FM Smith Park

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By Shavonnee Clark As I sat on a bench at FM Smith Park on East 20th Street and Park in east Oakland, a calming breeze filled the air. It was 5:30pm on a Tuesday summer afternoon and though the sun was out, the cooling breeze mitigated the effect of the blistering sun. People came and went leisurely through the park, picking up their children from a city-sponsored daytime summer camp as a “Free Lunch” sign hanging from the park’s gymnasium blew lazily in the afternoon breeze. There were a few children left playing basketball in the park. One young girl roamed to the right of the children, rolling a red bouncy ball alone as a camp leader leaned on a wall close by. A little farther away from the basketball courts, to the left in the grass,  a cohort of people sat, presumably a family of old and young. Some of the older folks sat on a park bench and picnic table talking and drinking beer from tall silver cans as the younger children and adults engaged in a game of catch with a football. The younger children jovially chased the speeding football across the grass as their elder playmates eagerly launched the ball towards them. Not long after, an elder gentleman strolled into the park and took a seat away from the festivities on a bench tucked away from the basketball courts and the grass. He pulled a can of beer out of his cloth tote bag and  began to sing the rhythm of a song seemingly etched into his brain as he sipped.

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On bike and on foot, people passed by on the street with work bags, backpacks, and groceries in hand. The steady hum of cars passing by permeated through theair as a man on a bike cycled through the waste bins around the park, collecting recyclable items. To the far left of the occupants at the park, sat a small uninhibited garden with two bare flower beds and a vacant play structure whose swings swung slowly to the rhythm of the afternoon breeze.

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Author Profile

Shavonnee Clark is an Oakland Native who is deeply connected to her city. She recently returned to Oakland after graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Political Science and Education Studies. She has returned to Oakland to become an advocate in her community. Shavonnee is a scholar, educator, poet, and community member with a passion for art and story-telling. She truly believes that when you control the narrative of a people, you inherently impact the outcomes and opportunities of the community. For this reason, she currently works to get low income, first generation youth of color to and through college so that they may become agents of positive change in their communities.

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