Last Sunday hundreds of people gathered at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California for “BBQ’n While Black”, an event co- created by Jhamel Robinson, the owner of The Real Oakland. The event was also created by Logan Cortez, an Oakland school teacher. In an interview with KQED, Robinson said, “It’s not that we’re taking our city back, but that we aren’t going anywhere. Even though we’ve been gentrified out, we’re still here.”
The event was held in response to an incident on April 29, when a white woman scolded two African-American men for grilling at the lake and subsequently called the police on them. The police arrived and spoke to the woman, who claimed it was illegal for the men to use a grill in the area. No arrests were made.
However, the video was posted on YouTube and viewed more than two million times. This video sparked a discussion about racism and gentrification in Oakland. In addition, this woman’s image has been made a meme and she was parodied last weekend on Saturday Night Live.
I pulled up to Lake Merritt on May 20th at about 3PM. I was so happy to see how many people came out to support the cause! There were food trucks, vendors and Bay Area natives spread all across the lake enjoying themselves and illustrating black excellence. In addition to businesses such as Cana selling their food, there were also black chefs with their personal grills who were willing to share ribs and other delicious foods. About 30 street vendors were stationed around the lake selling items such as jewelry, clothing, accessories and artwork, a lot of which exemplified black pride and the Bay Area. I can’t forget to mention the live entertainment that was present in the form of six DJ’s who played hip hop, R&B and soul music. As I walked along the lake, in one spot I saw people doing the thizzle dance and in one spot I saw people hitting the electric slide… it was beautiful.
A lot of bay area favs came to show their support. Legendary rappers Mistah Fab, Young Gully and Erk Tha Jerk were all at the lake, interacting with fans and enjoying themselves. KMEL morning show on air host G Biz went around interviewing folks asking them for their message to the woman we are referring to as #BBQBecky. Other noteable figures include the talented DJ Shell Heart, Sana G from the KMEL morning show and Shayla Jamerson, the founder of SoOakland.
Ultimately, this was a successful event. Hundreds of people came out last Sunday and all summer the African American community plans to meet at Lake Merritt to make our presence known and congregate in solidarity against racists like BBQ Becky who clearly have an issue with black people enjoying ourselves and having a good time. All she had to do was mind her own business, but in my opinion everything happens for a reason. The Bay Area has a pretty strong African American community, but because of BS like this, we are now closer than ever and excited to unite. Thank you BBQ Becky! For being a hater and giving us an opportunity to show how unified and strong we are. Also, shout out to media outlets all over the country who have covered this story. Without the media, our voices will not be heard.
Michaela P. Shelton, Managing Editor of CSUITEMUSIC and Imani Baylor, the owner of Eccentric Vibes
Michaela P. Shelton is Managing Editor of CSUITEMUSIC.com
Read more from Michaela at Darealmichaela1.com