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.

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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!

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

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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!”