Oakland has problems. You’ve probably heard about some of them: 100+ murders every year, robbery capital of the United States, tagging and illegal dumping running rampant even as rents and housing prices skyrocket. We have a lot of problems and the news media loves to tell the world how gritty, scary, and uninviting this city is.

And yet, this city calls to us. There is an energy here that resonates with a certain type of person. If you are a kindred spirit, you know what I mean. What makes this city great isn’t the infrastructure or lack thereof. It isn’t the architecture, government, or corporations that choose to locate here. What makes Oakland such an amazing city is the thousands of people who struggle every day, under difficult circumstances, to find and create beauty, love, and community. It is the people who look out into the horizon of seemingly insurmountable odds and dare to dream of creating a better world.

I’ve been a nomad all of my life. As a child I moved frequently. As an adult, I’ve not lived in any place for more than six years at a time. I’ve had 8 jobs in the past six years and have never had a relationship that lasted more than four years. Long-term commitment is not something that I do. And yet, Oakland’s got me wanting to put down roots.

You might be the same. I see you out there, my fellow Oaklanders, finding your most authentic self and utilizing your god-given talents to inspire and ignite change. You’re out at First Fridays, your hair is done up in a style I’ve never seen before and you are wearing an outfit that makes me stop you to ask where you bought it. You tell me you made it yourself, of course, and then give me a homemade business card for your startup studio in the Lower Bottoms. I hella fall in love with you.

I see you in the streets, protesting unfair policing practices, advocating to raise the minimum wage, and fighting for a clean and green city. You spend your days defending tenants from eviction, your afternoons tutoring or mentoring at-risk youth, your evenings strategizing and capacity-building with allies. You always know a portion of your weekend has to be dedicated to self-care, because the movement needs you to be healthy. When I tell you my plan for building power for our community, you point out the logical fallacy of part of my plan and provide me insight on how I can gain a new perspective. I hella fall in love with you.

I see you in the kitchen throwing down a healthy, delicious meal for your next potluck. You and your friends get together to catch up on the gossip, discuss the next political race, and talk about the most recent trends. Your conversation flows from serious to absurd, from comforting to confrontational. You build community with each bite and take the evening to heal yourself and the people around you before heading out back out into the world to fight the good fight. I want you to know, I hella love you.

While it may be true that Oakland has a lot of problems, what it also has in abundance is a lot of problem solvers. There are thousands of people in this city looking at some of the most difficult problems of the world and saying, “I think I can solve that.” And not only do they solve the problem, but they figure out how to have fun in the process. That’s why a good portion of our city’s development plan includes local art and festivals. That’s why every protest has some sort of musical and dance element. Because here we know that the revolution that plays together, stays together.

Oakland has had years of struggle. But we are moving towards a life of celebration. Which is why I say Oakland is where the struggle meets the party. The struggle is our past, the party is our future. Where they both intersect is in the here and now. It’s time to play!

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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8 Responses

  1. JessaFess

    Well, that was hella ageist and without attribution to the generations who have struggled here and what can be learned from them.

    Of course, the newcomers prefer to avoid old-timey Oaklanders. Too scary.

  2. Len Raphael

    I sometimes hecka hate Oakland because its municipal government and leaders have failed for decades to provide the essential services that residents of other cities take for granted. On the other hand the weather is the best in the Bay Area and the residents mostly really nice and interesting.

    You speak of the abundance of problem solvers. Oakland residents do have an amazing breadth and depth of public policy understanding that crosses all economic and racial divides.

    But the part of that you missed is that many potential problem solvers don’t publicly try to implement or even discuss their solutions because they are “afraid of being a target.”

    I’ve heard that from diverse residents so many times over the years when asking them sign a petition, plant a window/lawn sign, contact a local politician etc. that I’ve concluded they’re not paranoid but prudent.

    If you ask people saying that ‘who” would target them, it ranges from local politicians, bureaucrats, police, to people of different racial groups, political opinions, or even ages.

    Not a pretty side of our celebrated diversity.

  3. chris

    Beautifully written!…thank you for your very thoughtful, poignant observations….I, too, HELLA love Oakland!…..Cheers!

  4. freddy

    Wonderful. Another piece from another person who moved here from another place telling those of us from here what’s right and wrong. Reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw as a child: Welcome to California; now go home!”

  5. Another Oakland newcomer

    This is one of the dumbest things I have ever read on so many levels.

  6. D W

    Also missing? Upcoming events, council meetings; how CAN I get involved?

  7. Tonya

    Great piece! Poetic prose so to speak. You pay great homage to the young activists that live in Oakland.

    I am also interested in hearing other POVs and voices. I want to know about the mom that decides to relocate with her kids. Or the ‘seasoned’ residents who have lived here for years. I want to hear from residents of Bushrod, Fruitvale, Glenview and Sobrante Park.

    I think all parts of Oakland have a unique history and perspective. For those of you who are reading this and wondering why she didn’t touch upon your life, maybe you should contribute your story..in this thread or offer to write your own blog post. I can tell you it would be most welcomed. 🙂



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