Oakland native Favianna Rodriguez is a world-renown artist who uses her art to promote social change and activism. Above is a short documentary on her work. Below is the full interview from my time with her:
GROWING UP IN AN IMMIGRANT FAMILY
Growing up in an immigrant family is how I learned to be an entrepreneur and also how I learned to create my own reality. They were restaurant workers, they were janitors, they did everything they could. And so I was always really inspired by their commitment to, you know, create something of themselves. And I also witnessed how hard they worked. So it shaped me because I saw a model of what it meant to work for yourself and to create something out of nothing.
Growing up in an immigrant family also just means that we are constantly thinking about home and home is a place that's very far away. And as somebody who was born here yet, I grew up at a time when the system didn't really see me or recognize me, there was always this interesting relationship to Peru, which was supposed to be my homeland, but it was actually a place I didn't end up going until I was 15. So I think I just always felt what it means to be a part of a group of people that's on the move.
I believe that immigrants are pollinators. They are bringing ideas from other places and they are helping to cultivate a new kind of culture. And my parents were so curious, you know, they had gone from Peru to the United States. My mom was a travel agent before the internet was born. And so we went to all kinds of places throughout the world to explore. And they picked up little traditions and that is really the essence of migrant culture is to take ideas with you when you are on the move. And it also means adapting to your new home. My parents found ways to remix new traditions with their old traditions and to create their version of American culture.
Lagra was one of my favorite stories to tell in 2019. The trauma that she experienced from attending predominantly white affluent schools ultimately inspired her to start her own school.
On Jan 21, 2019, Oakland held its annual Martin Luther King Day rally. In the crowd, I saw countless white people projecting their support.
But it was all an act.
White supremacy doesn’t just reinvent itself in the darkest, most extreme corners of fascists waving swastikas. It’s not just that we now have various factions of the “alt-right” that wear business suits instead of confederate uniforms. It’s also that white liberals and radicals undergo transformations of identity and talking points in an aim to escape economic accountability and perpetuate the uneven distribution of wealth in this country along racial lines.
This 4-minute episode of TalkOakland follows two street photographers in Oakland as they discuss the art of street photography and the changes they've experienced from gentrification. Allen is a transplant to the Bay Area. He’s from the Central Valley. He moved to the Bay Area nine years ago. And Nai is a native to the Bay Area, currently living in Richmond.
Throughout American history, and continuing today, white people are still afforded more while people of color exist to get less. White people distance themselves from this reality. They’re addicted to the high of their whiteness - being able to pursue their goals without accountability.
Oakland's Homeless Crisis
The homeless crisis in Oakland is worsening exponentially. And according to statistics, 68% of this population is Black. The City of Oakland is in an effort to create a wealthier and white Oakland. In order to achieve this, city officials are illegally evicting homeless encampments. These evictions mirror the displacement of Ohlone people years ago. These traumatic evictions occuring today in the city of Oakland force some of the unhoused community into Tuff Sheds. The Tuff Chefs are essentially concentration camps. They violate human rights. Meanwhile, government buildings are locked at night instead of housing the homeless. And pubic bathrooms are also made inaccessible at night. In all, the City of Oakland is strategically displacing its Black community to facilitate gentrification.
Dispatch Call from the Fatal MacArthur BART Stabbing of Nia Wilson:
Medical needed, she’s bleeding from the neck.
10-4, bleeding from the neck.
It looks like she’s on the platform, the lady.
21:37, the time it was reported somebody with a knife. I don’t know where they’re at, I don’t have a description. That’s all I got.
I’m getting reports that someone got stabbed in the neck about mid-platform.
BART Kills Again
In the aftermath of a BART police officer killing a young Black man outside West Oakland BART station, the public transportation agency is scaling up its violent engagement towards low-income residents of Oakland by using $2.7 million to fund a new fare enforcement regime to require “proof-of-payment” and hand out fines.
Black Roots Music
Gaby Moreno recently visited Fantastic Negrito at Blackball Universe in Oakland. Since moving to Los Angeles from her native Gautemala, Gaby won a Latin Grammy for Best New Artist. Her music has strong Black Roots influences. Fantastic Negrito later touched on this.
Fantastic Negrito: Every time I tour overseas to different countries, I notice one thing: they're playing Black music. So it's weird. And I get to another country, and it's still Black music with a different language. So what I learned was that as Black people - our history in terms of slavery and what we've gone through - our music is all over the world. I don't think people even know it. It's everywhere.
Kim x Elliot
Despite my overarching hatred of white privilege, I recently fell in love with a white person. Their name is Elliot. When I worked at Bicycle Coffee, they came in twice a week to order coffee for their job. I was attracted to them, but I initially chose to distance myself energetically. They were patient. Four month later, we spoke in length for the first time. Many conversations followed. This was one of them:
Kim: What are feelings that have come to the surface for you that you didn’t foresee so far?