Kenzie Smith just wanted to enjoy a barbecue with friends at Lake Merritt last month before his life was changed. Video of a woman calling police to break up the party went viral as a ludicrous act of racism in Oakland, and was later immortalized online as #BBQBecky.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan then nominated Smith to the city’s Park and Recreation Advisory Commission. But Smith appears to have eyes on a bigger prize–Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillén’s District 2 seat. On Monday, Smith filed an intent to run in the November election.


Although Smith is a political novice, is has already shown a knack for bringing attention to issues such as racism in Oakland and homelessness. In addition to the BBQ Becky incident, Smith also helped shine a light on video showing a Oakland resident at Lake Merritt, later dubbed #JoggerJoe, angrily throwing a homeless person’s belongings into the trash and partially into the lake.

Smith is also the founder of Dope Era Magazine, which chronicles music and culture in the Bay Area.

The deadline for officially qualifying for the fall campaign is Aug. 10. In addition, to Guillén, who is running for re-election for the first time, Smith joins housing activist Nikki Bas Fortunato as early candidates.


Bas Fortunato made her own splash earlier by raising $43,000 through the first two months of her campaign last year, a total that suggests Guillén’s re-election could be vulnerable. During the last half of 2017, Guillén raised $55,000 in contributions, according to finance records. The addition of Smith, may further upend the math in District 2 because of the city’s Ranked-Choice Voting system.