In response to an incident in which a white woman called the police on a group of black Oakland residents gathered at a barbecue, a group of Oakland residents organized a much larger barbecue that was held yesterday in the same Lake Merritt spot.
The event, dubbed BBQing While Black, was covered by local news outlets to the the New York Times. Large numbers of Oaklanders showed up in support, with free food provided by local vendors like Kid Creole SoulFood and Jack London Square’s Everett and Jones BBQ.
Since the 911 call on April 29, video footage of the incident has been roundly mocked everywhere from Twitter to Saturday Night Live. Memes imagine the caller (whose stated objection was that the group’s charcoal grill violated park rules) dialing 911 on historical figures like Rosa Parks.
Critics saw the incident as all too familiar: Resonant with similar, frequently documented examples of racial bias. It’s been compared to a recent incident at a Philadelphia Starbucks in which an employee called the police on African American patrons just for being in the store — an episode that sparked outrage across the country.
Awesome bbq and anti hate demonstration in #oakland this afternoon. love all the people and all the diversity of this city! #lakemerrit pic.twitter.com/x3dzjlD7kl— andrew blanton (@a_blanton) May 21, 2018
Oakland residents Logan Cortez and Jhamel Robinson organized Sunday’s barbecue, which included DJs, dancing, and food trucks. To make it happen, they reportedly spent $700 on city permits and coordinated with city officials like the fire department.
Rather than a protest or demonstration, the day’s spirit was reportedly one of celebration. Some attendees recalled other joyful days in Lake Merritt’s past, like Festival at the Lake parties in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Those festivities drew large crowds from the city’s African American population, which has dwindled in recent years.
Hundreds of people at Lake Merritt today for #BBQingWhileBlack festival after #BBQBecky viral video sparked national conversation on racism. The message from attendees: Everyone is welcome here. #Oakland pic.twitter.com/KoIASw7vdm— Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi) May 20, 2018
- ‘BBQing while Black’ festival draws huge crowd to Oakland’s Lake Merritt [East Bay Times]
- Anti-racist barbecuers take back Oakland’s communal backyard at Lake Merritt [SF Chronicle]
- Hundreds in Oakland Turn Out to BBQ While Black [New York Times]