Is it wrong to celebrate Oakland in the face of violence?

5 Sep

Last week, my post comparing Oakland to Black Rock City sparked an interesting discussion over at LiveJournal. Someone had linked to my post, and another person responded that it didn’t seem appropriate in light of all the robberies going on in Oakland.

I thought about this a lot this week and realized that I rarely talk about crime here at Living in the O and some might think I’m glossing over it. The truth is that I think about Oakland crime a lot, but it’s so damn depressing to write about it, and besides, V Smoothe already has it covered.

This blog is mostly about celebrating Oakland, about sharing what it’s like to live here, and for me, that mostly means sharing my love for this city (though as regular readers surely know by now, I’m not afraid to criticize and offer suggestions for improvement).

I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate the arts, culture, and community of this city, even in the face of a seemingly never-ending and constantly growing crime wave. Do you?

(If you don’t, I encourage you to head out to the Oakland Art Murmur tonight in Uptown Oakland. As long as I’m not too exhausted, I’ll be there.)

5 Responses to “Is it wrong to celebrate Oakland in the face of violence?”

  1. The Overhead Wire September 5, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    Considering someone dies somewhere every day in the United States from violence it would be a pretty depressing place if we could never celebrate.

  2. inadvertentgardener September 5, 2008 at 12:10 pm #

    I’m not immune to or ignoring the violence and the crime. But I refuse to look at anyplace as a one-dimensional picture. There’s beauty to be found, even just in the smallest of details, everywhere. And that should be celebrated.

  3. DP September 5, 2008 at 5:49 pm #

    I really think I am starting to understand why black people hate white people.

  4. Tereasa September 15, 2008 at 1:13 pm #

    DO black people really hate white people, DP? Are you speaking for yourself? And, if so, do you hate every white person or just white people as an idea. Or are you white and you think every black person hates you?

    And why does this post make you think that?

    Maybe I’m an idiot because I can’t glean it from your enigmatic comment. Please educate me.

  5. Julius Pablo October 27, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    Does San Francisco stop celebrating every time violence is committed upon people of color? Does New York? Is street violence any less of a political condition than the violence taking place privately in millions of people’s homes across the nation?

    I live in an Oakland neighborhood where over the summer a teenage kid, a gang member from one ethnic group was assassinated…and I mean assassinated…a straight up hit at point blank to the back of the kid’s head by another teenage kid in a gang of a different ethnic makeup…in the corner park playground where my 4 year old daughter likes to play in at least once a week of not more.

    It may be easy for white people to say it should not be relevant that the killer and his victim were gang members of different ethnic groups, I don’t think this fact was irrelevant to the killer and his victim.

    The makeshift memorial altar which sprang up immediately was (which alternated between stunningly ornate signs, posters with the victim’s name and picture (“Edgar”) w/balloons and flowers and candles burning all night, to the deceased name being spray-painted over and the candles smashed to pieces in the next few days) was gone after this two week period.

    But of course I feel tremendous guilt, because of course I’m a white person who holds down a white collar job and gets so caught up being in the working/consuming grind that I don’t ever seem to have the gumption or will to get out to the corner park more often and help clean it up or do my part to take care of it.

    It took me two weeks and a great deal of cajoling by my little girl to get the guts to take her back over there. The city made the barest effort to cover up the evidence of the attack…patches of black paint on the asphalt unable to conceal a much darker, more globular schematic.

    I couldn’t help but notice several vehicles, whose occupants were young men not of my race slow down and take a good long look at my daughter and I hanging out on the play structures.

    I felt defiant. I felt like yelling out “eventually the peasants have to take back the battle ground!” And this sense of outrage dissipated into a tremendous sadness. I could have felt afraid, could have even easily felt afraid for my daughter, and yet there she was, climbing the faux rock climbing structure, running up and down the stairs and down the slides, playing in the little mini-tunnels completely oblivious to it all.

    For not the first time in my life, I found myself wishing how nice it might be to be four years old again.

    I started picking up the considerable amount of litter that just naturally accumulates in city parks because the wind blows it there and the general thoughtlessness of people outside of wanting to visit genuine harm upon others. It was like recycling or praying…it wasn’t going to change anything immediately, or even tomorrow, but it was a ritual I needed to engage in, the sense that I was trying to make even just a small difference if even just for a small amount of time.

    It really didn’t take long, and it did give the park just a little bit of it’s dignity back, despite the ugly stain on the concrete and psychic horror that my adult consciousness was all to aware of.

    Eventually another father arrived with his eight year old boy and his 2 year old daughter. The age disparity was a disappointment for my daughter, but the kids actually played together as best they could. The other dad and I talked about the kids playing sports, how long we had been in the neighborhood…and I could sense he was thinking much along the lines that I was…the people not hustling over turf…the people who had to live here, needed to reclaim the public use of the city for themselves.

    A couple months later, a neighborhood coalition of all colors in this neighborhood (The Fruitvale)…brown, black, white and yellow…came together to complete renovate the landscaping, the benches and the hazards of Nicol park. I’m talking to more of the parents in the neighborhood…I actually know where and when the neighborhood watch group meets now, but also people who are freshly committed to taking re-claiming the battle zones.

    Of course the dealers aren’t gone. Teens are still hanging out in the park getting plastered in the wee hours of the weekend mornings. And why is this just an Oakland problem? Isn’t this a problem in San Francisco? In Richmond? In Vallejo? In East Palo Alto?

    We’re simply not going to be able to change that and not feel like we’re living in a giant prison. We simply have to work harder and more willfully. It means giving up some football every once in a while, giving up some of our ritualized mindless consumption sometimes.

    It isn’t that hard.

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