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
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
If you find yourself in the SF Bay Area, you can go to the
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