09.08.09 - 10.09.09: A PROFILE OF 4 SQUARES


Please join us in celebrating the completion of 10,000 Steps' first phase of green art stewardship with downtown Oakland's historic parks and surrounding communities! This multimedia exhibit, at Pro Arts at the Oakland Art Gallery (in Frank Ogawa Plaza across from City Hall) includes a wide range of exciting events, including guided walking tours and in-gallery interactive community-led demonstrations.


09.17.09: 6-8PM Artists Reception

09.18.09: 12 – 1:30PM Tai Chi Class

An all-levels class taught at the gallery by Lincoln Rec Center’s Mr. Wong. FREE

09.19.09: 11- 1PM Oakland’s Historic Town Squares

Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour guided by Annalee Allen. Meet at the corner of 9th & Jackson Streets. Fee: $15

10.02.09: 12 – 1:30PM Mexican Lunch Con Poco Dinero

Cooking demo in the gallery by Tina Tamale, fourth generation co-owner of Old Oakland’s La Boriqueña Restaurant.FREE

10.02.09: 5:30 – 7PM Interactive Neighborhood Ecotour

Tour led by Serena Bartlett, green travel expert and creator of GrassRoutes Travel. Meet at The Pardee House, 672 11th Street. FREE

10.02.09: 6 – 8PM First Friday Reception

Save a bag & support 10,000 Steps at the same time!

All September, Whole Foods Markets in Oakland will donate a nickel to 10,000 Steps every time you bring your own shopping bag. Refreshments for all events provided by Whole Foods Market.

--- onsite : 2009-08-20 ---


Read about the our latest goings-on in Oakland North, a news site that is part of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism: "We all take seriously our Ford Foundation mandate, which is to explore new ways to give communities back the coverage they’re losing as regional newspapers shrink–and also to be inventive about what digital journalism can do for all of us in the future."

--- onsite : 2009-06-18 ---


10,000 Steps has successfully completed its first phase of on-site nomadic stewardship of Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln and Madison Square Parks. We will now collaborating with the community to create Oakland’s first self-guided walking tour that will lead people to these historic parks. This walking tour will reveal the hidden cultural history of the downtown area surrounding these parks, encourage local stewardship and ecotourism, and promote a different and accessible way to engage with public green space. We want downtown Oakland walkers, residents and tourists alike, to have the chance to learn about Oakland’s vibrant community and dynamic history. We are working with an interdisciplinary team to analyze our collected materials: social anthropologist Darcie Luce, writer and artist Matthew Rana, and urban parks planner Paul Rosenbloom. The content of the walking tour will foster community dialog, making questions about the city’s open space and transformation part of the vernacular landscape. The tour will be marked with sidewalk medallions that will be steppingstones for on-going community conversations about the neighborhood: vanished architecture, current culture, history, and local ecology.

--- onsite : 2009-05-09 ---



After a sweltering noon-time visit to the Old Oakland Farmers’ Market, we continued our downtown cross-cultural adventure by attending the monthly meeting of the Chinese American Cultural Alliance. Ed, the CACA President who is very active in supporting the Lincoln Rec Center, invited us to introduce the 10,000 Steps project to his fellow CACA-ers to spark their interest and curiosity. Many of the organization’s members are long-time Chinatown residents and have wide-ranging stories about the area and its parks (Madison, Lincoln and Harrison Square Parks). Chinese Americans formed the CACA in San Francisco in 1895 during a time of great hostility and discrimination against Chinese immigrants in order “to better their community and to combat the anti-Chinese sentiment. Its actions to combat racism and injustice quickly gained widespread interest. In 1912, CACA was expanded nationwide.” The Oakland branch of the CACA has been in the same building on 8th Street above a Chinese restaurant since the early 1920s. Though the CACA is part of the backbone of the Chinese-American community, its existence is relatively unknown to the larger Oakland community.


Their meetings always start with a potluck dinner, and tonight was no different. We felt both like honored guests and family reunion crashers. Ed was our guide and made sure that we sampled all of the food offered, from sautéed sour melon to fried chicken and sweet plums picked from someone’s backyard. He also introduced us to everyone there. Ed is very keen on us collecting some of the treasured memories of the CACA’s members as well as promoting the CACA’s presence. We will strive to do both.



We were second on the agenda following presentations by high school students sponsored by the CACA to attend a special conference in Washington DC. The CACA, as a community-based organization, aims to support its multi-generational constituency. We had hoped for more immediate discussion and interest in our project after our presentation. Because what we are doing doesn’t fit into the pre-set scheme (we are not part of the city yet we are working to raise awareness about the parks), listeners generally mull over their questions silently. We prefer to talk to people out on the street, but attending this meeting allowed us to meet some of the older generation.


After we spoke, we were whisked back upstairs to meet with Harry, an octogenarian and self-named historian. We spent over an hour learning about a range of Chinatown stories from the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which forced Chinatown into becoming a community of bachelors, to Harry’s World War II exploits as a Flying Tiger. Harry explained that the GI bill allowed Henry’s generation to move out of Chinatown and buy houses in suburbs. Harry told us that Oakland’s Chinatown is where it is because the “Red Train” to the Oakland Mole (the ferry to SF) ran on 7th Street and the station was between Broadway and Washington Streets. True to Oakland’s multi-layered cultural mix, the station is now a Mexican grocery store.


The most intriguing story that Harry recounted was that of the wealthiest men in Chinatown during the 1920s. His mansion was located in Harrison Square Park (now the home of the Hon Luk Senior Center). and he had built his fortune from creative gambling ventures. During the depression era he offered jobs and rides to San Mateo, an unincorporated area where gambling flourished. MaJong and PaiGow were popular. And, Harry re-counted with a wink, many Chinatown building’s basements have interconnecting alleys, which were useful for illegal activities, especially during Prohibition. Now that’s a city tour that we would love to take part in!

