Housing Advocates Use Court System Against City of Oakland

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On a corner of the neighborhood of Brookfield, a plot of public land has been claimed by housing advocates in East Oakland, CA for homeless community members in the area and is now named Housing & Dignity Village.

The city of Oakland served a notice demanding the public land be evacuated on Saturday, Nov. 10. The advocates responded by filing a restraining order against the city. The city was not present to shut the new camp down. A court date is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 2:00 pm for a Federal judge to hear the case against eviction. The location of the hearing will be at the Federal Courthouse, 1301 Clay St., Oakland, CA 94612.

The Housing & Dignity Village has free breakfast hours, grocery giveaway days, community dinners, medical care, and InterFaith Counseling, It is 100 percent volunteer-run, and sits on the corner of Elmhurst and Edes Ave.

Stay tuned for more updates, as we dig deeper into this story over time.



Oakland Celebrates Weekend of Black Liberation and Calls for Unity with all Communities

October 15, 1966, the Black Panther Party was born in Oakland, CA. October 13 and 14, 2018, we were celebrating a movement that changed everyone’s lives, especially in Oakland. It is the celebration that we need to slap gentrification in the face and let it be known that the descendants of the party are still here. Many may not be able to afford living here, but we gathered in honor of Huey Newton. Bobby Seale, Lil Bobby Hutton, Elbert “Big Man” Howard, and so many more.


Onsayo Abram was one of the men seen harassed in the now infamous “BBQ Becky Video.” Saturday he was seen registering to vote at “Life is Living” in Lil Bobby Hutton aka De Fremery Park.

Life Is Living by Youth Speaks kicked off its annual celebration at De Fremery Park, also known as, Lil Bobby Hutton Park. With performances from youth groups, a tribute to Aretha Franklin, and so many more, it was the creative outlet that the community needed. The park was packed with many community members and organizations that reflect what the Black Panther Party represented. There were young people registering people to vote for the mid-term elections. One man was just released from probation, and he registered right there as he rode in. To witness that moment was something to document.

Sunday’s 52nd Anniversary in downtown Oakland had the messages that we needed to keep that spirit alive. Hosted by Gina Madrid and Saturu Ned, with various speakers from Kenzie Smith, Cat Brooks, Ashara Ekundayo, and performers such as Ras Ceylon, Kev Choice, Jennifer Johns, Khafre Jay, and others, the messages were heard loud and clear. The city is pushing us out, and it is different from when the Black Panther Party started. It is strategic to organize and hit the polls. The celebration was in the middle of the all high rise developments and a few blocks from the Oakland Police Department. It was the epitome of why the Party was established. As Saturu Ned said, “We had determination, and we were serving the community.” With so many of us working independently or with our own organizations in the community, we are doing what the Panthers would be doing. We are the children and nieces/nephews of the original members, and we were instilled to give back and be the impact.

Documentarian/Photographer Michelle Snider who filmed the infamous “BBQ Becky Video” shares her experience, speeches and performances from the Black Panther Party 52nd Anniversary Tribute Rally and Concert.

Register to vote and be the change you want to see. Just like in 1972 when Bobby Seale and Elaine Brown were running for office, the people running for office are local community members who are tired of the system and tired of not seeing anything done in City Hall. There are so many people doing things grassroots that they do not always have the financial capital to do what they do, but they are making it happen. “A local organization became a global movement,” Saturu Ned reminded us. We have to come together to save our schools, neighborhoods, give each other skills so we can employ ourselves. If the Black Panthers were able to do their survival programs, then we should keep providing survival programs. There are way too many resources for us to tap into, especially with the power of the internet. As the theme said for the rally, All Power to the People!

Elbert “Big Man” Howard’s Black Panther Memorial Marks History


Original Black Panther party members gathered in honor of the history and life of one of their founding members at Lil Bobby Hutton Park, also known as Defremery Park in West Oakland, CA.

Elbert “Big Man” Howard died in Santa Rosa at the age of 80 on July 23.  The memorial service was held on August 25.

Howard was one of six founding members of the Black Panther Party of Self Defense. He was well known as of the most instrumental members in many facets of organizing during his time with the party.

