“I’m ready to work, when is the next campaign?”  The voice coming through the phone is tinged with urgency, excitement and a glimmer of hope. 

Field Team Leader Dayna Williams has received one of these phone calls at least two to three times a day, everyday since the close of Oakland Rising’s 2010 campaign cycle. On the other side of the call is likely one of the 111 people hired from Oakland Rising’s target neighborhoods and communities, who spent six days a week for five and a half weeks, as a paid member of Oakland Rising’s field team. 

With California’s unemployment rate the second highest in the nation at 12.3%, the frequency of calls Dayna receives is evidence that Oakland’s most at-risk populations are struggling to survive and find it increasingly more difficult to secure stable employment. A January 2011 report from the UC Berkeley Labor Center reveals that African-American unemployment rates are the highest in the nation at 15.7%, followed by Latinos at 11.9% and 8% among whites. Current economic conditions, coupled with proposed cuts to key city services and resources as a result of the California budget crisis, produce a ripple effect that extends economic recovery time to five years or more for low-income, immigrant and communities of color.

Working from an organizational philosophy that believes people from our community are best able to educate and inspire people in our community, Oakland Rising focuses on creating job opportunities for previously incarcerated, hard to employ or under employed Oaklanders. Oakland Rising’s hiring practices are geographically based and highly effective, with team members recruited from the same neighborhoods and communities targeted in our civic engagement programs.

We see increased rates of contact, higher number of inspired community members and greater organizational respect among hard to reach communities through hiring people from those communities. Secondly, we believe that in order to reduce recidivism, crime and poverty in low- income communities of color, Oakland Rising must invest time and energy into employment and leadership development opportunities for our most vulnerable community members.

As the 2011 political landscape takes shape, Oakland Rising remains committed to creating jobs and increasing economic opportunity for community members through upcoming civic engagement campaigns and programs. For more information, contact field director Jessamyn Sabagg, at [email protected].