510 Day returned to Lake Merritt on Tuesday after a two-year hiatus from being fully in-person. This year’s festivities took place in front of the Pergola and Colonnade (currently closed off for renovations as part of the Lakeside Restoration Project, funded by Measure DD.)
The event was hosted by several community organizers, including 510 Day co-founder Leon “DNas” Sykes, city of Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission member Chaney Turner, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) Executive Director George Galvis, and Deligod of Oaxxanda, a local arts and culture cooperative, among others.
510 Day was co-founded in 2016 by Sykes and fellow Oakland locals Jordan Warren and Needa Bee, the latter a housing activist with The Village in Oakland. Nicole Lee, the founding executive director of Urban Peace Movement, became involved with the block party in 2018.
The unofficial Oakland holiday, which has been celebrated on May 10 each of the past seven years, combines a party atmosphere with protest, themed around current social justice issues affecting longtime Oakland residents. This year, the topic of Oakland Unified school closures weighed heavily on participants’ minds.
Through 2019, the block party was held at Lake Merritt across the street from the Cleveland Cascade staircase on Lakeshore Avenue. But the pandemic hindered the event for the past two years. In 2020, the celebration was all virtual, and last year it took the form of a car caravan.
On Tuesday, several speakers addressed the crowd on issues affecting residents.
Keith Brown, president of the Oakland Education Association, talked about the need to support students who attend Oakland Public Unified School District schools and encouraged attendees to fight against closures in the district. “We stand together in unity with our students,” Brown said. “We stand together on this beautiful 510 Day.”
A large crowd of people gathered in a circle to check out performances by a group of dancers from the Destiny Arts Center. There was also spoken word by members of 67 Sueños, a nonprofit that teaches undocumented youth about activism and social justice.
The chilly and windy weather did not deter local entrepreneurs from setting up shop along Lakeshore Avenue. They included Nate Day and his wife Jasmine, from East Oakland and West Oakland, respectively, who own Pop Wok N Drop, a kettle popcorn business. The pair talked about obtaining street vending permits through the City of Oakland. “We are from here,” Day said. “The city makes it difficult to give us a way to vend legally.” Oakland City Council approved new rules and regulations for street vending and events held at the lake. The rules are in place through Memorial Day weekend.
While Tuesday’s event did not draw a crowd as large as those prior to the pandemic, organizers and attendees were enthusiastic in expressing the same sentiment, to fight for the preservation of Oakland culture.
Photojournalist Carla Hernández Ramírez was on hand to capture images from the celebration.