For the last several years, the first Friday of every month has been a date Oaklanders, fans of Oakland, art aficionados, and connoisseurs of community celebrations have all looked forward to. Starting with an event called Art Murmur--a gallery walk centered in the Uptown neighborhood on Telegraph Avenue--First Friday has become a monthly street party, music fest, and craft fair--a moment to look beyond the city's many problems and celebrate what the city is at its best.
But the reality of the city's biggest crisis--violent crime--intruded on First Friday last month. Near the end of the evening's festivities, 18-year-old Kiante Campbell was shot and killed in the parking lot of a beauty supply store at 20th Street and Telegraph Avenue.
KQED News Associate Oakland Local notes that both Campbell and his accused killer, another 18-year-old, exemplify a certain tragic dimension of violence in the city: Nearly half of Oakland's 131 homicide victims last year were between the ages of 15 and 25; many of the suspects in those cases are also very young.
“This happens a lot, and we ignore it. I get to see it regularly, because I bury a lot of them,” said Pastor Matthew Graves, executive director of Scotlan Youth & Family Center, where Kiante was enrolled in the Highway to Work Program.
He met Kiante through his parish about a year ago and described Campbell as a young man who “boldly went” wherever he was going, an active participant in their jobs program and a counselor at the Boys & Girls Club. He said Kiante had attended a fundraiser for the Scotlan Center the Thursday before the shooting.
“We lost one of ours. We lost them both: Kiante and his shooter,” Graves said. “We need to find a way to put value back into their lives.”
Donald Parks Jr., the 18-year-old man accused of killing Campbell, was also a client of Grave’s jobs program. Parks recently had a child who the Scotlan Center is helping to support.
When First Friday takes to the streets again tonight, last month's shooting will hang over proceedings.
The event is scheduled to include two moments of silence--one for Campbell, and one for last year's homicide victims. City officials have announced police will strictly enforce open-bottle laws to curb drinking on the street. Art galleries won't be serving alcohol. The party will be confined to the area between West Grand Avenue and 27th Street. The number of music stages will be limited to two, and performances will focus on themes of peace and reconciliation. The event, which officially ended at 10 p.m. previously, will be shut down at 9 p.m. And more security will likely be on hand.
(And if tonight doesn't sound interesting enough already, a faction of Occupy Oakland has scheduled a downtown anti-police march tonight at 7.)
That's for this month's First Friday. As Matthew Artz reported in the Oakland Tribune more dramatic changes may be in store:
But several business operators say the city and the volunteer group that organizes the festival need more security guards and seasoned managers to handle crowds that have swelled beyond expectations.
Last week, Fox Theater General Manager Ruth Carlton told council members she was concerned her patrons "walk out into a bit of chaos" on festival nights and urged the city to adopt a professional security plan.
On Tuesday, Rick Mitchell, owner of Luka's Taproom, convened the owners of several large Uptown bars and restaurants, who agreed to help provide organizational and security support.
The group's first step, Mitchell said, is to explore moving the festival to Saturday afternoons when fewer security guards would be needed to keep the peace.