Oakland, CA, a city that was once a thriving epicenter for African resistance and African self-determination, as seen through the Black Panther Movement of the 1960’s, has quickly turned into a land of white hipsters, techies, and yuppies greedily buying up African land, housing and businesses and replacing them with bourgeois restaurants and boutiques, tech start-ups, and yoga studios.
Colonialism, in the form of gentrification, is viciously driving out African people, isolating them from each other, and turning Oakland into an expensive white enclave where the cost of living has skyrocketed and the dynamic culture of the Oakland’s black community is now a shadow of itself.
Oakland’s African community, like all African working class communities in the U.S., is suffering under the conditions of colonialism, especially in stark contrast to the white community — which as of the 2010 Census, makes up over a third of the population; the largest ethnic group in Oakland.
Here are two staggering statistics from the Alameda County Health Data Profile of 2014 (http://www.acphd.org/media/353060/acphd_cha.pdf ) which show the effects of African people under white colonialism: An African child born in East Oakland lives 17 years less than a white child born in the Oakland Hills. One reason for this is due to the “food desert” of East Oakland where no fresh food grocery stores exist although it is filled with liquor stores and cheap fast food restaurants. To add to this, 75% of African students entering 9th grade do not graduate high school with a diploma.
This is why Days in Solidarity with African People (DSAP) is so critical here in Oakland and everywhere Africans have been dispersed under white colonialism. It is not only a day where white people can recognize the atrocities of the past and present, that African and all colonized people have been and are enduring, but they can pledge to pay reparations — which is the most principled way white people can stand in solidarity with African people.
Oakland was the first of the nine city DSAP tour and we had many victories that contributed to a successful and enlightening event. In late August, Oakland African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) and Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) members — Maureen Wagener, Chair of Oakland DSAP, plus Jeanine Griswa, Stephanie Midler, Pete Yaroschuk, Cara Locke, and Patrick Enea– along with two experienced African forces, Bakari Olatunji and Sealli Moyenda began holding weekly meetings, breaking into committees, and creating a plan of action where each member led a committee and/or took a part in one. The training and assistance gained through weekly committee meetings with APSC & USM comrades was incredibly powerful. These trainings and meetings were essential to not only making it a cohesive event, but one that was supportive and unifying.
Thirty-five people attended Oakland DSAP, mainly Africans and seven new North Americans, several of whom became USM members and two of whom USM International Recruiting and Membership chair Rhya Fogerty organized. Most of the people stayed through the three-hour event, attentively listening to the speeches, reading the political literature, and enjoying treats from Uhuru Pies and Food. Before the event, under the astute leadership of APSC member and USM National Outreach Committee Chair Johann Bedingfield, Oakland’s outreach committee was in charge of staffing for tabling, postering and phone banking. Cara Locke led Oakland’s outreach committee, where Bakari Oltunji, Sealli Moyenda, Maureen Wagener, Patrick Enea, Stephanie Midler, Pete Yaroschuk, Wendy Snyder, and Joel Hamburger all played major roles. Victories included weekly phone banking, passing out about 3,000 postcards, hanging eighty posters around the Bay Area, organizing at three political events, presenting at a high school on the topic of white solidarity with African people, and conducting eight outreach tables. Bakari, Sealli and Jabari tabled at two African events, one being a Pan-African festival, and registered several African people to attend DSAP.
The USM Outreach Committee Media Coordinator Dianne Tornay and Social Media Coordinator Virginia Wilson did a great job of creating and scheduling postings and memes that were strategic, creative and helpful. Locally, we did not have someone who could lead the media work, but Maureen Wagener took on any media postings and attended national DSAP committee meetings. And even though much of the media graphics did not become available until the week of DSAP Oakland, Stephanie Midler and Maureen Wagener made several postings mainly through Facebook.
The goal of our planning was to build a powerful event program forwarding the culture of white reparations to African people, a dynamic and well-planned reparations and membership appeal, smooth logistics, refreshments — a sound platform for APSP and APSC speakers. This goal was achieved and we hosted speakers’ powerful presentations and a musical performance. The speakers and their presentations won the people to the role and stance of solidarity and reparations. The national USM DSAP committee leadership wrote the program and drafted the emcee script and Stephanie Midler updated it with local events including times of all speakers in the program notes.
All of the presentations were amazing and we were honored to have the Chairman of the African People’s Social Party and Uhuru Movement, Omali Yeshitela, present the theory of African Internationalism, including white solidarity with Black power and the question of reparations. APSC Chairwoman Penny Hess; Justice for the Three Drowned Black Girls Committee Chair and Communities United For Reparations and Economic Development (CURED) Chair, Akilé Anai; and USM Chair and CURED Vice-Chair Jesse Nevel also deepened the understanding of white solidarity and reparations through their compelling and critical stance.
Our cultural piece came from APSC member and DSAP Security Coordinator Jackson Hollingsworth, who sang a beautiful song about reparations that was powerful and inspiring.
Akwaaba Hall, at the Uhuru House, was a beautiful venue, with plenty of tables providing food and political literature to buy, plus a Black Star Industries (BSI) table. USM member Patrick Enea was able to secure several food donations from local grocery stores and was the key person to setting up and making the refreshments tasty and plentiful for our guests. There were more than enough refreshments and several people bought pie.
APSC member Jeanine Griswa headed up the logistics committee and secured the A/V equipment bringing in the Chairman’s presentation. The AV worked quite well with the coordination of APSC member Kyle Weiss. This was a key feature enabling us to have the Chairman in the room with us virtually since he was unable to fly out for the event due to undergoing eye-surgery.
The appeal went well thanks to APSC member KC Mackey’s thorough training and rehearsal. APSC member Pete Yaroschuk solicited local businesses to place advertisements in our program book and led the reparations work by getting several local members including a few local USM members to hold Reparations Challenges mainly selling art pieces, giving guitar lessons and holding a garage sale. By the end of Oakland DSAP, we raised an overall total of $6,000.00.
It was an honor for all of us here in Oakland to be a part of DSAP 2017 and we look forward to strengthening our victories and correcting our contradictions for DSAP 2018. Already we’ve begun working out many of the contradictions, as we are always recruiting and meeting people with incredible skills, heart and drive. Winning them politically to African Internationalism and unity through reparations is our ultimate goal and is our leading stance.
UHURU! WE ARE WINNING!