“I remember me and my cousin Avery, who passed away a couple of years ago. When we was kids, we used to go to Ralph J. Bunche and I remember one time, it was early in the morning. Now we both had razor scooters and we were like, okay, how bout we’re like, tomorrow we’re going to ride our scooters from East Oakland to Ralph Bunche. And that’s in West Oakland on 14th. And I don’t know, I don’t know. I think when we was at by East Mine, we was leaving from my house. He came and get me from my house on 74th. And by the time we got to Eastmont, I think my scooter broke or the tire or something that happened and I couldn’t ride my scooter no more. But my cousin Avery, he was committed. He was like, he gonna ride the scooter. And so I got on, he waited for me at the bus, at the bus stop until the bus got there. And then we rode from Eastmont all the way downtown on the 40 bus. And he was keeping up with the bus the whole time on that scooter like that. I know his leg had to hurt, like his leg fo sho bout to feel swole. But he rode that scooter from East Oakland all the way to West Oakland. I was mad cause I couldn’t go. My scooter had broke.”
What is your name and age?
My name is Champ Stevenson. I’m 30 years old.
What neighborhood of Oakland are you from or would you say you associate Home with?
My home is deep East Oakland.
When did your family come to Oakland and do you know the reason for?
Yeah, my family came to Oakland during…. I don’t know the exact timeframe, but they came during, uh, shoot. I know my grandpa told me that they came out here to find jobs from Louisiana. They was in Monroe, Louisiana and they migrated here, my grandma and my aunties and yeah. And they stayed here ever since.
Do you want to give me a little bit of history of what it felt like growing up in Oakland for you? What your experience was as a child growing up?
Yes, as far as I can remember. My great grandmother, she lived in West Oakland on 24 chestnut and I just remember going there, going to her house and just playing with the kids in the village over there. Um, and then coming back to East Oakland where I was home and going to school, first through, shoot, high school and yeah.
Also as like a kid, I remember me and my cousin Avery, who passed away a couple of years ago. When we was kids, we used to go to Ralph J. Bunche and I remember one time, it was early in the morning. Now we both had razor scooters and we were like, okay, how bout we’re like, tomorrow we’re going to ride our scooters from East Oakland to Ralph Bunche. And that’s in West Oakland on 14th. And I don’t know, I don’t know. I think when we was at by East Mine, we was leaving from my house. He came and get me from my house on 74th. And by the time we got to Eastmont, I think my scooter broke or the tire or something that happened and I couldn’t ride my scooter no more. But my cousin Avery, he was committed. He was like, he gonna ride the scooter. And so I got on, he waited for me at the bus, at the bus stop until the bus got there. And then we rode from Eastmont all the way downtown on the 40 bus. And he was keeping up with the bus the whole time on that scooter like that. I know his leg had to hurt, like his leg fo sho bout to feel swole. But he rode that scooter from East Oakland all the way to West Oakland. I was mad cause I couldn’t go. My scooter had broke.
That’s a crazy story. That’s a lot of blocks, damn.
[laughter] A lot of blocks.
What does it mean to you to be an Oakland native?
Man…To be called, you know, for me being an Oakland native, it’s like, it’s like a natural resistance. Like, you know, coming from the Black Panther party, you know, like that background it’s just been resistant and resilient and you know, fighting, fighting oppression and being creative all at the same time and still making a name and the foundation for not just myself but for generations to come after me. So being an Oakland native is really, really big. When I go places and people ask me where I’m from, I tell them I’m from East Oakland, I gotta be very specific and they be like, oh, oh, oh. I guess it’s more than just crime. And where people, you know, associate Oakland with, it’s a whole lifestyle is, it’s taken something out of nothing and creating something or creating something out of nothing.
What do you think is the special sauce in Oakland?
Well, I think the special sauce in Oakland is the weather. You know, uh, people from all around the country right now is coming to Oakland in the bay area specifically just for the weather. Um, yeah. Now on top of that, we got a unique sound, the unique look, a unique vibe that that’s contagious. You know, people want to mimic what we have, mimic the love that we have for each other.
Why do you think there’s so many people moving to Oakland now?
Yeah, I think a lot of people are moving to Oakland again, for the weather. Um, yeah, I personally don’t know why people move to California when it’s like, the most expensive state in the country. [laughs] Like that’s the dumbest thing to move from something affordable to something extremely expensive. But again, I guess it’s just for the lifestyle. People want our lifestyle, you know, people want to be a part of our culture and some people are moving in different ways than others – that’s not respectable from an Oakland native. But you know, some folks just got to follow suit and pay homage.
What do you wish people knew about Oakland before they came here? What would you tell your new neighbors are, like, the guidelines to being a good Oaklander?
[laughs] Um, it depends on who the neighbors are and where they from. Uh, different culture shocks, you know, I don’t want people coming from like Massachusetts that move into deep East Oakland, uh, with their dogs jogging down my neighborhood. Um, back in the day they’d be robbed, shot at, um, I kind of wished that culture still existed, but I don’t, cause that was a systematic oppression that held a lot of black people back. Um, but people that’s moving to Oakland, you know, value your neighbors, you know, as we see the pop – the homeless population is continuously rising. So if, if new people want to come to Oakland, like let’s have a heart and do something, do something for the community, do something for those that’s less fortunate. Um, even the kids, you know, come out and mentor, join some type of program, um, contribute to the society versus just moving in and being a, what they call it, a culture, a Culture Hawk or Culture Vulture. You know, so people come in and just want to be Culture Vultures and take our swag and move it to other places.
