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Seeking Oakland’s Soul In The ‘New Oakland’ via NPR – MMXLII

Seeking Oakland’s Soul In The ‘New Oakland’ via NPR

Oakland has become one of the most multicultural cities in the United States but to some that’s not so amazing. Some are saying this shift is causing Oakland to lose its “soul”.  Known as the city that was the hub of African-American culture on the West Coast, birthed the Black Panther movement, etc., Oakland is facing a shift that other major cities are facing as well. This shift has created a climate of Old Oakland vs New Oakland. New Oakland being a place where Pacific Islanders raised in Oakland can film an R&B video in front of a Taco Truck, what does this shift mean for the city and how welcome is it? Details after the jump.

By Shereen Marisol Meraji, via NPR

Oakland, Calif., was once a hub of African-American culture on the West Coast.

In the 1940s and ’50s, Oakland was home to an entertainment corridor nicknamed The Harlem of the West. In the ’60s, the city gave birth to the Black Panther Party. By the ’80s, black folks made up nearly half of Oakland’s population.

Today, Oakland is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas in the U.S. — it’s now 34 percent white, 28 percent black, 25 percent Latino and 17 percent Asian. But some worry that diversity will dilute the city’s black cultural identity.

This is an issue affecting cities across the country. Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., have all seen their black populations decline.

When I lived here 10 years ago, I never would have expected to find what I did in Oakland in March — a trio of mustachioed white guys playing old-timey music smack in the middle of Telegraph Avenue on a Friday night.

But, now? That kind of thing goes down on the first Friday of every month. Which is where I was, walking with hordes of people, eating food truck grub, popping in and out of hip bars and art galleries.

This event, known as “First Fridays” or “Art Murmur,” takes place in a part of Oakland that once was called Downtown. But after redevelopment, it’s now Uptown.

“This is very new Oakland,” said Chris Riggins, who performs stand-up comedy at Art Murmur every month. “But the only issue we’re having right now is getting new Oakland to accept old Oakland.”

You hear that a lot: “new Oakland” vs. “old Oakland.”

Riggins explained: “When I say ‘Old Oakland,’ what I mean is really the people that were born and raised here, that often get forgotten. And that’s basically black and brown people in Oakland. Because right now we’re having a big gentrification, [and] a lot of people that aren’t from Oakland — that wouldn’t come to Oakland 10 years ago — are moving to Oakland.”

And the people from old Oakland? They’re moving out. Parts of Oakland that were affordable are being revitalized. Gentrified. People are leaving neighboring San Francisco because the rents are crazy high. That’s pushing Oakland’s rents up.

But violence is also up. The murder rate here jumped 22 percent last year.

Everything stopped for a moment at March’s First Friday to honor Kiante Campbell, an 18-year-old student shot and killed the previous month. Three-quarters of the murder victims in Oakland are black, like Kiante.

Those two factors — higher rents and crime — are triggers for the nearly 25 percent drop in Oakland’s black population…[Read Full Article HERE]

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