“It’s just one of the best places to be from. We’re just so carefree. Our vibe is like nothing else. I’m just super proud to be from this place because it has really made me who I am today. I have learned the game from Oakland, my ways, and it has helped me survive in many occasions. So I love being from Oakland, I moved away about seven times and I’ve always come back, cause it’s no place like it.”
What is your full name and age?
Shayla Jamerson. But everybody calls me Shayla, Bang. And I am 38. Can I say 21? (Laughing)
What neighborhood of Oakland are from or would you say you feel like home?
I would say I’m from the East, East 23rd, also known as the dubs.
What was it like growing up in your street and neighborhood or your own? Can you share some of your memories?
Growing up over here was very colorful. It was always things going on. It was super diverse over here. Just reminds me of what Oakland is all around. All my neighbors, we all mess with each other and like in a sense that we all knew each other. My neighbors across the street, we went to the same school, so their parents would take me to school every morning. They would always, every time I would get in the car have warm tortillas ready for me. They were just so real, authentic Mexican family couldn’t speak English, but they call me “Chayla” and I loved it. I would race in the street barefoot with the kids across the street. It was lit over here. We would go to the boys and girls club up the street by the liquor store. We would walk through the basketball courts over down by Manzanita Rec Center. I loved growing up over here.
What was the demographic?
I would say that it was predominantly, it was like black, Mexican, and Asian.
When did your family moved to Oakland and do you know what the reason?
So my grandparents, I know they moved out here I think in the 60s. As far as my mother, my mother passed but I know she moved out here in the 60s as well. That’s all I really know is they came out here probably like in the 60s. But my grandparents who raised me, they were raised in Arkansas and then they came out here.
Did they come for work?
I honestly don’t know why they came. I should ask them. I don’t even know they came out here though. Better opportunities, because I know my grandmother, she lived in Porterville, California and she had 10 children and they were all raised in Porterville. But my grandfather, um, was the only one that came up to the bay area. And I’m guessing for work probably. But he was is a little pimp, so it could have been for some other stuff. ( Laughing)
So what does it mean to you to be an Oakland native?
It means everything. It’s just one of the best places to be from. We’re just so carefree. Our vibe is like nothing else. I’m just super proud to be from this place because it has really made me who I am today. I have learned the game from Oakland, my ways, and it has helped me survive in many occasions. So I love being from Oakland, I moved away about seven times and I’ve always come back, cause it’s no place like it.
What makes Oakland a special city in comparison to other cities of similar size and stature?
It’s the people. I moved to other places because people said oh you should move to the Atlanta, I lived in Chicago, I lived down south and then I always come back because it’s just a family oriented city to me. You run into the same people but could just be friends you grown up with are just friends you’ve seen in the social scene. It’s always warm and it’s always family. And I just love that. Like it’s just the vibe. It’s just, we chill. You can go to other places and they’ll have like a social scene that very much has to do with status. I feel like out here you could be in a room with millionaires, somebody in tech, dude from the block, an artist, entrepreneur, someone with a nine to five and it don’t matter cause we’re just all vibing with each other. It’s not about what you got or who you are, but it’s how we connect with each other. I’ve just always loved that about my city.
Why do you think so many people are moving to Oakland now?
Because what we’ve already said Oakland had been in the beginning, and what it always would be. We’ve always seen the beauty in this city. The natives have always seen the beauty in the city. It doesn’t help with you know, the Warriors winning and how central it is. But now it’s the hot spot and the place that everybody wants to be, Which is cool, but at the same time, but it’s not. I just feel like people come here for the culture and the feel of things, what we bring and just our vibe. But at the same time they’re trying to erase that and create their own, but still screaming we loved the culture. That just doesn’t make sense to me. Because they know Oakland is lit and central and they want to be here and it’s expensive. Maybe not to them, but it’s expensive to us. And who wouldn’t want to be from Oakland? It’s just the shit… (Giggling)
So now to add to that, what do you wish people knew before they came to Oakland? Or what would you tell your new neighbors are the guidelines to being a good Oaklander?
I would just say be open and accepting to the natives and the culture that has been here before they have came. It’s one thing to come and want to live here, but trying to create your own spaces and not being comfortable with what was already here. I believe that’s the issue. If you come here be open to embracing the culture that is here and not so much trying to change it.
What do you not like about the current changes?
