The Gentrification of Oakland

'The Gentrification of Oakland' by @shayyan300 & @santanabellas marks the first instalment of a collab-sequence profiling creative individuals producing admirably beautiful projects. 

Interview by Sebastian Robert (@ss.fauna) / Altair Zine
In collaboration with Elli Webb / Illustrated in Colour
 

1. Tell us about the "The Gentrification of Oakland" newspaper and why you decided to launch this publication now? 

Shayyan Ahmad and Santana Bellas: The Gentrification of Oakland is a project we’ve been contemplating on doing for over a year now. It started when we started noticing the rising discourse that was taking place especially online by people in our age group who were becoming more aware to social injustices that were taking place. What we noticed was that many of the people expressing their views had never been to or interacted with the communities they were speaking for. As photographers our goal has always been to visually tell stories through the images we take and present to the world. We knew if we were to cover a complex issue like gentrification that we would have to do more then just tell our side of the story visually but also allow the communities that are being affected first hand to tell their stories. To do that we decided to start walking up to random people who lived in the communities we were photographing and ask them their feelings or stories. Luckily everything aligned for both of us giving us the chance to take this project on and turn it into what it is today. 
 

2. What are some of the stories you heard in putting together this publication? 

Shayyan Ahmad and Santana Bellas: One story that stands out was from these two girls we met in West Oakland. We were actually interviewing someone else but when they walked by and heard us talking about Gentrification, specifically they chimed in. Basically, they had been born and raised in Oakland their whole life and they were probably around our age. They spoke to us about their individual situations and it was shocking to hear that at such a young age they had been disregarded and basically pushed out of their homes. One of the girls told us about how she was basically homeless and had to stop going to school because her landlord evicted her and her sister from their apartment. Based off the story she told us the landlord was looking to remodel the apartments and had asked them to leave for a few months, when they heard that the landlord wanted to remodel and move them out they knew it wasn’t going to be temporarily and that it would most likely follow with them being kicked out. They tried to fight back but unfortunately ended up getting evicted from their place. She stressed the fact that not having a place to live has permanently affected her future. She had to leave school and try to find work to support herself and having an eviction on her record only makes it harder for her to move forward through life. 
 

3. In a time when everything is all about digital and reach, why did you decide to put "The Gentrification of Oakland" out as a newspaper? 

Shayyan Ahmad and Santana Bellas: We decided to take it back to the basics by designing a newspaper. A newspaper was the traditional way people would receive information about the communities they lived in, of course now with digital we’re seeing more newspapers fade away but our goal was to give people something physical that they could take for themselves, read and draw conclusions based off their own interactions with the print. 
 

4. Is this something you hope to continue beyond the first issue? 

Shayyan Ahmad and Santana Bellas: Yes and no. The Gentrification of Oakland is meant to be a one issue project on the topic. We are however looking to work on different topics following a similar format that we used for this publication. The goal really would be to put out consistent print based material tackling a new topic each time with possibly a new medium or format. As artists we tend to want our work to evolve and grow, instead of doing the same thing over and over again. So definitely be on the look out for for what’s to come. 
 

5. Where can our readers find a copy of The Gentrification of Oakland? 

You can find a copy at thegentrificationofoakland.com. You can also stay up-to-date with us on our websites and social accounts: 

Shayyan Ahmad: shayyanahmad.com @shayyan300
Santana Bellas: projectsbysantana.com @santanabellas

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