MediterraneanGrocery Wholesalers in Oakland, CA

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The Largest Selection of Wholesale Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Products in Oakland

When it comes to trying new, exciting cuisine, few foods hit the spot like a deliciously fresh Mediterranean meal. However, we know that it can be very difficult to find authentic Mediterranean grocery wholesalers in Oakland, CA. Having lived in metro Atlanta for years, we realized that our customers needed an easy way to find quality wholesale Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food in bulk. That is why we created Nazareth Grocery Mediterranean Market - to give everyone a chance to enjoy tasty, healthy food, desserts, and authentic Mediterranean gifts at wholesale prices.

Founded in 2009, Nazareth Grocery has become one of Oakland's leading international wholesale grocery stores. We are very proud to serve our customers and do everything in our power to give them the largest selection of high-quality wholesale goods available.

If you're looking for the freshest, most delicious Middle Eastern wholesale products and ingredients, you will find them here at the best prices in the state. We encourage you to swing by our store in Marietta to see our selection for yourself. We think that you will be impressed!

The Nazareth Difference

At Nazareth Grocery Mediterranean Market, our mission is simple: bring you and your family the largest selection of wholesale Mediterranean products in Oakland. When coupled with our helpful, friendly staff and authentic Middle Eastern atmosphere, it's easy to see why we are the top Middle Eastern grocery wholesaler in Oakland, CA. We're proud to carry just about every kind of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern product that you can think of, from prepared meals and hookahs to fine seasonings and sweets. We're here for our customers and want each one of them to have a unique, one-of-a-kind experience when they shop with us.

Our loyal customers love our selection of the following wholesale foods and gifts:

  • Fresh Breads
  • OlivesOlives
  • HummusHummus
  • CheesesCheeses
  • SaucesSauces
  • Savory-FoodsSavory Foods
  • DessertsDesserts
  • DrinksDrinks
  • HookahsHookahs
  • TobaccoTobacco
  • SaucesGifts
  • Much More!Much More!

Our Service Areas

Most Popular Wholesale Mediterranean Foods

There is so much more to Mediterranean food than pizza and pasta. The perfect climate combined with delicious foods and amazing wine makes the Mediterranean incredibly irresistible. That's why our customers absolutely love to buy this kind of cuisine in bulk. Every country in this region has its own set of specialties and delicacies, each with its own flavors and styles of preparation.

Mediterranean countries include:

  • France
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Turkey
  • Syria
  • Egypt
  • Israel
  • Libya
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • Spain
Mediterranean Grocery Oakland, CA

So, when it comes to the most popular wholesale Mediterranean products in Oakland,
what are we talking about?

 Mediterranean Supermarkets Oakland, CA

Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is a classic Mediterranean dairy product that is often enjoyed on its own, in Greek salads, on bread, or mixed with zucchini. Depending on where the feta is sourced and produced, the cheese can be made from cow, sheep, or goat milk, or even a combination of the three. Regardless of the animal it comes from, this delicious cheese is a crowd favorite.

 Mediterranean Grocery Store Oakland, CA

Baba Ganoush

This Levantine dish is one of the most well-known Mediterranean dishes to eat in the United States. It typically comes in the form of a dip, served with pita or another kind of dipping bread. Commonly served before dinner as an appetizer of sorts, it usually features tahini, eggplant, garlic, spices, and sometimes yogurt. This tasty cuisine works great as a spread on a sandwich, or you can even eat it with a spoon, all on its own.

 Middle Eastern Grocery Oakland, CA

Baklava

If you have never tried authentic baklava before, get ready to have your mind blown. This dessert is a traditional Mediterranean food that will have your taste buds craving more and more. Once you open a box of baklava from our Mediterranean grocery wholesaler in Oakland, CA, you won't want to stop eating! Baklava is made with layers of thin filo dough, which is layered together, filled with chopped nuts (think pistachios), and sealed with honey or syrup. Baklava is so good that its origins are debated, leaving many wondering which country invented the dessert. Everyone from the Turks to the Greeks and even Middle Easterners hold unique takes on baklava. Try each one to discover your favorite!

