Oakland has served as the kick-off place for young artists working to make their dream come true. From old school acts like The Pointer Sisters, En Vogue, and MC Hammer to modern day names like Latoya London, Keyshia Cole, and Zendaya, Oakland is a hub for it all.
Dwayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Tone! is one of those people who always comes to mind in any discussion of Oakland’s musical spark. A legend in the city, Wiggins has also used his celebrity to motivate, inspire, and, most of all, reach the youth of Oakland’s minority community.
Growing up in Oakland, Wiggins remembers running through the streets of East and West Oakland. But his musical talent and drive always forced him to think beyond the boundaries of Oakland, something many of Oakland’s youth fail to embrace.
Instead of microphones, semi-automatic guns are used to express their pain. The only way out of Oakland, for many of today’s youth, is only thought about in terms of caskets and graveyards, something Wiggins struggles to understand.
“How can a Black person look at another Black person like we’re not connected somewhere in life?” Asks Wiggins. “We’ve lost all of that, and we’re really at a state of emergency with our people.”
The younger generation has lost respect or concern for life, the elderly, and religion, but Wiggins still believes the only way to combat the downward spiral is to lead by example.
“We have to do more things to counter everything said about us,” he said. “I look into some of the kids’ eyes and don’t see any opportunity or future, [and] if they don’t see it they are going to try and take it from somebody else.”
Jealousy is another weakness that people can’t control, he added, so opportunity has to be afforded to encourage individuals to leave the streets behind.
Since moving back to Oakland, Wiggins has strictly focused on business development to provide the community with exciting opportunities. And while city protocol has to be followed before anything can officially take off, Wiggins is already looking at business space in both Downtown and East Oakland to bring to new possibilities “right before everyone’s eyes” he said
It’s from his heart, and there isn’t a place better than Oakland to bring it to fruition. There’s a need for the people, and Wiggins desperately wants to do his part to bring positive change to the Oakland community.