On this episode my good friend Prentiss Mayo shares his testimony of being homeless and addicted on the streets of Oakland. We also talk about internet trolling, charging juveniles as adults and other hot button topics. All you have to do is hit the link below and press play.
“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships.”
I find it fascinating that a tent city has popped up in a city where just last year Uber paid over $24 Billion to purchase a building that will serve as a major corporate headquarter for them. In 2013 Oakland was voted the most exciting city to move to (http://www.movoto.com/blog/top-ten/10-most-exciting-cities/). There are new restaurants opening up all over the place, billion dollar housing developments are being constructed (China Basin), there seems to be money coming in from every direction, and in the midst of this enormous economic boom there are whole families living on the streets.
This particular homeless encampment really struck me because it exists directly across the street from the very church where I was baptized. In Oakland I have seen groups of homeless people live under bridges and alongside freeways but never on International Boulevard, which is a major thoroughfare in both Oakland and San Leandro. This leads me to believe that the homeless situation is getting worse. It also leads me to believe that as long as techies are moving here from around the country and billion dollar startups are investing large sums of money in the Uptown area that no one cares about homeless black people living out of tents in Deep East Oakland. I’m not sure what exactly needs to be done but I’m not going to act like this isn’t happening in the city that shaped the man that I’ve become. So I guess the question is; what are we going to do?
It’s strange to me that it’s now considered cool to live in my hometown of Oakland, CA. When I was growing up it was just dangerous. There were very few young “hip” people who were brave enough to move into an area that was known as one of the most notorious ghettos in the state of California. Even the people who lived there didn’t want to live there. A small two-bedroom house on the Eastside of town was the last place my mother wanted to raise her three children but what else could she do? Housing discrimination was a lot more blatant in the late 1980’s. Meaning no realtor was going to show her a property in Napa or Piedmont.
So we ended up moving to a street that was relatively quiet however trouble was never far away. On every major thoroughfare around our home there was drug dealing and wanton violence. I was only allowed to ride my bike down half of our block. My sister and I often times watched TV on the floor because we heard gunshots outside and didn’t want to get hit by a stray bullet. I witnessed so many crimes against humanity just trying to get from the bus stop to my house that I’m still unable to completely process it. Somewhere along the way Oakland has both traumatized me and desensitized me but now all of a sudden it’s the place to be for young people who want to be involved in some kind of cultural adventure.
I guess my main issue with those hoards of upper-middle class bred white folks who have come to gentrify certain sections of my city is that everything I experienced in Oakland has been real—real death, real poverty, real loss—while what they want to experience seems very superficial. To live in a brand new town home that was erected in a space that used to be a housing project while telling your friends that you stay in the ghetto is tantamount to a person going on a Safari and saying that they braved the harsh jungles of Africa. I feel like some of these people are trying to capitalize off of my pain and it makes me nauseous. There is way too much dried blood on the streets of this town for people to act like it’s charming. I don’t think they’ll ever understand.