“I think what makes Oakland special is the resilience that is just ingrained in the streets of it. In the same way they tried to do with Detroit when there was a huge amount of black folks that were becoming like an economic power and all those other things. It’s was like: ‘We’ll just shut down the industries. We’ll just implode the city.’ The amazing thing is that they can’t do that with Oakland. Oakland has literally become too important to fail. Even if they take all the industries out of here, we will find a way to keep it going to where, like, we can say with confidence that Oakland is never going to see a recession of that type because our main export is culture.”
What is your name and age?
I’m Peps and I am 36.
What neighborhood of Oakland are you from or do you associate home with?
Definitely from the Forties. I lived shortly in the 60s but really -here- is where, like, you know, you sweat, you bleed, you get into stuff, you get to play, you make friends. So like definitely this is my neighborhood where I’m at right now in the Forties.
What was it like growing up being in this neighborhood? Give me some of your memories, some things that kinda stand out.
It was definitely crazy because my family and I moved here on, like, the second half of ’95, and you know, there were still, like, hella dope fiends running around. There was like, I remember SWAT raiding the houses, like on both sides of our house, you know what I mean? Like almost every other month. And there was hella times I didn’t go to school because there was like a SWAT team outside my house and I had a rifle pointed at me and it’s like ‘Yo, get back in the house.’ And it’s like ‘Ah, I’m getting back in my house, it’s all good’ you know what I mean? And it’s kinda crazy because, like, most of the old folks from this neighborhood for whatever reasons of the street life were kinda, you know, involved in, like, heavy drugs or, like, got locked up or all kinds of shit. So it’s like at a junction between, like, folks that kick it on 38th and then folks that was, like, doing some other grimy shit on the other side of High Street. So it was almost like no man’s land. So if something was about to go down – and it would go down right there on Foothill – you’d see, like, swarms of people coming from both sides and getting into it. And also, I mean, there was a lot of beautiful things too because I think, like, the 90’s, like, ’95 and onto like 2000 was, like, the peak era of Oakland graffiti. Like, there was hella youngsters, hella people, you know, my peers that were just like crushing The Town and they were like actually trying to do pieces and do throw ups and it was like a big thing, you know what I mean? It was like pretty much you either gang bang or you do graffiti and there was no really in between thing. And even if you didn’t gang bang you still got hit up, you still got jumped, you still got shot at and all these other things -over- graffiti shit. You know what I mean? So, its like, you start doing Hip Hop or graffiti to stay out of trouble, but like you ended up getting in trouble because it’s like, yeah, it’s Hip Hop, but it’s The Town, and that’s why a lot of people get it twisted nowadays thinking it’s like ‘Oh, you know..’ – like when somebody’s from Oakland- ‘Oh you’re just a tagger, you’re just a this…’ And it’s like ‘Nah, dog, don’t get it twisted. Like, you know, even the Hip Hop heads are grimy out here.’ You know what I mean? And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way but it’s just, like, that’s just how it was. You’re talking about post-Crack Era, you know what I mean? There was no economy here. There was no, like, grassroots organizing. There was like, no programs. There wasn’t shit, you know? So we made everything happen ourselves.
When did your family come to Oakland and do you know what the reasons for them deciding to move here were?
I think the first person that moved to Oakland was my brother in the 80s. And then my Dad followed, also in the 80s, and then it was my Mom and I was, like, from my family, I was the last person to move to Oakland. And there were definitely economic reasons. Everybody was, like, going through some economic hardship. I think my brother was, like, a teen when he moved to Oakland by himself because there was some sort of industry here. There was canneries, there was people working on the piers, there was all kinds of stuff, you know what I mean? There was those blue collar jobs and he was able to, like, raise a family, he became a homeowner. And that’s the discrepancy you see is that, like, my brother was working real hard back in the 80s and he was able to buy a house where like, now, it doesn’t matter how hard I work, I’m not going to be able to do that in Oakland. And the same thing with my parents, you know what I mean? And also the fact that those economies are no longer there, there’s a huge gap between, like, what young people can do, you know what I mean? So it’s almost like in reverse. Like, in the 80’s and 70’s there was a lot of people moving to Oakland and now there’s, like, a huge exodus of people moving out of Oakland, you know what I mean? You know, one of my brothers lives in Richmond and he was able to buy a house over there. He finished paying off his house and that’s the only reason why he still lives in Oakland. But everybody else in my family, they’re just ready to book it.