Most Popular Wholesale Middle Eastern Foods

Fresh, healthy, aromatic, rich: it's no wonder that the popularity of Middle Eastern cuisine and products has skyrocketed in the United States. This genre of cuisine features a large variety of foods, from Halvah to Labneh. If there were one common theme throughout all Middle Eastern food, it would be the bright, vibrant herbs and spices that are used. These flavorings help create rich, complex flavors that foodies fawn over. Typically, Middle Eastern food is piled high for all to eat, with enough food for an entire republic to put down.

 Mediterranean Food Stores Oakland, CA

Tabbouleh

This refreshing, healthy dish is chock-full of greens, herbs, tomatoes, and bulgur (or cracked wheat), creating a memorable, bold flavor. This dish may be eaten on its own or paired with a shawarma sandwich or helping of falafel. It's best to buy your ingredients in bulk to make this dish because it tastes best freshly made with family around to enjoy. Just be sure to bring a toothpick to the tabbouleh party - you're almost certain to have some leafy greens stuck in your teeth after eating.

 Middle Eastern Market Oakland, CA

Shawarma

We mentioned shawarma above, and for good reason - this dish is enjoyed by men and women around the world, and of course, right here in the U.S. Except for falafel, this might be the most popular Middle Eastern food item in history. Shawarma is kind of like a Greek gyro, with slow-roasted meat stuffed in laffa with veggies and sauce. The blend of spices and the smoky meat mix together to create a tangy, meaty flavor that you will want to keep eating for hours. For western-style shawarma, try using beef or chicken. For a more traditional meal, try using lamb from our Middle Eastern grocery distributor in Oakland, CA.

 Greek Grocery Store Oakland, CA

Hummus

Traditionally used as a dip meant for fresh pita, hummus is a combo of chickpeas, garlic, and tahini, blended together until silky, smooth, and creamy. You can find hummus in just about any appetizer section of a Middle Eastern restaurant menu. That's because it's considered a staple of Middle Eastern food that can be enjoyed by itself, as a spread, or with fresh-baked pita bread. Hummus is also very healthy, making it a no-brainer purchase from our grocery store.

Benefits of Eating a Mediterranean Diet

If there's one diet that is most well-known for its health benefits, it has got to be the Mediterranean diet. In 2019, U.S. News & World Report listed the Mediterranean diet as No. 1 on its best over diet list. This incredible diet has been cited to help with weight loss, brain health, heart health, diabetes prevention, and cancer prevention.

Whether you already love Mediterranean food or you're looking to make some positive changes in your life, this "diet" is for you. Eating cuisine like Greek food, Persian food, Turkish food, and Italian food is healthy and tastes great. Even better than that? At Nazareth Wholesale Grocery, we have many staples of the Mediterranean diet for sale in bulk so that you can stock up on your favorites at the best prices around.

So, what exactly is the Mediterranean diet?

It is a way of eating that incorporates traditional Greek, Italian, and other Mediterranean cultures' foods. These foods are often plant-based and make up the foundation of the diet, along with olive oil. Fish, seafood, dairy, and poultry are also included in moderation. Red meat and sweets are only eaten in moderation, not in abundance. Mediterranean food includes many forms of nuts, fruits, vegetables, fish, seeds, and more. Of course, you can find at them all at our wholesale Mediterranean grocery store!

Here are just a few of the many benefits of eating a healthy Mediterranean diet:

Reduced Risk of Heart Disease

Reduced Risk
of Heart Disease

Many studies have been conducted on this diet, many of which report that Mediterranean food is excellent for your heart. Some of the most promising evidence comes from a randomized clinical trial published in 2013. For about five years, researchers followed 7,000 men and women around the country of Spain. These people had type 2 diabetes or were at a high risk for cardiovascular disease. Participants in the study who ate an unrestricted Mediterranean diet with nuts and extra-virgin olive oil were shown to have a 30% lower risk of heart events.

