A warm and secure feeling of community continues to thrive in the neighborhood along Adeline Street. The street that stretches from Berkeley to the Port of Oakland holds memories of the past and looks forward to the future, but it’s the memories that keep it “community strong.” What is surprising is that with the influx of new faces and anticipation of drastic cultural changes – the expected gentrification – simply didn’t happen. Instead, we’ve seen an expanded family that remains strong.
Friendship and comradeship continue to grow, but what’s most remarkable is the firm commitment to maintain community among the people who live along the strip of Adeline running just south of DeFremery Park. Changes brought an even stronger sense of family. Five years ago there were only two non-black households. Today there are many more and a diverse mixture of social, racial, sexual, and religious groups. There has been a global rebirth.
Dorothy Paynes still resides on Adeline Street and continues to keep a watchful eye; there is a sense of comfort knowing she will caution community outsiders of the need to be mindful. Current neighbors know she is dedicated to the deep sense of family that is always present.
Paynes continues to participate in local organizations, especially those that are relevant to the block and focused on keeping Adeline Street safe and strong.
“My grandson wants me to live with him,” she said recently. “My Adeline Street neighbors are my family too. I’m not ready to give up so much community. Wait till I get older.” Community Strong.
I also have a strong connection to block. I live in the same house my grandparents purchased in the 1940’s, which has provided a safe and secure home for family and friends through the years. It is difficult to imagine Adeline Street without reflecting on the history and memories of so many.
Other neighbors have moved from the block but maintain their relationship with the neighborhood and neighbors. They remain committed to the block’s first Neighborhood Watch, participate in every National Night Out event, and are always available to support and assist their Adeline Street family.
“Since leaving (in 2012) it has been a little hard for me and my family and I miss being with my Adeline Street family.,” Laverne Bell, a former resident, said. “If it weren’t for certain circumstances we might still be there. I know that no matter where we are, we are always welcome with open arms and will always be included. We still attend all the Adeline Street functions.”
Jade Williams and Anna Berg moved to Adeline Street in 2012 and are extremely involved in the neighborhood. Williams is co-chair of Oak Center’s Neighborhood Association (OCNA) and a very active member of various community organizations. Berg is the liaison for the Grocery Co-op.
“Jade and I knew we made the right decision to move here when we first pulled up and were immediately greeted and welcomed by neighbors,” Berg said. “The folks who had lived in our space before us were much beloved in the neighborhood and had not wanted to move–that they (the neighbors) would be so gracious to welcome us while missing them was a clear sign that we had moved onto a unique block. That we would also continue to see the folks who used to live in our place at community events and be greeted warmly by them only added to our surety of this.”
Michael Taffet came to Adeline Street and was eager to become part of this already stable community. He immersed himself, joining and participating in events and organizations in the neighborhood. He is presently chair of the OCNA, serves on several neighborhood boards, is a community activist and active family member of this Adeline Street Community Strong family.
“Having lived on Adeline Street these last 11 years, I must say it is the friendliest neighborhood I have ever lived in,” Taffet said. “I know many of my neighbors are watching out for me and my place. And while I now feel alienated walking around my old neighborhood where I spent 16 years (in the Mission SF), I feel totally at home here, walking around at all hours. And the mix of people right now is diverse, mostly black old timers who have spent their entire lives here and their kin and newer arrivals – artists, lesbians, people of all ethnicities, and yes some hipsters and IT professionals too. A good mix-for now.”
This block has had its challenges; a couple of vacant properties encouraged squatters; new families who don’t know about inner city living have been taken advantage of; sometimes we see unfortunate displays of human disregard and minor infringements of individual rights.
But aren’t those the makings and habits of a family? Through change, this family of neighbors continues to stick together, speaking up when wronged and supporting one another when needed. We remain together challenging the odds, enhancing the experience.
The expected gentrification did not come to this neighborhood. Instead this stretch of Adeline Street can boast of a closely- knit family of residents enhanced by diversity and different cultures, further making it Community Strong.