The memorial was packed with original panthers who shared candid stories of their time with Howard. One of the most mentioned accomplishments of Howard’s was writing for the Black Panther Newspaper and traveling internationally to represent the Panther Party.

According to former Black Panther Communications Secretary Kathleen Cleaver, Howard went under the pen name “Brother Dynomite” while he was an editor of the newspaper.

Cleaver, who traveled all the way from Atlanta, Georgia to attend the memorial service described the character of Howard as not a soldier, but a gentle yet powerful passionate man. She described him as a true leader.

“One of the things about our brother Big Man, he had a big heart. He had big ideas. He was extremely honest. He was devoted. And I would like to say he represented the soul of the Black Panther Party.” Cleaver said.

Howard was an international spokesman for the party. Several speakers at the memorial service had stories reflecting on his trip to Japan. Roberta Alexander was one of the party members accompanying Howard on the trip to Japan explaining the difficulties of traveling abroad and organizing.

When speaking on Howard’s character, Alexander said, “We called him Big Man because he was big in stature but he was big in his heart, his soul, and his commitment to the fight for justice in our communities and in the world.”

Original Black Panther member and leader Ericka Huggins recalled Howard coming to guarding her after acquitted of conspiracy murder charges in 1971. Huggins said she did not know Howard that well at the time. When reminiscing on her release, Huggins said Howard reached for her arm. She recalled his gentle eyes and felt safe.  

“I was just aware of being so protected…so held…so loved. How is it that love works in people that don’t even know each other? It’s because it’s bigger than our little minds and the shallowness of our thinking,” Huggins said.

Among other noted announcements during Big Man’s memorial service, host Billy X Jennings read of a proclamation from the city of Oakland officially proclaiming August 25, 2018, Elbert “Big Man” Howard day.

According to KQED, Howard left the Black Panther Party in 1974 to live a normal life. He moved to Tennessee after leaving the party and rarely talked about his life as a Panther.

Howard’s daughter Tynisa Howard Wilson said at the memorial she grew up not knowing much about her father’s Panther past and did not realize how important he was in the movement until he was searching for photos for a 35th BPP anniversary.

Howard was married to his wife, Carole Hyams, a woman he had known during his times as a Black Panther but did not marry until 2005. At the memorial service, Hyams said her late husband would have loved the memorial service.

“His favorite thing, being the center of attention, and being the reason for bringing all the comrades back together,” Hyams said.

Speakers at the memorial read poetry sang songs and recanted stories of Howard with one recurred theme. They wanted him to be remembered for more than the black and white image often displayed of him in a leather jacket with a gun.  He was a man who loved jazz, was gentle and protective towards his friends and family, and a fierce warrior against those who imposed a threat to his community.

Many speakers mentioned the with the current political climate, the fight for liberation is still necessary. The fight for justice and peace will continue in Howard’s memory and the history he made.

Elbert “Big Man” Howard lived a full life from January 5, 1938, to July 23, 2018. May he rest in peace while his legacy lives on.

Calling Out The Media’s Portrayal of Black Victims


Featured artwork by: https://www.instagram.com/lady_luuz/?hl=en

There is a history of the media distorting the truth with the portrayal of Black victims  when the killer is White. Recently with the killing of Nia Wilson at MacArthur Bart,KTVU found a picture of her holding a gun, which was a cell phone case cover. There were so many pictures to choose from, but they used the one that would make her look threatening. She did not provoke her killer, and the police had to make a statement so people would not lose focus. She was the victim!

Then, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a story comparing Nia Wilson’s life to her killer, John Lee Cowell’s life. They wrote it like he did not have a fair chance of growing up and his troubled life led him to that horrible moment. The article read as getting the readers to sympathize with his story and disregard Wilson’s life. I took to Twitter and tweeted to the writers of the article, “Why are you trying to humanize the killer? KTVU tried to dehumanize Nia with that one pic from FB, and you are doing an article to sympathize with John Lee Cowell’s background. It’s so disrespectful to the ladies that didn’t deserve this and their family.”

