Ghost town, wasted potential

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Ghost town, wasted potential

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Latrice Casey

Two out of three businesses are closed. There used to be a barbeque place and a bookstore. They both closed down. All of them are barred up. Small, local businesses are failing due to a lack of local support and an increase in crime on small businesses except for the smoke shops and liquor stores. This is unacceptable. I have known some previous business owners when they tried to open up small businesses in their community. They tell me they get broken into within the first week. I’ve seen them cry. I’ve seen all kinds of things done to these small businesses. But they don’t touch the smoke shops. It is counterproductive to our general health… We aren’t seeing successful businesses from local merchants of our ethnicity succeeding. Our children will have no hope. Our kids will feel like shopping and seeing smoke shops and liquor stores everywhere as normal. We need to go to community meetings and demand that there be no more liquor stores in our neighborhood, or at least demand healthier ways to support local businesses.

Disgrace in the neighborhood

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Disgrace in the neighborhood

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Tamia Green

Our neighborhood is a dump. There’s trash items thrown up and down the streets of Oakland. People don’t seem to care where they throw their trash. This is a trash pile that my daughter and I pass everyday to school. Old tires, car parts, and even a baby seat. My daughter might see this and think that this is how neighborhoods are–that it’s okay to not care and to dump garbage on the streets. It affects our health. It makes us sick. People need to be more aware that they live in a community and that how it looks is a reflection of us.

We are putting everyone behind bars

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

We are putting everyone behind bars

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Tamia Green

I see that everything is behind bars… The liquor stores got bars on it, the churches got bars on them, the stores, the schools, shoot, even my house got bars on it. It’s like we’re locked up everywhere. But why is that? Why do we have to be enclosed behind bars and everything? We’re supposed to feel safe, but do we really feel safe? Not really. People can still break in. We’re trying to protect 10 people in a way, but we end up keeping ourselves enclosed. If we can learn to trust each other and not always enclose ourselves, then maybe things will be better. It starts with us.

Make that change

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Make that change

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Aaliyah Grimes

This is a picture of the Hercules park that my cousin and I walked through. Many families gather there to enjoy the beautiful day. The sitting area is clean. You don’t see any cigarettes, any drugs, any condom wrappers – you don’t see any of that.

Instead, you see a very clean environment that children can play around; they don’t have to run into something that could hurt them. This park helps communities by bringing families and everyone together. Families don’t want to go into nasty, disgusting areas and send their child to play in it.

If we take responsibility by cleaning up after ourselves, and making sure things go into the trash can, our families can similarly come together and be more united. Right now, our families are divided, but if we have a clean area to go to then maybe that can bring us together.

At a friend

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

At a friend

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Tawanah Harris

This is me. I was looking up at the sun – standing, hoping, wishing for something good, something positive to happen. I was crying because I went through a lot of things. I was praying – give me some sort of sign, or job, or something. Let me clean someone’s house. Give me something to do. I don’t have a job. What am I going to do next for myself, for my son, for my family? It is easy to think about the things that I could do, but shouldn’t because it’s bad. But it’s hard because we don’t have money and we need more help.

It's a hard knock life for us

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

It’s a hard knock life for us

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Antoinette McCullough

This is a charter school on the corner of a 3-way intersection in a hostile and violent neighborhood. It’s dirty. It’s unhealthy. It should be cleaned up. Kids are breathing and inhaling elements of all kinds and forms. More important, children should not have to bypass trash, debris, and bed mattresses on the ground to get through the front door of their school. There should not be a liquor store directly next door to the school where it can provide everything adolescents don’t need. We need to have officers patrol the area 24 hours a day, have a cross-guard monitor each corner. We need to find out who is responsible for cleaning and transporting trash. Why are people getting paid by the city and state for a job that isn’t getting done?

Stealing money

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Stealing money

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Roshanda Parker

This is a check-cashing place in a low-income neighborhood in Oakland. Here, money is being taken from the locals. They take so much money to cash your check, knowing that some don’t or can’t get bank accounts. They take like $10 for every $100 – that’s a whole lot. You give your check and end up paying even more back. It keeps you down. There need to be ways for us to keep our money and to get bank accounts.

Homeless

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Homeless

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Syreeta Smith

There isn’t enough shelters or resources to help the homeless who sleep on the streets, next to garbage cans, under bridges, on the sidewalks, and in the parks. The homeless try to get out of the cold, the rain, and the heat, but the police end up harassing the homeless for no reason.

I know about the homeless because I was there before. I walked that path before, with my kids. People in the shelters- some of them are in there trying to get their life together from alcohol and drugs, some are in there because they got evicted with their kids, some are in there escaping domestic violence, and others are in there because they don’t have anywhere to go.

But shelters aren’t clean. Our health is affected because people on drugs bring hepatitis and other unknown diseases. What’s worse – our kids are in the shelters with us.

We need to start having more resources to get the homeless off the streets, out of shelters, and into better conditions – this will improve not only their lives, but our own lives and that of our community. City leaders can no longer sweep this problem under the rug as if it didn’t exist.