Reduced Risk of Stroke for Women

Reduced Risk
of Stroke for Women

In addition to the heart-healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet, studies have shown that eating healthy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods can reduce the chances of stroke in women. The study was conducted in the U.K., which included women between the ages of 40 and 77. Women who stuck to the Mediterranean diet showed a lower risk of having a stroke - especially women who were at high risk of having one.

Benefits of Eating a Mediterranean Diet

First and foremost, purchase your Mediterranean and Middle Eastern wholesale foods from Nazareth Grocery - we're always updating our inventory! Getting started on this healthy, delicious diet is easy.

Try these tips:

Try these tips

1.

Instead of unhealthy sweets like candy and ice cream, try eating fresh fruit instead. It's refreshing, tasty, and often packed with great vitamins and nutrients.

2.

Try eating fish twice a week, in lieu of red meat. Fish is much healthier and doesn't have the unfortunate side effects of red meat, like inflammation.

3.

Try planning out your meals using beans, whole grains, and veggies. Don't start with meats and sweets.

4.

They're tasty, but try to avoid processed foods completely.

5.

Instead of using butter to flavor your food, use extra virgin olive oil instead. Olive oil contains healthy fats and tastes great too.

6.

Try to get more exercise and get out of the house. The Mediterranean lifestyle is an active one, best enjoyed in the beautiful sunshine when possible.

Why Buy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Products Wholesale?

Buying wholesale and retail are quite different. When you buy products from a wholesaler, you're essentially buying from the middleman between a retail establishment and the manufacturer. Wholesale purchases are almost always made in bulk. Because of that, buyers pay a discounted price. That's great for normal buyers and great for business owners, who can sell those products to profit. This higher price is called the retail price, and it is what traditional customers pay when they enter a retail store.

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 Middle Eastern Store Oakland, CA

Latest News in Oakland, CA

City of Oakland Declares Itself a "Pro Choice Sanctuary City"

COUNCIL PRESIDENT PRO TEM SHENG THAO, VICE MAYOR REBECCA KAPLAN, PRESIDENT NIKKI FORUNATO BAS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD, NARAL PRO CHOICE AMERICA, AND OAKLAND LEADERS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON DECLARING OAKLAND A PRO-CHOICE SANCTUARY CITYFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/17/2022SEE VIDEO HEREPress Contact:Brandon Harami, Council Aide...

COUNCIL PRESIDENT PRO TEM SHENG THAO, VICE MAYOR REBECCA KAPLAN, PRESIDENT NIKKI FORUNATO BAS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD, NARAL PRO CHOICE AMERICA, AND OAKLAND LEADERS HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE ON DECLARING OAKLAND A PRO-CHOICE SANCTUARY CITY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 5/17/2022

SEE VIDEO HERE

Press Contact:Brandon Harami, Council Aide[email protected]OAKLAND, California - Today, Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao, Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan, President Nikki Forunato Bas, Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice California, and Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s office at the front of City Hall advocating for the passage of a resolution declaring Oakland a Pro-Choice Sanctaury City. This resolution was passed unanimously by the Oakland City Council today.

This resolution, which was introduced by Thao, Bas, and Kaplan, puts Oakland on record as a city that celebrates abortion-access, reaffirms its support of Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s Women’s Health Protection Act, which would codify Roe V Wade into federal law, and advocates for more state and county funding to be provided to reproductive care providers in anticipation to an iflux of out-of-state patients.

Council President Pro Tempore Sheng Thao states:

“The passage of this resolution makes Oakland the first City in California to declare itself a Sanctuary City for Abortion Access and is the first step we will be taking to expand abortion access to anyone who needs it. Healthcare is a human right, and the City of Oakland stands firmly behind anyone exercising their right to reproductive care.

“This resolution says to women across the country, who are under attack, that your rights will be protected here. Your autonomy, your agency, your access will be protected here. Andthose who would threaten or harass you will not be tolerated or enabled here in Oakland.”

Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas States:

"“With this resolution, Oakland reaffirms loud and clear our fierce commitment to our values of freedom, justice, and honoring each person’s dignity and sovereignty to choose what is healthiest and safest for their body. I am proud to co-author this effort, and committed to working with my colleagues and urging other jurisdictions not only to protect abortion access, but to significantly expand the inclusiveness, capacity, and quality of reproductive health services for all who need them in our community.”

Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan States:

“I am honored to co-author this resolution, committing to fight to ensure reproductive freedom. Make no mistake, the Supreme Court is threatening to turn back the clock. They are threatening our rights and fundamental liberty. The laws that guarantee the right to reproductive freedom are the same laws that ensure the right to contraception, the right for LGBTQ+ people to be allowed to live and love as we choose, and privacy and racial justice. Let us continue to move forward, not backwards, as we work to protect human liberty and advanced justice in our communities.

It is vital that reproductive freedom be protected in law, and also be actually available. That is why our resolution also calls for increased funding for reproductive health services to ensure all those in need can get them.”

Dr. Jessica Hamilton - Associate Medical Director of Abortion Services for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte States:

“While we have been preparing for a post-Roe world for years, the news of the SCOTUS leak has been heart-wrenching for those of us on the front lines. No patient or physician has ever asked for a politician to be in the exam room with them.

Since SB 8 (the heartbeat bill) went into effect in Texas in September, we have watched California remain a beacon of hope for people seeking abortions. At Planned Parenthood Mar Monte alone, between July 2021 and April 15, 2022, we have provided care abortion care to twice the number of patients from out of state than we did during the same time period the previous year. The reversal of Roe could drive up the number of out-of-state patients whose nearest abortion provider would be in California to 1.4 million! And while no patient should have to travel for care, at Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, we have been building capacity and are ready to support this increase in patients seeking care in California, especially in major transportation hubs and sanctuary cities like Oakland.

It is imperative that our leaders understand that abortion care is health care, and is a personal matter that should be left to a patient and their healthcare provider. We commend Councilmember Thao’s emergency legislation to make Oakland a right-to-choose sanctuary city for abortion access and echo the call for the state of California to ensure adequate funding for reproductive healthcare. Thank you for standing with us as we defend essential health care for everyone, no matter what.”

Bay Conservation and Development Corporation (BCDC) to Hold a Special Meeting on June 2, 2022 on Howard Terminal Port Priority Use Designation Removal

Bay Conservation and Development Corporation (BCDC) to Hold a Special Meeting on June 2, 2022 on Howard Terminal Port Priority Use Designation RemovalOn June 2, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) will hold a special meeting to take public comments on an ...

Bay Conservation and Development Corporation (BCDC) to Hold a Special Meeting on June 2, 2022 on Howard Terminal Port Priority Use Designation Removal

On June 2, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) will hold a special meeting to take public comments on an application to remove the Howard Terminal site from the regional Seaport Plan, which has received a positive preliminary BCDC staff recommendation. The meeting begins at 9 am with the option to participate virtually and in-person, and public comments will begin at approximately 10am after initial presentations by representatives from the Oakland A’s, Port of Oakland, and City of Oakland.

As part of the many regulatory reviews that the Howard Terminal project must undergo, a vote will be taken by the full BCDC commission on June 30. This vote is in part based on an analysis of the regional cargo and freight needs (current and forecast through 2050) and the regional capacity to handle these cargos. The removal of the Port Priority Use Designation is not a vote on the stadium nor of the merits of the proposed project. Instead, it is a vote on whether the Commission believes that Howard Terminal will be needed to meet current and future cargo needs, and if taking Howard out of Port Priority Use may lead to a future need for bay fill.

BCDC retained a consultant, Tioga Group, to prepare the cargo forecast and to specifically analyze three different types of cargo: container, dry bulk, and vehicle Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro). Per the cargo forecast, the forecasted growth of containerized and dry bulk goods can be met throughout the region without Howard Terminal. The report calls out a theoretical need for future maritime acreage for Ro-Ro imports and exports. As the Port of Oakland does not deal with Ro-Ro activity and Howard Terminal is not suited for this cargo, Port and City staff have submitted supplemental reports that have helped BCDC identify additional areas throughout the region (such as the Ports of San Francisco and Benicia, as well as a new facility in Antioch), that are better suited to this potential growth.

