7th Street is a project of UC Berkeley’s Journalism School and
Architecture Department to re-create West Oakland in the 1940s and ’50s
when it was a thriving community teeming with blues and jazz clubs.
The virtual world video game takes you back in time to post-World-War-II West Oakland, when the area was bustling with shipyard workers and sailors, musicians and locals meeting up at the soda fountains and soul food restaurants, shops and other businesses that lined 7th Street.
Come dusk, music poured from the nightclubs out into the street. You might catch a performance by one of the big names, Lowell Fulson, Saunders King, Sugar Pie DeSanto or Ivory Joe Hunter, who played in this West Coast mecca for the blues.
Today, little trace remains of this rich history. The once thriving
businesses are mostly empty storefronts now. The blues and jazz clubs
have given way to a sprawling postal facility and an elevated BART train that runs through the heart of 7th Street.
Now you can explore the neighborhood as it once was and help bring 7th Street back to life. Simply log into the game and adopt an avatar – a musician hungry for a break – and soak up the lost music and culture of West Oakland.
You’ll cut a record with local producer Bob Geddins and convince a train porter to take your record cross-country. You’ll get your music career financed by a notorious local businessman and finally perform your music at the premier 7th Street club – Slim Jenkins’ Place.
For background on the Oakland jazz and blues scene see: California Soul: Music of African Americans in the West.
For additional historical background on Oakland during the 20th century see Chris Rhomberg’s No There There: Race, Class and Political Community in Oakland.