I was planning to blog more about our drainage project today and the progress I made yesterday morning, but we had a very scary incident on our block yesterday morning.
Oakland has a reputation of being a terrible city. I have felt an incredible responsibility since moving here to promote all the wonderful things the city has to offer and encourage people that while Oakland does indeed have its problems there are also WONDERFUL things about it.
As an art major at Mills, for our senior thesis we participated in an art show on campus and exhibited in the museum. I took the opportunity to address the issues in Oakland. My project tackled the difference of what it means to live above or below Interstate 580 through sculptural and video installation (in short, living above is MUCH better, and living below is MUCH worse). I have always tried to make apparent the issues Oakland has, and encouraged people not to be afraid and IGNORE the problems, but help.
There are cities all across the country that face terrible crime and budget problems, and Oakland happens to be one that is worse than others. Because of its longstanding issues many people think Oakland is unfixable, but I have always had hope. It hurts my feelings when people scrunch their faces when I tell them where I live and it hurts my feelings when people won’t come to visit because they’re scared. I have always felt that if more people HELPED rather than RAN AWAY that maybe it would contribute to making the city a better place.
Chris and I live below 580. When we need to drive to Interstate 880, to Home Depot, to Alameda…we drive through really not so great areas. We frequently see things that aren’t great and we hear about things that aren’t great either. But the more serious crimes have pretty much stayed out of our neighborhood.
The good thing about our street is that because it is sort of a landmark in Oakland (the whole street is filled with storybook homes, so it is not rare to see people driving by or walking by and taking picutres, and there is even a walking guided tour) the residents really have a sense of pride and do a lot to keep people informed of the goings on. There are neighborhood events, a newsletter, a Yahoo group, and frequent mailings. As a result, everyone is really up to date on what’s going on and crime has stayed away as well because people know the residents won’t stand for it.
However, in the last couple of weeks there have been multiple car and home break-ins on the street, but, yesterday’s incident was much worse. I came outside at 11:11 ready to meet my brother for lunch before I went to work to find a cop car with one cop questioning the dozen or so neighbors milling about and another cop walking around the street looking for something. I sat in my car for a few minutes and wondered what was going on. When more and more neighbors started coming out of their houses I walked down the street and asked a neighbor what was going on. Apparently just 12 minutes before (when I was blow-drying my hair I actually stopped because I thought I heard something) two cars chased each other down our street shooting at each other. The cops found 5 shell casings.
THANKFULLY no one on our block was hurt. But it really scared me. I had been planning on leaving at 11 to stop at Michael’s before I met Adam, and if I had left on time I very well could have been outside when it happened.
I’m not terrified of the city, not terrified to be on our block, and not terrified of what could happened, but it did shake me up. I know that our street is safe and that our neighbors and community do everything they can to make it as safe as possible (there are lots of neighborhood watch groups), but it just makes me think about how people in this city fight so hard to make it safe and it feels like the people in charge do nothing to help.
Oakland residents pretition, they write letters, they protest, they start their own community groups, newsletters, and blogs all to TRY AND MAKE THE CITY A BETTER PLACE. I know Oakland has lots of problems it needs to address and it is having HORRIBLE budget issues, but I really feel like City Hall doesn’t do nearly enough to protect its city and residents and try and make it a better and more safe place. When nothing is done to try and remedy these problems it’s no wonder that people move away to other cities. As a result neighborhoods get worse and worse.
I love our house, I love our street, and I still love this city. But it does anger me. I want people to help this city. I want people to visit this city. I want people to be able to come to my house, to my community and to my city and feel safe. I don’t want anymore face scrunches when I tell people where I live. I don’t want to read about how Oakland is one of the most dangerous cities in the country. I don’t want to hear about how it has one of the highest homicide rates. And I don’t want to hear about how there is no money to do anything to help it.
I hope that nothing like this happens again on our street, but I know there are streets all over Oakland where this happens on a monthly, weekly, daily basis, and it makes me feel so awful for the people who live there and do all they can to help prevent it. I really wish at somepoint the city would get behind its residents and really shape the fuck up and start helping this city out.
(and if you’re still reading this LONG post, thank you!!!)