On the third of February 2017, I experienced for the first time, what they call here First Friday. Apparently, it’s a night rich with culture and arts and great people to share these things with. To my luck, I live above my friend’s shop that is within the blocks that get closed down for First Fridays. This meant that I could watch from my window before I decided to go downstairs to enjoy it.
There was a group of people that had hula-hoops, sticks, and chains that were on fire. But these people were dancing with fire, they were really connected to this fire. My roommate told me they call it the dance of hell—and reasonably so! Though the others didn’t seem to enjoy it as much. They probably didn’t appreciate the danger of it since it was filled with people of all ages.
I decided that it was safe to go outside after a while that I saw everyone getting along well. As I walked out, there was a couple guys in hoodies that were spray painting on plywood. They had very minimal lighting on their pieces but even then they had an audience.
“We should ask them if they know anything about the people that have been spray painting our shop!” my roommate exclaimed as she started walking in their direction. I had forgotten about the shop getting marked up but we were both pretty upset because, why us? My roommate first talked about their art. They seemed like pretty interesting and harmless young men.
“Why would I know about who is tagging up your spot?” one of them responded once my roommate finally asked him, “I know as much as you do, and I don’t even know where your shop is,” he said with frustration. My roommate pointed out where the shop was, which was just a couple meters away from us.
“Oh,” he said as his shoulders dropped. “I don’t know who did it, but I do know that they probably did it because they’re upset—that used to be soul food place where the cook was like everybody’s grandma—matter fact we’re all pretty upset that it was replaced with yall’s vegan shit—like who the fuck is vegan?” He made a face of disgust while he shrugged again with his hands out. I was offended by his tone and tired of that damn question. Since I wasn’t part of this conversation, I decided to step away while my roommate responded to him, in a calm but argumentative tone—which we knew where it was headed.
As I was walking towards the shop, kids were running around with swords that lit up in multiple colors. They got closer to me and I jumped away but I stepped on a beer bottle and ended up on my ass. The kids stopped, and laughed, as did some people around them. I couldn’t understand why they were being so rude and disrespectful. They laughed hard as if they were really enjoying themselves over my misery.
My roommate realized I had fallen and went to help me up. Without a word, we both just rushed to the shop to get away from them. We slammed our door hard as we closed it and everyone went silent.
Notes from the Author:
This piece is supposed to be a remake of Mary Rowlandson’s History of Captivity that addressed the gentrification going on in Oakland at the moment. The shop replacement is the stealing of lands in this piece and their oblivion to their mistakes—well that’s pretty self-explanatory. I was sure to have them describe different races differently too, like the fire hula-hoopers are white, while the artists are of some other race, either Latino or Black, whichever you imagined first. Mary calls the natives savages pretty often, but in today’s society, microagression is the way we do things. The need to mention the hoodie, the expectation that they’d know who tagged their place and lastly and completely ignoring the fact that the artists had told them they took away a very loved place are reflections of their prejudice towards POC.
The shop getting tagged was supposed to resemble Rowlandson’s attack at the beginning of her story. Though hers was gruesome, I was not about to make Oaklander’s kill white people for the sake of my story—there’s enough news out there talking about the violence in Oakland. However, having your business tagged, is still pretty frustrating and disrespectful to some.
The falling at the end is supposed to reflect Mary’s incident falling off the horse and getting laughed at. She felt insulted by their laughter, becoming a real victim of their doings. As the character in this story is also feeling personally attacked by their laughter—but everyone laughs at people falling unless they’re seriously injured because of the fall, which wasn’t the case in either of these stories (yes, Rowlandson was already hurt, but she wasn’t hurt because of the fall, so it’s still cool to laugh).
All in all, I wanted to bring attention the gentrification that is going on in Oakland because it’s frustrating to see the new comers give us funny looks in our own home.