“I know people who worked in tech who went to Maxwell Park, who went to Fruitvale, who came to Havenscourt, who went to Eastmont hills and went in and you know, yes, you’re buying a sometimes shotty house or houses that really aren’t worth much and you’re putting money into them and you’re changing them up. But what you’re also doing is then changing the texture of the neighborhood.”
What is your name and age?
Durrell Coleman, 33.
Tell us about some of your memories of growing up in Oakland.
My grandfather was living on 12th and center in West Oakland and watching the A’s & Giants game, like everybody else in the world was at that second world series. Then the earthquake happens, people aren’t going to West Oakland to go deal with the Cyprus, right. Cause it top had fallen and collapsed. I remember, my grandfather is in his house and sees everything happening and sees people not coming out. You know, fire people aren’t in the West. Police aren’t in a west, people are overwhelmed because everything’s messed up everywhere. Right. He gets ladders because he used to paint houses, he gets his ladders out of his garage and like goes and like breaks in and gets like a u haul, not a u haul, but a forklift out of somewhere else and gives a couple of people from the neighborhood and they lift him up into the freeway in between the top and the bottom of the freeway. He climbs in and starts pulling people out of their cars.
Sooo your Grandfather is a superhero…
I mean, they made a movie, USA network made a movie about it’s called “After the shock.” It was like about him in Oakland and then this other white dude in San Francisco. So, you know, part of my community involvement is always been who he was, like, even outside of that, he was always super involved and seeing what was going on around where he lived with people and things like that. And that stuck with me and that you can do well for yourself, but you also have to have ties to the people.
I had a village, which was great for me growing up in Oakland. Because of the time, you know, a lot of people’s parents weren’t stable for whatever reason. You know, and I’ve, I fell into that to a degree. So, you know, I would live with my grandmother and in East Oakland and she was in the 60s. And then I had my godparents who were in Sobrante Park. I have my God mom who lived up near the kind of Grass Valley area. My grandfather was in the West, on 12th and Center. Like all of these things shaped how I see the city because when I was a kid, a lot of people would be like East Oakland or West Oakland. And it’s like, Nah, I got people in East Oakland. I have people in West Oakland, like, Nah, I like, I really love the city cause I saw it as a whole.
I didn’t just go, well, I’m only by Lake Merritt and this is my community. And that’s it. Like my community is and has always been for me to a large degree, you know, on Market street in the West, on Center street and in The Bottoms, uh, El Paseo, Deep East Oakland, um, near Sobrante Park. Like my community was at one time Campus Drive. Like, you know, I have family that lived up there. Like I always looked at this as a whole and it’s always been my thing. Like I’ve gone through everything in Oakland, like shed blood heavy to the point that where I don’t know if I was gonna make it out on the bar floor at Easy Lounge by the lake, but still got up the next day and I had a birthday party planned at Maxwells and I took my ass to Maxwell’s and one had a good time because for me, Oakland is about resilience and it’s about for like at that time, right? Nobody was going to tell me that I couldn’t be in the city and walk the streets of this city and not feel safe and secure even though something happened to me to where I should have been, you know, or it could have been a lot worse than it actually was. Right. I still kept that mindset of not like I’m going to walk from West Oakland to Downtown Oakland and go to my birthday party even though I’ve stepped 17 stitches in my face right now because nobody’s going to tell me I can’t walk through the streets of Oakland. And I had to prove it to myself in every step that I took from home to where I was going at night. But, you know, it was something that I had to do to be able to keep moving and exist and in the city that, you know, I love, and I’d take a lot of pride in.
What does it mean for you to be somebody who’s a third generation resident born and raised in Oakland, California?
Man it’s interesting seeing where Oakland was when I was a kid and how people perceived it then and then now being an adult and having this view of ownership. and for that pride to have been there then and been here now, like it’s easy for somebody, I feel like to be proud of Oakland now to a degree. Like it’s easier I should say, in the eighties and the nineties, you know, there was a lot of drugs in the streets. There were lot of people who were freshly addicted to drugs. There was a lot of murders are a lot of things and a lot of people looked at Oakland like, ugh, but for those of us who actually lived here, we loved it then and we were proud of it then and a lot of us still proud of it now and hoping we don’t get ran out of here.
What do you think makes Oakland stand apart from so many other cities of similar stature and character in the United States? I feel like there’s always been something different and special bout’ Oakland, how do you interpret that?
