“I don’t want anybody to listen to this interview and take it as the gospel. I think that the best thing would be for people to listen to this interview as well as the others, and that kickstarts them to start researching more about the stuff that’s being talked about. Let’s start a fire. That would be my hope overall, let’s start a fire. “
What’s your name and age?
Brookfield Deuce, 36.
What neighborhood Oakland are you from or would you say you associate with home?
I would associate myself being from Brookfield. You know, Deep East Oakland, Brookfield, 98th Avenue.
Can you tell me a little bit about your life growing up in this neighborhood?
Growing up over here was, it was I think a big part of who I am as an artist. I think being able to wake up and be trusted with walking outside and not being supervised because the neighborhood was really the supervision, every house was some form of family friend or classmate or work colleague from our parents. It kind of made it where we weren’t able to like do things without being found out about. So even though we didn’t have as much supervision because we were able to like kind of run the streets, um, we essentially did have supervision because the neighborhood was supervising us wherever we were, you know, and this street is Clara and around the corner is the park and down the street you go a little bit further and then you get to the other side of Brookfield, which is Stone Front. This is flat land and we just got people that we know all over the neighborhood and it’s a realyl big village. So as kid it was our whole world. We were able to really run around and run the streets. I hit by a car across the street right there by a police car actually. I was just going to the store for my moms, racing against the cars like I was Ricky Henderson and a car is zoomed by, I let it go by, jumped out in the street and the cop car was chasing him and I didn’t see the cop car and the cop car hit me. That was at the time where people would be selling dope on the corner. But the people who were selling dope was still the homies. They weren’t dangerous people they were just doing what they have to do. I got hit by the police car in front of everybody, everybody was on the block. So it was like, oh Deuce you got hit by the car. As I got older people remembered me from getting hit by a police car.
But just growing up here it was real dope to be able walk down the street and have 25 friends. Around the corner during baseball season, we would play baseball together. We’d all call each others house phones. We’d meet up at the park and it’d be 35-40 of us and we’d play a real baseball game, not like three people or if we didn’t have a real baseball bat, somebody had a tennis racquet, we’d play baseball with a tennis racket. Just real childhood, you know, being outside, playing rundown and tag & hide and seek and doorbell ditch. Not letting the street lights beat us home, it was real fun. It was real pivotal in who I am still.
When did your family come to Oakland? Do you know how long ago that was and what the reason was?
My family got here in the 60s. They were a part of the great migration. What’s really crazy about that is the great migration happened because black people were tired of living under Jim Crow laws in the south and they migrated all over the country, mostly to the west coast. And this area of Brookfield was one of the first neighborhoods in Oakland to experience blockbusting, which is, I guess you can call it a shady form of real estate. So Brookfield was all white people, just as much as all of Oakland was pretty much all white people at one point in the fifties and early sixties. The real estate agents would come to the neighborhood, this neighborhood for example, and they would tell the white people who lived here that the black people that were coming to California and to Oakland from the great migration were dangerous or violent and that they would quote darken your neighborhood.
Then the real estate agents would propose to those white people that they were developing a new place for them to go to. And one of those places happened to be Seminary, which is also an Oakland. They were telling them that they had to hurry up and sell, so they would sell the house to the real estate agent instead of selling it to a person because there was no person that wanted the house that they would sell too. They wouldn’t sell to a black person. So the white people that they would sell too, they wouldn’t put them in that position of selling them a house that was eventually going to be darkened on their street. So they didn’t have anybody to sell it to but the real estate agent, that was the way it was set up, but they would have to hurry up and sell it so they can move to the next place before they experience being associated with black people.
So they would sell the homes for way cheaper than what they were worth. And then a real estate agent would take that cheap home and they would sell it to the black person that came in from the great migration at a markup. So they would tell a black people “Hey look I know you were escaping all this turmoil in the south. But this area is mixed. It’s white people and black people and the white people that are here aren’t racist. They’re perfectly fine. Little did they know that the white people that were here didn’t like black people. They were trying to escape being on a block full of black people. So when they got here, there were indeed white people living in some of the houses. So my grandmother’s house was sold. She came in, the house next to her was already occupied by a black person but that one wasn’t. And that one wasn’t. (Deuce points to other homes on the block) And eventually all of the houses on his block became owned by black people. And everyone here paid more than the house was worth.
