#ThrowbackThursday: A Look Back at LIFE is LIVING

October 29, 2015

 For the last eight years, Youth Speaks has presented the LIFE is LIVING Festival in West Oakland, a free celebration of urban life through art, wellness, and environmental action. The festival has served as an incubator for a multigenerational community of local and national hip hop, spoken word, dance, and visual artists and is an exemplar of the work we wish to investigate: how to integrate the arts more fully, more vitally, into community life. This year, the Triangle Lab joyously partnered with Youth Speaks to curate LIFE is LIVING’s first ever theater stage.

We presented excerpts from our upcoming tour of The Tempestcomplete with a performance of music composed for the production by our Laney College collaborators and Olive Mitra:

Teaching artists Carla Pantoja and Carlos Aguirre from Cal Shakes’ Artistic Learning department engaged the crowd in interactive workshops on stage combat and beatboxing:

We also presented a diverse and inspiring line-up of local artists whose work spoke to the festival’s themes of life, community, wellness, equity, and action:

The Lower Bottom Playaz performed Wilson in the Afternoon, an homage to August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle charting African American experience through the twentieth century.

COOL (Congregation of Liberation) explored how queer black artists work together to heal themselves and their communities of internalized oppression and trauma with Black Don’t Crack.

 Campo Santo shared an excerpt from their newest piece, Babylon is Burning.

 Josh Healey performed a comedic story about the intersection of environmental justice and systemic racism. Carlos Aguirre shared his spoken word, rap, and beatbox adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart.

Dahlak Brathwaite and Dion Decibels presented an excerpt from Spiritrials, a personal exploration of the criminal justice system; the Triangle Lab’s own Lisa Evans explored family, legacy, and changemaking in “Lessons From Rivers” ; and Tova Ricardo, Oakland’s 2015 Youth Poet Laureate, opened the day with a powerful poem.

The State of Black Oakland poured libations and honored the lives of black folks slain by state violence.

This collaboration was intense—involving two very different arts institutions, and 10+ theater acts, at a day-long outdoor festival bustling with a range of activity across seven stages—and the result was intensely moving. Together we brought a vibrant and unique dimension to LIFE is LIVING and engaged community members with theater in a way we don’t often have an opportunity to—400 people over the course of the day! Thanks to everyone who contributed to the Cal Shakes Theater Stage.

All photos by Sonjhai Meggette of Esoteric Images.