BCDC staff has adopted a Moderate Growth approach for analyzing future acreage needs to accommodate these various cargo types. For containers, a Moderate Growth scenario, 2.2% Compounded Annual Growth Rate, is still well above growth patterns seen in Oakland over the last 12 years.

For these reasons and others, BCDC staff have made a preliminary staff recommendation to support the removal of the Port Priority Use Designation from Howard Terminal.

The proposed Waterfront Ballpark District at Howard Terminal project offers equitable public access and sea level rise resiliency benefits. Absent a change of use, Howard Terminal will continue to limit the access of socially vulnerable communities to the shoreline. It also proposes community benefits related to construction and ballpark employment, contracting opportunities for local businesses, affordable housing and open space that could be supported through the various Community Benefits programs that are currently being negotiated. Without the significant investment that the proposed project offers, rising seas will impact the viability of Howard Terminal for any use by 2050.

Members of the public are invited to attend the June 2nd special meeting and provide comments. For detailed meeting information, including the agenda and location, please visit https://bcdc.ca.gov/cm/2022/06-02-agenda.html.

Additional Resources:

Governor Newsom Announces $15.5 Million in Homekey Awards for Projects in Oakland and Mammoth Lakes

Governor bolstered Homekey funding by $150 million in California Blueprint May Revision, bringing total Homekey funding to $3.75 billionLast week, Homekey surpassed the milestone of 10,000 new homeless housing unitsSACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced $15.5 million in awards for two new Homekey projects located in Oakland and Mammoth Lakes. When fully operational, the new Homekey projects will provide 53 housing units for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness....

Governor bolstered Homekey funding by $150 million in California Blueprint May Revision, bringing total Homekey funding to $3.75 billion

Last week, Homekey surpassed the milestone of 10,000 new homeless housing units

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced $15.5 million in awards for two new Homekey projects located in Oakland and Mammoth Lakes. When fully operational, the new Homekey projects will provide 53 housing units for people experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, homelessness.

Since the announcement of Governor Newsom’s $2.75 billion extension of Homekey last year, the state has approved 70 projects that will create more than 4,000 housing units for unhoused Californians, for an allocation totaling more than $1.1 billion. Homekey last week surpassed 10,000 homeless housing units since its inception.

Last week, Governor Newsom bolstered Homekey with an additional $150 million in the California Blueprint May Revision, bringing total Homekey funding to $3.75 billion. Pending legislative approval, the Governor’s additional funding for Homekey will provide a total of $1.5 billion in grants next year to local governments for thousands more Homekey units across the state.

“Homekey’s success over the past two years has proven that homelessness is a solvable issue,” said Governor Newsom. “We’re proposing to double down on our efforts by bolstering Homekey with an additional $150 million to create more life-saving projects like the ones announced today in Oakland and Mammoth Lakes.”

The Governor’s multibillion-dollar homeless housing investments will provide more than 55,000 new housing units and treatment slots in the coming years. Building on last year’s historic $12 billion investment to help get the most vulnerable people off the streets, the California Blueprint proposes an additional $2 billion investment in behavioral health housing and encampment rehousing strategies, creating a total $14 billion package to confront the state’s housing crisis.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Newsom Administration, we’re making strides in our efforts to tackle a housing and homelessness crisis that’s been decades in the making,” said California Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency Secretary Lourdes Castro Ramírez. “We’re working tirelessly through programs like Homekey to get resources out the door to areas of the state where we can make a real difference. We’ve reached significant milestones so far – 10,000 units of housing funded in less than two years and over a billion dollars awarded in the second round of Homekey alone. And we plan to do even more in the next fiscal year, thanks to the California Blueprint.”

“The two projects approved today showcase the spirit of what Homekey is all about – state and local partners working together to do more for those who need it,” said Department of Housing and Community Development Director Gustavo Velasquez. “During this second round of Homekey, we’re seeing greater cohesion, projects that are unique and innovative and will be ready to come online faster, and the same sense of urgency to do what’s right to combat homelessness and provide better outcomes.”

