OAKLAND, Calif. - One day, the cops were called on him for barbecuing with a charcoal grill by the lake. Another day, he’s poised to become a public servant.
Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan announced on Tuesday that she's nominating Kenzie Smith to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. “He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement.
Over the weekend, Kaplan told KTVU that Oakland "will not stand for racial profiling in our city. There is no reason for anyone to call police when there's not danger."
Ever since woman called cops on African-American family using charcoal grill at Lake Merritt, Oakland has risen up with dance parties and a protest where activists are asked to wear “cookout clothes” to show it's not a crime to "BBQ while Black." https://t.co/4Gl7bnksqa pic.twitter.com/L8HNk8p3lL— Lisa Fernandez (@ljfernandez) May 15, 2018
Smith and his friend, Onsayo Abrams, were approached by a woman, now infamously nicknamed as “Barbecue Becky,” who told them to stop using their charcoal grills at the lake, which is overseen by the parks and rec department. Smith and Abrams should not have been using a charcoal grill in that area, but the woman escalated the event by calling police to remove them. The men also say that she used racist language against them.
Smith’s wife then came to the lake and took a now-viral video of the woman calling police over the mens' choice of grill. The event has now become a national flashpoint highlighting the seemingly absurdity of calling police over a small violation, and has sparked rallies, protests, jokes on Saturday Night Live and a massive party last weekend at the lake to show that it's not a crime to “BBQ While Black.”
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission reports and makes recommendations to the city council on Parks and Recreation policies. The commission consists of 11 seats, appointed by the mayor and council to represent the citizens of Oakland.
Oh, the irony. Onsayo Abram is a certified fire sprinkler installer. He was one of the original men barbecuing with the charcoal grill at Lake Merritt. He’s out today with a big aluminum garbage can to put coals in #BBQingWhileBlack pic.twitter.com/EAJr0qWXDB— Lisa Fernandez (@ljfernandez) May 20, 2018
Smith, founder of Dope Era, told the Express there’s a lot he wants to accomplish. He hopes to start a nonprofit that will employ youth during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt area clean. No word yet on whether he plans to specifically address the charcoal barbecue issue, by either amending the rules, or at least putting up the proper signage up at the park.
The recommendation will go to the mayor, who'll have to approve it. There is currently one open seat on the commission.
Smith's wife, Michelle Snider, told KTVU that her husband was buying a suit for the occasion but was not yet ready to formulate his thoughts on what his action plan as a commissioner would be.
Smith told the East Bay Express he’d like to serve. “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky,'” he said.