Goodbye, Oakland — and Every Other City Losing Its Battle With Greed
This is for the ones who’ve been here and don’t plan on leaving, no matter what the tech-boom money says
I’m not an Oakland native.
Although I’m born and raised in the Bay Area with Mexican immigrant parents, a UC Berkeley alum, and a husband married to a Latina with proud family roots in East Oakland, I’ll never really be from here the way that many are really from here. But with the city always being a freeway’s drive from where I grew up and the place where I’ve spent some years of my adulthood living and teaching, I admire those who are rooted here. I honor those people. Their stories, vibrations, voices, struggles, and triumphs — the various textures of generational fabrics that thread together into everything special this place is, has been, and will continue to be.
Yet, take a 15-minute drive around Oakland, and you’ll sense how the local presence is diminishing at an alarming rate. Unaffordable high-rise apartments, glittery coffee shops, and exclusive restaurants have popped up in the least expected places, while White-collar, free-spirited techies and hipstery-looking transplants from all over the world have clogged the arteries of these neighborhoods.
In my own way, I’ve contributed to this gentrification. My privileges are not few. I’m middle class, born with U.S. citizenship, work as a district teacher with a yearly salary and health benefits, update my savings account, travel the world, and have the love and support of my friends and family to pursue artistic passions. I eat and drink at bars that many would consider to be trendy or, worse, inauthentic to the real Oakland. I can blend in and not be targeted by police with my every movement. I can code-switch and vibe with nerdy writers about contemporary poetry just as quickly as I can discuss the latest E-40 verse with street dudes. I cannot overlook this flexibility in my identity — the social mobility it provides — and refuse to ignore my complicity in the changing demographics of this city.
This is for the artists and poets, the hustlers and students, those with homes overlooking Seminary and those who make…