A statement from The Village & #WeStillHere:
Oakland is our hometown. It is a city with an extraordinary past, a legacy of radical activism, and a rich, diverse culture all its own. It’s the land of the Ohlone people, the birthplace of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense and Funk, the city where Bruce Lee once lived and where Cesar Chavez first started organizing. It was Tupac’s spiritual home and the home of Soulbeat, Festival at the Lake, the East Bay Dragons, Everett and Jones, Flints, Ricky Henderson, Marshawn Lynch, Gary Payton, Dru Down, Too $hort, and 3XKraxy. Oakland is a community where Black, White, Asian and Pacific Islander, Native American, and LatinX people have lived together for generations.
Over the past several years Oakland has experienced a wave of gentrification and displacement characterized by skyrocketing housing prices and a rising cost of living. Many locals have been pushed out of the area, creating a huge demographic shift. The African-American population declined drastically from 48% in 1980 to 28% by 2010. Black people, Black culture, and Black communities are the underpinning of Oakland’s history, culture, and identity. We must tell the truth about what is actually happening in this moment.
The consequences of gentrification have been devastating for those of us raised here. We have watched as our friends and family members have moved away. Some of our neighborhoods have become unrecognizable. We have witnessed a rise in homelessness like we have never seen. And we are experiencing the criminalization of Black and Brown people, increasingly made to feel unwelcome in our own city.
On January 20, 2017, one hundred residents – some of us housed and some of us homeless – were sick and tired of the housing crisis. City officials had disregarded 17 years of demands to address the needs of Oakland’s low-income communities of color. We started a movement called The Village, and we declared ourselves ungovernable by a government that has proven to be ineffective and illegitimate – from Oakland City Hall to The White House. We began to build emergency shelters on underused, neglected lands for those who no longer had a roof in the city they called home.
We are now in urgent need of a new land site for the ‘villlage’ which will be displaced for construction. The City has promised to but after many months has not identified a site. There are no designated sites for the other several thousand people living on the streets either. Forcing people and camps to frequently move is a misuse of resources that causes stress and trauma. We must have more effective and respectful solutions, both for practical reasons and as a matter of racial justice. The majority of people who are homeless in Oakland are Black, which we see as the intentional result of decades of discriminatory housing policies and widespread structural racism. We insist that Black and Brown Oakland residents have a right to stay here, and to take up public space and thrive.
The right to exist in public space has increasingly been threatened, such as in April when a white woman called the police on a Black family for using a charcoal grill at Lake Merritt. Her racist actions sparked national outrage. The Oakland community and Oakland youth leaders responded with two major events, “510 Day” and “BBQ’N While Black” which drew numbers into the thousands and sent a strong message of resistance.
These movements to reclaim public space are important. But we also need to change the policies and practices that govern our community to realize our vision for an inclusive and equitable Oakland. We must fight for what will make it possible for Black people and other people of color to remain in Oakland. The identity and heart and soul of our city are on the line.
As politicians and candidates prepare for the November elections, we stand firm that we are ungovernable to those who seek to build careers, make profit or consolidate power for their personal gain. We do not endorse candidates, and have little faith in a system created off the rape, murder, theft, slavery, terror and genocide of Native Americans and stolen Africans. But we offer this guidance in the hope that whoever holds public office will work for the good of the public:
Politicians are public servants but too often they behave as public siphons, misappropriating public resources for private agendas instead of the public good. Unaccountable and non-transparent privatization of public resources is not what The Town needs.
The continued and blatant disregard of our communities’ needs results in widespread human rights and civil rights abuses and is unacceptable.
Oakland leaders must use the #WeStillHere Platform to guide decison-making. This will ensure that Black, Brown, immigrant, indigenous, working class, low-income, no-income, curbside and marginalized communities – the very communities that are the backbone of the innovative, soulful and resilient culture Oakland is famous for – are front and center in the policies and practices elected and appointed officials enact.
The Village stands behind the #WeStillHere Platform. We want and will fight for:
- Quality low-income and no-income housing & shelter for all.
- The use of public land and public resources to improve the quality of life for Oaklanders being displaced.
- Equitably-resourced public schools that are relevant to students of color, which include programs that advance Black and Brown students in math and sciences, and that have supports such as restorative justice and peer counseling programs.
- An end to the criminalization & mass incarceration of communities of color, and the right to have fun without being criminalized.
- An investment in community-based alternatives to policing and incarceration.
- Quality jobs & economic opportunity for Oakland locals.
- Communities of belonging for immigrants, just immigration policies, and non-cooperation with ICE.
- Access to health care, healthy living, and healthy food options for all.
- The preservation and innovation of Oakland’s authentic culture.
We stand for an equitable Oakland where the lives of families of color, immigrants and low-income residents are valued and protected. Gentrification threatens to erase the history, culture, and identity of Oakland in just a matter of years. Oakland is far too special of a place for this to happen. We envision an Oakland that continues to be racially diverse and rich with the tradition of activism. We want an inclusive Oakland, one which embraces the future and stays true to our past. We urge political candidates to be committed and fight for this vision.