As the sun begins to set over Downtown Oakland, San Antonio park gives light to a beautiful environment. The sky is partially cloudy with a slight breeze blowing against the leaves. It’s 6:30 p.m. on a Monday evening. As I sit on top of a hill watching the park from a distance, a mother is joyfully play-wrestling with her children. Another mother is slowing chasing after her laughing toddler and a couple of siblings are fighting and joking with each other as they walk up the hill with no parents to be found. There’s a camera crew behind me filming a video of a young black guy with red hair running down a hill. All I can hear besides the yelling of the crew is laughter and vague chatter as a group of high school-aged students with backpacks smoke weed, passing a blunt on the park bench to my left. In front of me is a large soccer field sitting in the middle of the park.
A group of younger kids hold one side to themselves, kicking a ball into the goal post. On the opposite side, a couple of men kick a ball back and forth as a seemingly homeless man walks his dog around the field collecting bottles and cans and cleaning up trash. At the corner of the field, several older men stand around playing cards and drinking beer. There’s a picnic table across the field where a group of older kids are playing around and hanging out. A man rolls a food cart up the hill where a few people are talking and riding bikes and stops to serve food beside three giant cages. In the first cage, nearest to the cart, a large group of Hispanic and Asian men play volleyball on separate teams of seven. The second cage is a soccer field to a bunch of guys and in the third cage, two men are playing catch.
As I look further in the park, there are a few little children playing on the jungle gym and hanging on the swings. A diverse crowd of of young guys play 5-on-5 basketball in the courts near the playground, switching friends in and out and taking a rest in-between games. Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. Relaxing in the calm atmosphere of San Antonio park, the sounds of sirens are overshadowed by the noise of laughter, chatter and balls bouncing from person to person. I relish the smell of fresh air before I walk across the park to play basketball.