So having said all that: What does it mean to you to be somebody who is an Oakland native?
I think there’s a lot of pride and love, you know, coming up in Oakland because you know that you were part of creating something that’s gonna outlast whatever generational mark we leave. You know, like, the Hyphy Movement left a mark and the folks that made that happen left a mark. You know, like, the Hip Hop era from Oakland left a mark, you know what I mean? I think I really want to call my generation like — you know, we’re, like, the boundary pushers, you know. Like we pushed the boundaries not just on art and other things, but also, like, activism, you know. Like there was a huge organizing and activism that happened out of necessity and not out of like ego or trends or, like, things out of, like, popularity. You know what I mean? So that’s why I really, you know, want to call my generation that came up in that 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s era like, you know – we’re boundary pushers, you know, we’re those line steppers, you know what I mean? Because, it’s like, we made our own lane. Whereas like, you know, all the folks from the 80s who were, like, in the very traditional gangbanging scene was like ‘Oh, no you can’t do this, you can’t do that.’ You know? And same thing with the Hip Hop, you know what I mean? Same thing with the Bay Area. Like the Bay Area’s always been known for that: like, doing its own thing. But, like, Oakland specifically is like: ‘We make our own lane’. You know what I mean? So I think being from Oakland is opposed to just moving to Oakland. That’s the difference. It’s, like, people move to Oakland because there’s an appeal to it. And when you’re from Oakland you create what’s appealing about it. You know what I mean? But like I said, there’s the beauty and the curse of it, you know? What some people just call culture, like, I just call it symptoms of living in imperialist society. You know what I mean? Those are symptoms. Like, that people think immigration is a problem. Like, nah, it’s a symptom of a larger problem. You know, like, people don’t get pushed or forced to leave their country because they think it’s cool or like: ‘Oh, like, you know, let me just go somewhere else because it looks nice’. It’s like, you know, you’re leaving everything behind so it’s like a symptom of a larger problem. Whether it’s a global problem or an economic problem or a, you know, a humanitarian problem sometimes. You know what I mean? So it’s the same thing. The Crack Era would have not been able to flourish had it not been because of the Black Panthers and all these other things because it’s, like, had all the activism not been based out of Oakland, the CIA would have not flooded our streets with crack. I don’t think they would’ve even done that to begin with if that was not the case, if it wasn’t such an urgency to squash Black, Brown and Red movements and, you know, Asian folks organizing in the Bay Area to the level that they were, you know what I mean? So this is the legacy of resilience that came out of that where we had, like, the world’s biggest military power trying to squash down folks in their cities, you know. City folks, you know what I mean? Not even an organized army, not even another country. You’re talking about regular folks that were, like, Longshoremen and Engineers and like, you know, Students and stuff like that. To have that level of repression there must’ve been something about it, you know what I mean? American Indian Movement began its organizing in the Bay area out of the Alcatraz Occupation. The Alcatraz occupation was organized out of Oakland. You know what I mean? It started partly in San Francisco, but like when their main spot got burned in ‘Frisco, they came to Oakland. And this is where, like, most of the people were living at to begin with, you know, I mean? They weren’t living in ‘Frisco, they were living here, you know what I mean? So, like, a lot of the main founders like Carter Camp used to work in one of the canneries right here. Used to come up by Fruitvale and stuff like that. And you know, I heard that from his sons: about the connection that the larger movement has with Oakland specifically, you know. So it’s like, we carry that pride, but then the aftermath of, like, COINTELPRO and all that repression is, like, kind of what we’re living through today. Like this is why there’s a huge demographic of people of color in Oakland who are addicted. It’s like, it was intentional, you know, it was not a life choice.
Amazing answer. So you’re kinda headed in the direction I’m going next which is: In comparison to other cities of similar size and stature, what makes Oakland special? Like, what is it that’s in the water out here that makes this place the place that it is?
