Notes on a Diaspora: I’m Giving Up On Oakland

I can’t be here anymore.

I feel like I’m suffocating.

We all know why I feel this way. I don’t need to list out the reasons yet again. But I banked my whole life on being here forever. Years ago, I made the decision to not leave. I made the decision to invest in this community. I wanted to be someone here. I wanted to be a part of all the wonderful things that were happening in Oakland.

Now? Now I feel like I’ve bankrupted myself trying to be a part of this city. This city never loved me back. And now I know it never will. Oakland doesn’t want me here. Oakland so clearly doesn’t want me or any other artist to live here, so why even bother? The fact of the matter remains: there is no artistic opportunity here. This city is so damn expensive, but there is no funding from the arts, there is no support of the arts, and there is not a culture that promotes artistic opportunity – be it from art buyers or art professionals who can help young creatives stay here and foster an artistic career that makes enough money for us to stay living in this city.

It’s the ultimate rejection: price artists out of a community that had very little going for it except that its cheapness appealed to wide swath of artists. Without artistic peers to support us, no one else is supporting us. The newcomers aren’t supporting us. The city isn’t supporting us. The US government doesn’t value the arts. We are the only ones who value us, so it is time for me to leave.

There’s no way I could see myself being happy in this city – there is too much pain seeping through these streets.¬†All I can hope for now is a graceful exit. That I can leave with my dignity intact. That this city doesn’t take from me the one last thing I have going for me: my self respect.