Birdland Jazzista Social Club: A Visionary Path To Diversity, Inclusion, And Community

If you live in Berkeley, Ca and you haven't been to the Birdland Jazzista Social Club, then you haven't really experienced Berkeley.

A lot of people like to talk about diversity, community, and inclusion, but it's just talk. They like the idea of diversity, of people from different cultures, backgrounds and interests converging, as part of their romantic ideal, but their actions and the people they have in their lives, don't demonstrate what they say they believe. Some of these people have not rarely if ever been inside the homes of people different than themselves, nor have they ever invited any one different to share a meal, and have a meaningful conversation.

But Michael Parayno has not only shared meals and conversation with people from diverse backgrounds, he's built a social club in his garage, where people who represent almost every, and any difference converge together on Friday, and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons to eat massive amounts of barbecue and listen to live jazz, blues and play dominoes, cards, checkers and chess on small tables set up on the sidewalk.

Before I became a member, I would pass by this house with weird looking old English cars, birdhouses, loud music, the smell of barbecue, and hundreds of people from every dimension of diversity going in and out. I was curious, and wanted to know how someone could have such big parties every weekend, and not invite me.

So one night, on my drive home, I passed his house; saw the garage door open, and Michael standing outside. I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to know, so I pulled over, jumped out of my car, and said, "What the heck is gong on, and how do I get invited?"

Fourteen months ago, Michael (who was known for designing and building his world famous birdhouses) bought his first grill, and invited a few neighbors over to barbecue, and listen to jazz on the radio. Everyone had such a great time, they decided to do it again, and they invited a few more people, who had such a great time, that they had another barbecue. Not only did they invite more people they knew, but they started inviting anyone who happened to be walking up their street.

One of Michael's friends from Malaysia, Morgan Lim, offered to cook Satay, and then they decided to have a "multi-culti," grill with barbecue recipes from a myriad of cultures.

One Friday night, one of Michael's neighbors brought his jazz trio, and everyone got to listen to live jazz instead of the radio. Naturally, the next step was to continue with more live jazz, and Michael decided to build a stage, get a professional sound system, and create a night club, with lights, and furnishings, where everyone could feel at home, and the Birdland Jazzista Social Club was formed.

Parayno's Birdland Jazzista Social Club is a true "multi-culti," community. Michael says, "we have people of all ages from embryos to people in their late 80.'s. This is a social club where gay, straight, Black, White, Asian, Latino, and people from every other culture can feel at home, including homeless folks." "I want to bring back the idea and practice of people being a real community," "We have people, food and music, from 8:00 PM-5:00 AM

It costs $20.00 to join, and then regular donation is $10.00 of which goes to the musicians.

"Actually, Michael said, "the $10.00 is only for the music, There is never a

charge for food and drink because food and drinks should not be monetized among friends in a social club ."

On a Friday night, the number of people who attend can easily reach 250, and on Saturday nights at least 150 show up to hear blues.

"I want people to associate jazz as party music again, and equate it to having a good time. Jazz is for the masses and all classes," Parayno declares.

He told me, "this is a place where my young immigrant students learn how to interact and interface with people who have been in the U.S. all of their lives instead of just hanging around with people of their own ethnic background. "

And in keeping with the ideas in my article, How Jay-Z, Eminem, And Steve Jobs Can Bring Us To Salvation - I believe that spending time at Birdland, sitting on one of the leather couches, or on a folding chair listening, conversing and grooving to the music, one minute with a homeless person and the next minute with a Silicon Valley CEO, can bring us to inclusion and community.

If you find yourself in the SF Bay Area, you can go to the website, birdlandjazz.org/ where you can find the menu and music calendar. Birdland has musicians through November, The word is out and it's gone viral, musicians who come out to San Francisco to play at the upscale venues, make it a point to also play at Birdland. Be prepared to be welcomed like an old friend and make some new ones.

Simma LIeberman creates inclusive cultures, where people can do their best work, and customers love to do business. She is a diversity, and inclusion/culture change consultant, speaker and executive coach. www.simmalieberman.com

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4 Comments

  • AllysonErick

    Oh, one other thing.  The first $20 also covers the first admission. So it kind of breaks down into $10 membership, and $10 for the musician, except that all the money goes towards the support of the musicians.

  • AllysonErick

    You did hear, didn't you, that the City of Berkeley closed the Birdland Jazzista Social Club down two Fridays ago, July 29, 6 p.m., two hours before the start of the Filipino Jazz Festival?  The local news KTVU had announced a meeting on Friday at Birdland.  In order to avoid confrontation, Michael Parayno, the Bird(house)Man himself, moved the meeting to an established Berkeley coffeehouse.  But by Thursday evening, a new coffeehouse, Cafe Yesterday, about five blocks from Birdland, offered their space to him, since they close on Friday and Saturdays at 5 p.m.  

    The meeting was moved to the "new venue."  When it was announced that Billy Buss, "trumpet phenom" and Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble alum, who had been scheduled to play the 1 a.m. show on Saturday/Sunday, was able to get a group together to play an earlier set on Saturday, Gee Gee Amos, who had been scheduled to perform Friday night, offered to open.
    Michael had wanted "a soft opening," which is why he originally only wanted one semi-accoustic band to open.  Because of that, he was concerned about being able to pay two bands.  Gee Gee Amos had offered to play for free, but that was very much against the philosophy of supporting musicians monetarily as well as artistically, so someone offered to put up enough money to cover both bands, in case this under the radar event didn't have enough people come in.Food was donated, people brought and shared wine and beer. Charles Hamilton, "The Man Behind the Music" of the world renown award winning Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble for 28 years, sat in on a couple of songs.  A great time was had by all.Birdland officially re-opens at the Cafe Yesterday this weekend. 1122 University Ave, Berkeley, CA.

  • jazzaguru

    great article, i couldnt agree with you more. birdland jazzista social club in berkeley is the hit right now.

  • Simma Lieberman

    I'm glad you agree with me. This is a real life model for  having a great time, while putting diversity and inclusion into practice,