I think you kind of touched on it, but if you want to expand a little bit about what are the current changes, particularly in Oakland that you’re not happy about?
Mm, Well, the changes that’s happening in Oakland that I’m not happy about is the continuous rise of gentrification. You know, all of these big apartment complex’s being built downtown and well just across town and hardly any of them are, is affordable. Um, there is a lot of senior citizens homes, complexes, that they get subsidized for. But there is none for young adults from ages 18 to 30 or ages 18 to 35. There is a whole gap there. And yeah, that’s it. And that’s coming along with a lot of the technology buildings, such as, uh Square and Lyft. And all these other big corporations coming in and just taking over, you know, slowly changing, um, the city of Oakland with their repaving and adding all of these bike lanes, which I do support. But in the next five years, you’re not gonna recognize the street where you grew up, not let alone the street, that entire city.
On the flip side of that, what are things that are going on in the city right now that you are happy about?
Man, things that’s going on around the city that I’m happy about is a scraper bike team. You know, the scraper bikes, they be lit you know, they’d be at all the festivals, they’d be tearing up the streets, they have all the kids. I heard there was a partnership with the Oakland Public Library, so that’s good because you know, reading is fundamental. Having a healthy mind, healthy body, healthy soul is lit and the scraper bike teams is holding it down. And I see y’all – shout out!
What are your hopes for the community of Oakland moving forward?
My hopes for the community, for the original Oakland natives is that we stand up and reclaim our land. I understand people moved out of Oakland, you know, for different reasons. But just finding a way back. I know it’s expensive, but if we can show more support in the polls, the voting polls, and we can make real action, real change. Um, but if black folks and colored folks period don’t want to vote and don’t want to do anything about the current atmosphere, then expect Donald Trump to be another four years. Expect gentrification to get worse. Expect food to be more expensive, expect rent to go up, like expect these things. Because if we’re not voting and we’re not making the decisions for ourselves, then the people at the top are going to make these decisions. So get out, register to vote. Go to your local city council meetings, be vocal. Take Action Being Oakland, we bought that action. So, you know. Yeah.
Dope, so tell me about scraper bikes man, how did you come to create a scraper bike and what’s the story of that beginning?
Yeah, man. Again, my cousin Avery, who I was telling you about with the scooter, the scooter story – I’m sure he had a strong calves. But, you know, during that time we was at Ralph Bunche. Uh, we had got kicked out of middle school or whatever, and during that time E-40 was shooting Tell Me When to Go video at Booker’s. Um, they had, you know, Supa Dupa Hyphy with Keak da Sneak, Ghost Ride the Whip with Mistah F.A.B, whole side shows just smacking. And me and my cousins being in middle school, we didn’t have no cars. But you know, we was creative and so, you know, we found materials that was around the house, like aluminum foil and some spray paint and we threw it on a bike, threw it on one bike, threw it on another bike, flip flop the colors. And we was out creating our own side show in the daylight. And once we got together, people and they scrapers would pull us over be like, “Y’all should call those scraper bikes!” Like, you know what we should. And yeah, call them scrapers because the scrape’s the inside of the wheel well for the cars and we just borrowed that, that lingo and that, that creative edge and put it on the bike.
How old were you at this time?
Well, at this time I was maybe 13, 14 years old.
How do you feel about how the movement has grown? When did you know it was a movement and then how do you feel about it being as a movement now?
Mmm, Well my cousin Avery had moved to Antioch. It was just me by myself doing the bikes. And then I had linked up with my cousins, the Trunk Boiz and they were doing music, ‘Cupcake No Filling’, ‘All Aboard’. Um, and yeah, a couple of other songs. And I approached them with, with a proposal, like, you know, I got this song that could take us all to the next level. And it’s just all about, you know, promoting scraper bikes. And so they was down with it. We created it, the beat, created the hook and went to the studio and recorded it. And then we recorded a music video that was supposed to have been a documentary, but it ended up being a video and we put it on youtube and then it went to 3 million views. And then that’s when we knew we had the attention of the world.
Tell me a little bit more about how the nonprofit is helping kids and how scraper bikes is helping kids?
Yes. So, um, scraper bikes is helping kids. Our Nonprofit focus’ around three major keys and that is: bicycle safety, bicycle mechanics and bicycle customization. We’re in partnership with the Oakland Public Library and we have a list of partners that we working with right now. Um, and the ages that we work with is between 8-30. And what we do is we teach kids, come to our workshops, we even get requests to do outside workshops. Um, and yeah, we’ll teach people how to make the bikes, how to ride, give them the history behind it. And yeah, go from there on, one bike changes the world, sparks the creativity and another kid.
Where can people find out more information?
You can check us out on our website, scraperbiketeam.org or on our social media Scraper Bike Team. – Everything.