KEV CHOICE

“We don’t bring this up a lot, you could say anywhere outside of the world. Oakland is a suburb of San Francisco. San Francisco is the bigger city, population wise, notoriety wise. But having that sense of our own identity, usually any other suburbs is always gonna associate with the bigger city. We’ve always had our own identity. We’ve always had our own independence and I kind of felt like that reflects in to everything that we do, whether it be the, the independent business drive that we have, the independent hustle that we have, always having that do for self type of attitude. It’s a big city but it’s also very small and connected. So we have a sense of connection with each other, which when people come here they, they notice it’s a special vibe.”

 

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What is your name and age?

My name is Kev Choice, I’m 43 years old.

What neighborhood of Oakland are you from or would you say you associate growing up with?

I grew up in East Oakland and then I moved over by the lake for a significant period of time. So I kind of associate with both of those neighborhoods. But yeah, from East Oakland all the way to the lake area.

What was your childhood like growing up in Oakland?

Well, over by the lake I was in junior high by the time that I moved here. I started off going to Westlake junior high school and that’s kinda where I got introduced to music and connected with a lot of my friends. We were all kind of into music at that age. So whether it was hanging with them or just being around the neighborhood, doing music, rapping, walking around the lake, just hanging around on the corners, trying to perform wherever we could.  It was this place where I could just kind of express myself . There was a lot of things going on, you know, festival at the lake, just different little neighborhood things and just a lot of different people navigating to this area. So I was able to see a lot and be inspired by a lot. It’s an inspiring neighborhood to live in cause people come over here to hang out and just chill and it’s more chill vibe than some other areas of Oakland for sure.

You want to expand up on that a little bit? Like how was this neighborhood and the lake different back then when you were growing up than it is now?

Well, Lakeshore Ave was where we used to go. We would go down to lake shore, they had Kwik Way, which was like the spot that we would hang out there. People always come through there  to get their food and they had like little phone booths out in the front. So we’d kinda hang out there, chill. It was always girls coming through, just people in and out for Kwik Way then Lakeshore also had different restaurants like Ice Creamery, They had Rainbow Records where I used to go like pick up the latest cds or tapes that was coming out. That was important too. It was always somewhere I can go in, like just look at the latest albums that was out or songs that was out or tapes that was out. I would always go over there.

Also, that was a major bus stop hub, the 57 stopped there, the N stopped there. So a lot of people would be getting on and off the bus and you know, we can dip to The East or we can dip to The City. We could dip to Berkeley. It was a hub right there on, I want to say Lake Park in front of Kwik Way. And there was pizza spot right there. Four-Star Pizza. So we kind of had our little spots where we would hang out, we could dip on the bus and all over. So we kind of was in the middle of everything and it kind of kept us not constrained to one neighborhood. When I was living in East Oakland on 66th that’s where we was all the time. We wouldn’t really dippin all the way to Berkeley or anywhere else. But over here, since we in the middle, it can kind of helps you to be able to navigate through the whole town because we was in the middle.

 

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Do you know when your family came to Oakland and what the reason was?

My mom grew up in San Francisco and I think she moved to Oakland at a very early age when she started having me and my younger brother. I feel like she moved over here cause it was probably cheaper and it was also just to kind of maybe obtain her own identity as a young adult. My mom was a single parent very young and I think she was finding more job opportunities over here. I know she used to work at  the Bank of America Transamerica building in Frisco. And then I think she moved over here and got a job in Jack London when Jack London was a totally different space. And so she kinda got a job over here, that’s why she moved over here and she was the first one in our whole family to move over here to the city.

And then, you know, one of my aunts moved over. Shortly after some of our families started to navigate this way. We was kind of the opposite, you see it happening now, but it was a different, it’s almost like a similar scenario where you coming over to Oakland to find a better opportunity for yourself. She had a cool job and she wanted be able to raise her kids in a probably more chill environment. So I think that’s what it was. And I think also she gravitating more to the Oakland scene a little bit, there was the music, my mother loved going out to the, clubs and hearing bands and live bands and stuff like that. She was heavily going out, hanging out, going to the little spots. I think that was another reason she had friends over here. She had spots that she would hit up. She felt comfortable moving over to Oakland at that time.