Oakland stands out to me because it, it’s never stood in the shadow of San Francisco. Like I feel like when you, when you look at large cities around the nation, like a lot of cities stand in the shadow of the bigger, you know, city that’s right next to it. And Oakland’s always stood on its own. Like, you know, people are like, oh great, the San Francisco giants and the San Francisco this or that. Like, Yo, okay, well we got the Oakland A’s. Like we’ve always been like, whatever y’all are doing over there is fine, but we’re over here and we’re having a good time, you know, and we’ve maintained, you know, even through a time changes and gentrification, different things like that. We’ve maintained a sense of culture, a high sense of revolution and not really caring about what, um, you know, the folks quote unquote after at the top half to say. Um, and also the thing about Oakland, it’s crazy is, is, is huge and like economically diverse as well. We talk about the diversity of like, you know, people who come from different places around the world. But people have always like trashed Oakland and been like uh, Oakland crime, this or that. But it’s always been, you know, rich folks who are looking down on everybody else from the hills that have been there this entire time. Like it’s just nuts looking at the different kinds of diversity in this city.
What do you think is, is it about Oakland that is causing so many people that want to move here now?
What’s causing people to want to move to Oakland right now? Man. Convenience. Like, again, not to bring up San Francisco again, but we just talking about the town. But like, you know, for a long time people wanted to be in the city, they didn’t want to be in Oakland and it was because of a lot of factors that of course we can back to different things like you know, where people could live in different things like that. But now people want to be here because one, we’ve kept it cool the whole time. Like it’s always been a certain level of poppin. Even when I was coming up, like people will be like, oh we’re going to San Francisco, we’re going to San Jose. But you could always go to s to Jack London square and it was going to be something poppin, you could always go to Geoffrey’s and it was going to be poppin, you could always go the Endzone and it was gonna be poppin. Oakland’s always kept its own. Um, it’s own like area, it’s own. Like we had a mystique for a long time where people were like, we don’t want to go there cause it’s like violent. And then we were like, well we over here, we havin a good time. And I think eventually people started to be like, they are havin a good time. We want to be a part of that. They do have this culture, they do have this thing going on in that thing going on. We want to go over there now and now we can’t get rid of fools!
What would you ask to be the neighborhood rules or our good neighbor guidelines for people moving into Oakland? How should they treat Oakland coming here?
Man, number one, don’t call the police on people for no reason. Ha, now that’s number one. Number two, if we’re talking about neighborhood rules is, and I see a lot of this on like NextDoor, right? Don’t talk about people who are from the neighborhood when you’re brand new to it as if it belongs to you and only you without any consideration for those folks and for what that neighborhood was before you got there. Um, because a lot of folks who were natives here have gone through and seen things in those neighborhoods. So the way that they may respond to you when you are aggressive towards them, it might not be the nicest. So it would be, you know, best practices to talk to the people who live around you. Like we got to go back to like 1940s, like knock on the door and bring somebody a pie. When you move in, like meet the people who are around you, like talk to the people who are around you. Don’t assume that the rules from where you were from, apply where you’re at because you’ll be in for a rude awakening.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Oakland moving forward as a city?
I hope that people from Oakland get to stay in Oakland. I hope that that Oakland continues to grow. Like I’m not mad at growth, right? Like I’m not upset with growth. There are some people who were like, don’t come here. Stay where you’re at. Like, I mean, I understand that. Um, especially because of how folks who aren’t from here are some folks who are from here have treated folks from here as of late. Um, but I want Oakland to grow. I want Oakland to be better. I want our education system to be better. I want our experiences and nightlife and entertainment and then, um, business and tech, I want all of that to grow. But I don’t want it to grow at the expense of people who are from here. Um, and also you know, just because you’re here and you’re a black or brown person, it doesn’t mean that you’re not gentrifying too. And if you want to come and see me about that, then we can have that conversation.
You want to expand on that a little bit?
I mean gentrification is financial. Like if you know that someone can’t afford the house that they live in, but like their grandma paid it off and you know, you, they’re just living there but they can’t really afford the taxes on it or whatever. And you come in and you low ball them and you are making, you know, $400,000 for working at some tech company a year. Right. And you go in and you low ball them knowing that they’re going to take it and knowing that they’re not gonna have anything after that. Like you are also a part of the issue. And there are some folks who are those people. I know people who worked in tech who went to Maxwell Park, who went to Fruitvale, who came to Havenscourt, who went to, you know, Eastmont hills and went in and you know, yes, you’re buying sometimes shotty house or houses that really aren’t worth much and you’re putting money into them and you’re changing them up. But what you’re also doing is then changing the texture of the neighborhood. So just don’t come in, on some well I’m black you know, f gentrifiers it’s like, yeah, but, but are you a part of the problem or are you a part of the solution? Are you moving to Fruitvale and spending your money in Fruitvale, are you buying lunch and dinner in Fruitvale or are you going to the barbershop in Fruitvale? Are you going to the grocery store in Fruitvale or are you going to the local Taqueria or are you going to chipotle that like these are things that you have to be conscious of when you’re asking yourself, am I a gentrifying or not? So sure if you can buy a house, buy the house, but also understand that you have to invest in the community. You can’t just buy the house and then spend all your time and money in San Francisco, San Jose and Palo Alto or wherever you’re comfortable.