This last Saturday we moved into our West Oakland apartment. Barely having settled in, we began by volunteering at What Now America? a safe and supportive drop-in program for youth in the Oakland community. Youth participated in hands-on science experiments, such as molding their own volcanoes and creating bottle rockets. Micah fellows aided the youth in their experiments, listened to the children read during the reading hour, and collectively ate a meal prepared by some of the older children. Personally, I found the children’s enthusiasm and smiles particularly inspiring. On Sunday, we enjoyed a walking tour of West Oakland which introduced us to the rich history of this particular location. Tour guide Luke Prince highlighted places like DeFremery Park, site of Black Panther rallies and social programs, and the Southern Pacific Train Station on 16th Street which opened in 1912. Too often, the negative portrayal of West Oakland in the media and the high crime and poverty rates cloud the reality and beauty of West Oakland. We walked for a couple hours stopping at historic locations and getting acquainted with our new neighborhood. The rich history, beautiful murals, and friendly locals create the unique community of West Oakland. On Monday, I started work at the General Assistance Advocacy Project (GAAP). The organization’s mission is to provide education, empowerment, and advocacy to those who need it most in San Francisco. GAAP Advocates help individuals obtain and retain benefits to which they are entitled to. In the last few days, I have been moved by the great amount of love I have found within the West Oakland community, among the impoverished and homeless individuals in San Francisco, and in my apartment among my roommates and CILSA staff members. The bonds of love allow us to connect with one another and see beyond our differences. Love illuminates the humanness and individuality in all persons. In the words of Huey Newton, “I think what motivates people is not great hate, but great love for other people.” I have been blessed that even within the last few days to experience such love that illuminates the interconnections between each person.
Welcome to West Oakland