Save City’s Creative Communities From Gentrification

640px-Tribunebackground02192006_by_Roslyn_Mazzilli

Target: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Goal: Work to save the arts and cultural districts in Oakland from the effects of gentrification.

The city of Oakland, California is in the middle of a massive gentrification process and communities of color are taking it harder than anyone. This is especially true for people of color-owned spaces, including the Betti Ono Gallery in Downtown Oakland. The Betti Ono Gallery, a cultural anchor that has contributed greatly to Oakland’s arts-driven cultural renaissance, provides “underrepresented artists and communities with a platform to exhibit their work.” But because of inflated rent due to gentrification, the Betti Ono Gallery is in danger of closing its doors for good.

The rent for the space in which the Betti Ono Gallery occupies has increased by 60 percent, amounting to an additional $22,000. The gallery has tried numerous times to secure a long-term lease on their space, but have been unable to do so. Because of the fear of shutting down permanently, Betti Ono founder and director Anyka Barber has been leading the Oakland Creative Neighborhoods Coalition (OCNC). The OCNC has been rallying members of Oakland’s creative community and beyond to raise awareness and address the mounting threat of gentrification in the city’s creative and cultural communities.

Barber has also launched a campaign called “PowerLoveResistance,” which will raise awareness of Betti Ono’s situation and draw attention to the crippling effect skyrocketing rents are having on Oakland’s creative communities. The campaign includes a series of events and a fundraising initiative that seeks to raise $50,000 so Betti Ono can pay rent on the space in which they occupy while they continue to seek a long-term lease from the city.

Betti Ono, and the rest of Oakland’s creative and cultural hubs, cannot be victims of skyrocketing rents and displacement. Every city needs these cultural areas, as they contribute greatly to a city’s identity and pride. Urge Mayor Libby Schaaf to work with the Betti Ono Gallery in securing a long-term lease and provide support to Oakland’s endangered arts and cultural communities.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mayor Schaaf,

Thanks in part to the efforts of the Betti Ono Gallery, the city of Oakland has experienced an arts-driven cultural renaissance that has brought national and international attention to the city. However, the city’s current gentrification plans are threatening to undo the efforts of the Betti Ono Gallery and other such spaces in Oakland’s cultural and arts districts, which would be a tragedy for the city’s identity.

Skyrocketing rents will not be what morphs Oakland into one of the premier cities in the United States. Culture and the arts are wildly influential in doing that. San Francisco is internationally-renowned for its arts and culture. Doesn’t Oakland deserve the same kind of recognition?

It is with this in mind that we urge you to assist the Betti Ono Gallery in securing a long-term lease for the space they are currently renting and help stabilize Oakland’s arts and culture districts. As mayor, you are in a prime position to keep the city of Oakland on the right track.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Roslyn Mazzilli

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