By Peter Charles Kraljev, Red Phoenix Correspondent Sacremento
Oak Park is a neighborhood on the south side of city of Sacramento, form 1900 to the 1960s, it thrived economically and culturally, home to the Park Meat Market, and Arata Bros markets; Steen’s Corner Saloon; Azevedo’s Women’s Apparel; Janek and Scurfield canvass goods, Citizens Bank of Oak Park; the Ben Franklin variety store; and many others. The street’s arts and entertainment could be found at the Victor Theater (Guild Theater), the California Theater, the Belmonte Gallery or the outdoor theater and pavilion at the park. Oak Park was also the where the Sacramento branch oof the Black Panther Party was headquartered and their “Service to the People” programs were very active in the neighborhood.
Oak Park was considered Sacramento’s “second downtown,” achieving all this despite being the “redlined” part of town. This prosperity began to decline in the 1970s and 80s when the Interstate freeway expansion program physically divided the neighborhood and left sections isolated leading many of the wealthier families to move to the suburbs. FBI crack downs on the Black Panther party brought an end of the “service to the people” programs as well as discouraging any other community or political organizing in the neighborhood. These losses reduced the neighborhood’s sense of community and access to social services leading to an increase in crime and poverty. It began to recover in the early 2000’s, it was not the same as its former glory, but had become a decent place to live.
Oak Park’s growing prosperity has not gone unnoticed by capitalists looking for yet another area to gentrify, replacing people with profit. Grounded Real-estate, Oak Park Area Association of Realtors, and The University of California Davis Medical Center have been buying up land and developing the area. At first glance this seems to be good, but if you take a stroll around town and talk with the residents all the hallmarks of gentrification are there: rising rents, local business being driven out by franchises, and life long residents being pushed out in favor of affluent Bay Area commuters.
Our Correspondent in Sacramento spoke with Eliza Deed, a fair housing advocate, who is creating “Speak Out Oak Park,” a docuseries that represents Black history within Oak Park and the dynamics between the black population, gentrification, revolution, and community past and present.
Eliza Deed first took interest political activism and housing advocacy when she was homeless in San Diego. There was a homeless shelter she stayed in where the staff frequently pocketed money and took home donations meant for the shelter and the homeless and discriminated against members of the LGBTQ+ community who tried to stay there. Deed kept her head down and didn’t speak up but maintained a binder of all the illegal actions going on and related evidence. She brought the binder to the city council but nothing came of it, she didn’t pursue the issue as she was unfamiliar with the arcane legislative process and did know what else to do. Years later when living at “The Trees at Madison,” a local apartment complex, she was up for eviction due to a misspelling on a money order. This time, Deed did not back down, did her research learned her rights, and reached out to tenants’ rights organizations and fought this eviction and she has been a housing advocate ever since.
“We can’t allow ourselves to be erased and our oppression hidden” she concluded, “right now we can’t do much against these real-estate titans but we have our voices and right now our voices and our stories are the revolution, we need to let people now what’s happing and what they are losing before its lost and inspire them to action.”Eliza Deed, Speak Out Oak Park
She no longer lives at the Trees at Madison and has been an Oak Park resident since 2019. She spoke to us about how all the businesses of Broadway Way and Martin Luther King Blvd. used to be full of black owned and locally operated small business but now it’s all big chain stores. A retail complex known as 40 Acres (a refence to “40 acres and a mule” a slavery reparation proposal) used to host all black owned business, but now only 2 underground book stores and the Guild Theater are still black owned.
Since moving in she has had 6 police calls on her form her downstairs neighbor who said she does not feel safe but would not specify why. Deed reached out to the previous tenants of her apartment and they all confided that same downstairs neighbor frequently called the police on them as well. Deed reached out to Sgt. Matt Young of the SacPD who told her that in recent years there has been high amount of police calls for non-criminal things such as “looking suspicious” or an unoccupied car while the people making the calls are mostly anonymous the calls are almost always on Black people and Oak Park is one of the most heavily policed areas.
Eliza Deed told our correspondent all about how Grounded Real-estate, Oak Park Area Association of Realtors are buying land and developing the area and while they are improving the neighborhood they have no interest having the current residents around to enjoy it. The houses they sell and apartments they rent are far too expensive for locals to afford and is instead going to bay area yuppies and hipsters who in turn call the police on the locals for “looking suspicious”.
“We can’t allow ourselves to be erased and our oppression hidden” she concluded, “right now we can’t do much against these real-estate titans but we have our voices and right now our voices and our stories are the revolution, we need to let people now what’s happing and what they are losing before its lost and inspire them to action.”
If you would like to know more about Speak Out Oak park check out the Facebook page
Categories: U.S. News