Malonga Casquelourde Center for the Arts
by DeAnna Villagomez
The Malonga Casquelourd Center which sits on 1428 Alice St was declared a City Landmark in 2005. Casquelourd was a cameroonian dancer who was an activist and artist who was very involved with the center. Before it was a center for art and dance run by the City of Oakland which also rents out dance studios, office space and a theater was once a hub for women across the East Bay. Built in 1928 the building was was funded by the The Women’s City Club of Oakland and East Bay.
The club which was originally nine women grew to two thousand in just two years by the building opening. It was a large building standing six stories high. Their goal was to bring women from all over together and be able to participate in things like debates, discussions provide leisure, entertainment, education and recreation to the women of the East Bay. On its basement floor it held a swimming pool open to all members and even offered class to those who didn’t know how to swim. Their second floor held their theater which at the time could seat up to 1,000 people. Along with large halls where 3 meals were served to members. Then In other rooms they would hold seminars on different discussions. From things like the importance of education to informationals about books and issues facing the community. The top floors were used as a hotel allowing women to stay over. In total about 70 rooms were available to stay.
It also held public events for example in Sept. 1929 The Mayors of East Bay Cities announced Sept. 12 as Women’s Day. Throughout this day each city held an event but its closing was held at The Women’s City Club of Oakland and East Bay. It honored prominent women from all career fields. It also was able to create a monthly magazine for members which included upcoming events, membership rules and regulations. It was funded by advertisers for a multitude of businesses. It even would note whether it was connected to a member of the club.
Although in the 1940’s the club momentum dropped membership began to decrease and so did the buildings life. Then in 1982 John Price wanted to make the building into a professional and recreational club for men and women. Due to lack of financial support in 1986 the City of Oakland purchased the building. Naming it Alice Club Hotel and Arts(which was later changed to its current name after Casquelourd’s passing) it offers a number of free programs to the public. Casquelourd was a cameroonian dancer who was an activist and artist who brought life to his native dance. He was very involved with the center until his sudden passing. This building has been revitalized to maintain art of all types for its community from dance to plays in the theater. The building has continuously been a large part of the community from its initial focus on women to the arts.
-"Women to receive honor throughout the East Bay
District." Women's City Club, September 1929, 7-8.
-"Women's City Club, 12 years." Oakland Tribune, 1940.
-Howard, Rachel. "Malonga Casquelourde." SF Gate http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Malonga-Casquelourd-3293179.php. (November 28, 2013)