“BBQing While Black” Event Draws Hundreds To Oakland’s Lake Merritt

Hundreds of Black folk gathered at Oaklands Lake Merritt on Sunday to BBQ, play music and congregate in a show of fun and strength in response to a confrontation caught on video there a few weeks ago when someone complained to police about a group of black people barbecuing. 

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 The event called BBQing While Black was the hoods response to a video that went viral in late April after a white woman called police to report a few black men using a charcoal grill at the lake. Although they were in a designated barbecuing area, charcoal grills are not allowed in that section of the lake and when the womans complaint surfaced it created a firestorm and she went viral. 

This is about doing what weve already been doing and eat in peace, literally, said Logan Cortez, one of the events organizers told the East Bay Times. Were not fighting for our rights; its already our right to do this.

The BBQ is definitely a show of community strength and ridiculing the woman’s racist, ridiculous actions towards her Black neighbors. 

The video, which as of Sunday had nearly 2 million views on YouTube and millions more across other social media platforms added fire to a national flame that is already burning concerning implicit racism in America. 

 In it, the unidentified woman can be heard talking to police about the use of charcoal. After waiting roughly two hours for police to arrive, the woman told officers the people barbecuing had been harassing her. The officers did not arrest or ticket anyone.

The incident has also  become an internet meme with the hashtag, #BBQBecky, and photos of people cutting and pasting pictures of the woman calling police over photos of historically significant events, such as Dr. Martin Luther Kings I Have a Dream speech on the Washington Mall. 


Behold, the newest meme of 2018. #BBQBecky pic.twitter.com/4BrGjkhQsP

Some see the actions of this party pooper as a deeper example of how gentrification is changing and dividing and weakening black communities. 

Were being pushed out, McMahan said, but we have to stand our ground.

For many, Sundays event was a return to the celebratory spirit of the 1980s and early 1990s, when an annual four-day celebration, called Festival at the Lake, drew dozens of vendors and thousands of attendees. Although that event was discontinued in the mid-1990s, Lake Merritt has continued to regularly host weekend barbecues and social gatherings.

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