Authored by Joy Elán
Oakland, Cali – On a sunny Sunday morning at Lake Merritt, a couple of people wanted to have a get-together and enjoy the scenery. However, that pleasure was interrupted when a woman decided to show up at their spot and call the police.
It does not take much to figure out what color they were and what color she was. The guys are respected members of the community, and they were having a joyous moment. They had their spot, and no one seemed bothered except this woman. She took it upon herself to call the police. It was discovered that she had been at the scene for two hours pretending to be on the phone with the police to intimidate them.
According to one of the men targeted, Kenzie Smith, the White lady was bothering him and his friend, Deacon for BBQing at Lake Merritt in a designated BBQ zone.
“I got out of the car at Cleveland Cascade stairs, and when I walked across the street, she was standing there on the phone. She said, ‘Oh great, another nigger.’
Smith looked around because he didn’t know who she was talking to. He was the only Black person in that area of the sidewalk. He walked over to his friend Deacon, where he had the BBQ, and said “Yo bro, what’s going on?”
He told Smith she had called the police for BBQing. “We both started cracking up, laughing,” Smith said.
According to Smith, it was around this time a young Black lady was standing over to the corner. She approached the table where the BBQ was being set up and introduced herself. She said she had witnessed the situation. By this time, the White lady walked over to the table, and she slammed her fist on the table and said: “There’s no BBQ today, you need to leave.”
“She was saying things like, ‘We weren’t welcome in the area of the lake.’ She told me and Deacon that she owned Lake Merritt. Also, she said we were not welcomed to be there. I felt like she was saying Blacks weren’t welcome,” Smith said.
Smith said, “She kept saying we were going to jail. She said that she was going to file a complaint for us cooking BBQ in the park. She said she knows her rights, that the rights state if she tells the police if she has a problem with us then we are going to go to jail.”
This one experience is not anything new to Black Oakland residents who want to chill on the east side of Lake Merritt (the Lakeshore Avenue side). Lake Merritt is a public park, which does not require a permit. It is first to come, first serve, as long as people are not doing anything illegal.
Davey D talked about this extensively on Facebook and was mentioned in the East Bay Express in May 2015, “Even when ‘permitted events’ took place, hostile residents living by the Lake organized and tried to shut them down if it was too many Black folks. Case in point last 4th of July, several thousand dollars was laid out to have an annual 4th of July party and picnic. Unbeknownst to organizers, a group of residents in the luxury high rise 1200 Lakeshore held a series of meetings including one with Park and Rec to get the event canceled.. What saved the day were Black residents who live there who pushed back…”
Cases like this go back to the Festival at the Lake, a long time Oakland event and tradition that shut down when White residents near the lake complained about the festival drawing the “wrong kind of crowd.” Occurrences like these are when privilege shows up and manipulates laws to their advantage. It is okay to have a picnic, but not a BBQ. Same thing, different choice of words and demographics.
Smith said, “I was like, so if you tell the police that two Black men are BBQing, that means we’re going to jail. I just didn’t understand the logic in the situation. And then it was like, she would continuously say little things to us, and she would act like she was on the phone talking to the police. She would say things like ‘Yea he’s wearing this,” or she would say, ‘Yea he won’t look at me officer because he thinks he’s going to jail.’ Or she would say, ‘Yea, he’s going to be somebody’s bitch in there.’ It was mind-boggling the things she was saying.”
Smith said, “It was like if someone was to put you in a box and say all the hurtful things to you at one time. That’s how it felt.”
Smith’s story continues as he mentioned his friend Deacon who was first at the scene had already been harassed by the woman for a while before Smith arrived. Deacon told Smith he did not know the woman, that she just came out of nowhere, called the police and kept telling him he had to leave.
According to Smith, when the young Black lady showed up (mentioned earlier), she was walking around the lake and heard what the lady was saying, heard it was racist. So she stopped to see what was going on, she asked Deacon if everything was okay. She started filming and put the much of the incident up on her facebook. Unfortunately, we were not able to get her contact information before she left.
The young woman asked the White lady to please move herself from the area. The White woman turned it back on her and told her to “mind her fucking business. This is my property. You don’t even know what’s going on.” The White woman became more aggressive towards the young Black woman. “It just was weird it was like, I think she wanted a reaction today. And she didn’t get the reaction she was looking for,” Smith said.
Smith had enough of the encounter with the White woman, for an hour he had dealt with her harassment. He decided to call his wife who was up the streets telling his friend Deacon, “You’ll see what she does. Just watch.”
Kenzie’s wife, Michelle Dione showed up around 12:50 pm. Dione, walked up to the White woman ready to film as she had already been sent a picture of the lady and knew what she looked like.
Dione is a White woman and what was cool about this was she was using her privilege to stop it. Dione knew her rights, and she was not harassing the woman.
“There’s this silent code of behavior that White women know, they are taught if you just change your tone you can often be deemed ‘innocent’ and believable to the point that your word becomes law. When I first approached her, she had that tone, the one that we are supposed to speak to police officers, the one that makes us automatically justified no matter what. I don’t think she expected me to bypass her bs and call her out,” Dione said.
The woman stole a business card out of Dione’s hand, which started the second longer video Dione recorded. Dione said the woman tried to use her “victim voice” and used a lot of trigger words to get the police to be there faster, such as “they are are threatening me” when it was just Dione who was confronting her in her face.
The White woman who was harassing wanted to make sure that the men and women at the park were held responsible for her authority as a White woman. However, the woman did not like that someone was watching her and following her. She got a taste of her own nasty, racist medicine. All she had to do was mind her business and stay away from the area.
After the lady ran away to a Quik Stop on Brooklyn and Newton, the police arrived and talked to her. The officer told Dione that she did not do anything wrong following her as long as she did not touch her. Dione informed the police that the woman should have called the Park services and not the police. The police agreed. As Smith noticed that she appeared to be mentally unstable, the police said that she wanted to evaluate her mental health too.
All this was taking place within 30 minutes, and despite the police showing up, the lady returned later at 4:15 pm according to Smith. The White woman harassed them again and said they weren’t supposed to be there, they were supposed to move. Smith told her that the Oakland police officer said to them that they did not have to move, and that the charcoal code was not enforced.