ABOUT THE PROJECT
In the early 1980s, African Americans made up nearly 50 percent of Oakland.
Today, African Americans make up only 24 percent of the population. If current trends continue, their numbers could plummet to a mere 18 percent by 2030. Oakland’s new popularity, fueled by the advent of a booming tech sector, has come with a steep price. Young white and Asian newcomers, more highly skilled and affluent than existing residents, are pushing out the city’s long-established African American populace, a vibrant community tracing back to the 1940s that played a significant role in building Oakland’s rich history and defining the national black identity. Many of the paramount political struggles, artistic movements, and intellectual innovations of the 20th century trace back to black Oakland.
Rental rates and home prices have skyrocketed as new residents compete for scarce housing, leading to a spike in evictions of mostly low-income African American and Latino residents. The shortage of affordable housing units, cuts to housing assistance programs, and stagnant wages create a perfect storm for this devastating demographic shift.
Displaced black Oaklanders are moving to more affordable cities located in the outer Bay Area region. Others are relocating out of the Bay Area altogether: an estimated 22,000 African Americans left the Bay Area from 2000-2014. Some of those pushed out of their homes have stood their ground, helping to form one of the largest tent cities you will find in the United States.
A Changing Oakland was born with an overwhelming sense of urgency to explore and tell the stories of the city's unique and diverse people before they are gone forever.
Director and photo-historian Bryan Wiley and his crew have committed themselves to boots-on-the-ground research: walking the streets, visiting homeless camps, talking to artists, and witnessing Oakland’s environment first hand. He has photographed Oakland’s sacred spaces and famous street art and documented compelling stories of individuals affected by Oakland’s rapidly changing landscape. These accounts serve as a reminder that the upsides to urban renewal come with the shadow of massive population displacement and the permanent loss of culturally rich history.
We interviewed community members who are tackling these problems through projects that attempt to unify and strengthen communities – from a builder who constructs shelters for homeless people, to the real estate agent who steers clients away from gentrifying vulnerable neighborhoods.
We invite you to explore A Changing Oakland project and view the photos and watch the video clips that capture the spaces and people of Oakland.
Dena Lynne Shupe, Contributing Writer
Angela Rowen, Contributing Writer