Hundreds danced to hip-hop and ’80s soul music Sunday and listened to local African-American candidates make their pitches. But this cookout in Oakland, California, wasn’t just any spring festival.
The event, dubbed “BBQing While Black,” was one community’s powerful response to what many perceived as yet another example of everyday racism.
It all started on April 29, when a white woman reportedly called police on a few black people who, she said, were using a charcoal grill in an area where it was banned, Oakland police arrived; no one was arrested. But the 25-minute episode was captured on video, then posted to YouTube and viewed more than 2 million times.
As word of the skirmish spread, it added fuel to the national conversation about white people calling the police on black people for seemingly trivial reasons, including waiting in Starbucks, working as a home inspector, shopping at Nordstrom Rack and sleeping in an Ivy League dorm common room.
“It was disgusting and infuriating. Also, very offensive,” Jhamel Robinson, a graphic designer who helped organize the “BBQing While Black” event, told CNN. “But the video also inspired us to take action to show the togetherness in our community.”
With the help of his friend, Logan Cortez, Robinson made a flyer and sent it around to friends and relatives. The message also gained steam on social media, Robinson added.
“All age groups showed up, from newborns all the way to elders. Former and current Oakland residents, people from the Bay Area and even someone who traveled from Los Angeles,” Robinson said. “We had 30 street vendors, local businesses, six DJs playing hip-hop, R&B and ’80s soul music. There were dance contests and local council candidates.”
Prominent activist Angela Davis even came, he said. “”It was a day of love and unity.”