What does it mean for you to be an Oakland native?

Wow. To be an Oakland native? It, it means a lot, it’s definitely a sense of pride because of all the great history that’s come from the city. Whether that be politically, from the panthers to the music to the culture of the people, the diversity. Growing up out here, having friends from all different walks of life, um, and the blue collar, the hard working ethic, the standing up for the people, being involved in community. And those are all things that were instilled in me at a young age. Connecting with community, connecting with the people, having pride for your people, having pride for your city and also trying to uplift the city and make it a better place. That was something that was always instilled in me. So I kinda kept that pride in that cultural and community responsibility from a young age. So that’s kind of what it means for me to be from Oakland, it’s having that sense of pride, that sense of community and the sense of trying to uplift people and making it a better place for all of us, which is what we’ve all been doing historically.

What do you think makes Oakland special as a city?

It’s a mixture of so many different things. We don’t bring this up a lot, you could say anywhere outside of the world. Oakland is a suburb of San Francisco. San Francisco is the bigger city, population wise, notoriety wise. But having that sense of our own identity, usually any other suburbs is always gonna associate with the bigger city. We’ve always had our own identity. We’ve always had our own independence and I kind of felt like that reflects in to everything that we do, whether it be the, the independent business drive that we have, the independent hustle that we have, always having that do for self type of attitude. It’s a big city but it’s also very small and connected. So we have a sense of connection with each other, which when people come here they, they notice it’s a special vibe. It’s not like any other places where people are a little disconnected from each other. But we’re very connected with each other, connected with our neighborhoods, connected with the things that we create here. Like we have a lot of pride for that. So that’s kind of what makes it special is that that independence of being, of uplifting ourselves, having our own identity and also being connected to the community that we’re all a part of and that we all grew up and relate to. So that’s what makes it special. Cause some other places they don’t have as much pride as we do for Oakland. We stand firm and believe that this is one of the greatest places on earth. And because of all of the great things that we create here because of our independent drive, because of our connection with the community, it makes it a special and unique place.

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What are the values of the community of Oakland? 

Well, number one is standing up for the, I don’t want to say the underdog, but the underrepresented, the people who may have less.  Because Oakland is not the glamour and Glitz of a Los Angeles or New York or San Francisco. Its people have been those who have always had to try to make something out of nothing, create something out of nothing and standing up for those values. Just like the Black Panthers, you know, they stood up for the peoples in their neighborhoods and created a breakfast program for the kids who didn’t have, they stood up for the people who were being harassed by the police, who didn’t have lawyers. They educated themselves, they stood up for themselves. And kind of having that self, that self know it all to do with yourself and not, not wait for nobody else to do it for you, you know? Knowing that you can accomplish that and being empowered to accomplish that because so many people have done it throughout history and also just the innovation, whether that be in, in music, whether that be in culture, whether that be in fashion or whatever. Just having a very, very innovative mindset to push your own idea and not be afraid to push your own ideals and your own identity. So those types of things just really just resonate for sure.

Why do you think people want to move here now?

Number one. It’s beautiful here. It’s a beautiful place to live. It has so many aspects of life that people gravitate towards. We have the culture, we have diversity, we have music. Our landscape is just incredible. Whether you live in close to water, you living in the hills, you’re living in nice neighborhoods. It’s a slow pace, but it’s still activity and there’s still things happening. There’s a lot of, a lot of things happening here that people enjoy to do. Also it allows you to be yourself, people can come from all across the world. If your firm in who you are and what you’re doing and what you believe in, you can be accepted here or you can succeed here.

It’s just so central to the bay area, which is thriving right now for so many reasons, whether it be the tech, whether it be with other stuff that’s going on in San Francisco. It’s a central area, that’s not silicon valley, it’s not San Francisco it’s away from all that, but it’s close enough to where you can be engaged and dip in and dive out of that and get the benefits of that as well. It’s a fun city. It’s a fun place to be out here. There’s a lot of things to do with a lot of activities and the culture is just very strong as well.

What do you wish people knew about Oakland before they came here? Or what would you say are the guidelines to being a good Oaklander?

