The Last First Friday? Reflections on Oakland’s Battle with Violence

By Coolhand Luke  |  February 2nd, 2013  |  Published in 38th Notables, Featured, , , , ,  |  70 Comments

Photo courtesy of Oakland Local

Photo courtesy of Oakland Local

First Friday was a cult movement for many years. An underground following of folks would gather in uptown Oakland to enjoy a burgeoning gallery scene in a few block radius centered at 23rd st and Telegraph. That small hipster art movement has since ballooned into a sea of 20,000 people strolling from 27th & Telly all the way down to 14th & Broadway and beyond. It’s been a bit overwhelming, but at least the growing population has started to look a lot more like Oakland. All the sudden you saw everyone who called this city home represented and it felt cool. The Art Murmur grew to absorb old school car culture, food trucks, street performing, and music. In short it became a real life multi-medium talent show in a city in need of something tight. But with a free unregulated night life, it was only a matter of time before the honeymoon was over.

Art MurderThe past few months, the event has gotten too big for it’s britches, and tonight it burst at the seams. At 10:51pm at least three people were shot, one of them fatally, at 20th St and Telegraph. Then two more young men were wounded in a drive-by shooting shortly before 1am at 14th St and Webster. And lets not forget that there were was gun fire during January’s First Friday as well. If you’ve been in recent months, you’ve seen the difference, and many of us from The Town knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Oakland composer, pianist, and emcee Kev Choice weighed in via facebook saying, “After going last month, I saw a shift in the dynamic in the streets. Didn’t seem safe or positive after a certain hour.”

When more young folks first started showing up at First Friday a few months back, I thought it was good because it introduced them to a whole new social scene in Oakland that was free, positive, and all ages. It also forced many white and/or middle class Oaklanders who don’t venture east of the lake to actually reconcile with the diverse totality of Oakland. In other words, if you thought you could cultivate a homogenized Oakland existence that felt edgy without ever feeling a little uncomfortable, think again.

It’s safe to say that while many Murmur attendees have enjoyed the influx of young people and people of color in recent months, others felt like their alternate Oakland universe was being encroached upon. It should be noted that Oakland’s trendy rebirth is very much propagated on the rebellious image of gritty Oakland, so the fact that those same people are invested in keeping that grittiness out is both fucked up and unrealistic. And so it was that Oakland’s signature brand of senseless violence reared it’s ugly head in “New Oakland’s” front yard tonight.

I’m not writing this to place blame. I’m writing this to say that we have a violence problem in this city. It’s devastating that another young person was killed tonight, but it’s also troubling that before the weekend is over another young person will probably meet the same fate, albeit with much less fanfare. If you want to live in this city, then you have to help us deal with this dilemma. You can’t ignore this away. You can’t gentrify it away. We have a crisis on our hands. “Wake up Oakland, we have an epidemic going on,” Kev Choice said. “It cant be covered up by new fancy restaurants, trendy new bars, or sports stories. Sadly, this happens damn near everyday in East, West, or North Oakland. We have to face the harsh reality, and not continue to ignore the issue. It’s an EPIDEMIC.”

And that epidemic is rooted in some really deep shit. In America we have a gun culture, so all too many people solve problems with guns. You place that tendency in an urban city amidst disenfranchised populations who live in poverty and constant trauma, and you will have even more violence. It’s not rocket science to diagnose, but it’s very hard to find a solution. One thing that’s clear however is that we need to address this together. If you are quick to point the finger at ratchets, hipsters, thugs, or police, take a step back and craft a more nuanced analysis.  We need to address this together.

We can’t undo generations of oppression in one month, but we can start by taking a united stand making it clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. If First Friday somehow endures, we need to show up in mass and regulate ourselves. You see someone harassing women, let them know to be cool. You see kids trying to cause problems, interrupt that shit by have a positive and humanizing interaction with them. No it’s not easy to inject yourselves into testy situations, but if you’re serious about saving something good in Oakland, then you have to put yourself out there. As someone who works in Oakland public high schools, there are many times when I don’t want to put myself in harms way, but doing something to deescalate early on is always more safe than trying to contain something after it’s blown up. This approach mandates that a diverse group of folks really from the community show up and model positive behavior though (I do have to admit however, that the thought of a bunch of well-intentioned squares leading conflict mediations with a bunch of goons is pretty comical).

Will folks soldier up and take this on? I certainly hope so (Anyone down to print up neon t-shirts that read “Respect My City”?). But if we can manage this, we can’t stop at the uptown. If we do, the only message we’ll be sending is that it’s okay to disrespect each other and kill each other as long as it doesn’t happen where there are white people and development dollars. If we want to handle violence we need to be clear that we won’t stand for it anywhere. This takes community members taking on personal risk for a greater good. Am I being unrealistic? Perhaps, but it’s 4am and I’m devastated for my city yet again. If you’re new here, please help us out, but if you’re an Oakland native who has felt the wrath of violence far too many times for way too many years, help lead the way.

58252_10151232217421286_593970965_nIn parting, I want to shout out my friend Jesus El who was grazed by a bullet tonight in a seperate incident at First Friday. There was a drive-by shooting at 14th and Webster in which a gunman opened fire hitting Jesus, as he stepped outside Disco Volante, and a 19 year old Laney student as he ran away from the shooting. I don’t know the other young man’s identity, but, you may know Jesus as the director of Oakland’s High Altitude, a non-profit that teaches leadership and life skills to African American youth thru gymnastics and acro-dunking. And you’ve most definitely seen him leading the Show Time Dunk Team as they do amazing acrobatic dunks during Golden State Warriors games (Watch his Ebony Magazine video feature). I mention these details, because when people are shot in Oakland, I think a lot of us assume they were aimless thugs, rather than vital members of our patchwork community. You never know who will be caught in the cross-fire. Stay strong Jesus!

