On August 9, 2016 I had the opportunity to attend the BlackPAC training in New Orleans with two Oakland Rising Daily Team members: Ariel Kelly and Tim Deweaver. BlackPAC is an independent 527 working to harness the political power of Black voters, which will be ever more important given the political climate of this upcoming election cycle. We spent four days in New Orleans learning data-driven, digital strategies for campaigning with about 50 other Black organizers from around the country. It was a powerful experience to be in a room full of socially conscious Black folks who are all working towards building power and autonomy for Black communities.
Over the course of the four days, we learned how to use social media as an outlet for organizing, lead ethic-driven campaigns, and analyze and incorporate data into our field strategies. Outside of the training, we built community with Black organizers, both young and old, and learned from each other about the struggles each of our different communities face. In Oakland, we are facing a housing crisis, displacement, gentrification, loss of jobs, and police corruption amongst a number of other issues. Talking with Black organizers from Florida, New Orleans, Virginia, and Chicago, we saw that they are facing the same issues as Oakland. This tells me that our struggles are not isolated. These things that threaten low-income Black and Brown people are far spread and a coordinated attack from white supremacy and patriarchy. It has never been more important for us to work together to create an equitable community and economy that works for all of us, not just a select few.
On one of the nights outside of the training, we were given a tour by an Organizer from New Orleans. She showed us the architecture of the city and pointed out the symbols in the metal gates and porch fences. These were Adinkra symbols crafted into the metal by the enslaved people who built the city. They were secret messages etched into the metalwork to encourage and uplift each other to keep going. One symbol in particular stood out to me – it means “Never Forget”. I thought about this a lot as I walked through the city that was built by slaves with a group of Black organizers that are fighting for racial and economic justice. We haven’t forgotten and that’s why we do the work that we do. In memory.
This training helped shape the way I view the work that we do at Oakland Rising. I’m bringing back with me the fact that community is everything and we can only make the changes we need to see in Oakland by working with each other. We are not apart from the community, we are a part of the community. That is what is going to drive our Fall campaign to get people educated on the ballot initiatives this election and out voting on issues that affect our community.