Updated: Sep 2, 2020
Eastlake United for Justice (EUJ) is a community organization of neighbors who live in the area east of Lake Merritt in Oakland (e.g., Funktown, Clinton, Cleveland Heights, Bella Vista, Highland, San Antonio). We are launching a fundraiser to support alternatives to policing in Oakland, because in our experience these alternatives successfully reduce harm by enhancing positive community relationships. Specifically, we have worked with organizations like the Good Brotha Network and Trybe, who successfully employ transformative justice when neighborhood conflicts arise.
We believe that relying on policing for community safety increases harm and violence, particularly for Black and Brown, immigrant, LGBTQIA, women, and disabled community members. The deep legacy of resistance to policing in Oakland, from the Black Panther Party for Self Defense to the Oscar Grant rebellions, have long demanded the defunding and abolition of the police. The recent uprisings against police violence toward the Black community, sparked by the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Elijah McClain, Rayshard Brooks, and countless others have only amplified these demands.
The Good Brotha Network and Trybe work to develop a long arc of rooted relationships, rather than pointing guns to solve problems. They provide counseling, housing, education, and job opportunities to neighbors who are trapped in underground economies that are the product of systemic racism and oppression. For example, Kentrell Killens, a leader in the Good Brotha network and employee in the City’s Department of Violence Prevention, has worked with EUJ and Trybe to address conflict in the neighborhood by mentoring youth and using his life-long relationships with the Oakland community to find solutions to harm (Learn this inspiring, real-life story of Black-led community safety, and donate, HERE!)
The Black and Brown community workers engaged in these effective peace-making measures, like Kentrell, are underpaid by city government and NGOs. For example, a community worker employed by the City of Oakland’s Department of Violence Prevention currently costs the city approximately $107K annually (salary and benefits), whereas the community resource police officer specifically for the Eastlake beat costs the city more than double that figure — $232K annually. This disparity is evidence of the City’s misplaced priorities.
Given the city-led discussion on ‘re-imagining public safety,’ EUJ believes that the funding currently going to OPD—an organization that cannot solve community needs given its punitive and traumatic methods—should be allocated to the phenomenal efforts of community workers in the Department of Violence Prevention and the community organizations they support. We applaud the efforts of the Anti-Police Terror Project and Councilwoman Nikki Bas to defund OPD and invest in social and health services that strengthen communities for the long term, without bolstering imprisonment.
However, we do not trust or believe that the City will defund OPD and allocate funds to these heroic programs soon enough. The policy of Mayor Schaff’s administration and the ‘Equity Caucus’ of the City Council is that there are not enough police, and that it would be an injustice to have less police in the flatland communities such as Eastlake.
Therefore, EUJ is organizing to support Oakland’s community workers who are devoting themselves every single day to ensuring that Black and Brown folks don’t get caught up in the ‘criminal justice’ system.
We challenge our community, and all of Oakland, and beyond, to raise the ~$100,000 disparity between a police officer and community worker in Oakland.
All funds will go to Kentrell Killens and his organization, the Good Brotha Network.
This fundraiser is not only a symbolic act in defiance of the current oppressive order, but is an actual investment in community workers, who spend countless unpaid hours with those most marginalized by the system. When wealthy Oakland communities perceive that there is insufficient policing to protect their property, they have invested in private security firms to employ the racist tactics of publicly-funded policing. With this fundraising effort, EUJ proposes another path. That communities invest in the relationship and trust-building it takes to grow true community safety. We need more organizations like the Good Brotha Network, a volunteer organization led by Black community workers that supports struggling community members caught up in the cycle of violence.
Raising $100,000 as a neighborhood group is wildly ambitious, we know. But we must create the world we wish to see, and invest in alternatives to policing and prisons.