They did this with Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till (until the truth came out last year that he did not do it), and so many others. Then, I thought a horrible killing of a White girl in the early 1990s, Polly Klaas. Her picture of her smiling was always on the news and celebrities took up to support finding her. Her story went national to try to see her and her killer. They did not humanize him at all. In fact, he got the death penalty. The killers of Black victims are mostly getting a slap on the wrist, or they are not convicted. Why are their lives valued more than the victims? They say it is not about race, but apparently, it is.

Again, the media can do a convincing job portraying Black people as savages and will go through anything to tarnish their image before giving them a chance to be innocent. Some celebrities are using their platforms to speak up on the injustices of Black victims and to bring awareness to the social problem. When a Black person is killed, the community has to be ahead and talk about their accomplishments before the media find one wrong thing, no matter how big or small it may be. It is devastating and causing lack of trust between the community and the media. We know that the press is about viewership and spinning their version of what happened. They will edit what witnesses say to fit their narrative. That is why the community and Black journalists are speaking up and calling them out. At the same time, the community needs more independent media coverage that will reflect what the community is about. The revolution has never been publicized so it is our duty to do it with social media (drops mic).

We Lead Ours in Oakland Program Sets Out to Turn Troubled Students to Successful Students

One sunny Saturday in October, I was sitting in the stands at McClymonds High School, watching some boys in cardinal red and gold uniforms tackle another team. I was rooting for the Bay Area Seminoles, a new youth football team, which was in their second year. The youth cheerleaders were doing their thang too! The stands were full of parents and supporters. I didn’t remember the last time that I saw so many people show up for a youth football league.


It was like a kid version of The Oakland Raiders’ Black Hole. I saw one of the owners and coaches, Lamont Robinson, Jr., walk by and said, “Man, you got a great football league!” He said, “Naw, I got a great organization!”

Bay Area Seminoles is a part of We Lead Ours Organization (WELO, pronounced We-low). It was officially founded in 2010 by three men from Oakland, Dwayne A. Aikens, Jr., Lamont D. Robinson, Jr., and Trestin D. George, who wanted to lead by example and provide for the different needs in the community.


In 2006, they came together to create a program where they could help the children in Oakland. As Lamont said, “The three of us used our brains to make this. We were grassroots in it, and that foundation was the model for our other programs.

They started off with $500 in donations, and they have never been funded by the federal, state and county. They get their contributions from community grants, individual contributions, and corporate sponsors. They are contracted by the Oakland Unified School District, servicing nearly 45 school sites in the area of substance abuse harm reduction. WELO also provides after-school programming at a variety of schools in Alameda County.


Lamont reflected, “When you see the other parts of the organization and what we do, you see our footprint. That looks like Dwayne. Or that looks like Lamont or Trestin. WELO is the fuel to the engine.” They lead theirs by being more than owners; they are engaged, and they are out there in the fields with the students.

They are the big brothers in the community. They provide after-school programs, summer camps, football and cheer programs, and community service/internships. The students receive life skill service learning, community engagement, college prep, and health and wellness. Their goals are to show the community that there are more career aspirations other than being a rapper, athlete, and to explore different things in and out of the community.

WELO hosts a mentor/career workshop once a month. They bring in professionals to show the youth other career paths. They try to match the students with someone in that profession so they can get the real guidance that they need. They prepare them for the life of being a business owner/entrepreneur. “[The kids say], ‘I want to see what the owner life looks like. [Or] I want to be an entrepreneur.’ With folks like me, Dwayne and Trestin, to come into our community, coming from poor backgrounds, they can see that it’s attainable,” Lamont expressed.

At Oakland Unified School District, they work with troubled students who are dealing with life. Many of the students are on probation or have anger issues. WELO team members modify the students’ behaviors by motivating them to change their actions and showing them the steps to achieve a goal/dream. Dwayne took that part of the organization to the next level, and they are proud of their after-school programs.

As part of community service through their summer camp and year-round programs, they do backpack giveaways, turkey and toy drives, work with Oakland Parks and Recreation to do cleanups at the parks, Save the Bay, and Creek and Bay Day. Dwayne and Lamont echoed, “We make the kids understand to take care of your home, own community, yourself, and give back.” Also, they provide internships and community service to students who need experience, whether it is by working at the snack bar stand or collecting admission fees to the game, helping out at the summer camp, and mentoring to the younger students.

