A Curious Case of Civic Abandonment by Dr. Ayodele Nzinga

A Curious Case of Civic Abandonment

San Francisco’s, Supervisor Jane Kim, just announced the Compton’s’ Cultural District, a cultural district for the preservation of Transgendered and gender non-conforming community history in the Tenderloin. The Transgendered community with Kim’s assistance and advocacy struck a community benefit package that includes 20 SRO units and retail space in a proposed Condo/Hotel development at the 900 block of Market St in the Tenderloin.

The Compton’s District, like the Black Arts Movement Business District, (BAMBD), in Oakland, is both unique and historic in its creation.  Unlike the BAMBD, The Compton’s has the necessary elements for the community informed implementation of such a momentous Cultural District, City good will and the inclusion of community vision. Another similarity between the two Districts is that the newly proposed district in San Francisco includes a history of exclusion, arrest, and marginalization for the Transgendered community of the Tenderloin, in parallel there was a time in Oakland’s history when those regulated by law and redlining to West Oakland could not do business in a significant part of the area now declared by City resolution as the Black Arts Movement Business District.  It is poetic to note that the District annexes West Oakland and downtown. 

In Oakland, BAMBD community organizers have had no support from Lynette McElhaney’s office. This serves as rebuttal to the statement that the council person, or anyone in her office, or on her staff has offered any technical support to the community organizers of BAMBD. In actual fact since carrying the resolution forward in council the councilwoman has been unavailable to community members seeking meetings with her or her support staff in regards to BAMBD. Several meeting requests have gone unanswered and they have not advocated on BAMBD’s behalf in any community negotiations with developers building in the BAMBD footprint. Marvin X, BAMBD visionary, states McElhaney’s attitude with the BAMBD matches the attitude displayed with towards Oakland’s ethics committee. which he equated to an offering of delays, lies, and false promises.

Besides a brief conversation in email between the councilperson, and BAMBD organizer Ayodele Nzinga, regarding the councilperson’s lack of advocacy for West Oakland’s inclusion in proposed restorative justice measures linked to legal marijuana sales in Oakland. Despite the Restorative Justice and Equity frame in the two proposals under consideration by City Council, neither consider West Oakland to have suffered significantly in the war on drugs, or eligible to be considered for redress. The absence of West Oakland in this conversation seems a missed opportunity to help activate the district established by a resolution carried by McElhaney in 2016, but as of yet unfunded in any substantial way outside of community efforts to forge community benefits agreements with incoming developers. It should be noted that community organizers have been dissuaded by the councilperson from interacting with developers.

So, has BAMBD been abandoned by its would-be champion who to this point has failed even to mark the area by visually with banners? Are there any plan for activation, if so why have they not been shared by those invested in implementing the district in a timely fashion so that it actually serves Oakland’s current network of struggling Black artists, business owners, entrepreneurs, service providers, and the marginalized communities they serve. 

Marvin X. Jackmon

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