Oscar James

Oscar James has watched the Bayview change firsthand. As a longtime member of the community, his story talks reveals surprising details about the cultural shifts in the neighborhood.


Oscar James

67 years old
San Francisco native
Started working at the shipyard in high school

A young man grows up in Bayview

During his childhood, Oscar remembers a loving community of people that always looked out for each other, regardless of race. The local shipyard was a major employer, offering summer jobs to Oscar and his friends in high school. But as time marched on, new developments went up and racism crept in. The safety he had always felt was taken from him and his family.

As the racial divide deepened, Oscar watched his community go from one of prosperity to one ravaged by drugs and hate crimes. Black workers were laid off from the shipyard, and violent clashes with police became more and more common.

Hoping to help stop the disruption they saw around them, Oscar and other young people from his community formed clubs that advocated for justice and fair treatment. After witnessing the police shooting of Matthews Johnson, Oscar and other club members came together with their community, staging a protest on 3rd Street. Hear more of Oscar’s story, and see his perspective on the changes in the Bayview area — for better or worse — throughout the years.

“They shot [Matthew Johnson] in the back, didn’t say stop, didn’t say nothing… and we tussled with the police.”