For the Bay Area Seminoles, there are the tricks and the treats. The methods they use are the football and cheer programs to capture the kids, between the ages of 5-14. They check the students’ grades to make sure they are eligible to play, and if the students are slipping, they provide tutoring and academic services to get the grades back up.

The treats are parent engagements, family/community support, mentorships, academic support. For the 2018-2019 school year, they will host their first annual ceremony to celebrate the students’ academic accomplishments.


They have been recognized by Oakland Mayors, Oakland Raiders, Golden State Warriors, Keep Oakland Beautiful (Dwayne is on the Board), and Waste Management. They are thankful for the support from their partners and other organizations, such as Marshawn Lynch, Lorenzo Alexander, Marcus Peters, Mistah F.A.B., Oakland Fire Department, Oakland Unified School District, and many others.

They have come a long way from where they started, and they plan to leave to something in the future. Dwayne said, “There is not enough support in the community, and we aren’t in competition with other organizations. We want to collaborate with others who are liked minded. Our passion is what keeps this going.” And Lamont added,” We love our community. If we’re succeeding, it’s because the community was behind it and saw what we were doing.” Their long-term goal is to expand and work in other cities to give other students in those communities a place to gain exposure and work. And I stand corrected, they are a great organization.
To find out more or support We Lead Ours, you can contact them at https://www.weleadours.org.

BBQing While Black Part 2 Brought the Vibe and the Politics


Early May, our world was shifted into a new outer-sphere as a video I shot featuring my husband and his friend dubbed BBQ Becky went super viral. Like, The Views Whoopi Goldberg commenting on video while laughing at the memes that exploded all over social media, viral.

In response to the videos 25 minute 101 example of a white woman using privilege to scare two black men out of a park, there have already been two response events to the BBQ Becky video. 510 Day was a previously scheduled event. Since it happened right as the BBQ video was going viral, many people took a stance against the calling of police on Oakland natives enjoying Lake Merritt Park at that event.

The next event happened on May 20, 2018, as the official response to the BBQ Becky video cracked off big time, which featured A LOT OF BBQ.

This newest video of BBQing While Black Part 2 does not have a lot of barbecuing in it. It was a colder day after an extended heat wave in the Bay Area, CA. There was a cast of weird color through the cloudy skies. We experienced debris falling from the sky from some NorCal fires.

What was different about this event were the many subtle political statements. There was an art exhibit group called Alena Museum that put up an entire art exhibit to bring awareness of the eviction they are facing in West Oakland. They wanted to make a statement about gentrification pushing out artists.

Politicians were campaigning, including my husband, Kenzie Smith, who is running for District 2 which covers a lot of Lake Merritt. Despite being his wife, I made sure to give every politician I met a chance to express their platform.

And of course, there was a lot of entrepreneurs, some even included children selling lemonade and cupcakes, others included artists who were painting as people walked around the pathways and watched.

Onsayo Abram aka Deacon, the other black man targeted by “BBQ Becky,” had a moment to go into depth with his conversation with Jennifer Schulte, the woman who called the police on him for barbecuing with a charcoal grill. Abram said of people who think there was no evidence of racial bias by Schulte who told him he did not belong in the park “People who say that haven’t really experienced the different versions of racial bias….it can be body language, the tone of voice….and telling me I don’t belong in a public place.”

One of the woman picture with Andre 3000 when he made a visit to Lake Merritt recently for his birthday made an appearance in the video as well.  The woman who runs a custom made sunglass business named Tres Mercedes remarked how the Outkast rapper loved the sun glasses he got from her.