Today’s awards went to the following projects:

For more information, please visit the Homekey webpage. The Department of Housing and Community Development has also created the Homekey Awards Dashboard where Californians can track Homekey project awards by dollar totals, project type, progress and region. The dashboard is updated in real time as additional projects are approved. Additional Homekey awards will be announced in the coming weeks.

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This week in Oakland: 50th Oakland Greek Festival, Malcolm X Jazz Festival, and Outdoor Play Day at Arroyo Viejo Rec Center

Warm weather and the increase in COVID-19 cases in Alameda County mean that outdoor activities remain a safer option than gathering inside, especially without a mask. This week’s roundup includes the return of two major community events: the Oakland Greek Festival and the Malcolm X Jazz Festival at San Antonio Park.Although there is currently no mask mandate, the Alameda County Public Health Department ...

Warm weather and the increase in COVID-19 cases in Alameda County mean that outdoor activities remain a safer option than gathering inside, especially without a mask. This week’s roundup includes the return of two major community events: the Oakland Greek Festival and the Malcolm X Jazz Festival at San Antonio Park.

Although there is currently no mask mandate, the Alameda County Public Health Department strongly encourages the use of masks. If you’ve been out and about socializing with friends and strangers, don’t forget to get tested. We continue updating our COVID-testing guide.

Know of an event that should be featured? Email me at: [email protected]

The Oakland A’s are having a field day with fans revolting over the increase in ticket prices and the looming possibility of the team moving out of Oakland if the Howard Terminal ballpark deal falls through. Who better to weigh in on the future of baseball in Oakland than East Oakland’s sports historian and author of Home Field Advantage, Paul Brekke-Miesner. Tune in on Zoom to hear Brekke-Miesner talk about Oakland’s baseball legacy, what would happen if the A’s leave, what factors contribute to creating a baseball legacy in communities, and more. The event is being presented by the Oakland Heritage Alliance.

Thursday, May 19, 7 p.m., via Zoom, register online

This weekend the Oakland Greek Festival is celebrating its 50th year with authentic cuisine, live music, and of course dancing on the veranda of the historic Greek Orthodox Cathedral.

Celebrate Oakland’s rich Hellenic culture with delicious gyros, piping hot loukoumades, and the vibrant songs of KYMATA, the Mythos Band, and more.

Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22, $5 for adults and free for children under 12, Ascension Cathedral, 4700 Lincoln Ave.

“Jazz in your ear all day, sun on your backs, our Oakland is here to stay,” is what event organizers are promising at this year’s Malcolm X Jazz Festival at San Antonio Park, presented by EastSide Arts Alliance. The community fest is making a cautious return after its hiatus caused by the pandemic. While there won’t be any food or arts vendors, Dalia “La Pantera” Gomez will host an open house with boxing and fitness activities. Gomez’s outdoor boxing camp, Vertical Skillz, has been at San Antonio Park since early 2021. The festival organizers are encouraging attendees to support local restaurants and bring their own food to the event. Kev Choice, Ryan Nicole, and the MJ’s Brass Boppers are among the live musical acts at the festival.

Saturday, May 21, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m, free to attend, San Antonio Park, 1701 E 19th St.

If you’ve missed literacy events at the Oakland Public Library Main Branch, this one’s for you! Authors Vanessa Hua, Devi S. Laskar, and Grace D. Li will be discussing their latest novels, Forbidden City, Circa, and Portrait of a Thief, respectively. Masks inside the library are required.

Also, did you know that Oakland Public Library members get access to all kinds of perks like free and low-cost passes to cultural hubs around the Bay Area? While at the library, sign-up to become a member.

Sunday, May 22, 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., free to attend, register online, Oakland Public Library (Main Branch), 125 14th St.

With the weather getting warmer, now is the perfect opportunity to enjoy Oakland’s many parks and recreation centers. The Black Cultural Zone is hosting this play day for families at Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center (the center will soon be home to a low-cost commercial kitchen). At the event, there will be food, games for kids, skating, and much more. Gather the family, slather on sunscreen, and head over to see what the Black Cultural Zone has in store.

