Grown ups, in-betweens, elders, children and babies came out to party on a sunny Saturday afternoon in East Oakland for the first East Oakland Futures Fest.
The Juneteenth weekend block party with a Afrofuturistic theme highlighted the “Scraper Bike Way,” a center median bike lane on 90th Avenue designed in collaboration with the Original Scraper Bike Team. The event, held on June 18, also focused on imagining a thriving future for Deep East Oakland residents.
“It’s really about celebrating what we see as the vision for the future of East Oakland,” Keta Price AKA “the Hood Planner” said. The COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on plans for a Black Panther film-themed event and dampened the opening of the Scraper Bike Way. (It also took advocates a year to get Oakland Police to stop parking in the bike lane). To celebrate ongoing community engagement to increase mobility options and improve life for East Oakland, the celebration included music, vendors, healing resources, and Afrofuturistic arts activities.
“We just want to put it on Nine-O (90th Ave) to highlight the Scraper Bike Way,” Price said. The street repaving and redesign project was designed to reduce driving speeds on the street and increase safety. Price added that the Scraper Bike Way is believed to be the only center median bike lane in the U.S. and possibly the world. Considering widespread beliefs that bike lanes are associated with gentrification and displacement, this nearly mile-long bike lane is an inspiration to urban planners and transportation advocates concerned with racial equity and mobility justice.
90th Ave residents and neighbors sat on their porches, steps, front lawns, and others came out on the dance floor (the street) to enjoy the festival. The Fest blocked off traffic on the one of Oakland’s widest streets, from Holly to Birch St. Besides the Akoma Market at Eastmont Mall and the recent launch of Town Nights, Deep East Oakland has not had as many festivals or concerts since the Summer Concert Series at Arroyo Park.
With the ongoing displacement of Black residents from Oakland, exacerbated by the pandemic, the event felt like a “reunion” for some East Oakland residents.
“I wanted to see a festival that is centered on (Black people) and isn’t at the Lake.”Amber Butts, East Oakland resident
“Black folks are disappearing and being pushed out of Oakland,” Amber Butts said. “I wanted to see a festival that is centered on us and isn’t at the Lake.” She said the event highlights were the multi-generational and intergenerational dance party and people recognizing each other after not seeing each other for a while.
On the Birch Street stage, Swang Illy DJ kept a steady rotation of Oakland and Bay Area hyphy hits, from “N.E.W. Oakland,” “Sideshow” (the Mistah FAB ft. Too Short version), to the sounds of D-Lo. Attendees also danced along with the “Cha Cha Slide.”
Local entrepreneurs sold oils, fragrances, and clothing. Other vendors provided health resources.
Dyimah Rogers started her business during the pandemic. She often vends at Black Cultural Zone events and wants to be a part of developing a “Black Wall Street” for Oakland. Festivals and community events provide opportunities for Oakland-raised vendors to connect with the community and sell products without high vendor fees. “These types of events are very important to the small business owners who have very little revenue and have very few opportunities as far as investments and loans to help our businesses grow and be lucrative in Oakland,” Rogers said.
The success of the event and all the efforts to engage community members has inspired the folks behind the festival. Event organizers hope to host future free and safe events for Deep East Oakland on a monthly basis.
“This festival is to celebrate … how we envision our neighborhood,” Price said. “I envision way more festivals and all kind of stuff on 9-O that I never envisioned before.”
Visit https://www.eastoaklandfuturesfest.org for more information about the East Oakland Futures Fest.