Oakland Is...

 
 
   
 
BLOG
Home
Current Season
History
Production Team
Contact Us
Archive

 
 

 

 

The History of "Oakland Is..."
 

HOW   WE   GOT   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 there.

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. Sound familiar?

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 East 14th Street.

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 from Marianna, 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, Annie”?

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, 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 follows:

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.

Ms Jerri 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 history?”

Robert Gardner----22+ years—Director, Editor, CG Operator, Recording Engineer, Camera Person, Instructor, Lighting Technician, Switcher

Edmound Broussard-----16+ 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

Amaranth Modacure----11+ 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 !!!!!

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

If you have any topics to discuss, please contact us!





"Oakland Is..." - Oakland, California - USA - (510) 590-9177
Copyright VIR-LOU PRODUCTIONS (20XX). All Rights Reserved.