Oakland Voices – Training, Community for Emerging Storytellers in Oakland

Announcing a program to prepare and support writers, photographers, and storytellers from the Town

The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education is now accepting applications for our next cohort of Oakland Voices, a six-month program designed to empower Oakland residents to tell stories about their communities.

The Town’s diverse communities and voices too often lack access to media platforms and often receive negative and stigmatizing news coverage. Oakland Voices emerged to address this issue, building on the long-term commitment of the Maynard Institute’s mission to diversify news media and change the culture of newsrooms.

Benefits of Oakland Voices

Residents receive training in journalism ethics, interviewing, newswriting, and utilizing social media for storytelling from professional journalists. Correspondents complete assignments, like interviews and feature stories, and receive a $1,000 stipend upon completion of the program.

Oakland Voices gave me an expansive opportunity to really hone in my skill set, with not just writing, but learning about community and how to build community.

Brandy Collins, Oakland Voices alumna

Martin Reynolds, co-executive director of the Maynard Institute and co-founder of Oakland Voices said the program empowers communities and the news media organizations alike. “Oakland Voices provides an opportunity for people in the community to be empowered to tell the stories that they feel are being untold, ignored, or mischaracterized in traditional news coverage,” said Reynolds, who co-founded the program over 10 years ago while working as the editor of the Oakland Tribune. “For news organizations, it has been really informative in rethinking our relationship to communities and to the stories that we do.”

The Maynard Institute is going beyond diversity and inclusion, working towards anti-racist, collaborative news media institutions that promote belonging. This year’s Oakland Voices cohort will also explore those themes of anti-racism and belonging in the news, but from the perspective of community members learning and rethinking journalism practices. 

How Oakland Voices works

This year’s cohort will also be entirely virtual. We meet bi-weekly, alternating between monthly training sessions and newsroom meetings, and monthly guest webinars. Our 2019 (in-person) speakers included: Kristin J. Bender, KTVU; Niema Jordan, Radical Media; Pendarvis Harshaw, KQED; George Kelly, Bay Area News Group; Azucena Rasilla, The Oaklandside; Spencer Whitney, San Francisco Chronicle; Jane Tyska, Oakland Tribune; and Momo Chang, now Oakland Voices alumni coordinator. 

Correspondents who complete the program can continue to be compensated by contributing stories to our website. Our 2019 graduates have published work in other local and international publications.

Voices alumni doing big things

Alumna Brandy Collins said the program helped her build a community while improving her writing, research, and networking skills. “Oakland Voices gave me an expansive opportunity to really hone in my skill set, with not just writing, but learning about community and how to build community,” Collins said. Since graduating from Oakland Voices’ program, she has written for Bay City News and a recent tribute to Oakland Hip Hop legend Shock G. of Digital Underground in The Oaklandside.

The community and the connections that OV brings to the cohort is really helpful if you use it as best as you can

Iris M. Crawford, Oakland Voices alumna

Iris M. Crawford has published stories in The Oaklandside, and joined a group of Voices alumni to collaborate on a video series about the 2020 elections. “The community and the connections that OV brings to the cohort is really helpful–if you use it as best as you can,” Crawford said. She later interned at Investigate West will attend MIT’s graduate program in science writing this fall.

2019 alumna Ayodele Nzinga published a story about a West Oakland mural dedicated to the Black Panther Party in the Guardian. Oakland Voices alumnus Ryan Barba returned to school after completing his GED. He completed Oakland Voices joined Laney College’s journalism program. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the Peralta Citizen. Barba will study at UC Berkeley this fall.

How to apply for Oakland Voices

Oakland Voices postponed its 2020 cohort due to the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place orders. This year’s curriculum will continue its emphasis on social determinants of health. We will also develop and adopt an anti-racist lens focusing on belonging. The program is supported by the Maynard Institute and grants from the California Endowment and Akonadi Foundation.

Any Oakland resident who is at least 18 years old or at least a high school senior can apply. Unhoused and displaced residents encouraged to apply. Learn more about eligibility here.

The last day to apply is Friday, May 23. The application is here: http://tinyurl.com/join-ov.

Author Profile

Rasheed Shabazz is a multimedia storyteller, urban planning historian, and youth development professional based in the Bay Area. He is co-director of Oakland Voices. He recently completed his Masters of City and Regional Planning at UC Berkeley. 

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