Oaklanders have, historically, not been unwilling to take a stand against abuse and mistreatment from the so-called authorities. The Black Panther Party started here in the 1960’s, and in 2000, a civil rights lawsuit was filed that has led to the OPD being threatened with federal receivership after failing to comply with court orders to reform. Lori Selke writes about the overlap of property and violent crime in the essay “Crime in Oakland: A Personal History,” which has some strong truth about the ways in which people deal with the threat and aftermath of crime when they can really only rely on themselves and their neighbors.
More recently, in 2009, people took to the streets in support of justice for Oscar Grant, killed by a BART cop Johannes Mehserle on New Year’s Day, and who was later convicted only of involuntary manslaughter. In 2012, they did the same for Trayvon Martin, killed by armed vigilante George Zimmerman, who was acquitted altogether. Nick Mamatas’ “Bad Day at Black Bloc” draws from these and the Occupy events of 2011 to create the soup the protagonist swims in.
Speaking of residents, the 2010 US Census revealed one of Oakland’s more charming attributes, as I see it—top in the nation for lesbian-couple households. Though San Francisco usually gets all the praise (or condemnation) for its QUILTBAG residents, Oakland has its own large population of queer and/or trans* people, not to mention the oldest gay bar in the nation. The drag bar and performers featured in Na’amen Tilahun’s “Retirement Plans at Shining Girls,” would feel right at home here.
As for Rob Pierce’s “The Real Thing,” well, I just plain like the idea of a story with a sex worker who ends up the victor, rather than the victim. Mary Grace—call me?