Community Aunties: The Duo Behind the Gold Beams Arts Collective

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Tayleur Crenshaw and Maud Alcorn posing for a photo at Oakstop.  (Dorean Raye)

Two years ago Tayleur Crenshaw and Maud Alcorn started the arts collective, Gold Beams.  It began as an open mic Crenshaw hosted in her living room -- called Second Mondays -- which eventually grew into a larger monthly event at Red Bay Coffee headquarters in East Oakland.

"It’s like emotional stories that they kind of leave at the altar at Second Mondays. And us as community aunties, we are there to rub the backs and to listen and be an ear. We’re just here for people’s emotional journeys," says Crenshaw.

Since shelter-in-place orders came down this spring, Gold Beams has pivoted while staying productive.

They're doing a filmed series of intimate performances highlighting Black artists, called Fourth Mondays.

Second Mondays at Red Bay Cafe (pre-COVID-19).
Second Mondays at Red Bay Coffee (pre-COVID-19). (Gold Beams)

They're also working in collaboration with Welcome To The Table to produce a series of filmed conversations about relationships amongst Black artists in the Bay Area. It's called, In Real Life: A Conversation Between Black Men and Women.

There's another discussion today at 6pm, and it'll be live-streamed.

And if that's not enough, they've also mounted a photo exhibition, which largely features the work of Dorean Raye, myself and other photographers who've captured their events; the framed images are posted at Oakstop at 1721 Broadway in downtown Oakland. The exhibition is titled, Mondays Were Never the Same, and is open for timed reservations. But do it fast, it's only scheduled to be up until November 6th.

Ok, now that get the gist of all the things Gold Beams is doing, it's time to listen to the story behind the collective. This week on Rightnowish, Maud and Tayleur discuss how they became the community aunties of Gold Beams and grew their unique relationship.

Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with Tayleur Crenshaw and Maud Alcorn. 

PEN: So look, I'ma just cut it to you straight. The reason that I have you all here today, because I'm excited about the work that you're doing. And I want to jump into that. And in order to do that, I've got to ask the hard questions like Tayleur, what do you have Mauds name saved as in your phone? 

TAYLEUR: I put a whole little blurb  for everybody I meet. And when I first met Maud she had these dope pants. And I said, 'your pants is cute!' And she was like, 'oh, they're three dollar pants from Target.' And so I was like, 'oh, I can remember that.' So I was like Maud with the $3 pants from Target.

PEN: Maud, what do you have Tayleur's name saved as?

MAUD: I actually have her under a really funny thing... It’s Tayleur Crenshaw...

PEN and TAYLEUR laugh

MAUD: Listen. I don't do cutesy stuff. I won't be having that kind of time, Tayleur, to put in a paragraph for everybody’s name.

MAUD:  I have a background in event planning. That’s what I do in my 9-5 life.

TAYLEUR: Personally, my background is in marketing.  I'm a writer. I like to write. I’m spoken word, I talk a lot of shit, my spoken word is like battle rap...  Just all the creative things.

PEN: And you have been rocking for two years steady. For someone who's never been there, what was the early iteration like?

MAUD: So when Second Mondays first started, it was just Tayleur asking people to come to her house, for people to read what they'd written, whether it be plays or poetry. It was something she did back in DC when she went to Howard. That was her introduction to meeting people, like a way for her to kind of start building community out here. Every Second Monday, Tayleur would individually text every person to tell them come... Really just trying to make friends.

TAYLEUR: I was nervous. I must have picked up my phone and put it down seven times cuz I was scared to invite people over, like, would people come?

MAUD: It just became this fun thing to do and people would tell their friends about it. And then it was like, ‘oh, you know, I'm not a writer, but, you know, I do a podcast. Can I show y’all a snippet?’ Or ‘I'm a producer, I have beats.’ And so it just kind of grew and grew and grew. The last one at Tayleur's house, it had to be almost a hundred people. Climbing up the stairs, in the balcony, in the kitchen, they screaming from the hallway, trying to see who next. From there she was able to build a whole community.

PEN: Tayleur taking that initiative to literally invite people into your house. What was the next step?

TAYLEUR: The next step was y'all are going to get me kicked out. [laugh] We've got to find a new place. So actually, that same month, I quit my job and I spent my last two thousand dollars on the first Second Mondays at Red Bay Coffee. The first event that we had at Red Bay was the first event that Maud and I worked together.

TAYLEUR: I was kind of nervous to ask Maud to be my partner, but I knew that if she was in a room, she’d be able to explain what Second Mondays was, and I’d trust it.

MAUD: I wanted to help because I just wanted to help. I loved Second Mondays. It was a place where I was able to meet so many people for the couple of months that I went. And I was like, yeah, I got you girl. Let’s do it.

TAYLEUR: We’re building the plane while we fly it. It’s funny because it’s literally the work that gets us back on the same page because we are so equally passionate about what we do and it continues to align us, and it continues to affirm our partnership.

PEN: What jumps out at me initially is that Tayleur one: opened her doors and developed this following, developed this network. And two: Maud, you're from Oakland. You have a background in event planning as you said. You're a published author of poetry. And so, like, these puzzle pieces came together and you took it and ran with it. 

TAYLEUR: Maud and I were able to cultivate this space of people being comfortable, right. So half the people are artists that come to Second Monday. They come for the free food and the free wine and the wine, you know what I mean. It’s the ultimate kickback session.

MAUD: Any kind of Black person you can think of been at Second Mondays.

TAYLEUR: We have Black tech, we have Black people struggling trying to figure out what they want to do with their career.

MAUD: They coming through on skateboards. They coming through in BMWs.

TAYLEUR: We have grandmothers. We have grand-babies. We have everything in between. We have people from Oakland. We have transplants.

MAUD: Some of them coming from Tanzania. They coming from Guam. You know, we have Black people coming from all over the county or all over the world.

TAYLEUR: People who are artists. People who are not artists. We got people looking for the yin and yang to their project. And quite often people come to our events alone. And leave with friends that they have for life. Which is all on purpose. We really make the space as comfortable as - like you’ve ever been to an event where everybody’s too cool for school? This is not that.

PEN: With all the work your doing, the multiple projects, what's the ultimate goal of what you are doing?

MAUD: Yeah, I think a big, big part of our long term vision is to have spaces that are owned by us, by Black folks. We want it to be ingrained. We want Gold Beams to be a household name...  Learning how to be better leaders for our team. How to encourage our team. How to alley-oop them for every opportunity.

TAYLEUR: I want to push Black people making careers from their art. I want them to be in inspiring spaces with inspiring people living their best life and feeling encouraged and supported by that. I want our spaces to be legendary. Apollo status. Historic.

TAYLEUR: When you're in this space, you don't have to lead with your chest for anything. You don't have to defend your Blackness. You are literally among family and friends having the time of your life. And that's that's going to be all over the world, Craig.

Rightnowish is an arts and culture podcast produced at KQED. Listen to it wherever you get your podcasts or click the play button at the top of this page and subscribe to the show on NPR One, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.