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Alice Arts Center wins partial victory

By LeiLani Dowell
Oakland, Calif.

After tremendous public pressure from artists, community supporters and those taking classes at the Alice Arts Center, representatives of Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown announced on June 12 that the Alice has been taken "off the table" as a possible site for the expansion of a charter arts school favored by the mayor.

The Alice is world renowned for its African and African-American dance classes and performances. It is also a community center for the growth and development of members of the predominantly African-American community of Oakland. The complex also houses 50 tenants in single occupancy rooms, the majority of whom are artists and participants in the Alice's many arts programs.

At lively rallies held in support of the Alice on May 27 and June 10, speakers young and old described the possibilities that the Alice had opened up for them in life, and the avenues they were able to avoid simply by having a space to call their own.

However, victory is not complete for the Alice. Although the public announcement has been made, the ARTS Coalition (Artists and Residents Survive Together) that came together at the beginning of the struggle will not rest until its demands are met in writing. The demands include a written guarantee from the mayor that the tenants and organizations will not be evicted, as well as the creation of a board of members from the Alice Arts community to serve as decision makers for the Alice. Until these goals are met, the ARTS Coalition will continue to protest.

The next protest, scheduled for June 24, will be a march from the Alice to City Hall in downtown Oakland.

On June 15, the Alice community suffered a great loss when Malonga Casquelord was killed in an auto accident. Casquelord was a world-renowned Congolese dancer and drummer who created the Fua Dia Congo dance troupe at the Alice. He was at every event that involved the Alice, including the protests on May 27 and June 10, and will be greatly missed in that community.

Reprinted from the June 26, 2003, issue of Workers World newspaper

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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