I think what makes Oakland special is the resilience that is just ingrained in the streets of it. In the same way they tried to do with Detroit when there was a huge amount of black folks that were becoming like an economic power and all those other things. It’s was like: ‘We’ll just shut down the industries. We’ll just implode the city.’ The amazing thing is that they can’t do that with Oakland. Oakland has literally become too important to fail. Even if they take all the industries out of here, we will find a way to keep it going to where, like, we can say with confidence that Oakland is never going to see a recession of that type because our main export is culture. And that’s not something that they can control, that they can regulate or that they can take from us. So that’s what makes it extremely special is, like, you know, the strength and resilience that all the different communities that live in Oakland bring with themselves. And the fact that there’s this, there’s civil understanding amongst communities that we have to cooperate and live in some sort of coexistence that benefits everyone in order for all of us to continue to live in Oakland. You know, like, this is not the same situation as LA – no offense to LA folks – but we are all aware of our own dynamics in our own cities. That’s what sets us apart from other cities where you do have large communities of color that are very diverse, there’s not the same level of cooperation. You know what I mean? The San Antonio neighborhood is, like, the most diverse neighborhood in the West coast. There’s somewhere between, like, 23 and 50 languages spoken just in the San Antonio neighborhood. And now the Fruitvale is pretty much at the same level with this new surge of Indigenous migrants coming from Central America and Southern Mexico. So it’s, like, it’s always been that way. It’s like a beacon for folks who wanna not just look for a better life but also a more dignified life. You know, there’s a legacy of folks fighting for rights, fighting for their own identities, fighting to have their own place in this existence that they come into in Oakland And I think that’s also part of the appeal of people coming from all over the country: it’s because they feel like it’s a safe space, right? Like for prosecuted and marginalized communities. Even White queer folks are coming to Oakland because they feel like the Bay Area is an understanding and welcoming place to folks who have been persecuted based out of gender and whatnot. You know what I mean? Again, that’s the beauty and the curse. Like it is, but it came out of organizing, it came out of people fighting to make it a safe space. Like it didn’t just become by people being here, but because people fought for it. And because there is that appeal, there is that social justice aspect to it, it’s made it almost a tourist attraction and it just, it’s kinda what’s fueling this whole gentrification problem as well, right? It’s not just the tech industries. You know, everybody wants to come to Oakland, they want to live here, they want to work here, they want to, like, you know, earn their stripes here and then, like, they leave. You know what I mean? And like that process of coming to Oakland, contributing to Oakland, putting something in the collective cultural pot is kinda not happening anymore. And we’re definitely seeing it, whereas now it’s, like, people come and take and take and take and take and then they bounce. You know what I mean? And that’s where we’re at right now. So I think that’s all in all what makes Oakland a very special, yeah. You know what? Like, I don’t even know. Like ,Oakland is Oakland, but I don’t know what to call it. You know, it is special. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world
Where do you go out here when you’re hanging out with your friends?Don’t give up any of the spots, though? You can talk about generalizations, but you can’t give up the spots.
That’s the dope shit. Like, any direction that you drive or even if you walk in Oakland, you can go to a special place, you know? At least for me, I feel safe enough to go to any of the parks here. You know, some folks might have some afterthoughts about it, but, like, I could go to the Park and there’s not a problem for me to hang out there. Or, like, I don’t feel like it’s a dangerous place because it’s people I know. Or, like, I like going a lot to the Hills. Not because I’m trying to escape the flats, but I just like nature, you know what I mean? And because of, like, Urban Sprawl, there’s not as much of it here. Like, I remember taking a couple of shortcuts and there’s a Creek that runs down the street and just, like, I would intentionally hop onto the Creek and walk through there even if I didn’t have to just because it’s like the only piece of nature that was, like, close to my house, you know what I mean? And it’s grimy and it’s whatever. But, like, that’s a creek that I went to, you know what I mean? I would just go there before they put this bridge – there’s a bridge now – but before you had to kind of like go around it and just not go there. But now there’s a bridge and now they put a fence or whatnot but I still, like, go a different way. And I just like to go towards nature, whether it’s like walking Mueller or, you know, some of the other trails up that way where you’re like, you can actually have a little bit of silence, you know what I mean? I think Oakland’s soundtrack is a beautiful thing, but it can get overwhelming, especially if there’s other things going on in your life and you don’t really want to be here. Like, if somebody’s blasting music at, like, 3:00 AM, or if you don’t want to hear gunshots, you need to find some resolution to, like, just ground yourself. And that’s all it really is. I never really see it as an escape or like I’m trying to shield myself from my own city. Or I just kick it on my porch, you know what I mean? Like I’m not part of that generation that doesn’t feel safe to be outside, you know? That’s all it is. Like I learned to love every part of the town, all the little crevices and secret spots, you know what I mean? And like I said, growing up where I did it allowed me to connect with different folks throughout the city regardless of their affiliations with, like, street sets or with blocks because, it’s like, we all gotta go to Fremont – that’s where I went to school – so there was some separation, but at the end of the day, it’s like, we’ll be able to see each other in the streets and, like, nod and not have it be an issue, you know what I mean? And we were all mixed in there. When I went to high school, it was the most overpopulated school in the West coast, so you just kinda force everybody to, at some point, just stop the rumbles. Because we didn’t used to have fights. We used to have rumbles. We’d be like 50 on 50, 80 on 80 type thing. To the point where the School Admin wouldn’t even try to stop it. But it was like every day to the point where everybody was just like: ‘alright, let’s just chill.