So the real estate agents made a profit. The white person got away from black people. So both sides won for them. And even the black people thought that they won because they were escaping what they thought was a worst situation in the south. And they came to Oakland to deal with a better life that was non racist, so to speak. It’s crazy because when you think about how the use blockbuster real estate to get black people into Oakland for the sake of profit, they’re actually doing the same thing now in terms of blockbusting the entire city now. So instead of them using a fear tactic that they use for white people, for black people they’re using economic tactics like there are no jobs here or we’re closing your schools down or we’re not patrolling this neighborhood. So the violence is rapid and we’re putting cracking in the hood so all your people are now addicts. We’re putting guns in the hood so the people who are dealing are having to protect themselves. The people who are hungry are robbing people. And it’s making the people who don’t want any part of that style of life to have to migrate out of the area, leaving a house that is in fact worth a lot of money available for white people to come back and buy the house back or take it back. And that plan has been going on for like the last 30 years. When you think about it, it’s really scary how the last 60 years of us quote being “desegregated’ and quote “more free than we were originally” is just this grand experiment that we’ve been going through. But yeah my grandparents have been here for over 50 years, they had an opportunity to get another house built from the ground up and they chose to just renovate the house that they have here. They don’t want to leave. Makes sense. The other people that are on this block, the next five houses also have chosen not to leave. I think that’s really important.
Thanks for sharing all that. I’ve heard a lot about red lining and a lot of different tactics that were used against black and brown communities, but I’ve never heard of the blockbuster. But it makes perfect sense. Damn, that’s crazy. They were just like “You just undercut these people and then get a markup” and wow, what a hustle.
Yeah. It a hustle. You know, when you think about it, it be so tough. Cause these are tactics and tools that are being used to make money off of people. There’s so much information that we just don’t have or don’t know. We are like a supreme victim of our intelligence as well as being a supreme victim of our ignorance.
Tell me about growing up in Oakland. How do you feel being an Oakland native?
I feel prideful. I’ve been to many places, a small example is you go to L.A. . LA is heavy with gang culture and I’ll be talking to someone and I might say Cuz and Blood in the same sentence. And they’ll be like, what? Where are you from? I’m like from East Oakland. They’ll be like, oh, okay. And it’s literally okay after that. They understand that this is different than everywhere else, you know? I don’t think that that situation exists anywhere in the country. I think that that’s specific to Oakland. I think that the way we are is unique to the rest of the country. I haven’t been to every city in the country, so I can’t 100% say that with full certainty. But I definitely believe that you can tell someone that’s from Oakland or from the bay area. You could smell it on them, you know, like, oh, he’s from The Bay or oh, he’s from Oakland, you know.
I think that that makes me feel that I’m happy I was born here and I’m happy that my family escaped what would have been for sure police dogs and lynchings and water hoses and burning crosses in the front yard. They escaped all of that stuff to give me a better chance. I feel thankful for being able to be raised in Oakland. I feel thankful for being able to learn things from my grandmother and my grandfather who are in their seventies and eighties and still alive to tell me, my neighbor who was 97 who still alive to tell me, things like blockbuster real estate. A lot of people that I know don’t know anything about it and it’ll be up to myself and the rest of my generation to pass that stuff down to our kids so they know what their history is instead of letting history books tell them that Trump was great because he just so happened to be a president in 40 years, the books will say he was great. You know what I mean? I don’t think that that is anything but a horror film in my eyes. It’s very scary to think that if we don’t tell our kids the things that we should be learning from our parents and grandparents, that that history will just erase. It’ll just be gone. And they won’t have anything to lean on but Instagram and a history book from a school that is a part of a district who only cares about you if you show up to class, because they get paid for your attendance. They aren’t actually teaching you the things that you need to learn to be a better human being or a better member of society or a financially better member of society, but just training you to be a part of the machine. I think that that’s a horror film. I think that that’s very scary and I think that it’s up to us to have these conversations to assure our next generation that they not out here stupid. Honestly, so they have some form of education, even if it’s the tough things to say.
What do you think makes Oakland special as a city in comparison to other cities of similar size and stature and all that?
I think that it is essentially a Bubble, but it’s also Bubba. I forget this a politician’s name, ( Mike Huckabee) but this is a white guy he uses this theory of bubbles (Bubble-ville) versus Bubba’s (Bubba-ville). Essentially Trump used it for his election. So basically you have all your major cities, your San Francisco’s, Seattle’s Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, et Cetera. All of these cities are heavily rooted in industrialism and they’re all attached to some form of a harbor where you can have a port and transfer goods, import goods from across the world. They all have sports teams. They all have heavy metro systems, public transportations, they all have multiple elementary, middle school, high schools, multiple colleges on the outskirts of said Metro area. They have a jail system. And all these cities are created the same. And if you live in San Francisco that you have no reason to leave San Francisco. Everything’s there. You’re essentially inside of a bubble. But there are places like Modesto and Tracy and Fresno that don’t have anything of any of that stuff, those are considered Bubba’s like country people bubbas and I think that Oakland is essentially a bubba inside of a bubble. So the people who live in Bubba’s generally have more of a go get it spirit to me. I could be wrong, but they have more of a go get in spirit because they have grew up with dreams. It’s hard to have dreams in San Francisco or in the bay area. When a one bedroom costs $3,000, you have zero room for dreams because you have to focus on how you’re gonna pay rent to live in your cardboard box sized apartment as opposed to living in a area where all you know is as soon as I get my high school diploma, I’m going to college, as soon as I get to college, I’m a go get this degree and I’m go get a job here and I’ve always wanted to work at this place. You’ve set it up in your head where you have a level of dreams so you can escape the nothingness that is living in a city where the only job is to work in the field, picking apples or oranges. And Central California is working in agriculture and picking produce. That’s like the only jobs they have there if the people in the area use that same mentality inside of a bubble, those are the people who make it because they have a level of drive that just doesn’t exist. When you grow up with everything in front of you, you have no reason to do anything but just continue to be a hamster on the wheel.
