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People’s assembly works to promote change in Black community

Black leaders at the assembly stressed the importance of the nine areas of self-determination. (Dajanae Barrows)
Black leaders at the assembly stressed the importance of the nine areas of self-determination. (Dajanae Barrows)

Black residents of Oakland recently came together downtown at the night club and venue Geoffrey’s Inner Circle to attend The State of Black Oakland (SOBO) to unify Oakland’s Black population.

Activists, organizations and community members discussed a plan to start what the organizers of the event call a vision of self-determination, a plan to empower and strengthen Black people in Oakland during the meeting on Mar. 28.

After the recent rise of protests, demonstrations and discussions of the Black Lives Matter movement in Oakland, organizers of the assembly felt that more needed to be done for Black residents. According to organizers, the many deaths by police, gentrification and miseducation of Black children still pose issues.

Organizer and Co-Chair of organization ONYX (Organized to ActNever Ceasing to Struggle, Youth Focused with Elder Guidance, Xercising the Right to Liberate our Communities) Cat Brooks hoped to unify Black Oakland and start the agenda of working together and uplifting Black people in this assembly. The organization focuses on several issues, such as ending police brutality, arts and culture in Oakland and self-defense training.

“In addition to the beautiful things that we’ve seen happening in Black organizing in Oakland, there’s a very real crisis for Black people,” Brooks said. “The only way we’re going to overcome that crisis is by unifying in our work together and getting on the same page and pushing towards a collective agenda that is self-determined by us.”

The assembly gave people time to discuss their experiences and the conditions in Oakland in different groups. Each group talked about one of nine topics that the organizers of the event call the “nine areas of self-determination.” These areas include politics, economics and self-defense.

Organizer and Founder of the organization Community Ready Corps (CRC) Turha-Ak, focuses the organization’s work on protection, safety and solidarity for Black residents in Oakland. According to Turha-Ak, he hopes that his role in organizing  will contribute to “advanced perspectives on solidarity” for the Black people in the assembly.

“We can say that we hope that somebody in this room, we hope that some interaction in this room may be a part of that,” Turha-Ak said. “Time and circumstance will tell us if we’ve done an effective job or not. These gatherings have the potential to do that.”

Takeema Hoffman, a graduate student from the California College of the Arts, felt that this work brought on more dialogue, especially for Black students in the American educational system. She felt that the United States is not ready to assist Black people progress in education and society. 

“What we’re being called to do is something similar to anarchy,” Hoffman said. “The more I think about it, the crazier it seems because I know one of the conclusions that I came to after being put onto some stuff is that the United States has always been a hostile environment for Black people, and I feel that it always will be.”

Terry Collins, Bay Area resident since 1967, shared his thoughts about how the Black members of Oakland should proceed in achieving unity and an agenda. Collins has worked with the Black Panther Party and the Black Student Union of San Francisco State University from 1967 to 1970, helping to make changes within the school’s curriculum and campus for Black students.

“So, as we come together, first we’ve got to think about our ideology,” Collins said. “We’ve got to think about long-term survival, long-term thinking about a message [and] a vision of where we want to go, what we’re supposed to do, something that we’re ready to continue. We’ve got to find our ideology and what we believe in.”

The State of Black Oakland plans to have two more assemblies over the summer with dates to be determined. People can find out more information on their Facebook page: SOBO 2015 and through Twitter @SOBO2015.