Monday, August 17, 2009

Memory Monday- Oakland Then, Oakland Now

Sunday was a beautiful day, a perfect day for an outing such as the Art and Soul Festival in downtown Oakland. This has been the one event that has remained consistently organized, safe and fun for all. There is always great entertainment, an array of diverse vendors, and fantastic food. The big draw entertainment was Will Downing on the main stage, and I love me some Will. I had just purchased his latest CD, Classique this weekend. I got my garlic fries, strawberry lemonade, bought another Chinese umbrella—perfect for sunny days and I was happy. I sat down and clapped to the Blues and walked around seeing folks I knew from years ago; it’s like an Oakland reunion.

Much has changed in downtown Oakland since I was a kid. The festival brings a diverse crowd from all over to the downtown area which, while it remains an employment mainstay—there are a number of national and local businesses, the shopping life is little to none. There is no longer a major department store and the dress shops of the 1960s and 70s in my heyday are nonexistent. Only one, J. Malnick, remains with an assortment of small retail shops.

There was a time downtown was bustling. There were Sears, Capwells, and Rhodes department stores. Joseph Magnin and I. Magnin and Goldman’s were the high end dress shops with their furs and chic dress and shoe styles. That’s where you went to dress for a special event. I got my senior ball dress at Goldman’s, bought my shoes at Capwell’s and had them died yellow to match the trimming and sash at Leed’s Shoes. And of course, there was the Paramount, the Roxie, and The Fox theaters, where we went to the movies. With urban renewal or the more current term, um uhn, GENTRIFICATION, things changed.

Now, as then, Oakland is diverse but more ethnic with African Americans, Latinos, and Asians predominate. Whites moved out in droves all through the 60s and 70s. Now their children and grandchildren and transplants from the East Coast have come back to downtown Oakland and West Oakland. With them are gourmet restaurants and new-fangled boutiques, generated to jump start Oakland’s regeneration. The Paramount is now an upscale concert hall, home of the Oakland Symphony and Oakland Ballet and I am a patron of both. Change is good but there is an underlying battle between the haves and the have-nots. But all and all, I’m lovin’ Oakland despite the blight, the crime and the bad rep we have nationally. After all, it is home.


Love2Write said...

Awesome juxtaposition of Oakland then and Oakland now. I can imagine everything. I think that gentrification is everywhere. We've had that here in Atlanta in Grant Park, Midtown, and Glenwood...Downtown Atlanta still belongs to everyone. Every culture lives down long as they have some money! Donald Trump is turning everything upside down in Downtown Atlanta, building high rises, etc.

How was Will Downing? I saw him earlier this year at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival!

Dera Williams said...

Hey Katrina,
thanks for stopping in. I have read two books that had gentrification themes in Atlanta. Will Downing was great.