STARTED… ”THE OAKLAND IS…” STORY
By Jimmy Guy***
Since I am more spiritually aware now, I understand that the
“Oakland Is…” story
began in Marianna, Arkansas, back in the middle forties. I was
the class clown who morphed into a studious second-grader back then, at dear
ol’ Robert R. Moton Training School, built for “Negroes” in 1922. For
History’s sake, the late Berkeley, California political icon, Maudelle Shirek,
fresh out of college, received her first teaching job
Our principal, Ms Anna Mary Pascal Strong, was a very good
friend and confidante of educator, Ms Mary McLeod Bethune and the Legend of the
Law, Mr. Thurgood Marshall. They both visited our campus on a regular basis. We
got a chance to look into the very eyes of two famous Black Americans who loved
us with heart and soul, unconditionally. Personally, I was inspired beyond my
wildest dreams one day, when Ms Bethune patted me on the top of my head and
predicted that I…lil’ ol’ J. P. Guy,
Junior, would accomplish great things in this journey we call Life. Her
prediction will become much clearer to the reader… and me, as we move forward
with the story.
Congressman Ron Dellums’
Administrative Assistant, Ms Barbara Lee, gave a fundraiser
party back in the fall of 1983. Yours Truly got more
politically aware as we met a lot of members of the CBS Democratic Club, as it
was called back then. At the Lee Fundraiser Party, we met Deborah Howard, a
public access television producer who booked Yours Truly as a guest on her show
called “Reflections In Black”. Our topic of discussion
was “Astrology, A Black Invention”, where we talked about the Dogon people,
Blue-Black in color, who came from the Dogon Star, bringing Astrology and
possessing the ability to heal the sick, raise the dead and walk on water.
Yours Truly worked from time to time
with Deborah and her husband, Vernon on a few projects at channel 25 in
San Francisco. There we met Ms. Burgin who
produced the Curtis Lawson Show and Lugman who became my mentor and television
advisor on how contrived television really is.
Matters of the heart took my mind off television production
during 1984 and 1985 as I went into a heavy songwriting period and collaborated
with pianist/composer Ellen Hoffman; pianist/composer Robert ”QB” Williams and
guitarist/composer Jeffrey Mogalian. Together, we
composed nearly 50 originals.
Fast-forward to the summer of 1986, when my friend and bid
whist partner, Professor John Edward “Gator” Hines, the actor, came back to
Oakland, after vacationing in his hometown
of Louisville, Kentucky. He strode onto the picnic grounds
during Councilmember Carter Gilmore’s Annual Barbeque for Seniors,
with an old-fashioned video camera. Finally, John handed me the camera and this
po’ boy went “all th’ way off”, literally and figuratively, videotaping
everybody and every barbeque bone on the grounds that day.
People ran in the opposite direction to avoid an intrusion on
their barbeque eatin’ privacy. Gator suggested that I enroll at some school and
get this drive out of my system, so to speak. So, in the Fall
of 1986, Yours Truly enrolled at Laney College, where the great teacher of
Television Production, Mr. Bill Hutchinson, held court a few nights a week.
We developed an hour-long musical variety show called “Oakland Is…”, in
honor of a musical variety TV show developed
a few years earlier by Oakland’s world-famous entertainer, Jay
Payton, called “Soul Is”. Our new version featured the Bay Area legend,
Finney Mo, as host-entertainer. We called our
showbiz buddies Ellen Hoffman; Dr. Jeff
and The Head Penguins Band; poet Mosetta Rose London; singers Frances Howard
and Peggy Gibbons; drummer Ron Thompson; and musician Ernie Mansfield. On Saturday,
March 14th, 1987, “Oakland Is…” aired
on cable TV channel 35, Oakland.
Our crew included
Steve Levinson, Director; David Karp, Assistant Director; Cassie Sade
Turnipseed, Camera; Monique Shaifer, Camera; Carmen Hendon, VTR Operator; Micki Mayzes, Floor
Director; James Cagney, Audio; LaShaa Gatlin, Switcher; Mark S. Ritchy, Camera
Operator and myself as Announcer/Camera Operator. Our friends at PCTV
headquarters included Rosanna “Rocky” Barringer, the best Facilities Manager/Camera
Operator of them all.
