The 2019-2020 cohort of Oakland Voices celebrated completion of their community journalism training program on March 7, 2020 at the Oakland Public Library on 81st Avenue. Five participants from the program were in attendance, each of whom had been selected as residents of Oakland to become be local news correspondents. Hugs were shared on this bittersweet day of ending the shared educational experience of the Oakland Voices journalism program. This year’s graduation marks the 9th year of the Oakland Voices training program, a program of the Maynard Institute.
The ceremony began with each person discussing the types of news stories they enjoy reading. Participants and their guests were treated to a luncheon filled with laughter and Thai food. Each member introduced another, expressing appreciation for one another’s gifts as storytellers and unique voices. Amelah El-Amin, one of the graduates, gave a heartfelt introduction of Yadira Cervantes, another graduate, to remember her strength and the power of Cervantes’ voice.
Finally, the group put their own spin on the Graduation March. They sang for one another as each graduate was given a certificate of completion honoring their achievement by Coordinator Rasheed Shabazz and Oakland Voices Co -founder Martin G Reynolds. Reynolds is Co-Director of the Maynard Institute with Evelyn Hsu. This year’s graduates include: Amelah El-Amin, Ayodele Nzinga, Iris Crawford, Yadira Cervantes, and Brandy Collins.
“I gained more self-motivation and opportunity to get more grounding in the Oakland community,” Crawford said about the value of the program. “I got to understand more about the inspirations and journeys from all of our guest lecturers and the passion they each have for telling stories. I also gained community with the cohort in getting to know everyone just a little bit more with each meeting and session. “
Cohort member Dr. Ayodele Nzinga, MFA,Ph.D, shared her sentiments after the ceremony: “The graduation ceremony was beautiful, thoughtful, and a place to voice appreciation of those in the room and those who created the room.”
The nine-month program led by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education trains Oakland residents in journalism practices, ethics, and editorial decision-making. Throughout the program, the participants met with writers and photojournalists from Medium, KQED and Essence magazine, to name a few. The cohort was given tips, tools, and guidance on terminology, history, branding, and social media best practices. The correspondents’ writings are published on the Oakland Voices website.
Many of the graduates said they will continue to practice journalism in their communities as part of the Oakland Voices Alumni program.