The Making of the Ghost Ship Fire

Rooted in legacies of struggle and resistance, the story of the Fruitvale district in Oakland, California exposes the historical displacement and disenfranchisement for intersectional communities of race, class, and gender.  The Fruitvale was named after its beautiful fruit orchards and most poignantly after experiencing the first wave of refugees displaced by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Most recently, this story of displacement and disenfranchisement is retold through the tragedy of the Ghost Ship fire.  The Ghost Ship was a converted warehouse into an artist live/work space.  The residents of the Ghost Ship as well as the party-goers on that fatal night embodied the maker culture as empowered, inclusive, and conscious not only DIYers but creative beacons for their respective communities. Nonetheless, survivors of the Ghost Ship tragedy have to mourn their loss amidst a public stoning.  

From progressive1 to more reactive2 critics, the Ghost Ship tragedy exposes the ugly tax intersectional communities pay for whom making culture is not always just a  choice.  Progressives prematurely point out that the narrative of displacement has not taken center stage until now that we see the deaths of poor and marginalized white artists.  Reactives complain about not understanding why these people would put themselves in the position of being trapped and killed in a fire.

All this heat (no pun intended) make me wonder about just how wide the disconnect really is between K12 Maker Education and the rest of the world?  Is making in the context of living in real poverty here in America getting enough attention?  How is making in poverty here in America different from making in poverty in Africa, for instance?  Does our American society really value makers if it’s so willing to crucify them as soon as something goes wrong for their innovation at problem-solving? How will my students’ maker identity formation 3be impacted going to school just 2 blocks away from the Ghost Ship? Will they internalize the critics of these maker artists or will they learn to value what these makers added to a community torn in its own geopolitical battle?

1 “Gentrification and its impact on Community | KPFA.” 7 Jan. 2016, Accessed 11 Dec. 2016.

2 “Evictions post Ghost Ship: Artists’ fears of displacement coming to fruition.” 7 Dec. 2016, Accessed 11 Dec. 2016.

3 “Making through the lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity.”2016, Harvard Educational Review Vol. 86 No. 2.

One Comment


Thank you for this really important piece. I was also struck by this story and wanted to learn more, so thank you for bringing it here. I am especially concerned by your question:
Does our American society really value makers if it’s so willing to crucify them as soon as something goes wrong for their innovation at problem-solving?
I worry that as a nation, we do not value making beyond its novelty. Are we so entrenched in a consumer culture that ingenuity only seems like a good idea when those without the means to buy new things are forced to use it?
Keep up the good work!


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