By Joyous De Asis
Intergenerational Community Members Fight Against BBQ Beckys, Jogger Joes and Knife Wielding MAGA Men With Grills, Music & the Electric Slide.
On Friday May 10th, 2019, Oakland residents will come out to celebrate the fourth annual “#510Day” at Lake Merritt – a grassroots community event dedicated to the celebration of Oakland’s history and culture in the face of the rapidly growing housing crisis and the pressures of gentrification that are pushing long-term residents out of the area.
Lake Merritt is a public park with a long history of BBQs, cruising, large festive gatherings and family parties. But over the past several years, newcomers to Oakland have been increasingly responding to the culture here in hostile, dangerous and potentially deadly ways. Days before last years #510Day celebration, the infamous “BBQBetty” incident happened. A few weeks later, #JoggerJoe physically assaulted a young Black unsheltered man in a racially motivated attack. The incident ended with #JoggerJoe throwing the young man’s shelter and personal property into the Lake.
Just this past month, born and raised Oaklander Dontae Moore was the target of a hate crime at the lake while he was jogging. Last week, a man showed up at the lake wielding a knife and wearing a MAGA hat, raising alarm and fear amongst shocked spectators and people he was provoking. As the Bay Area housing crisis and the pressures of gentrification have increased, Lake Merritt has become a place of heated debate.
“BBQ Betty, Jogger Joe, Machette MAGA basically drive home our point: that gentrification has created a hostile and dangerous environment for Black and Brown folks,” said 510Day co-founder Anita De Asis Miralle, known by most as Needa Bee. “But despite the mass displacement, despite the desire of white newcomers to erase our communities – We Are Still Here. We aren’t going anywhere. And it’s not a crime for us to kick it.”
Four years ago, “510 Day” was founded by a group of long-term Oakland residents and activists who felt that Black and Brown Oakland residents were being targeted by ordinances that limited local residents’ access to Lake Merritt. Ordinances such as a ban on amplified music and BBQing with permits, the requiring of permits for groups larger than 12, and the unequal enforcement of these new restrictions were seen as racially biased policies that disproportionately targeted long-term residents of color as the city’s demographics were shifting.
“Oakland is changing fast. This has always been a very diverse city, one of the most diverse cities in the world,” said Leo Mercer from Urban Peace Movement who is originally from North Oakland. “But now, many people whose families have been here for decades can’t afford to stay here anymore. The city is becoming less and less diverse. And we are seeing more and more instances where people, people of color, are getting the police called on them for just doing normal things like hanging out at the lake on a sunny afternoon. It’s not right. It’s not in the spirit of Oakland.”
Knowing that fighting for the right to exist in Oakland has to go beyond taking up space in public places, the 510Day organizing committee created the We Still Here Platform. This 10 point program (a tribute to the Black Panther Party’s 10 Point Program) is an affirmative agenda based on the long neglected needs and basic human rights of Oakland’s long-term residents, especially residents of color. The We Still Here Platform is informed by current, ongoing organizing efforts happening on the ground and in the trenches folks can plug into.
This year’s event will continue the tradition of a youth led march from the 12th Street Amphitheater to the pillars on Lakeshore. The event will end with a community celebration at The Pillars on Lakeshore at El Embarcadero. Youth Radio DJs and legendary DJ Fuze of Digital Underground and Tupac Shakur fame will be providing the soundtrack for the politicized dance party. Folks born and raised in Oakland, long time working class residents, and allies of communities facing systemic displacement are invited to stand against gentrification and celebrate Oakland’s rich history and culture.
510Day will kickoff what organizers are calling the #WeStillHere Weekend
Friday May 10 – 510 Day at Lake Merritt
Saturday May 11 – May Arts Festival at Lincoln Park
510Day Organizing Committee is: Young Oakland, Village in Oakland, Leon DNas Sykes, Jordan Warren, Urban Peace Movement, AYPAL, The East Oakland Collective, The Real Oakland, CURYJ.