#RIPJacka: Oakland at a Crossroads
Our Progressive Movement here in the Bay Area is made up of some of the most courageous and compassionate people I have ever met. And even yet, I believe that we are struggling to fully comprehend the depth of what’s happening right now in the Oakland Streets.
The tragic shooting of the Jacka, a Pittsburg CA resident and one of the Bay Area’s most beloved rappers, on 94th Avenue in East Oakland came as a huge shock last Monday night – a shock from which many have not yet recovered.
For some of my friends who knew him well, his passing means an agonizing loss of camaraderie and brotherhood. And for the larger community it signals something deeply devastating and profoundly disheartening – something that none of us can afford to write off as “just another incident of inner-city violence.”
For many of us from Oakland and around the Bay Area, rappers hold heroic status. They are our storytellers; our Griots, our culture keepers – the people whose music we turn to when we can’t see a way forward or when the pain is too much to bear. Jacka was this kind of rapper. Right now many of Oakland and the Bay Area’s greatest and most deeply loved rappers are either dead or in jail – caught in the cycles of poverty, gentrification, violence, and mass incarceration that continue to plague low-income communities of color.
When something like what happened last Monday night occurs, it rocks us to our core. Jacka’s passing, and the fact that he was killed right here in Oakland, is a huge blow to our collective sense of hope at a time when Oakland needs hope more than ever. It is heartbreaking and disorienting on every level imaginable.
Oakland is at a crossroads. In the past couple of years we somehow managed to make both the list of the most exciting cities to see in the world and the list of the “top 10 most dangerous cities” at the same time. While we continue to struggle with violence and poverty, we simultaneously see the emergence of new restaurants and retail catering to a more affluent clientele and the burgeoning Tech Industry positioning to move in to our town. There is talk of growth and opportunity.
The question before us is – Will this opportunity benefit the existing residents of Oakland, those of us who have been holding this city down for decades? Or, will we live in a divided Oakland where more affluent residents and people who are moving here from places like the South Bay and San Francisco get to dine at fine restaurants and enjoy the nightlife while people who live in places like Brookfield, Sobrante, Ghost Town, the Dubs, and the Lower Bottoms continue to live in neighborhoods plagued by violence and a lack of opportunity until they eventually get pushed out or decide to leave Oakland on their own?
I wrote this piece because Jacka’s life matters so deeply to so many. #BlackLivesMatter always and everywhere and especially here and now in Oakland, a city which by 1980 was almost 50% African American. Black lives, Black relationships, Black families, Black communities, served as the social, cultural, political, and moral underpinning of our city for decades – the heart and soul of Oakland. Oakland is a special place. We are known for our willingness to struggle – for our determination, our creativity, and our tenacity. But we have some important decisions to make as a city, about our future. Can we create a city that works for everyone? Or will we choose a future where certain groups benefit at the expense of others? I hope we chose the former. If there is any place where we can figure out how to create a city that benefits all of its residents, it’s right here in Oakland. The future is in our hands. #TownBizz #SilenceTheViolence #BlackLivesMatter #RIPJacka