Children help put finishing touches on a mural at a lot at 75th and Macarthur Boulevard in Oakland in effort for communities to reclaim public land.
Black Lives Matter Bay Area and other organizations gathered on Juneteenth with members of the community in a day of action at the intersection of 75th and MacArthur in Oakland as part of a nationwide call by Movement for Black Lives and Black Land and the Liberation Initiative to reclaim public land.
About 80 people came out to the all-Black event after organizers spent time learning what the neighbors both wanted and needed. The open lot has been transformed into a mini-park, something that brought joy to the community, which includes dozens of children.
“What we learned was that they had never had a park,” said organizer Cara Cotton, a second-grade teacher at Ile Omode school and an East Oakland native.
Community members put up four semi-permanent structures, Cotton said, including a play structure, two benches made from cinder blocks and a mural by Richmond painter Malik Seneferu. There is also an altar with candles on the top and books about Africans in America and a biography of Nat Turner at the bottom.
“The idea was to make it a memorial for community … a way to connect Black people in the area with their history,” said Cotton. Accompanied by some of her students, she poured libation and asked those present to recite the names of their ancestors.
According to lead organizer Chinyere Tutashinda, of the BlackOUT Collective, “Land and capital has continued to flow out of Black communities while Black people are displaced through cycles of police and vigilante terror, gentrification, incarceration, and economic forces; and it is time for us to take stand.”
The movement to reclaim land has a special meaning for Oakland, said Mitchell. “Historically, Oakland has been a city marked widely by Black home ownership,” said Nikita Mitchell. “But through the mechanisms of capitalism, Black people are being displaced from these historically Black spaces through banks and developers greedily snatching and flipping these properties for greater profit.”
Across the country, hundreds of individuals joined the day of action — in Oakland and Vallejo, CA; Chicago, IL; Atlanta, GA; New Orleans, LA; Kansas City, MO; Detroit, MI and several other cities — to put land-based reparations back into the national conversation.