People’s Grocery will be hosting projects at two different sites for July 28th’s Throw Down for the Town- one at our garden site adjacent to the California Hotel and the other at our office site at 7th and Market, both in West Oakland.
At the Cal Hotel volunteers and community members will help with the extension of a greening project already well under way. The Chestnut Street corridor currently boasts a series of vibrant murals depicting local heroes and figures of significance to the community immediately surrounding the Cal Hotel and to Oakland at large, as well as a number of planter boxes lining the sidewalk perimeter of the garden that overflow with edible greens, flowers, and the occasional tomato plant. Folks recently cleared a blighted lot along the corridor and a basketball hoop is set to go up this week. Every week People’s Grocery hosts a free community meal in the corridor space and the greening project is significant in creating an inviting, positive, and safe space where people can gather and share food and company. On the 28th we will be building additional planter boxes to be installed along the rest of the block, bringing the greening project one step closer to touching the whole corridor. Join us.
Back at the office we’ll be starting a completely new project, but of the same nature. We've just dedicated the new mural that radically alters the appearance of our office building and has been incredible to watch come together. You can’t miss our building now that it radiates images of food and people and growth. With this two-dimensional transformation it seems fitting to alter the space around our office as well. Since at our core we are about food, we will be transforming the side lot into a garden. This starts with removing the shrubbery that is currently there, mulching, and composting the space. If we have the time and energy after spreading 30 cubic yards of organic matter, we may start planting herbs along the perimeter.
As an ally of People’s Grocery I am continuously amazed by how quickly and efficiently people take inspired dreams and actualize them to the fullest extent. It’s a testament not only to how many incredible people are doing good work out there and getting stuff done, but also to how important an emphasis on community and consideration can be. My interests lie predominantly in the field of urban agriculture and community garden work, and I find myself frequently employing a phrase of Ella Baker’s that is particularly appropriate in conversations about growing food in communities that may or may not be our own: “spade work.”
It is not enough for well-intentioned and resourceful individuals to enter a space that is somehow lacking and try to provide some kind of service, particularly if those individuals were not invited in or are not from the community in which they are working. Successful and respectful community organizing doesn’t happen overnight and isn’t always glamourous. It is tedious and slow, requires the utmost patience and respect, and is notably more difficult for activists identifiable as outsiders. It is the art of empathy and the foundation of popular education.
“My basic sense of it has always been to get people to understand that in the long run they themselves are the only protection they have against violence or injustice …. People have to be made to understand that they cannot look for salvation anywhere but to themselves.”
That sentiment and the work Miss Baker committed her life to inspires me and guides me every day. I look forward working with you at 3501 San Pablo
( enter on Chestnut Street) and 909 7th Street (corner of Market)
during the Oakland Service Festival! We Throwin Down- Thanks ahead of time for all the support!