Oakland has been a hub for radical food politics going at least as far back as the late 1960s, when FBI director J. Edgar Hoover famously called the Oakland-based Black Panther Party “the greatest threat to internal security of the country” — for no greater offense than daring to set up a program that provided free breakfast to schoolchildren. Today’s Oakland is home to a host of food justice organizations that are doing vital, community-centered work, day in, day out: feeding the homeless, providing jobs for young people and the formerly incarcerated, and growing healthy food in marginalized communities.
It’s no surprise, then, that as protests against police violence erupted this past week in Oakland — and all over the country — in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, several local food justice organizations stepped up to provide direct assistance to protesters, whether in the form of free meals or monetary aid to bail out folks who wound up getting arrested. Here are just a handful of the organizations that have been supporting the protests on the frontlines.
Black Earth Farms Collective
Black Earth Farms describes itself as an “agroecological lighthouse organization composed of skilled Pan-African and Pan-Indigenous farmers, builders, and educators.” The collective runs a host of food justice programs, with a major focus on growing food and getting it into the hands of homeless and low-income communities. During this past week of protests in Oakland, it has been one of the most prominent groups organizing to provide free food to black protesters who have been “arrested and bailed, injured, or traumatized,” as the organization posted on Instagram, in a call for donations to help fund those efforts.
This Oakland-based, black-owned farming company — with six different farm sites in Oakland and Livermore — has been providing free produce to organizations that are feeding the local homeless communities, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. This past Wednesday, for instance, founder Jamil Burns teamed up with the Oakland bakery Natty Cakes to provide 100 free meals — a kale salad topped with fresh fruit and dressed root vegetables — to people participating in the curfew protest at downtown Oakland’s Oscar Grant Plaza.
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The People’s Breakfast Oakland
This Oakland-based Black Socialist organization’s main focus throughout the year is providing hot breakfasts to West Oakland’s homeless communities — efforts that have ramped up significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, from once a month to three times a week. During the protests this week, the People’s Breakfast has organized a bail fund to support black protesters who have gotten arrested. It’s also spearheaded other political actions, like packing the virtual court rooms with supporters when protesters who have been arrested get arraigned.
East Oakland Collective
Best known, during pre-pandemic times, for its massive Feed the Hood gatherings, which fed thousands of homeless people at a time, this Oakland-based organization focuses most of its efforts on addressing food insecurity in East Oakland. During the protests this past week, the collective has been active in distributing food, water, and other supplies to protesters.