“The music of the church reveals the life of the church, the enthusiasm of the church,” Michael Wright, an Oakland pastor, tells CBS SF. But that's not how it's seen, or heard, by what's likely a group of new arrivals to the neighborhood complaining to the City of Oakland.
In fact, West Oakland's Pleasant Grove Baptist Church received a city letter threatening them with a $3,500 nuisance fee and $500 fines daily unless they quiet their choir practice.
"[This] activity may constitute a public nuisance due to its impact to the use and quiet enjoyment of the surrounding community’s property,” the letter states in part. The congregation says it wasn't so much as consulted before the letter was received.
"Kind of hard to believe because we’ve been here about 65 years in the community and all of a sudden we get some concerns about the noise,” said Thomas A Harris III who is the pastor of Pleasant Grove.
Lawrence Van Hook, the senior pastor at Community Church, sees the larger trend — black Oakland is being gentrified, and quickly, and without respect to its traditions and culture. “We’re being bought out," he says. "We’re being moved out. We are being priced out of our own neighborhood."
George Holland, president of the Oakland branch of the NAACP, says that “Those persons who are just new arrivals should not come and try to change the culture that existed before they arrived here... We cannot have people come attack churches about music.”
Holland's language of "attack" is not accidental. The letter, though minor in contrast to physical violence against black churches, can nonetheless be seen as an act of aggression. So what does Pleasant Grove plan to do? Fight the complaint, of course, and do what it does best, singing loud and proud at rehearsal tonight.