Black Church in Gentrifying Oakland Beats Noise Complaint

Girl sings at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church (Facebook)

When a 65-year-old black church in Oakland received letters from the city threatening to fine them for musical noise complaints, they decided to raise their voices in protest.

The city has since apologized and backed away from the fines, but that didn’t stop the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church from making a statement to remind residents that they’ve served as the bridge between East and West Oakland’s black communities.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Pleasant Grove’s problems began in August when an anonymous neighbor complained about musical racket coming from church, saying the noise sometimes went on until 2 a.m. Associate pastor and music minister Ron Rosson reportedly said some of the complaints were “frivolous because we are not here at 2 a.m. in the morning as some of the claims” had suggested.

The Chronicle notes that the city had threatened it with a $3,529 initial fine and penalties of $500 a day unless the church decreased their noise decibels. Chronicle reporter Chip Johnston used a sound-measuring app on his phone which showed the noise was “roughly as much noise as that produced by the cars driving by on Adeline Street.”

Oakland has been peppered with soaring housing costs and lagging wages, which has led some to suggest the diverse city might be experiencing gentrification, losing blacks, Latinos and Asians to become a sort of “lily white” island over the course of the next 25 years.

Pleasant Grove is reportedly one of four primarily African-American churches along Adeline Street. Over the last six months, two other churches across the street had also received noise complaints from neighbors.

Some residents reportedly took action after hearing about the noise complaints. Pleasant Grove neighbors Dave and Elaine Kim reportedly started showing up at Sunday services to show their support for the church.

Rosson summed the experience in a Vimeo video posted linked at the Chronicle: “So what do people want to hear. Sirens and gunshots or ‘Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me!’?”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.



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