Harry agreed to tell us more stories on camera, and he offered to lead a special walking tour of Chinatown that highlights its myriad points of transformation.

--- onsite : 2008-07-11 ---



We set out very, very early on this foggy post 4th-of-July Saturday to meet and practice with the hundreds of qigong and tai chi exercisers that visit Madison Square Park daily.


The city is even more desolate than usual at 7:00AM. Broadway was eerily silent.


Even as we crossed into Chinatown, there was minimal activity. Shopkeepers were setting out boxes of veggies just dropped off by trucks from the Jack London Square area.


We are really excited by the new decorative crosswalks that recently appeared in Chinatown.


After seeing only a handful of people during our 20 minute walk to the park (about 2,000 steps or approximately 1 mile), the mass of undulating bodies in the park was an amazing sight: hundreds of people were practicing variations of qigong, ti chi, or line dancing.


A black crowned night heron, perched atop the park’s pergola, was the only spectator.


We decided to join in the qigong (or chi’i kung) practice: qigong “refers to a wide variety of traditional “cultivation” practices that involve methods of accumulating, circulating, and working with Qi or energy within the body.”


The practice is comprised of a series of movements and breath work. At first, it was actually quite challenging to follow the movements.


But once we got the hang of it, the practice was both invigorating and relaxing. The octogenarian qigong teacher volunteers his time every day, rain or shine, to lead this open class. We were told that he had had a stroke some twenty years ago. After his stroke, he began to practice qigong and felt his life transformed. He has since generously contributed this teaching to his community. One of his avid followers (one of only a handful of whites present at the park), told us that since his cancer treatment, he comes to practice almost daily. He owes his recovered health to qigong.

During our practice, we noticed a small commotion brewing to our right. Apparently there was a conflict over space among some of the line dancers and qigong practitioners. With so many people practicing different forms of exercise with varying amplified sound systems, it is no wonder that there are space challenges.


After we stopped practicing qigong, we decided to practice some stewardship. The pergola was calling to us, with its peeling paint and windswept piles of leaves and debris.


As we were sweeping, a practioner approached us and asked us what we could do about the pungent and pervasive urine odor. We explained that we don’t work for the city, but that we would report the issue. We have contacted the City’s Public Works Dept, but have not yet heard whether the area has been power-washed. Public Works offers web and phone reportage process to let them know of problem areas.


A couple of people asked us if we could come every day to take care of the park and keep it clean. Park maintenance issues (cleanliness, water fountains, trees, etc) are high on people’s list of needs. Unfortunately, with budget cuts and the City’s financial constraints, these problems may become more pronounced.


As the sun emerged and the majority of exercisers left the park, we spent some time talking with the people who masterminded the park’s recent renovation. Matt Dibble, documentary filmmaker, has been following us around these weeks. Stayed tuned for more about the 10,000 Steps documentary film!


We stopped off for some warm tea and a quick snack before we headed home.


--- onsite : 2008-07-05 ---


Walking to Madison Square Park

On Mother’s Day, we braved the foggy and misty weather to visit the Tai Chi practitioners at Madison Square Park. This park is in the heart of Chinatown, filling the city block between 9th and 10th Streets and Jackson and Madison Streets.


Until recently, this park was pretty underutilized. Now, several hundred Chinese-Americans, mostly seniors, gather in this park daily to practice many forms of Tai Chi and line dancing. These dedicated folks are in the park from 6:30AM until about 9:00AM. We got there just at the tail end of things.

Walking to Madison Square Park

On our way to the park, the plants in our cart attracted a lot of attention. Everyone wanted to know what we were up to; some wanted to buy our plants. Before we even entered the park, exercisers came up to talk to us. They told us about their concerns for the park. While they are extremely happy to have this beautiful new space in which to practice, they still look forward to some changes, including a permanent bathroom facility, hardscape painting, and more conscientious maintenance.

Making plans for the park

Discussing plans for garden

We spoke for awhile with Ed and Evelyn Loo who spearheaded the renovations for Madison Square Park. They firmly believe that parks are essential for building community. Now that the park has been enhanced, more people are using the park and they feel safe going there.

Talking with Ed and Eve Loo

For more information about the park’s renovation, take a look at City Councilperson’s Pat Kernighan’s newsletter.

Many people we spoke with told us that they would be very excited to have a garden, either with flowers or vegetables, in the park. The main question: who would take care of the garden?

Seeds in Chinatown

We surveyed the park: overall, the park is in excellent condition. In addition to two large asphalted areas for used for tai chi, there is a tot lot with a dragon (the park is sometimes referred to as Dragon Park) that needs a little tlc, a half basketball court, some lovely old trees, grassy knolls and a smattering of benches. At the far end of the park, closest to Jackson Street, there is an Asian-styled pergola in need of fresh paint. This may be a potential stewardship project.

Working on park survey

--- onsite : 2008-05-11 ---

4.12.08: Madison Square Park Re-Opening

We attended the Park's festive ribbon cutting and re-opening. Members of various Tai Chi groups (there are over 600 people who practice Tai Chi in the park daily) worked very hard with City Councilperson Pat Kernighan to re-design Madison Square Park to accommodate all of the Tai Chi groups. These practitioners recently lost their usual practice space. This early morning event included music, dragon dancing and other musical demonstrations. Everyone was very satisfied with the results of their hard work!

Line Dancers

City Councilperson Pat Kernigh

Dragon Dancing

--- onsite : 2008-04-12 ---

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