The dynastic A’s of the 1970s. The mystique and “excellence” of the Raiders under trailblazing coach and owner Al Davis. The “strength in numbers” ethos and joyous exuberance of the Golden State Warriors (and their notoriously boisterous crowds when the team played in Oakland). The social activism of McClymonds High grad and NBA legend Bill Russell. The unwavering self-confidence and hustle of baseball’s stolen-base king, Ricky Henderson. There’s no question that, through the decades, sports have both reflected and helped to shape Oakland’s culture and civic identity. 

Thursday, Sept. 22, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

The New Parkway Theater, 474 24th Street, Oakland, CA 94612

Purchase tickets here.

Equally true is that the past few years have been particularly tough ones for fans of Oakland’s major sports franchises. The Raiders picked up and left (again) in 2020. Our beloved Dubs took down their championship banners and hung them back up in shinier digs across the Bay. The A’s? Embroiled in a contentious Howard Terminal stadium debate that could possibly end with them joining the Raiders in Las Vegas.

In short, there’s a lot to unpack and questions to answer: What do sports have to do with the soul of a town? When major professional sports franchises leave a city, what springs up in their place? Can Oakland’s prep sports programs continue living up to their legacy of producing star professional athletes, in an era of cash-strapped school budgets?

We’ve invited the perfect guests to explore these questions and more at our next Culture Makers event, happening on Sept. 22 at the New Parkway Theater. And we’re in for a treat with a musical performance by Oakland singer-songwriter Mara Hruby. The show will be hosted by The Oaklandside’s arts and community reporter, Azucena Rasilla. We hope you’ll join us there too.

Culture Makers is generously presented by Xfinity with additional sponsorship support from PG&E, East Bay Community Energy, Tidewater Capital, and The Oakland A’s.

Here’s more about our guests:

Marcus Thompson

Marcus Thompson II is a lead columnist at the national online sports news publication The Athletic, known for writing on Bay Area pro sports, especially the Golden State Warriors and the NBA at large. He is the author of the national bestseller Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry, KD: Kevin Durant’s Relentless Pursuit to Be the Greatest, and DYNASTIES: The Ten G.O.A.T. Teams that Changed the NBA Forever. The Clark Atlanta University product lives with his wife, Dawn, and daughter, Sharon, in Oakland.

Alexis Gray Lawson

Alexis Gray-Lawson was born in Oakland. She attended Oakland Technical High School where she helped lead Tech to its second state basketball title. Gray-Lawson earned a scholarship to play basketball at UC Berkeley, where she holds the Golden Bears’ all-time record for three-pointers made, with a total of 148. She signed with the Phoenix Mercury of the Women’s National Basketball Association in 2011. In the WNBA offseason, she also played professionally in Turkey and Israel. Earlier this year she received her doctorate in educational leadership and curriculum. Gray-Lawson is currently the community school manager, teacher, and athletic director at Oakland Tech. 

Edreece Arghandiwal

At a time when sports teams are leaving Oakland, Edreece Arghandiwal is swimming against the tide. A first-generation Afghan-American born in Oakland, Arghandiwal is a co-founder and the chief marketing officer of the Oakland Roots Sports Club. This community-oriented professional soccer team made its debut in 2018 and plays its home games at the Laney College Football Stadium to a growing contingent of adoring fans, often drawing capacity crowds. In May, the club announced it would also be fielding a women’s professional soccer club, the Oakland Soul, beginning in 2023. Arghandiwal is a graduate of Babson College and the University of California, Davis. 

Musical guest: Mara Hruby

Mara Hruby doesn’t just play music—she lives it. Since the onset of her career, the Oakland native has poured her soul into her velvet confections, drawing inspiration from lessons that she’s gleaned in her personal life and funneling them into rich, organic compositions. In just a few years, the singer-songwriter—whose musical influences range from Patsy Cline to Curtis Mayfield—has become one of acoustic soul’s fastest-rising up-and-comers, gaining a loyal following. Hruby’s 2014 album Archaic Rapture reached the coveted #1 spot on iTunes Jazz charts within a week. Her work was described as “bridging the gap between cabaret-era jazz-pop and alternative soul” by NBC Bay Area, and the Huffington Post said Hruby’s effortless music “evokes a nostalgia for the sounds of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.”