"A group without an economic base of power in a 2005 America will experience the problems that plague Oakland's majority Black communities today. The Kinte Center urges Oakland's Blacks to establish a Black economic base of power at 55th Avenue east to the Oakland-San Leandro border; much like was on Historic 7th Street in West Oakland."



This is an essay about a West Oakland that was populated primarily by Blacks who migrated to West Oakland during World War II to work in the Military industries. Also this essay is dedicated to those early Black Oaklanders that established an economically self-contained community in West-Oakland and thus leave an example for today's Black Oaklanders.

The facts in this essay were taken from the book "West Oakland Oral History Interviews", in the Oakland Main Library's History Room. The interview from which most of the material for this essay was taken from was an interview with a Mr. Tom Nash. The interview was conducted in 1994. Mr. Nash describes West Oakland as follows and I quote:

"But nevertheless, it was a beautiful place. I mean, there was a lot going on. There were all kinds of business. As I said before there were banks, cleaning, and pressing shops. You name it, and it was there. Whatever you needed, you didn't have to leave West Oakland to get it, see. So, consequently as a result of that, West Oakland was a city within a city. And it was a beautiful place. I mean, I enjoyed it. see".

According to the interview, Mr. Nash originally from Muskogee, Oklahoma. Being music enthusiasts and maybe a musician, upon arriving in West Oakland heard music coming from the Slim Jenkins Club. He visited the club was apparently rather impressed with Slim and the atmosphere and sophistication he found in the Slim Jenkins Club. Mr. Nash also described a close relationship between the noted, Raincoat and Slim Jenkins. There will be more on Raincoat later in this essay. I quote Mr. Nash:

"He (Slim Jenkins) did an about face, a 360 degree about face, to develop one of the finest clubs that has international recognition. and everybody, if you were anybody, you had to be at Slim Jenkins".

Mr. Nash gave an account of a close relationship between "Raincoat" and Slim Jenkins and I quote:

"And he (Slim Jenkins) formulated a closeness with another gambler friend of his, Raincoat Jones. They called him Raincoat, cause he wore a raincoat summer and winter. But inside the raincoat, he had all kinds of whiskey, you know. and_________. He sold after hour whiskey, you know. Raincoat and Slim were the best of friends. If Slim and Raincoat always carried a briefcase. That brief case was full of money, but nobody attempted to rob him. They knew better. And when Slim needed money, he would go over to Raincoat, and borrow money from Raincoat, and pay him back of course. And this was the kind of closeness they had together".

So, what happened to this beautiful, economically self-contained community that was in West Oakland. Mr. Nash described how West Oakland fell victim to

City of Oakland Redevelopment with eminent domain and I quote:

"Oh yes, listen let me tell you something. West Oakland was a beautiful place up until the city with the decree to clean out West Oakland came through, and through the process of eminent domain took over all of those homes, over five hundred homes down there, to put in the post office. It wiped out the barn, one of the finest restaurants that we had soul food restaurants that we had down. and they called it the Barn, because that's exactly what it was. A great big old empty barn and they brought-they put in a restaurant in there, and you could go in and there and get all kinds of soul good. And, but nevertheless, the city, through the process of eminent domain, took over all of that property down there and scattered the people. All of the Blacks, at that time it was almost one hundred percent Black in the West Oakland area. Scattered them.

Most of the Blacks that arrived and settled in West Oakland were renters. Many dreamed of owning property in the "At the time forbidden" East Oakland (There was a time when Blacks were essentially bared from residing or owning property in East Oakland). They eventually overcame the barriers that once kept them from becoming property owners in East Oakland and settled in East Oakland in force as property owners. We cannot dishonor these noble early Black Oaklanders and allow the Black presence in East Oakland to go the way of Historic 7th Street that was in West Oakland. The only way to ensure that this does not happen is for Blacks to establish a Black base of economic power in East Oakland

This is not to "Cry wolf" but we should note Mr. Nash testimony that City of Oakland Redevelopment with eminent domain destroyed Black commerce and community in West Oakland. This should bring Black Oaklanders to pause because East Oakland is currently under two ensuing City of Oakland Redevelopment Plans i.e., The Coliseum Redevelopment Plan and the Central City East Redevelopment Plan.

Toady's Black Oaklanders should not allow the same thing to happen to Black communities in East Oakland. It is my understanding that East Oakland's Black Merchant group or for that matter, East Oakland's small locally owned business in general are not at not at the table to influence the design for commerce in East Oakland in a post-redevelopment environment in East Oakland i.e., The CityEast Community at 55th Avenue east to the Oakland-San Lenadro border.

Historic 7th Street Black Owned Businesses Collage West Oakland Historic Train Station

For your viewing pleasure please click on Figure 1 - A collage of business that were in the Historic 7 th Street Commercial District in West Oakland and click on Figure 2 - A picture of the Old West Oakland Train station on Wood Street where most of the early Black Oaklanders arrived who built the Historic 7 th Street-West Oakland Commercial District.

 The Kinte Center's Community Building Initiative presented here is designed to build this Black economic base of power in East Oakland at 55th Avenue east to the Oakland-San Leandro border.

They did it in West Oakland, so can we in the proposed "CityEast" community at 55th Avenue east to the Oakland-San Leandro Border.