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Blues City by Ishmael Reed Essay

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Updated: Mar 22nd, 2021

Blues City; by novelist Ishmael Reed compounds his experience from 1979, detailing the struggles and difficulties the people of Oakland went through. Blues City analyses Oakland under the leadership of Mayor Jerry Brown and criticizes the activities and plans of the mayor. The book focuses on the tour of historic sites and homes and also on the various festivals which were held in Oakland. Reed shows that Oakland is a town that is comprised of many ethnic diverse populations in the country and where identities are blurred. (Reed, 2010).

Jerry Brown ran for the mayor’s post in Oakland; after getting into office, he forgot that he pledged to make Oakland a better place for all during his campaigns. His intention was to draw middle-income earners and high-income earners at the expense of low-income Blacks. On the other hand, the analyses the struggles which the residents of Oakland underwent, including gentrifying the town, discrimination, negligence, the gold rushers, and Brown’s betrayal. There was an anticipation of a black come back, and it was predicted that the mayor’s plans were going to fail.

Brown had a plan which involved bringing ten thousand new residents to downtown Oakland which would mean that many low residents would be priced out of Oakland. Jerry Brown wanted to emulate Manhattan, which engaged in the removal of the blacks and the people of Puerto descent. Ishmael Reed analyses how the San Francisco Bay View, which is a black newspaper, tried to warn the residents of Oakland about the mayor’s plans, but they did not listen (Reed 2010).

Reed considers the concerns of Jack London, who was a poor man languishing in poverty. Jack describes his childhood as a resident of Oakland in poverty when he says that he had no privilege of even possessing toys like other children. Jack gives an account of his livelihood in Oakland and describes the situation of poverty as chronic. In line with Jack London’s experience, Reed tries to relate the case that Oakland was in and the hurdles an individual had to pass through if they resided in Oakland with his childhood experiences, although he was not in Oakland. (Reed, 2010).

Furthermore, Reed continues to elaborate that in 2002 Oakland had a high rate of murder, and this was the year of the 150th anniversary of the city’s founding by men who engaged in the appropriate leasing of land. The Native American population was reduced from 300,000 to about 26,000 during the period of the gold rush. Oakland, California, found it difficult to recover from the atrocities they went through, and Reed analyses how the gold rushers reached the foot of Broadway, a place where the interior of the occupation of California begins referred to as Jack London Square. Tons of mercury used in the processing of gold still acts as a poison to the wildlife of the bay in Oakland.

Jerry Brown practiced tough love towards the blacks and the poor, and this earned him trust from Manhattan’s supremacy columnist George Will. The black community started moving to East Sacramento, where the living costs were cheaper; however, Oakland still had no improvements (Reed 2010).

Reed continues to describe how there was no diversity in the town, and the population had become more concentrated and homogenous. In addition, the people in Oakland became comprised of more elderly people, people in rehab, individuals in mental hospitals, people from transients, and this was contrary to the vibrant nature people had in mind when Mayor Jerry Brown laid out his plans for Oakland.

Ishmael Reed proceeds with his tour of Oakland, exploring the natural scenery and diverse cultures in Oakland. Reed analyzes the hills, waterfalls, and cultural features. He describes the black cowboy parades, the Indian powwows, and the Black Panther related reunions and gay pride concerts.

Reed analyses David Hilliard who was the chief of staff of the Black Panther party concerned with self-defense. The issues which were raised at the Black Panther party were given the cold shoulder since their activities were regarded as criminally motivated hence none of their problems were ever addressed.

In addition, Reed explains how the drug epidemic affected Oakland, especially in the neighborhood in which he lived. He focuses on Oakland’s diversity as a town and describes how the mayor disappointed the residents of Oakland. However, Reed describes Oakland as a blues city and a city that is unique, and he elaborates on the challenges the residents of Oakland experienced through focusing on the cultural, political, and natural environments.

In conclusion, Reed finds Oakland to be an exciting city where life is shaped up by the day to day struggles that give life its value of worth living. Although the original inhabitants have started to move out of the city, Reed still sees the city as a beautiful place to live in due to its beautiful physical scenery and rich cultural and political diversity.

Works Cited

Reed, Ishmael. Blues City, London, UK: Pearson, 2010. Print.

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