Hello, Nice to Meet You
Hello, my name is Sergio R. Martinez and I just joined East Oakland Building Healthy Communities. I have been living in Oakland, specifically East Oakland, since 1974. As a matter of fact, I was born at Highland Hospital. My parents and I, briefly lived across the street from Fremont High School on Foothill Boulevard and in 1976 my parents bought their home in the Bella Vista neighborhood where I, and later my two siblings, grew up.
I attended a catholic school in the San Antonio neighborhood and consequently befriended many who lived in the surrounding streets. My best friend lived on Miller Avenue and East 15th Street across from the old Street Academy continuation school. I spent many hours on East 15th and 23rd Avenue, which is a predominantly working class neighborhood of Latino and Asian immigrants, and African American families and locally known as the “dubs”.
During my teenage years, I would do a lot of socializing in the Jack-in-Box restaurant parking lot on 24th and International Boulevard, the estuary boating dock off of Embarcadero, and in the “hills” (Joaquin Miller Park). These were locations where on any given Friday or Saturday night and usually after a house party, teens would go to play their cars’ loud sound systems and to ‘hook-up’. I also attended many quinceñeras at the various social clubs/halls in East Oakland.
Unless you were in Oakland in the mid 80s and early 90s you would know that many new generations of Latinos/Chicanos were forming their cultural identities through this unique subculture. A subculture that included cruising, listening to high-energy music, and tapered jeans and rayon shirts. Many of us went to Al’s Barbershop on 23rd Avenue to get flattop mullets, pompadours or fade hairstyles (some of us still go there). We shopped at The Corner clothing store for our Levi 505s on 34th Avenue and East 14th Street or went to Popeye’s shoe store (before they moved to Alameda) to buy Sperry Top Siders shoes.
My Too Short cassette tapes came from T Wauzi’s inside Eastmont Mall. The movie theater I most attended was the Century Theater on Hegenberger where the In & Out is now located.
I experienced East Oakland pre-crack cocaine and during the height of the epidemic. Oakland’s history is rich in social action and diversity. I saw and experienced a period of time that many Oakland natives are afraid is being lost to gentrification, gun violence and superficial mainstream reporting.
Communities are made up of outsiders and insiders and are influenced by mainstream media. I like to tell stories in a landscape format as opposed to telling stories like a portrait image, which only focuses on one individual and does not include their culture or social determinants of health. This is why I decided to blog for East Oakland Building Healthy Communities. To tell the hidden history of Oakland natives who are geographically biased. Yet concerned of the health disparities and educational inequities that are perpetuated through outsiders’ naiveté and profit-driven media.
My stories often reference my lived Oakland experience, my many years of working as a Community Health Worker for a local health department and draw upon my professional academic skills. The lenses I commonly use to illustrate my stories include resiliency factors, social justice and health promotion. All in hopes to building community among all, in a way that considers our rich and abundant experiences of Oakland.