I’ll leave you with an apropos poem I wrote a year ago. It’s called Cacophony Shop Blues.



I often wonder how this city can house so much beauty and bitter pain

Often wonder how this city can be both purgatory and Promised Land

Hell for the right price

Paradise for the high bid


The New York Times paints us hipster chic

The Oakland Trib is a police blotter in ink

Park Slope or West Bank? Baghdad or Berkeley?

A cacophony of extremes that leaves us misrepresented at the least

Both our assent and demise relegated to a paragraph at most


It’s something

But blurbs won’t do this town justice



I watch my students brave the harshest weather in summer

When it gets hot, pistols often follow suit

Hydrants and bodies burst open in the streets of East Oakland

I feel the burden of this beast in my gut


Oh the things we learn to stomach…

Gentrification serves up overpriced small plates

As the old block serves up under valued small children

Babies are bloodied in a crossfire seldom contextualized


Young men battle for pride in a city that is closing them in and moving them out.

Murders earn headlines with no body

But economic genocide isn’t even in our vocabulary

Money pushes people out

Whether you use uptown lofts for lease or used glocks in the east

They both serve the same God complex


We all want control


Hipster mothers fight for middle class as

Activists fight for plazas as

Marginalized young men fight for corners…


We all just want a piece of this half-baked American pie


Some how we’re convinced we all want something different

We’ll get after ends by any means

We get it how we live… sitting in or shooting out

This cacophony of opinions as loud as barrages of bullets

And the cries of wounded children



Gabriel Martinez was 5

Carlos Nava was 3

Hiram Lawrence was 1

When they met the fate of guns


Murder doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it happens in a city

A land of oaks and folks I love

A beautiful city with demons and, most recently, dead babies


Don’t trick yourself into thinking you’re a world apart

Don’t let this January sun numb what December wrought

And don’t let your privilege or apathy write you an alibi


Paulo Freire said, “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. ”

 And it was Audre Lorde who said, “Your silence will not protect you.”


Don’t save your testimony for cocktail parties or funerals

And don’t save your care for those most like you

We’re on this ship together whether you like it or not


Bob Marley said, “When that rain falls, it don’t fall on one man’s house.”


Or apartment

Or tent

Or child


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  1. John says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 4:53 pm(#)

    Damn have some built up racial issues there? You have good points but lets be real, you sound incredibly naive in your article

  2. Tara Evonne Trudell says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 5:58 pm(#)

    Thank you. Deeply for this reading.

  3. Monica says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 6:08 pm(#)

    Thank you. You said what a lot of us, your neighbors, feel.

  4. jjbbllkk says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 6:15 pm(#)

    Great article. I usually go to FF, didn’t last night because of some commitments in the city. Really sad to hear there was violence. I always thought that FF pulled off something magical, like, something even SF can’t pull off that regularly. I really hope it doesn’t get completely shut down, and that this shitty act by a few people brings violence up in a way we can constructively discuss it.

  5. Celeste Salvatto says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 6:19 pm(#)

    My heart feels sad…
    How do we fix this?

  6. Contessa says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 6:34 pm(#)

    Its its its its its! Its = possessive.

    It is = it’s = contraction. If you work in public schools and publishing there is no excuse not to know this.

  7. sabz says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 7:36 pm(#)

    Thank you for sharing your account – and poetry – on what’s happening in Oakland. I haven’t read anything related to gentrification in Oakland, so this was certainly an eye opener.
    Though I think there is a more ideal resolve to the issue, in which eeeverything turns out fine and everyone lives in peace, I did see a documentary called “The Interrupters” in which a handful of people in Chicago took the initiative to train to intervene in situations before they escalated. The initiators of this movement managed to help individuals going through a very rough patch in their lives – possibly their whole lives – as well as settle fights between neighborhoods.
    Again, what you wrote about in Oakland goes deeper, and the volunteers in Chicago chose to respond at a time when nothing else could help the violence in Chicago. I hope it hasn’t come to that in Oakland…in any case, thank you!

  8. dbharshaw says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 8:00 pm(#)

    Let’s get those t-shirts printed – do billboards or whatever – change the attitudes and mindsets, not only to respect our City, but respect Ourselves and Each Other.

  9. Tracy Arrowsmith says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 8:14 pm(#)

    As a Bay Area native and Oakland resident I would love to join a “Respect MY City” movement. I have been the one to step in when youth were not respecting themselves or Oakland and I will again. I am heartbroken for the place I call home. I will defend you, Oakland. I love you with all of my heart – all of you.

  10. Dr. Ed says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 8:51 pm(#)

    It’s easy to blame the problem on guns, but it’s not white folks killing each other. Go ahead & mention Sandy Hook if you want, but the facts indicate that blacks are responsible for most of the homocide in the U.S.

  11. Dr. Ed says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 8:52 pm(#)

    I’ll be shocked if my comment passes moderation

  12. LaShanda says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:11 pm(#)

    I appreciate the thoughtful words about the future of First Friday’s and the epidemic of violence in the city of Oakland despite all of it’s beauty and diversity.

    I’d love for everyone reading this article to be involved in a event focused on dialog and coming up with solutions and an action plan. With lots of bright minds and positive energy, we can move Oakland. More info. below…

    Peace In Oakland…A Solution’s Salon

  13. cesar a. cruz says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:25 pm(#)

    Violence is a barometer measuring equity in all its forms,measuring hope or lack thereof, a reaction to/creation of colonialism,a tool of self defense for people who feel like they have no other options.The blame game can be played, but we must all have access to basic needs; food, shelter, safety, freedom, knowledge of self and then be in a world that allows us to actualize ourselves otherwise violence will persist.

