I am reading a book right now entitled Farm City written by Novella Carpenter. Her book was recommended by a gardening blog I follow. Novella lived, or maybe still lives, in Oakland, California and created an urban farm on a neighboring vacant plot next to her apartment building. She speaks of her personal history and the fact that her parents eked out an existence in the “hippie” lifestyle when she was growing up and all she wants to be is a farmer because of it.
Oakland is a county seat city and a major transportation hub in the San Francisco Bay area. Because of immigration during the 20th century along with thousands of African-American workers relocating from the Deep South, Oakland is one of the most ethnically diverse major cities in the country. Oakland is also known for its history of political activism, and Novella speaks of her interaction with the Black Panther chapter in her area. She provided them with fresh salad ingredients for their kids program and learned a great deal from them about the city and its history. She lived in a downtrodden part of the city filled with trash and violence, which is not a strange situation considering Oakland has a very high crime rate.
At one point in the book, she recounts the history of Oakland. “Urban Renewal” practically decimated the community in the early 70s when they first built the city’s main post office. It was said to be to create jobs but in reality, there were only a few available after the project was complete. The public transportation system, BART, razed hundreds of homes and businesses and they built expressways and highways right through predominately African American areas which bisected and destroyed close-knit communities. “There was no question that these neighborhoods had been slated for destruction because they were the least political powerful” she says when describing the history of the city. Translation of that quote is that no one votes in these voting districts.
People often fail to realize the power that voting has. When an area has a high percentage of the vote, things like unpopular development, deep budget cuts, and razing of historical buildings do not take place. Those people vote and they have a powerful voice so the politicians will not anger them by destroying their neighborhoods. But in areas that run rampant with voter apathy and lack of participation at the voting booths people are not given that same consideration. If a large development project comes along which will benefit a majority of the citizens but would negatively impact an area, those areas that have low voting performance are often the targets for destruction. It is a sad but very true condition and something to keep in mind when Election Day comes in November.