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February 17, 2016 05:39 PM

(Above left to right: Jeff Geiger, Tommy Castro and Norma Fraser at Kesey Square)

It didn’t take much to create a magical moment in Kesey Square last night.

In a crapshoot, writer and No Shame Eugene co-founder Jeff Geiger (see EW's "The Birth of Wild Man") reached out to blues legend Tommy Castro Tuesday, Feb. 17, asking him to do an impromptu performance at Kesey Square before his official show at The Shedd — he said yes, right away.

“I emailed him and then I got the number for his booking agent,” Geiger tells EW. “Then I called his booking agent and he told me to send him the message. I did that. An hour later Tommy called me from his cell phone on the road.”

Geiger explains that he sent Castro links to articles by EW and the Register Guard and a summary of the issue at hand of Kesey Square being under the threat of development.

“He was on it. He was immediately hooked,” Geiger says, who went to meet him at The Shedd and walk him down to the square Tuesday evening. “On our walk from The Shedd, he was just telling me how important it is to have community spaces, the sacred nature of having a public space.”

(Above from left to right: Tommy Castro, Jeff Geiger and Norma Fraser)

Geiger set up sound with a car battery in the middle of the square. Castro sat down on a stool with his guitar and spoke into the mic: “I’m here to help save Kesey Square.” He then went on to sing “Common Ground." 

Jamaican-born, Eugene-based reggae legend Norma Fraser happened to be at The Barn Light at the same time (located across the street from Kesey Square). She had just learned that Kesey Square was under the threat of development into apartment buildings. On hearing this news, she strode over to Kesey Square.

“No,” she told the small crowd, shaking her head. “This is for the people.”

Then Fraser, who used to perform with Bob Marley, and Castro performed Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” for the small crowd. See video below:

Now, Fraser and Save Kesey Square activist Gwendolyn Iris are planning an even bigger event at Kesey Square — TBA.

So why did Jeff Geiger set this up? He says finding out about the 1971 deed for Kesey Square that the space should “forever dedicated to the use of the public” pushed him over the line to speak out in favor of keeping the square public.

“That to me was the tipping point,” Geiger says. “Learning about the deed was a shock to my system. OK, this has gone from business as usual into this new territory of just ridiculousness — I was feeling that. It just feels like, what can I do? How can I make a difference? How can I creatively speak out on this issue? And then of course, that’s what public space is for. The irony is the space we’re trying to protect is the best place to speak out about these issues.”

Geiger explains that perhaps he, and others like him, would speak out more if they weren’t already loaded down with other responsibilities.

“The reality is there’s a lot of people who care deeply about these issues but they’re busy,” Geiger says. “And the reality is, that’s why stuff like this happens. That’s why we lose our public spaces. That activist that lives in each one gets beat down by other responsibilities.”

Geiger says he believes more people would speak up to keep Kesey Square a public space if they didn’t already think it was a foregone conclusion to sell it, that the city had already agreed with the 2E Broadway development group to put moderate-income apartments on the square.

“It’s so disingenuous,” Geiger says of the city’s process. “If you have already made your decision, public input is going to be a waste of time. You’ve already made up your mind. That perpetuates people throwing their hands up — ‘What can we do?’”

He adds, “People are cynical about this. When the city shows a lack of genuine engagement people feel like it’s a done deal. They want authentic public engagement. You reap what you sow.”

Geiger pointed out how little it took to create a moment where two renowned musicians could spontaneously play in a city square.

“It’s the lack of creativity — that’s what kills me,” Geiger says of the city. “If we could pull that together with a car battery, two phone calls and five hours notice, imagine what the city could do with a little imagination and planning.”

Geiger adds: “Imagine if there was an open invitation that any act coming through Eugene, that that was an option — a band could play a preshow or post show at Kesey Square.”

He says he will be attending the City Council public forum to speak up about Kesey Square at 7:30 pm Monday, Feb. 22, at Harris Hall, 125 E. 8th Ave.

“With a little bit of care, with a little bit of programming, with a little bit of attention, the square could do all these great things.”
 

February 15, 2016 05:37 PM

Alternative Radio founder David Barsamian talks to KBOO radio about the role of AR and KLCC's decision to drop the free program after 30 years.