Still I rise

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Still I rise

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Sheri Tucker

This is a picture of my boss at my new job. I took a picture of her because she advocated for me when others didn’t. You see, I have a minor criminal background.

I got laid off at my old job at the City of Oakland, not because of my record or anything. Since losing that job, I applied to Starbucks. I was at my second interview and they were ready to hire and train me, but then said, “I’m sorry. Something keeps popping up with your background and we can’t hire you until you get that cleared.”

After that, I was really down. I was depressed. I was so excited about making drinks and interacting with people, and they were ready to train me. Then this happens.

A few weeks later, I applied for another job. I got called back for interviews and they asked me for a background check. While I was filling out the form, I mustered up the courage to say, “Is it ok if I express something to you?” I let her know that I was in this situation with my son’s father where there were domestic violence issues and we both were apprehended. She called me a few weeks later and told me that my background did pop-up and that this is a prestigious company, but that she would talk to her big boss and let them know that she sees potential in me.

Weeks later, I heard that I got the job and now I’ve been there 2–3 weeks.

I really wanted to take a picture of her because I was so happy that she advocated for me. She gave me a chance. Otherwise, I would have been on welfare again; I wouldn’t have been able to provide for my family. There are others out there like me – those who have criminal backgrounds, but are recovered and wanting to work. We need jobs for those who want to be better.

Poverty is real

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Poverty is real

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

From “How We See Oakland,” lived experiences of poverty and health among low-income women in East Oakland, Calif.

By Erika Williams

This is depressing. This is sad because you can tell this is someone’s bed. It looks like they are sleeping on damp carpet and that’s their sheet and pillow. Someone is there at night, and they get up in the morning to obviously go somewhere. They’re not laying here like a sloth. Is this compassion? Are we really trying to figure out what’s going on? We need to have the government stand up and provide jobs and affordable housing, instead us being the one’s to be laid out here.

Poverty is real. People are living behind the poverty line; people are becoming homeless. This is not people running to the shelters, this isn’t people on the corner saying, “Hey, I feel sorry for them.” It’s people actually living on the street, who sleep on the street, that’s their only shelter.

While it’s raining, this is her bed. Where is she going to sleep tonight? She has to sleep on damp pillows. Everybody knows what bacteria and fungus love. Moisture. Now she may be infected. It’s going to start spreading and then no one is going to care until when – when all the people in the city of Oakland start catching diseases or their children start getting diseases. Right now is when the government needs to step in and things need to change.

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Special Publications

Community Close-Up: East Oakland

Stories of hardship and resilience

Stories of hardship and resilience


By Bina Shrimali

Fifty years ago, East Oakland was a thriving middle class community in Oakland, CA. An exodus of manufacturing and commerce, discriminatory housing policies, and growth in the nearby suburbs have resulted in decades of disinvestment and disenfranchisement in East Oakland. Today, this community is troubled by limited educational and economic opportunities, high crime, violence, and poor health. According to the Alameda County Public Health Department, a child born in East Oakland will live on average 10 years less than a child born in the Oakland Hills.

Economic disadvantage – both for households and neighborhoods – is one of the most powerful predictors of poor health in the United States. Lower income and wealth are linked to poorer health outcomes, including preterm birth, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and premature mortality. Economic adversity is particularly serious when we consider the consequences on the health of children who do not have the ability to choose their economic circumstances.

Children living in poverty are seven times more likely to have poor overall health than children living in higher-income households. Recent advances in the literature strongly suggest that racial and ethnic disparities in adult health are driven by neighborhood economic opportunities, especially experienced early in life.

Despite the challenges in East Oakland, there are stories of resilience and strength: people give back, help their neighbors, and are working to overcome the odds. This project captures the voices and experiences of low-income women living and raising children in East Oakland from a qualitative research study called “How We See Oakland,” conducted through a collaboration of the Alameda County Public Health Department and the UC Berkeley-UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program.

Here are their stories.

Methodology

“How We See Oakland” was conducted using photovoice methodology. Participant information included here was provided at the time of the study.

Photovoice is a community-based participatory research method that blends a grassroots approach to photography with social action. Originally developed and implemented by researchers Caroline Wang and Mary Ann Burris, photovoice places cameras in the hands of community residents so that they can “record and catalyze change in their communities, rather than stand as passive subjects of other people’s intentions and images.”

Participants record, discuss, and relate to others in their community the everyday realities of their lives through their own eyes and experiences. In this way, photovoice becomes a powerful tool for obtaining a deeper understanding of individual lived experiences and structural processes not normally captured in traditional forms of assessment. At the same time, photovoice gives voice to its residents. It opens up opportunities for them to act as “advocates for their own community,” and gives them power to speak through their photography.

Read the full report (pdf, 1 mb)


Citation: Chow JL, Jutte D, Eyre S, Pies C, Syme SL, Shrimali BP, Cheung K, 2018. “How We See Oakland: Low-income Women and Mothers Explore Economic Hardship in Oakland, California Through Photovoice,” Special Publications, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Retrieved from: https://www.frbsf.org/community-development/publications/special/community-close-up-east-oakland/