By Katherine Brown
Good morn or evening friends
Here’s your friendly announcer
I have some serious news to pass on to everybody
What I’m about to say
Could mean the worlds disaster
Could change your joy and laughter to tears and pain
–Love is in Need of Love Today – Stevie Wonder, 1976
Stevie could not have penned words any more true than the lyrics of this song. I’d like to believe that Stevie must have been thinking about – or at least foreseen things in – my city when he wrote this. With the senseless acts of crime and violence that occur in The Town almost everyday, the heartache and pain that lies in its wake dim the light of hope, positivity, and love of the community and the folks in it.
Even though this light is weak – it still has life. As a long time resident of this city, my belief is that this flame will never die. But in order for this light to shine strong and brilliant, it will need the love and support of its communities. Everyone that lives, works, or plays in Oakland will need to unify to keep this light alive.
But is there any love left in The Town? If we look at the homicide rate of 2012 alone, one might say that love is impossible, if not non-existent.
But I beg to differ. I see the love here. Don’t get me wrong, I am not ambivalent to pain and sorrow caused by the acts of hate that occur. However, I do see positive efforts that community members are making to counter these attacks on the heart and soul of this city.
To see if love in the Town exists, I spoke to several community members to find out what their definition of love is, and how it is exhibited in the city.
I spoke to 27 year-old Zelmi Acevedo, who has lived in East Oakland for 15 years. She and her parents immigrated from El Salvador with the hopes for a better life. Love “is a big word – but I don’t think it exists in this city anymore,” Acevedo says. “When I came here, it was different – no crime, no danger. Walking down the street was nice, but not any more. I feel scared.”
It’s that love’s in need of love today
Send yours in right away
Hate’s goin’ round
Breaking many hearts
Stop it please
Before it goes to far…
From Acevedo’s perspective, the love in Oakland is almost extinguished. But there are some who are fanning the embers to keep this love alive.
Marisa Manriquez, 28, is a self-proclaimed radical peacemaker, and has lived in Oakland for 3 ½ years. She sees love as being, “a divine principle. In a very human way, love is the way we get to catch a glimpse of the wonders of God’s creations. The human connections and relationships. It’s a deep knowing.”
Manriquez says that she sees love in the people of Oakland. “In the way people make great efforts to sustain the community. How they give so much of themselves for the youth of Oakland.”
But she does acknowledge the barriers that prevent this love from flourishing. “We have mistaken what love is. Finding love in a pure form is difficult. It requires a deep need of recognition that healing is necessary.”
Manriquez views love as a practice. “When that is recognized, the healing can begin. When you make a conscious effort to heal your life, you love yourself more, and then you love others.”
We all must take
If love and peace you treasure
Then you’ll hear me when I say…
Other definitions of love include those of 17 year-old Asha Webb, an Oakland native who believes, “love is eternal. Someone that will never leave your side – not breaking your bond.” Or that of Alex Paige, 61, a homeless man that has spent much of his life in the Oakland/Bay Area. He sees love as being, “a friend, lover. It’s steadfast. It’s protection and understanding.”
Then there is the perspective of artist and Oakland native Jim Copes, 61, who feels that “love is unconditional, (it’s) affection. It feels like warmth. Love is Oakland!”
Copes believes that The Town’s residents have the ability to foster love amongst one another, specifically because of Oakland’s diversity. “People come from all over. It’s kind of like a gold rush,” says Copes. “People are discovering Oakland. They see unlimited possibility and opportunity.”
Copes says that in Oakland, “We have the potential to build and grow. The time to do something is now. We are love and we have to express that.”
Love’s in need of love today
Send yours in right away…
East Oakland native Marco Lindsey, 34, defines love as, “the outward showing of an inward feeling of positivity. The willingness to sacrifice for others.”
The father of five admits that, as a youth, his definition of love was much different. At one point it meant to die for something – a person, neighborhood, or thing. “I abandoned that definition because it wasn’t real love. I realized that to die for something is quite easy, and to live for love is more difficult and exemplifying.”
Lindsey shows his love for The Town through his volunteerism and advocacy, which he says happens a lot more in Oakland than we think or see.
“Love is all over, but you have to have your eyes open. People come in (to Oakland) with the idea that there is hate. But people are in the community working to improve it,” Lindsey says. “There is a lot of love in East Oakland, but it is overshadowed by hate.”
What the world needs now
Is L-O-V-E love
For Lindsey, love is something that is taught, and there needs to be more opportunities for youth in particular to express love in a more positive way. However, some that exemplify love, he says, “no longer feel comfortable in the community and leave, which creates a vacuum. Once these people leave, the community is left with people that don’t know how to exemplify love, and the fire goes out.”
My hope is that for The Town – for my town – we have not gone that far.