Many Oakland residents attended the “BBQing While Black” event at Lake Merritt last Sun., May 20. Though the lake has always been a popular picnic spot for the community, the high turnout on Sunday afternoon was inspired by an incident on April 29, when a white woman harassed two black men for barbecuing at the park. The woman claimed that it was illegal to use a charcoal grill in that area of the park, and she called the police to report their behavior. After two hours, the police finally arrived, but no arrests were made. The final 20 minutes of the incident were captured in a video that was uploaded on Youtube, amassing two millions views and counting.
The unidentified woman, nicknamed “BBQ Becky,” has become a viral Twitter meme. She even made it to the season finale of Saturday Night Live, when cast member Aidy Bryant portrayed her standing angrily while on the phone. Though there have been several attempts to find her identity, BBQ Becky remains anonymous.
The incident at Lake Merritt comes in the wake of countless other episodes of racial profiling. Black Americans have been reported to the police for sleeping, shopping, and not waving, just to give a few examples. The BBQing While Black event represented the Oakland community’s response to these events.