The Growing Justice institute was designed to keep resident voices at the forefront of the food justice movement.
In our third year of the fellowship, People’s Grocery has had the absolute honor and privilege of working with some of the best community food leaders in the area. Now that we have sets of Fellows working together (2011, 2012 and 2013), we have a powerful force for food justice organizing in our community. These Fellows are creating change in their neighborhood, and we get to support and partner with them along the way.
The new fellows are already exceeding our expectations and they are just at the beginning of the program! 2013 fellow Sarah Germany is an accomplished chef of 15 years and is shifting gears to work with People’s Grocery and launch GROWoakland, a culinary training program and food justice educational tool for foster youth. Her students will receive culinary arts training and have the opportunity to work in Oakland restaurants.
Micah Hobbes-Frazier has been working diligently on expanding and supporting her community health and healing space called The Living Room Project (LRP) . The LRP is a West Oakland center providing sliding-scale holistic health resources, classes and trainings that prioritize queer and trans people of color. It’s a much needed resource in West Oakland.
2012 Institute fellow Nicole Dixon is from a family that has been in West Oakland for over 8 generations. Nicole is an incredibly talented educator at a local Montessori school and she is using her skills and background to create a new POC-centric curriculum titled Food as a Restorative Education in Sovereignty and Holistic Health (FRESHH). The goal of FRESHH is to empower youth in developing a cosmic identity and socio-cultural agency with a holistic, art/project based education through the lens of food justice. Nicole is partnering with two public schools in West Oakland to pilot the curriculum. Her work has been featured at a number of our events and there is already a groundswell of support for her work in the community.
Yavette Holts, another 2012 fellow, has created Cowrie Village, a thriving framework for alternative economy taking root in West Oakland. Within her framework, Yavette has launched EBBX (East Bay Barter Exchange), an online time banking system that tracks and manages a means of commerce that uses time as currency. Another component to Cowrie Village has been the Gather & Trade system that has operated a Cash-free swap meet each month. Yavette has also launched a community savings platform, named Rootical Gathering, which acts as a modern day sou sou giving circle, in which neighbors operate and share in a collective community savings circle to create more financial independence for everyone involved. Yavette’s work has been greatly received by the community and she is leading a conversation in just how important economic sovereignty is to supporting a thriving local food system.
2011 fellows Billy Page and Raheemah Nitoto have both been successfully growing their businesses in West Oakland. Billy’s Divine Raw Foods has been a hit at a number of community events; his presentations and classes have been requested at a number of local festivals and his foods are quickly selling out as he continues to spread the word about culturally appropriate raw vegan food as a means to heal your body. Raheemah Nitoto has consistently grown her holistic health care company, Urban Holistic Solutions (UHS). Not only has Raheemah secured several contracts with health institutions in the Bay Area, she is also offering accessible holistic health care to a number of clients throughout West Oakland.
As Fellow projects have become increasingly successful, we have worked hard to ensure that our program is accessible to even more social entrepreneurs. We have created a rolling admissions process and have increased the amount of resources and trainings available to the fellows. We have also revised the workshop curriculum to be much more effective at mobilizing, educating and sharing resources with as many community members as possible.
For People’s Grocery, the Fellows are vitally important to leading West Oakland's food justice dialogue. We are very honored to be sharing space with them and look forward to the waves of change that they continue to create in our community.