Over 400 people attended last night's benefit & celebration for the Ella Baker Center, held at the Scottish Rites Center in downtown Oakland. Attendees read like a roll call of the city's progressive community, with tables labelled for city movers and shakers like Belvie Rooks, local groups including Urban Habitat, Green for All,  EBASE, East Bay Cohousing, Flobal Exchange, and Bay Localize, and sponsors Mitchelle Kapor Foundation, The California Endowment, Kaiser Permante thrive and Bank of America.

Among those spotted in the crowd: Margaret Gordon, Oakland Ports Commissioner, Phaedre Ellis-Lambkin, Green for All; Esperanza D-T, Oakland Rising; Nikki Basso, EBASE, Carmen Rojas, Mitchell Kapor Foundation; blogger Becks, from Living in the O;  Aaron Lehmer, Bay Localize; and Urban Habitat's Kim Carter.  

The crowd was relaxed and enthusiastic, giving the evening's honorees–Lateefah Simon, Executive Director of Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, Lynne Twist, Founder of The Soul of Money Institute & The Pachamama Alliance, Carl Anthony, Founder of Breakthrough Communities–one standing ovation after another.

Abel Habtegorgis was a super MC, relaxed and joking, and so good at the role, EB Exec director Jakada Imani quipped, “He should have his own TV show.”

While events like these remind me that every sphere–from the tech crowd to the social justice universe–can get too into that self-congratulatory, aren't we grand, mode every group uses to reinforce its ties–the main impression I had was at the event was of the close ties and genuine connections between the Ella Baker team and many of the people in the room. “We are family,” Jakada Imanai said over and over as he exorted the crowd to donate, but my sense was this wasn't just rhetoric, there were true shared committments and deep ties that make these groups special.

Kent Landowski had another view of the night, also worth a read.

Disclosure:  Oakland Local was a proud media sponsor of the Ella Baker Center's 2009 Year-End Celebration and Fundraiser.

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.