To the point that they were just tired?
Yeah. You know what I mean? It was like that, you know. And some beefs never settled but it was like too much. It was like too much organizing, you know? You get all these many people on the football field, so, yeah.
What do you wish people knew about Oakland before they came here? Or what would you tell people who are new to Oakland? Or like the guidelines to being a good neighbor?
Definitely gotta be a good neighbor or you’re gonna have some beef. That’s of top. I didn’t really start having beef around in my neighborhood until as of late and it’s because folks started to, like, dump things out on the street. So don’t be dumping shit. That’s just, you know, trifling. And be respectful to other people. You know what I mean? That’s all it really is. And like nowadays there’s so much flux in the who moves in and out of Oakland that people don’t even stay long enough to create a relationship with their neighbors. So sometimes they don’t realize that they’re being hella irritating or that they’re being hella grimy. And it’s just like, dog, you’re making the neighborhood look hella bad. And I know you don’t care cause you’re gonna move in two years. But I care, I live here. You know what I mean? So, you know, don’t start none, there’ll be none. The other thing too is if you’re new to Oakland, don’t walk around like you’re big dog because being a big dog is the norm here. So if you coming from a smaller city or something, you think you’re the shit, don’t walk around like you are, because that’s baseline to us. So like, somebody is going to pull your card, you know what I mean? And that’s just a fact of life. You gotta be respectful. You gotta hold your own. But also, just be humble. Don’t act like you’re better or bigger than somebody because I guarantee you there’s always going to be somebody bigger and better than you at some point in your life. So accept that in Oakland. Like, it’s survival so some people might take it as a threat and it might cost you some, you know. You might get taxed, you know, some Town taxes. Or you might get mobbed or you might get shot. And that’s the reality of it. You know what I mean? And those who have lived here long enough accept that it’s the element, you know what I mean? I’m not glorifying it, I’m not condoning it, but it’s the element of the city, you know, and part of living here is that you have to learn to coexist with it and not try to fight it, you know what I mean? So there needs to be some balance on how those things coexist.
Would you prefer people just coming and saying ‘What Up?’ Like, when they move in.
I’m gonna keep it real, I wouldn’t. I’m awkward. I’m the dude that’s gonna watch you, like, from the window or like I might be muggin’ or staring at you, seeing what the fuck you doing, but it’s like, it’ll take me a while and then if I – that’s the thing: folks from Oakland, like, we might look that way and we do be mugging and we do all that but, like, if we find something to bond over, like, ‘Oh, you like that shit? Oh, I like that shit too!’ That’s all it takes, you know what I mean? I think that’s why we’re having such a hard time with this wave of folks coming from the Midwest. And it’s not their fashion or their preferences but we just don’t click, like, we don’t have anything to bond over. And then we’re just kind of forced to be, like, close and super cramped in this space. So that definitely creates room for resentment before we even try to understand each other. But also it’s just, like, the intention of displacing folks that already been here and then making it unlivable, right? So that just kind of gets fueled by that. So, to me, it’s just, like,I give everybody a chance but I’m just going to do it from a distance until I find someone and see what they’re about or whatever. But I am that neighbor that, like – ‘Yo they’re trying to break into your car’-type-shit, I’ll be there. But if it’s not reciprocated then I’m gonna be like ‘Fuck you, damn, then they can break into your car. I don’t care’.
What are the current changes in Oakland that you’re not happy with?
Shit. The current changes that I’m not happy about in Oakland are…
Or things that are going on, doesn’t have to be changes.