In the mix of another well-organized event on Lake Merritt, the community came out strong participating in eating, shopping, getting to know each other, meeting old friends, hanging out with family, all while relaxing on a Sunday.
What will be next is undoubtedly a new chapter. The doors have been opened for events like this for all to take advantage of and enjoy.
This may look like a happy ending, but with new horizons come new problems. My husband, Kenzie Smith, has told me that trash was taken out of bins all around the lake last night after their clean up. Some of the garbage containers are upside down with trash thrown everywhere.
The issues people living around Lake Merritt often talk about is homelessness and trash. Every weekend, trash overflows the too few bins around the lake, and the garbage is not picked up until Monday afternoon. A problem that results in many residents taking to social media to complain.

Raw Interview of Kenzie Smith Regarding Run for Oakland City Council District 2


Hey Kenzie, you’ve been really active in the community since April 29th. I’ve been following you and what you’re trying to change in the community.

When Rebecca Kaplan nominated you for PRAC, what was the purpose of that? What does PRAC do?

“PRAC oversees the City of Oakland Parks and Recreation department and makes sure things are getting taken care of. Anyone can put in to be a part of it but it helps when a city council member nominates you. That was what Rebecca Kaplan did for me.”

What was the difference between 510 Day and BBQin While Black events at the Lake?
“510 Day was already happening, and that was no association between me and Deacon. The organizer invited me to be a part of that since my incident had just happened a week before. BBQin While Black was hosted by Jhamel Robinson and Logan McWilliams. They wanted to collaborate with me, and I didn’t want to be in the media, I just wanted to behind the scenes. I cried when I got there and saw about 300 people setting up at 9:30 am. I was touched because people came in from out of town. I’m talking about Washington, Los Angeles, all over. I hadn’t seen people since middle school and high school. The new one on July 1st has the theme of Poetic Justice because I will be having poets perform and people from the city council and PRAC. I want to showcase and bring people together. I want to use my light to shine on other people in the community. Whoever I rock with, I’ll shine the light on them. I’ve always been in the background, never been a person on social media.”

So what changed?
“I’ve been an activist since 2000, doing backpack drives with my bro, Mistah F.A.B.. Then in 2016, I did a community give back where we passed out hygiene kits, food, clothes, haircuts to the homeless. I had totally forgot I did that until Facebook brought back one of the memories and I was like, “Oh yeah.” But when I saw the pictures, I was like wow.

So many mothers showed up who said they couldn’t afford school supplies and backpacks. Even toys. This is nothing new to me. I’ve been in the community, and I grew up in the days where you couldn’t go to certain areas without knowing someone in that neighborhood. Now, we lost ourselves and our values. We have kids raising themselves. I saw a 12-year-old girl who was pregnant, and she told me that she was grown. I was like, [What the hell?] How is she grown? But we’ve got to do much better.”

What you do inspires me and a lot of others. A lot of people don’t know where to go; they always look for leaders. And sometimes I’m like, “You have to be the leader.” I love capturing your brother, Jhamel, you, everybody, really grass-rooting it. Whether people donate or not, you’re like it’s happening anyway.
I was inspired by my brother and my wife, Michelle to become more active. You have to learn to adapt or create your own ways. Sometimes I ask my brother what he thinks. My bro, Mistah F.A.B. was in South Africa, and he called me, and they were talking about it over there. I was worried that he didn’t like the attention, but he was proud of me. He was telling people there that I was his brother and he was proud! He liked the way I used my brain in the situation. I didn’t use my brawn. He said that we brought back Festival at the Lake. I’ve got to get out there and change things.”

So now, what made you want to run for City Council?
“I was speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco called Youth Awards. Some kids that were there came up to me and asked what can we do? I told them to vote, and they were like for who? They said if I run, they’ll vote for me. That was a doubled edged sword for me to run because I had the younger generation’s attention. If this is what will get them out there to vote, then I have to run. It’s not about winning or losing for me. It’s about getting the younger people active in the political process.”

Now, you’ve announced that you’re running on June 25th, what’s next on your itinerary for running? Fundraisers and stuff?
“Life has changed now that I’ve announced it. I have someone that stepped up to take care of the social media. Other people have stepped up, and I really thought I was going to be doing this by myself. They want to see me win. They want to see Oakland change. Like, I am still helping Jarew get a place, but he needs an I.D. So, I’ve been busy working with a program that will help him and get him settled.

