By Vanessa Camarena-Arredondo
The South African Freedom Movement. The Black Liberation Movement. The Chicano Art Movement of the 1960s. The AIDS Memorial Quilt. The Black Arts Repertory Theatre. The skillful oration of Malcolm X and Akonadi’s President Lateefah Simon. The works of Octavia Butler, James Baldwin, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ai Weiwei, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Kendrick Lamar, Sherman Alexie, Juan Felipe Herrera, and countless others.
Time and again, we are reminded of the extraordinary power of art and culture to shine a fresh light on injustice, build solidarity, and help us imagine—and work toward—a better future for whole communities. Right here and right now in Oakland, hundreds of organizations, youth, and artists are using arts and culture to build voice, power, and self-determination in communities of color. Furthermore, what we love about the character of Oakland is that it has been molded by the culture, creativity, and resourcefulness of Black people, immigrant communities, and a culture of resistance, as evidenced by the Black Panther Movement and local youth organizing efforts such as BAY-Peace and East Side Arts Alliance.
But there’s a problem. Increased economic pressures and displacement threaten the survival and vitality of many of Oakland’s community-based arts and culture organizations. Add the challenges facing small nonprofits everywhere—from staffing and fundraising pressures to shrinking government investment—and it’s clear that these groups need more and deeper support.