Oakland is one of those cities that imprints on your soul. I lived there from 2008-2015, struggling through my first years as a teacher while also growing into adulthood. The sense of community, creativity, and justice that characterize “the town” undoubtedly shaped the person I became. While this was a period of personal change, it was also a period of significant change for Oakland, as young white gentrifiers (like myself) began moving in and changing the city’s social fabric. Grappling with my own complicity in this process, Oakland taught me how to be a good neighbor, to listen, to appreciate a Saturday just sitting by the Lake, to advocate for social justice, and to weave history with sustainable social and economic change that benefits everyone.
The historic Parkway Theater opened in 1925 and was THE place to go catch horror flicks, while grabbing pizza and a beer. The theater was just down the street from my apartment, so I was bummed when it closed in 2009, but they reopened in a new location in 2012 (as The New Parkway Theater) and business has been booming. But there is still nothing like the classic.
The Fox Theater is another one of Oakland’s landmarks. It opened in 1928 and drew thousands of people to marvel at its elaborate architecture, see the new “talkie” pictures, and listen to music on the Mighty Wurlitzer organ. But with the growing popularity of TV in the 50s and 60s, theaters everywhere were hit hard. The Fox closed its doors in 1966 and fell into disrepair. But the building endured - it survived an arson fire in 1973, an attempt to raze it for a parking lot in 1975, was officially declared a landmark in 1978, and reopened in 2006.
Built in 1914, Oakland’s Cathedral Building was “the first Gothic Revival style skyscraper west of the Mississippi.” It is also where Cassius’ swanky apartment was in the Boots Riley film Sorry to Bother You.
The Layover - one of my favorite bars in Oakland to get a groove on and it’s where Cassius’ crew kicks back after work in Boots Riley‘s film Sorry to Bother You.
One of Oakland’s most iconic murals, on the wall of Oaksterdam University, is sadly no longer there.
One of my favorite things to do on a Friday in Oakland (besides Art Murmur and Friday Nights at the Oakland Museum!) was lounging by Lake Merritt, soaking up the late afternoon sun and chopping it up with friends over a beer.
Brunch at Grand Lake Kitchen
The Oakland Spice Shop
The Grand Lake Farmer’s Market - the best way to spend a Saturday morning.
The first time I had Roli Roti chicken it was so delicious that my friend and I ate it with our bare hands over a pitcher of beer at my favorite bar, Heart and Dagger.
Feel the funk. The Hood Games, is a skating competition that always takes place in DeFremery Park (aka Little Bobby Hutton Park) in conjunction with the epic Life is Living Festival - a free annual “celebration of Oakland life through hip hop, intergenerational health, and artistic expression.”
Questlove DJing at the Life is Living Festival.
Oakland is a city that fights for justice, hard. The struggle is part of her beauty. Whether protesting police brutality against their own, or in solidarity with struggles across the nation, Oakland turns out.