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Attention readers! Clear your Sunday schedule, because on May 21 the 2017 Oakland Book Festival – Read.Debate.Celebrate is happening. The theme this year being “Equality & Inequality”.

If you are are like me (an out and proud book-aphile) and a whole day dedicated to books, literary debates,  ideological and social norm challenges, and community enrichment through critical thought sounds like the perfect day, then this event is for you!

The architects of this event wrote a beautiful mission statement to address the vastness in meaning of the themes selected for this year’s event; themes that I believe are resonating and vibrating all around us given the current political climate we are all trying to navigate.

To give you a taste of what this event will be like, here is a blip from the event’s welcome page: “…The Declaration of Independence posits liberty and equality as mutually supportive aspects of American democratic culture. And yet Americans have come to see the desires for freedom and for equality as pulling in opposite directions, as though we can only enjoy one at the expense of the other. This is a false dilemma, the result of which has been to privilege freedom at the expense of equality. This year’s OBF is aimed at shattering that dilemma and its associated confusions. It will be an examination of and an exercise in equality.”

This year’s Festival will kick off with a keynote address by Danielle Allen at 5pm on Saturday May 20th at Oakland City Hall: “It Is the Right of the People….” This event is free and open to the public. After her talk, there will be an opening gala for the book festival at the Starlight Social Club.  The general admission party starts at 8pm ($10 for tickets). This gala will consist of a few  readings, musical performances, and non-stop dancing from 8pm-2am.

Below are a few of the panels I highlighted as worth checking out, but please, check out for yourself the full list of the over ninety writers, journalists, and speakers who will be participating in this Sunday’s event:

Arlie Hochschild in conversation with Clara Jeffery
Council Chambers  |  11:00am–12:15pm
Arlie Hochschild spent five years in “Red” America, during which she discovered powerful forces—fear of cultural eclipse, economic decline, perceived government betrayal—that help to explain the emotional appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. Hochschild discusses these issue with Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jones, who published her research as “I Spent 5 Years with Some of Trump’s Biggest Fans: How Donald Trump took a narrative of unfairness and twisted it to his advantage.”


Chris Jackson · Ishmael Reed
Moderated By: Justin Desmangles
Presented by: BCF
Hearing Room 2  |  11:00am–12:15pm

Throughout much of our nation’s early history, literacy among the non-white population was crime punishable by death. The struggle towards education and self-determination for Americans of color remains fraught with adversity. At the center of these enveloping controversies and culture wars remains the question of just what is American literature.

Sandhya Anantharaman · Jan English-Lueck · Natalie Foster · Sean Kline
Moderated By: Ben Tarnoff
Hearing Room 4 | 11:00am–12:15pm

Technological advances used to lead to new jobs, higher wages, and improved standards of living. Today, however, globalization and accelerated automation are killing American jobs and making its workers redundant, while new wealth is moving to the already wealthy. What is to be done?

Peter Cohen · Saneta deVuono-powell · Eli Moore
Dalziel Building | 11:00am–12:15pm

The Bay Area faces a housing crisis, one that pits the middle class against the working poor and leaves many long-term, active residents tired and heartbroken. The debates about housing echo earlier social movements, as communities feel silenced or erased and seek new ways to make the statement “I exist.” What would a just housing solution look like? How do we look past short-term fixes and envisage housing solutions twenty years into the future?

John Curl Tennessee Reed · Floyd Salas
Moderated By: Tony R. Rodriguez
Presented By: PEN Oakland
Chamber of Commerce  |  11:00am–12:15pm

What is the future of the American experiment? Collapse? Dystopian despair? Nativist strongmen and warlords? Or is a better world still available? Is social justice even possible in the USA? And what is “social justice” anyway?

Judith Butler · Angela Davis
Moderated By: Ramona Naddaff
Council Chambers  |  12:30pm–1:45pm

Samantha Giles · Anisse Gross · Trisha Low · Medaya Ocher · Arisa White
Moderated By: Marisa Siegel
Presented By: The Rumpus
Dalziel Building  |  12:30pm–1:45pm

Does diversity in leadership translate into diversity in literary content? If not, what additional changes are necessary to create a genuinely inclusive literary landscape? How does the current conservative political administration affect the literary community and what can we do to move forward?

Danielle Allen in conversation with Mark Greif
Council Chambers  |  2:00pm–3:15pm

Education. Healthcare. Justice. Water. Leisure. Food. Art. The list of shared goods to which equal access is becoming ever more difficult goes on, and it is lengthening daily. American democracy and culture are being shaped by the pressures of inequality, while the republic and its people are groaning for relief. “All men are created equal.” So we have been told. But what is equality, and what would a nation of individuals that understood equality (alongside freedom) as one of their greatest assets and rights actually look like?

