It is with humility and love that I share that I will be transitioning out of Oakland Rising on June 30th. Over the last 7 years, it has been my deepest privilege and honor to pour my love for Oakland, my passion for electoral work, and my commitment to building power for the progressive movement into Oakland Rising as the first Executive Director. Oakland Rising has been the most remarkable job I have ever had, and I will always be profoundly grateful for the opportunity to serve our movement and to build such deep relationships with co-workers, allies and philanthropic partners, who, like me, want to see Oakland fulfill its potential. But, as with all good things, the time has come for me to transition out of Oakland Rising and into a new chapter of my journey in the social justice movement.
Since taking the helm in September 2008, I am proud to have developed Oakland Rising from an idea into a powerful model of a collaborative, civic engagement organization working for low-income, immigrant and communities of color at the municipal level. During my tenure, Oakland Rising has grown its electoral campaign scale more then 1,900% (yep, you read that right- 1,900%). Together, we have trained dozens of social justice activists to knock doors and inspire voters, partnered with California’s premiere electoral organizations to win big on Prop 30, and built broad voter support for good jobs for people with criminal records at the Oakland Army Base redevelopment. Through this powerful model of collaboration, where conscience is amplified by scale to secure victories for our community, Oakland’s elected officials and political insiders have been forced to make the agenda of low-income, immigrant and communities of color central, not peripheral, to policy making in Oakland.
My departure is happening at a powerful and timely moment in Oakland Rising’s organizational history. When I was recruited to lead Oakland Rising, our founding organizations wanted Oakland’s grassroots, membership-based, progressive policy advocates to “have a seat at the table.” Organizations, activists and members wanted to have the kind of access to City Hall that ensured our positions and issues would be taken seriously. Oakland Rising has built a base of 47,000 voters from low-income, immigrant and communities of color in East and West Oakland that have made it impossible for Councilmembers, Mayors, and City staff to ignore social justice organizations and agendas any longer. Oakland Rising now has more then a seat at the table. We are invited into the conversation, we bring allies to help shape and win progressive policy and we are part of a growing progressive governing coalition with a critical and hopeful vision for Oakland’s future.
The next step in my journey will take me to Groundswell Fund, the largest reproductive justice funder in the U.S. As the Director of Strategic Partnerships & Initiatives, I will be leading Groundswell’s individual donor programming, as well their Rapid Response Fund, Ecosystem strategy, and grassroots Organizing capacity building program. While my new role is national in scope, I will continue to live (and love!) in Oakland. Transition is an opportunity for transformation and both Oakland Rising and I are ready for the changes that lie ahead.
FORWARD THINKING LEADERSHIP:
Oakland Rising’s collaborative model ensures that we are never at a loss for strong leadership. During this transition, our Advisory Board Chair Kate O’Hara, Executive Director of East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), and Vice-Chair Malcolm Amado Uno, Political Director of Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), will bring their social justice values and experience to guide and support this organizational transition. Kate’s leadership at EBASE has contributed to minimum wage increases in Oakland and Emeryville. Her straight-talk is beautifully balanced by her unity-building style that supports Oakland Rising’s Advisory Board to balance process with pragmatism. Similarly, Amado brings more then a decade of trusted leadership to the work. With strong roots in Labor, Amado’s long-term strategic thinking is anchored in his ability to push towards action. Together, Kate and Amado bring a diverse set of skills that will guide our Advisory Board through this organizational leadership transition.
As an organization that lifts up the leadership of women and women of color in a sector that continues to be led by mostly white, mostly male organizers, I am honored to announce that Oakland Rising’s Board has named Jessamyn Sabbag the Interim Executive Director. None of Oakland Rising’s success over the last 7 years would have been possible without the commitment, perseverance, skill and leadership of Jessamyn Sabbag. Jessamyn brings more than 12 years of civic engagement, alliance-building and racial justice organizing and leadership experience. Having served alongside me for the last 7 years, Jessamyn knows first hand how Oakland Rising operates both internally and externally.
Hailed by local and statewide movement leaders as a bridge-builder, Jessamyn’s ability to meld strategic thinking with creative tactics has been central to advancing strong programs and policies here at Oakland Rising. Jessamyn created Oakland Rising’s dynamic campaign infrastructure, running more than 17 campaigns that have helped grow political power for working-class families in Oakland. Recognizing that our City Budget is a values-based policy document that guides the direction of Oakland’s government, she created and leads Oakland Rising’s City Budget workgroup that has successfully fought for -and won- more funding for services that families rely upon, and a more transparent budget process that increases community engagement.
Believing that to advance long-term political change we need home-grown decision makers connected to the social justice movement, Jessamyn led Oakland Rising to take on leadership development of civic leaders to building the decision making pipeline of tomorrow. Jessamyn led the first ever East Bay Values Based Leadership program along with our strategic partners at the Alameda Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA, which successfully graduated a cohort of 15 leaders – 3 of whom were elected to office last November.
Bringing a deep commitment to building collective progressive political power for our city’s working class, immigrant, and communities of color, Jessamyn has the commitment, experience and passion to successfully guide Oakland Rising through this period of leadership transition as our Interim Executive Director.
I am confident that Oakland Rising is prepared for this transition. And I know that Oakland Rising will emerge stronger then ever! Thanks to the powerful foundation we have built, the hundreds of individual and institutional partners who resource our work, and the committed and visionary leadership of our team, I am sure that Oakland Rising will continue to lift low-income, immigrant and communities of color for years and years to come.
Always Towards Victory~