A summer job during high school proved to be life-changing for Barbara Staggers. The high achieving teen who aspired to be a ballerina or maybe a veterinarian was working for a recreation program for inner-city kids. “My job was to teach swimming and gymnastics so at the end of the day they’d be too tired to get into trouble,” she recalls. Among her youngsters was a quiet, beautiful 14-year old girl — until a man came to take her away. “He looked like the classic pimp from the movies and said he needed her to work,” recounts Staggers, who went to her supervisor. But when they phoned the girl’s mother, she said, “Let her go. We need the money.”
Berkeley’s neighbor to the south, Oakland, has a Chinatown that’s well known to city residents and others who go there to shop, dine, and renew cultural ties. What most don’t know is that a previous Chinatown existed “uptown” in Oakland, farther north and west of the present site, until the 1870s, when most occupants were forced to vacate.