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Oakland’s ‘BBQing while Black’ festival was a glorious, 2-weekend-long rebuttal
‘BBQ Becky’ ended up bringing back a decades-old Oakland tradition.
Hundreds of Oakland, California, residents celebrated a “BBQing while Black” festival at Lake Merritt on Sunday, showing that no amount of intimidation over “coal briquettes” will stop people from having a good time.
According to the Mercury News, attendees grilled racks of ribs, sausage links, chicken, veggie patties, and more, in defiance of one BBQ Becky, the woman at the center of a viral video three weeks ago who called the police on barbecuers who were minding their own business. (Her real name is Jennifer Schulte, and she’s a Stanford-educated environmental scientist.)
While Lake Merritt allows charcoal grills, the men Becky had called the police on were using a charcoal grill in a section of the lake where charcoal isn’t allowed. When the police showed up, Becky reported the other party for harassment and vice versa, though no one was ticketed and no charges were filed.
In response to Becky’s self-assigned mission to police Black people cooking food in a public park, the community organized a cookout two weekends after the incident. This next weekend, however, really got Becky’s goat. The Mercury News described the weekend as a result of the celebratory spirit of an annual four-day celebration called Festival at the Lake, which Oakland hosted in the 1980s and early ’90s, where thousands of people gathered.
Two of the festival organizers, Logan Cortez and Jhamel Robinson, even spent $700 of their own in order to apply for city permits for the barbecue in order to avoid another “Becky” situation from arising, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“This is about doing what we’ve already been doing and eat in peace, literally,” Cortez told the publication. “We’re not fighting for our rights; it’s already our right to do this.”
Even Oakland resident Onsayo Abram, one of the men Becky called the police on, was in attendance. Another co-organizer of the event standing alongside Abram said the event was open for everyone regardless of race, specifically for Oakland newcomers to learn about the city’s Black community and culture. Kenzie Smith, another man who BBQ Becky had called the cops on, spoke about the incident at a city council meeting last week, saying that the woman had told him and Abram that they were going to jail, and also called them the N-word.
“She kept telling me I didn’t belong here,” Abram told the publication. “I was born here… At the same time, I wasn’t trying to feed into her negativity.”
Oh, the irony. Onsayo Abram is a certified fire sprinkler installer. He was one of the original men barbecuing with the charcoal grill at Lake Merritt. He’s out today with a big aluminum garbage can to put coals in #BBQingWhileBlack pic.twitter.com/EAJr0qWXDB— Lisa Fernandez (@ljfernandez) May 20, 2018
- A guide to (not) using the N-word
- Living with the constant threat of death as a Black American
- From Chicano to Xicanx: A brief history of a political and cultural identity
And Becky didn’t even have a chance to get her jollies off calling the police—the festival was so widely attended that firefighters and police helped facilitate traffic.
Just look at a time lapse of the lakeside and the people celebrating:
Hundreds of people at Lake Merritt today for #BBQingWhileBlack festival after #BBQBecky viral video sparked national conversation on racism. The message from attendees: Everyone is welcome here. #Oakland pic.twitter.com/KoIASw7vdm— Erin Baldassari (@e_baldi) May 20, 2018
The response to BBQ Becky’s viral video wouldn’t have gained nearly enough steam online had it not been for the memes that followed. Photos of Black history and pop culture featured BBQ Becky calling the cops—and no one, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to the Black Panther, was safe.
Who. Did. This. *screaming* pic.twitter.com/IImi2Axxq1— PrestonMitchum (@PrestonMitchum) May 13, 2018
One comedian, Tim Northern, has even gone so far as to flip the script and pretend to snitch on white people himself.
Of course, somebody’s gotta make that “unfairly targeted by a racist white woman” money. Please excuse us while we enjoy these printed shirts of BBQ Becky:
Yep, there are shirts now.— Janay Kingsberry (@janaykingsberry) May 21, 2018
"#BBQBecky" was the unofficial face of a movement today at Lake Merritt to celebrate inclusivity in Oakland. “We’re being pushed out, but we have to stand our ground.” https://t.co/Zb4fcEgmnQ (Photos by @lodafoto). pic.twitter.com/oC6gOH9RYo
Regardless of the weekend’s celebratory pushback against righteous white people who’ve taken it upon themselves to police Black people going about their own business, BBQ Becky is certainly not the first offender. We have people calling the cops at Black people sitting at Starbucks, checking out of their Airbnbs, and sleeping in the common spaces of their own dorm buildings. This time, Oakland’s Black community responded. Maybe next time, white people can organize against anti-Black racism and do the work to teach their own communities, for a change.
H/T the Root
Samantha Grasso is a former IRL staff writer for the Daily Dot with a reporting emphasis on immigration. Her work has appeared on Los Angeles Magazine, Death And Taxes, Revelist, Texts From Last Night, Austin Monthly, and she has previously contributed to Texas Monthly.