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12 Cultural Practitioners of Color in Oakland Receive Grants for Community Centered Projects that Radically Imagine a Racially Just City

City of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Division, Akonadi Foundation and East Bay Community Foundation Announce First Year Awards of Belonging in Oakland: A Just City Cultural Fund

OAKLAND, CA – The City of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Division, East Bay Community Foundation, and Akonadi Foundation today announced that they have granted the first 12 awards for Belonging In Oakland: A Just City Cultural Fund. The new, multi-year program supports Oakland artists and cultural practitioners of color to radically imagine what a racially just city could look like.

“The beloved artists and cultural practitioners represented through these projects are among the strongest weapons we have in the fight for a racially just city,” said Lateefah Simon, president of Akonadi Foundation. “We need their extraordinary powers — to radically reimagine a future where everyone belongs in Oakland — more urgently than ever. It is our duty to support them.”

The fund is a unique public-private partnership that brings together the cultural equity vision of Oakland’s Cultural Affairs Division, the racial justice mission of Akonadi Foundation, and the power building commitment of East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF). The program aims to center cultural life of communities of color as integral to Oakland’s legacy of activism, and is made possible by a grant from Surdna Foundation’s Radical Imagination for Racial Justice initiative, with additional funding from Akonadi Foundation. 

“Artists and cultural practitioners are integral participants in the fight for racial equity and social justice in the city of Oakland,” said James Head, president and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation. “The inaugural ‘Just City Cultural Fund’ grantee cohort reflects the power of artistic expression and cultural practice, in a variety of forms, to reimagine a racially just Oakland. At the East Bay Community Foundation, we are honored to support these incredible projects and the radical hope they bring in times of uncertainty.”
Projects selected for funding are:

  • Led by award-winning Dohee Lee Puri Arts and Asian Refugees United, Asian Refugees & Immigrants Reflect on Anti-Black Racism In Our Community will convene leaders from Oakland’s Asian communities to explore the wounds from home countries and those both suffered and inflicted through the systems of racism here in the U.S. (Sponsored by Chinese for Affirmative Action)
  • Led by fourth generation Oaklander and filmmaker Darren Colston, Hella Love seeks to reimagine ways the community can engage in the process of film production as a way to disrupt the structural erasure, exploitation, and appropriation of the stories of Oakland’s Black and Brown people. (Sponsored by Brothers on the Rise)
  • Poet/playwright/actor and survivor Regina Evans will lead INFRASTRUCTURE, an excavation of historical and current complicity in slavery and child sex trafficking and how it manifests along International Boulevard. (Sponsored by Lower Bottom Playaz) 
  • Janga’s House will explore the question: “If your story is always told from the outside – how can it be your story?”Writer and theater artist Ayodele Nzinga, playwright Cat Brooks, and a cohort of Black women film and stage writers will research and develop a theater piece that explores Black voices unmodulated by the gaze of white supremacy. (Sponsored by Lower Bottom Playaz)
  • Led by musicians Dame (Drummer) Taylor and Mike Blankenship, Loveolution will use a music-focused approach to explore what true equity and justice look like in Oakland by centering Black joy, Black/Indigenous/People of Color artists voice, and challenging but necessary community conversations. (Sponsored by Eastside Arts Alliance)
  • As part of Mak Tuupentak Tirinikma/Our Arbor Awakens, Corrina Gould, Deja Gould, and other Indigenous cultural practitioners, will cultivate a reciprocal relationship with the land by making communal space for ceremony, regalia making, and Chochenyo Ohlone language revitalization in this rematriation project of the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust.  
  • Led by freestylers Dania Cabello and Arjuna Sayyeed, Possibility of Play centers noncompetitive soccer arts in public space as a practice in joy for Black and Brown communities. (Sponsored by Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation)
  • SPULU, a Tongan cultural practitioner, choreographer, and organizer, dreams of a cultural space in the San Antonio neighborhood designed by and for Oakland’s Pacific Islander communities. (Sponsored by Social Good Fund) 
  • Developed through interviews with youth organizers and community elders of color in Deep East Oakland, Town Force One is a professionally crafted comic series that amplifies the urgent stories of a “forgotten” part of the city that nonetheless is full of radical hope for future generations.  (sponsored by Oakland Kids First)
  • Led by NAKA Dance Theater, Black teaching artists, and members of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Tu Lucha es mi Lucha (Unity is Power) will explore the intersectionality of racism and gender-based violence toward female-identified and gender-nonconforming people, and seek to build Black/Brown unity to end systemic violence and racism. (Sponsored by Dancers’ Group)
  • Whose history is remembered? is a collaboration of master weaver and poet Linda Yamane (Ohlone), landscape artist and MacArthur fellow Walter Hood, and other artists and community members to engage Native Americans and other Indigenous communities to reimagine monuments and historic sites that ignore, deny, or misrepresent their histories and erase their contemporary presence. (Sponsored by Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park)
  •  A collaboration between BAY-Peace, Biz Stoop, and Jada Imani, Youth ARTS (Addressing Real Traumas and Solutions) Project will train Youth Artist Facilitators to lead ARTS circles and conduct research, and will provide them with tools and practices benefitting their healing, wellness and success. (Sponsored by Social Good Fund)

Additional funds will be available in 2021 and 2022 as part of the Belonging In Oakland: A Just City Cultural Fund. For more information about the grantees, and updates on additional funding, click here.

About Akonadi Foundation
Akonadi Foundation supports powerful social change movements, primarily in Oakland, that work to eliminate structural racism and create a racially just society. Akonadi Foundation seeks to stop the criminalization of young people of color and promote responses to harm that nurture wellness and well-being. Since its founding in 2000, the Foundation has given over 1,800 grants totaling $43 million to nonprofit organizations, primarily in the Bay Area as well as across the country. For more information: Akonadi.org.

About East Bay Community Foundation
Founded in 1928, and supported by over 400 local donors, the East Bay Community Foundation (EBCF) connects donors with community-led movements to eliminate structural barriers, advance racial equity, and create an inclusive, fair, and just East Bay. Recognized as 2019’s “Boldest Community Foundation” by Inside Philanthropy, EBCF is committed to ensuring that all members of our community are treated fairly, with equitable opportunity and outcomes. EBCF has charitable assets under management of over $800 million.

About the City of Oakland Cultural Affairs Division
The Cultural Affairs Division is housed in the City’s Economic & Workforce Development Department. The division includes the City’s cultural funding program, which provides approximately $1 million in grants to support the arts in Oakland; the public art program, which has more than $1 million in funds currently dedicated for public art installations across Oakland and staff working on special events, film production permitting and a walking tours program.


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