Critical Resistance, a radical prison abolitionist organization, is building offices and gathering space for allied groups in the Temescal district of Oakland. (Sam Lefebvre/KQED)
On the corner of 44th Street and Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, amid the upstart cafes and yoga studios of the Temescal district, a longtime baby shop is becoming a center for prison abolition.
Where months ago the building’s blue facade advertised toys and car seats, now murals and slogans promote a world without incarceration. An image of a white dove ascends from brown hands, and a woman blows the word “Libertad” from a conch shell. Window banners mark local campaigns against police conferences and gang injunctions, and lettering above the 7,000-square-foot corner storefront’s entrance announces the new occupants’ intentions: “Building People Power.”
This will be the new national offices of Critical Resistance. The prison abolitionist group, cofounded 20 years ago by the activist and scholar Angela Davis, recently acquired the $3.3 million real estate through a young supporter who’s vowed to “radically redistribute” her inherited wealth, and is building offices and gathering space to share with allied groups. It’s an improbable fate for commercial property in an area synonymous with the city’s influx of young professionals.
And the unlikely deal required even more surprisingly interlocked interests: The Cabellos, who ran Baby World for decades, sold the building to Critical Resistance after rejecting offers from developers and corporate retailers (including one they blame for helping drive them out of business). They wanted to mitigate gentrification in North Oakland, and were endeared to the nonprofit’s politics by their harrowing experience of the United States-backed coup in their native Chile.
“I’d just seen Black Panther,” recalled Dania Cabello, the business owners’ 36-year-old daughter, of helping solicit Critical Resistance, where her brother once interned, to buy the family property. “So I was like, ‘How do we bring a real-life Wakanda Institute to Oakland?”