By Post Staff
Oakland neighbors held at least 560 block parties Tuesday evening, part of National Night Out, a popular and growing annual celebration in neighborhoods and cities across the country.
At the family-oriented parties, neighbors who live near each other reconnected, and new residents introduced themselves, while children played on the sidewalk or on streets that had blocked.
People grilled hotdogs and brought cookies, cakes and potato salad to share.
Originally designed nationally as a way to reduce crime and enhance police-community relations, the event in Oakland has gradually evolved more into a celebration of neighborhoods and community building.
“We are such a friendly, compassionate, warm city. We were just showing our hearts,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf, who visited eight block parties during the evening.
“It was a chance for people just to connect to their neighborhood, to be proud and show off their unique neighborhood.”
Mayor Schaaf said she particularly enjoyed attending “the party hosted by Jessie Mae Brown, 87, who lives 67th Avenue.”
The national annual event is now celebrated in 160,000 communities around the country. The organization’s website emphasizes building community ties as the first line of defense against crime.
An alternative block party was hosted by Ella Baker Center for Human Rights at Lake Merritt, billed as a “Night Out for Safety and Liberation.”
Speakers expressed their desire to end the fear, trauma, and violence that continue to affect communities in Oakland and all over America. Noticeably missing were the police.
One of the speakers at the event was John Jones who expressed gratitude to Darris Young, a local organizer for the Ella Baker Center, who encouraged him not to return to a life of crime when things got rough.
According to Jones, Young had told him, “Instead of us returning to the same trap that got us incarcerated, we can become instruments of liberation for ourselves and for others who find themselves in similar circumstances.”
Young, who himself spent years in prison, explained, “We are not anti police,” Young said. “We understand liberation to mean that we must make a connection with our neighbors. Violence has to stop on all sides. But sometimes National Night Out can appear to be about expanding policing through neighbors rather than expanding relationships.”
Cat Brooks, founder of the Anti Police Terror Project in Oakland, added, “There are alternatives to increasing the safety of our communities outside of policing and prisons.”
Troy Williams contributed to this article.