The national press often glosses over the cultural impact Downtown Oakland has had on the world stage during the past decade. From the protest for justice for Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Nia Wilson and countless others, to being the epicenter of the global—and still growing—“Occupy” movement; the radius that emanates from “Oscar Grant Plaza” has expanded to influence everything from movies (Sorry To Bother You, Fruitvale Station, Blind-spotting, Black Panther) to the Arab Spring. Downtown Oakland is a living symbol of the cultural resilience of a land and a people undaunted by the oppressive mechanisms of control bent on global domination, even as those forces set their sights on “The Town,” acknowledging its power to instigate and inspire global transformation.
In 2020, Downtown Oakland experienced street clashes between peaceful protestors and a police force implementing brutal tactics forbidden by elected officials, while an out-of-town white supremacist “Boogaloo Boy” murdered a federal officer in an attempt to cast blame on citizens seeking fairness, justice and peace. As the largest pandemic in 100 years ravaged the country, our streets became distressed by a seemingly never-ending struggle.
Downtown Oakland could have accepted this onslaught with resignation. Our storefronts could have remained drab reminders of the power of outside forces. Our sidewalks could have remained empty, our walls sad reflections of a defeat in a war manufactured without our consent. Instead, Downtown became alive with color and movement, re-committing to the revolutionary values that are embedded in its foundations. Murals spontaneously sprang up, inspiring progress, unity and continued mobilization. Socially distanced and socially conscious marches, teach-ins and street-art projects produced wheat-paste fliers, zines and even downloadable mixtapes reflecting the unstoppable creative power of one of the most influential cities in America since the late 1960s.
2021 promises an even more refined and focused vision coming out of Oakland to the rest of the world. From the unveiling of a street dedicated to Black Panther Founder, Huey P. Newton, to Oakland Museum of California’s upcoming Afrofuturism exhibit, “The Town” continues to shape the future.