Annual Black Joy Parade hits Oakland

By Shoib Ahmadzai, CONTRIBUTOR

Photos Courtesy Of Black Joy Parade

Downtown Oakland will celebrate the second annual Black Joy Parade on Sunday, Feb. 24, to reaffirm the “soul” of the city as gentrification continues driving away the Black community.
“Oakland is home to a lot of African Americans and the gentrification it’s been experiencing is taking away from the soul of what Oakland always was,” Shavonne Graham, the press lead for Black Joy Parade told The Pioneer. “Elisha [Greenwell] came up with the idea of the parade to celebrate the black experience.”
CEO Elisha Greenwell launched The Black Joy Parade in 2017 to “provide a space to champion black culture, past, present and future.”
The Bay Area has been thoroughly affected by gentrification, especially over the past decade where housing prices have soared and Oakland is no exception.
The average price for an apartment costed $2,813 in 2016 compared to $1,624 in 2011, according to The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project.
Over 40,000 Black residents in Oakland moved out of the city between 2000 to 2014. This made up over 30 percent of the Black Population in the city, reported the progressive magazine, In These Times, in an article published in Nov. 2018.
The parade is scheduled to take place at 14th St. & Harrison St. and will end at 20th & Broadway from 12:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The parade will be less than a mile long and should last about 1.5 hours throughout, according the Black Joy Parade’s website.
Rapper and singer T-Pain is scheduled to headline the event, in addition to at least ten other performers, according to its official Facebook page.
The parade has multiple sources of funding. While free to the general public, The Black Joy Parade has stated that there are fees for those participating as exhibitors at the festival.
Fundraisers were also launched for this year’s parade. A completed fundraiser gathered $17,210 and an ongoing one raised nearly $2,000, according to their respective GoFundMe pages.
Additionally, the Black Joy Parade has over a dozen sponsors that range from the Oakland A’s to Facebook, Uber, Walmart, Comcast and more.
“Last year’s parade was amazing,” Graham told The Pioneer. “We had over 14,000 attendees, [over] 88 vendors and over a thousand people in the parade.”
This year, the organization expects 15,000 to 20,000 attendants.
The Black Joy Parade’s first event received almost entirely positive reception based on 54 reviews posted on Facebook.
“I felt like we were in Wakanda, so magical. A few times I cried emotional wellness tears,” said one of the reviewers, Shelly Hughes, referring to the 2018 Marvel movie, Black Panther.
Denise Mitchell, a supporter of the parade, stated that while she didn’t attend last year’s event, she plans on going this year. She also plans on “bringing some of my East Coast family and friends with the hopes it sparks ideas.”
Mitchell, who attended graduate school with Black Joy Parade CEO, Greenwell, describes her as “always [being] positive” and an agent of change. “Her desire to make things better is infectious,” Mitchell further added.
Despite the housing issues in Oakland, the Black Joy Parade still received great support.
“We received a lot of support. [Mayor of Oakland] Libby Schaaf came last year and spoke,” Graham stated. “[Even] Councilwoman Lynette Gibson was in the parade and spoke on stage.”
Graham and the Black Joy Parade’s website stated that they hope to see the parades grow larger and becoming “a staple in Oakland’s landscape for years to come.”
No solid answer from the organization was given when asked whether the parade will extend outside of Oakland, but it is not out of the realm of possibility.
Oakland, one of the most ethnically diverse major U.S. cities, is also known for its strong activism and social justice protests including Occupy Oakland, the original Black Panthers, and #BlackLivesMatter.
“While we often gather to resist, this was a time for pure celebration — of Black presence, progress, creativity, love and joy,” Greenwell stated on the parade’s GoFundMe pag