Sarah Tramble’s Story

After being born in the early 1900’s, and raised in Louisiana, Sarah Tramble has both lived and documented American History.

Tramble’s education was cut short after her 7th grade year. Her 8th grade school house was too far to travel, so the young Tramble began working as a janitor at a dentist’s office. While she cleaned toilets and scrubbed floors, she took note on the office’s daily operations. One day, she was asked to step in for a dental assistant that had called in sick. Tramble, who had never been formally trained, took advantage of this opportunity and performed well in her new role. The next week she landed a job as the new assistant, which payed double what she was making as a janitor.

Education proved to be Tramble’s calling, as she then grew to teach herself how to sew. And although she is big on self-education, Tramble did attend the American college and Laney College where she became a licensed nurse.

SONY DSC

Tramble now lives in West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood. But when she first moved out here, she bought a house on Parker in East Oakland in 1961, and stayed until ’75. She then moved to her West Oakland Victorian house, which was built in 1885 by a man named Mr. Black who worked at SP Railroad Company. She learned this fun fact from a discussion with some neighbors when she first moved in—she told me that she got word of this and took notes, similar to the way a journalist takes notes.

Tramble’s story of self-education is not a new tale at all, especially for African Americans coming up from the south. But it is Tramble’s story of self-documentation that is rare.
“I’m black- my momma look like she was white,” Tramble said as she pointed to a photo of her mother.

Her great grandmother came here as a slave- her great grand mother raised her mother, after her grandmother died as a child. At 96 years of age, Tramble has no problem recalling her family history.

As an African American woman who will not let you forget her age (96), Tramble’s personal notes show an angle of American history that not many see. She covers everything: from the history of West Oakland and the Pullman Porters, to the personal photos and notes of enslaved relatives … and even the images of the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga.

Tramble, a strong-speaker who constantly moves until coming to a momentary pause to drive her message home with a deep stare from her blue eyes said, “I talk to all young people, whoever will listen, but young people don’t listen- they don’t want to listen.”

On a cold winter’s Saturday afternoon in West Oakland, Sarah Tramble warmly opened her doors to me, and we cracked books and jokes, as I took notes from her notes.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive In SF.

MLK Dr. in SF.
MLK Dr. in SF.

“…He called me and said: I’m lost & I’m on MLK… I said: run!”- Unknown comedian.

MLK Ave. / Boulevard/ Street / Drive / Way … always seems to be in the hood. Always.

Last year I walked down Oakland’s MLK Way through a foggy North Oakland to the pier in Oakland’s Jack London Square, just outside of West Oakland. The year prior I walked through South East Washington DC by the Big Chair and Frederick Douglass’ house in order to capture the sights of MLK Ave. in the Nation’s Capitol.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2012, I found myself in one of the Nation’s most scenic cities: sunny San Francisco, Ca. Instead of walking this time- I decided to ride my bike… I should have known something would be different from that decision alone…

Freedom ride: free BART ride on MLK Day in the Bay.
Freedom ride: free BART ride on MLK Day in the Bay.
A biker on MLK Dr. in SF.
A biker on MLK Dr. in SF.
MLK Drive in a nice neighborhood.
MLK Drive in a nice neighborhood.

I didn’t spot any RIP murals, graffiti, lower income housing, or any Black people. At all.

San Francisco’s MLK Drive has to be the most scenic street dedicated to the deceased Civil Rights leader in the States… Here is a sneak peak:

I saw a lot of joggers how some ever…

Jogger on MLK Dr.
Jogger on MLK Dr.
An ole school ride and a jogger.
An ole school ride and a jogger.
A jogger and a beach at the end of San Francisco's MLK drive.
A jogger and a beach at the end of San Francisco's MLK drive.

As I came out of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, I ended up at the beach, Ocean Beach… At 12 Noon… I was listening to BIG’s instrumental for “Juicy”. I hopped off my bike and stepped onto the sand that lead to the Pacific Ocean.

On the beach for MLK Day... let freedom ring.
On the beach for MLK Day... let freedom ring.

 

“It was all a dream.”- Christopher Wallace.

 

Peace.

Photo Essay: A Walk Down MLK Ave. in South East D.C. on MLK Day 2010

He fought for Love. He fought for peace. He fought to uplifting Christ. And he fought to take down racism… But in the end Dr. King knew it was all about the allotment of resources in America.

His famous, “I Have a Dream” Speech, could have easily went down in history as the “Bounced Check ” speech. He spoke of America’s failure to include African-American’s into the greater society post-slavery. He acknowledged African-American’s role in the disenfranchisement, as many passively accepted what was given.

And now, 42 years after Dr. King’s assassination we have been given a National holiday in celebration of his birthday, and a Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in every major US city.

Every Martin Luther King Jr. Ave I have ever been fortunate enough to bare witness to runs through the most economically downtrodden part of the city.

I decided to take a walk down Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in the Nation’s Capitol, and this is what I saw…

Dr. King's Ave. in South East Washington DC

Martin Luther King Jr. Ave in South East Washington D.C. is a main artery through a predominantly African-American community. The area is in the transitional phase; the dilapidated structures of yesteryear still loom as a reminder of the 1968 riots after King’s death, the influence of crack cocaine in the 1980’s, and the economic turmoil that has plagued many Black communities since their creation- and through the current recession America is facing.

vacant housebuilding frame.Historically Black Community: For Sale

And like Every Black community in America, there were check cashing stores, liquor stores, heaps of trash in the street and graffiti on the walls

check cashing storeLiquor store. Good Hope.trash heapStanton Crew

But right next to the graffiti was something that started to open my eyes to the depth of the spirit present in the Anacostia community….

Islam on the riseSheik

Islam was far from the only religion present, in fact the number of Baptist churches was comparable to the amount of corner stores…Baptist church signUnion Temple

Fittingly enough, while attempting to take a shot of the church, another dominant force in the community conveniently intervened in my photo…

Cops and God.

But the governing bodies are also taking initiatives to aid the community…

A Government Savior?the plan...

dept. of Housing.

I don’t doubt the necessity for government aid in the Black community, but nothing trumps knowledge of self and knowledge of the land in which you reside. And in the community of South East Washington, D.C. there are numerous reminders of how fertile those grounds are, and how deep Black roots run through here said grounds.

Malcolm X centerFrederick Douglass' houseClara Muhammad schoolThurgood MarshallBlack owned Fish spotPeaceBlack familyBig Chair

And most of all… the words and image of Dr. King himself

MLK mural

On January 15th 2010 Dr. King would have been 81 years of age. To his memory, I give my respect.