We produced two variety shows and went dormant when we could
not find the time to do more at the Laney College studio. Members of our illustrious
crew went in various directions to seek their fortunes. Meanwhile, in the fall
of 1988, Yours Truly landed a job as Administrative Assistant to Dr. Barbara E.
M. Cannon at Merritt College, Oakland, CA. In January of 1991, we were
brainstorming one day, trying to discover ways to restore the once-powerful
image of The Merritt College Community Education Center, located at 85th Avenue and
Yours Truly happened to remember our
success with “Oakland Is…” as an hour-long musical variety
show and decided, at that moment, to bring the hit show back as a half-hour TV
talk show, with Dr. Cannon, as host. We found seven of the former crew still in
the area. They loved the idea and we debuted the new “Oakland Is…” TV
talk show on April 18, 1991 on PCTV, with guests: Vice-Mayor,
Leo Bazile; Oakland Public School Director, Jean Quan; Ron Cooper, Marketing
Specialist and Dora Dean Bradley, Educator. In other words, we “shook up tha world” on our maiden
voyage. We have never looked back. We love what we do and we love
Oakland. My secret pet name for the “Oakland Is…”crew at
the time was “The Real Magnificent Seven”, which consisted of Dr. Barbara E.M.
Cannon, Micki Mayzes, LaShaa
Gatlin, Monique Shaifer, Carmen Hendon, C. Sade Turnipseed and Rosanna
“Rocky” Barringer. With a super-dynamic array of feminine
brain power, strength, inner beauty and physical endurance, how could a po’ boy
Arkansas fail, Ms. Bethune? Mr. Thurgood? No way!!
In the Spring of 1992, Michael
Lange, by then famous for his vivid portrayals of Malcolm X, came on board as
our male host, bringing his huge fan base. After a number of years as co-host,
Mr. Lange’s career broadened to include Directing, Play Writing, Music, Teaching,
and the like. We appreciate the many years he served as a great host, along
with Dr. Cannon. They became the “Oakland Is…“ one-two punch. Dan O'Connell, a student in the media communications department
at Laney, joined the crew at that time, too.
He contributed his technical knowledge, and a third video camera. Dan is, also, an avid bid whist player as it
turns out, having become quite interested in the game years later. Gator took
him under his wing.
On April 17, 1993, we celebrated our third birthday at
the Paramount Theatre in downtown Oakland, as we received the coveted 1st
prize from the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame for our Juneteenth special feature,
entitled “A Juneteenth Celebration, Oakland Style”. The short film featured an
opening speech by Mayor Elihu Harris, performances by Emmitt Powell’s Gospel
Elites, Linda Tillery, and a command performance by
the late great Hank Ballard and The Midnighters, an R&B singing group that
scored many hits in the 1950s and early Sixties. Remember “Work With Me,
C. Sade Turnipseed directed and co-produced our video and
Monique Shaifer captured honors as co-producer, director and writer. Yours Truly tagged along as Executive Producer of Monique’s idea.
The champagne fountain flowed freely on that lovely April night, as far as I
can remember. I certainly had a heap o’ fun…at least that’s what they told me.
It was truly a heavenly night to remember. As I recall, Ms.
Belva Davis, a media icon also, hosted the smart affair. After Monique and Sade
had made their “thank you” speeches, it was Yours Truly’s turn to say
something. My exact words were, as follows: “We didn’t do this by ourselves. We
had lots of help. Some of them are with us tonight. You know who you are, so please
stand and wave your hands in the air like you really DO care. Thank you and
we’ll all come on stage next time. We love you!”
That same year, Rosanna “Rocky” Barringer prepared to leave
the show and quietly asked herself “who can I get to take my place”. She chose
Robert Gardner. Later that same year, Ms Tina Cayce came aboard as our
Publicist/Researcher. Shortly thereafter, we recruited Michael “GoGo” Guyton, Camera
Operator, Switcher; Cassandra Wafer-Johnson, Makeup/Hair Stylist; Alma Stewart,
Ambience Videographer; and the late great Nathaniel Devereux, Floor Director,
Tour Bus Driver and Audio Person.
