Looking for ways to address racial injustice, the city of Oakland is encouraging Black people to come up with ideas to end systemic racism. It’s offering $25,000 grants to Black people who can help the city “radically imagine a racially just Oakland.”
The Belonging In Oakland: A Just City Cultural Fund will fund Black Oakland “cultural practitioners” — artists, craftspeople, and other creatives — as part of a new multi-year program created by the City of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Division, East Bay Community Foundation, and Akonadi Foundation.
During its first year, the fund will award approximately $300,000 for up to 12 grants of $25,000 each. Black people, Indigenous and people of color and are invited to submit projects.
The “Reflect & Reimagine” grants are intended to “support the sector as it navigates these uncertain waters and dreams of the tools, methods, and solutions not only for keeping our most vulnerable communities afloat, but visions for their ability to thrive,” according to the guidelines.
The goal is to “envision a society liberated from racial oppression and from the civic practices and policies that have upheld structural racism,” according to a press release.
“Our city’s rich arts and culture scene provides a voice to express pain, frustration and discontent at the injustices of the biases embedded in our society and government,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. “These grants lift up often unheard voices to advance a just and equitable Oakland.”
The program was made possible by a grant from Surdna Foundation’s Radical Imagination for Racial Justice Initiative, with additional funding from Akonadi Foundation.
“Throughout history, the arts have played a unique role in inspiring and unifying communities,” said James Head, president and CEO of East Bay Community Foundation. “As EBCF embarks on our journey to advance an inclusive, fair and just East Bay, we continue to uplift the power of arts and culture to drive social change and build stronger communities and neighborhoods.”
Lateefah Simon, president of the Akonadi Foundation and also president of the BART Board of Directors, told KTVU, “The extraordinary power of arts and culture shine a fresh light on injustice, build solidarity, and help us imagine — and work toward — a better future for whole communities.”
Applications will be accepted until July 13, 2020. Grant awards will be announced by mid-August. Applicants must be based in Oakland or an Oakland-based cultural organization headed by people of color, according to NBC.
Additional rounds of funding will be available in 2021 and 2022.
The grant comes at a time when the demographics of the East Bay area are changing. If recent trends continue, the number of Black residents in the urban East Bay will decline further as the percentage of Latinos and whites rise, according to The East Bay Express.
“By 2030, if trends of the past 15 years continue, Oakland’s Black population could fall to as few as 70,000 people from 140,000 in 2000, declining from roughly 35 percent of the city’s total population to a mere 16 percent,” The East Bay Express reported.
A lack of affordable housing is a big reason Black residents are leaving, according to Carroll Fife, director of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment’s Oakland office.
While Black residents are moving out, younger white people are moving in. Whites are the single largest racial or ethnic group in Oakland, at 27 percent. If the trend continues, by 2030, white people could be 30 percent or more of the total.
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Ken Jacobs of UC Berkeley’s Labor Center said issues like affordable housing and substantial increases in wages for the lowest-paid workers must be addressed to avoid further displacement.
“If we don’t address these problems, the result is more homelessness, greater commutes, and a pushing of low-income people and people of color out of the Bay Area,” he said.