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Oakland Community Gathers in Support of Millsmont Farmers’ Market

Mills College Weekly

In an ongoing effort to improve the surrounding neighborhood of
Mills College, community members gathered last Saturday in support
of the Millsmont Farmers’ Market, a direct response to resistance
of the market by some local businesses.

The owner of Mills Super, a liquor store at the corner of
Seminary Ave. and MacArthur Blvd. started a petition against the
farmers’ market a few months ago, claiming that it hurt his
business. The community responded by initiating a petition in
support of the market and accumulating 70 signatures on Saturday

A crowd of about 50 people, including members of the Mills
community, turned out and Oakland City Councilperson Desley Brooks
delivered promising news for the market and the neighborhood.
Brooks said that the owner of Mills Super, Tom Han, had signed “The
Good Neighbor Agreement” just before the rally began. It was a
turning point in the relationship between the supporters of the
farmers’ market and the store owner, according to Brooks.

“The Good Neighbor Agreement” is a contract between Han and
Brooks’ office that binds the business owner to specific hours of
operation and store-front cleanliness.

“Mr. Tom Han wants to work with us to make the market work,”
Brooks said.

Han was not available by press time.

“We want to make the community better and we intend to start
with Mills Super and continue the effort up the block.”

Others echoed the same mission and sentiments.

“[We are going to] move the action up the block and make the
quality of life better,” said Charles Chiles, chairperson of
Community Development Block Grant for the Millsmont District.

The organizers stressed the importance of the farmers’ market to
the community and that they believed that it was possible to work
with the local businesses to make it beneficial for everyone.

“The market was very successful last year,” Chiles said. “It put
a lot of the community in touch with one another and the vendors
did well or they wouldn’t want to come back. This market draws
[people] from 156th Ave., the next closest farmers’ market is in
San Leandro,” he said.

The issue has encouraged Mills student activism. Brooks
acknowledged the efforts of Mills students who participated in
Alternative Spring Break to help organize the rally.

“It’s so vital to build a better relationship with the community
around us,” said Mills organizer and sophomore Caitlin Thompson.
“There are missed opportunities due to fear,” she said.

Improvements in the community can only come through major
changes, according to Brooks. She said that liquor stores are a
major problem, and a high concentration of them in communities of
color poses an impediment to community development in those

On MacArthur Blvd. between Seminary and 60th Ave., there are
three liquor stores within one block. There is often illicit drug
dealing, loitering and petty crime in these areas, believed to be
perpetuated by the presence of the liquor stores.

“Now, [neighbors] are demanding accountability from liquor store
owners who frequently do not live in the neighborhoods that have
been negatively impacted by the illicit conduct that their
businesses attract,” Brooks said.

Various studies also show a strong link between liquor stores
and criminal activity according to a press release distributed by
Brooks’ office.

One such study conducted by the Oakland Police Dept. showed that
criminal behavior including assaults, loitering, drug trafficking
and weapons violations, occurs with disproportionate frequency in
and near liquor stores.

Some felt encouraged by the day’s events. Mica Miro, assistant
to Brooks and a Mills alumna, said that she was really pleased with
the neighbors that she met at the rally.

“We seem to have started a more positive relationship with the
merchants as well,” she said.

Councilperson Brooks’ office, Mills College Alternative Spring
Break, Burbank/Millsbrae Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council,
Unity High School, and East Bay Conservation Corps organized the

The Millsmont Farmers’ Market is held May through September on
MacArthur Blvd. behind Mills College, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to
12 p.m.