In early June of 1994, Bay Area Black Contractors Association
(BABCA) President Beth Aaron donated $1,100.00 to the “Oakland Is…” show to help in the fight to stop
the closing of Feather River Camp. We rented a 15-passenger van, filled it full
of luggage, food, a wash tub of fruit juices, and famous people like Fred Davis
Jackson, storyteller Diane Ferlatte, BABCA members
Rufus Jones, his son, Pamela Simms and her daughter Shannon. We were later joined by
Councilmember Nate Miley who watched in amazement as
the “Oakland Is...” crew videotaped nearly every
tree, stream and cabin in sight. However, Mr. Miley
evidently reported our success to the Council the following Tuesday night
because they passed a resolution to keep the camp open before we could air our HOT show that following Saturday. When
we aired, our audience had the thrill of seeing Nate’s debut as a comic dancer.
Nate was a huge hit. Overall, we had a marvelous get-together, finishing off
the two pans of Everett and Jones ‘que, storytelling,
and watching Fred Davis Jackson make his debut as an “Oakland Is…” host. Michael Lange was the Camp’s
overseer. His hospitality was truly impeccable. Matter of fact, we went back in
the early fall of 1999 to introduce Lama Choyin Rangdrol to the spiritual impact of the camp. We had the
entire camp to ourselves and we had more Fun, FUN,
In the summer of 2001, we celebrated our 10th Anniversary
with a limo ride to Kimball’s in Emeryville, CA in support of our good friend,
singer Joyce Randolph. The event was produced by the late great jazz
enthusiast, Doug Edwards, of KPFA radio, in cahoots with our limo driver, BAJABA
Showcase founder, Afrikahn Jamal Dayvs. Kimball’s, at the time, was a
black-owned business, being supported by a 99% black audience. The business
sold out all items of food and drink that night. Joyce sang like a songbird and
everyone rode home in the limo, blasting her CD and lapping up the last of the
“bubbly”. What a 10th!!!
Our 22nd Anniversary was celebrated at Geoffrey’s
Inner Circle in Downtown Oakland in the Red Room
on June 22nd, 2013. The Passions organization presented
us an award for our longevity. Singer/dancer Ric Alexander opened the show with
an original song called “Baby”. After that great opening, The Legendary O’Town
Passions unleashed their not-so-secret sensation Finesse, a veritable human dancing
machine. The entire group came alive with their signature tune, a ConFunkShun
chestnut called “Come Turn Me Out”. They launched into “Lady in Red” with
Finesse as lead voice. Elvin Rowe held our attention with his solo of “I
Did It My Way”. They closed the show with a ditty we (Johnny Heartsman &
Jimmy Guy) wrote and produced back in the day called “Up From
Down”. Mr Rowe, in the lead, made me
feel very honored and humbled at the same time, by his beautiful interpretation
of the lyrics. We must go to press very soon. The program closed with four
powerful spoken word deliveries by the new “Oakland Is…” host,
James Cagney, who electrified the crowd.
Over the past 24 years, we have spotlighted those we refer to
as “the movers and shakers and image-makers” of Oakland and the surrounding communities.
Back in the day, we did our humble part in helping to enhance the political
ambitions of such locals as Elihu Harris, Lionel Wilson, Barbara Lee, Barbara
Becnel, Ignacio De La Fuente, Noel Gallo, activist Zachary Running Wolf, School
Board activist Charles Ramsey and many others.
Some of our guests have included the late great playwright,
community advocate and “Oakland Is…” host, Fred Davis Jackson; Oakland’s own
Eddie Abrams at House of Unity; South Africa’s Winnie Mandela; Blues artist Guy
Davis; football legend Jim Brown; Blues legend Jimmy McCracklin; atom splitter
scientist James Harris; Councilmember Frank Ogawa; Johnny Spain; John Burris; John
Turk; Dorothy Pitts of DeFremery Park fame; former “Oakland Is…” hosts Carole
Ward Allen and Michael Lange; Dan O’Connell; actors James Brooks and John
Edward Hines; writer Charles Aikens; The Legendary O’Town Passions ; Chauncey
Bailey; Dr. Yusef Bey; Minister Keith Muhammad; Joe Johnson; Professor Froben
Lozada, Charlie Toledo, Doward & The
LoveLight Blues Band and numerous others.
