Listen to Reverend Buford’s interview!
Reverend Buford has lived in Oakland since 1986 in both East and West Oakland neighborhoods. He left his birthplace of Cincinnati, Ohio, a city he saw drying up and without opportunities. Reverend Buford is an artist, a minister, formerly at Allen Temple Baptist Church, a community organizer and a social justice activist. He laments jokingly that being black in Cincinnati, with these talents, there “ain’t nothing for you.” Reverend Buford says living in Oakland has been very culturally rich experience for him and for him the best city to live in in California as a black person.
Reverend Buford gentrification means the loss of a community’s old character, cleaner neighborhoods, more city services, more police attention…and more White people. With regards to Oakland, he loves the creativity generated here, but if he could change anything about the city, it would be to reduce people’s self-hatred. He believes that Oakland’s biggest problem is that people are alienated, and with the pending gentrification will come more alienation. For instance, he denounces how new White neighbors in West Oakland called the police on a Black church for playing their music too loud. Ultimately, Reverend Buford sees gentrification as uprooting everyone involved—those coming into the new place and those leaving the familiar.
Reverend Buford sees Oakland, with its rich history of resistance, as a place whose cultural and political renaissance continues to impact the entire world. When travelling in South Africa, for instance, he visited a graveyard near Soweto; the headstones where engraved with quotations from members of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in Oakland in the 1960s. For Reverend Buford, this is one example representing the power of Oakland on a global scale.