Lake Merritt Town Hall Reflections - November 2021
On September 29, 2021, a coalition of community members and non-governmental organizations held a virtual town hall to initiate a conversation about solutions to persistent issues at Lake Merritt. Our objectives were, and continue to be, the development of solution-oriented communication and community-based governance to resolve conflicts at the lake. While there is a place for establishing rules through City government, that is explicitly not our goal.
We believe in the power of relationships to solve problems, and question the efficacy of engaging with a profoundly racist and inhumane “criminal justice” system to solve interpersonal problems at Lake Merritt, and beyond. Oakland’s Black and Brown communities have been systematically excluded from socio-economic opportunities, resulting in houselessness, and the displacement of Black and Brown families and cultural spaces. Furthermore, the long standing underfunding of parks (especially in lower income areas) makes it challenging for Oakland’s Black and Brown communities to access high-quality urban parks, and culturally relevant sites for placemaking . The increased use of Lake Merritt by the Black and Brown communities is a direct response to this systematic exclusion, resulting in environmental injustices, and undergirds our belief that we should make the Lake and Oakland’s green spaces accessible to everyone.
We also recognize that these are Huichin Ohlone lands, and private property lines are entangled with the legacy of colonialism and White supremacy. These histories are a part of the current political, cultural, and ecological landscape, and we believe that a grassroots effort to engage in dialogue is one of many steps toward achieving justice for Black and Brown communities typically excluded from political and economic decision-making.
While some residents have argued for increased enforcement of existing laws, we believe such an approach ignores the challenging material conditions produced by the global pandemic, and longstanding racial and economic exclusion.
We encourage Lake-users and nearby residents to join our efforts to increase communication amongst groups that use the Lake differently. This is a part of our long-term objective to establish community-based agreements to aid in conflict resolution.
We acknowledge that not all Lake-goers or residents were represented at our first town hall. While we conducted outreach at the Lake for this event, many community members felt apprehensive toward joining a town hall in a digital format. We recognize the limitations and challenges with this format, and will be engaging in conversations at the Lake. We also intend to host additional digital events to bring the community together to identify community agreements in 2022.
We also highlight that participants at the town hall voiced resounding support for a Lake ambassadors program, where trained conflict mediators could support community efforts at building peace. Currently, such a program is not funded by the City of Oakland, and we encourage everyone to advocate for the inclusion of such funding in the City’s mid-cycle budget allocations.
Our efforts are largely voluntary, and thus we encourage Lake stakeholders to connect with us if you think such a path is valuable. While the Councilmembers for District 2 and 3 are supportive of this process, they are not leading these efforts. Please bring any feedback or questions to our coalition.
Eastlake United for Justice
Good Brotha Network
Dr. C.N.E. Corbin
PRAC Commissioner Princess Allen