by Tiny aka Lisa Gray-Garcia
“I know they never had any intention of us being here in their plans,” as my son Tiburcio and many young boys and girls call him who attend the beautiful school he founded that is Frohm’s Martial Arts Academy on BlackArthur at Seminary in East Oakland. Frohm’s Academy was just served an exorbitant rent increase by the new owners of their building and are forced to leave their neighborhood of 16 years.
“Frohm’s Martial Arts has been on this block in East Oakland for 16 years,” Master Frohm continued. “I started this school because martial arts saved me.” Master Frohm, whose name is Ernest Leon Frohm III, told us the story of his martial arts instructor who saw, even when his mama didn’t, that he was being influenced by local drug dealers and going down the wrong road. Challenging him with the dedication necessary from martial arts practice, his Sensei stopped Master Frohm in his tracks and put him on a path to become the consciousness building, empowering teacher to so many he is today.
“I’m not sure where I will go. I am currently without a home. Luckily I have a community, so I’m staying with friends,” said musician, medicine carrier and elder teacher Val Serrant, teacher and healer with his beautiful drums to so many. He resided on BlackArthur in Deep East Oakland, across from Castlemont High School and was just given notice to leave his home of over 13 years, whose building, as in the case of Frohm’s, was bought by new residents of East Oakland, who, under the guise of “renovations,” asked him to leave. “I call it a gentrification tsunami,” Val concluded.
“I am worried about our drum teacher at Deecolonize Academy, Uncle Val, who, like Master Frohm and so many more, should not have been forced to leave our neighborhood,” said Tiburcio Garcia and Kimo Umu from Deecolonize Academy, who spoke at a recent Oakland City Council meeting which dealt with a proclamation for the powerful Love Life movement and an eviction moratorium.
“I am worried about our drum teacher at Deecolonize Academy, Uncle Val, who, like Master Frohm and so many more, should not have been forced to leave our neighborhood,” said Tiburcio Garcia and Kimo Umu from Deecolonize Academy.
Youth and adult poverty skolaz from POOR Magazine interviewed Val Serrant and Master Frohm as part of an investigative study Deecolonize Academy’s Revolutionary Journalism class and POOR Magazine reporters are launching on who is buying up BlackArthur and all of East Oakland, which will be part of the launching of an offensive plan we call a DeGentriFUKation Zone, meant to help longtime small businesses and families stay rooted in this, a low-income, intentionally blighted, majority African-descendent East Oakland neighborhood.
Don’t sell that beautiful (ugly) house
Predatory advertising on billboards, bus shelters and bus benches blankets East and West Oakland telling you to “Sell That Ugly House”; ugly and dirty are code words for poor. Us poor and working class people are so caught up and historically lied to about our cultures and languages and spirits and homes and barrios and hoods that we believe they are ugly. We believe the myth of the suburbs and the police-created narratives of safety and security. And so countless of us sell and move and leave and don’t ever look back.
Uncle Val Serrant and Master Frohm are just two of the faces of BlackArthur displacement. The speculators and real estate snakes and politricksters like Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee invite the corporate developers in to buy these neighborhoods up in one gulp and push us all out.
Next door to Homefulness and Deecolonize Academy, at 82nd Street, two long-term very low-income, disabled elders and all of their extended family of children and families who would stay in their home when there was nowhere else to go, were displaced when 30-something tech workers bought their run-down building, which had stayed that way for years while the real estate snakes let the property values drop with every year of intentional East Oakland blight.
Frohm’s Martial Arts has secured another location a few blocks away. Although it is a blessing that they are safe for now, it will be an immeasurable loss to the Seminary neighborhood, which before Frohm’s Academy came there, was in deep struggle.
From East to West Oakland, these are the tragic, violent and sorrow-filled stories of displacement. As revolutionaries like the East 12st Peoples Plan warriors who fought for Oakland public land to actually be used for the public instead of more developers, we po’ folks who have struggled with displacement for years also need to build our own, refuse to leave and demand that the people making money off of our departure support our stability.
And for those of us still here while we bang on the politricksters and government, we also need to stop taking the chump change they give you for that so-called “Ugly House” and move proactively into collective ownership and self-determination like we do at Homefulness. As Black, Brown, poor and indigenous people across Mama Earth, we need to refuse to keep letting them profit off our destruction.
We also need to stop taking the chump change they give you for that so-called “Ugly House” and move proactively into collective ownership and self-determination.
90-day eviction moratorium in Oakland
After hours and hours of testimony and trying to wait people out to the bitter end, causing many of us mamas and children to leave or lose sleep and jobs, an 90-day eviction moratorium in Oakland was won. But to be real, the fight to keep us all here has just begun.
For more information on the DegentriFUKation Zone, email firstname.lastname@example.org or come by any Thursday from 12 to 2 p.m. at 8032 BlackArthur at 82nd Street to speak with us at the Sliding Scale Cafe at Homefulness. To join us on our stolen land redistribution tour in San Francisco on April 22 or Oakland/Huchin on May 20, email email@example.com.
Tiny – or Lisa Gray-Garcia – is co-founder with her Mama Dee and co-editor of POOR Magazine and its many projects and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America,” published by City Lights. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit POOR at www.poormagazine.org.