Neighborhood identity

How Urban Geometry Creates Neighborhood Identity reminded me of a thought I often have about where I live.

We have an apartment on the third floor in Adams Point. We have spoken to the folks on either side of us, and our building manager lives on our floor; e is the only one we really talk to in our building. We see others in the lobby or on the elevator, but I wouldn’t say we are acquaintances, and definitely not friends.

On the other hand, we know the names of people in other parts of our neighborhood, in part because they live in street-level homes, and have fruit trees or porches, natural spaces to notice and comment to one another.

I am not aware of population density in Oakland, but I imagine that my neighborhood has a fairly dense section, because we are surrounded by 3+ floored buildings, taking up entire blocks. Our building has 24 units, on a block that has three other apartments and six single family homes.

I personally don’t mind where I live, because we have immediate access to areas where people walk around and hang out. Most of my neighbors and nearby folks we meet are on parts of Grand Lake or Lakeshore Avenue, or just somewhere around Lake Merritt. It isn’t exactly about identity, but I consider if I am isolated from the people around me, and it somewhat feels like that. But as we have the aforementioned social valves, I enjoy the privacy and quiet our apartment affords us.

We didn’t plan to move here, we were forced to move in desperation, and just got very lucky that there was a vacancy when we were in need. We’ve been here almost three years, and with rising rents in this area we couldn’t stay in it if we moved. But that is for a different post. ^_^

Women’s March in Oakland

Clover, Susan and I joined the Women’s March in Oakland yesterday. It was really amazing and bolstered our spirits to know that we are not alone, that there are so many people striving for progress.

The Women's March passing the Cathedral on Grand Ave.
We joined the Women’s March on Grand Ave. near the Cathedral.

And not just in Oakland! Whatever the trolls bellow, this demonstration clearly showed that the majority is active and moving, ready to fight for our humanity.

Women's March down Broadway in Oakland
Our view from the Sear’s Building, going down Broadway in Oakland.

On a familial level, it was encouraging to see so many other families. Even as we were walking down the street we saw caregivers rocking pussyhats and pushing strollers and/or carrying babies down the street. Susan posted shots of Clover joining the march and finding a prime vantage point.

The Women's March entering Frank Ogawa Plaza.
We were among the first to arrive at City Hall. Notice the police officers on the roof recording the march.

If anything can be said of Oakland it is that there is a proud tradition of protesting injustice, a heritage I endeavor to support. In the past we’ve been hesitant to participate with Clover, because bad actors come out to act like fools, and the police act even worse in response. It will still be touch and go, but Clover is always aware of the police helicopters flying overhead, and the unjust causes the people down the street are marching for.

Crowd of Women's March marchers at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Frank Ogawa Plaza and the surrounding area filled up and stayed pack in the following hours.

It was a tremendous educational opportunity for our family as well, since Clover had a lot of questions about the chants. We were able to discuss equal human rights, and how women are treated and oppressed by harmful laws. It is always a little tough trying to explain horrible ideas to a five year old, but we also don’t want to hide the reality what is happening from a person that will ultimately inherit whichever system we have in place.

Did you march? Share your experience and pictures! ^_^

Kraken Con

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Not going to Japan Expo reminded me to register for Kraken Con, which is about five weeks out. I went ahead and got Susan a two-day pass as well, so we can come and go as we want.

I wanted to point out that if you are attending, or thinking of attending, there are plenty of things around the Oakland Convention Center to do and see (and eat). Off the top of my head, there is Old Oakland (where Ratto’s is located), Chinatown, and just across the street from the center is End Game, many patrons of whom I suspect will be attending the con.

If you are attending and have questions about the area, ask in the comments or shoot me a message. If you are a local, and want to see what a relatively small, local animationan, comics and gaming convention is like, I encourage you to attend. This is actually a really great time to attend this, and should be a good introductory con. If folks want to get a cup of tea there, let me know! ^_^

Proving the point

Susan Mernit wrote her impressions of a party she attended; she had a poor experience, and described her observations. If you follow any of the -isms in tech, this will not be news to you. For me the most significant part is that this happens during this pivotal time when Oakland’s tech scene is deciding how it is going to define itself; a lot of folks don’t want to be like San Francisco and Silicon Valley, because it plays out that a lot of people of privilege push everyone else out, of home, job and lifestyle.

But that is why the initial article is significant. As a cultural object, this post will be referenced for the defensive comments folks made to defend the party, and shut down Susan’s voice.

I read the comments before the post (I get all the comments in my inbox), so I was looking forward to seeing the hornet’s nest Susan had stirred, but on that point I was disappointed. It wasn’t a sponsored party by an incubator or anything (as pointed out in the editor’s note at the end of the post), but that didn’t diminish the fact that people treated Susan in a particular way. An appropriate response would have been to ignore the post, or explain that it was unfortunate it went down that way and open the channels to discuss how to make better parties. Because that is what humans should be doing, making life better and more meaningful at every opportunity.

Here are my short assessments of the comments attempting to shut Susan down:

  • Andrei – One’s experiences do not diminish those of others. Also, don’t use your family as a badge of diversity, it is tacky.
  • Eliot wrote a post – Susan was writing a narrative to explain the concepts we’ve developed to understand systemic bias in tech. One of them is the idea that something could be so simple, your mother could do it. If Susan feels that is apropos, then it is. I’ve no idea how someone could think the Mom is being insulted. I think the cut off for engaging in Mom-honor is rather young, but maybe it persists for some folks.
  • Adam – Passive-aggressive quips are not positive contributions to a conversation. This reply was essentially troll-speak. Also, mention of “respect”, which throws up a flag that some shared framework of honor is being used, which is obviously not the case.
  • Laura Dambrosio – This was a mean reply, which undermined a potentially interesting counter-point to the story.

Why do I care? I don’t, really. Susan is tough, and can handle the trolls. She is a women working in Oakland tech journalism, which is part of why this even got a reaction. But I wish our discourse were better. I disagree with Susan all the time! But I never have to attack her person or perspective to express that. And she never attacks me, either.

This is also an opening salvo in a battle of ideas that is about to envelop Oakland (how’s that for dramatic?!). If as the folks at the party claim, this wasn’t indicative of a particular set of cultural values, why the venom in the responses? If these folks are only tangential to the tech scene, what can we expect when we engage with the actual folks that will come in and influence the city with money, leverage and privilege? It’s going to happen, we know this. But it doesn’t have to be discussed like this.