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For just one second, close your eyes. Pretend that there's a globe in front of you and it's spinning rapidly. You decide to lift your finger and place it on the globe. It lands on a city called Oakland, California.
Historically, the city of Oakland has been the birthing ground of the Black Panther Party and the Hyphy Movement, to name a couple. From Tupac Shakur, Goapele, and Too $hort to MC Hammer, E-40, and Tony! Toni! Tone!, the artists that Oakland has bred continue to have a global influence in various industries.
This Black History Month, we’re highlighting Black-owned businesses, galleries, and landmarks in Downtown and Uptown Oakland. Lace up your favorite sneakers and take a walk with us as we share our list of things you must see, do, experience, and eat on your next visit to Oakland. Matter of fact, if you live here now, go ahead and add these things to your list of bookmarked locations. You can use these recommendations, too!
1. Renegade Running
45 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
Upon entering Renegade Running, you may be surprised to see people in the window running on treadmills or in the back being treated by chiropractors. The vision for this business is to “make running an inclusive experience for all across race, age, gender, and physical ability.” I got the chance to speak with the owner and learned that a lot of their apparel and decor are sourced from other Black-owned businesses in the area, as well as from international locations such as Vancouver and Italy. From the wall of running shoes to apparel shipped in from around the world, this store offers many services for runners of any level. They even host a running club, treadmill appointments, individual coaching, and more!
2257 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
Upon entering McMullen’s doors, you’ll immediately be swept into a world of high fashion with blush pink walls and multi-hued mannequins drawing you in. Recognized in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, McMullen’s owner, Sherri McMullen is fulfilling her vision to recognize the many Black fashion and home decor designers showcased throughout the store.
3. Sweet July
455 23rd St, Oakland, CA 94612
I was fortunate enough to experience Ayesha Curry’s newest flagship store, Sweet July, the day after its soft launch in Oakland. Upon entering the store, a minimalist design awaits customers through the various home goods, children’s clothing, and beauty products tastefully displayed around the store. They even a book table in the front with several Black authors! If you need a refreshment while you shop, be sure to stop by their cafe at the front serving various hot beverages and pastries. The friendly staff was super helpful in answering questions and assisting customers with their purchases, something that’s very much appreciated when browsing their affordable item selection.
4. Dope Era
1764 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
You’ll feel like you’ve truly stepped into the heart of “The Town” once you enter Dope Era, an apparel clothing brand founded and curated by Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. You’ll likely first notice the street signs of prominent locations in the Bay Area covering the walls, providing a fully immersive experience to customers. Their urban apparel boasts of bright colors and bold lettering for men, women, and children.
5. Queen Hippy Gypsy
337 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Lauded as Oakland’s first Black-owned crystal botanica, Queen Hippy Gypsy offers the holistic spiritual tools needed to help women of color heal and restore from trauma. The owner, Lilly Ayers, seeks to share these tools, as well as organize fundraisers and galas in the community to bring awareness to domestic violence. Through various wellness classes, events, and healing circles, Queen Hippy Gypsy brings a new meaning to what Black Girl Magic stands for.
6. Joyce Gordon Gallery
406 14th St. Oakland, CA 94612
Known as one of the few Black-owned galleries in Oakland, Joyce Gordon Gallery has been home to the work of predominantly Black artists from Oakland and around the world for 18 years. Entering into the space, you’ll be greeted with an open floor plan with the walls tastefully arranged to display the intricate collections, in display cases, as well as in the 2042 Gallery pop-up shop in the back of the gallery. This pop-up, hosted by Eric Murphy, showcases books, artwork, prints and various t-shirts with “Oakland” printed on the front translated into multiple languages such as Amharic, Greek, Arabic, Japanese, and even our favorite, Wakandan script designed by Eric Murphy!
Joyce Gordon Gallery also features a resource library of books by local and world-renowned African American artists that can be viewed during gallery visits. The gallery is also available to resume rental in the near future.
7. Betti Ono
1427 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
The Betti Ono gallery was founded by Oakland native, Anyka Barber, to “build power through culture.” The gallery offers public programs, exhibitions, and cultural experiences to showcase BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists’ work. They even offer memberships to their social club, the Betti Ono 100, to fellowship with others in the community while contributing to supporting the arts.
