We Are Oaklandish: Zoe Rountree
What is your relationship with Oakland?
Z: I was raised in Oakland. There were a few years I wasn't living in Oakland, but family, friends and events always had me coming back to the Town. It's home. No place has ever come close to this place. Oakland truly shaped me into the person that I am today and I’m thankful to be rooted in a place so rare.
What makes Oakland unique from any other place in the world?
Z: Something about this place is effortless. So much talent, style, culture, music; all overflowing in abundance. The drive and hustle out here is unmatched. You are surrounded by people that are authentic and don't care what the rest of the world thinks. I swear there is something in the cool bay breeze or the water because it always feels so good to return home after being away.
How were you introduced to Oaklandish?
Z: Growing up in Oakland you just used to always see the tree. I grew up kind of poor so I never could afford more than the patches and stickers. I’ll never forget my friends in high school told me we could get a free t-shirt if we showed proof of a good GPA at the store. We rode the bus to Downtown Oakland and I got my first Oaklandish shirt. Sure it was a basic white tee but I was proud and felt like I earned it! As the years went by, my sister and I would camp outside of the warehouse sales to try and get our hands on any Oaklandish merch we could score.
What is your favorite Oaklandish design?
Z: I love all the artist collaborations, especially because there have been names I know and recognize. Seeing the different styles of art expressing what they see as Oakland is always so cool. I especially loved High Siding by Agana.
* A note from T: Zoe is also responsible for 2 designs that you can now purchase online!
Oakland is known for its food scene, where is your favorite place to eat in the town?
Z: We all got our favorite taco spots! I’m loyal to El Paisa on International. ABURYA in downtown used to be a weekly stop for me and some of the homies. One of the best things about Oakland, is even after living here for so long, there will always be another fire spot to try.
How has Oakland shaped your idea of community?
Z: Oakland of course has its bad rap of its dangerous streets, but growing up out here it really helps to know your neighbors. You have to embrace your community in a different way than a suburbanized area. People look out for each other and protect their own. There's a pride that comes with being from an area so sacred like Oakland. That pride unifies us. When you find someone from Oakland when you’re away from home, that hits different!
Have you ever met any Oakland legends?
Z: There are a lot of legends that have come from Oakland, some of them I went to school with myself. I have met Marshawn Lynch right outside my old liquor store in North Oakland. Mr. Fab. Zumbi from Zion - I. Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs. The legends of the Hieroglyphics Crew. The dope thing about Oakland, is that it's not hard running into greatness out here. I feel like I’ve met a lot of Oakland/Bay Area legends just being out and about.
What would it be if you could give the City of Oakland one thing?
Z: First thing that comes to mind is money. Funding for schools and youth programs. Funding for nature preservation and fixing the streets- starting with the east! Money for resources and especially accessible housing.
Oakland is diverse and Oakland is proud. 'We Are Oaklandish' is a storytelling project created to highlight just that.
These are stories that shed light on the different experiences, memories, and opinions of the people in the city we all love. They are people who give our city its oddball spirit, its passion for justice, and its creative vigor. They lift us up with laughter, peace, nourishment, and authentic hard work.
They make us proud to call this town our home. They are Oaklandish.
Read more: We Are Oaklandish