The Best Kind of Protest is Joyful

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Creative protests against racist people are the winners.

Over the weekend, communities have continued to find creative ways to keep telling White folks to stop calling the police over Black people going about their lives. Two of the most prominent perpetrators of using the police to control people of color have been fueled this important discussion about when we should not call the police. As the public shaming dies down, communities are capping these stories with actions that I predict will become the norm in future incidents.

What’s not to love about Mariachi and barbecue? Music and food are the essentials of a happy life. These stories allowed a blip in the outrage reactions that rightfully dominated the news and analysis of these incidents.

Last Friday, a mariachi band serenaded attorney Aaron Schlossberg, who was filmed screaming at café workers for the crime of speaking Spanish. There’s no organization mentioned in the story, but the young man quoted is Carlos Jesus Calzadilla, president of the Young Progressives and a student leader at Long Island University Brooklyn. They crowd sourced the money to pay the mariachi band, who were joined by a big crowd as the weekend started.

In Oakland, Black folk took over the section of Lake Merritt where a White woman called the cops on a Black family barbecuing. And when I say took it over, I mean it was sidewalk to sidewalk Black people, the way Lake Merritt often looked when I first moved there in the late 1980’s. In those days, White San Franciscans were afraid to move to Oakland, where it was “unsafe.” Gentrification is not-so-slowly destroying long-stable Black communities in the Bay Area, with housing prices changing the complexion of neighborhoods that have been Black for 50 years or more. How I long for those days! BBQ Becky is a direct by-product of 20 years of gentrification. Oakland will not feel “safe” to White people while Black people are in it.

But these Black folk are not having it. Logan Cortez, a first-grade teacher, invited a few friends to barbecue with her on the infamous spot yesterday, and that invite went viral with 2500 shares. Let’s hear it for the teachers! My sources tell me that the crowd was gigantic, musical, and fun, pulling out all the culinary stops too with fried turkeys and all kinds of barbecue. I wish I had been there. Getting hungry just thinking about it.

This piece has more great photos from the day.

I love this quote by a life-long Oakland resident who was forced to move to Sacramento. Robinson, one of the organizers, was born and raised in Oakland but had recently moved to Sacramento, driven out by rising rents. He sported a tank top his Real Oakland brand was selling. “My hope for this event is for people who are true natives of Oakland to come together and show what I would consider the new Oakland, the gentrified Oakland, that we’re still here, we’re not going anywhere,” he said.

Tactics like these, joyful celebrations of the pride we have in our communities, are the best way to strike back against racism. As Martin Luther King said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." The light shone bright in New York and Oakland last weekend.

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