I Can’t Even Begin to Understand

Carjuan Thomas, 13, holds his baby sister Zion Bradford as their mother, Dameka Bradford, watches in West Oakland. Thousands of whites from S.F. have moved to the neighborhood for the less expensive real estate. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

Carjuan Thomas, 13, holds his baby sister Zion Bradford as their mother, Dameka Bradford, watches in West Oakland. Thousands of whites from S.F. have moved to the neighborhood for the less expensive real estate. Photo: Michael Short, The Chronicle

A student writes:  \It seems that the squeeze of the economy has made Oakland an appealing area to settle down because of its cheap housing. Native San Franciscans have migrated to Oakland, and it’s scaring the local residents because they fear that the city will lose its CULTURE AND HISTORY. A local resident said, “There’s nothing inherently wrong with single white people moving in . . . There’s nothing wrong with clean parks and Starbucks. We want that, too. But it terrifies me that all this culture and history will be over-written.”

Did that statement strike anyone as mildly racist? I don’t think there’s any other group of people who’d feel that way besides the KluKluxKlan themselves. For those of you unfamiliar with Oakland’s demographics, the majority of the residents are African-Americans.  The articles states that “African Americans started leaving West Oakland years ago due to crime and schools, leaving vacancies for newcomers.” Now, because these new settlers have come in “some African Americans say the influx of white people has triggered a rise in rents and housing prices, pricing out black families from the neighborhoods their families have lived in for generations.”

What, the city is becoming expensive because there are people who are trying to make the city great? Well, that isn’t a fair assessment because Oakland was once a thriving city. “Seventh Street was lined with upscale restaurants and jazz clubs.” There was also “Black-owned florists, barbershops and groceries” that “flourished.” “But over the decades, the jobs began to vanish – just as industrial jobs have disappeared across the country – and crime and poverty inched upward. Much of Seventh Street is boarded up.”

Whatever was there in the past is now gone. These new residents will be the ones to raise Oakland out of its slump. I feel that the residents who oppose the newcomers are acting like the white people did back in the civil rights era. Is that a fair assessment?

Following is the article from Carolyn Jones–the photo taken by The Sanfrancisco Chronicle: Fear white influx will erase West Oakland history–on OCTOBER 7, 2013

In 1966, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale drafted the Black Panther manifesto in a two-bedroom bungalow on 57th Street in Oakland.

Last year, that house – refurbished with hardwood floors, drought-tolerant landscaping and quartz countertops – sold for $425,000.
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Such is the story of West Oakland and its environs these days. The heart of African American culture in the Bay Area, if not the West Coast, is now a real estate agent’s dream. Thousands of transplants from San Francisco, mostly younger, mostly white people lured east by lower rents, have discovered the sunny enclaves of West Oakland and staked their claims.

“West Oakland is really vibrant right now. Young people, young families, are finding it to be an edgy, dynamic, urban place to live,” said Andrea Gordon, a top-producing real estate agent with Coldwell Banker’s Oakland office. “They can get a Victorian here that would cost $400,000 more a mile away in Rockridge.”

In some West Oakland census tracts, the number of white residents has doubled in the past 10 years, bringing their numbers to nearly equal with their African American counterparts. Asian and Latino residents have increased, as well.

Over the same period, thousands of African American families have left the neighborhood, mostly heading to eastern Contra Costa and Solano counties.

Some African Americans say the influx of white people has triggered a rise in rents and housing prices, pricing out black families from the neighborhoods their families have lived in for generations. Others say African Americans started leaving West Oakland years ago due to crime and schools, leaving vacancies for newcomers – in this case, mostly young people enticed by the good weather, proximity to San Francisco and block after block of affordable Victorians and ultramodern condos.

In any case, West Oakland looks a lot different than it did a decade ago. New condominiums have proliferated, old Victorians are undergoing renovations, shuttered factories are now artists’ studios, and blight has decreased. But gone, too, is a certain pride that sprung from what was once known as “Harlem of the West.”

“It hurts. I’m not going to say I’m content with this,” said Leander Muhammed, 34, a third-generation West Oakland resident who runs after-school and sports programs for kids in the neighborhood. “Suddenly there’s nonprofits and community gardens on every corner. Community gardens? I don’t get it – my granny was planting collards and tomatoes here for decades. It all seems crazy to me.”
Vibrant immigrant town

West Oakland is loaded with more history than possibly any other pocket of the East Bay, if not the Bay Area. It was one of the first American settlements in the East Bay, as thousands of Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, African Americans, Irish and others settled along the waterfront in the 1850s to work on the docks and later railroads.

Oakland grew out from the waterfront, but West Oakland remained pretty much the same: modest homes and businesses catering to dock, railroad and other industrial workers – most of whom were immigrants – and their families.

In the 1930s and ’40s, African Americans from Louisiana and Texas began pouring into West Oakland, most coming through the historic 16th Street train depot, and settled. African Americans had few choices about where they could live due to discriminatory housing covenants, but by nearly all accounts West Oakland was a thriving, vibrant community. In fact, it was the largest African American community in Northern California.

Seventh Street was lined with upscale restaurants and jazz clubs on what was known as the Chitlin Circuit. Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, among others, were regular performers. Black-owned florists, barbershops and groceries flourished. Just about everyone knew each other.

7 responses to “I Can’t Even Begin to Understand

  1. This was slightly racist. For instance, why is it that white people can’t move into the area like each person is allowed to move to any area they wish to. Making the community culturally diverse will help the young kids to not think the way their parents such as saying that Oakland will no longer have culture and history.

  2. And this is what i mean when i say i hate how people judge other people because of the color of the skin! It needs to quit already doesn’t matter if a person is white black Mexican were all humans!!!

  3. I don’t see why anyone’s skin tone decides how much everything costs in an area. It’s good to see that there’s an initiative to jumpstart the economy; whether or not a particular group of people started the rebuild, the community members are lucky that they live an area that’s able to regenerate jobs.

  4. It’s sad how much racial discrimination is still out there. We had the Civil war to end that. I can’t believe people are still judging others on the bases of there skin color. In order to move forward into the future we need to let go of the past. Oakland may have been home to mostly blacks citizens but now it seems like it will be a home to alot of different colored people as well.

  5. As sad as the native Oakland may be, the fact is that you can’t stop change when it comes to a community. The times change, the people change, the styles change. For the people of Oakland to try to stop progression, means that their future consists of poverty and a broken down community. Yes, embrace the heritage and past culture and keep it alive through pictures and whatnot, but don’t hold yourself in the past.

  6. I don’t see why the white folk aren’t being welcomed into oakland. Let them embrace the culture of the black community, and maybe apply it to their own. Isn’t that what this country’s all about? Sharing cultures and all that good nonsense.

  7. Looks like Oakland will be a striving city, after its been destroyed.

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