A couple of weeks ago, I did Hands Across the Lake. I’ve been in the community, I want to be accessible to people. I am always at the lake. I have no reason to run away from the people when it’s the people who made me who I am. Whether it’s Black, White, Purple, Blue, Yellow, Green, I accept everybody. I wanted to attend Pride, but I had a conflict. I want to thank the LGBT community for their support. As for the campaign, I want to do it by the book, be transparent.”

We have some heavy hitters running for mayor and re-election that will help our community, like council member Desley Brooks (District 6)…
“Desley Brooks is the homie! She told me to tell the audience at the Juneteenth event at Arroyo Viejo Park that I was going to run. I was trying to chill that day but she encouraged me to let the crowd know that I was there. She’s very supportive, and she’s not in my district. She has seen my growth and my grind and encouraged me.”

I have a lot of respect for council member Brooks. She’s always at community events in other districts, whereas I rarely see the other council members in districts outside of their own. She has done a lot for her district though. Which brings me to this: what are you trying to accomplish as a council member? What kind of impact do you want to make?
“I want; a better arena for the community to come together; whether it’s a weekly event at Lake Merritt or somewhere in the community.

Tackle the homeless issue. Since I’ve done my own work, I already know what works and doesn’t work.

Help the non-profits since their funding keeps getting cut.

Work with schools to provide better after-school programs and childcare. These kids need someone to talk to, someone to guide them. I want to establish programs for youth.

Talk about teachers and increase their pay and get them supplies in the classrooms. As a parent, I was fortunate to buy my daughter a graphing calculator that costs $150. But how many other parents can afford that?

I want to call out the mayor. I was at the celebrity baseball event, and she was sitting next to me. She wouldn’t even acknowledge me, not even a hi. It’s cool because she showed me her true character. I only deal with people who deal with me. But back to her, she’s the reason why we have the homeless crisis and it’s too late for her to do anything. Cat Brooks supports me, and that’s all that really matters.”

Do you think we’re sending a strong message that we are tired and we’re going to beat them at their own game?
“I can’t speak for them, but for me, things in the community needs to be addressed. It not always about being a hero or the bad guy. Have you seen The Avengers with Thanos? Thanos was making people disappear. Well, Blacks are disappearing, Asians are disappearing, Mexicans are disappearing, but the Whites are appearing. I AM NOT DISAPPEARING! This campaign has to be someone who’s not going to disappear. I am here!”

Oakland Neighbors Take to Organizing Offline

Oakland, CA – After several viral videos hit national news in the last month at Lake Merritt Park, neighbors became even more active and outspoken on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In response to issues like BBQ Becky, where a white woman told two black men they were not allowed to be at the park at all and called the police intent on arresting them for barbecuing with charcoal. To a white man trashing a black homeless man’s belongings throwing them in the lake and then coming back and attacking an activist who was filming. Lake Merritt neighbors are fed up.

Activists and longtime organizers like Cat Brooks, Gina Madrid, and Kin Folkz took a moment in need and organized an “Oakland Hands Around the Lake” on Saturday morning. While there was not enough people to create another mass holding of hands around the lake as they have done before, the event enabled many neighbors to meet each other, discuss local issues and prepare for a more significant event in July.

Among some of the most critical topics; the high cost of rents, homelessness, and stripping of Oaklands culture was major boiling points. Brooks mentioned the hardship of artists being able to afford to stay in Oakland as well as the slow stripping of longtime traditions like old school cars no longer allowed at First Friday events.

Video of First Friday event before old school cars were banned.

Folkz spoke of when she first moved to the Bay Area and attended school in San Francisco. She told a story about a man who was the first person she befriended despite locals who judged him as possibly mentally unstable just because he was not well dressed. Her story ends tragically with a reminder that community should not condemn and ignore neighbors merely because they do not look “normal.”

Kenzie Smith, one of the men in the BBQ Becky video, spoke of coming out and talking to neighbors being an essential part of a change. JJ Harris, the man who filmed “Jogger Joe” also spoke of a need for unity in the community.

Many neighbors who never met each other before had their chance to discuss important issues and life in general. Local city council candidate Nikki Fortunato Bas used the opportunity to campaign and speak for the interests of district 2 which Lake Merritt park is in..

