Friday, January 16, 2009

I heart Oaktown

What's a bleeding heart optimist to do? Our city makes the news (daily this week) and rarely good. Out city attorney is calling something "murder" that, may or may not have been, which then means that the BART police committed the first murder in our city for 2009. Not a good sign. Someone asked me today what I love Oakland, there's no mayor at the helm and the board has been taking on water for some time. I'm not necessarily disagreeing AND I have to say I heart Oaktown for so much. I'm a pragmatist, humanist, follower of Jesus committed to living in an urban setting, raising my children to do better than survive in 21st century multicultural urbanity - I want them to thrive. We have problems: no good transportation, bad parking, lack of money, lack of unanimity, schools... Yet I love it here. There's so much potential. There's so much mess. As I type that I have to admit that's what I believe about the entire human condition: mess and potential, and that a higher power is creating, redeeming and pulling the potential from the mess towards prophetic promise! So how can I commit to that as a life ethos and world-view and not commit to it in terms of where I live. There's a great perspective that appeared on NPR yesterday by [read] [listen]. So I have to add my two cents. The past days, while the BART saga repercussions echo through our city and around the world of CNN I've heard an onslaught of comments on the Dimond Yahoo Group complaining about the parking of fire trucks in front of the Peet's Coffee there. Supposedly the truck is too big for the side street (Benati if you're in the know) and impedes or troubles some caffeine-dependent folks (like myself) who need to get to Peet's. I respect the need for clear streets, yet I have to say how greatful I am that we have a working, effecient and effective fire department in Oakland. That's something to be proud about. I say let them park wherever they want for all they do to support us. What got lost in the discussion too was the fact that 24 months ago there was no Peet's and that the place which now contains espresso machines pumping out liquid black gold all day long was an empty storefront. Part of our problem in Oakland (and I'm preaching to myself too) is that we forget what it used to be like. When you get use to the mess and chaos that's all potential for creative change, it's easy to forget where we've been and lose sight of where we've agreed we want to go and what is actually good. I work in a place like that. There's so much-still-to-do that I rarely (if ever) see clearly what we have accomplished. It takes someone outside of my system to reflect, remark and open my eyes! That's what the artist collaborative Oaklandish is all about!

So here's my list short-list of what I love and see happening in Oakland:
Granted these reflect my gender, cultural background, socio-economic and family status and worldview (we can never escape our contexts)

I see amazing community happening around places of business and centers of education that gather diverse Oaklandites into communities of interaction, participation and collaboration. Peet's Coffee (in the Dimond w/ the fire-fighters), Peter Pan Cooperative Preschool in Maxwell Park, Sequoia, Glenview and Kaiser Schools, neighborhood imporvement associations and online community groups.

I see dynamics of creative and how-to potential gathered in coffee shops from Peet's to World Grounds (Laurel) to the new Starbucks off Broadway in Uptown, in restaurants and lines for food from Bakesale Betty's, to Le Cheval at lunchtime, to A Cote at night.

There are great places for families in Oakland - both new and old, improved and improving : Chabot Space and Science Center, the revitalized Oakland Zoo, Fairyland, Robert's Park, Park Avenue Terrace Park (aka Jordan Park), MOCHA, and Pump It Up!

There are places in which people come together, experience urbanity together and shape Oakland through their relationships and participation: the YMCA downtown, everyone walking around Lake Merrrit, participants in the Farmer's Markets Friday:Downtown, Saturday: at the Lake and Sunday: Jack London. I see it happening on the terrace of Whole Foods downtown on a Sunny day, at the pool in Robert's park in the summer, along Telegraph while folks wait for tables at Dona Tomas and Pizzaiolo.

The strength of Oakland is its people! That's why the avoidable death of Oscar Grant is so tragic and shaking the foundations of our city and civic community. It's what we forget when we can't find a place to park, or run over a pothole, or struggle to be able to bike to a decent grocery store. What we love about Oakland is the people.


Lisa Mc said...

Yep. The city's greatness is its fascinating blend of people. I miss that about Oakland. And the weather. Hoping better days lie ahead...

Gene said...

Diversity is one of the things I love about Oakland (and much of the bay area in general).

Re: complaining about the OFD and Peet's in the Dimond, I fear much of Oakland feels removed from the happenings around Oscar Grant. I've been downtown the last couple of days (and planning to support the businesses that were vandalized), but around city hall there were no signs of anything out of the ordinary.

Dimond Neighborhood said...

There was an email sent to the Dimond list about a fire truck parking next to Peet's, and I believe there was one other person who thought the parked truck was problematic. The overwhelming response to the the original email was disagreement.

A few quotes
So give our fire fighters a break, be glad that they come to the Dimond

Aren't there a few other (better/more pressing) things for us to worry about?

Wow... with much respect, come on man... they're *firemen* and they're parked on a minor little side street that one can easily drive around. I for one will be very displeased if these good men and women feel the need to stop visiting us because they think we're tripping out over some need for robotic adherence to "public order".

These folks put their lives on the line everyday-you think being a firefighter in Oakland is a piece of cake?? There are much bigger issues regarding the Fruitvale that need to be addressed here.

During the time this fire truck thread was on the Dimond list, there was also the following posts

An email asking if Circus Bella should perform at the 2009 Dimond picnic. A number of Dimond neighbors responded enthusiastically supporting the idea, including the Dimond Recreation Center's director.

An email was sent to the Dimond list announcing two gatherings in Dimond this weekend to remember Sid Campbell who died last August

Another email was sent with this info

Saturday Event to Support Riot Affected Businesses
17th St Between Franklin & Webster
Saturday, Jan 17

More at

dbanoff said...

To your list of area schools with an active, diverse community, I would add my daughter's school, Edna Brewer Middle School, as well as Bret Harte Middle School across the street from your church.

Another thing that's great about Oakland is the Oakland Museum of California. I used to come to Oakland to go there before I lived here.

Monte said...

I think we're all in agreement, or at least share the same perspective that it's the people of Oakland that make it special. Of course the perfect weather, diverse geography, etc. doesn't hurt. It's the people - the gifts they bring, the history they bring, the uniqueness we all are - the community we build together - that make Oakland, Oakland.

How do we build upon that? It seems we often breaks into disagreement and eventually division over the details - yet agree on the larger vision. What does it take, what does it cost?; to move forward together, at the same speed?, towards the same goal?