OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Christopher Columbusing. It’s a term used to describe people who claim they’ve discovered something that’s been around for a long time.

As NPR’s Code Switch puts it:

“If you’ve danced to an Afrobeat-heavy pop song, dipped hummus, sipped coconut water, participated in a Desi-inspired color run or sported a henna tattoo, then you’ve Columbused something.”

Oakland filmmaker N’Jeri Eaton got busy “Columbusing” this past Halloween weekend in a culturally-rich area dealing with a surge of well-endowed techies.

Wearing a Renaissance-inspired velvet tunic and a puffy feather-adorned hat, the 10-year East Bay resident arrived at Oakland International Airport after a business trip to New York and set out to “discover” Oakland.

A #ChristopherColumbusing hashtag lined the Instagram posts to document her travels.

“Oakland is the new Brooklyn,” she wrote in one post featuring a photo of Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

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#ChristopherColumbusing #halloween #columbusing

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#ChristopherColumbusing #halloween #columbusing

A post shared by N'Jeri Eaton (@njerieaton) on

View this post on Instagram

#ChristopherColumbusing #halloween #columbusing

A post shared by N'Jeri Eaton (@njerieaton) on

From “sketchy” taco trucks to hip art galleries, Eaton said her goal was to create a lighthearted way of addressing the heavy topic of gentrification without sounding “judgey.”

“There’s such a thin line between Columbusing and appropriation,” she said, speaking as a first-hand witness to changes in her neighborhood and her job at the San Francisco nonprofit Independent Television Service.

“Pinterest is moving into my building and we’re being displaced,” she said. “Every part of my life is involved in those conversations.”

Uber’s recently announced expansion to downtown Oakland perpetuates those displacement fears where rents have shot up 20 percent in the last year.

The median rent for a one bedroom in Oakland has now reached $1,980 a month.

Eaton also explores Oakland’s transformation into a top tourist destination while still ranked as one of the country’s most violent places in the film First Friday.

“I don’t just want to have conversation that gentrification is bad or change is bad,” Eaton said. “It’s about how to move conversation forward.”

She adds that it’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean you can’t be turned on to new things. “I’m originally from Maryland. I didn’t have Pho or Sriracha there — friends introduced me to those things,” Eaton said. “Columbusing is the assumption it wasn’t worth having a particular thing until a certain group of people discovered it.”

Nicole Jones is a digital producer for CBS San Francisco.

 

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