February 15, 2016 06:57 AM

The Eugene Ballet Company performed boldly Sunday afternoon, with a program that delighted the senses, starting with “White Noise” by choreographer Amy Seiwert.          

            Interweaving nuanced pairings and solo work, Seiwart’s visually arresting piece employed clever technology, infrared cameras trained on the dancers themselves, to paint the stage in a wash of color and light. Set to evocative music by Zoë Keating, the work captured the geometric artistry of the dancers, their lines in space, amplifying and clarifying their intention and abilities. The light itself almost seemed like another elusive, larger-than-life, company member, such was the seamlessness of dance/visual interaction.

            The EBC dancers seemed delighted to perform in this piece, energized and engaged – not merely bathing in static theatrical lighting – but reveling in creating visual art, live onstage.

            Credit for the lighting design goes to Kelly Baum and Brian Jones, with the overall visual design by Frieder Weiss. The staging of the piece was by Nicole White and Gabriel Williams, with simple and elegant costumes by Christine Darch.

            Unlike some works that rely heavily on technology, almost using it as a crutch, “White Noise” balanced spectacle with artistry, developing shape and form throughout its progression. A credit to the choreographer, I think the work would hold up, and be almost as engaging, in work lights and sweatpants. (But the lighting is too fabulous to miss.)

            The second half of the concert, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”, pulled out all the stops in a tour de force collaboration between EBC, the Eugene Concert Choir (along with talented children from the Festival Choirs, under the direction of Chris Dobson) and Orchestra Next, all held together under the vigilant eye of conductor Brian McWhorter.

            Toni Pimble’s choreography shines here, interpreting liturgical text for a 21st Century audience. Pimble unfailingly gets at the heart of the songs, beloved and well known, there’s a risk of treading into the maudlin or pastiche. Not so, Pimble. She keeps the work fresh and vital, bringing ancient tropes into modern consciousness, reminding us that we’re not so far from the field or the tavern.

            There are too many standout moments to mention.

            Cory Betts in “O Fortuna” digs into the changeable nature of fate, flexing and arching, he frames the work with his physical pleas for mercy.

            In “First Spring”, Yoshie Oshima, Mark Tucker and Yamil Maldonado warm the stage like the melting snow itself. Soloist Anton Belov delivers a stirring rendition of “Omnia Sol Temperat”.

            Let’s take a moment to appreciate the Eugene Concert Choir. It’s wonderful, essential, to have live music – an orchestra! With tons of live singers! – And the choir delivers more here than mere singing. With clever staging from Pimble, and exuberant acting from the choristers, the Concert Choir is utilized to evoke the mysteries of medieval life.

            In their terrific costumes by Lynn Bowers, the choristers are transformed, from Gregorian monks, to peasants at the apex of glorious summer, in their wimples and doublets, to the ruling class. How pleased they all seem to be so much a part of the action, and Pimble has fully-utilized these performers, giving them simple but effective stage choreography, to add to the mood and mystery of the experience.

            “In the tavern” trains its indelible eye on one woeful swan, trussed on a spit in front of a multitude of hungry revelers. In “Olim Lacus Colueram”, Beth Maslinoff ‘s piteous portrayal might encourage a few in the audience to become vegetarians.

            It all comes together in the “Court of Love”, and soloist soprano Zulimar López-Hernández delights with her range and delivery.

            This is love in all its guises, and while every moment is a jewel, Antonio Anacan and Suzanne Haag’s duet, about being, er, happy in their coupling, justifies this offering for Valentine’s Day. Oh my.

            Thomas Coates’ clever stage design creates a Wheel of Fate onstage (pity the spinning dancer, hope he took his Dramamine), a bawdy tavern and an imaginative Court of Love fit for Cupid himself.

            The audience went wild for this effort, and rightly so. EBC has pulled off a terrific collaboration, dissolving barriers to language – suddenly, through Pimble’s able hands, we all understand Latin! – And creating a timeless connection between movement and music. Bravo. 

February 15, 2016 05:28 PM

The City of Eugene Human Rights Commission will meet and vote on the adoption of an Indigenous Peoples' Day resolution Tuesday, February 16th, at 5:30 pm at the Atrium Bldg. 99 W.10th Ave. Eugene (Sloat Room). Proponents of the switch from Columbus Day to Indigenous People's Day, such as community member Ada Ball are encouraging turnout at the meeting.

