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Oakland, My Oakland

It saddens me so to hear of the recent tragic events in Oakland. Three officers dead, one on life support, and a young man who should have had more years ahead of him gone because of a terrible, terrible decision. It reminds me of the movie “Crash” : A horrific confluence of events, but this time, without a good ending. It hurts my heart.

Oakland, my Oakland.

I’m fond of Oakland. I spent almost eight years of my life there, right after graduating law school. I had planned from childhood to live there because that’s were all the successful black folks lived, or so I thought at the time during my Sacramento childhood. I grew up and longed for a house in the Oakland hills with vistas of the San Francisco Bay, or even a cute cottage near Mills College, an enclave of a campus with an Ivy League-type timeless beauty all its own. Whether you wanted a sprawling ranch-style house with views, a cutesy cottage, a vintage Victorian, or an arts and crafts-inspired Rockridge bungalow, you could find what you wanted in Oakland, housing or otherwise.

Oakland, my Oakland.

Oakland, like my hometown of Sacramento, always seemed to live in the shadow of San Francisco. Unlike Sacramento, which lives on the verge of a renaissance but never seems to get there, Oakland was a contender. When I lived there in the 90’s, it was ona move, so to speak. It was vibrant, reinventing itself, even with the burdens of most urban places – crime, unemployment, underperforming schools.

It seems that, as evidenced by the killing of Oscar Grant by BART police and this most recent tragedy, progress in Oakland has not only crashed to a halt, but the city is regressing, or so it seems. Maybe it’s not fair for me to criticize or opine since I haven’t lived there in eleven years, but I guess I’m just trying to find an explanation for my disappointment, for my profound sense of loss and hopelessness for a city that occupies a special place in my heart.

Oakland, my Oakland.

It hurts me to think that the young man who fired the first shot did so to avoid going back to prison, that he had been depressed because, with a criminal record, he could not find a job. I wonder what support had been available to him prior to his release from prison to prepare him for the outside. Or is it just that he was in the job market at a really bad time, since folks without criminal records are having a hard time finding jobs, too? I don’t know if we’ll ever know, but we need to before another four families are left without a father, a son, a brother.

Oakland, my Oakland.

Please keep the families – all the families - affected in this tragedy in your hearts and lifted in prayer.

And say a prayer for Oakland, my Oakland.

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