Definitely the housing market, you know, that shit’s getting worse. I always thought about it, like, how economic crises always come in cycles. So it was like, you know, we just gotta ride this wave out. And when the bubble bursts the folks of color that remain here will be able to reassess and reorganize themselves, regroup and be able to buy their homes and, you know, go on like we did, you know, 10 years ago, right? But I just don’t see that happening anymore. You know, I don’t see an end to this economic bubble. And part of it is the Warriors, man. Like, they got good. So now there’s, like, a draw, you know what I mean? And now that they’re going to San Francisco, that’s gonna drive the economic divide even further up there, then more people are gonna come from San Francisco to here and then drive the economic divide here. So that’s one of the things, the housing market. The way the city’s prioritizing its budget and how it spends instead of like spending it more equitably with the folks that are living here and actually make Oakland what it is. They’re spending it towards, you know, this dumb-ass BRT that’s giving me gray hairs already and it’s not even working You know, it’s not even operational yet and I’m already tired of it.
I woke up at, fuckin’, I don’t know what time this morning to jack-hammers on the middle East 14th. Like, ‘God damn, you motherfuckers’.
You try driving around that motherfucker?
That’s how my first car got hit. The one I was telling you about.
Man, so, to the folks that live here, to the folks that work here, to the folks that gotta take their kids to school everyday, that shit’s a big ass nuisance. So I definitely don’t like the BRT. There’s nothing that could justify putting a dedicated bus-line there on a four-lane boulevard. That shit’s just poor planning and it’s going to affect the businesses there because there’s no more parking so there’s going to be a loss in revenue for those businesses. And if anybody knows, all the Fruitvale businesses between like High Street and, like, the Dubs are old-generation Mom-and-Pops businesses, right? There’s no franchises. It’s all businesses that were able to outlast gentrification, the housing market burst of 10 years ago, they outlasted the.com buzz, they outlasted the Raider riots, they outlasted all this other shit! And now they’re not going to be able to survive the BRT, you know what I mean? So, yeah, I’m just not looking for any of these boutiques or niche coffee shops every block now after they starved these businesses out of where we’re from. And the other thing too is that I don’t like how Oakland has learned to use social activism as a marketing ploy. You know what I mean? Oakland would talk about, like, sanctuary cities and all of these other things at the same time as, like, using our own Police department to oppresses own citizens, right? So, it’s like, you’re saying that you’re a sanctuary city but then you’re treating the people who are the recipients of sanctuary like shit by proxy using the police department. Yeah, you might not collaborate with federal agencies but you use your own police force to oppress those people. So it’s like ‘Diet Woke’ you know what I mean? Oakland’s Diet Woke, you know what I mean? Because all the main grassroots organizing are not getting any resources and all the new pop-up nonprofits that are doing all the pet activism – and I don’t mean ‘pet’ as in animals, I just mean they pick a ‘pet’ project that’s completely nonsensical and, like, a non-issue and they’d be like: ‘Oh my God we’re making an impact because we’re teaching such-and-such to work with crayons and shit.’ Or like: ‘We’re teaching patients how to, like, not poop on cars.’ And it’s like: ‘Oh wow!’. Like that shit doesn’t really impact the people who are still suffering the consequences of the economic divides and the police repression and all that shit. So, we petitioned for OFCY to fund the Newcomer Safety Program for all these kids that are coming from Central America and stuff like that and it didn’t get funded. So, it’s, like, what’s the point of saying that you’re protesting these kids being in cages? If, when these kids come out of those cages, there’s nothing to catch them, you know what I mean? So all those kids are getting exploited, they’re getting pushed into, like, neighborhood sets and being used to do all their dirty work but, like, there’s nobody funding that work, you know what I mean? So then it’s like last year, the newcomer population made up 34% of the murders in Oakland even though they’re only 15% of the population. So that’s an extremely disproportionate rate. Those are the kids that are in those cages. Those are the kids who are, you know, in the media and that people are using as speaking points. But you can’t use them as a speaking point to make your city look good and then leave them out in the cold when it’s time to actually help them with things that you can help them with, you know what I mean? That’s my 2 cents.
On the flip side of that; What are you happy about that’s going on in Oakland?
