Streets of Oakland: Martin Luther King Jr. Way

Living in the Bay Area, I’ve had the chance to experience different places. For a year, I lived in a cheap, enormous storefront with burgundy linoleum floors and tall ceilings on Martin Luther King Jr Way. The street is a wide thoroughfare that cuts across Oakland from downtown to Berkeley.

Martin Luther King Jr Way has a stillness and a golden light all its own. Victorian-era buildings, some brightly painted, others monochromatic and adorned with wrought-iron security bars. Then newer buildings from the 70’s and 80’s, corner stores filled with liquor and phone cards and cigarettes.

Old-timers and newcomers. Young families and homeless people pushing shopping carts. There are bright murals and historical places that go unnoticed by most (see our piece on the Black Panther legacy tour).

Stretches of abandoned buildings. Vacant lots and artist studios. Urban revitalization projects—community gardens and mini-parks for children. Barber shops and storefront churches.

At times, the atmosphere illuminates the street’s unique textures and personality with rich shadows and bright surfaces. In the two years since I moved from the place on MLK back to San Francisco, I’ve regretted that I never properly documented it while I lived there. The other day, I spent an afternoon back in the old neighborhood with my camera.

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