The Drama Around Street Vendors, Oakland’s Art Murmur & Gentrification

The city of Oakland, has long been a place where people ‘steady grind‘..By that I mean, folks have long hustled goods and services on the city streets to ilk out a living. Rather than sell drugs or turn to prostitution, many have hustled their own music, homemade DVDs, offered up hair breading services, car washes and car repair and most recently food. For most, the extra income has allowed folks to just barely get by.

Every so often someone would blow up and makes it big, resulting in Oakland garnering a ‘rags to riches‘ reputation. The most famous of these tales is rap star Too Short selling home-made tapes out the trunk of his car and getting a big time record deal. Later on other artists like Hobo Junction and Living Legends would follow suit selling tapes in front of local record stores leading to international reputations.

In recent years the city of Oakland has undergone a lot of changes, among them a significant amount of gentrification. Newer more affluent residents have come to Oakland and have made moves to push out long time street vendors and hawkers. They been doing this by going to city council demanding that folks get expensive permits and for those selling food, purchase expensive equipment.

They’ve also pushed to limit the amount of space available for setting up shop and if that’s not enough they have positioned themselves to be the ones to decide who gets to use public space and who doesn’t. These gentrifiers have also lobbied city hall to dispense undercover cops and have them patrol the streets seeking street vendors who would now be deemed illegal operators. All this has led to protests around this new permitting process.

Long time Street Vendor Needa Bee

In our Hard Knock Radio interview long time Oakland resident Needa Bee speaks out about these new regulations coming at the behest of newly formed community associations who are paying big money to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars to establish themselves. Needa details how¬† out-of-town merchants who have come to Oakland and set up shop and have taken over popular homegrown activities like First Friday Art Murmur which was an 8 year ‘epic street party‘ that allowed local folks to sell their homemade fare. Now we see mostly people of color being pushed to the fringes resulting in what she describes as the poor being criminalized.. Peep and reflect on what Needa B lays out in our interview by clicking the link below

-Davey D-