On Saturday afternoon, about 200 protestors gathered in East Oakland for the Deep East Oakland Rising: Rally For Black Lives. They marched from the Black Cultural Zone lot on 73rd Avenue and Foothill Boulevard (right next to Eastmont Town Center) to International Boulevard. Then they headed to Wilkins Memorial Park on 98th Avenue.
Marchers followed behind a large truck with a Black Lives Matters banner on the side as organizers led chants from the truck’s flatbed. They called for defunding of the Oakland Police Department days after the City Council voted 5-1 for $14.3 million in cuts and reallocations of funds from the OPD. A host of community organizations and local businesses planned the march, including the East Oakland Collective, Roots Community Health Center, Town Biz and the Black Cultural Zone.
This protest was unique in that it was also a joyful celebration of Deep East Oakland.They kicked off with a rally featuring Aztec dancers. Marchers shouted in the streets that they love East Oakland. The Scraper Bike Team rode along with their colorful wheels. People danced in the streets to the DJ on the trailer who played a range of music from James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud” to local artists E-40 and Too Short. People in the neighborhood emerged from their homes and the convenient stores to watch or cheer along.
Venus Morris was one of the people on the truck leading the crowd in chants. She’s an activist and artist from East Oakland. She said the march is addressing a number of issues impacting the area, such as health, homelessness and gun violence.
“People try to count East Oakland out,” said Morris. “What we have here is a stand in solidarity with East Oakland, with the community and letting them know we’re taking back our streets. We’re taking back our homes. We’re taking back the movement. Black power matters. Black people matter and Black East Oakland matters.”
Protestors shut down about 1.5 miles of International Blvd, causing traffic build-up. Some drivers appeared frustrated and others honked in support. Along the route, protestors handed out free food and bottled water from the trailer. Food came from local establishments such as Everett and Jones Barbecue. Volunteers also handed out PPE kits with masks, gloves and hand sanitizers because East Oakland has been hit hard with COVID-19.
Three-and-a-half hours later, protestors arrived at Wilkins Memorial Park. They relaxed to live poetry, African drummers and music. More free meals were distributed, this time from a food truck in the park. The East Oakland Collective posted on Facebook that they handed out 1,000 meals and 1,000 masks during the event.