Cars and Pipes Forever: A Blues for East Oakland

When I first moved to Oakland, many of the youngĀ  Black men and women I worked with described how the crack epidemic and unbridled materialism and greed had devastated some parts of the cities. Indeed, the Black neighborhoods at the far ends of Oakland bore the scars of this scourge. When I drove through some of East Oakland in particular, I thought about the Declaration of Independence and its promise promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” and about how crack addiction and the drug trade hadĀ  left so many Black lives so far removed from this lofty ideal. This was back in the early 2000s, and in some parts of the city, the gunfire, police sirens, and speeding cars with their whistling tailpipes seem to play a far different tune than the ever optimistic, ever upbeat “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

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