  14. Andie says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:26 pm(#)

    “Will folks soldier up and take this on?” I hope so too…as an ex-Oakland resident now living in Vallejo where similar struggles for survival or “crumbs” reside who too loves the art murmur….I much appreciate the soulful advice and real depiction of the situation in this piece.
    ‘make it clear that this type of behavior will not be tolerated’..’stand up at the forefront to deescalate the behavior early on’
    Easier said than done for many, but how do we contain the angst and anger among the youth that are involved in/instigate/comply with this behavior? How do we empower those around us who need to intervene? Where are the role models? I too pray for Jesus’ quick recovery in that his involvement in the Show Time Dunk Team and others who participate in projects like that, empowering youth and giving them something to be proud of, is a big piece of the solution, I believe. This TED talk too can be a part of the underlying solution:

    Confidence, respect, passion, direction.

    ” If you want to live in this city, then you have to help us deal with this dilemma. You can’t ignore this away. You can’t gentrify it away”….I have seen this too with many friends enjoying the luxuries of lakeside life and “overpriced small plates” while others live in west Oakland amidst industry and particulate matter and pimps and poverty.

    …let us all lead by example, model the behaviors we want seen in this world, exude peace and positivity and acceptance and non-judgement and participate in projects that empower and uplift our youth, our future.

  15. tc says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:28 pm(#)

    What a load of Bay Area PC shit. I didn’t move here for the grittiness – I moved here because I can afford Oakland and think there are elements within it that have potential to actually make this a nice city. It may be unrealistic to expect to keep war-torn Oakland out but it is not fucked up to want to – I have no interest in having the chaos east of the lake spill over into my neighborhood. “We can’t undo generations of oppression in one month” – are you kidding me? Only someone in the Bay Area – and white -could be so extraordinarily apologist about what is happening in this city.

  16. Terry Christian says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:42 pm(#)

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I must say, though, that I dont feel like I have to be ready to personally intervene in conflicts I see on the streets to have some moral right to live here. I get to walk around without being shot. If that makes me some entitled elitist, that says more about Oakland’s low expectations than anything else. This idea that people trying to make something happen here–or just everyday Oaklanders trying to enjoy themselves outside of their home–have to constantly be ready to “do something about the violence in Oakland” is not reasonable or fair. Ive been here plenty of years and Im sick of having my Oaklandness questioned because I havent shot anybody, or even known anyone who has been shot. When are the thugs going to start reaching out to my community; when are they going to come to terms with the “real” Oakland? oakland is not exclusively or even predominately some violent ghetto. Sorry (actually, not), but it’s true. This “two Oaklands” bullshit must end; like half of us are screwed up violent thugs and the other half of us are rich yuppies. Gimme a break

  17. Leilani Carbonell Pedroni says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:45 pm(#)

    Well said, Luke, well said. Thank you for writing this moving reflection and call for action.

    I went to First Friday back in October with my 3 kids – a three-year old and twin two-year olds. We arrived early so we could leave before dark. The four of us had a great time. Our first stop was a vintage clothing booth owned by my next door neighbor. She’s a Bay Area transplant, like me, and for a living sells her found treasures on First Fridays, as well as farmer’s markets and flea markets around the Bay. I even ran into my 4-foot-nothing mother-in-law who just happened to discover Art Murmur while shopping at the Koreana Plaza on Telegraph. “Is this a special festival?” she asked me. A resident of East Oakland for over 40 years, she had not heard of First Fridays, but was happy to stumble on it.

    My 3 year-old appreciated the old school cars and was fascinated with one particular vehicle as its owner showed off the hydraulics. My twins loved running through the sea of bubbles, popping these clear balls at the touch that were taller and wider than the two next to each other. I enjoyed the selection of food trucks expressing the diversity in tastes from this city…including the FIlipino truck that served one of my fav dishes, fried head-on shrimp with garlic fried rice.

    Oakland has given me so many positive experiences and memories. However, I am saddened by the violence in this city. It makes me sick to hear about fatalities caused by senseless acts and innocent bystanders becoming victims. I still have love for Oakland, but it gets harder to explain why.

  18. Terry Christian says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 9:45 pm(#)

    Thank you for this thoughtful piece. I must say, though, that I dont feel like I have to be ready to personally intervene in conflicts I see on the streets to have some moral right to live here. I get to walk around without being shot. If that makes me some entitled elitist, that says more about Oakland’s low expectations than anything else. This idea that people trying to make something happen here–or just everyday Oaklanders trying to enjoy themselves outside of their home–have to constantly be ready to “do something about the violence in Oakland” is not reasonable or fair. Ive been here plenty of years and Im sick of having my Oaklandness questioned because I havent shot anybody, or even known anyone who has been shot. When are the thugs going to start reaching out to my community; when are they going to come to terms with the “real” Oakland? oakland is not exclusively or even predominately some violent ghetto. Sorry (actually, not), but it’s true. This “two Oaklands” bullshit must end; like half of us are screwed up violent thugs and the other half of us are rich yuppies. Gimme a break

    Yes, Im white, own a house in Rockridge and have a kid in my local public school. Lived here 15 years. Pay taxes, shop local, have been involved in civic affairs. Oakland enough?

  19. Strey says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 10:15 pm(#)

    It’s a stereotype perpetrated by the media and “hip hop” culture that’sdoing damage to the black community. Just look at the lovely black role model you have posted on the front of this very web page. Now that guy looks hard!

    unfortunately one group had the gun so they win. They can go home and flex in the mirror and feel good about how hard they were.

