Oakland, a beacon of cultural brilliance

By: Vanessa Camarena Arredondo

Oakland is a beacon of cultural brilliance and resistance, with communities of color and immigrant communities largely at the lead. As I look back at a year full of cultural vibrancy, purpose, and collective struggle, I am reminded that it is through these cultural movements that we build a racially just city together.

Through the Beloved Community Fund, Akonadi Foundation supported several projects and events to reclaim public space in Oakland. Urban Peace Movement’s youth led this year’s 510 Day March, kicking off a beautiful resurgence of Black presence and belonging at Lake Merritt. Studio Grand’s Under Oakland Skies showcased the talent of young Black musicians, along with the deep African legacy of the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, with beautiful outdoor concerts at Lake Merritt. Poet Marvin K. White curated the Sanctified Mic Series, a radical poetry and writing series to ‘re-frame and reclaim the sacred’ at the Oakland Peace Center. Oakland’s festivals, led by people of color, overflowed with love and pride. Festivals like the Pan African Festival, Umoja Festival, Juneteenth, the Black Eyed Pea Festival, and Malcolm X Jazz Festival are inspired by our city’s movement makers who lead the way as cultural ambassadors.

In 2019, we will be shifting Akonadi Foundation’s Beloved Community Fund from supporting one-time events to providing general operating support to cultural and art organizations in Oakland. Organizations that have received at least two years of funding from the Beloved Community Fund may apply. In recognition of the value the Fund has brought to many groups over the last few years, the grant awards will be focused on Oakland-based organizations that have a track record of working in the city. Criteria will be available on January 22, 2019, when the application goes live on our website. The application deadline will be February 22, 2019 and award announcements will be made on March 18, 2019.

In addition to the Beloved Community Fund, Akonadi Foundation invested in five Beloved Community Fund grant partners through BOOST, an organizational strengthening pilot program. Through the Boost cohort, grant partners participated in trainings and clinics to strengthen their respective organizational capacities and their leaders.

Lastly, in partnership with the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, we co-commissioned Mapping Small Arts and Culture Organizations of Color in Oakland, a benchmark report on Oakland’s small, grassroots arts and culture organizations serving people of color. The report examined how these groups strengthen our city, exposed some of the challenges, like securing reliable long-term funding, and posed recommendations on how philanthropy and others can support and invest in this sector. A capstone activity from our joint research effort was presenting the report’s findings with our colleagues at the 2018 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference, a national gathering of arts and culture funders.

As I reflect on this year and look toward 2019, I remain inspired by the power of Oakland’s critical cultural and art organizations who are working to advance understanding and spur collective action in the fight for a racially just Oakland.