Okay. School’s right around the corner, stores right around a corner. I want to go have fun that’s right around the corner and I don’t have to leave and aspire to do anything. So many people that live in an area like this that think LA is out of town, and it’s a whole world out there. The people that live here have just never been to it because they have no aspirations to leave somewhere that has everything, you know? And I think growing up in Oakland, we were far enough away from what people thought was everything and didn’t have anything. So I think that that made people from Oakland a little bit more of a hustler than other places. Just being able to look from where we are, you can see like the hill right there, (points to the Oakland Hills) like everybody on that hill got money, and I can’t drive over there without possibly getting pulled over. Something like that will give me the dreams of wanting to make it out of the flat lands, wanting to make it out of Brookfield without getting shot. And hopefully I can make enough money to live on the hill, or make enough money to go live in the city in San Francisco where all the commerce is. I don’t think that there’s any other city in this metro area in the bay area that has that on life. I think this is the only one. Maybe Richmond, maybe Richmond, but besides that, I think Oakland is the only one that has this level of poverty right next to this level of money, you know? Like I said, I think that, I think that’s helped me. I think that’s helped a lot of people that have done things outside of Oakland. I think we have like the highest amount of professional athletes in Oakland in terms of the bay area. I think a lot of people have done well for themselves. There are also a lot of people who have not made it and have died or been murdered and that’s not good at all. But I definitely think that there’s a level of fuel that you get from living in Oakland. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
That’s a really great analysis of how you put the two worlds together. Why do you think everybody wants to move to Oakland now?
I think that they’ve always wanted to move to Oakland. I think that, like I said this plan’s been going on for a number of decades. I think that when blockbuster real estate started, the idea was to make money. And I think that the idea went too far and now there are too many black people here. I think the last time I did research on it, it was like 2012 and Oakland was 26% black. I’m not sure when the next census is, but I’m sure the number will be far less than 26% now in Oakland. I’m sure the number was a lot higher than 26% in 2000 or in 92, or in 89. In the 80s, I think it was at a lot higher, maybe 50%. So Oakland was definitely, you know, a chocolate city so to speak. It’s changing because these houses are worth a lot. They’re inside a bubble. When you really think about it, it’s the A’s, the Raiders, the Warriors all play around the corner from here, the airport is down the street, there’s a beach 10 minutes away. There are schools around the corner, there’s grocery stores around the corner and there’s shopping centers around the corner. It makes sense for them to want this back. It started off with white people. All of Brookfield was veterans, military people, their families, doctors and nurses. And those people were hustled out of this area using their fear of black people. And I think that they have the truth. I think if you, if you are black and you live in what would be considered the hood still, I’m pretty sure anybody that’s listening to this interview will be able to think to themselves in their neighborhood, of a white person who has moved into their neighborhood over the last five years and they have zero fear about living in what would be considered a very dangerous area.
We think that the area is very dangerous. We don’t let our kids go outside because we know that they’re dope dealers around a corner and people getting shot. in actuality these things happen everywhere, everywhere, but they’re not as afraid to live in an area full of black people because the blockbuster housing is starting again in reverse. They’re coming back for it. But they know that we have fear in terms of being black, it’s very powerful to, to see the dynamic of a black person feeling like they’re able to kill another black person and get away with it, but can’t kill a white person and get away with it because they will absolutely go to jail for that. I think that those things have been set up over these amount of years and I think that white people also know that there’s nothing can happen to them without a consequence. And we don’t actually believe that for each other. We think that there’s zero consequences. One of these neighbors that’s been here will see something happen. They may not tell what happened because they’re just like, that’s not how it goes.
What are you really happy about that’s going on right now in Oakland?