    That’s all that’s going on here nothing more nothing less.
    Don’t try to complicate things.

  20. Strey says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 10:26 pm(#)

    It’s a stereotype perpetrated by the media and “hip hop” culture that’s doing damage to the black community. Just look at the lovely black role model you have posted on the front of this very web page. Now that guy looks hard!

    You wonder why black kids walk around imitating thugs and gang bangers

    Only way to win that game is to come with a gun and shoot the other guy. Then you can then go home and flex in the mirror and feel good about how hard you were compared to the other guy laying dead on the street.

    You want to know why there is so much violence?
    Look no further than the front page of your website.
    Dont try to complicate things.

  21. j says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 10:32 pm(#)

    @Dr. Ed, do you realize this is mostly due to oppression from white folks?

  22. j says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 10:35 pm(#)

    And also, 70 percent of homicides are committed by men, so if you’re going to make an offensive (and ridiculous) comment, you would probably want to make a sexist comment over a racist one.

    But anyway, thanks for the article. Great read and if someone makes those t shirts I want one!

  23. Joe Finton says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 10:41 pm(#)

    Violence and gang conflicts needs to be interrupted. UCBerkeley is holding a free screening of “The Interrupters” on wednesday February 6th @ 7p.m. in Moffitt 102 on campus. Very pertinent to this article. Come check it out and like React To Film UCBerkeley on facebook

  24. Dr Jason says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 10:58 pm(#)

    You should get out an see the world Dr. Ed. White folks are killing people all over this planet.

  25. Chanel says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:06 pm(#)

    You all can protest all you want. It means nothing. As a black youth living in Oakland, I am not happy to see the diversification efforts because inevitably it means culture-less, foundation-less people (usually white or people of color driven to assimilate to eurocentric values) will invade the territory, gentrify, and claim it as “theirs.” Take this article for example, it is written with such a hateful undertone. Almost immediately the author blames young black people for ruining the Art Murmur and concludes with the genius idea to start a movement where we all “Respect your City.” Get out of here. This sounds as cruel and as deceitful as the Occupy Oakland movements. This may sound racist but it isn’t it’s realism. What you all don’t understand is your protests will not change the daily experience of a young black individual, it will cause a police state for us while making things “safer” for you and your families. This is not solving the problem this is smearing a deep seated issue. The reason these kids react when they are allowed is because they don’t HAVE the resources other children do. This effects everything! The youth (all youth) need programs, resources and outlets. Instead of opening anoter set of white/foreigner owen boutiques, gourmet pizza spots and other hipster venues let’s get resources in place and motivate these “unsavory” youth. The white people may not be killing each other but they certainly aren’t doing anything other than bleaching an otherwise amazing city. Pretty soon, all of Oakland will look like College Ave., Montclair, Rockridge, etc. If this happens, the actual community vibe and richness of culture synonymous to Oakland will be screwed.

  26. Libby Schaaf says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:07 pm(#)

    This Oakland native is in. Thanks for your powerful words.

  27. Katie J says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:08 pm(#)

    Dr. Ed,
    It sounds like you are putting the blame solely on people who are black. What do you think about the quote by Paulo Freire?

    “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

    It sounds that you have washed your hands of the conflict because “blacks” are responsible for most homicides. Why is that? Possibly because of the ever present racism, economic and social disparities that run deep in this country. We all are a part of this and unless we understand that, than nothing is going to change.

  28. Debra says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:26 pm(#)

    This is powerful and evocative. I’d like to read the poem to my congregation tomorrow. Is that OK with you?

  29. zuchinno says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:33 pm(#)

    Thanks Luke. This is a solid piece about what’s going on here, and I wanna add some of my insight because I think since everyone found out that there’d be Bratten (Stop and Frisk) consulting instead of federal receivership, Oaklanders have been trying to explain to the city management the ways in which we’ve seen positive changes made, albeit small ones.
    I think people need occupations: jobs, school, healthy food, medical care, safe diversions like free entertainment and childcare to unwind safely.
    Oakland needs a closed circular economic system where we create, consume, and benefit by doing for each other. We need to get the monkey of an oppressive housing, policing, and governmental system off our backs so that we can actually make these changes.
    I don’t know where to start, but I don’t think it’s impossible. 1 or 2 solid industries in Oakland that can support workers of varying levels of experience and education could improve ppl’s confidence in moving forward with their lives and not feeling stuck and desperate. Maybe union jobs like at the port, maybe it’s just cleaning up the city or applying for grants to start businesses here that’ll have to employ locals.
    I think that when people are less desperate, reconciliation might be easier, but I think that conflict, at this generation, is kinda fucked up, but maybe not the next generation if we work really hard to provide solid, lifesaving alternatives for them.

  30. Blasphemer says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:34 pm(#)

    Say what you will about gentrification, but it did wonders for SOMA and Potrero Hill. I’ll take fancy restaurants, jobs and tax revenue and over gunshots any day of the week. And if you disagree, you’re either lying or you’re part of the problem.

  31. Oakland Born and Raised says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:36 pm(#)

    I feel that this article makes very good points. For the person that’s correcting him, quit trying to take away from the message of the article through pointless nitpicking. That’s very immature. You could simply give the author corrections without having to completely chastise and belittle him. Gentrification might not be the biggest deal to a white reader, but to a black reader, it really hits home because most blacks can barely afford to live in North and West Oakland, historically crime-ridden parts of Oakland.

    Pushing Black residents out through raising housing prices and gang injunctions only pushes them to East Oakland, only making the crime rate rise there, or even worse, federal or state prisons, which helps nobody.

