Black Cultural Traditions in Oakland with Wanda Ravernell
Join us in welcoming these local artists and experts to Laurel Book Store!
About the Moderator:
Wanda Ravernell, is the executive director and visionary of Omnira Institute, which is dedicated to reviving and reinvigorating African American cultural traditions in food, music, art and spiritual science.
A former journalist, Wanda grew up in Philadelphia taking for granted her family’s strong sense of history and tradition and at the same time was fascinated by the unsung accomplishments of her black female forebears. There was nothing she didn’t want to know about them -- music, clothing, home-life, cooking, foodways -- and how they navigated lives seemingly unbound by racism and sexism.
She would learn that those family traditions -- often practices without verbal instruction --were common among African Americans, passed down from generation to generation, forming the collective strength of African American community.
Because it was important to her to make those traditions visible and audible, in 2014 Wanda led a group of African Americans in creating the Black-Eyed Pea Festival, a celebration of African American food, music and art through tradition. All of the artists make their own work, all of the musicians play their instruments and draw from the rich past of African and African American music and values.
She holds a Master’s degree in Communication from Stanford University and a B.A. in Creative Writing from Marlboro College.
This panel allows black traditional artists an opportunity to talk about the value of tradition in their area of expertise and why it is important to take tradition into the future.
About the Panelists
Dr. Gail Myers, African American Farming Traditions
Dr. Gail Myers is a cultural anthropologist who founded ‘Farms To Grow, Inc., in 2004 to work with black farmers and local, state, and federal organizations to bring produce from black farmers and accurate history and education to low-income communities.
Farms to Grow, Inc. bridges the gap between black farmers and the next generation, serving as a cultural resource for anyone to learn about African American traditional farming and leads the way in implementing farmers’ markets in predominantly African-American communities with produce grown by African-American farmers.
Myers founded the Freedom Farmers Market in 2013 in partnership with farmers, business owners, and makers, and community vendors who cooperate to bring the Freedom Farmers’ Market to West Oakland.
Located at 3615 Market St., Freedom Farmers’ Market is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. through November.
Wanda Blake-Opeola, African American Cooking Traditions
Wanda Blake-Opeola is the head, heart and hands of Wanda’s Cooking - where she shares her love for food events. “I just want to cook, and if I can cook with others who have a passion for food, all the more love and fun.” In 2015 Wanda’s Cooking presented “Sunday Supper” – Sunday Cooks and Church Ladies. Her first “Pop-Up” in remembrance of traditional family style Sunday dinners – Salmon Croquettes and Devil Eggs, Cornish Hens, Dirty Rice Dressing, and Buttermilk pie. Other Pop-Ups include – Wanda’s Cooking presents: Sunday Brunches, Loves New Orleans Food, Chef Dotson Caribbean Cuisine and the Black Eyed Pea Festival, where she developed a full menu based on black-eyed peas.
A native San Franciscan and current Oakland resident, Blake is a graduate of CCSF Hotel and Restaurant Management and Golden Gate University. Every part of food is fun for Wanda – recipe development (old and new recipes), shopping at farmers’ markets, dining out, wood-smoked BBQ, traveling to other places and checking out the food scene – near and far from Napa to New York, New Orleans, Austin, Texas, and Bahia, Brazil. “Meet me in the kitchen, and I’ll see you at the table.”
Marion Coleman, African American Textile Traditions
Marion Coleman, a public and community engagement artist, designs projects that explore community stories, African American history and culture, social justice, women and aging. She is self-taught and draws on her experience as a social worker to enrich the work she creates about community, social justice, health/wellness and race.
Her public art projects can be found in several San Francisco Bay Area cities including Berkeley, San Leandro, San Pablo, Richmond, Castro Valley and San Francisco..
Coleman has exhibited nationally and internationally. Most recently she curated and obtained funding for a place-making project, “Neighborhoods Coming Together” that focused on various aspects of life in Oakland, CA
She is the winner of a 2018 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship, awarded annually by the NEA to highlight the breadth and excellence of the artistic traditions found in communities all across the United States. She will receive a $25,000 award and be honored in Washington, D.C., at a ceremony in September. Born in Wichita Falls, TX, Coleman has lived and worked in Castro Valley since 1984.
Shavon Moore, Traditional Jazz Vocalist
Oakland vocalist Shavon Moore has worked with such luminaries as Faye Carol, David Murray, Howard Wiley, Kahil El’ Zabar, John Santos, Kev Choice, Norma Miller and Chris Martin.
She has appeared at major festivals/venues including The Malcolm X Jazz Festival, Amiri Baraka Jazz Festival, Berkeley’s Juneteenth Festival, Solano Stroll and theBerkeley Street festival. Shavon released her first album Creation (2013); second album Catharsis (2015) as well as her book “Memoirs Of A Broken Heart”; third album Shavon Live At Jazzschool (2017) and fourth acclaimed album Undefeated (2017). Shavon is also the owner of Bright Future’s Music providing accessible and affordable music education to East Oakland youth.
An Oakland native, Shavon attended Oakland School For The Arts and went on to study at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley.
About the Black-Eyed Pea Festival:
"The black-eyed pea is a metaphor for what is resilient, creative, and collaborative about African-American culture," says Wanda Ravernell, Founder of the Omnira Institute in Oakland, California. Omnira's mission is to highlight and preserve the cultural and spiritual traditions of African Americans and demonstrate how these traditions are connected to Africa and the African Diaspora. - Oakland Magazine, 2015
To counter the solemnity of other African American observations, in 2014 the Omnira Institute began an annual Black-Eyed Pea Festival in Oakland, CA. The September festival is an entertaining way to celebrate a) black-eyed peas, an historic staple food for African Americans, and b) create opportunity for cultural upliftment through traditional African and African American music (drums, dance, jazz, blues, gospel) and sales of handmade crafts and art by black artists.