The process of gentrification also includes the rampant and haphazard disregard of local History.
In Oakland, there is the history that gets written down, just like everywhere else. The government officials, the elected, the sanctified doings of those who have a voice in public and are listened to by the mass public that is deemed acceptable to showcase in groups, on the news, in media of all forms and to praise as influencial figure heads, innovators or artistic geniuses. We know who the Mayor is. We know who the Mayor was.
It seems to me there is privelaged history, written down and praised for being aligned with the picture of superiority that is necessary to maintain in order for those who are posing in it to maintain power.
Then there is the history made by necessity, which is shoved into the margins as transgressive, hippy, militant, radical, emotional, unprofessional and therefore all but Erased. If it weren’t for individuals who knew better than to comply when told not to press record, or take their pen to paper or snap a photo and put it up on a website, in a library archive or talk about it to everyone that may be in earshot, the intricacies and truths of the histories of “everyone else” would not exist at all.
Our hugely disproportionate celebration of “white” gains in freedom versus those of people of color and women, not to mention people of the working class, the poor and poverty stricken or those in society who are labeled as having a disability, or any individual or group that may fit into more than one of these categories we are so apt to place people in is evidence of a shifty system-based problem.
Here are just 5 of the many pieces of Oakland History that have failed to be preserved by the dominant culture as they continue to make what they call improvements to neighborhoods with large concentrations of lower income residents of color. As you read these, ask yourself if these people were white and affluent, if their achievements, sentiments and the physical spaces in which they created history would be treated with such flippancy.
- Home of the Black Panthers: Flipped and Sold
Bobby Seale’s family home was the site of beginning drafts of the 10-points, a place the Panthers would go to unload their guns, to gather, and a central location in the neighborhood which neighbors could depend on to provide aid in the form of protection of their rights, fraternity and community. The loud and clear vocalization of black people that they were to be afforded equality or they would take it, came out of this landmark. However, there is no sign, no entrance fee, no line around the block. (Mercury News)
According to Matt O’Brian of the Oakland Tribune, in his Article about the place, “The radical past of 809 57th St. is absent from the pitch but briefly mentioned in the disclosure form.”
- Black Panther Headquarters: Unmarked and Uncelebrated
At 1048 Peralta Street, there is another unmarked piece of history. Read more about this location in the article “It’s About Time” by Billy X Jennings.
This is the image from google maps. Though not for sale, it is clearly not marked as anything special.
Lil’ Bobby Hutton, whose grave can be found in Mountain View Cemetery, was without a gravestone until 2003. Read more at OurOakland.net.
- Pre-Sufferage Suffragists: A Decade Early & Monument Short
California’s first suffrage parade was in Oakland on August 23rd 1908. They got the statewide vote in 1911, nine years before it was a national right.
Read more here.
- La Estrella: Torn Down & Replaced by Projects
A Spanish movie theatre on 7th St. in West Oakland was at the center of a thriving Latino community in the 1930’s and 40’s. Now the Acorn Housing Project sits in its place.
- The Orbit Room: Padlocked and Deserted
The last of the jazz clubs to get shut down in West Oakland was The Orbit Room. It can still be seen today at 1724 7th Street, boarded up and left to sit there as if it weren‘t home to famed jazz musicians in what was known as “the Harlem of the West.”