Shame on the City of Oakland: An Open Letter from SURJ Bay Area

We are filled with sorrow, anger and frustration over the deadly West Oakland San Pablo Fire that killed, displaced, and injured, approximately 100 of our neighbors on March 27. We remember Edwarn Anderson, Cassandra Robertson-Johnson, Ashantikee Wilson, and one unidentified soul who lost their lives in the fire.

Fire-at-2551-San-Pablo-West-Oakland-032717-540am-by-NBC-web.jpgThis loss should seem unimaginable, yet it has become an all too real occurrence -- and particularly for poor and working class communities of color in our region. SURJ Bay Area remains committed to working in solidarity with Black and people of color-led organizations fighting displacement and gentrification, particularly in Oakland which has lost 30% of its Black residents since 2000. Through this work, we know that this tragedy could have been prevented. Residents of our city are literally burning due to an environment where unethical and profit-driven development is valued over the livelihood of the Black community.

Our hearts burn with them, as they did five months ago when the Ghost Ship fire ripped through East Oakland and took 36 lives. Now, as we sit in the wake of another horrible tragedy, working alongside faith leaders and community members who are pushing for resources and funds to support our displaced neighbors, it is also our responsibility to speak up about how systemic racism fuels these tragedies. Where is the support for our Black and Brown communities? How many more code violations and calls for justice will be ignored before we see safety and protection for the tenants of Oakland?

We demand that City of Oakland officials immediately begin redistributing resources dedicated to community safety, away from the police and towards affordable housing and justice for residents. We envision a city where landlords provide humane living conditions for their tenants. A safe city is not where housing is for sale to the highest bidder, where landlord negligence is unmonitored, and where increased policing and criminalization of the most marginalized in our community is the norm. A safe city is one where Black and Brown and poor residents have the power to define what their community looks like with the support and protection of the government charged with serving all of us. We demand the City of Oakland begin to listen to Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor residents about their needs for community safety and housing.

We work alongside organizations at the forefront of this struggle, organizations like Causa Justa:Just Cause (CJJC), Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, Community Christian Church for Christ, Abyssinian Missionary Baptist Church, Greater St. Paul MBC, Word Assembly Church, and so many others working for justice in their communities. For our part, we will continue to educate, mobilize and organize white folks to take action for racial justice, to make reparations for the land, housing and resources that have been stolen by colonization and white supremacy. We work to see a self-determined community, one where Black Lives Matter, today and every day.

Until that day, we are with you Oakland, in strength and in struggle.

In Solidarity,
SURJ Bay Area

For more information on how to support the residents and their families from the West Oakland San Pablo Fire, please follow the Facebook page here or donate here.

Photo: San Francisco Bay View