I’m happy that even the people who aren’t fully informed on gentrification and aren’t fully informed on voting or who’s running or the laws that are being implemented or even how to do these things or how to have those conversations, I think that even in ignorance, those conversations are starting to happen where people are more aware, gentrification is more of a popular word. That racism is more of a popular word, that voting and politicians are more of a popular word. And those said politicians are becoming to be more popular people. I’m pretty sure social media has a lot to do with that. I’m more happy about how things are becoming more transparent so to speak. Cause nothing’s really fully clear, but it’s clear enough to have the conversation. It’s our own research. I think I’m most happy about that. I think that having, you know, those situations where you go to church and Libby shaft comes and you can talk to her, whether she’s doing good or not, you might get an opportunity to have a conversation with her if you pull up to where she’s at. I think that’s good. I’ll don’t remember it being like that for awhile. I think a lot of our, mayors have always been accessible. I think that we’ve always had someone that we thought we wanted, so there was no need to ask questions. I think the first election, I think she won fair and square. And I think that was due to people just not being as serious about going to vote or the candidates not being what people wanted, you know, same as the presidential election. I think this last election for her, I think that people really didn’t want her to be the mayor after experiencing the first term. And she won by even more, which was really weird. And I think that winning, having 61% of the vote has made people look at the situation a little bit strangely. I think all that’s good though, the most beautiful things come from turmoil and violence, you can’t rebuild without destroying first. So I think that those things are really good in a silver lining kind of way. It’d be great if these things never had to happen at first, but experience is the best teacher.
On the flip side of that, what’s happening in Oakland right now that you’re really not happy about?
I mean shit, the same things, the same things. All of it’s a gift and a curse. I think that the things that are good in a silver lining sense or bad in the present sense that we have to experience it. In the Bible there’s a book called revelations that talk about all these bad things that are happening after God comes and gets the initial people that believed, all these years of turmoil and things happen. And if you can make it through those years of turmoil, then God will come back and get his people that have learned the error of their ways belief wise. I think that this isn’t that level of bad that the book says, but I think that this situation is essentially an example of that. The people who believe have created steps to be more mentally free and have taken the steps to teach their kids better ways to navigate a society that doesn’t fully respect or care about the people, not just black people, but the people in general.
I think that this is the, the years of turmoil for the city of Oakland, that we’re experiencing now and if we can make it through this area of turmoil by not selling our homes, by sticking in, by putting our feet in the ground and trying to weather the hurricane or weather the tornado or whatever storm analogy you wanna use. Just weathering the bad times. If we can get to the other side of the bad times, the people who don’t leave like my grandmother and all of these five houses next to it, I think there’ll be way better off for sticking through the bad times. And if we can just get more people to look up and say, no, it looks like it makes a lot of sense but we’re not going to sell our Victorian in West Oakland. We’re not gonna sell our town home in Emeryville. We’re going to stick around and weather the storm and the storm is bad, but that’s it. I think everything else is the lesson, even the storm, just these things happen. And if we are aware then it’d be harder for people to do these things to us tomorrow.
So I think you’re kind of driving into my last question, which is perfect. So what are your hopes and aspirations for the city and the community of Oakland moving forward, especially the Brookfield Village community?
That we just continued to have conversations and be willing to learn new things and stick out here but also see the rest of the world. The world was a lot bigger than these 20 blocks in Brookfield that the world is a lot bigger than 500,000 population in Oakland. There’s a large world that is out there that we could learn a lot from by focusing on other cities. I think what’s happening in the Brooklyn area, in the Dumbo area is essentially what they’re doing to West Oakland. But I know a lot of people that’s never been to Brooklyn, so they can’t tell you, and if you’ve seen it you’d be like, man, this really looks familiar. You know what I mean? And it’s a lot of cities like that. Austin, Texas is like that. Portland, Oregon is like that. And if you just kinda take a look outside of your area, I think that we can learn a lot more. So that’s what I hope for for people is that as they get older and they get more financially stable, that they go see the world, they go see the rest of America and see what’s happening outside of just your bubble, and realize that it’s a very large country and there’s a lot of things going on, each state is essentially its own country. They’re all ran by different laws. All the laws are different and learning those things will help you to navigate through life a lot easier. Having the information, you know, whether it’s Google or a book or talking to someone who lives in the area like you guys are doing with this series. I think that that stuff is important. I really hope that people listen to not only this interview, but the other ones that you guys do, because a lot can be learned from just listening to someone else tell you from their experiences. Yeah. That’s what I hope. I hope that people continue to dig for information and not just let someone else tell them, this is what it is. I don’t want anybody to listen to this interview and take it as the gospel. I think that the best thing would be for people to listen to this interview as well as the others, and that kickstarts them to start researching more about the stuff that’s being talked about. Let’s start a fire. That would be my hope overall, let’s start a fire.