I think it's fitting that Lake Merritt, arguably North America's first wildlife refuge, is at the heart of the town.
There's a parallel between the people who've flocked to Oakland and the birds that have made it their home. All colors, shapes and sizes. Oakland's diversity is historically a product of people escaping conflict and seeking a safe haven.
That's how I got here. It wasn't war or religious persecution, nor was it racism — as was the motivating factor bringing many African Americans to Oakland from the south.
Na, my mother came to Oakland in effort to get away from an abusive relationship with my father; seeking refuge all the same. And what she found was a community where she could raise a son and a daughter. And that son and daughter, in turn, could raise their children.
This community wasn't (and isn't) absent of conflict or issues, I think we all know that about Oakland. But at the heart of it — much like the lake itself — was (is) an understanding of the value of creating a safe space where people can heal; and when they're ready, they can again take flight.
Pendarvis Harshaw is the host of Rightnowish on KQED-FM. Every week, Pen talks to movers and shakers about how the Bay Area shapes what they create, and how they shape the place we call home.
He's also columnist at KQED Arts, and the author of OG Told Me, a memoir about growing up in Oakland.
📷 : Brandon Ruffin
Oakland is diverse and Oakland is proud. 'We Are Oaklandish' is a storytelling project created to highlight just that.
These are stories that shed light on the different experiences, memories, and opinions of the people in the city we all love. They are people who give our city its oddball spirit, its passion for justice, and its creative vigor. They lift us up with laughter, peace, nourishment, and authentic hard work.
They make us proud to call this town our home. They are Oaklandish.
Read more: We Are Oaklandish