I stopped when I heard "Oakland." My wife regularly records the BBC America news, but we don't often watch it. That program (programme) happened to be on when I turned our television machine on and the first choice I had was to look and listen as I comprehended my choices. I confess that hearing that erudite British inflection applied to "Oakland" was enough to hook me. What could the British Broadcasting Company find interesting in my neck of the woods?
It seems that a homeless couple was invited to live in a millionaire's home in the ritzy hills overlooking some of the Bay Area's priciest real estate. Greg Dunston and Marie Mckinzie had spent nearly a decade living on the streets, surviving the way so many folks do, sleeping in doorways and pushing a shopping cart around with their meager belongings. This is where Terrence McGrath steps in. Mister McGrath, living in a forty-five hundred square foot home alone, with an empty in-law unit with separate entrance and facilities. Why not invite Dunston and Mckinzie to stay as his guests?
Well, if you are A) familiar with the story or B) familiar with the way things have a tendency to go in these United States, then you may have surmised that there would be trouble. A sixty-something year old African American man and his fifty-something year old partner walking around the rarefied air of Piedmont, the suburban island that sits like an island surrounded by the very urban Oakland attracted attention. The wrong kind of attention. In stark contrast to the land below, Piedmont has just a two percent African American population. Concerned neighbors made numerous calls to police, concerned that their idyllic existence might be in peril from outsiders.
As it turns out, Terrence McGrath had grown up poor, one of nine children whose family were on and off the welfare rolls for years. Eventually, he turned that hard luck story into something more akin to Horatio Alger, becoming an investor and real estate developer with a four million dollar house with an empty in-law unit. And what does this millionaire want in return?
Except maybe to have his neighbors lighten up.
And that Greg and Marie could realize their dream of having their own place.
And perhaps that more people would look to right the ship that lists so heavily starboard.