I mean, this is going to come out of left field, but I’m really happy about all the conservation efforts that are happening in terms of, like, restoring a lot of the natural habitat. There’s a lot of hard work happening in terms of, like, restoring the shore lines and all those other things and people don’t realize how important that is to elevating the quality of life of people. Like quality of life is not just like: ‘Oh, I need a 25 cent raise!’ or ‘I need this and that!’. It’s, like, if we can’t even breathe clean air or drink clean water or there’s no animals, you know, I mean — cause Oakland, that’s the mistake people make is that – it doesn’t matter if it’s Oakland and LA or whatever – everybody acts like it’s just theirs and it’s like, nah dog. Just like how you get mad when people come over and, like, displaced you from your neighborhood, it’s like, this shit ain’t just ours. Animals got as much of a right to be here where they been here for fucking thousands of years as you do. And you’re like, you know, whatever amount of years you’ve been living in your house – that’s what people take for granted. So there’s a lot of work being done. And I remember growing up not seeing a lot of animals or seeing the creek or even Lake Merritt hella dirty, like that shit was stank. And now it’s a lot cleaner, you know. So I think it’s part of that social conscience that we have as a city to try to clean it up and always try to improve it. You know, there’s still strides to go, but I really like the way that people are taking care of it more than they were before. Like, whereas before, you know, paint factories were straight up leaking into the Bay and Emeryville and all that shit. I remember you wouldn’t even want to go to Alameda beach because that shit was super grimy. But now it’s like, people go there to kick it. I’ve seen people swimming but I’m still not brave enough to do that shit because I remember how it was. But now it’s, like, nice. And I think communities of color deserve to live in nice places that are habitable amongst – you know, that they need trees and all these other things, right? Like, I remember growing up thinking that like grass was like a luxury, you know what I mean? So those type of things. So I’m happy that my kids, you know, being born and raised here don’t see it that way. To them, Nature is just an everyday thing that they’re accustomed with. Like, my kids are not afraid of spiders and not afraid of bugs because they see them every day. So it’s not like: ‘Oh my God, look!’ You know, it’s like an everyday thing to them. So I’m happy for that, like, you know, that we see Hawks and we see all these things come in, you know? They’re recovering their population because people are making conscious efforts to make the city more habitable for animals and people. So I like that.
What are your hopes and aspirations for the community of Oakland moving forward?
I think my aspiration is that folks continue the legacies of both unity and activism. Well, I mean, I guess at this point it’s not even activism, it’s just straight-up survival, you know what I mean? At this point, right? Because it’s, like, we can’t afford not to organize with each other. We can’t afford not to work with each other. I think it was before like a choice. But now it’s, like: ‘Dude, either you do this, or you’re gonna get swept.’ And so that’s my inspiration: that we continue to create a legacy of resilience and unity in a city that’s taught all of us how to be resilient. That’s taught all of us how to have unity with different folks. So I just really hope that continues, you know? And I hope that all the children who are currently living in Oakland are able to look back and say something similar, like, ‘Oakland taught me to be resilient.’ ‘Oakland taught me to have unity or empathy or, like, brotherhood with other people.’ So I just hope that continues. You know, there’s been some alarming incidents lately of folks coming in into the East Bay and trying to, like, establish themselves. Like, they can make a stand for, like, right wing politics and xenophobic and homophobic ways of thinking and speaking and thinking that they can come into the East Bay and that it’s something that they can, you know, set a flag and be like, ‘Yo, we conquered Oakland.’ Like, you know, all those types of things. But I hope at some point – that’s also my aspiration – that Oakland uses the same energy that we use on each other over dumb shit to really smash on folks who are really trying to like destroy the beautiful things about the city, you know what I mean? Like, keep that same energy with folks that are trying to harm you. You know, like, instead of doing it to each other, you know – that’s the thing I hope like future generations don’t fall into the pressure pot mentality of like, you know: ‘Things are fucked up. Let’s turn on each other cause there’s nobody else to turn to.’ You know what I mean? And so we start like, cannibalizing each other, you know, where communities start attacking their own and all these other things because we feel like we’re in a boiling pot. So, I hope we’re able to see a way out. Like, let’s push the lid off this motherfucker. You know what I mean? And not turn on each other. You know, that’s what happened in the 90s and in the 80s and in the 70s. So I hope, you know, now in 2010s and 2020s that that’s not how future generations handle it, you know? That they’re able to break that cycle that when things get hard, like we start cannibalizing on each other.
Thanks, man. I wanted you to actually go a little further into your ties and your family’s ties, like First Nation stuff, and also like, you know, talk about the First Nation community in Oakland as well.
