COMMONS ARCHIVE IS A PERMANENT NEIGHBORHOOD MEMORY BANK AT OAKLAND'S GOLDEN GATE LIBRARY email@example.com
"WE HAD HISTORY UNDER THE BED. WE HAD THE WHOLE HISTORY OF BETH EDEN BAPTIST CHURCH UNDER THE BED."
Eugene Lasartemay, Founder, East Bay Negro Historical Society, 1986
In the mid-1940s, Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay, along with several other members from their church, started collecting artifacts and stories from their community to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in the Bay Area and beyond. They formalized their pioneering Black history efforts by creating the East Bay Negro Historical Society (EBNHS) in 1965. In the mid-1980s, after being housed in several store fronts in North Oakland, EBNHS was hosted by Oakland Public Library’s Golden Gate Branch. This unique archive became the basis for Oakland’s African American Museum and Library which opened its downtown doors in 2002.
While renovating his grandparents’ home, Mark Lasartemay has set aside 6 large boxes of his grandparents’ personal archives: dozens of plaques and awards, family photos dating back to the early 1900s, travel journals, clippings and books. He has generously loaned these materials to Commons Archive. During weekly research sessions, we have been slowly unpacking and annotating these treasured items, many of which Mark has never before seen.
"PEOPLE JUST LIKE TO HAVE A CALM, RELATIVELY SAFE PLACE TO COME AND DO WHAT IT IS THEY NEED TO DO."
Sharon, Golden Gate Librarian since 2000
Since its construction in 1918, the Golden Gate branch has mirrored and embraced its surrounding community. In 1982, the East Bay Negro Historical Society, a group initiated by Eugene and Ruth Lasartemay, was invited into the Golden Gate Branch, making it the first Oakland city library with a predominantly African American focused collection.
This modest Carnegie-endowed building welcomes nearly 2,000 visitors weekly and has a circulating collection of over 40,000 items. For more than 25 years, The Friends of the Golden Gate Library has been hosting a free summer jazz concert series. This renown event draws big crowds, including many who have moved from the area. In 2018 the Golden Gate Library will celebrate its centennial anniversary.
"WHO ARE WE? WHAT IS THIS PLACE? WHO DOES IT BELONG TO?"
Brock, Neighbor since 2003
These large questions are at the heart of Commons Archive, a participatory, permanent neighborhood memory bank housed at the Golden Gate Library in North Oakland, CA. As authors of their local history, neighbors contribute as well as annotate archive materials, adding their stories and images to this evolving collection.
Over two years, starting in Spring, 2017, neighbors can share photos, ephemera and memories at the library and other local gathering sites. This material, along with content from the Oakland History Room, The African American Library, and The Emeryville Historical Society forms the organic archive. In collaboration with community members, we are organizing public programs and installations at the library revealing the changing community’s layered history.
"WE LOVE OUR COMMUNITY. WE WANT EVERYBODY TO COME IN, BUT WE'D LIKE PEOPLE TO COME IN AND GET TO KNOW US FIRST, BEFORE YOU START CHANGING IT."
Joanne, neighbor since 1945
The Golden Gate Library serves a small wedge of North Oakland that is nestled between Berkeley and Emeryville. In the past few years, new community efforts are reinvigorating once-dormant places into vibrant neighborhood assets. At the same time, the Golden Gate is shifting away from its predominantly African-American, historically working-class roots, sparking controversial debates among residents about local identity.
Known as the birthplace of the Black Panthers and current home to Pixar and biotech industries, this area is economically and culturally diverse. Tensions are on the rise with new housing developments and displacement of long-time residents. Commons Archive will pool the community’s collective knowledge to explore themes including: the great migration to the tech migration, local heroes, evolution of block clubs, and community activism.
SATURDAY JUNE 10
GOLDEN GATE SPIRIT with
OAKLAND URBAN PATHS
A walking discussion co-led by members of the community about the role of religious centers in the neighborhood.
Starts at St. Columba Church (San Pablo & Alcatraz) and ends at the Golden Gate Library.
5606 San Pablo Avenue
10a - 12:30p