Professor Brandi Summers publishes "Untimely Futures" in Places Journal

November 10, 2021

Professor Brandi Summers publishes "Untimely Futures" in Places Journal

In the essay, Summers asks, “[H]ow might we consider the relationship between parking lots — as central, even redundant features of the built urban environment — and the politics of Black clearance and containment?” Moreover, she asks, “[W]hat does it mean for Black people, in Oakland and elsewhere, to continue to live the same experience again and again, decade after decade?” Summers also discusses images from the “Apocryphal Gospel of Oakland” project by artist Olalekan Jeyifous.

Untimely Futures
In Oakland, California, when it comes to Black homelessness and dispossession, dystopia is already here.

Imagine, if you will, The Ark, a degraded cruise ship propped on blocks and languishing in an empty parking lot in West Oakland, California, against the backdrop of the I-880 freeway. In the shadow of the ship, the weedy lot is populated by a “tent city” or homeless encampment, an agglomeration of Teslas, tents, and campers. (Yes, Teslas.) Charcoal grills, glass-encased seating pods, and charging stations huddle in the ship’s lee. Wires strung with cheerful pennants stretch down from reactors attached to the ship’s hull to vehicular generators primed for the electric cars scattered throughout the camp. Above, on the sundeck, you can see more generators and a further colorful assortment of tarp-covered tents and patio umbrellas, all framed by strands of pennants. The ship’s hull, like the façade of the adjoining Beaux-Arts train station — built in 1912 as one of three transportation hubs then serving the East Bay, and decommissioned in 1989 — is adorned with graffiti. One of the more prominent tags proclaims in red the anti-capitalist Rousseauian phrase EAT THE RICH, with an accompanying sickle-and-fork emblem.

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