Well, you know, again, that was pretty much not a choice. You know, both of my parents come from a rural background and in Mexico, like, when I was a toddler, my Grandma was sick. She had cancer but she refused to get treatment because she said like, you know: ‘If I’m gonna go out, I’m gonna go out on my own terms. I want to go out in my land. I don’t want to go out in the hospital.’ So she had a very painful and long journey dealing with her cancer. So it was my Mom and my Auntie taking care of her because all of her siblings would take turns taking care of my Grandma. So it was, like, I straight-up didn’t go to kindergarten or you know, like I wouldn’t go to school, I would be with my grandma, we’d be out in the mountains. And I remember, like, the only thing I had to do getting up was just eating breakfast and then I could do whatever the fuck I wanted. Like, I could go to the river, I could go, you know, like, go grab turtles or whatever. So it’s, like, my Grandma was always talking to me about our identity and stuff like that. So it was like growing up it was not something I came into, it was like something that was ingrained into my brain. So like growing up I wouldn’t see it as when people would talk about like ‘ancient cultures’ and that kind of stuff, I’d be like: ‘No, that’s us.’ You know what I mean? Or when people talk about colonization as a way of progress, I’d be like: ‘No, you got me fucked up.’ You know what I mean? Or when they would say it’s like, ‘Well, you know, when the Spaniards came they introduced this and that or, like, they introduced literacy and religion’ And it’s was like, you know, I would get into it. And, like, I remember the first field trip I had we went to a museum and they were talking about that and like: ‘I, shoot, like I gotta call home.’ It’s like: ‘Yo, like, he started talking shit at the museum.’ And that’s because I was taking it as a personal offense, you know what I mean? And part of that was me being sensitive of my Grandma because whenever they would say about like Native people not having a religion or not having a Homeland or not having like a civilization, I was taking it as them talking about me or talking about my Grandma. So it was a personal attack. It wasn’t about, like, I wasn’t thinking: ‘Oh this is systemic, this is this.’ Nah, it’s, like: ‘You’re talking shit, foo.’ It’s like: ‘What’s up?’ You know? So I had a pretty bumpy road with academia or, like, Western education my whole life. Like it was just not – it was not popping, it was -not- popping. And also like on their mother’s side of my kids, their maternal grandparents were both involved in the American Indian Movement, so they both have ties to who they are as a people. So, that allowed me and my children to grow up knowing their purpose so they don’t have to spend their lives searching. And it’s like, you know, you have a responsibility to yourself, your family and the land, you know. So they do struggle sometimes with their peers. When they see their peers littering and they, again, they have the same reaction where they’re, like, taking it as a disrespect, you know what I mean? Because of that. So it’s bumpy, again, you know, getting a lot of calls from school but I’m happy about that. And also, like, I’ve participated in activism for like, you know, Indigenous advocacy for the greater part of my life. I was part of the Longest Walk, too, and organizing it. There was a lot of driving, a lot of fundraising, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of scuffles with law enforcement so it’s dangerous but it’s pretty lit.
I kinda wanna know how you felt when the Raiders left.
I’m not even mad anymore.
You don’t give a fuck?
No, I don’t. I don’t because it’s like, I think – and this is like talking primarily about the management – it’s just like at this point it’s just disrespect because I think Oakland has a dysfunctional codependent relationship with the Raiders because they treat the fan base like shit, but then they depend on us, right? And then they don’t reciprocate that love like in the way that the team is being managed. In the way that they make those business decisions and the way they, like, they could be more involved in the community and that kind of stuff. Where, like if you asked me about the Warriors, it’s just totally different. I like, I grew up going to Warriors games, you know? I grew up like, you know, having the Warriors come to my Middle School or my High School you know what I mean? Those type of things. So, like, even though the team was bad, like, there was love, there was a sort of reciprocity that was mutual, you know what I mean? And I just didn’t feel that with the Raiders, you know? And like, you know, I’m still a fan. I still got my Tim Brown Jersey, you know, like, but I think after the 90s and like the early 2000s, I think it was when like, the Raiders just ‘Whatever.’ They just let themselves go with Oakland. Like it’s whatever. Like, you know, they don’t care. Like we’re gonna fill those stadium seats anyways, you know what I mean? It’s like the most popular team in the world. There’s like Raider fans in Japan and shit. So it was like ‘Whatever.’ So it was kind of apparent because we was out in the streets when they when they lost to, I think, the Baltimore Ravens, right? And we were like over here rioting and shit cause we felt we got the referees stole. You know, our chance to go into the Superbowl and shit. And we’re over here rioting and then, like, the following years it was like ‘Damn, these fools really don’t give a fuck.’ Like other cities kind of take like a city pride in their teams and things like that but over here everybody’s like: ‘Whatever, we’re just gonna move anyways.’ And it’s like, alright. So it’s kind of like that bad partner, that boyfriend or girlfriend that’s like not really into the relationship anymore and just waiting for somebody to break up so they can just take their stuff like whatever.
