OAKLAND, Calif. (KRON) – Oakland is getting closer to establishing the city’s first LGBTQ cultural district and neighborhood. The city council’s Life Enrichment Committee approved the proposal for the new district this week.
It’s an idea LGBTQ community members say is “long overdue” in Oakland, which has one of the highest percentages of residents who identify as LGBTQ in the United States. The cultural district would be set up in between Grand Lake and Lakeshore, and community leaders say it’s a space that’s long been needed.
“Oakland needs its own safe spaces, cultural districts for our LGBTQ community and that’s what’s happening now,” said Joe Hawkins, a co-founder of Oakland’s LGBTQ community center.
The co-founders of Oakland’s LGBTQ center say an official designation would solidify what already exists in the area. Gay-run bars, restaurants and other businesses, as well as the center itself, can be found in the Lakeshore area.
Joe Hawkins says San Francisco gets a lot of the attention for LGBTQ culture, but it’s just as important in Oakland.
“And it shouldn’t be lost on people either that our LGBTQ community center is founded by Black people,” he said. “And it’s one of the few in the state, if not the only one, founded by Black people.”
Community leaders also say recent anti-drag and anti-trans legislation, as well as increased attacks on LGBTQ+ rights across the country, show a known safe space is needed in Oakland.
“In general we want a space where we can say ‘this is ours’ and we’re bringing everyone together with allies and people who are gay-friendly and businesses just try to work as one community,” said Jeffrey Myers, the other co-founder of the community center.
The entire city council still needs to vote on making the district official, but there’s lots of confidence it will become a reality.
“It just makes sense that we now create a zone where we can continue to showcase and provide safe environments for our community,” Hawkins said.
The final resolution on the district is set to be heard by the entire city council next month. Oakland’s LGBTQ community center will also be holding a news conference on Nov. 7 in hopes that the district gets approved.