It’s fall in the bay, and as usual, everyone’s blessed with sun and an abundance of music and art events. As the Oakland art scene continues to grow with events like Art Murmur,—and the rising rent in S.F. pushing artists out of the city— local contributors teamed up with the Youth Speaks organization to throw together a yearly event for the locals.
This years Life is Living event on Saturday, October 13th, went down West Oakland style. The event took place at DeFremery park and had something for everyone—whether that be the art, the live music, the skate contest, the freestyle biking, the freestyle dunking, or just the pure rebellion of it all. For me, it was the fact that it was all free, baby.
When I arrived, it was already 2, and people were everywhere—skatin’, creatin’, politickin’, mixin’ it up. There was a solid mix of people who gathered for the event, all engaging in different activities, yet they were all there for the same cause—good times! Music was being played throughout the park, with two live stages, but they had the music turned up nice and loud on the main stage so everyone in the park could feel it.
The skate contest took place in Town Park—the skatepark at DeFremery–but I wouldn’t really call it a contest; local park founder Keith “K-dub” Williams calls it the Hood Games. K-Dub started the Hood Games in conjunction with a skate club he created at Oakland High, the O-High Playas, and has hosted several skate related events throughout the bay, primarily for the young bucks. K-Dub–also an art teacher at Oakland High–has been holding down the skate community in Oakland for a long time, giving the youth something positive to hold on to, and maintaining focus on building the skate/art scene in Oakland.
Even though Town Park has only been around for the past 5 years, the Hood Games have been around since 2005, and it’s still going strong, so cheers to seven years K-Dub! Over the years, they’ve had some memorable Hood Games appearances by P-Rod, Theotis, and Oakland’s own, Karl Watson. Once K-Dub was able to find a home for the skaters after the city donated land for the park— old basketball courts at Defremery—K-Dub has been on “donation mode” ever since.
After getting the land, K-Dub received ramp donations from a park in Pleasanton, and from there the park has grown with several other donations. As K-Dub explained to me the continual progression of the park, kids were incessantly begging him for free gear.
“Hey, K-Dub, I need a board,” says one of the kids looking at a board on the prize table.
“The person who picks up the most trash gets the board,” replied K-Dub. The kids scatter. One kid looks confused.
“Nothing’s free,” Kdub explained to the kid. When the contest started, the park was already cramped, but when they concentrated the jam format to individual obstacles, the scene was priceless. Kids were colliding, throwing everything they could on the obstacles without any regard for each other. I think many of us have seen this before.
The first jam was on a funbox, where I witnessed one sketchy contestant hit the funbox, baby in arms. The onlooking mothers were not pleased. Even while the contest was going on, large groups of kids were circled around the other ramps waiting their turn. On one of the ramps, I met up with local, Ricky G, who decided to avoid the tike zone and rip it on his own over on the larger ramp. I see this dude every time I come to Town Park. He agrees that the park started off sketchy, but has drastically changed since opening.
What Town Park is now seeing is a fully developed park that serves as a medium for the local skate and art scene, and although the area might make mothers uneasy about dropping their kids off, K-Dub is trying to create a safer environment for everyone at the park. He’s there practically everyday, supervising and chillin’ with his boombox, so no worries there mom. But it remains to be said how dedicated K-Dub has been to the Oakland skate scene.
If it weren’t for him, there would be no skate contests, no park serving West Oakland and Downtown, so we owe it to K-Dub for putting together Town Park. As the sun went down, the contest ended, which was just in time for the last bit of music. They saved the best for last—Talib Kweli DJing!
Hell yeah Oakland! Bless and Build!
All Words and Photos by Joe Sowa
Check out the full gallery below and or more information, visit lifeisliving.org and check Town Park ASAP!