[All photos by Nathan Cordova, check out more of his work here and on instagram: @NathanCordovaArtist]
There is nothing more inspiring to me than when people come together and collaborate to create community spaces of empowerment, art, music, food, good vibes, and alternatives. Oakland has always been known for its artist/activist scene, and it is also the home and foundation of many subaltern (aka alternative) communities. For gentrifiers and new incoming hipsters, Oakland seems gritty and edgy. In reality Oakland is honest, grounded, and concrete. It’s a breeding ground for true creativity, unapologetic expression, and alternative ways of being. As such, at the core of Oakland is the urban life and the type of community events produced by people who want to create space for all of us to just be free and enjoy. Skate With Beats, a collaboration between the Speak With Beats community, the Oakland skating community, with sponsorship by Smart Bomb and Ourobos Noir was exactly this. Let me tell you more…
I walk into the backyard between two houses near Market and 30th street. Instantly vibing to the instrumental sounds being created by Ritchrd. I get myself a Meta, the Ethiopian beer provided by Ourobos Noir, then meet, greet, and hug a series of people I know very well and others I meet there. Everyone is smiling, chilling, skating, relaxing, dancing… doing whatever they feel. The sun was shinning and the weather was sweet, in the famous words of Bob Marley. There is art set up around the yard while the artist is sitting on the ground under a tree in a group of people giving tattoos. He put out a suitcase of drawings, paintings, and clothes with his art on them to be taken by whomever wants them. There was a hat next to the suitcase for donations. He seemed content: completely uninterested in doing more than just being there, making art, making friends.
There were people freestyling (rappers with all different styles), people skating, people dancing. There was a father and his daughter, no more than 3 years old, skating around the yard. The 3 year old was seemingly fearless and quite good. The skateboard was about the size of her entire body. What I love about skaters and skating is that inherent in skating is messing up. Seasoned skaters to 3 year old daughters of skaters try something then mess up. They try it again and don’t land on the board. They try it a third time and maybe they complete the trick successfully with a shaky landing, maybe not. Regardless, skating consists of trying new things over and over and over and over again and messing up just as much as you get it right. The act of watching these skate boarders do kick flips, ollies–messing up multiple times, doing it until they get it right… this is a metaphor for life and the clearest example of urban life in Oakland.
This event was coined as two communities coming together: the skating community and the beat making (instrumental Hip-Hop producers) community. This event was much more than two communities coming together. There were so many of us from different subaltern Oakland communities in that space. There were folks from the African/Caribbean music community, from the punk rock community (the house was a punk rock space), from the Habesha community, from the visual art/visual culture community, and so many more. Skate With Beats was so Oakland because Oakland is diverse. Oakland is real. Oakland is open. Oakland is inclusive. Skate With Beats was all of this. The space the event created in that backyard in West Oakland transformed a gentrifying, rapidly revitalizing city into an oasis for the real Oakland, the Oakland we know. It brought together all the beauty and creativity in Oakland with the awareness of the changes happening in the city and the will to create positive spaces of resistance–like this one.
When there are not spaces that reflect our values, our identities, our multiplicities–we must create them. When we want to fight against the selling of a city that is not taking enough action to keep many of us here, we must take up space and say: “we are here.” We must vibe with one another, love each other, organize with each other, discuss, and enjoy. We shape the city as much, and even more so, than the planners, the city developers, the realtors, the architects. The community is the architects of the city and once we remember this we can consciously make our city for us. Skate With Beats is one way to do this; to have different Oakland communities coming together to create space, take up space, and transform a space that is currently hostile and dismissive to many long-standing subaltern communities and residents in Oakland.
My good friend Guled, along with the other organizers of the event, brought so many aspects of Oakland urban life into one free space where there was no fear, no threats, no displacement, no hostility, no scarcity–only love. Love is a form of resistance and a form of urban planning. I know these Oakland community events of resilience, resistance, and expression will continue to make waves, geographies, and shape the city in the image of its long-time and current residents to combat the selling of the city to tech companies and hipsters.
If you want to move fast you go alone, if you want to move far you go together.