The nucleus of our current crew is as
Dr. Barbara E.M. Cannon ----23 +
years as Lead Host and Chief Inspiration for the whole idea.
Dan O’Connell---23 + years—Director,
CG Operator, Editor, Website Administrator, Camera Person, Producer,
Instructor, T.D., Social Media Content Producer
Micki Mayzes----23 + years---Director,
Editor, Technician, Recording Engineer, Producer, Camera Person, Instructor, T.D.
Lange----22+ Years of wisdom, advice and experience as a host. She is the
former Manager of KMTP-TV 32, mainstream media icon and the underlying reason why we
became associated with KMTP in the first place. Her underlings at the
station had rejected our young show as “just another talk show” and had turned
it down, coldly, when I played my trump card, which was “ Oh, I’m very sorry. Didn’t mean to take up so much of your time. Ms Lange told
me to bring these over…” Suddenly, there was pandemonium in the room, as the
minions wrestled the shows from me, apologized profusely, and ran to the
control room to air them immediately. Does one need to say that “the rest is
Robert Gardner----22+ years—Director,
Editor, CG Operator, Recording Engineer, Camera Person, Instructor, Lighting
years---Director, Editor, Producer, Lighting Tech, Switcher
John Monks----16+ years as Producer,
Director and EVERYTHING else
Yasmin Michele----11+ years as Host,
Floor Director, Catering Supervisor, Event Planner
years as Host, Hair & Makeup, Photography
There are many other talented,
dedicated volunteers who helped us maintain the “Oakland Is…” TV show
over the 24 years of our journey. They are scattered across this land, employed
in various television capacities. We MUST mention our former Director C. Sade
Turnipseed, who is now Director of the B.B. King Blues Museum in Indianola, MS. On the local level, we mourn the
transitions in 2015 of Michael Lange, who left the show in 2010 to concentrate on
writing, acting, directing and starring in movies and plays, and John
"Gator" Hines, who passed two weeks later. Former Director Linda
Turner Wilson is somewhere in Virginia, doing what she loves
best—television. Christopher Bauer (Camera Person/Actor) is currently pursuing
an acting career in Hollywood. Remember Big Don Davison? He
started his gospel singing career on Dr. Madalyn Peterson’s “Gospel
Search” recently. We will always remember the late great cameraman Albert “Bud”
Gundelach and the late great magician/ventriloquist Glenn Haywood, one of our
early directors (watch his video on our YouTube channel); Answar Boudreux; J.D. Angle,
Dan "The Dude" Baker, and
Michael “GoGo” Guyton; Keith Johnson; Ron Thompson; writer, poet James Cagney; Thomas A. Johnson, business expert; and producer Tony Elder.
Our viewers were in awe of Ms Tatiana
McAlister’s beautiful hair, in her debut as host. She has been with the crew
off & on for the past eight years, in various capacities.
We welcome home our long-time host, the dynamic Ms
Zina Hall, audience favorite, who paused briefly to
pursue a career in real estate.
Jimmy Guy -- Creator, Producer,
Singer/Songwriter, Dancer and new host, is still very much on the scene, with
renewed enthusiasm, vigor, vitality and raw energy.
So stay tuned, Ms Bethune
You, too, Thurgood, Sir
The best is yet to occur!
P.S. SPECIAL THANKS TO MR. JOHNNIE
BURRELL OF INTERNATIONALMEDIATV.COM FOR HIS LOYAL ASSISTANCE, ENTHUSIASM AND BOUNDLESS ENERGY. ********* Mr.
Burrell and Jimmy Guy are now
a team in television production, a 1-2 punch, fyi. Look forward
to some exciting shows as we continue to spotlight the movers and shakers and
image-makers of the world !!!!!