There are all kinds of buffs out there — board game nerds, beer savants — and now there’s a project in downtown Oakland for the local history geeks. Chapter 510, a youth literary arts nonprofit, just produced audio tours of historic Swan’s Market by high school kids. Dubbed “Oakland Belonging,” it's the nonprofit’s first self-guided walking tour. For example, in the 8-minute podcast “Food for the People,” student Phoebe Lefebvre describes Oakland’s rich culture, its issues with food insecurity, and how the Old Oakland Farmer’s Market right outside of Swan’s does its part to supply food to those in need.
The final project features straightforward directions, mixed with insights into the area’s history, poems, and essays about the space. Anyone headed to Swan Market for lunch, or explicitly to take the tour, can go to Chapter 510’s website (or find one of the QR codes on the premises) to listen to one of the young writers while walking along a coordinated map the nonprofit designed of various vendors — it’ll even keep track of where you last left off in your listening. Elena Botkin-Levy, a freelance radio producer, was the teaching artist for this program, meaning she worked with students on their pieces. The nonprofit features all kinds of writing and arts programming for young people in Oakland including novel and short story writing, screenplays, songwriting, and college essay preparation with an emphasis on publishing Black, brown, and queer youth. The organization 826 Valencia, founded by Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari in San Francisco’s Mission District, served as inspiration.
Jahan Khalighi, Chapter 510 program and event director, says Oakland’s director of housing Emily Weinstein came up with the idea for the Oakland Belonging program. “She has a deep history in Oakland,” Khalighi says. “It was a chance for the students to collect stories of this landmark, to learn skills like interviewing folks, and all through the lens of belonging and disbelonging.” Khalighi says the students wrote about various histories of businesses in the market; Chapter 510 student Citlali Sanchez Udovic wrote and recorded a piece about Taylor Sausage, the oldest vendor in the very old marketplace.
The podcasts are all available to listen to online, and Khalighi says the organization is excited to run further podcasting programs in the future — this was the first audio project for Chapter 510. The organization moved from its original location at 2301 Telegraph Avenue Field to the Swan’s Market space in April 2021, so it’s still a fairly new space for everyone. Field trips will return in the spring. “So often local residents with deep roots don’t have their voices heard when cities are being shaped,” Khalighi says. “How can youth stories help design spaces and places, and how can those voices be more centralized?”
The walking tour can be completed at any time beginning at 546 9th Street.