Farewell to Akonadi – and to Oakland

By: Sheena Johnson

Like many of you, this moment of change has compelled me to reflect deeply on my path and purpose. I have come to understand that lasting structural change begins and ends with ourselves. We must mirror in our personal lives the world we want to help build. With this realization, I sadly came to understand that my 10 years of loving and living in Oakland is coming to a close, and I am looking for opportunities to move closer to my family on the East Coast.

As I transition out of my role as program officer here at Akonadi this spring, I am overcome by such a profound feeling of love for the strong activist and grassroots organizing communities here in Oakland. My time at Akonadi has been a homecoming for all my personal and political selves. I feel so incredibly honored and privileged to work alongside such powerful women inside the foundation and to serve the racial justice community in Oakland.

As program officer for the Beloved Community Fund, I was able to champion culture as a powerful strategy to shift hearts and minds, fight structural racism, and advance movement building. Through our grantmaking, we have supported initiatives that helped youth of color combat racialized stereotypes, celebrated Black organizing, highlighted responses to state violence, used culture as means to address historic trauma and advance healing, and examined issues of race and displacement. We also created new spaces and opportunities to bring together Oakland’s artivists, organizers, and educators committed to racial justice, cultural organizing, and social justice. This is my life’s work. Creating and holding liberatory spaces for radical queers, healers, artists, and activists to find support and sanctuary will always be a part of my path. I believe nurturing the healing, imagination, and creativity of those of us most affected by oppression will ultimately liberate us all.

Now more than ever, I am committed to revolution and healing. I want to urge all of us to dream, to create, to heal, and to love fully and wholly. We can no longer negotiate the terms of our liberation. There is certainly an urgency to fight against these oppressive systems and policies, but I also want to advocate for building our muscles to imagine how to live beyond these oppressive systems, so that when they topple we don’t replicate the same structures. What if we put all our energy into holding space to truly heal from internalized and intergenerational harm and oppression?  What if we put more and more of our time and energy into cultivating our ability to dream and build futures for ourselves, families, and communities so we all can be safe and thrive?

The legacy of Oakland’s racial justice activism sets the pulse for the nation, serving as an inspiration globally not just in this moment but beyond. In response, we claim love, justice, truth, and joy for our lives and the lives of our dear ones, despite what might be happening in Washington.

From my Revolution 101 class in 2007 at School of Unity and Liberation (SOUL), to organizing with Critical Resistance , INCITE! and MXGM in my 20s, to becoming a mama and launching my own activist dance company, Oakland has imprinted itself into my DNA. Wherever I land, I will continue to look to Oakland for inspiration and hope; thank you, Oakland, for allowing me to call you home. In my going, know that your fire will fuel what I do next.

In solidarity,
Sheena