LakeFest Oakland was an attempt to restore the fun brought to the Lake Merritt neighborhood, and in particular Adams Point, by the great event of the 1990s Festival At The Lake. The big difference between LakeFest Oakland and Festival At The Lake is the former was just one day, and the latter was three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Still, and maybe because of that one day limit, LakeFest Oakland, centered at the Lake Merritt Sail Boat House, was a massive success.
The idea of LakeFest was not widely known, and certainly not picked up by the media in the form of a preview story. Then, Jennifer Schulte decided that she didn’t like to see black folks having fun by barbecuing at the Lake, convinced herself that her concern was the use of a charcoal grill, when it really was just plain racism at the level of mental illness, and called the Oakland Police on them.
The result was a kind of re-awakening of what Oakland’s supposed to be about. A almost primal cry and desire to wipe away those racists who would seek to use law enforcement as a tool to demonstrate their hate, and just by having a damn good time. It was “BBQ Becky’s” hate that, via LakeFest, was channeled to a successful and well-attended, giant party.
LakeFest Oakland had fantastic musical, town bisiness talent featuring live performances by Alphabet Soup, DJ Cecil, Rumbache, Ajai Kasim with Oakland Future Trio, JAX, Sambafunk with Funkternal, Heat Dance Line, Young, Gifted & Black, and Sistah Iminah.
But most of all, as the video shows, it had many, many Oaklanders just plain hanging out at the Lake and talking, dacing, eating, drinking, singing, and resting. Lakefest, was a great success, and because it seemed to spring up because of BBQ Becky, it’s easy to think this is the first time, ever, it happened. But the reality is LakeFest was done before, and it was a block-long street festival on Lakeshore Avenue in 2009, and it was created by Helen Wyman. Here’s my video from that event on August 1, 2009:
During that time, Oakland Events, Helen’s event company, produced LakeFest. But eventually, she landed a position with Community Bank of The Bay, and Oakland Events, folded, as did LakeFest. How that LakeFest became today’s LakeFest is not known, but the event formula is exactly the same: sign up local hip talent, have booths for local Oakland food and retain venders, and use a place located around Lake Merritt in Oakland. Beyond that, the difference is that Helen’s LakeFest of 2009 was planned Helen Wyman, and this one’s in 2018 was planned and produced what is said to be a group of residents, but the real leader is a man who’s name is Travelle in my video.
But both have been great successes.
But is there a connection between the two? Did the 2018 LakeFest planners happen to know about 2009 LakeFest and desire to revive it? Did Helen know and give her help and blessing? Or was it a simple accident of association – a coincidence?
Whatever the answer, it’s plainly clear that the formula established by Wyman 10 years ago, and itself a kinda of off-shoot of the 90s Festival At The Lake, works, and is needed now more than ever in Oakland.
Zennie Abraham is the CEO of Zennie62Media