The next “Hands Around the Lake” event will be held July 14 with hopes that each person will bring ten people with them and slowly build community unity. All of Oakland is welcome to join.

Oakland Organizers Take Action After BBQ Harassment at Lake Merritt

A week after a video of a White woman harassing two Black men barbecuing at Lake Merritt for hours went viral the story has somewhat lost its narrative.

The two men involved, Kenzie Smith and Onsayo “Deacon” Abram, did not get a chance to share much of their side of the story to what happened before the filming of the woman.

The story went viral at the same time Urban Peace Movement and DNas had already organized 510 Day. 510 Day is an annual event that happens on May 10th (5-10). People from the Bay Area knew of 510 Day and used that to say “fuck you” to gentrification.

People outside of the Bay Area thought it was a cookout and us having a party to spite the White female harasser who we like to call the “Charcoal Police.” Others on Twitter have been using the hashtag #BBQBecky.

510 Day is a day for Oakland natives to share our history about the Black Panther Party and other historical events that happened in Oakland. The lake was the perfect spot since it was a smaller version of Festival at the Lake.

However, 510 Day was taken out of context for those outside of the Bay Area and knew of Oakland’s culture. It was a day for us to come together and celebrate, but we were also bringing awareness to the institutional racism in Oakland. That was not enough though.

Smith and Deacon had a chance to share their perspectives with iNeverWorry podcast hosted by DB Bedford, and you get to see what that day was like from them.

Smith is a godson of original Black Panther member Saturu Ned, and Deacon is an Oakland native. They grew up going to Lake Merritt for barbecues and parties and know how it used to be before new park laws put in place that now negatively affect Black residents from hanging out at Lake Merritt.

A rally called “Grill Your Government” was organized on May 15 at city hall by Carroll Fife to make demands for change in policies with the city of Oakland. Council member Brooks of District 6 was the only one who reached out to help organize the group to speak at city council.

Before going inside, the speakers rallied in front of city hall for different community members to talk about the effects of gentrification mixed with longtime Oakland residents who have had hidden racially charged motives to put new Lake Merritt rules in place such as “non-charcoal barbecue approved zones” which are not currently enforced.

Some of the speakers included Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks, Oakland city council District 2 candidate Nikki Fortunato Bas, Laney College journalism student and filmer of the BBQ harassment Michelle Snider, Mike Hutchinson, and Samba Funk who used to drum at Lake Merritt. The purpose was to demand Oakland city council change the rules to benefit residents of all Oakland districts better.

This incident was without question racially motivated considering the two men’s collaborating stories along with the video and a third witness who live-tweeted the entire event.

Many Oaklanders have been seeing an increase of cops called on Black people for doing normal activities and having fun. It is often a game of  White privilege exercised and abused in a show of power, and that was not going to be accepted by people who grew up in the community.

“They want us to follow the rules when they accommodate you, but you change the rules on the floor to suit you. We demand a formal investigation into the background of this woman who called the police regarding this possible contract work with the city,” Fife said to the city council.

Fife also said there was a need for police protocol to determine how many city resources have been wasted by minor non-threatening response calls.

“We want this reconsideration by the council of the regulations that allowed this to happen and that are imposed at Lake Merritt. And finally, we want a resolution from city council to impose fines on people who make baseless 911 calls and waste resources,” Fife said just before leaving as a group of protesters walked out with the speakers yelling out five times, “All power to the people!”

In closing, come join us at BBQ’in While Black at Lake Merritt on Sunday, May 20th from 11 am until we are done. Most importantly, if you’re registered to vote in Oakland, pay attention to the June and November ballots. June is the state and county district elections and we have to put in a new District Attorney, most likely Pamela Price. In November, Oakland is voting for a new mayor and new council-members for Districts 2, 4 and 6. Organizing and speaking at city council is exercising our power but what is more powerful is voting and getting rid of the people who are enabling gentrification.


White Privilege Used to Fight Racially Charged Harassment at Lake Merritt


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.

See video of Dione confronting the White woman here.