By Katie Schwarz

As Vator Splash makes tech news in Jack London Square, as Uptown revitalizes and Temescal moves from hipsters to parents with Strollers, as West Oakland gets private buses, as North Oakland bemoans the lack of City help with a little league field, and as San Franciscan transplants begin to contemplate whether they are living in the wrong city, there are plenty of neighborhoods that the trends have ignored — areas Jean Quan wouldn’t compare to Brooklyn. There is East Oakland.

EOBA photo 3Just last week, there was a news report of a dead dog that lay for days outside an East Oakland post office, and days earlier a longtime member of the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA) was senselessly murdered at the age of 26. The fear of gentrification is not on the minds of residents of this Oakland. More immediate problems take precedence, such as hunger and crime. East Oakland is the Oakland the Bay Area has forgotten.

But that hasn’t stopped the citizens of this area from pushing for change. Take Pearmain Street just north of San Leandro and due east of the Coliseum. This street is not without its own forms of gentrification. For over a decade it has been home to converted art spaces, such as art studios for pottery, stone, metal, and wood sculpture. The artists and single family residences, however, are neighbors to industrial companies, like a metal finishing company and a metal recycling plant — the latter, a controversial subject for neighbors who worry about toxic waste and the takeover of their neighborhood.

Most impressive of the residences on Pearmain Street is EOBA. From its title, EOBA may sound solely like a boxing club, but this local non-profit is predominately a community center for children and families of East Oakland. After 3 p.m., 60 children and youth ages 5-18 descend on the space, which fits within the small corner of 98th and Pearmain. The children under age 14 are required to follow a structured schedule that begins with an hour of homework and tutoring, followed by exercise, and electives such as maintaining the association’s organic garden, taking cooking classes, arts and crafts, or boxing until parents are able to pick them up after 6 p.m. Moreover, the association provides food every second Wednesday to 250 families, or around 1000 people, a free summer program, and free lunches during the summer to any kids in the community who are in need.

EOBA photo 4The staff at EOBA are an amazing group of people. As the children begin to enter the facilities after school, around 3 p.m., they are each greeted by name and with a smile, not because this is required, but because the staff, some of whom began as interns and attended the association as children, are genuinely happy to see them and to be a part of this organization.

Coach G, a.k.a. Dalia Gomez, is a vibrant and driven individual. Before her day starts as a boxing coach at EOBA, she has already run and trained for her own boxing career. It is no wonder that she demands and receives similar dedication from her students. Cris Cruz manages the youth interns and the garden, which uses both grey and rain water. She lights up describing the four new types of birds which have recently appeared in the urban desert that has been transformed into a green oasis, and discusses former and current interns with pride.

When Oakland locals worry about gentrification, they don’t worry about the gentrification of Pearmain Street. But it’s exactly organizations like EOBA which deserve the benefits of Oakland’s recent rise in prosperity. EOBA survives on money from City and county and other grants, as well as the support from private donors and volunteers. With help from just some of the new prosperous residents of Oakland, EOBA could help serve more students with more programs and spend less time worrying about their own struggle for survival. EOBA, however, is just one example of Oakland residents working to serve those with less. On streets such as Pearmain — which have no food trucks, no pour-over coffee, and whose residents are not served by Uber and Lyft — lie examples of the true heart of Oakland, even when no one is paying attention.

How to help: Send donations to the East Oakland Boxing Association, 816 98th Avenue, Oakland, 94603. For more information, visit eoba.org.

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