Just what is Indigenous People's Day? The holiday, celebrated in Portland, Seattle and several other cities across the country, "reimagines Columbus Day and changes a celebration of colonialism into an opportunity to reveal historical truths about the genocide and oppression of indigenous peoples in the Americas, to organize against current injustices, and to celebrate indigenous resistance," according to the Unitarian Universalist Association

Ball, who has been fighting for the resolution, says:

"The resolution would be an official document of HRC [the Human Rights Commission] if adopted tomorrow. If adopted,the HRC would then be able to, along with support from the public, pass this on to [Eugene] City Council. HRC has the ability to make Indigenous Peoples' Day a City Council agenda item, which would give space for community members, businesses/ organizations, etc to build more momentum and support for this.

I think this is a great opportunity for the city of Eugene to build a base for supporting and affirming Indigenous, Native American, Alaska Native peoples locally, regionally, and nationally. I'm really excited to see how creative we, Eugene, can get with our Indigenous Peoples' Day celebration."

The proposed resolution is below. It was originally written by Phil Carrasco of the Human Rights Commission then opened to public comment, Ball says. 

Resolution : Declare the Second Monday of October as Indigenous Peoples’ Day

 WHEREAS, the City of Eugene Human Rights Commission (CEHRC) recognizes that the Indigenous peoples of the lands that would later become known as the Americas have lived on these lands since time immemorial; and

WHEREAS, the CEHRC honors the fact that the City of Eugene is built upon the traditional homelands of the Kalapuya peoples and recognizes the inherent sovereignty of the nine federally recognized tribal nations in the State of Oregon and all Indigenous peoples everywhere; and

WHEREAS, the CEHRC values the many contributions made to our community through Indigenous peoples’ knowledge, labor, technology, science, philosophy, arts and the deep cultural contribution that has substantially shaped the character of the City of Eugene ; and

WHEREAS, the CEHRC has a responsibility to oppose the systematic racism towards Indigenous people in the United States, which perpetuates high rates of poverty and income inequality, exacerbating disproportionate health, education, and social crises ; and

WHEREAS, Indigenous Peoples’ Day was first proposed in 1977 by a delegation of Native Nations to the United Nations sponsored International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas; and

WHEREAS, the CEHRC is committed to protecting and advocating for justice, human rights, and the dignity of all people who live and work in Eugene and vows to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (the “Declaration”) endorsed by the United States on December 16, 2010; and

WHEREAS, the Declaration recognizes the right of Indigenous peoples “to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information,” and places an obligation on States to “take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the Indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among Indigenous peoples and all other segments of society”; and

WHEREAS, the CEHRC understands colonization not as an historic event but as an ongoing structure predicated on the elimination of Indigenous life and land, and contends that the celebration of Christopher Columbus and his alleged “discovery” of Indigenous lands celebrates the colonization and dispossession of Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas; and

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the CEHRC declares its support for the City of Eugene to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Eugene strike from the calendars and websites all references to Columbus Day; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Eugene utilize this day as an opportunity to reflect upon the ongoing struggles of Indigenous people of this land, to celebrate the thriving cultures and values of the Indigenous Peoples of our region, and to stand in solidarity with with Indigenous peoples elsewhere; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the CEHRC strongly encourages the Eugene 4J and Bethel School Districts and Board members to comply with the Oregon American Indian/Alaska Native State Plan which mandates that the public schools of our City teach about the history, culture, contemporary lives, and governments of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, with special emphasis on those from Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest ; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the CEHRC encourages other businesses, organizations, and public institutions to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday in October; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the CEHRC firmly commits to continue its efforts to promote the well-being and growth of Eugene’s Indigenous community.

Adopted by the City of Eugene Human Rights Commission on __, 2016 .

February 12, 2016 01:21 PM

The Huffington Post today has an independent analysis by professor Kenneth Thorpe of a claim in the Democratic debates last night that Bernie Sanders' universal health care plan doesn't pencil out.

February 9, 2016 01:13 PM

The Union of Concerned Scientists this week published an essay by noted scientist Jeremy Martin, Ph.D., about the impact of low fuel prices on efforts to get the U.S. and the world off fossil fuels.