Man…(exhales) Oakland is the way that it is. Maybe not within the last couple of years, but it’s the way that it is and people want to move here because of the culture of Oakland. What I don’t like is what I said before is just how people come here and because they’re not comfortable with something that’s already here, then they want to change it to make it more comfortable for them. And there are stories here. There are people here who have been born and raised and been here all their lives. Now look at the streets of Oakland. Look at the homeless situation of Oakland. I’ve never seen the homeless issue like this ever. This bad. My mom was homeless, she used to be in the tents and things like that, but it was just different to me. I feel like it wasn’t as in your face.
We knew the areas where the homeless would hang out and you know, folks with drug addictions and things like that, but it’s just smack right in the middle of downtown and they’re sleeping under a sign that says new condos are coming. I don’t like that the individuals that are here that have made this culture, what it is are now looked upon as like nothing, no value. You know what I mean? It’s like forget the old, it’s about what’s new and what we can bring to the city now and what has happened before or what culture was there before. It makes me feel like it’s not valid. It’s like, yeah, that was in the 90s. Yeah, that was early two thousands. We’re bringing something new. I know you want to upgrade and make things cool, but I remember when nobody used to be in downtown. It was like downtown on the weekends?! So I love seeing that. I love seeing new businesses and new things to do. I love that but at the same time, I just don’t want the backs of the natives to be stepped on or just not even natives but also people who’ve been here for years who have contributed to the Oakland culture. That’s what I don’t like. But there’s also some benefits, I feel like there’s more to do now than it was before, you know?
What do you like about the current changes?
Violence has gone down, in 19 years this is the first time that Oakland’s, violent shootings have gone down which is a plus. There’s more to do. There’s a lot more activities and cute divey little bars, the social scene is becoming a little bit better out here than before. At one point I felt like it was just like dusty and there was nothing going on. And also accepting too, there are new people that are moving here that aren’t about sucking up the culture but want to know what’s up and want to be involved and want to see how they can contribute and add value. Getting involved in organizations that have to do with community, give back and things like that.
It’s not always a negative, it’s a beautiful thing. At the same time, just when people get pushed out and can’t afford to live in certain areas anymore, that’s when it’s all bad. I think the thing that really got to me, many things, but something that got to meet before is when someone had moved next to a church and they called the police to complain about noise of the choir practice at a Church. And that’s just what they do. That’s what they do every Sunday is have church and sing and pray. So why would she move next door to a church? But then because they moved there and they complained and they got accommodated, not the church. So it’s the value that I feel it’s not being seen in the natives so much anymore. We really have to fight for the spaces that where once hours, which we don’t mind sharing, but at the same time how much do we have to change to make it comfortable for you?
What are your hopes and aspirations for their community of Oakland moving forward?
I just hope that going forward that we’re able to really come together and share each other’s spaces. Having an organization like, SoOakland and providing these spaces for people of color and natives, but also welcoming to others who aren’t from out here to show them what real Oakland is like, what the culture of Oakland is like, how we aren’t afraid to be ourselves and being unapologetic towards how we celebrate. I just hope the ideas and the feelings of the natives eventually get heard. Last name.
You want to tell me a little bit more about Soo Oakland?
SoOakland has grown so much and I didn’t really know what it was going to be. I really just thought I wanted to create a space for us to have fun and be ourselves and having an nostalgic experience because growing up in the 90s, we all can relate to how it felt back then. We were much younger, but it was just a feeling that we all kind of congregated towards whether it was going through the lake festival at the lake, riding a strip, whatever it was. I know we can’t do those things anymore. But it was also just a feeling and a vibe. It was like no other. I wanted to create spaces where we can just truly be ourselves and not feel like we have to water down the culture of Oakland. Whether it’s getting hyphy, whether it’s the way we dance, the way we talk, you know, how we celebrate, how we support each other.
Just highlighting the positives of our community of Oakland, the black and brown community. And not so much holding on to the stereotypes of what people thought those communities were. I felt like all people thought Oakland was when it came to people of color was violence. So it was important for me to make sure I maintained the spaces to highlight the positive aspects of people of color and of the natives. And it has grown into this platform that is becoming a monster in a good way. I said first it was just a party, let’s turn up. But also the person that I am, it had to have substance behind it, because it’s deeper than that. And now it’s my platform, we’re turning up, but we’re also making sure that we highlight social issues that are going on in Oakland. Making sure that our voices being heard at the same time, still while we’re turning up now. I’m excited for the growth of it and hoping that it turns into this massive festival that can bring all backgrounds together and we can just be ourselves.
I like how you did that. (Laughing)