The afternoon sun was beating down on Hiero Day when Richie Rich, a veteran of Oakland's '90s mobb music scene, closed out his set with the 1990 song "Side Show," an homage to The Town's oft-vilified underground car culture. After a friendly exchange, rapper Mistah F.A.B., who hosted the main festival stage, brought a special guest to the stage.
It was Kenzie Smith, a candidate for Oakland City Council and the man involved in the infamous "BBQ Becky" incident. Smith was suddenly thrust into the spotlight in May after Jennifer Schulte, a white woman, called the police on him while he was having a barbecue at Lake Merritt. The viral incident galvanized black Oaklanders to reclaim public spaces with events like BBQ'n While Black, sending the message to stakeholders that, despite ongoing gentrification and displacement, they're still here.
"He runnin' for city council, man, for us to make a change so we can have one of our own making the decisions so they don't push us out, so we can at least have a voice in all this," said Mistah F.A.B. to the cheering crowd.
"They're not trying to listen to the hip-hop community and think that the hip-hop community will not vote—I've heard this in several city council meetings," said Smith before imploring the audience to register for the November election. The crowd shouted in approval.
Hiero Day, now in its seventh year, has consistently been a triumphant showcase of Oakland's underground hip-hop culture. But this year's Labor Day block party and music festival felt particularly significant after a turbulent summer of racist incidents across the Bay Area. With numerous instances of white residents calling the police on black people engaged in mundane activities, and with the community still reeling from the tragic murder of Nia Wilson, 2018's Hiero Day became a much-needed celebration.