8. Remember Them: Champions for Humanity Monument
1900 Rashida Muhammad Street, Oakland, CA 94612
If you’re looking for places to learn more about Black history (and more), you should make your way to the Remember Them: Champions for Humanity Monument at the Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park. Unveiled in 2013, this bronze sculpture features 25 role models who have significantly impacted humanity over the past 150 years. Donated and sculpted by Oakland artist Mario Chiodo, the motivation for creating this monument happened following the events on 9/11/2001. Take time to explore and learn about each of these international heroes, and be sure to visit the visually impaired wall, a first for a monument of such significance.
9. Derrick Hayes Mural
1425 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Oakland artist Troy Lovegates painted this mural of Oakland resident Derrick Hayes in 2017. Derrick is local to the community, known for selling newspapers in the mornings and riding his bike around Oakland to visit friends. This mural truly speaks to the many stories behind the murals that can be found throughout Oakland neighborhoods.
10. Brown Sugar Kitchen
2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612
Known for chef and owner Tanya Holland's fried chicken, cornmeal waffles, and other soul food favorites, Brown Sugar Kitchen has become a household name to many Bay Area residents for over a decade. The restaurant has received multiple Michelin Bib Gourmand awards. In 2014, Holland authored the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook filled with 86 recipes that are sure to make you the star of your own kitchen.
P.S. You can get your copy of the Brown Sugar Kitchen Cookbook at Brown Sugar Kitchen and Sweet July!
11. Rush Bowls
350 17th Street, Oakland, CA
If you need something that makes you feel nourished, look no further than Rush Bowls on 17th Street & Webster. Launched in 2019, owners and Oakland natives Robert and Shamani Walker set out to educate and promote healthy eating in the community they love and are raising their children in. Offering various smoothies and fruit bowls, you have the option to customize your toppings and boosters, including non-dairy options. Have a furry friend who wants to indulge? Try their Bow Wow bowl!
12. Sobre Mesa
1618 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612
Known for its Afro-Latino cuisine, Sobre Mesa offers a vibrant and lively atmosphere to all that enter. Chef Nelson German of alaMar Kitchen & Bar created this space in 2020 to connect the restaurant’s many details to the Afro-Latino diaspora’s history. From tropical drinks to reggaeton music playing, Sobre Mesa will surely add some Caribbean flavor to your palette.
13. alaMar Kitchen & Bar
100 Grand Ave #111, Oakland, CA 94612
Voted Best Seafood in the East Bay, Chef Nelson German has made alaMar a staple in the community for over six years with mouthwatering seafood boils submerged in his signature sauces. You’ll get a taste of his Latin Caribbean roots and the Pan African influence in the many colorful dishes offered. Don’t miss out on their signature Spicy Mango Margarita and the Top Chef-featured Stuffed Masa dish to start.
14. Geoffrey’s Inner Circle
410 14th Street, Oakland, CA 94612
For over 20 years, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle has been the go-to spot for people of color to connect in Oakland. Geoffrey Pete created this club and community venue for everyone to feel special and well regarded. The event venue has often hosted community meetings and press conferences for anyone interested in spreading their message.
Personal Care Services
430 W. Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
Specializing in treating textured hair, GoodBody hair salon aims to “shatter stereotypical beauty standards by prioritizing good hair and good body from the inside out.” Curved elements and styling stations fill the space to help break up the space. What’s even better, they offer various hair tips and tricks to try at home when you visit their blog, The Wave.
*Please note: The businesses listed above are just a handful of Black-owned businesses in the area. Check out more Black-owned shops in Oakland.
This experience was captured and crafted by Brianna Mills, Digital Content Manager and photographer for The Cosmopolitan Project, formerly known as StreetSalad.Co. A creative and trained professional, Brianna has several years of experience perfecting her inclusive writing skills, making her a passionate advocate for anything related to communicating with others. She can translate these skills into her photography, capturing the world’s beauty from her travels while also sharing her knowledge, work, and journey through storytelling.
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