Image Credit: Maya Sapienza


The Archive of Urban Futures (“the Archive”) is a collaborative project with Moms 4 Housing, generously supported by a grant from the Mellon Foundation’s Humanities in Place program. The Archive focuses on questions of history, value, the right to place, and memory and erasure in Oakland, California. The Archive will take the form of a database of material about Oakland and visions of and for its future over time, as well as related activities including community-based workshops, institutes, and art/exhibitions.

The Archive is an effort to anticipate possibility by assembling histories of Oakland that are not reducible to its already well-documented experiences of racialized inequality and dispossession, while at the same time we recognize the ways that racism is always and already a productive enterprise. Or, as Saidiya Hartman (2008) writes, “to imagine what cannot be verified…to reckon with the precarious lives which are visible only in the moment of their disappearance” (p. 12). Engaging historically displaced, dispossessed, and disenfranchised urban communities as interpreters and investigators disrupts what counts as knowledge and allows for an expansive reading of archival data into alternative historical narratives – surmising not only what happened in the past, but also what could have been.

Image credit: Olalekan Jeyifous



Image credit: Olalekan Jeyifous

The Apocryphal Gospel of Oakland (AGO) is a multimedia project developed in collaboration with Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based visual artist, Olalekan Jeyifous. AGO lampoons policy and power in confronting the housing crisis in Oakland. We envision an absurdist and alternate future that derives from the racist, spurious narratives deployed historically, as justification for “Negro removal” and more recently to explicate “housing scarcity” in the age of the Tech sector boom.

"Apocrypha" are written works of unknown authorship and dubious authenticity that are nonetheless widely circulated as being “true” (The Gospel).

On the topic of California’s ongoing homeless and housing crisis, the prevailing “Apocrypha” of Oakland is “housing scarcity,” despite findings by the American Community Survey that show there are four vacant units for every unhoused person. Municipal powers frame, react, and derive policy based on this notion of scarcity to address rampant homelessness, and to promote the idea that developing more "affordable” housing is the only solution to a crisis that derived from ongoing economic, racial, and political inequities. As a result, often untenable, even preposterous interim and emergency “transitional housing” strategies are presented as viable solutions. An emphasis and aggrandizement of these “strategies” as speculative urban interventions form the basis of our project.

“The Apocryphal Gospel of Oakland” is a multimedia installation comprised of hyper-real, Dystopian images, infographics, and animations re-imagined at the intersection of artistic abstraction and the exploratory potential for statistical analysis as a form of accountability and cutting social critique. The primary focus of this project will be photo-montages and experimental video depicting exaggerated “future” encampments from an alternate reality. Archival photographs, abstracted maps, and inventive animations will tell the origin story of these speculative encampments, reflecting on the socio-spatial organizational policies, cultural phenomena, contexts, and events that defined their establishment, tracing back to the racialized history of segregation and dispossession that justified the destruction of Black neighborhoods under the pretense of “urban renewal.”

Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.
headshot images by Bethanie Hines
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