Home in the Fruitvale

A video walk through my neighborhood I frequented Oakland’s Fruitvale District before I called it home. When I walked along International Boulevard from the Fruitvale BART station, I used to sneak a curious look at the smaller neighborhood streets, the pale rows of Victorian houses, the corroded high fences. I’d look around and think, “Yeah, maybe, I could live here.”

Indeed, after college, I found home in a two-story, blue Victorian with a shingled roof in the Fruitvale. The uneven concrete on East 15th Street flows right into my house’s main entrance, passing the creaky, black gate that seems to be a standard for each detached housing unit.

I used to work for a local nonprofit very close to my house, so I walked to and from work, and because we were required to conduct outreach, I quickly got acquainted with my neighborhood.

Clusters of young trees and one large oak tree are designated to each block, it seems. Within 30 seconds of walking out of the single-family unit I rent with a couple of others, I see trash lining the sidewalks. I have participated in a few of my local council member’s trash pick -up days, but the trash always comes back with a vengeance, entangled in the bundles of weeds, as if it were all part of the natural landscape.Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.21.52 AM

After about a minute, I am at International Blvd. and 25th Street, a block that has three fast food restaurants. Talk about variety.Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.22.06 AM Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.22.16 AMSo now, customers can choose what value meal they want with their imminent heart attack.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.22.41 AMA number of food trucks park along International Boulevard, including the iconic Tacos Sinaloa, located on 22nd and International.

However, what’s a vegetarian to do when there are no take-out options and the nearest convenience stores carry more canned food items, processed foods, and alcohol than fresh foods and vegetables?Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.23.06 AM

Recently, a close friend of mine who moved a block away from me asked that very question. I replied with a cynical laugh, “You just manage. Go to Lakeshore or Alameda, and if you’re feeling adventurous, plan a trip to Berkeley Bowl and buy foods in bulk.”

On my walk, I decide to head toward the Fruitvale BART station, a place often recognized for the tension and conflict that transpired during and after Oscar Grant’s tragic and unjust death. I see mothers walking with their children in a rush to get to school. I see mangy chihuahuas that seem to understand the rules of traffic, as they cross streets when all cars have come to a complete halt.

I see people from different backgrounds blend together and zig zag their way to the BART station. The movement of the people walking with purpose, the cars racing through the street contrast with the seeming stagnation of the sex workers on street corners. I see young women leaning against buildings waiting, walking back and forth, adjusting their skirts and fixing their hair waiting; waiting in broad daylight.

I observe a few health-focused organizations, but none that would help these victims. Most of the organizations in my neighborhood work to provide direct services to close disparities in our health care system, and do not have the resources to offer the intensive care and attention these neighbors deserve.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 11.23.19 AMFinally, I reach the Fruitvale Plaza, and it reminds me of where I grew up, save for the major construction the area is undergoing. The Fruitvale is home now. There was no time for me to process my transition. I moved and fell right into place with my new job and the genuine people who embraced me along the way. My hope is that we can all see and benefit from the inevitable ripple effect of change in the city.

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Marilu Aguilar has been living in the Bay Area for nearly 10 years.

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