Each of our correspondents took roughly a 3 square-block walk around their neighborhood, taking stock of the area’s services, stores, homes, schools, and especially how people in the community were living their lives. The goal is to give real, detailed texture to our understanding of the quality of life in East Oakland’s neighborhoods from the perspectives of people who live there. These pieces were done in conjunction with Oakland Tribune Violence Reporting Fellow Scott Johnson’s Oakland Effect project.
By Michael Holland
As I start this assignment I realize that I am at a disadvantage. I live on a dead end street. Starting south on 61st Avenue towards the dead end are houses – all single story with no garages. The houses all have iron gates. Although there are no garages, all of the homes have at least two cars.
The other side of the dead end wall is the AC Transit bus yard. The smell of diesel fumes is present at this end of the block. I can’t help but notice that the street is in desperate need of repair. Potholes and depressions line the entire 1100 block.
Residents can often be seen cleaning the front of their property. The city street sweeps twice a month but it is hardly enough.
Heading north three blocks leads to International blvd. Along the way are more iron-gated homes with no garages. All of the homes seem to be inhabited by Black or Hispanic families.
From my starting point at 61st and Tevis, I begin heading west. Along the way, I notice a group of Black males talking loudly. A street vendor turns the corner sees the group and crosses the street to avoid breaking their ranks. I do the same.
I come upon a group of middle aged Hispanic men talking in Spanish and laughing heartily. Another street vendor appeared out of nowhere and sold them something that resembled a corn on the cob dipped in pepper.
I come across two cigarette stores next to each other. As if people of color need more cancer. In the next block, there is another “smoke shop,” and across the street from that is a liquor store that is always booming with business. As I venture two blocks east there is a McDonalds. Across from the that is a strip mall that has two vacant businesses. Next to the empty check cashing place is La Raza Market.
There are no banks, libraries, or clinics in Lockwood. There is Rainbow Community Center.
The overall health of the area in my opinion is poor. From diesel fumes, loud music, questionable people hanging out on corners, closed businesses, and a wealth of discounted cigarettes, the hope lies only in the fact that people going to work during the week will attract services in the future. Street vendors have already starting jumping on the ready cash available to be spent. Hope also lies in the schools in the area that are not closing. My daughter will be attending Greenleaf (formerly Whittier) charter school, which has public funding. The discipline and structure that I witness in that school will be the catalyst in those kids’ futures.