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Regional Interests

‘This Is Who We Are’: The Black Liberation Walking Tour Launches in Oakland

About 150 people attended the official launch of the Black Liberation Walking Tour — a new walking tour of West Oakland’s Hoover Durant neighborhood — on Juneteenth.

The all-day event included singing, dancing, drums, and West African music in addition to food vendors and speeches.

The self-guided tour was made out of a “burning desire to share the stories of so much that has happened in this neighborhood to others that live here now, [and] that will live here in the future,” said creator David Peters, a third-generation West Oaklander.

Peters said he wants to celebrate the neighborhood’s vibrant but sometimes forgotten history.

There are nine locations on the tour, which takes about an hour, but since it’s self-guided via mobile phone, individuals can go faster or slower as needed. Those taking the tour can scan a QR code on a smartphone to follow along.

David Peters speaks about the Black Liberation Walking Tour during a launch party and Juneteenth Celebration at SPARC-it-Place in Oakland on June 19, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Each location has a different story to tell, Peters said, noting that with gentrification, displacement and families moving out “these stories become lost.”

Some of the locations on the tour include St. Augustine’s Church, Flint’s Barbecue and the home of columnist Delilah Beasley, who was a columnist for the Oakland Tribune in 1923.

Peters said he felt it was important to bring the stories together “in order to build community cohesion, to build community power.”

The tour is grounded in the idea that if people who live in the area know more about where they live, they may be more respectful of its history and perhaps not so eager to “tear things down,” Peters said.

“A lot of Black history has been erased and forgotten,” said Gene Anderson, a lifelong resident of Oakland who helped conduct historical research for the walking tour. “This is one way to help resurface that history, but also a way for the neighborhood to claim itself: This is who we are.”

Husband and wife pair Susan Bodnar-Deren, a professor of sociology, and Dingani Mthethwa, a professor of history in Virginia, attended the event and went on the self-guided walking tour. Learning about West Oakland’s history, both said they saw similarities to the struggles of Black people in Richmond, Virginia and in South Africa, where Mthethwa is originally from. “Hearing this story brings in all those memories and parallels,” Mthethwa said.

“It is so nice to see Oakland as one of those places I’m proud to say I’m from,” said Tamika Nicole, a singer who grew up in Oakland and sang Lift Every Voice (also known as the Black National Anthem) at the event. She said she feels blessed to have had the opportunity to learn Black history and ethnic studies. “We have the opportunity to be around lots of other people and celebrate all of our contributions.”

Despite the joy of celebrating Juneteenth, Nicole said there’s also much more to be done: “We did ask for us to stop being killed, but we got a holiday. So here we are.”

Copyright 2021 KQED