By Katherine Brown
Is harmony and unity possible in East Oakland? The Laurel Merchant and Laurel District Association strive to prove that it does.
The second annual Laurel Holiday Stroll and Donation Drive is just one of over 20 events held in the Laurel District geared towards strengthening relationships between the community and local business.
This year’s event focused on helping those in need. Donations of food, gently used coats, toys, and pet supplies were collected for distribution by the Oakland Fire Department (High Street Station), One Warm Coat, and the Oakland Pet Shelter.
During the event, participants had the opportunity to mix and mingle with other community members at different business along MacArthur Avenue – between Loma Vista and High streets. You could participate in the paper snowflake cutting workshop. Or take in a production of “Annie,” held at the Kids and Dance studio. You could also dine on $1 and $2 food options at the local restaurants and lounges.
Thomas Wong, 39, is the Executive Director of the Oakland Business Improvement District and has lived in the Allendale neighborhood for 7 years.
To Wong, the Holiday Stroll is not only a grassroots effort that fosters collaboration between community members and local businesses for opportunities to give back to East Oakland communities. It is also a chance to chip away at the fear and worry that some may feel in East Oakland. For event participants, Wong feels there is “a sense of safety in a proactive way by coming out and supporting the community.”
As a community member that lives relatively close to this neighborhood, it was nice to see events like this in East Oakland. We tend to see gatherings like these in North and Downtown Oakland, but rarely in the East. East Oakland has a culture and a richness that is not often tapped into, so I’m happy to see events like the Holiday Stroll thrive.
Other East Oakland residents and event participants share their perspectives on what events like these mean to East Oakland.
Joanna Gritz, 36, is an East Oakland native – she talks about how this event helps the community.
Luan Stauss is a Laurel District business owner – she talks about what the event means to her and East Oakland.
Valerie Brown-Troutt is an artist, and has lived in this East Oakland Neighborhood for 30 years. She shares her perspective about the uniqueness and diversity of the Laurel neighborhood:
Eric Richardsen, 24, is an Oakland native. He talks about why it is important for East Oakland to have events like these.
Oakland Mayor, Jean Quan, talks about the importance of buying local and how it helps the Town.