On Sunday, April 29th, 2018, the peaceful gathering of a racially mixed, yet mostly black group of family and friends to enjoy barbeque at Lake Merritt in Oakland was marred by a woman named Jessica Schulte. The Stanford-graduate and self-described climate change consultant called the Oakland Police just because the group was using a charcoal grill.
The resultant video of Schulte with smartphone to face and by Michelle Snider ( Michelle Dione on YouTube) has been seen around 3 million times to date. It sparked a national discussion about what’s called “every day racism” in America. It also made Oaklanders more ready to use their smartphones to capture such undesirable behavior.
On Saturday, June 9th, J.J. Harris used his cell phone to capture the actions of a still-to-this point unidentified jogger as he was tossing the belongings of an African American homeless man into Lake Merritt. From the video @techboggie made, one could hear the voice of someone saying “He’s done this before! You can’t go around doing this. Dude. You’ve got a problem.
The “Dude” that J.J. Harris chose to call “Jogger Joe” and give the name in hashtag form, said only “I’m taking out the trash”, as he’s scooping up the clothes of the man later identified only as “Jru” (and @atav1K called “Greg), tossing of of them in the Lake, and the other in a nearby trash bin.
While the Jogger Joe was not indentified as of this writing, an effort was started to help the homeless man. First, Oaklanders reportedly bought were were described in this tweet as “blankets & essentials” and a woman named Debora G setup a GoFundMe page to raise money for him. So far, that effort has raised $55 of $500 sought and that page is here: https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-jru-at-the-lake/
Attacks On Homeless More Common In Oakland, Today
Anecdotally, attacks on the homeless have not been common in Oakland, but they have been in San Francisco. The video below called “SF Homeless man assaulted for no good reason“ is from July 9th 2009:
In that instance, a husky, pony tailed white man in sunglasses passed by me in pursuit of a homeless man and just because he said something to the man for trying to remove his items from the street corner. As the video shows, I repeatedly asked the pony-tailed man to leave him alone, and then interviewed the homeless man. He told me that not only was he assaulted, but that the police came and confiscated his belongings.
The Homeless Have Increased In Number In Oakland, But Treatment By Oaklanders Has Been Kind
Over those past 9 years, the ranks of the homeless have increased to a point where it’s not uncommon to find someone sleeping at places like, in the case of this next Zennie62 on YouTube vlog, at the bus stop under the Grand Avenue / Mac Arthur Freeway Overpass. I interviewed the man who goes by “Francisco” twice; the first time May 24th 2013 as I was walking back home from The Alley:
The second time, July 6th, I went to specifically to see if Francisco was back, sleeping, and he was, so I interviewed him (with permission), again. As it turned out, he was once a short-order cook at The Original Joe’s Restaurant in San Francisco who fell into a relationship problem, and out of the house:
That was 2013. Over the next three years, as the ranks of homeless increased in San Francisco and to the point that by 2014 Powell Street BART Station was a nightly place for some to sleep.
And the number of homeless people and families increased in Oakland too, and such that someone pitching a tent in the same overpass area that Francisco once slept under the bus stop was a more common occurrence by 2016:
With all of this, Oakland has had no significant, evident, and lasting change in the form of a program to provide a safety net against one’s life decending to a point where they are without a home. What Oakland has is a program to make that condition comfortable, but elected officials who could solve the problem don’t seem to want to do anything to do so.
One offiicial I spoke to pointed to the City’s low unemployment rate as evidence that the economy is working well. My retort was that the view they expressed ignores the large number of people in Oakland making enough money to just get by, and contributing to another problem: under-employment.
In the past, Oakland had scores of job training and placement non-profit corporations, funded to some degree by Oakland’s economic development department. Today, Oakland has forgotten how to do economic development. A recent presentation on economic development progress on May 8th, sounded more like a talk about city service delivery than job creation. The presenter was quick to remind the Oakland City Councilmembers present of Oakland’s low unemployment rate, but, when questioned, did not know what the city’s under-employment rate was.
That means Oakland has not focused on the underemployment problem, and in an election year, those in power may not want to because it reflects on the degree to which they’ve not addressed solving the problem.
Meanwhile, Oakland’s Lake Merritt continues to be the scene for race and class conflict. Thankfully, most Oaklanders don’t want this problem to exist, and are working to inform others when incidents like BBQ Becky and Jogger Joe happen, and use social media to shame those persons who would harass and intimidate those who are black or homeless, or both.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media