Showing Their Side 

As local media demonized East Oakland's now-infamous "sideshows," capturing the real story fell to amateur videographers like Yakpasua Zazaboi and Dallas Lopes.

Page 8 of 8

"To this day, if I hear a high-performance car outside, just hear the engine revving, I get this nostalgic feeling, like it's the sideshow all over again," Lopes says one night in East Oakland. "I don't really come out this way anymore -- this far east. Just being over here for the last hour or so, you hear the cars go by, and I want to run outside and see what's going on. I used to do that over my girlfriend's house. I'd be getting ready to go to bed and hear somebody do a donut, and I'm running outside, in my underwear, just to see. That's what the sideshows were to me."

Under Perata's proposal, police could take the cars of anyone arrested on charges of reckless driving, exhibition of speed, or participating in a speed contest. We sympathize with those who want to halt sideshows, which have left young people dead in Oakland, Fremont and other Bay Area cities. But we're unwilling to sacrifice our constitutional rights as a solution. ... Until people are found guilty of causing those problems, they shouldn't be punished. Something, of course, needs to be done about sideshows. ... Some sideshow fans have asked for a sanctioned spot to show off their cars. Others say there's nothing else for them to do. Until those issues are addressed, sideshow drivers will probably continue spending their nights searching for a wide-open space of concrete to show off their speed.

-- Oakland Tribune editorial on the car-confiscation bill, April 30, 2002

It's the night after Oakland's now-infamous "Raider Riots," which were played over and over on nationwide sports and news broadcasts. Zazaboi had been out the night before, riding the East Oakland streets, taping the events. He's in the last stages of the editing process of "Sydewayz II," which will cover the sideshows from 2001 until the present, and he's thinking about places where the new footage can be plugged in.

Laney College instructor Oji Blackston is discussing his star student. "He's learned so much that he doesn't even have to come to the classes anymore," Blackston says of Zazaboi. "He's at a different level now. He's created his own DVD. He's gone through all the phases. Basically, he's self-motivated. He's using the editing equipment working on another piece right now, and while he's doing that, because he knows all the systems, we also have him assist us in helping other students."

Zazaboi is even working out plans to teach a media class at Laney, something he says he'll be able to do without a college degree: "I won't get teacher's pay, but I'll be a teacher." As for the degree, he's got plans for that, too. He's set his sights on NYU, which has one of the country's finest film schools. People who know him, KTOP's Fabio for one, won't be surprised if he ends up there. "He's got that kind of potential," she says.

Meanwhile, Zazaboi and some friends are quietly working on plans to set up legal sideshow events. While he says it's premature to go into detail about the plans, he stresses that he wants to cooperate with city government and the Oakland Police Department. "Some of the people in government think I'm antipolice, but that's not true," Zazaboi says. "If I was antipolice, I'd have to be against my father and my sister." Zazaboi's father is a counselor with the San Francisco Youth Authority. His sister is a deputy in the Santa Clara County sheriff's department.

Zazaboi's idea might have a better chance if Councilman Reid makes an expected run for the state Assembly. Reid, the chairman of the city council's Public Safety Committee and an influential voice on police affairs, has consistently stated his opposition to any form of legalized sideshow activity.

Back in the Laney Media Department, a student comes by and asks for help with the editing gear. Zazaboi walks with her to another room to provide assistance, while Blackston and a couple of students continue to watch his "Raider Riot" footage on a monitor. It takes them all a moment to figure out what they're seeing.

All day long, everyone has seen news broadcasts of the rioting along International Boulevard: the burning of trash cans, the trashing of cars, the gutting of the auto body shop in Fruitvale, the looting of the paint store near 50th -- plate-glass windows shattered and white paint sloshed across the middle of the street. Zazaboi has captured none of this. Instead, he's got a half hour of footage shot in front of Eastmont Mall, taken at the same time the rioting was going on elsewhere.

Perhaps fifty cars, maybe more, are cruising the strip in front of the mall, driving north toward downtown, making the turn that breaks up the median, and then heading back south toward 73rd. There are so many cars that it's almost one continuous loop. No one is driving fast. No one seems in a hurry. Drivers and passengers dance in their seats as they go along. People grin and flash signs at the camera, shouting out and representing for the areas they come from. Several women have gotten out on the hoods or tops of cars and are sitting as the cars move, waving to the folks on the other side of the median. One or two cars cross the grass of the median strip itself.

It's the old sideshow crowd. It looks for all the world like a parade, a joyful celebration by Oakland youth, mellowing, not bothering anybody, and not being bothered. Young people trying as hard as they can to get away from the drama and the violence they've grown up with. On the one night when all of Oakland's police are busy elsewhere, the sideshows have returned to their original home and their original form. The sideshows exist in a thousand Oakland hearts, waiting to come back in one form or another whenever the opportunity arises.

"Basically, all you got to do is find a parking lot, you know what I'm saying? Park there, crank your music, and like they say, if there's music, motherfuckers are going to come. Everybody do they thing. If you got something that's tight, get out there and swing your shit. But if you get out there and can't swing and it ain't real, motherfuckers gonna let you know. The only thing about sideshows is keeping it real. If you come to town and you want to see some real shit, this is the place to be."

-- Anonymous street interview, "Sydewayz"


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