    I feel like people in Oakland truly think that adding a bars, restaurants, and areas of commerce makes them think that they’ve truly solved Oakland’s crime problem, something that’s been rampant since the era of Crack Cocaine. NEWSFLASH, it’s not. Oakland’s crime problem has only been swept under a rug and kept out of sight and out of the average citizen’s mind. That’s a lesson we all learned this Friday.

    Also, Dr. Ed you sound ignorant, grouping all black people together when it’s the actions of individuals, not an entire race. And even if blacks cause most murders, you’re not even a target. 93% of murders perpetrated by blacks have black targets. You can only scapegoat Blacks for so much when most of the problems caused by them stay within their community.

    Also, don’t give me “Why can’t black people just get jobs” line. Black umemployment rates are at an all-time high, which is a very sad reality.

  32. Dr. Ed's Mom says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:41 pm(#)

    Dear Dr. Ed:

    It’s White America that turns its back on the staggering amount of homicides that occur in black and latino communities every day in cities like: Oakland, Philly, L.A., Baltimore, D.C., Chicago…

    White America wants to solve the violence problem, which stems from a lack of opportunity and generational poverty created by white america, not by rebuilding communities and investing in them, but through incarceration.

    It’s easy to blame the problem on thugs and then shrug your shoulders, but the facts indicate that the problem is much deeper than that, and your simplistic viewpoint is bullshit.

    Please don’t disregard this thoughtfully written blog entry because you haven’t grappled with the complexity of the situation before. Please watch the documentary “The Interrupters” that Sabz recommended. Please stop being another ignorant crusader.

    Your Mom

  33. Melissa says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:42 pm(#)

    Thank you so much for your words. It is obvious to me that you care about Oakland- to be up at 4 am reflecting upon the night/bigger issues deeply….

    I am discouraged reading the blog response feed— one reader, John, calling you naive jabs insult without explanation or alternative argument. That’s lame. Another, responds by giving a spelling/grammar lesson? Seriously?!! Was Contessa so distracted by the grammar that she couldn’t read/hear/feel your message? That’s lame, too.

    I hear you that no one-time-a-month-party is going to hide the everyday violence, oppression and disparity that exists on a day-to-day basis for the people that live in much of Oakland. Let’s work together to heal the harsh realities of our streets (and, not just to keep the Murmur alive).

  34. Kim S says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:44 pm(#)

    Reply to Dr. Ed:

    One, you are factually incorrect. Now if you want to say that black people are arrested and JAILED at a hire rate for homicide than whites, than that’s different. But, whites actually have a higher homicide arrest rate. Whether or not different ethnicities are jailed differently is another topic.

    What is your point? Should we get rid of blacks people?

  35. yvonne says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:50 pm(#)

    please work on the formatting…the green bars on the page makes it hard to see all the text.

  36. Gabe says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:54 pm(#)

    Ed,I just took a look at 2009 national homicide data (The latest available). Murder offenders by race are 37% for Blacks and 34% for Whites. To be sure, 37% is a disproportionate share for Blacks but it is also not “most of the homicides in the U.S.”

    Contessa, I can never completely wrap my head around WHY there are always some people out there who attack mistakes in punctuation, spelling, grammar and syntax rather than offering anything more substantive in their critiques. I mean, it’s not like using it’s rather than its rendered everything else written by the author at 4am meaningless. If there’s something that bothers you about his politics then just say it and offer a rebuttal, but attacking grammar is petty.

  37. headNshoulders says:

    February 2nd, 2013at 11:55 pm(#)

    Dr Ed maybe you should blame your ansectors for slavey and bring us here as well.

  38. elizabeth L. says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 12:08 am(#)

    Dr. Ed, and I use the title of Dr.loosely, your comment is offensive. Why fuel separation, this is all of our problem in the city of Oakland.

  39. dran says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 12:43 am(#)

    It’s a bummer that many responses to your heartfelt post are racist and/or focusing on unimportant punctuation errors. I missed first friday last night cause I was checking out off the grid at the oak museum, and I’m very saddened to hear about what happened. My first first friday was several years ago, and when I went in january after a long break, I was annoyed at the crowds, but psyched to see such a diverse mix of oaklanders in attendance- it made it feel like our city was taking a step in the right direction- becoming a cultural destination while remaining diverse, without pushing people out (which is, no doubt, happening in parts of oakland). Our city is a violent one. It’s history is poor and violent. Poverty breeds more violence. I know this is a long-term solution, but if we could focus on nurturing and educating children, and providing at-risk kids who don’t have much/any support with love and compassion and a path to a life with a career and choices, we could help stem the murder rate. Also, programs like the one mentioned above, in the film The Interrupters- Oakland, with her paltry police force and horrible murder rate, could totally use some interruptors! Good luck, and thank you for your post. My heart goes out to everyone who had to experience the shootings friday.

  40. Marcus says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 1:02 am(#)

    1.) it can not be all ages. “16 year olds out selling their bodies”
    2.) don’t play that murderous rap music. These kids are already drunk n high.
    3.) have a ton of street beat cops as well as security. That’s expensive
    4.) stop the whole event as its a matter of one or two more months before a major shoot out happens and it turns into a riot.

    A nice looking couple walking down the street together. A group of guys approaching grabs the girls but and boobs. The boyfriend said get your hands off my lady. So they beat him down.
    That could have been a third shooting right there.

    Oakland, just stop the first Fridays. Please.

  41. Alex says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 1:06 am(#)

    I did just what you suggest. I saw someone getting their phone stolen. They asked me for help. I stepped in to help. I was promptly punched unconscious by her assailant at 13th and Broadway, while 100 people watched. No one even helped me to my feet. Fuck you all, I’m not helping anymore.

