The dynamo that is the Black Dot Cafe just keeps producing culture — make that counterculture — from East Oakland’s politically aware African-American intelligentsia. Want hip-hop and video production workshops? Want spoken-word nights with a strong political flavor? Want live music? Want to learn about the Black Bodhi Dharma from a Buddhist teacher? Black Dot can provide. And now the wildly ambitious Black Dot collectivists — Marcel Diallo, Letitia Ntofon, et al. — have added another avenue for their ongoing, community-wide cultural discourse: blackdotcafe magazine, definitely a zine to conjure with.
The bimonthly publication, available at the Jahva House in Oakland, Serendipity Books and Cody’s in Berkeley (where it costs $4), and for free at the cafe itself (1431 23rd Ave., Oakland), picks up where most magazines leave off. The viewpoint is deeply spiritual and profoundly skeptical. Says Diallo in his intro: “We tryna git these demons out our psyche. These demons that manifest as self-hate, weak families, and vulnerable communities. These demons that got many of us afraid to stand up and be black.”
The premiere issue features an in-depth Q&A with veteran poet and political firebrand Amiri Baraka, who offers this assessment of 9/11: “If we gonna be the criminal rulers of the world, we gonna have to pay for it. … And this is the first payment.” There also are poems; articles on midwifery and genealogy; reviews of hip-hop DJs, books, and DVDs; and a “Gentrification Watch” opinion piece and related diatribe against the “Jerryfication” of poor Oakland neighborhoods by landlords — one of Black Dot’s favorite topics, given its eviction from its original space. There’s even a cooking section, with Vania Gulston’s review of a cookbook by Ntozake Shange, plus a recipe for Congo Groundnut Soup.
Blackdotcafe magazine plans to have theme issues, and free-lance submissions from writers, photographers, and illustrators are encouraged, if they follow the guidelines. The February-March number, entitled “The Politics of Soul,” is now being assembled. Send your work to [email protected] (“We only accept e-mail submissions, unless you in jail”).