Dear Friends,

With my hands and heart trembling with excitement and tenderness, I am writing to share that I am transitioning out of my role as Executive Director of Oakland Rising and Oakland Rising Action at the end of this calendar year. It has been my deepest honor and privilege to pour all of myself into this amazing political project for the last 12 years. I am so grateful for everything this experience has encompassed. And it is a strange time to be making this announcement, but I am trusting my intuition that we are all ready for the next chapter of our evolution.

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 three months to ensure that we have clarity about the kind of leadership OR needs moving forward. We will be sharing more about our ED search and hire process in the coming weeks. In these uncertain times, I’m grateful to share that we are all moving forward in faith and confidence, nose to the grindstone, eyes to the stars. 
When I joined Oakland Rising as Field Director at 29 years old, I 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 my first year at OR, we expanded our voter base from 1,300 people to over 18,000 individuals that were committed to justice. Over the years I have grown alongside this political project that is from the heart and for the people – from Field Director to Deputy Director, then Interim Executive Director, and I have served 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.  

In our efforts to reclaim democracy for the working-class and people of color, I’m most proud of how we moved our c4 work from “picking a horse in the race” to recruiting, running and electing progressive organizers into office. We piloted leadership development programs, learned what co-governance is (and isn’t), and helped start our regional organizing sister, Bay Rising.  

My departure from Oakland Rising is a commitment to myself and the organization towards love and liberation. I am looking for my next adventure professionally, that allows me to center what is most important to me, and I’m leaning into my intuition that now is the time to seek it. I am committed to being fully present for these early years of my child’s life, and also to contributing wholly to my next professional chapter. I remain steadfast in my devotion to the movement.  You can contact me about future opportunities and stay in touch with me at [email protected] for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my next steps as I navigate them myself.  

For Oakland Rising, my departure is also a commitment to love and liberation.  These times are asking us to lean into our vision of a better world, and start building it now. As we face unparalleled challenges of a global pandemic, overt fascism and white supremacist/state violence, we also are in the midst of a beautiful uprising calling for a new vision of community safety and care, declaring the truth that Black Lives Matter. As we start to envision a new direction for Oakland, we need to welcome in new leaders, and I’m sure that a new Executive Director of Oakland Rising will make things possible that I’m not even able to imagine.

I invite you to think about who could be the next amazing leader of this project from the heart and for the people. A job description will be coming in the next few weeks. In the meantime, I’m still here for a few more months, and I’m so excited to fulfill a decade long commitment to ensuring we win Schools and Communities First, and make sure everyone pays their fair share so we all have the resources we need. We will also be ushering in four new School Board members, and hopefully new Councilmembers too. Let’s get these wins, and then keep working together to build the movement and win justice for all our people. 

Thank you for being on this journey with me. Love is the light. Forward is the motion.

Toward liberation always,

~ j

Jessamyn Sabbag
– Executive Director

P.S.  Please consider making a contribution to Oakland Rising to make sure we can have the biggest possible impact on the upcoming election (96 days!) and for years to come.

P.P.S. We’re gonna celebrate my transition, and maybe our next ED, at our annual Oakland Progressives Party in December! Save the date for a virtual celebration on December 2nd.