“Oakland has a sense of medicine. Like there is a sense of healing here all the way down in the roots of the soil, in the ground from the people you meet. It to me, you’ll meet somebody, a stranger and it will feel like you’ve known them for a long time and they’ll welcome you in their home and give you a plate.”
What’s your name and age?
My name is Jazz Monique Hudson and I am 30 years old.
What neighborhood of Oakland are you from or would you say that you grew up in?
I’m from 81st and Bancroft, Aka the Shady Eighties.
What was it like growing up on your street and neighborhood or in your home?
I think one of the things that stood out for me is everybody knew each other. At each end of the block there was like the block elders. Closer towards Arroyo, there was this one lady called the cookie woman. And every time we walked to Arroyo Viejo park, to the recreation center, she would always have these cookies for the kids. She baked all these cookies, and when you get a cookie, you have to sit there for at least, I mean as a little girl, felt like 20 minutes, but I want to say it was probably at least two because she would just share us a story or give us the adage or something about respecting our parents or a Bible verse about honor your mother and father or your gods glory. And it was interesting because, you know, her heart, she just always wanted the children to be good. And so that’s something that stood out. This block for me growing up on the street, my parents, my mother grew up in Deep East Oakland, my father grew up in West Oakland. My family migrated from the south, from Louisiana and my father was in the streets really heavy. And so when I came along he didn’t want me to have nothing to do with where we came from. In the negative sense. So I didn’t go to school in this neighborhood. I went to school in the hills. I primarily went to private schools. I didn’t go to my first public school until I was in close to middle school. And then even for the public schools that I went to, they were like top ranking public schools. But nothing in this neighborhood. I wasn’t allowed to play outside with local kids, although I did sneak outside a lot. But along this block is paved with Magnolias. The whole street had magnolias. Some of them are gone now that city tore him down because the roots was bringing up the sidewalk. But for me growing up, looking at all the crime on the street, a lot of murder on this street, the magnolias and the elders were some of the kinda the, the beauty, the roses growing from concrete here. It’d be like a real gloomy day. East Oakland or a scary day East Oakland where gunshots is going off and you look out the window and you see these beautiful big, huge white magnolias. So yeah, that’s what it was like growing up here. And My mother she’s a cleanly freak and so I also spend a lot of my times in his front yard cleaning out the trash that people would throw over our gate. So I couldn’t play with the kids, but I had to clean up they trash.
So my cousin Mooky that I mentioned earlier, my cousin Mooky stayed across the street and this apartment complex was the party house. For anybody that grew up on 35th and East Oakland 35th there was apartment complex, there was a party house too. Like all the parties that people go to in high school and middle school be on 35th and these apartment complexes and that was the same thing for 81st and so my older sister, I’m 30 so she’s 43 now. She was sneaking me out the house when my parents were gone. And taking me to the big kids’ parties. So, yeah. This block was fun.
So you said your family came from Louisiana. When was that and why?
Well, my grandmother was a rebel and she came to Louisiana from Louisiana to Oakland. I don’t know the year off hand, I have that stuff written down. She came on a train with my dad by herself. I don’t know the full story, but what I do know was when my dad talks about it, he says, my great grandmother always said that my grandma Matilda, that was her name was always up to no good. And so I don’t know what that meant because he said she might’ve been running for something or going to do something that my great grandma said was up to no good. But my grandmother came here and started a family here. She was a cannabis gardener, I want to say she started one of the first dispensary in her backyard. That’s how she made her money in West Oakland. So that part of my family is from West Oakland. And my father grew up in West Oakland, went to Mcclymonds, Mack alumni, but he a bodybuilder. He also did a lot of community service work. He was one of the founding members of the West Oakland health center.and he used to bring George Lulay, Arnold’s Schwarzenegger and other people in bodybuilding industry, fitness industry to Oakland. He would put on these big bodybuilding shows. So I have like a lot of his flyers, a lot of the flyers from then and so my dad’s 75, so that was like, I don’t know, 1960 something, when he was doing these shows in West Oakland. So yeah, real historical and I don’t know the full reason why, but I know our family in Louisiana were farmers. They owned land that was a plantation. My great, great grandfather ended up owning the plantation that he worked on. That’s all I really know about our family.
So what does it mean to you to be an Oakland native?
I think being an Oakland native to me as an artist, as an educator, as someone that’s traveled all across the world, something that’s always stood out to people is just the strength and the power and the diversity beat behind how I show up. Like how I show up on a microphone, how show up in spaces and I really attribute a lot of that to Oakland. Like the people here are so strong and I always talk about this double dichotomy, how you can be walking down to Oakland Street and you might have a brother talking about some hoods stuff and asking you if you want to fade up on a blunt and then while you smoking weed with him on the corner he start schooling you about Huey p Newton and the historical jazz scenery that was here. And so it’s just always this duality and who we are as a people from the good, the bad, the ugly. And so being from Oakland, to me, I represent a long, long line of strength and innovators. Some of the greatest movements in the world I feel like came from here. When I speak about my ancestors, my family coming from Louisiana and migrating here, some of the great migration happened here in the bay area. They call like the second migration of people coming from Mississippi, people coming from Louisiana, starting businesses here looking for a better life. And so when I think about myself, I think about myself in the aspect of Oakland being a representation of that. When I went to one with why went to Memphis, I went to visit an abolitionist house on an underground railroad tour and there was a magnolia tree planted in the front yard of the abolitionists house and the lady in Memphis, she was telling me that the magnolia trees are not native to here. She was like, they’re native to Louisiana by way of the slave trade. And she’s like, so whenever you see Magnolia trees in other places outside of the south, it’s a direct representation of our southern ancestors or people of indigenous descent that came down here. And so for me, Oakland has a sense of medicine. Like there is a sense of healing here all the way down in the roots of the soil, in the ground from the people you meet. It to me, you’ll meet somebody, a stranger and it will feel like you’ve known them for a long time and they’ll welcome you in their home and give you a plate. And I haven’t been to many places that feel like home, you know, wherever you go. So yeah, it’s a rich pride be from Oakland.
