Category Archives: community

West Oakland Farms

Elaine Brown, former chairperson of the Black Panther party, has taken a blighted empty lot at the corner of 7th & Campbell Streets in West Oakland and launched a mashup of small business/prisoner re-entry program/community project.  This collectively owned small farm employees people who have been incarcerated and is the first of many businesses that Brown plans to launch in this corner of West Oakland.


The Cleveland Cascade


Designed by architect Howard Gilkey in the 1920’s as a series of cascading pools lit by colored lights at night, this graceful fountain that faces Lake Merritt fell into disrepair by the 1950’s.  By the 1990’s it was completely covered and looked like a weedy litter strewn vacant lot.  The community around it organized in 2004 to begin excavation and restoration.  Volunteers have given thousands of hours of labor to restore it to loveliness.  You can see wonderful before, during and after pictures on their website:

Check it out on Lakeshore Avenue, near Brooklyn Avenue.

Keep Oakland Beautiful




Help keep our fair town beautiful by volunteering for Keep Oakland Beautiful.  This organization sponsors various neighborhood clean ups, awards small grants to beautification projects and distributes daffodil bulbs in October-November to be planted in public spaces.  If you can’t volunteer, then do your part by not littering!


Cat Town Cafe

The Cat Town Cafe at 29th & Broadway is divided into two spaces: the cafe itself and the Cat Zone, where you can make an appointment to hang out with between 6-20 adoptable cats who luxuriate on cleverly designed, Oakland-themed cat furniture. Founded in 2011 by a group of Oakland animal shelter volunteers, this genius nonprofit has helped over 600 at-risk cats and kittens.

The recently-opened cafe allows them to help even more cats and kittens, and provides soothing, often hands-on animal time for those seeking a feline hangout.


Non-profit Pedal to the Metal

Do you find it hard to believe that a smart, functional, responsive and deeply caring non-profit exists? One that nurtures clients, volunteers and staff through actual mission in action? Well, check out West Oakland’s Next Step Learning Center, where basic literacy, one-on-one GED tutoring, college transition support and workforce counseling are provided free to anyone over 17 years of age. The program grew out of community organizing and provides individualized programs.

10,000 Steps Project

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Created by the artistic team of Bruce Douglas and Sue Mark, 10,000 Steps is a series of 50 permanent sidewalk markers in downtown Oakland.  The markers offer a self-guided walking tour that tells the story of the early development of downtown and the communities that flourish in and around downtown Oakland’s historic parks.  You can find maps for “Walking The Invisible City” on their website,

Qi gong in Chinatown—-Flexing the mind-body



Everyone is welcome to join the daily qi gong practice 6-9 a.m. at Madison Park (also known as Dragon Park) at 8th and Jackson on the eastern edge of Chinatown. If you are lucky, qi gong sifu (master) Lawrence Choi will be there to lead the forms. Don’t worry if you are new; there is always room to join the flow. How often do urban dwellers have the chance to tap into chi through an over 2,000 year old tradition and express harmony together in a public space?

Check out this video, featuring some very hardy nonagenarians who practice here regularly:

Maxwell Park bathroom

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In 2009-2010, the Friends of Maxwell Park transformed the public bathroom in Maxwell Park from a cinderblock eyesore to a glittering tile mosaic art building.  This community group relied on thousands of hours of labor by volunteers (guided by trained mosaic artists) to complete the project.

The building features all kinds of delightful creatures and details:

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Also in the park, The City issues you both a warning and a shaming:


Maxwell Park is on Allendale Avenue between High Street and Monticello.

Chapter 510







Inspired by 826 Valencia in The City, Chapter 510 is bringing literacy and creative writing support to the young folks of Oakland.  They describe their mission as, “Chapter 510 provides in-school tutoring, creative writing workshops, and publishing opportunities for K-12 students in Oakland.”  They elect the Oakland Youth Poet Laureate every year and publish the 510 Journal.   Take a minute, read the poem by Obasi Davis on their poster (pictured) and have your mind blown.  Check them out at

The bell hooks feminist phone intervention line

Getting harassed by someone to give out your phone number?  Don’t feel safe to decline?  Give them (669) 221-6251 as your number – when they call or text, they will get an automatically generated quote by the great feminist author bell hooks.

This didn’t originated in Oakland but, gosh darn it, it’s our blog and we can bend the rules to suit our fancy.