A group of more than 1,000 local artists, many saying they were friends of those killed in a deadly warehouse fire earlier this month, have signed a letter calling on the mayor of Oakland to stop landlords from evicting warehouse residents in the wake of tragedy.
Three artists -- Nihar Bhatt, Sophia Kim and Carolyn Valentine -- say they collected the more than 1,000 signatures and comments from the local artist community in the past 24 hours. They sent the letter to both the mayor and media outlets.
"We believe that as the music community that lost so many of our own (most of the people who died were in attendance of the event being thrown there and do not live there), our perspective is critical," an email from Bhatt stated. "One thread that keeps on being lost in press coverage is the difficulty promoters have faced in creating permitted events in the city of Oakland. This is a very critical part of how this fire occurred, and we believe our statement is one of the only ones that addresses it in our fourth demand."
Bodies were still being pulled from the wreckage when warehouse music venues in Philadelphia and Baltimore were shut down after operating for years. Locally, venues and "warehomes," where artists live and work, such as Richmond's Burnt Ramen, were shut down in recent days; in Burnt Ramen's case, Richmond Mayor Tom Butt had identified the space as potentially being "the next Ghost Ship." (Richmond City officials have yet to provide a list of violations to the owner of Burnt Ramen to justify the space's closure.)
"The media frequently seeks to mischaracterize our collective spaces as hedonistic playgrounds. This is a gross distortion," the letter to the mayor states. "They are sacred spaces that allow us to survive, organize, and flourish in the face of a mainstream culture that often shuns our very existence. Shuttering the spaces that allow us to safely congregate is tantamount to extinguishing our livelihood."