Talk of the Town: How have you ascended through this pandemic while living in Oakland?

Toni Rochelle asked Oakland residents about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Graphic: Rasheed Shabazz)

During the pandemic, thousands of people have had to ascend. Ascend means to rise up to keep going to thrive in any situation that comes against you. Many have lost loved ones, friends, co-workers, church members, and community activists due to the coronavirus, COVID-19. 

I spoke with a few friends, local artists, and healers, and asked them, “How have you ascended through this pandemic while living in Oakland?” 

Tyrice “Recie” Munson

The trajectory of my wellness business has sky-rocketed while in this pandemic, which is still shocking. I’ve felt so overwhelmed by the support of the Oakland community. Initially, I thought teaching yoga would decrease due to not being in a studio, but it actually increased. I’ve been able to host outdoor classes, wellness events, and various virtual events. On the other hand, my career as a registered nurse remains up and down. It goes through the motions of this pandemic. One quarter is well and one quarter is chaotic. I can say that I felt very supported by my respective communities through it all.

Tyrice “Recie” Munson, Millsmont

Ashley Butler

Ashley Butler, East Oakland

Before the pandemic I was working four part time jobs while being the primary parent to my two kids. I barely slept or had time for anything unscheduled. Like many people, the pandemic has forced me to stop and reevaluate just how much my time is worth, and so I decided this was the perfect (down) time to discover how I can work less and make more money. I decided to learn a new trade which would pay more.

Ashley Butler, East Oakland

Saleemah Jones

As founder of Put Ur Play On Productions, a nonprofit theatre production company, we have had to pivot from live stage productions to virtual productions. In doing so, we have been able to continue to “Educate and Entertain” the immediate community and beyond. The pandemic has left the theatre community in uncertainty, but virtual productions have opened up a world wide audience. We are able to widen our audience and showcase talent from all over the country. We will continue to ascend and showcase our productions virtually until we are able to get back to the live stage. 

Saleemah Jones, San Leandro

Gigi Mcqueen

Gigi Mcqueen, West Oakland

I slowed down and began working on projects that I’d put off. I wrote a book. Created a blog. Replaced the carpet in my home. Appreciated moments of sitting on my back porch soaking up the sun. Call people when they’re on my mind. Hug my family and friends even more. I realized, time is the greatest commodity we have. Be selective of who and what is worthy of it.

Gigi Mcqueen, West Oakland

Sumi Franklin

Sumi Franklin, West Oakland

I’ve ascend because of the community. Being pregnant during the pandemic I knew I needed to call in a close circle of loved ones I could depend on. If we could all find a relatively safe way to go to target then I knew we could find safe ways for me and my family to be supported. From porch drop offs of food, receiving weekly body work, having a supportive partner, and receiving out of hospital midwifery care, I was able to ascend  through so many challenges that even outside of the pandemic Black pregnant people face. I knew I couldn’t be isolated during this time. I am thriving because of the collective community care I received. 

Sumi Franklin, West Oakland

Kev Choice

Kev Choice, Lake Merritt

I have ascended through the pandemic by focusing on ways to remain creative and contribute to the community. I was able to work on an album by moving my studio to my living room while also sharing files with other musicians, artists, and producers through the internet. I was able to adjust my performances online by finding ways to be creative and engaging with zoom performances. I end. Created an outdoor event “Black Music Matters” which focused on highlighting social justice issues, celebrating Black music and doing safe outdoor socially distanced concerts.I stayed contributing to the community by being active in protest for social justice and finding ways to engage and support people in need during this difficult time. As a commission on city of Oakland Cultural Affairs, I helped organize town halls on Black and Asian solidarity, support for venues during pandemic, and artist advocacy. I was also heavily involved as a governor on the board of the Recording Academy’s SF Chapter. Lastly, bringing a teacher at Oakland School for The Arts helped me stay engaged with youth and supporting them during the pandemic.

Kev Choice, Lake Merritt

Toni is part of Oakland Voices’ 2021 class of Community Correspondents. Talk of the Town highlights the voices of Oakland residents.

How have you ascending through the pandemic while living in Oakland? Share your experiences, strategies, and practices.

Author Profile

Toni Rochelle was born and raised in Oklahoma City, OK. Toni relocated to Oakland, California in 2005. She has has established herself as a creative writer, model, actress and TV host, as well a educational activist in her community by supporting and speaking up for Black & Brown families through this broken educational system. Toni grew up in foster care and aged out of the system at 18 years old. Since she was a little girl, Toni has always had big dreams of making a difference in this world. During the pandemic, Toni was given the opportunity to share with peers and community her writing skills, where she was able to find her passion and gain confidence that she can and will always Ascend. She enjoys writing as an escape and believes her work could always help someone's life be better.

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