I was hoping for some inspiration for my first post of 2010… a new year, and a new decade. But alas, the inspiration was elusive.
I thought maybe I’d come up with some top ten lists to share (because afterall, people love top ten lists), or simply some sage words… a mantra for our city and its people for the coming year(s), but nothing offered itself.
I decided to look back through photos I’ve compiled over the past few months, for something appropriate… something positive, something meaningful. And I was struck by this message on a local church not far from my home… it fit the bill perfectly.
When I think back about the past year and the changes I’ve seen in this city I love, I’m aware of a plethora of positive developments, many of which I’ve tried to highlight with the creation of this blog. But I’m also nagged by the awareness that Oakland made headlines across the nation last year, not for the amazing revitalization projects underway in our uptown/downtown districts or the burgeoning and bridge-worthy art & restaurant scenes, but for the senseless murder of an unarmed man on New Year’s Day (Oscar Grant), and the subsequent killing of four police officers in March.
Oakland typically ranks in the top ten most dangerous cities in America; ranked number five in 2008/09 and number three in 2009/10 in the oft quoted annual editions of Kathleen O’Leary Morgan’s City Crime Rankings. And though current statistics seem to indicate an overall drop in the crime rate for 2009 (Data: Oakland crime down 10 percent in 2009 by Kelly Rayburn), there’s no denying that there is still far too much crime in Oakland. I witness it personally in my corner of West Oakland… the sound of gunfire no longer fazing me as it once did. And that is a sad statement indeed.
I know it is a complex problem. We live in one of the most racially diverse cities in America. I see this diversity as an incredible asset… it’s one of the things I truly love about Oakland. But I am aware that with it, too, comes conflict, especially where social inequities exist… the result of failing families, failing schools, and more. It’s hard to blame some in my community for making a living selling crack, when they lack the skills or education for much else. But there’s no denying that this way of life brings violence and tragedy, not just to those immediately involved, but those nearby as well.
My hope for our great city is that as it grows into the 21st century, it will better serve all of its residents, not just those who can afford homes in exclusive neighborhoods or private educations for their children… gentrification no longer displacing those with the least means, but better development that benefits everyone. This may sound lofty or naive, but I believe it can happen. At least that is my hope. Because in a region rife with affluence, it’s amazing to me how many in our city have so little.