OAKLAND, CA - SATURDAY AUGUST 28, 2021
BOSS Bay Area recently held the inaugural Black August Block Party to commemorate the revolutionary voices that have fought, and continue to fight, for equity, empowerment, and social change.
The event began with a Mural Unveiling & Fundraiser in Art, Culture & Political Education at our Downtown Neighborhood Impact Hub (CTEC). This fundraiser launched August 2021 to support BOSS’ Reentry & Neighborhood Safety program – Centers of opportunity and empowerment for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) people in Oakland areas who have been disproportionately affected by racially biased policies and systemic inequities.
Executive Director of BOSS Bay Area, Donald Frazier gave an overview of BOSS’ mission and its evolution over the past seven years. Noting, “the reason we’re here is to celebrate art, culture and political education as the benchmark of Black liberation over the years.”
The mural, aptly named The Arc of Liberation, was designed by Oakland native and airbrush artist, Deandre Drake of Airballin. Through BOSS’ vision, Deandre’s motivation for his design materialized because of the significant role each revolutionary played in his life. Though he didn’t face any artistic challenges, because of his personal connection with the work BOSS does in reentry and his love and respect for Oakland, he wanted to do right by the city that has given him so much.
Brother Malik Seneferu, a San Francisco native, culture shifter, and revolutionary change maker, spoke to the youth directly. His art, culture, and history classes in San Francisco sparked a call-to-action, Give Back to Our Children.
“The way we give back to our children is by uplifting our ancestors and elders who are still here today,” he remarked directly to the crowd.
On August 28th, the fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was assassinated, catapulting the conversation and giving prominence to his call to action. Malik Seneferu has a series called "Forever Fourteen" that follows the lives of fourteen-year-old boys who have died early as a result of violence rooted in systemic oppression.
“If you don’t know who I am, my claim to fame is that I was in the Black Panther party and that makes me historically significant, period!” Sister Elaine Brown has arrived.
Elaine Brown, former leader of the Black Panther Party, Minister of Information and Chairman lead a Masterclass in Political Education & History to our reentry and social justice team. She not only spoke on the significance of the Black August & The Black Panther Party, but the commitment to organizing and staying in the community. She set the tone quoting George Jackson’s infamous, “Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done, discover your humanity and your love in revolution.”
She then asked the room, “How have we not moved?”
She spoke about organizing philosophy, coalition building, and the model of community engagement. She reminded us of her comrades Fred Hampton, Che Guevara, Huey P Newton, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who created the blueprint and challenged the established system. She spoke reverently about what it means to be a revolutionary, who the true revolutionaries were, and what led them to do so. Quoting Che Guevara, “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.” Sister Elaine Brown pushed those present, as well as those at home, to do more, complete the task, ask questions, and remember who they are.
Her objective was clear. “You have to educate our people, to liberate our people, ain’t nobody coming to get us,” she said. Her matter of fact and honest candor was refreshing and noteworthy.
“People will come if you make a place for them,” she said, and so she did. Sister Elaine Brown's legacy is ingrained in the very foundation upon which it was built. She is the proprietor of West Oakland's first Black Woman-led development property. She’s offering an opportunity for persons affected by the systems that afflict BIPOC by acquiring the space at Seventh and Campbell for them to achieve self-sufficiency through housing, entrepreneurship, ownership, and more.
“When people are released from prison, there aren't a lot of options for them to make a living, so recidivism is unavoidable,” she adds. “They need to eat, therefore they'll do whatever it takes to stay alive.”
Seventh & Campbell includes a developing and sustainable urban farm, retail spaces, and affordable housing as part of its commitment to the community.
She closed by urging, “have the kind of courage George(Jackson) had. Live to fight. Fight to live. I’m still fighting and I’m still standing.”
The message from all of the guests was to uplift, educate, and question the current status quo, in line with BOSS Bay Area' mission of tackling the root causes of poverty.
Many of the attendees, including Assemblymember Mia Bonta and City Council Representative Loren Taylor, lingered after the opening to ask questions and learn more about BOSS' Reentry Programs, our Social Justice Collective and the political education and restorative justice classes offered to our staff and some participants.
“It’s imperative that we understand the policies that are impacting our lives on a daily basis, or we’re forever lost,” Donald Frazier says. “The arc of liberation is a pictorial representation of the revolutionaries that came before us. The question now is, what’s next?”
Following the mural unveiling, the Inaugural BOSS Bay Area Black August Block Party & Resource Fair continued to recognize those who have made sacrifices and those who are still working for a better life for the people in our neighborhood, while providing takeaway resources and information for those in attendance.
Our monthly Encampment & Community Outreach Food Run kicked things off. We were able to securely distribute over 500 meals to encampments and underprivileged communities throughout Oakland with the help of our core volunteers, Community Kitchens Oakland, and Oakland-based restaurants, Xingones, El Huarache Aztec, Kingston 11, The Busy Wife, Roux & Vine and Chop Bar Oakland.
It was a hot day in Oakland when the Block Party began at 1 p.m., center stage at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Over twenty-five community-based organizations, activists, civic leaders, Bay Area artists, performers, and community health and wellness services were among those in attendance.
BOSS Bay Area provided resources in the areas of employment, housing, social justice, and violence prevention. As a result of the in-kind donations, we were able to give away not just clothing, books, and backpacks, but also clipper cards worth $147 apiece to eight lucky people. Donations like these contribute to our community's self-sufficiency.
Legal services, employment prospects, housing navigation, covid testing, and vaccines were all available. St. Mary’s Center, Owning My Own Truth, and TradesWomen Inc. were among the organizations present. Trades Women Inc is a non-profit organization that assists women who want to pursue a craft career. Interviews with potential staff were undertaken on the spot.
With the election season in full swing, it was great to see both Assembly Member candidates in attendance, Mia Bonta and Janani Ramachandran. Mia Bonta, who ultimately won the open Assembly seat, attended the mural unveiling of The Arc of Liberation and set up a table to answer inquiries from the public at the Block Party. Janani Ramachandran addressed the crowd, reminding them of Oakland's richness and to create space for themselves. We thank them both and look forward to continuing to collaborate with them in our continued efforts to address the root causes of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and violence.
“You can't help it. An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned, is to reflect the times.” Nina Simone
Oakland's essence is centered on art, and these Bay Area artists gathered to pour their hearts and souls onto the stage. Performers who have been directly or indirectly impacted by systemic challenges produced performances that elicited cerebral responses and enlightened us through their seamless delivery. Oakland native, DJ Squaropolis kept positivity and that Bay Area sound in classic rotation. Greg Gee, a former BOSS Bay Area participant introduced the opening with a moving spoken word piece about life, liberation, and choices. Marlon Richardson, educational director at Hip Hop for Change, who goes by the name Unlearn, is a world renowned hip hop artist. He's a multi-faceted songwriter and lyricist who came to educate us all, which he did.
The revolutionary and social changes were heard in unique and powerful ways; through outreach, organizing, art, spoken word and rhymes.
The conclusion of summer was marked by a celebration of culture, solidarity, and community that energized us for the next season.
Thank you to the community resources, donors & outreach ~