  42. Rachel Newell says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 1:30 am(#)

    Heartfelt article, thank you for putting it out there. I agree that we all have to do our part to take action wherever we see the opportunity, no matter how small it might seem. Apathy is one of the biggest barriers to HUGE problems. My child was there last night, and thankfully wasn’t around for the shooting. We’re all part of the community and it’s going to take a unified commitment to help turn around gun violence. I’m committed to being part of the solution…hoping we can find a way.

  43. Angel says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 1:45 am(#)

    I really feel that the issue are those in power. I live in S.F. and at times I want to visit my Fiancé and his family but I feel on edge because of the unnecessary violence. I would help get Oakland a mayor that isn’t afraid of issues or hides when their community needs answers. I believe the city needs better available resources and buisnesses shouldn’t be afraid to make profits in Oakland. If people in low income areas are given a chance to breathe, they can feel more optimistic about their city and might decrease violence. I feel that the people of Oakland feels frustrated like the world has turn their back on them. They deserve better and I hope people from other cities can understand that. Too many lives lost from punks that only see darkness not light because they haven”t had resources to see what they can become. The situation is more than gun control.

  44. Angel says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 1:46 am(#)


  45. James says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 5:23 am(#)

    The best message here is about doing your part to help. In the end, we all have a small part to play in the community. The government won’t change Oakland, the police won’t change it, the politicians won’t change it, so don’t look for them for help. Look to your friends, look to your family, and those people close around you to create change. Do your best to help. If that is stopping an altercation, opening a business, planting a tree, volunteering, or shopping locally. So first Fridays help the community grow. Because it keeps young people interested and proud of their city. Oakland is waaaay better than it was 10 years ago.

    Keep writing. But run your posts through spell check if you want to be a writer, it is important to be grammatically correct if you write for a living

  46. Mark says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 5:24 am(#)

    Sorry…misread Marcus’

  47. Darker than Blues says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 6:00 am(#)

    It’s interesting that Art Murmur has been around for a while, and then within about a year, the city (mobb) gets involved, wanting to get their guards hired (OPD) and the planning dept. wanting permits and so on!! The artist refuse to pay off the crime boss, now out of the blue there’s shooting at Art Murmur?

    Crime benefits the City and County, now there’s reason for them to be involved. The other thing is why, Art Murmur hasn’t expanded into other parts of the city? Maybe if they were open to supporting different parts of the city the economic benefits could be shared in some of the poorer parts of the city.

    Those looking for trouble might want to stay in their part of the woods, I mean city or maybe it will work out where that part of Art Murmur fits its demographics? It’s a sad thing that this has happened but a reflection on the Art Murmur. They were asked to help expand Art Murmur to another part of Oakland so that its not all concentrated in one area!

    Someone at Art Murmur said, “we can’t help you, sorry” we are not interested! Wow! maybe now they might get involved? Young people need a place of their own, give them one and then put the police to work!!

  48. JJ says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 6:28 am(#)

    I’m white. I wear skinny jeans. I get paid way more than I deserve, and this place is paradise for those of us who can afford to sit back and enjoy it. It’s intoxicating being so privileged, and sometimes you need a good slap in the face to wake up to what’s really going down. Your writing moved me. Frankly, I think the voice you’re sharing here is an incredibly important one for this community to hear — loud and clear. I’ll certainly do my small part to ensure that my little corner of the community hears it. Thank you.

  49. UptownGurl says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 6:34 am(#)

    Associating whiteness and gentrification is an unfair and unrealistic reading of the situation in Oakland. Yet it’s that inference that seems to inform your venomous rhetoric, making it sound like you believe these shootings — or any violence in the burgeoning uptown district — is some form of retribution for parts of Oakland trying to be anything but mired in crime, violence, civic unrest or racial homogeneity. If you truly believe that we, collectively, as a community, need to defend our city from these inexcusable acts, then please stop making it sound like the parts of town with a few more white folks are just getting what’s coming to them. If anything, the way you frame this issue is just the kind of incendiary nonsense that promotes this violence to begin with. If you want to start a real, cohesive community campaign (Respect OUR City, maybe?) then don’t turn this into an us against them diatribe… that line is getting so tired and it’s certainly not going to get this city out of the doldrums.

  50. DLK says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 7:31 am(#)

    This saddens me deeply. I’ve been going to the art murmur since its inception. While others complained about it growing bigger I loved it even more. Seeing such a cross section of Oakland residents all together experiencing art from nearly every media and style was heartwarming. I loved when it moved out of the galleries and onto the streets giving an almost completely free form structure. It seemed at points that anyone who wanted to could express themselves any way they wanted. I for one loved seeing a different band every block and seeing people dance in the streets.

    What was even more amazing was that this glorious chaos seemed to grow monthly without any major incident…. until now (and from what I hear last month too).

    I guess I’d just like to remind people that such an event existed in our city for so much longer than anyone (Oaklander or not) expected. It turns out that most people in Oakland want such a thing to exist.

    It is to my mind just such events that get all of Oakland together that might help build a more unified city. It’s too bad this one will probably end or morph into something more structured and therefore less open. As I said before this saddens me deeply.

  51. Bianca says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 8:37 pm(#)

    Thank you for writing this. It makes me want to get involved in our community on a deeper level. I just moved here a few years ago and I’ve fallen in love with this city, despite it’s issues. I want to invest in its future. Where can I start volunteering my time? Does anyone know of any community organizations that need help?

