The brilliance of “BBQing While Black” in Oakland, California
On April 29, a Caucasian female Oaklander called the police because male African-American Oaklanders were barbecuing in Merritt Park.
It’s perfectly legal to barbecue in Merritt Park. The police made no arrests.
Someone filmed the woman while she was making the call, and the video went viral — more than 2 million hits and counting. Some witty person created the hashtag #BBQBecky, and Twitter went crazy.
Here’s an except from The New York Times:
Online, the video took on a vibrant life of its own. A meme using the hashtag #BBQBecky went viral, with the image of the woman appearing behind President Barack Obama in the White House, as a guest at the Last Supper, behind Martin Luther King at the March on Washington and on the bus with Rosa Parks.
I thought the memes were poignant and hilarious.
I’m pretty sure #BBQBecky didn’t like them as much as I did.
Yesterday, May 21, 2018, hundreds of residents of Oakland, California participated in a peaceful community event aptly named, “BBQing While Black.” A teacher organized the event because she felt compelled to do something in response to the blatant display of racism.
When I read this article in The New York Times, I got warm and fuzzy all over. Reporter Laura M. Holson wrote that Oakland residents had come together to host the mother of all barbecues to make a statement about their right to occupy public places without harassment. And they did it with style.
Food. Music. Dancing. Sun. It was a beautiful day. A peaceful day. A fun day.
What I would have given to be there.
I am not African American. I am a peachy-tan American. But I was raised in an integrated neighborhood in Philadelphia, and most of my childhood friends had darker skin. Among the many churches I attended (my family was very Christian), one was the [mostly black] Galilee Baptist Church in Roxborough, which was our neighborhood in Philadelphia.
In the summer, my brothers and I went to Vacation Bible School at Galilee Baptist Church. At the culmination of the program, we were invited to take part in the 4th of July parade. We decorated our bikes, wore red, white, and blue, waved flags, and proudly marched with the Galilee Baptist Church Vacation Bible School.
After the parade, our group returned to the church’s courtyard to enjoy the best darn 4th of July barbecue you could ever imagine.
There were at least six different kinds of potato salad, an endless supply of deviled eggs, fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecued pork ribs, and all the Hawaiian Punch you could drink.
We would load up our plates and find a place in the sun-warmed grass and eat, surrounded by the friends we’d made in the past week. Adults sat in folding chairs at picnic tables and talked about everything or nothing at all. Music blasted out of the church speakers. Some people danced. Old ladies, dressed in their 4th of July best, fanned themselves and sipped iced tea.
All of these years later, the annual 4th of July barbecues at Galilee Baptist Church are still the best summer celebrations I can ever remember. For me, nothing will ever compare.
And that’s why the community-organized “BBQing While Black” struck me so profoundly. It took all of the elements of that perfect 4th of July celebration — a peaceful gathering, wicked good food, badass music, dancing, and chilling in the heat — and used it to show the world the ridiculousness of racial profiling.
They fought hatred with wholesomeness.
It was utterly brilliant.
And God, I’m sorry I missed it.
Keep up the good fight, Oakland.
Esther Hofknecht Curtis, BSOL, MSM-HCA is a freelance writer living in Delaware. Follow her on Facebook — go to https://www.facebook.com/TheArdentReader19977/