Saturday, September 21, 2019

Golden Gate Branch Library

5606 San Pablo Avenue

Oakland CA

Neighbors, aged 3 months to 94 years, all came together to celebrate the new Golden Gate Library Local Collection. With food, music and stories, there was no better way to introduce the place-based series that is the heart of Commons Archive. We’re grateful to the community and library staff  who have shared their knowledge, wisdom and time to shape the neighborhood’s new reference collection.

"The sense of the sacred is vital; we are on the brink of destruction, we’re dying for the lack of blessings to protect ourselves."

Named the City of Berkeley's first Poet Laureate in 2017, Rafael Jesús González's opening blessing called for justice, compassion, and peace in the face of environmental disaster and the ongoing denial of sanctuary. Brought together under the blazing sun, neighbors' chorus of affirmations spoke to a strong need to relate to one another.

Incredible musicians and vocalists from the neighborhood infused the celebration with joy. Golden Gate librarian Sharon Vaughn's acapella arrangements of the beloved songs 'Won’t You Be My Neighbor' and 'Stand By Me' conveyed what it means to be in community. Honoring the neighborhood's musical legacy, 'Back in Session', organized by longtime neighbor Don Mitchell, brought neighbors together as a toe-tapping and head-bobbing crowd.

How do we preserve neighborhood stories? When do we have time to listen? Attendees joined Golden Gate residents Joanne Dickerson-Harper and Brock Winstead in free-flowing conversation about their relationship with the neighborhood and what it means to be a neighbor. Joanne has lived here nearly all of her life, since the 1940s. Brock is a relative newcomer, moving into the neighborhood in 2006. Joanne and Brock candidly shared stories about the changes they’ve experienced in this part of North Oakland. Joanne and Brock's oral histories are part of the Golden Gate Library Local Collection, in the 'Golden Gate Conversations' volume.

"How do we preserve the past when the eyewitnesses are gone?" Writer and scholar Susan Anderson spoke about the dangers of 'social forgetting’' She powerfully positioned the work of the Lasartemays and the East Bay Negro Historical Society (EBNH) in the lineage of storefront museums that preserved and made accessible African American history: "The founders of EBNH took to heart the passage from Proverbs, 'A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.' They knew that knowledge is a currency of power. Their knowledge of their people's history derived not just from historical artifacts and published accounts. They knew the history because they had lived it themselves." Mark Lasartemay learned profound lessons from his grandparents, EBNHS founders Ruth and Eugene Lasartemay: "When you see someone on the street, say hello". This is fundamental to being in relationship with anyone you meet.