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After Harassment, Community Rallies to Support Young Lake Merritt Drummer




By Wanda Ravernell


Oakland showed its love for a young local musician who sets up his trap drums on a patch of grass near Grand Avenue and Macarthur Boulevard at Lake Merritt and sets out a drum casing to collect donations on Saturday mornings while people come to and from the Farmers’ Market. 

According to an online post by a witness, two neighborhood residents complained to Aaron Davis, 18, two weeks ago that his drumming was too loud and then proceeded to knock over a set of cymbals and threatened to call the police if he did not stop.

A passerby tried to talk to the two women, but the response was that Davis, who is Black, should be playing in a studio instead of on the street and instead of seeking donations, “should get a job dishwashing or at a restaurant.”

Davis started playing drums at age 10 and is part of the music ministry at the Genesis and Abundant Life church.


Coming on the heels of other attempts to shut down drumming at the lake and appalled by the effects of gentrification, the witness organized for community members to bring their drums and instruments to reassert their right to play music in a public park.

By 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dolores Payne of Oakland had set out her chair to watch Davis, who was unknown to her until she read of his plight on Facebook.

“I brought my hot dogs and greens. I’m ready. I just wanted to support him,” Payne said.

Minutes later, three drummers from Loco Bloco had begun setting up their instruments. “I didn’t think that as a young African American man, he was being appreciated,” said Loco Bloco drum instructor Anttwan Stanberry.

“I’m out because I have been targeted,” said Monica Hastings-Smith, one of the drummers who was detained by police for hours several months ago in an incident that gained a lot of media attention. “I got ticketed on the other side of the lake. We have to remind people that it’s legal to be out.”


Around noon, eight drummers and a stilt walker from SambaFunk! strode across the patch of grass while playing, and joined an ecstatic Davis, who got up and cheered.

SambaFunk’s leader, King Theo, talked about the recent struggles to maintain Oakland’s tradition of cultural expres- sion in the parks and passed out flyers inviting people to an Oakland Parks and Recreation meeting about proposed amendments to a Park Rule ordinance on Sept. 14.

“I am so blessed and honored. No words can express how grateful I really am,” Davis said.



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