This time Police were welcomed and helped direct traffic
Thousands of people showed up this past Sunday for Oakland’s second annual BBQ’n While Black festivities at Lake Merritt, celebrating Black culture and Black life in a spirit of resistance to racism and gentrification.
Blankets and lawn chairs lined the east side of the lake, as people grilled, listened to music, played games, danced, relaxed with friends and families and enjoyed the company of strangers.
The celebration began last year as an act of defiance when a white woman, referred to as BBQ Becky, called the police over two Black men who were barbecuing at Lake Merritt. Going viral, the video of the incident ignited the first BBQ’n While Black celebration, along with local and national discussions about racism and the impact of gentrifiers in Oakland and other urban areas who capitalize on their privilege to criminalize and displace Black residents.
“Last May two of Oakland’s beloved influencers were unlawfully harassed for hours by a white female for simply barbecuing at Lake Merritt with their friends and family. This racist woman attempted to imprison and threaten two Black men and tarnish the beauty and culture of Oakland, (gaining) national attention,” according to the BBQ’nWB Facebook page.
This year, the party at Lake Merritt placed more emphasis on the positive. “What started out as a response to racial injustice has quickly ballooned into a clarion call for love, community, and culture,” according to the Facebook post. “BBQ’nWB is about people of all races, genders, and places of origin coming together in the spirit of what we call the Real Oakland! We are beyond excited for the second annual BBQ’nWB to lift up the Oakland that we’ve always known and loved…”
“The importance of BBQ’nWB is essentially preserving the culture,” said Jhamel Robinson, one of the co-founders of the event, speaking in an interview with Berkeleyside. “Preserving Black culture in the face of gentrification – we’ve been pushed out. Even myself, I live in Sacramento now.”
“It’s a celebration of Blackness,” Robinson told KTVU. “but we want our allies and members of the community there, too.”
Last year’s event was organized in 10 days, he said. “This time, it took us about two to three months.”
According to Logan McWilliams, also an event co-founder, “The best part of this is just seeing Blackness personified for what it really is.”
“This entire event is really just like a huge family reunion,” she said in an interview with Berkeleyside. “I’ve gotten ice from strangers today. And extra plates and meals and hugs, and it’s just a beautiful experience.”