Sunday, May 22, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., free to attend, Arroyo Viejo rec center, 701 Krause Ave.

For Author Leila Mottley, A Changing Oakland Will Always Be Home

The writer reflects on her relationship with her beloved hometown, the setting for her debut novel Nightcrawling.When someone asks me what Oakland is like, I never know what to say. It depends, I want to respond. Which part of Oakland? What time of day? Who are you talking to?I know many Oaklands and I love them all, despise some, consider others sacred. When I was little, Oakland was more personal, full of people who I s...

The writer reflects on her relationship with her beloved hometown, the setting for her debut novel Nightcrawling.

When someone asks me what Oakland is like, I never know what to say. It depends, I want to respond. Which part of Oakland? What time of day? Who are you talking to?

I know many Oaklands and I love them all, despise some, consider others sacred. When I was little, Oakland was more personal, full of people who I saw every day, whose voices mapped the city more than any street signs could. I got birthday presents from people at the local bar, the bakery, the grocery store. I met my piano teacher because my dad stopped us on our walk home from school to help her push her cart of things up a steep hill.

When I was a child, my ideas of my city were determined by the vantage point of small feet on a sidewalk and the depth of potholes in the road. When everywhere you go is a walk away, the world feels smaller, like it can fit inside your hand, like it is yours and yours alone. Even now, I can picture Oakland from only three feet off the ground, how everything appeared big and small at the same time, how everything I needed I could find in a ten-block radius.

When I got old enough to take the bus or BART (our train system) alone, the city morphed as the housing boom started. Downtown Oakland became a mecca for new storefronts and overpriced coffee, as some of my favorite restaurants and cafes closed. I spent much of my time sitting next to strangers, writing poems on BART as the train whipped through the tunnel and emerged in East Oakland, where I found reflections of myself in Fruitvale Village murals as I waited for the bus that would take me closer to home. It was a solace in a changing city.

In East Oakland, I can still pay cash at my favorite burrito place tucked into a strip mall, can still walk into the Walgreens by my house and know exactly where to find the toothbrushes, but there is new in East too. There is intrusion and displacement and all the things every city has become as intimate with as their train maps, but for me it holds more familiarity than anywhere else in the city. It is still, for the most part, unchanged. If not for the people who linger on the corners of every intersection or the cashiers at the corner stores I stopped in on the way home from school, then for the way the neighborhood sings: car horns, mariachi music, sideshows, high schoolers and their Soundcloud tracks.

Sometime around high school, Lake Merritt became the heart of the city. The lake is about three-and-a-half miles long, set in the center of the city, where the edges of Downtown, East Oakland, Lakeshore, and Grand Avenue converge. When I was a child, the lake was where we went to see the birds or to go to the playground, but we didn’t lounge there. We didn’t really linger anywhere but our hole-in-the-wall restaurants, cafes, and corner stores, places you could not find on any list but which, if you knew they were there, unfolded and took you in like your grandmother’s sun-scarred arms.

Now, Lake Merritt is where people lay across the grass on sunny weekends, walk their dogs and get their runs in, smoke weed and laugh, dance Capoeira and go to the farmer’s market. If you want to see many parts of Oakland culminate in the same place, go to Lake Merritt on a Sunday—only after 11 a.m., we sleep in here—and wait for the crowds to gather, the music to start, and the motorcycle riders to pop wheelies in the street.

Now, I have a car and an apartment of my own, in a part of the city I’ve never stepped foot in, let alone lived in before. The city is different, but in a city that has been rapidly changing since I was born, I am used to the constancy of change. What is harder to adjust to is how big the world seems, how the city feels more vast when I am able to traverse all of it by car in twenty minutes. I love Oakland and I always will, but I love it differently now. I understand Oakland, her sorrows, her histories, the things I wish I could reverse about her but can’t, and even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like it, I know she understands me too.

Leila Mottley is the 2018 Youth Poet Laureate of Oakland and founder of Lift Every Voice, a youth-led art advocacy workshop series about youth incarceration. Her debut novel, Nightcrawling, is out June 7.

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