"Do you live over here in Oakland?"
"Yeah, I finally made the move from San Francisco."
"Why’d you decide to move?"
"Oakland’s more accessible, it’s more diverse, there’s more growing here…it’s more real."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. It feels totally different over here."
"It’s a catch 22 though because we’re the product of gentrification from the city, but now we’re moving over here and I wanna keep an ear up for what I’m displacing. I wanna help keep Oakland special."
"Where are you from originally?"
"Middle of nowhere Marin-"
Just then a homeless black man asked me for change. I told him I didn’t have any right then.
"-Why do you think he asked you and not me?"
"Black male connection."
"Do you think that he thinks you, as a black male, are more likely to help him than I am, as a white woman?"
"Yeah, I don’t even know how to put it into words but that exchange affects me differently than it affects you. Especially in Hayes Valley, where I used to live, because it’s super white, and at the end of my time there the only other black people there were people asking for money. I went to a 95% white private college preparatory school so I’m used to being an inkspot. But finally one day in Hayes Valley I was like ‘Fuck this. I wanna be in a more diverse environment.’ Ya know?"
"There’s a difference between economic uniformity and racial uniformity, but when they come together it’s especially potent. I studied social and economic disparity in college and a lot of race studies. It’s deep stuff. And it’s why I wanna be in Oakland, and it’s also why I feel afraid to be in Oakland. I moved into a place where a family had been evicted. I found their pictures in a cabinet, that’s the only way I know who they are. Half the neighborhood is black, and then there’s a dividing street between them and the white hippies moving in. I bet whoever bought my house instead of me would have been less sensitive to the whole situation but still…things change I guess."
"That’s the nature of cities. How and why they change is what’s really interesting though. The more I learn about what’s driving the change, the angrier I get."
"I was reading an Atlantic article about racial income disparity and the average income of a white family is 20 times that of a black family. Not twice, twenty times. How does that even happen? That’s fucked up."
"It really is, and there’s a lot of dimensions to the situation. On a human level, there’s this incredible disparity of have and have nots, but on a spiritual level, everyone’s a loser because there’s an incredible imbalance on a really deep level. People are disconnecting from each other to ignore the suffering right in front of them, which is really them disconnecting from themselves, and then they’re left spiritually empty. The ethnic group with the highest rate of suicide in the U.S. is white males age 45-64. Why is it that the group with the most power and advantage kill themselves the most? I feel like there’s a lot to heal in our society, but we can’t begin to do that until we really acknowledge what’s going on."
"I hear you. Where are you from?"
"Atlanta, I feel like Atlanta and Oakland are similar in ways, but Oakland is way more dense. A lot more going on. It’s like they’re the same note, but a different octave."
"Is Atlanta lower or higher?"
"Hmm, I feel like Oakland is lower and higher."
"Oakland is a chord and Atlanta is a note."
"That sounds about right."
"So why do you do this project?"
"Lots of reasons. To connect people with experiences and ideas that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. To share all those different perspectives. To plot my personal enlightenment. To record the reflections I come across, and record what they tell me. And to understand the patterns that cycle though my life."
"How do you choose the people you talk to?"