photo of The Art Murmur from Oakland Local
This February, a young man was fatally shot and killed at The Art Murmur, a vibrant and diverse monthly art event in downtown Oakland. The shooting took place in front of my friend’s art and food space and nearby that same evening, another friend was held up at gunpoint for his car. This happening at an event I regularly attend woke me up to Oakland’s violent reality that I can normally tune out.
I love Oakland. I came here eight years ago because I yearned to be in a community that valued difference—my own and that of others. Growing up in a small steel mill town in Ohio, my difference was a liability. I was an outcast in my community for speaking my mind and for having my own sense of style. When I moved to the Bay Area to be part of the food justice movement, I reveled in the new existence where peoples’ unique identities and self-expression were celebrated.
However, it certainly wasn’t all a celebration. I spent my first five years in Oakland working in a neighborhood where gunshots were a regular sound. Some of the sweetest young men I met there were the same ones who acted out their teenage angst with violence. In the community where I grew up, those same young men would probably have fallen into less fatal activities.
As a young woman working in Oakland, I was struck by many new realities. At the age of 25, I accepted I was no longer a child. That meant as an adult member of this new community I had to assume the responsibility, with other adults, for the well being of its young people. The shooting on February 1st reminded me of that. I know that my success and happiness is tied to the health of my community. It’s not as if my community is an impoverished thing that I need to help. The community is all the people around me who consistently challenge and support me to be a better artist, educator, chef, and person. Kiante Campbell, the young man that was murdered, is part of that community.
Kiante is only one of many young people murdered in Oakland every year. Only because his murder happened in the midst of the city’s biggest art party have I and others like me awakened to our failure to take care of our youth. More aware, I now ask how do we come together to address violence or better yet how do we come together to build a healthier and happier community?
I loved this line of poetry from the viral blog post about the shooting:
We all want control
Hipster mothers fight for middle class as
Activists fight for plazas as
Marginalized young men fight for corners…
We all just want a piece of this half-baked American pie
In my chosen community, Oakland, a place full of dividing differences, how can I unite with others for positive change?
In April, I will come together with my neighbors to create Edition Two of The Take Out Window. This project is a space where neighbors share food made from their heart at a pop-up food stand. The Take Out Window is my exploration of how to use the uniting force of food to build a healthier and more connected community. Art is my way of asking these hard questions and tuning in more deeply to my reality.