‘Some people will say, “Yeah, you know, I’m from Oakland or whatever.” But you know they’re full of shit and they just really ain’t, they don’t really know what it’s all about. It’s a tough town, but it’s a good town. It’s a place where you got to stay on your toes and watch your nose.”
What is your name and age?
My name’s Shak Irons and I’m 48 years old.
What a neighborhood of Oakland are you from or do you associate with home?
I’m a East Oakland boy.
What was it like growing up in East Oakland?
Uh, you know, when I was a little kid, probably six years old or so, I’d say about 1976. I remember it snowing in Oakland, you know, one year. And we got to go out and play in the snow right on, right on Humboldt. We come from a poor family and a lot of people think about poor, I’m talking can of beans poor. When I was a kid we couldn’t even afford a Christmas tree. So my dad he went out into the creek behind the house and he cut down a limb off of a pine tree. He brought that into the house and mounted it on the wall and we called that our Christmas tree for that year when we made some presents for each other. That’s about it. The poverty level in those days was real rough and a lot different. Fo me in those days with respect to growing up around multi-cultures and multi ethnicities kind of taught me to be open to the whole world.
What did you guys do for fun when you’re growing up?
Shit, we made slingshots out of pieces of trees and we shot BB guns and we fought each other. We had some trains, we did have some trains, some old kicked down trains. So we we used to play with the trains all the time. We didn’t have a lot of toys or nothing. It was a pretty normal not to have too much in those days.
When you say trains you mean? Lionel trains?
My uncle was real into them he would get a bunch of the kids in the neighborhood together and we’d all work on the trains and make them work and drive em and you know, that kind of thing.
When did your family moved to Oakland?
I’m born in Oakland, so in 1970 I was born at a Oakland Kaiser, which I just noticed they tore down. So there’s another building that’s gone, that we ain’t never going to see no more. But my mom and dad lived in Oakland off and on a lot of their life too. And my grandparents lived in Alameda.
What does it mean for you to be an Oakland native? To be from Oakland?
I dunno. You just kinda got like an Oakland pride. You know? Some people will say, “Yeah, you know, I’m from Oakland or whatever.” But you know they’re full of shit and they just really ain’t, they don’t really know what it’s all about. It’s a tough town, but it’s a good town. It’s a place where you got to stay on your toes and watch your nose.
What do you think is it that makes Oakland special?
The potholes… No, I’m just kidding. The mix of people. It’s a grimy kind of city and a lot of ways, but it’s also a beautiful kind of city. I work in a lot of really beautiful homes and a lot of people will see the flats down here, East Oakland or West Oakland, they’ll see the rough areas, but sometimes you can go up and see the most beautiful places that you ever seen to right up the hill. We got like little Beverly hills, even in Oakland. People don’t know about, there’s incredible houses, incredible buildings here. My grandmother, she lived in a penthouse at the lake when I was a kid. She had money. But the funny thing was she was just a waitress, in the old days that used to be like Oakland rich, a waitress could even live in a penthouse apartment now, shit, I don’t know if he could touch one for 10 grand, you know.
Why do you think everybody wants to move here now?
Oh, I really don’t know why everybody wants to move here. It was always such a blue collar place and now it’s got all these of Yuppies and the gentrification going on and all this kind of stuff, it just seems like they want to live somewhere authentic and Oakland’s authentic.
What do you not like about the current changes that are going on?
I don’t like all the homelessness and the lack of doing anything about it. The filth around here. The people here are still suffering. They should be doing something about our town, somebody should be worried about what’s going on here.
What do you like about things that are changing in Oakland?
Well they’re starting to, how better food around again. (laughing) They’re starting to open some new restaurants and again, finally. A lot of things fell to the wayside around the early two thousands due to just poverty and crime. It’s kind of nice to some of the places being revamped. It’d be nice if we still had some of the old restaurants and stuff like that around Oakland, but we kind of lost all those. So you got to embraced some of the new stuff. The parks are better here are still the same parks that I went to when I was a little kid and now I take my kids. So that’s pretty cool.
Do you got any hopes and aspirations for the future of Oakland? What would you, what would you want it to be?
One thing would be if we could calm down the murders and the shitty parts of things that happen in a big city. Theres a lot of young guys killing young guys for no reason in this town. When I was a kid we used to put hands on each other and now everybody wants to shoot a gun. In my opinion, Hands was a lot better. People didn’t die and people’s Mama didn’t cry.
You’re a motorcycle guy and a car guy and you really love that culture. Why is Oakland so important to motorcycle culture?
Well, as far as I could ever remember, ever know, motorcycles are huge in Oakland. It’s multiracial, crosses all barriers. We got style, like nobody got as far as cars or motorcycles. You go all over the country, all over the world and see people copying The Town and how our style is here. The way we wear our clothes, the way set up our cars, the paint jobs we do, the rims and tires that we use, the music, the way the music hits like no other, you know, everybody else got their influence from a lot of things that were pretty natural here in Oakland.