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East Bay Express: On violence, Oakland, and the future of First Fridays

Courtesy of EastBayExpress.com

For all everyone's been talking about the tragic shooting at First Friday, it's worth noting that there's still a lot we don't know. We can't yet tell the extent to which this was related to First Friday itself — that is, we don't, and may never, know whether something about the event's general melee facilitated this, or whether the suspect would have killed Campbell anywhere, and that intersection and that moment just happened to be the time and place. Someone in Oakland was shot and killed an average of once every 2.8 days last year. Especially if, as some have reported, Campbell was affiliated with a gang, this murder was, save for the setting, much like the 138 others this city has seen since January 1, 2012.

We also don't know what, if anything, the City of Oakland's official response will be, as the two city officials most closely involved with First Friday thus far — Marketing Manager Samee Roberts and Deputy City Administrator Arturo Sanchez — have yet to return repeated phone calls. (For what it's worth, Mayor Jean Quan, wrote in a statement that "the City is taking immediate action to assess the security and overall nature of the event and will meet with our community partners to determine the needed measures to make sure First Fridays will continue to be safe and successful moving forward.")

But in earlier interviews, Roberts and I have talked at length about the way that First Fridays are, in her words, "marketing that money can't buy" for the City of Oakland. But for an event that's attended heavily and increasingly by San Franciscans and folks from elsewhere in the Bay Area, often as something of an entry-level Oakland experience for people who may otherwise be nervous to be downtown after dark; an event that's become a major talking point in Oakland's PR strategy; an event that's gotten attention from major media outlets near and far, a high profile runs two ways. After all, in that same interview, Roberts also told me "nothing will dampen the spirit faster than somebody getting injured."

It's much too soon to tell whether that'll be borne out, of course, but it's worth noting that throughout my coverage of First Fridays, many of the attendees, business owners, and officials I've spoken to have specifically cited the specter of a shooting like Friday's as a worst-case scenario for the event. Some even considered it an inevitability.

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This article was originally published on EastBayExpress.com on February 6, 2013.