Dozens of people gathered at Oakland’s Lake Merritt on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the so-called “Barbecue Becky” event in which a woman called police on black men barbecuing near the lake.
Onsayo Abram was one of family members having a barbecue last May when the woman dubbed “Barbecue Becky” called police and told them the family was using a charcoal grill in a non-designated area.
“I know everyone heard of the Barbecue Becky situation,” Abram said. “We’re just out here, coming together, letting people know we cant be stopped.”
Video of the woman calling police went viral and spurred international debate about whether such an infraction was worth a call to police.
Some felt it was racially motivated. Kenzie Smith would still like to talk with her about why she made the call.
“I even invited her out today, not to cause any controversy but actually just to shake her hand and extend an olive branch,” Smith said. “Let her know it’s not hard feelings, but we need to have this conversation.”
Smith is focusing on how the community has come together since then. Neighbor Reisa Jaffe brought donations.
“I came out to support Kenzie because I am really concerned about the gentrification happening,” Jaffe said.
The incident sparked conversations about race and bias. In the aftermath, there were cookouts, one event called “Barbecuing While Black.”
“We’re down here to keep the positive atmosphere and the positive way of thinking at Lake Merritt,” Ed Howard said. “We’re here to stay, we’re not going anywhere.”
Smith is now with the city’s Rec and Park advisory commission and says he was named Lake Merritt ambassador.
“We want to make sure our parks are a safe space, safe zone for people to come out and just have fun,” he said.
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