East Oakland Neighbor Night series brings youth and adults together

Last week, nearly 100 East Oakland residents gathered to tell their stories and engage each other in dialogue and dance during the second Neighbor Night event.

The April 22 event was organized by East Oakland Building Healthy Communities (EOBHC) and hosted at Allen Temple. Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents Oakland’s 6th and 7th council districts, also spoke at the event, which also included dinner for the neighborhood participants.

EOBHC’s mission is described on their website: “East Oakland Building Healthy Communities brings together youth and adult residents, community based organizations, schools, business, health care service providers, and government agencies to work towards improved community and individual health. The ultimate goal: A thriving East Oakland.”

IMG_2729According to Supervisor Miley, the County Health Department is helping to facilitate the project. “I’m not actually doing the work,” Miley said, “But I appreciate what’s being done here, because when people get involved in trying to make life better, its good for all of us.”

Programmatically, EOBHC works to keep children and families safe from violence and advocates for health-promoting land use and community development.  They see these overall health improvements as being linked to economic development.

EOBHC is one of 14 sites selected by The California Endowment to participate in the statewide Building Healthy Communities initiative, a 10-year plan to improve health in under-served geographically and ethnically diverse communities throughout California. In turn, EOBHC gives grants to groups already working on safety, health, and land-use issues, including, among other groups, OCO, Youth Uprising, CBE, The Hope Collaborative, and the Acta Non Verba community gardening project in the Tassafaronga area.

Youth Mini-Grants

This past summer, the youth group of EOBHC, in partnership with several other community-based organizations, designed and implemented seven projects to improve their communities. All youth mini-grant funding decisions are made by EOBHC’s Youth Leadership Board, which is made up of East Oakland youth, ages 14-24. These mini-grants can be up to $2000. A complete list of grantees is here.

Evette Brandon was the main speaker. She is a manager for East Oakland Building Healthy Communities and receives her salary from the Alameda County Public Health Department.  

IMG_2741Brandon, as the main speaker, focused on East Oakland and its unique residents. “Of all the treasures in this great place we call East Oakland, what embodies the strength, the courage and the compassion of this place are East Oaklanders. …it’s an honor working with people who make their neighborhoods more beautiful, safer, and always thriving.” Brandon added that some 200 East Oaklanders are working on projects under the umbrella of EOBHC and its projects.

Brandon said that the group is planning an East Oakland policy forum in the fall, before the election, to help residents address issues impacting their neighborhoods. They will also be holding a Resident Leadership Institute to help organize neighborhoods around issues that emerge from the policy forum.

EOBHC leadership includes a coalition of community and government stakeholders that are committed to building the infrastructure required for the successful implementation of their 10-year East Oakland plan.

IMG_2761Mario Balcita is the Youth Coordinator for EOBHC and he has more than 15 years of extensive experience working with youth of color throughout the Bay Area. He has worked with LYRIC and CUAV in San Francisco on ending violence against and within queer/trans youth communities. Balcita supports the Youth Development Organizing Group (YDOG), the Youth Mini Grant Board, the Youth Ambassadors, and other youth engagement activities inside East Oakland BHC.

“I gather young people and help them with what they want to work on,” said Balcita.  “Last year we had a few murals, one having to do with wages for day laborers. So this is all led by young people.”

Balcita said the  Youth Leadership Board is comprised of up to 9 youth from East Oakland, ages 14-24. That board recommends the mini-grants and will advice on Building Healthy Communities’ statewide work.

Balcita told Oakland Local that a total of $15,000 in youth mini-grants was given out last year. “And we’ll have the same amount this year too.”

IMG_2758Youth leader Diana Jauregui, who was at the EOBHC event., told Oakland Local “I was the first Youth Ambassador and then I went to the REal Team [Resident Engagement and Leadership Team of EOBHC] which is all about work in the community. We plan events and review grants and stuff… But also I feel there are not a lot of youth who are stepping up in Oakland.”

Jauregui is 17 now and has been engaged with EOBHC for 2 years. “We do youth mini-grants, we get applications for projects that youth can do, like murals or something to do with peace or food justice. They apply for a mini-grant and we can grant them the money for projects that improve life in East Oakland.”

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