(originally printed in Oakland Local)
By David Kim
It was old school fun under a blazing sun on Saturday as more than 300 community members showed up in support of the Town Funk Summer Block Party near the Parkway Theater.
Neighbors partied and danced in the street, as part a celebration of their community and the inauguration of the new Funktown Arts District. It was the first time since the Parkway Speakeasy theatre closed that Park Blvd has seen this much action.
Park Blvd. was filled with fantastic fun which included live hip-hop and reggae music from a range of artists, free food for everyone, and a massive jumper for the kids.
Midway through the event, the dance area was taken over by dozens of colorful scrapper bikes, which had paraded all the way from 73rd Ave, Led by Baby Champ, "the Original Scrapper Bike King," the crew proceeded to perform several scrapper bike anthems.
Neighborhood artists Rocker T and Jern Eye culminated the afternoon after DJ Zeph tore the house down with an incredible Michael Jackson tribute mash-up that had the crowd dancing.
The party, part of an ongoing effort to unite the local community and Oakland at large, was a collaboration between a diverse group of local organizations and churches which included; Regeneration, Trybe, Lake Merritt Business Association, Lake Neighbors, Roots and Branches, Woodys Cafe, Lotus Bloom; Beats, Rhymes and Life, and Community Rejuvenation Project.
Many at the event said the party was a fantastic demonstration of community love.
"I think it's good for Oakland. The city needs more events like this," said Lisa O’Brien, a parent of one of the Future Shock dancers, who also performed.
Besides good music and food, the party also featured a live aerosol painting on Yuens Automotive by the Community Rejuvenation Project, which has recently begun transforming the neighborhood with several murals in the immediate vicinity of the event. The new murals have led the community to rename the area "the Funktown Arts District," depicted in colorful images of musicians and artists on the automotive shop. Around the corner, guest artist and San Diego master muralist, Mario Toredo, painted a large colorful portrait.
"The Community Rejuvenation Project believes that the solution to neighborhood blight and neglect is community involvement and engagement, through cultural artwork and community celebration. The Town Funk block party is a perfect example of this," said Desi W.O.M.E, the program's founder and director.
The Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP) cultivates healthy communities through beautification, education, and celebration. The group achieves this mission through experiential programs that promote professional development, artistic and cultural expression, and community empowerment.
CRP recently inaugurated the Martin Luther King Cultural Corridor with a series of murals between West Grand Ave. and 28th St. on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The group is currently completing a large mural on Mills Grocery at Seminary and MacArthur and transforming an abandoned lot next to the wall into a community garden with local high school students.