Opinion: Oakland must band together in fight against racism

By  | PUBLISHED: 9/28/2017 East Bay Times

The past few weeks leave no question that hate and bigotry still plague our country, and that our communities must continue to stand strong and united against racism.

Charlottesville, Va., to Boston to the Bay Area, we’ve been horrified by shameless displays of white supremacy. But we’re also inspired by the determination and creativity of those who are standing up for racial equity and racial justice.This is a time of reckoning for all. Here in Oakland, it is a time to face that our community is no stranger to the racist attitudes and behaviors (explicit or not) that still poison so many systems and institutions more than 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Witness Oakland’s shameful history of racially motivated redlining, current police department policies that target and demonize black and brown youth, de facto school segregation and the extreme overrepresentation of African Americans and people of color within our criminal justice system.

Today, Oakland community leaders continue to organize — against racist law enforcement practices, against the lack of affordable housing that puts long-time residents on the streets, against the school-to-prison pipeline and against other discriminatory policies and trends that warehouse our kids into lifelong surveillance, detention and prison cells. This work is a testament to our power, resilience and unapologetic self-determination.But Oakland is also home to a powerful network of activists and organizations working heroically to end racism and advance healing over hate. This is the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, which had to battle to survive in the face of racialized oppression and brutality even as it built systems of equality in education, housing, employment and civil rights.

For more than 17 years, Oakland-based Akonadi Foundation has worked to eliminate structural racism by investing in and supporting community-based organizations and initiatives striving to advance racial justice in Oakland. Last year, we launched the So Love Can Win Community Response Fund to spark imagination and seed efforts to create healing and safety in Oakland’s communities of color.

In light of recent events, and at a time when the actions and rhetoric of national leaders threaten local communities of color, we want to support new ways to bring love, opportunity and power to everyone in Oakland, especially communities most affected by inequity and injustice.

Oakland can and should be a haven where communities of color can thrive, but we urgently must fortify the people and organizations that are working so hard to make this vision real. In this uncertain moment, protecting the mental, physical and spiritual well-being of communities of color is vital — and we need to advance a new vision of community safety that is less about policing and prisons and more about loving, lifting up and looking after each other.

If we succeed here in Oakland, we can send a powerful message across the country about how to build safe and healthy communities.

In 2016, the So Love Can Win Fund supported a wide range of neighborhood collectives, spiritual practitioners and frontline activists working in Oakland. These include: Love Not Blood, a campaign that works with families that have suffered the traumatic experience of losing a loved one to homicide; Choices for Freedom, which works to improve the lives of people who have been involved in the criminal justice system; and the UndocuHealing Project, which is bringing healing and rejuvenation to the lives of undocumented young people in Oakland.

Now is the time to build the resiliency of communities of color in Oakland, so we can stand up to racism, so healing and justice can be realized–and so love can win.

Lateefah Simon is president of Akonadi Foundation.