  52. sb says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 9:24 pm(#)

    When two young men went violent on an elderly man a couple of years ago ( the elderly man died ), the answer to their act was that they were bored. A young man with a sick car was gunned down from a drive by because they guys in the other car assumed he was a gang member ( he was a marine and the guys who shot him were gang members). If individuals could SOMEHOW get it through their heads that boredom and assumptions don’t need to be fatal ( I.e. dying or being incarcerated), I would hope that would be a good start. Oh, and the
    ” I kill you cause you killed mine” mentality…. ya, good luck breaking that chain.

  53. Timbuktu says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 9:38 pm(#)

  54. really... says:

    February 3rd, 2013at 9:47 pm(#)

    Kim S….You are so full of shit. The majority of gun and gang violence IS committed by African Americans and Hispanics…sorry hun but you need to get your facts straight. What world are you living in and WHY THE HELL is it the responsibility of white people to save the African American community from its own fucked up self destruction?! Im sorry,you can play the blame game allll day long to make yourself feel better but the fact is that the African American community in Oakland is so set on self destruction and blaming EVERYONE else for its problems that its never going to change unless people wake up and take action. Why the fuck should i feel guilty because a bunch of black men want to walk around shooting each other?! blaming white people says a hell of a lot more about you than it does about white people. You say dont group african americans together as being murderous thugs, but you all feel perfectly comfortable grouping white people together as being snobby, ignorant, close minded and rich, oh and their families MUST have owned slaves. well guess what, my family didnt come over here until 50 years after slavery had been abolished so are you going to generalize me too? Probably. you cant take responsibility for your own problems so you play the race card…way to be progressive and helpful to your community. Oakland is an amazing place but until people just fucking DO something about it rather than blaming white people NOTHING is going to change. Oh and im so so sooooo sorry that nice restaurants and local shops and such are starting to grace the crack laden streets of oakland…how terrible that we cant all live in our own filth anymore.

  55. Nikki D says:

    February 4th, 2013at 12:54 am(#)

    This is truly sad. It was my first Art Murmur. I come from a affluent family, I grew up in the burbs. In my adult life I have lived in some pretty dangerous and unsafe places here and abroad. I got used to regular gunfire. I’m as guilty as anyone, rich or not, of any race for hoping this problem would be fixed. Violence is an epidemic problem in this country that gets swept under the carpet. Much of that may be because of indifference. We could point blame at parents, politicians, (insert race here), affluent apathy or fucked up kids. It’s not a white, black, brown, yellow or other problem. It’s true to say we are all at fault in some way directly or indirectly.

    You are RIGHT. We as a society cannot continue to ignore this. I firmly believe that better education, opportunity and support for the youth of this country is absolutely imperative to help find a solution to this problem. The older generation and our government need to step up. Vote out anyone that does not actively help. The adult population of this country needs to set the example of helping others, tolerance and respect of ALL people regardless of race, religion, financial status or otherwise. This is not a racial problem. We as a society cannot continue to blame each other. It is everyone’s fault and problem.

    The only way to solve this is working together regardless of who you are or where you come from.
    Blessings to all.

  56. J says:

    February 4th, 2013at 5:49 am(#)

    You know, Art Murmur was started by the galleries in order to promote their businesses. That’s what an art crawl is for – to give people with day jobs a chance to conveniently see what’s going on there with the hope that some of them will support the gallery scene by spending money. Many cities have them, and that’s the reason they exist. The event was popular because it was fun, and safe, not like a normal Oakland event, such as a sideshow, or a rave. These kinds of events shouldn’t attract mobs of thousands of people standing around drinking in the street. It’s antithetical to the event. And not every event has to be for the entire community, nor is it necessary to attract ‘youth’ to every single event. If you want a similar event on the east side of town, for the community, and not ‘white people’, start an art center that serves your community. I’m kind of surprised such things don’t exist here. Try something with no record industry related training, but a center for learning arts that don’t require access to expensive equipment. Acting classes, or visual arts, for example. Something that would provide the community with foundations for non-consumer centered culture, and a center for those who are interested in engaging said culture to have their needs met instead of dumping more resources into already lost causes. Try focusing on the ones that don’t already have a prison record, since you’re having such a hard time fixing the ones that do. You really can’t do anything without them doing their part, which seems to be a big problem around here.

  57. K says:

    February 4th, 2013at 11:10 am(#)

    I agree with Uptowngurl wholeheartedly. Respect OUR City.

    What a well intentioned but ultimately failed attempt to call for action. Whoever wrote this lacks the vision of someone truly capable of creating a unified course of action and accomplishing anything of substance. Within this article he calls for unity and action yet backhandedly isolates a large and growing demographic of Oakland. Nice job. Oh yeah and they work within the Oakland Public school system. Sweet

    A few questions:

    “It’s been a bit overwhelming, but at least the growing population has started to look a lot more like Oakland.”

    What do you mean look alot more like Oakland?

    “It should be noted that Oakland’s trendy rebirth is very much propagated on the rebellious image of gritty Oakland, so the fact that those same people are invested in keeping that grittiness out is both fucked up and unrealistic.”

    What sort of “grittyness” are you talking about and WHO specifically are these people you are referring to? What specific actions are they utilizing to keep “grittyness” out?

    “This approach mandates that folks really from the streets show up and model positive behavior though. I do have to admit however, that the thought of a bunch of well-intentioned squares leading conflict mediations with a bunch of goons is pretty comical.”

    Way to rally the troops. Thanks for providing more useless filler to a discussion that still lacks any sort of true leadership or vision.

  58. Mike Siegel says:

    February 4th, 2013at 2:04 pm(#)

    Thanks Luke for giving your heart and soul to Oakland, and for creating this space for dialogue and reflection. As we can see, even publishing a piece like this brings up numerous contradictions, rancor and enmity. We are so quick to tear each other down. Keep fighting the good fight, love and solidarity.

