Oakland — The topic of lowrider culture is slowly hitting the forefront. Artists like Thee Sacred Souls and Joey Quinones are becoming popular. Cars and music are synonymous yet there are laws in place to suppress car enthusiasts.
However, according to enthusiasts the anti-cruise laws feel discriminatory.
“It isn't a crime to cruise,” said Big Serg, who has been part of the scene since before most of us were born. “We get profiled because we are a car filled with Latinos.”
The roots of lowrider culture originated in 1940s Los Angeles, and gained momentum in the 60s. The culture grew in popularity during the 70s through the 90s in the Bay and Oakland once had the most car clubs. Yet no one talks about it. Serg said then the town had the biggest car clubs before it became heavily regulated.
“It didn’t take much to get harassed by police, especially after the riot. That was all the excuse they needed to profile folks like me,” Serg said.
When the late 2000s hit, Oaklands' wild west culture was changing with gentrification. With the growing popularity of The Town, “First Fridays became popular. This temporarily revived lowrider culture,” Serg said.
Oakland’s First Fridays (O.F.F.) attracted people from different walks of life and numerous car clubs showed up organizing lowrider car shows at the Quarter Pound Burger in Uptown. It reached its peak between 2014 and 2017 when the burger joint’s ownership changed, plus there were alleged harassment problems with police.
This wasn't the first time riders had altercations with the police. In 1998 a riot broke out in the Fruitvale District after an event held by Lowrider Magazine at the Coliseum. One thing led to another and the disturbance was said to have occurred due to a disagreement between two affiliated groups. Police became strict and the popularity of the modern Hyphy movement as well as sideshows grew in Oakland which felt like the demise of lowrider classy culture.
Casey Sosa, 21, grew up surrounded by the culture and learning about the community.“My family is really into lowriders. My step father’s family owned and worked on lowriders,” Sosa said. “Seeing them work on the cars was nice. There's a sense of perseverance and strength.”
Oakland's lowrider culture is smaller compared to other cities, but it's important history. The band, Durand Jones has a music video ‘Cruisin’ that shows the Lake Merritt and lowriders cruising, but it's all a front because there's no cruising zone. Despite its historical significance, there’s room for growth within the culture. Sosa said that she’d like to see this new generation of lowrider culture as it slowly comes to the mainstream audience.
“There's a lot of misogyny against women who would have lowriders. It's always seen within the male gaze, it’d be this thing where the male would be in the driver's seat and the woman would be in the passenger seat,” Sosa said. “I'd love to see more women owning lowriders and formulating clubs of their own. It's important to have women embrace the culture and I want to see more unity and equality in car culture, especially in Chicano culture.”
Despite everything that happened and the fallouts with the city, the future's bright. In 2021 there was a Lowrider super show held at the Coliseum, the first since the 98’ riot. During the 2021-22 legislative session, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 176 was introduced and the California Assembly unanimously repealed the ban on cruising because “recognizes that cruising holds cultural significance for many communities.”
Serg said that the culture is fighting misconceptions about gang-related. It’s not. “They do a lot for the community.”