Donte Clark · Pendarvis Harshaw · Amir Soltani
Moderated By: Tamara Alvarado
Presented By: California Humanities
Hearing Room 1  |  2:00pm–3:15pm

The East Bay is home to civic pride, grassroots activism, and ongoing racial tensions. At a time of local and national unrest, how can the humanities contribute to the discussion of race and address societal divisions that result from historical inequalities? A panel of art, policy, and film makers will provide the local context of issues of race and place, using two documentary films funded by California Humanities as a focal point.

Erin Baldassari · Sharmi Basu · Van Dell · Stephen DeCaprio
Moderated By: Sam Lefebvre
Dalziel Building  |  2:00pm–3:15pm

After the December 3 Ghost Ship fire, which claimed thirty-six lives, artists and sympathizers rallied to provide mutual aid and lobbied city government for relief from a crackdown on cultural centers and other unpermitted homes. But the wellspring of fundraising and advocacy also exposed rifts in the Oakland community. This conversation examines the strengths and blind spots of arts advocacy after Ghost Ship.

Reese Erlich
Chamber of Commerce|  2:00pm–3:15pm

Based on firsthand reporting from Syria and throughout the Middle East, this conversation will address Assad’s regime, the Islamic State, foreign intervention, and the pitfalls of US policy. What underlies the Syrian Civil War and how will the US president handle the crises?

Rodney Barnette · Sadie Barnette
Moderated By: Sampada Aranke
Hearing Room 1  |  3:30pm–4:30pm
Rodney Barnette founded the Compton chapter of the Black Panther Party in 1968, and the FBI began amassing a file on his whereabouts and activities that would grow to over 500 pages. In 2016 his daughter, the artist Sadie Barnette, reclaimed and re-presented that file in an act of radical aesthetics. What do the Barnettes teach us about, in Sampada Aranke’s words, “the intimate proximity between visibility, policing, and surveillance in the wake of COINTELPRO?”

Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve · Daniel Hartnett Norland
Moderated By: Eric Taylor
Presented By: Stanford University Press
Hearing Room 2  |  3:30pm–4:30pm

Michel Foucault famously described prison as “the detestable solution, which one seems unable to do without.” On this panel, a professor of criminal justice and the editor of a first-person account of imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay bring their experience and work to bear on the problem of prison, the detestable solutions it proposes, and the excruciating denial of justice it delivers.

Dacher Keltner · Jarrett Kobek
Moderated By: B Scot Rousse
Dalziel Building  |  3:30pm–4:30pm

Is the image of rich people being rude, presumptuous, and morally impenetrable just a stereotype? In fact, studies have revealed interesting links between wealth, entitlement, and the egotistical appropriation of success, traits all too often attributed to the neophyte Silicon Valley bourgeoisie. Our panelists examine just how justified is its vilification, and what alternatives exist

Cat Brooks · L.A. Kauffman · Sarah Leonard
Chamber Of Commerce  |  3:30pm–4:30pm

On this panel, political thinkers and activists discuss the role of civil disobedience, grass roots organizing, and property damage, and what these things mean to the building of a movement in the streets.

Ivan Ascher · Wendy Brown
Presented By: Zone Books
Hearing Room 2  |  4:45pm–6:00pm

What does finance capital have to do with democracy? This conversation between Ivan Ascher and Wendy Brown will explore how capitalism has changed in recent decades, and what the effects are on principles and practices of freedom, equality and popular sovereignty. Is there any hope for democratic renewal in a world dominated by finance and its imperatives? How might we need to think beyond Marx, and beyond democracy, both to grasp our present and to envision more just and sustainable futures for humanity and the planet?


Mistah F.A.B. · Alia Sharrief · MADlines · Int’l Hay Sús
Moderated By: Nastia Voynovskaya
Dalziel Building  |  4:45pm–6:00pm

The mainstreaming of hip-hop has put rappers in positions of huge cultural influence. Here, four Oakland hip-hop artists discuss their attempts to use their platforms for social good at a time when the role of the “conscious rapper” has been redefined.

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Born and raised in the bay. I'm just a tumbling weed, or something along those cliched lines. Good times adventurist. Always on the hunt for the weird and unusual, while I myself AM weird and unusual. (10 points if you get that). Currently calling home Oakland. Lovin all the art, culture, drinking and the food.