My uncles been a hardcore Raiders fan for, like, a long time because he used to be, like, when the Rams were in LA before they moved back, like then he switched to the Raiders and they were, like, losing, losing, losing, losing. But he never gave up on them, you know? And then they moved and he was just like: ‘Fuck.’
Yeah, right, that’s like a slap in the face! You’re not even going to be within the state. You’re going to go to, like, Las Vegas? I was like, I’m never going out to fucking Vegas for no game. So I think that was a slap in the face. There was absolutely no reason for them to move. Like the team’s not going to do any better over there than here! There’s not going to be more revenue.
It’s just about show, in my opinion.
They want the new stadium and all of that kinda shit.
It was the same story with the 49ers. With the Santa Clara 49ers.
Santa Clara Whiners?
The Santa Clara Whiners! People don’t like it when I say that. It’s like Santa Clara, like say it. Say it!
I be getting at all the fools from ‘Frisco, especially those extra proud Mission folks. I’d be like: ‘Yeah, Santa Clara Whiners!’ (Laughing).
Exactly, yeah. They don’t wanna hear that shit.
Okay, so last question. Or last thing for you to talk about and then we’ll wrap it up. Can you talk about East Side Arts Alliance and the importance of the work that goes on over there and you know about the organization?
Sure. So, ESA Arts Alliance is, like, one of the very few third-world-run nonprofits. And that means it’s all people of color that it’s, like, ran and led by, right? And all the employees within it are people of color that use art as a medium for spreading social justice, right? I guess a better way to say it is, like, liberation, right? Like the idea’s not, like, reform but it’s for communities of color to take control over their own destinies, right? So East Side Arts Alliance was the architects behind the Black cultural zone, right? They’re the architects behind the Malcolm X Jazz festival. They’re the architects behind the housing venture that’s located above their cultural center. So the dream was always for it to be self sufficient and, like, self-sustaining, right? And that comes directly from Malcolm’s ideology of self-determination. And that’s what we feel really takes for communities of colors to really be free. Like, anytime you depend on the government you are always going to be at a risk of those things being taken away or being regulated by them or being repressed by the government doing that, you know what I mean? So I spent from 2002 to 2018 in those, those hallways and those areas just, like, doing a lot of work, you know?
Anything else you wanna say?
Yeah. People, you know, need to really come together and strategize on how to make The Town have a long-term plan. That’s what we don’t do. It’s that we don’t do long-term plan projects. Like, if something doesn’t happen within a year, people say fuck it and that’s really fucking The Town up. It’s fucking The Town up because, it’s, like, none of these young people are growing up with intergenerational wealth. There’s no, like, cultural legacy being left. You know, organizations only lasts as long as their leadership. So, it’s, like, people really need to sit down – especially, like, the Old Guard, like, all these other folks that came up during the 60s and 70s – they really need to start sitting down and figuring out a plan for these young people to really take over and for them to step back. Because otherwise if you don’t regenerate, everything’s going to implode. And it doesn’t matter what beautiful legacy we have behind. All that, shit’s just gonna go down the drain, you know? So, like, I think this Presidency – well, I call it America’s last season, you know what I mean? – It’s not Trump, it’s just the realization that the system itself is seeing people of color as a threat and there is no really going backwards anymore. Like, all the hostilities and the struggles are gonna intensify. So, people really need to be having frank discussions about what’s the future for their families, their communities and all these other things should any, like, societal collapse happen. You know, if people don’t have those conversations, they’re going to be at the mercy of the system, just like folks did during Katrina, you know what I mean? They depended on the government to come get them and it didn’t come through and folks died on their roofs, you know what I mean? So it’s those sorts of conversations that need to happen because the system is sick and it cannot survive in the world and locally at the same time. So it’s, like, trust and believe they’re gonna drop whatever they’re doing out in the world and turn that attention locally, you know what I mean? So folks really need to have a plan. Like, culture is dope, but survival is better, you know what I mean? So, like, they need to have those conversations in a realistic way. Not like, well, I want a house with, like, 20 solar panels and all these other platitudes that we never actually get to achieve. Like, let’s see what we got and work with it, you know what I mean? And like, let’s really put our minds together and do something for our kids, you know? So that’s what I really want to close with.