I would say the guidelines to being a good Oakland neighbor is number one, it’s about relationships. Oakland has always been a city, even if you walk down the street with somebody, you either give them a nod, like what’s up, in a positive way or a negative way. We very upfront and forward, but we connect in some type of way. We speaking to each other, relating to each other, supporting one another.

I feel like one guideline for people coming out from outside of Oakland, you gotta you gotta be connected to where you at. Understand the history of the neighborhood, connect with the people in the small restaurants, or the little store or the clothing store on the corner or the donut shop. Anything! These small businesses are the framework are what makes Oakland what it is. These independent ideas, these independent thoughts, these independent musicians, these independent political activists, who’ve created everything from the political movements that have come from Oakland. Just connect with those and understand the history of those legacys.

And also instead of trying to change that, be a part of it. We want to advance, we want to move forward, but we don’t want to lose our cultural identity of the things that have made the city always what it was. That’s the people standing up for each other. That’s the people pushing innovative ideas and continuing to support each other and connect with each other. Oakland has always been a city where you gotta you got to connect and you gotta be real. We don’t support people coming here trying be fake or trying to be above or acting like that better than anybody. We all come together and support each other from a ground level. So that’s, that’s definitely what I feel is like the framework or coming to Oakland is be real and learn about your neighborhood, learn about the city, learn about the culture and help advance it forward.

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Are there things occurring in Oakland currently that you are not happy with as far as changes?

Well, definitely there’s a couple of things. The affordability, my mother was a single mother who had a nine to five job and was able to afford a two bedroom home by the lake to help raise our kids. That’s probably not possible right now. A single mother, unless you just got like some super six figure salary job,with two kids, it’s hard to maintain. So the fact that it’s hard for people from a certain salary bracket to maintain out here, which was always the fabric of Oakland as a blue collar people, the people who would work any job, whether you’re working as a secretary or working in the factory or working at a restaurant or as a teacher or the postman or whatever, like anybody could be here and survive and thrive.

Now that’s not becoming the case. The homeless issue is out of control. Seeing just the amount of homelessness and tent cities and people, we always looked out for each other and it seems like now you can walk by a whole block of homeless people and not enough people are doing enough to support those people. The diversity is starting to get less and less as well. It’s becoming so hard to afford here. There are less and less African Americans, the population of African Americans has decreased and its not as diverse as it once was. So those are some of the things that stand out to me personally Also that community vibe and starting to feel less and less, people calling the police on people playing music or churches or just anything. Barbecue Becky, all that type of stuff of people calling the police on people just trying to be themselves and community. People being offended by that. That’s absurd to me. Not allowing people to have their own spaces. When these are the spaces that we created there have always thrived in. So that’s definitely some things that I see that I’m disturbed by for sure.

On the flip side what are the changes that are happening in Oakland right now that you are happy with?

Some of the newness of the businesses. When I was growing up, there weren’t as many nice restaurants or bars, places for people to go out and have fun with their families or their friends. So I appreciate some of the new businesses that are coming in or some of the new ideas that are coming in, workspaces where people can come together at work, some of the new ideas, I feel like we have to embrace that. That’s just the sign of the Times. I’m not saying that we have to keep everything in a way it was and 1980s or the 1990s. So some of the new stuff, the new businesses, the new, the new models for work spaces, new events. I support that.

It gives Oakland in a different energy but like I said, as long as they still embrace some of the, the cultural identity that we’ve established for years, then I’m all for it. So it’s, some of the newness is fresh, it’s invigorating and it’s cool.

What are your hopes for the community of Oakland moving forward?

My hopes is that we stay inclusive of people no matter what their financial background is or racial background is or their cultural background. That we remembered the traditions that Oakland was established on and built upon and, and made a name for worldwide. I hope we continue to support those and allow those spaces to thrive. Whether that’d be musically, culturally, artistically, politically in a community and just allowing spaces for that to be created.

I mean, for that to exist and being inclusive. And then if we just all learn how to get along and I could see us make this one of the most diverse cities and most creative places in the world. I’ve traveled the world and people know about Oakland, people know about our history, people know about the things that we produce, the type of artists that we produce, the type of ideology that we’ve produced. And it’s inspired people around the world. So I want to be able to continue to add to that legacy, build from that legacy and have space so our legacy can thrive.

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