Stroll the "Walk of Fame" at West Oakland
Most people today don’t know that West Oakland has a very colorful and long blues and jazz history. Virtually every big musician in those genres gained exposure by making it a point to play in West Oakland as it was a well-known hot spot for top-notch performers. People came from far and wide to see them.
One of the 84 plaques that honors blues and jazz artists who used to play at Oakland music clubs.
Skip to the 1990s when Ronnie Stewart, the executive director for the nonprofit Bay Area Blues Society, had the idea to honor Oakland’s blues, R&B and jazz giants who used to perform regularly in that part of the city from the 1930s through the 1960s. Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, BB King, Louis Jordan, Etta James, Ike and Tina Turner, Bobby Bland and Lowell Fulson were just some of the blues artists who played there. While the music venues — with names like Slim Jenkins Supper Club and Esther's Orbit Room — are long gone, Stewart did not want the history of the West Coast Harlem to be forgotten.
The Blues Society received a daunting 300 to 400 suggestions for performers to be commemorated. The hard part was picking only 84 of them. Each of the 84 honored artists has their own brass plaque embedded into the sidewalk, much like actors getting a star in Hollywood.
Sculptural light poles seen outside of West Oakland BART Station.
Unveiled in March of 2015, this walk of blues fame (formally titled “The Music They Played on 7th Street Oakland Walk of Fame”) is easy to get to because much of it is located on the sidewalk in front of the West Oakland BART station on 7th Avenue. Almost every step you take brings you to another amazing musician’s name.
The plaque commemorating The Music They Played on 7th Street Oakland Walk of Fame, steps outside of West Oakland BART Station.
The walk of fame is part of a $5.1 million project to renovate 7th Street and the surrounding neighborhood. The majority of funding has come from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and BART.
Outside the West Oakland BART Station, this artistic gateway features famous African American heroes, including Malcom X, Maya Angelou, Esther Mabry, Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr.
While you’re visiting the walk of fame, head south a block or two, look up, and you’ll see a wonderful artistic gateway stretched across 7th Street featuring famous African American heroes such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama. A perfect welcome for people coming to the West Oakland district. Just a little beyond that on the eastside of the street is The Crucible, which is a 56,000 square-foot space dedicated to making fine and industrial art with classes in welding, blacksmithing, neon, glass blowing, ceramics, jewelry, robotics and more. Stop in, they’d love to show you around.
The West Oakland district is turning into an area that supports “a thriving industrial arts sector, a sustainability/food security/urban farming movement, and an “arts-adjacent alternative lifestyle community.”