Why do you think people are eager to move here now?
I think people are seeking to come to Oakland now because they see all of that, everything that folks have built here. Oakland wasn’t a place that people really wanted to come to, it was real industrial, especially if you think about West Oakland close to the port and it was a commuter city. It was a place where people did business and commerce. It wasn’t a place where people were really necessarily growing their families, but for folks of color. We found a way to bring all of that culture here, so when you come here, so much diversity is so much going on in terms of in the communities, like the community inclusion. So I think people see that richness, that vibrancy here. I think the hard piece for me is that a lot of the people who worked really hard for Oakland to be what it is from the culture to the community, they’re no longer here. They’ve either been pushed out or went to other places to seek opportunities like jobs, a better living for their family or more land. But I think people see the potential for Oakland to be greater and see the goodness that’s already here.
That leads into my next question. What do you wish people knew about Oakland before they came here? What would you tell your new neighbors are the criteria to be a good member of the Oakland community?
The criteria to live here, you know, I immediately thought about Chinaka and Franklin, when they said that “Kill a hipster, save the hood.” I think that people from Oakland we embrace this city being ours but we have a deep respect for the people that came before you know, I think one of the biggest problems with transplants or people come into Oakland is that they don’t have no knowledge of the history of the city. Like in the people that built it and they don’t seem to have a respect for those communities. For me a good neighbor looks like getting to know your neighbor. How I spoke about knowing everybody on this block growing up, how you doing? (She says hello to a man passing by) Just really investing and knowing the people and building healthy relationships with those people. Because if I know your story, if I know where you came from, if I know about your family, I’m less likely to want to do something to harm you. And in the instance that we experienced some harm amongst each other, I’m more inclined to want to heal with you versus if I don’t know you, there’s no investment there. And so for folks coming in don’t just invest in the property, don’t just invest in the opportunity to benefit from what this city has, but invest in the people so we can consistently build a continuum in a legacy of growth and love and community. So learn the stories. Learn the stories of the people that were here before, learn the stories of the people that’s here now.
Like this girl I know, she’s working with flourish agenda and so I had to do a work meet at her house and I said, “where do you live?” She said “Oh, off of 77th and Weld” and I don’t know what my face said, she was just like, why does everybody look that way when I tell them I live on 77th and Weld. I said, “girl you stay in the hood”. And so she’s like, what does that mean? So I was telling her how in the 90s and early two thousands how everybody had those turf shirts. You remember it and you had the shady eighties, you had Greenside, Funktown and West Oakland. But the shirts all had like these characters on it and things from the streets and different representations of that area. But like it’s just I couldn’t move nowhere and not know the history of that block. Like maybe her living there, she knows its a rough neighborhood, but she doesn’t know like the history of where she grew up and even talking about the history of Arroyo Viejo and I think about because my dad was into bodybuilding, he also was a boxer. They used to have fights right here in the park. But like boxing fights, not like, just less scrap and it’d be a Ref there and all these people would be sittin’ around. So grown up seeing that, my dad was a dog trainer and so people during that time in the nineties and early two thousands, they were fighting dogs a lot, but they were fighting dogs and the dogs were dying or, you know, it was a lot of abuse going on, animal abuse. My dad was really an animal advocate and so for people that wanted to fight the dogs, he was training them how to fight the dogs and for the dogs to compete against each other without them hurting each other. And so he would oversee dog fights in the park to make sure nothing bad was happening.
What do you like about some of the new changes in Oakland?
As a parent I do like that Oakland is cleaning up in the sense that there are more spaces for me to take my children, there are more spaces for me to take my children and not worry about their safety in a way that my parents did growing up that made them feel like they didn’t want me to play outside or they didn’t want me to be in is this neighborhood. It’s not to say that like crime and violence isn’t still around in Oakland, but there’s just more family spaces I feel like. And when I grew up, a lot of the family spaces where just with the people that I know in the communities that I had. And so there’s more opportunities to branch out. Like the things that the Oakland Museum is doing every Friday night. I go there a lot and see people I know and still see community people showing up. I do think that there’s starting to be more of an effort, especially in the arts community to make sure that the opportunities and the programs that are here are with the original artists of Oakland. I do like the arts corridor that’s in the process of being built, the efforts to make sure that more small businesses are able to stay here and thrive as a small business owner. A lot of those initiatives that the city is pushing is really important. I think that that would be able to aid in this thing of for us by us. But then it’s, a mixed thing because then we have major corporations coming in here. Pandora been here for a while, but you have Amazon taking over. So you have the big tech companies coming in. But yeah, one of the things I do like is the emphasis on continuing to build safe spaces for families and communities.