After 12 years of visionary leadership, Jessamyn Sabbag is departing from Oakland Rising at the end of this year. One of the first employees, Jessamyn joined Oakland Rising as Field Director at 29 years old, when she was seeking an organizational home that would make direct impact towards racial and economic justice immediately, build the power of the people over the long term, and synergize like-minded organizations to be greater together than individually. In her first year at OR, she was instrumental in expanding our voter base from 1,300 people to over 18,000 individuals who were committed to justice. Over the years she grew alongside this political project that is from the heart and for the people – from Field Director to Deputy Director, then Interim Executive Director, and now as Executive Director for the last five years. Our voter base now includes more than 60,000 people – 25% of registered voters in The Town – predominantly those voters who were systematically excluded from participation in governing and democracy. 

“Some of my fondest memories will be: the late nights cutting and sorting paper precinct lists, that bled into early mornings welcoming dozens of volunteers with the fiercest teams of organizers; working with our “Daily Team” of voter outreach workers from the flatlands, who were/are bravely committed to reclaiming The Town for the people; and of course the honor of working alongside some of the most brilliant and courageous leaders and organizers in the country – from our staff to our partner organizations to our leadership program participants.”

Highlights from the past decade plus include working with our partners and mobilizing voters to secure the following wins:

  • Army Base Redevelopment Jobs Agreement (2012) – passed what’s considered one of the strongest Community Benefits Agreements in the country to guarantee that the army base redevelopment project, slated to bring 4,000-8,000 jobs to Oakland, would include local hire, ban the box, job training, and more to benefit Oakland residents, especially working class people of color and immigrants.
  • Measure FF (2014) with 82% of the vote, increasing Oakland’s minimum wage and providing workers with paid sick days.
  • Measure JJ (2016), the Protect Oakland Renters Act, with 77% of the vote and provided immediate protections to tenants amidst skyrocketing rents and profit hungry landlords.
  • Halting the A’s stadium relocation to Laney College (2017), which would have displaced students, immigrants, and working class residents of color.
  • Measure Y Protecting Tenants and Measure Z Protecting Hotel Workers (2018)
  • Qualifying Schools & Communities First (2020) to the ballot with a historic number of signatures.
  • Establishing the Values Based Leadership Program in partnership with the Alameda County Labor Council in 2014, as well as Lead East Bay in 2017.  Over a third of the participants of these programs have since moved into elected or appointed positions of public office, including City Council, School Board, BART Board, Planning Commission, and more.

Jessamyn’s departure from Oakland Rising is a commitment to herself and the organization towards love and liberation. She will be fully present for these early years of her child’s life, and also contribute wholly to her next professional chapter. And, of course, she remains steadfast in her devotion to the movement. 

Oakland Rising is in incredibly capable hands between our staff and committed partner organizations. We have been preparing for this transition for over a year and have engaged in a collaboration-wide visioning process over the past year to ensure that we have clarity about the kind of leadership we need moving forward. We are all moving forward in faith and confidence, nose to the grindstone, eyes to the stars. 

We invite you to think about who could be the next amazing leader of this project from the heart and for the people. You can find the job description here