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Their new weekly podcast, “Tales of the Town” consists of 12 episodes and discusses the indigenous Ohlone people, houselessness, Oscar Grant, Oakland’s music history, and much more. The first episode, “The Great Migrations” is now available.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Parham and Muntaqim about the podcast and their shared purpose.
Together, they highlight the people of “The Town” as they tell their poignant stories and offer insight into one of the most influential hubs of Black American culture. The importance of this multimedia project has touched the hearts of the Bay Area artists featured on their upcoming album, including G-Eazy, Guapdad4000, and LaRussell, and prompted them to donate their verses for free, with all the proceeds being funneled back into People’s Programs.
Where it all began…
Muntaqim states the project idea began years ago as they were recording Hella Black. He explains, “being able to capture the stories by the people of the town, we’re helping to cultivate that and encapsulating it in a way that’s organic and original. For us it’s about telling the stories of our family and our history.”
Parham expounds, “the thing about Oakland being so small is that it’s impossible to grow up and live here and not become hip to its historical development.”
“The Great Migration, Black Panther Party, gentrification, and the corrupt Oakland police department, it gave us a much deeper understanding of what’s going on here.” Parham added, “I see this as just another moment in time where we’re doing our part to carry on tradition.”
Asked about their personal motivations for such an innovative and collaborative project, both Parham and Muntaqim mentioned having family members who were involved in the Black Panther Party gave them the inspiration to boldly tell the story of their Town.
Parham mentions seeing the North, West and East sections of Oakland gives visitors a real feel of the city dripping in rich Black history. “Even though they’re all so close, they all have their own style and vibe to them to appreciate the Town fully.”
Gentrification effects Oakland and the US all the same
Muntaqim cites the dismantling of West Oakland via constructed highways, the BART train, a post office, and relentless gentrification as government approved blocks to the economic freedoms once enjoyed by Black Oaklanders. He continued, “as our people have tried to create economic opportunity to govern ourselves, the US government has always viewed that as a threat. A lot of that had to do with the war on Black Power and the Black Panther Party.”
As a lifetime North Oakland resident, Parham states, “North and West Oakland were the first places to be hit by gentrification, and the East is going through it now.” Parham noticed the tech boom in the early 2000s was the genesis of moving Black families out of their neighborhoods. He reflected on the changes, “I was able to see it as its peak and being here now in 2022 – even though folks here are fighting against – it’s not what it once was.”
Unity through action
Muntaqim states, “wherever there’s been oppression, the community fights back. Huey [Newton] and Bobby [Seale] worked together to protect the community from white supremacy. The natural evolution for us was to unify in the community and build programming to attempt to combat gentrification and take care of our own people with the People’s Programs and Free Breakfast programs.”
He continued, “One of the biggest problems we have is houselessness, despite there being huge new developments that are half empty, there are thousands of people sleeping on the street. Then we created People’s Community Health Clinic to provide free healthcare and then a grocery program to provide free groceries for the Acorn Projects in Campbell Village. The spirit of the community is strong and all we can do is build upon that because what’s happening here in Oakland is a window into what’s happening in Black locales across the country – gentrification, rising rents, police brutality, environmental racism – that’s happening in every Black community in the US.”
“Tales of the Town” aims to educate and inspire
Parham states, “I hope this project inspires people to unite, to study and provide resources for their people in whatever quantitative ways will make me happy.”
Muntaqim reflects on his familial impact, “I’m happy that I was able to tell the story of my great auntie Nita, who transitioned to the ancestors shortly after we interviewed her. When I have kids one day, they’re going to know what their great auntie sounded like. That’s family history right there.”
Muntaqim reiterates the importance of spreading information not just locally but for Black people everywhere. He explains, “understanding history can inform the current and the current can be turned into something future-focused where they develop programming in their own communities to culminate positive action. We have to unite as Black people in this country.”
With a release party scheduled for Oct. 13, Parham and Muntaqim will celebrate their latest crowning achievement in a town whose reputation was built by Black Kings and Queens.