Kenzie Smith, who stepped onto the national stage with the BBQ Becky incident, jumped into an Oakland City Council race to advance his fight for equality.
Smith filed documents on June 25 to run for the City Council’s District 2 seat, held by incumbent Abel Guillén, the East Bay Citizen reported.
The idea to run for office came at a fundraiser called Youth Awards in San Francisco, Smith told Dope Era Magazine, a music and culture publication he co-owns. A group of young people asked him after the event how they could help.
“I told them to vote, and they were like for who? They said if I run, they’ll vote for me. That was a doubled edged sword for me to run because I had the younger generation’s attention,” Smith stated. “If this is what will get them out there to vote, then I have to run.”
The nation first met Smith when a viral video showed Jennifer Schulte, a white woman later dubbed BBQ Becky, calling the Oakland police on Smith and his family in April because they were using a charcoal grill in a local park. It was one in a string of instances of white people calling 911 on African Americans for no good reason.
The race, which has an August 10 deadline for potential candidates to enter the competition, is beginning to take shape. Smith joins housing activist Nikki Bas Fortunato, who’s also competing for Guillén’s seat. The incumbent appears vulnerable because Bas Fortunato has amassed $43,000 in donations the first two months of her campaign.
Oakland uses the ranked-choice voting system, an automatic runoff method in which voters rank their top three candidates. It is the process which almost tripped up San Francisco’s first Black female mayor London Breed.
Smith has been an activist since 2000 in the areas of housing and homelessness. He also plans to focus his attention on education and jobs for youth. So far, he’s receiving support from his community.
“I have someone that stepped up to take care of the social media. Other people have stepped up, and I really thought I was going to be doing this by myself. They want to see me win. They want to see Oakland change,” he told Dope Era.