A Child of Oakland

A Child of Oakland

 This mixing pot of people has given me more perspective than one could ever think possible.

One of a first things I was asked by an upstate New Yorker when she met me was: “Have you ever been shot?” When I said no, she then asked if I ever knew anyone who’d been shot and “yes” rolled off my tongue with little second thought. Her naivety seems ridiculous to a Bay Area resident who sees the whole of things concerning crime in Oakland, but it made me realize that a lot of people see the city as a center for havoc and its citizens as victims of that havoc. Oakland has a reputation for violence and crime (and its arguably justified) but it is also a city of diverse landscapes, people, and lifestyles. Each of these different elements has shaped me to view politics, people, and the entire world in a very specific way, and my behavior has been shaped as well.

First Friday Art Murmur

First Friday Art Murmur

As a resident in Oakland, you are prone to be exposed to the various aspects of “urban living” in one way or another. Oakland’s urban living is a result of the interaction between artists/art, unkempt neighborhoods, fancy residential areas, varying citizens, and everything in between. Living in Oakland has many pros, but as I’ve observed, some cons as well. For instance, as a young artist growing up in this city, I have always had my mind open to possibilities of being a “working” artist and being appreciated for my art in small sub-communities, but to others, this ideology of living off of art is ridiculous. Because of the models I see around me that live and thrive solely off of their art (money being one of the least important things in their lives), it gives me a different type of perspective on occupation and what it means to be successful. It could be said that all of Oakland’s beauty and culture is a product of the artistic and visionary citizens that inhabit the city, so of course as a youth growing up here, that is going to shape how I think about myself as an artist and my potential.

Another one of Oakland’s pros/cons is the exposure its citizens have to different types of people from all walks of life. I’d argue that this is more of a pro with some negative aspects, but that’s only my opinion. The city’s raging diversity of people is a result of its extremely varied neighborhoods/socioeconomical situations. This creates places like Downtown, where one will encounter well-to-do business(wo)men, the mentally ill (who are let out of their housing during the day, or do not have a home to begin with), and people from all other parts of the city who have reputations that may or may not be accurate. This mixing pot of people has given me more perspective than one could ever think possible, and it has also changed the way I behave. Living in this city, you pick up on how to treat certain people so that you do not upset the wrong person, but you also learn how to respect and honor the people that are frowned upon by the world, because you interact with them and you realize that they make this vibrant community what it is, no matter what their impact. This is one of the biggest gifts one could ever ask for from their city, because it sets you up to be a thoughtful and critical global member who is aware of the different motivations, reasons, and beauty that define each individual.

As far as geographical diversity in Oakland, you can be wandering around in hectic downtown, hop on a bus, and travel to quaint neighborhoods, sketchy and undiscovered streets, beautiful dense forests with sky high eucalyptus trees, or find yourself in an

Downtown Oakland

Downtown Oakland

unknown neighborhood checking out little boutiques that can range from amazing to weird and freaky. Its difficult to describe this city in terms of its geography, because it varies so much, and even having lived here for 15 years, I still end up in places I’ve never been before. One of the most striking things to me about this city is the unequal money distribution/economics of the city as seen through housing, (lack of) maintenance, schooling, and all the other aspects that make up a city. There are places like Montclair (the Hills in general) that are beautiful and safe and full of trees and wonderful houses, but there are also places like the deep East that are less well-kept and most people try to avoid, which is consequentially detrimental to those that live there. I don’t know much about the actual politics that are in play of why the inequality of money distribution is so obvious in the city, but having lived in a place where this is so, I’ve learned a lot about how the government and its people take care of the wealthy and how they take care of the poor, and the extreme gap between these two.

Because Oakland is such a big and complicated city/cultural center, I could go on and on about how this city has shaped me, but in reality, I’ll never really know just how much it has done for me until I go out into the world and leave my beloved city. I’m grateful that this city has taught me social, economical, and political lessons, but its done much more than that than I can even put into words. This city has created individuals who view the world in a liberally-enlightened way and who, in my opinion, have a more honest opinion about how the world is run and our place in it, and I am blessed to be one of them.

Q+A: A Stranger’s World

Unfamiliar faces constantly appear in our world for moments at a time each day. As we see these unknown individuals, we automatically tend to stereotype and make assumptions about them, and this can eliminate the possibility of learning from all of the strangers we encounter. I decided to interview strangers about topics that concerned our political, philosophical and personal world.

Question 1: What are your thoughts on homelessness/the homeless?

Stranger One: Homelessness is a really big issue in the Bay Area, but also in our country in general.

Stranger Two: I wish there was more I could do about it. Its really up to our government to change the way things are.

Stranger Three: I think the only way we could ever solve this issue would be to completely reform our social system, and that would take a lot of time and work most people aren’t willing to do.

Question 2: What group of people/type of person are you most likely to assume things about?

Stranger One: I could assume things about every group of people, I could look at anyone and make assumptions. But I guess I assume a lot about adults. I think most of them are unhappy and stressed.

Stranger Two: Preppy girls, white girls–abercrombie and fitch, piedmont type of girls.Which is weird because I’m white. I just assume they’re rich and don’t like me.

Stranger Three: People who wear “ratchet” clothes.  I assume they’re loud and obnoxious. Adults too.

Question 3: What do you think happens after death? Are you afraid of dying?

Stranger One: I’m not afraid to die. I’m not excited, but when I do die, I won’t be upset. I’ll just be like “oh, a new adventure!” I think that’s the fun about it, it’s a mystery.

Stranger Two: I have no idea what happens after we die. I just don’t like the idea of getting old.

Stranger Three: I don’t like thinking about how I’d die…I don’t want to get murdered.

Question 4:  Do you think there is a purpose to living? if so, what is it?

Stranger One: I think the purpose to living is to die–that’s the only thing you know will happen.

Stranger Two: To work, consume, die.

Stranger Three: I really don’t think there is a purpose. Well, maybe the purpose is to just live.

Question 5: Did you grow up to be very similar to your parents/guardians or very different?

Stranger One: Oh god, extremely different…gladly. I mean I love my parents, but the way they live and think didn’t quite…fit me.

Stranger Two: Similar is some ways, different in others. I think I have a good balance.

Stranger Three: Over the years, I’ve come to realize how similar I am to my mom. The way I act, my emotions. I didn’t think I would end up like my parents, but no one does.

Question 6: What’s one thought/memory you’d like to erase from your mind?

Stranger One: Something about perfectionism, trying to look and behave a certain way

Stranger Two:  I’d like to erase the thought that I’m stupid from my mind.

Stranger Three: I’d want to erase all the negative thoughts I’ve had about myself over the last 2 years.

Question 7: What characteristic do you feel the need to hide from others?

Stranger One: I don’t know, I don’t really hide from others–maybe sensitivity though.

Stranger Two: Being goofy and comedic. Making puns…some people are just like “Wtf, you’re so weird.”

Stranger Three: Sensitivity.

Our world is full of unknown people, and behind each of them is a perspective that you may never know unless you communicate with them. Although these “strangers” were hesitant at first, not wanting to be completely honest with a girl whom they knew nothing about, after I got their attention by asking them about things people don’t usually talk about. The answers that they provided revealed the humanity all of us struggle with everyday. Interviewing these strangers helped me learn that we all have difficulties to overcome, and for the most part, no matter how different people appear to be, we all experience life’s elements in a fairly similar way. Even though we are taught not to talk to them, you might find that you can relate to strangers on many different levels, and that’s a great reason to reach outside of your world of familiarity.