Note: Talk of the Town features Oakland residents talking about the Town (aka the city of Oakland).
Belonging is centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group, as well as providing the same attention to others, according to Very Well Mind. This past spring, as people experienced hate crimes, grief, gun violence, and isolation, a group of Oakland community organizers encouraged the Town to “love our people.”.
Because Lake Merritt is a central gathering point for diverse Oaklanders, they hosted a “Trail of Knowledge and Liberation,” consisting of twelve knowledge points. Each point featured the history of a particular social justice movement, and included curated playlists, videos, and Instagram accounts to follow. The purpose was to encourage Oaklanders to walk outdoors with friends or co-workers, educate themselves, and be inspired by the legacy of leaders who passed down their vision for a better world.
Wanting to hear their personal reasons for getting involved, I asked these organizers and supporters: “What about Oakland or Lake Merritt gives you a sense of belonging?”
“Lake Merritt is a beautiful place with an array of diversity. People are always present with their families, children, or friends which permeates the neighborhood with good vibes and a sense of community. In addition, once the sun goes down, the evening is filled with a party-like vibe with dancers, musicians, and people of all ages and cultures enjoying themselves and each other. No matter where you’re from, race, culture, or creed, Lake Merritt provides space for belonging. It was this way when I was 13 years old, and at 47 it hasn’t changed.”
Saabir Lockett, Prescott (West Oakland), director of Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy (FAME) at East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE) and Outreach Lead for the Love Our People community project.
“The diversity of the people, my connection to earth, the water and the redwoods that are here – makes me feel grounded in Oakland. And the history of social justice movements that started before I was alive.”
Diana Hickey, Deep East Oakland), co-founder of This.Us.Now.
“The Lake is the Jewel of the City. It opens recreational and leisure activities for all ages and communities.”
Terry Bautista (Diana’s mother), elder & founder of Filipinos for Affirmative Action (now known as Filipino Advocates for Justice), Deep East Oakland.
“I live near Lake Merritt and anytime I was in a crisis, I tell myself, ‘I am a walk away from feeling better.’ This vibrant community of friendship and diverse people are walking for the same goal and purpose. There is never a moment that the Lake makes me feel worse. It’s consistent. I can trust that it’s going to happen anytime I need it to happen. It’s a special place.”
Celina Curato (from Los Angeles and lives in Eastlake), Special Education Teacher at Leadership High School in San Francisco.
Raul Cedeno III
Raul Cedeno III (from Cleveland, OH and lives in Eastlake), artist.
“It’s a very welcoming, diverse, and accepting place of people from different walks.”
Now it’s your turn! What about Oakland, Lake Merritt, or another place in the Town gives you a sense of belonging?
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