FALANA HENSON

“So it’s like my roots are here, I’m in the soil. That’s how I feel.”

 

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Whats your name & Age?

My name is Falana Hensen and I’m 38 years old.

What part of Oakland are you from?

I’m from 38th in East Oakland.

Tell me about growing up on your street.

I was a latch key kid, so I spent a lot of time, you know, walking to and from school, the little corner store, La Finca. My mom kept me inside a lot. I didn’t really play too much and my brother was six years older than me, so it was more paleteros,  listening to cars drive by, gunshots, just everything that I could see from like the window. That’s what my neighborhood kind of reminds me of, just that small little window. But as I got older, I walked to and from school, so I seen it at a whole lot more, but it was just all from the street view.

Do you have any memories about the neighborhood that really stick with you?

So my brother’s born in May and I’m born in June and my mom, my mom one year, I don’t know what, how old we were are what? She must’ve been doing good. But she had a birthday party for us in the park. And so we actually have pictures at this birthday party. She made games where we jumped in like sacks. Uh, we had like, what does it bobbing for apples in the water?  Like even in the pictures, those pictures of like kids getting apples with spit just coming out their mouth. They were all just having so much fun, but that was the best thing, in that same park my brother got shot, in the leg, he’s fine. But yeah, that’s that. That’s the best memory from here. Just when she threw us both like a dual, a little birthday party and all the kids from this project they all showed up. They all ate. She Fed everybody and we just had like little games and my mom made up. I think that’s the funest we ever had that I can remember.

 

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When did your family come to Oakland?

My mom was born and raised in Oakland. I don’t know the year she got moved to hayward and then Fremont because she got into trouble. But we’ve been here like generations. My mom, my grandma and then my great grandma was um, out of hayward.

So you’re a third generation Oaklander?

Yeah, my mom’s not here anymore, but she’s, she only left because of the weather. I swear. Like she’s like, it gets too cold for her body or something.

So what does it mean to you being a third generation Oaklander to who was born and raised here?

It means like, my roots are here. Like I know Oakland for what it is, not what people make it out to be. Like what used to be here was a whole lot more than what’s here now. So the whole modern Oakland or the whole new Oakland doesn’t really even know what Oakland is. So it’s like my roots are here, I’m in the soil. That’s how I feel. It is kind of all I know. But that’s okay. I’m okay with it because the people are coming here to find out about this place. They’re only getting like a little bit of it. But
this is where I’m from. I don’t want to leave.

What do you feel like is it that makes Oakland so special as opposed to other cities?

I think it’s our style, our flavor. I think it’s the way that we are. Um, you don’t really see anybody from Oakland trying to be anything else. Like we’re trendy, but it’s like our own trend. We use our own words, we have our own style and it’s not too much  based on media or what’s, you know, out in the world or what’s going on. Everybody has their own hustle. Everybody, you know, could come out here and make money. Either it’s selling T-shirts to selling this or just making a small businesses. You know, everybody here is hustling and they have their own ideas and their own type of imagination that isn’t really controlled by the masses. You know, we have so many individuals, like everybody from Oakland who’s here is different, but we’re all from the town and you can tell we’re from the town, but we’re all kind of different, but the same.

What do you think is making people want to move to Oakland now?

It’s cool , Oakland is tight. Like we’re right by San Francisco. We’re right by everything. We have these beautiful views. The skies are amazing. Like our skies are amazing! I went other places and I’ve looked up and I knew I wasn’t home. Um, even just the vibe, maybe there’s just an energy. Um, makes people feel cool or something. I don’t know what it is, that’s what I think it is. It’s like a look, people come here to change and they become a whole different person than where they’re from. And it’s because they soak it up from us, you know, or from the environment.

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What do you wish people knew before they came here? As far as folks moving in here?

That everybody here, even though we didn’t get along or let’s say we have differences, you know, even before the gangs were it really big out here. We all had respect for each other. You know, we all respected each other and that goes as far as like just being courteous or you know, just knowing the boundaries or rules that are not spoken. You know? Even though we would go maybe into another side, it was still respect. Like you still knew that you shouldn’t be there. But then, I don’t know how to explain it. It’s more so like how all these new people are coming here and they’re calling the cops or they’re trying to change things or they’re like not speaking to the people who their neighbors are. You know, it’s more so like they’re trying to make it different. I don’t know how to explain it, but there was just like a level of respect that everybody had here for each other, whether they agreed or disagreed whether like they like something or not. Um, and that’s kind of being lost now with all these people because nobody’s talking to each other. Everybody’s just going to, the cops. Just shit like that car’s parked like you see here everybody here has got a parking spot, you know, in West Oakland, they park hella fucked up all their, put their bike racks out so you can’t park behind them. You’re like, dude, like we’re all a family here where community, even if we don’t like each other, like we still had that respect.

What advice would you give to like new Oaklanders to be better neighbors?

Just be humble.  Everybody just needs to be humble. Whether you’re from Oakland and I’ll just be humble and be open and be honest and just be yourself. Don’t come here trying to be something you’re not, maybe you’ll evolve and become something, you know, like a butterfly or something. That’s fine, but just be humble in the process.

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What new changes do you like happening in Oakland?

I do like that the lake is clean, you know, that we do have a larger budget for certain things, um, because you know, certain streets were just messed up for so long and certain things were just not taking care of. And now it just seems like because of this new flow of people coming through, Oakland’s getting the maintenance it needs, you know, so it’s good to  see the lake and how pretty it is and all the lights and just things like that. Even the neighborhood’s are getting a little cleaned up, although it means moving people away. It’s kind of sad. So it’s like a plus and minus, cause you see that the houses that were abandoned or broken down and they’re now being rebuilt, but it’s, you know, a whole different type of person in there. No, but I can appreciate it. Like even this little park fence area was not there before.

Last question, what are your hopes and aspirations for Oakland?

I’d like for the natives to just be acknowledged, you know, not so much has pushed to the side or leeched on because, oh, you’re really from here. Just like acknowledged, since stop trying to like get rid of us because the cost and everything is moving everybody out. I’m holding on, I have two jobs to stay here and it’s because I don’t want to go anywhere else because this is my home, you know, this is what I know. I’d like to go visit other places and come back home, but not like have to move away, you know?

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