with copy writer extraordinaire Demian Farnworth

How do you get your voice heard in the modern world? Most might point to social media, and the burgeoning world it opens up as the primary medium to make a difference. While traditional media channels may catch eyeballs in broad brushstroke attempts to grab our attention, many would argue that the internet has become an overwhelmingly more dynamic medium for expression.

Towards that end, in efforts to learn more about how to communicate effectively on the internet, we tapped the shoulder of one of the best, Copy Blogger’s Chief Copywriter Demian Darnworth. With years of experience in the realm of writing for the web, Demian’s cut his teeth as a writer, penning engaging messages for a variety of online publications as well as direct marketing firms. With the internet as our medium and new media the new game, we talked to Demian about how to write effectively, create compelling content, and the future of self-employment.

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DUCKWRTH – “SUPER SOAKER”

DUCKWRTH – “SUPER SOAKER”

A declaration of war from the Bay-by-LA spitter

Duckwrth

At this point, you’re mad as fuck if you have any kind of sense. Coming from the community we’re a part of here in the Town, it’s hard to scroll through your news feed without getting engulfed in what seems like an endless stream of stories about black and brown kids getting gunned down by somebody in uniform. While pundits churn out the, “Well what was he doing in the first place?” fuckery and armchair liberals break down some supposed good cop/bad cop dichotomy, people keep losing their lives, and actual murderers keep wiggling their way out of consequences and collecting checks from taxpayers (For the record, obviously, lots of people have written, and spoken a lot more eloquently on the subject than I am here, so for starters, here’s this and this).

It’s enough to make you wanna stir some shit up, which seems to be the basic goal of Duckwrth’s latest. Backed by a heavy-hitting barrage from The Kickdrums, Duck goes for scorched-earth intensity, declaring war on the beast via music video. Lyrically, it’s poignant and direct from the jump: “Everytime I turn my TV on, I see another innocent black kid gone.” The visuals though, take those themes into cinematic territory, building a multimedia collage that follows that revolutionary thread back through time. In between riot footage and walls of flames are the freeze-frame faces of Rodney King and Mike Brown, with an interjection from Pac at peak-revolutionary fervor. It’s still hard to know where to find solutions, beyond say, chucking bricks into cop car windows at random. That being said though, it probably couldn’t hurt. However you feel, shouts out to our friend Duckwrth for trying to shake us outta complacency.

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THE BLACK INK BOOK EXCHANGE

Savvy Wood's pop-up library project celebrates black lit on Chicago's South Side

Black Ink Book Exchange

Savannah Wood is a force. She’s a strong-willed, purposeful creative with an infectious smile and wide, excited eyes under rounded, dark-rimmed glasses. We first met through Max in the lead-up to a 2012 art show curated by collective Native Thinghood in LA, when I entered their vegetarian potluck of floor-seated, cross-legged, barefooted 20-somethings laughing through shared realities of artistic successes and woes. After majoring in photography at USC, Ms. Wood has been involved in myriad creative projects, travelling the world and expanding her portfolio from photography to clothing to costume design. Most recently, the Baltimore-bred artist has up and moved Chicago to develop her vision for the Black Ink Book Exchange.

Through a humble Indiegogo campaign and individual book donations from all over the country, Savvy’s dream to create a pop-up library of books written by black authors, and about black culture, has become a reality. As of January the project has even expanded to house creative workshops, classes, meetings, and arts and crafts activities for families, hosted primarily on Chicago’s South Side. The library is based on a barter system–take a book, leave a book–and functions to host opportunities for folks to engage with their own history, with each other, and with the written word. “I am most interested in ‘good’ books,” reads her website, “books that have shaped the way you see yourself and the world, or books that you often recommend to friends.” To learn more about this journey, I hit Savannah up to ask her how the project is going, where it’s headed, and how we can all have a chance to engage with the Black Ink Book Exchange.

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