  59. christina tareq says:

    February 4th, 2013at 2:14 pm(#)

    Dear coolhand luke,

    Your writing is very moving, do you have a twitter or blog where more of your work can be found?

  60. J says:

    February 4th, 2013at 7:10 pm(#)

    I lived in Oakland ten years and have worked there for almost eleven. I actually did get shot from a car while biking at midnight on a Wednesday (coming home from the old Parkway) in 2007, and two first responders (not having heard each other) separately said, “You got lucky.” Moving to SF was an excellent move for my happiness and sanity (and splitting a place with my fiancée is no more expensive than having my own in DTO).

    That said, Oakland can be a great place to live, and it’s gotten a lot better in the last ten years, but even if you watch out, something stupid might happen to you. Of course, that’s really no different than any other decent-sized city in America.

    The biggest problems Oakland has are 1. its horrible reputation, 2. totally incompetent governance, 3. it’s too big, and 4. it’s part of a nation that has a huge race and gun violence problem. Is it fixable? I don’t know. I don’t have any answers.

  61. CC says:

    February 4th, 2013at 9:40 pm(#)

    As a black woman who has lived here her entire life, I need everyone spewing the racial intolerance from both ends to take a seat and take a hard look in the mirror. As a black woman, I am not going to sit here and act like white people are to blame for everything. Our community issues might be rooted in slavery but making excuse for our children’s poor behavior and lack of resources is definitely not something our ancestors turned a blind eye to. They fought in the face of real adversity and triumphed, not saying we no longer face any, but we need to look within ourselves for healing. No one understands our community better than us so how can we expect someone from the outside to make it better? Our priorities are fucked up. As far as the caucasian individuals wanting to blame everything on the black youth and community, get out of here. The majority of the black people, even if they don’t live in the swankiest of areas aren’t, into gang violence and activity. It is a small population of people that are causing the violence. Half the time people that are being shot aren’t even the intended victims.

  62. February Art Murmur says:

    February 6th, 2013at 8:38 pm(#)

    […] are still unclear, there are larger issues at hand, eloquently stated by local newspapers and writers. The newly-formed First Friday and traditional Art Murmur events have always aimed to exemplify the […]

  63. Jonatton Yeah? says:

    February 6th, 2013at 10:40 pm(#)

    Those who think whiteness equates gentrification are beyond obtuse. What, because I have light skin and you don’t means we want different things? Don’t be daft.

    “The white people may not be killing each other but they certainly aren’t doing anything other than bleaching an otherwise amazing city.”

    “Amazing” according to whom? You and your precious “black” values? I had no idea this was a Black City, built by Blacks, and for Blacks only. And let’s take a look at one area that hasn’t been bleached: East Oakland. Looking dandy, eh?

    “Pretty soon, all of Oakland will look like College Ave., Montclair, Rockridge, etc. If this happens, the actual community vibe and richness of culture synonymous to Oakland will be screwed.”

    I guess black people also have a monopoly on “community” and “rich culture” in Oakland. You obviously live in a very small bubble. And that bubble, currently, is murder, The Track, and urban decay. That’s what we should be trying to preserve, right?

    When white people move into these mostly African-American areas, they’re evil and gentrifying. When they don’t, they’re ignoring the problem. When they don’t and voice concern, they’re just suffering from so imagined form of “liberal guilt” or something. White people and gentrificaiton are not the biggest problems in Oakland. They’re just not. And if white people moving in causes rents to go up and pushes the criminal element elsewhere, I certainly won’t be shedding any tears.

    And FYI, it’s “deep-seeded” not “deep seated.” You ignorant buffoon.

  64. After shooting, First Friday organizers discuss how to keep future events safe | Oakland North says:

    February 8th, 2013at 1:15 am(#)

    […] a matter time before folks find out about it,” said Oakland resident Lukas Brekke-Miefner, who responded to the shooting with a blog post on 38th Notes that received over 80,000 hits. He has attended the event for nearly three […]

  65. First Friday Art Murmur: A Challenge In Front Of The City of Oakland – Sam Molloy says:

    February 8th, 2013at 7:35 am(#)

    […] post, and someone has posted a link to an incredible article written at 4am after the shootings by CoolHand Luke on an Oakland hip-hop and culture website called 38th Notes. A young, 18 year old, male named Kiante Campbell was fatally hit The article title, “The […]

  66. First Friday Blues: How Will Oakland Respond to Violence at Art Murmur? | EquityCrossroads says:

    February 8th, 2013at 9:23 pm(#)

    […] website 38th Notes posted a very insightful analysis of the situation, writing about the event’s evolution since its beginnings, from an underground artist gallery […]

  67. Anna says:

    February 12th, 2013at 9:23 pm(#)

    If the shirts get made, will folks wear them?
    (If so, how about collecting on Kickstarter? I’d contribute.)

  68. Anna says:

    February 12th, 2013at 9:32 pm(#)

    You saw this infographic, on gun deaths in 2010, from Periscopic?
    If not: watch it.

  69. reblog from the Grist on the fallacy of the Creative Class | Lauren Builds says:

    February 13th, 2013at 7:18 am(#)

    […] you want to live in this city, then you have to help us deal with this dilemma,” writes local blogger Lukas Brekke-Miesner of Oakland’s safety problems. “You can’t ignore this away. You can’t gentrify it […]

  70. Organizers aim for a shorter, smaller First Friday with a new focus | Oakland North says:

    February 13th, 2013at 5:12 pm(#)

    […] response to Oakland resident Lukas Brekke-Miefner’s blog post on 38th Notes, where he wrote that T-shirts should be used to help promote peace in the city, Oakland-based […]

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