For many, the Eastmont Town Center in East Oakland is the go-to place to apply for food stamps, get medical coverage, find childcare, and get job assistance. It was once the Eastmont Mall, but as income dropped and crime rose in the surrounding area, Planned Parenthood and the Oakland Public Library moved in, Mervyn’s became the Oakland Police Department, and JC Penney’s became the social service agency.
Libraries are where many people go to exercise their brains, and now there’s at least one where you can exercise your body. The 81st Avenue Branch Library in East Oakland is finding that what people want in their neighborhood is to work out. And, they didn’t have to go far to find the right instructor.
The song you can listen to above is being played by Solomon Munghia. Patrons of the 81st Avenue East Oakland library might occasionally hear Munghia practicing in one of the study rooms there. That’s where our community storytelling project, Hear Here, found him one day, getting ready to make some music with his friend Giovanni Gaines. Hear Here producer Audrey Dilling asked Munghia how he first learned to play guitar.