Oakland has really been in the limelight lately and while I’m so excited for some of the changes coming to our city, there are some less fortunate parts of this rapid “growth”. I normally try to keep my personal opinions separate from my business but on this occasion the two are inextricably linked.
What I’m pointing to here is the real looming possibility that the people who created the cultural assets allowing for Downtown’s growth are at risk of being pushed out; and with them, we as a community are at risk of losing our culture, diversity, and passion. The current illustration of this growing pain is the battle Betti Ono has ahead. Betti Ono, a five year old independently owned gallery in the heart of downtown, is currently at risk of losing their space. Betti Ono is in a city owned property at 14th and Broadway where their rent is being raised by 60%. Anyka Barber, the owner, has been asking for a long term lease for the last five years to no avail.
Now, I understand people in real estate need to make money and sometimes that comes in the form of speculation, but for the City of Oakland to do this is unfathomable. There is now an equity department at the City of Oakland, but what’s equitable about this situation? Betti Ono is an arts space run by a woman of color who provides for this neighborhood in a unique way. Betti Ono is part of what made Oakland one of top five cities to visit.
As a small business owner, womanpreneur, creative, and Downtown Oakland resident, losing Betti Ono would be a massive hit and would mark a significant decline in our neighborhood. I look up to Anyka. She has a powerful presence, is an amazing community-organizer, has brought numerous world-class artists to Oakland, and she does all of this while managing her other full-time job as a mother. I’m still a new business owner and to put it plainly, I need people like Anyka as role-models. It sounds cheesy, but seeing all the amazing work she does lends me a certain amount of emotional strength. If she can thrive in downtown, maybe I can too.
I could go on and on about the subject of our changing neighborhood but I’ll pause here to ask you to take action: Betti Ono has launched their #powerloveresistance campaign to help raise funds to stay in Downtown Oakland. I hope you can take a moment to help with this effort. Donate whatever you can and share the #powerloveresistance campaign across your social networks. What’s at stake here is much larger than just one gallery, it’s all of the independently owned small businesses and organizations that make Oakland special at risk.
While I’m taking a moment to talk about things that make Downtown Oakland special, here are some other amazing places you should support: