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.
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: http://clevelandcascade.org/wp/
Check it out on Lakeshore Avenue, near Brooklyn Avenue.
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!
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. http://www.cattowncafe.com
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.
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: