In February 2022, Oakland Voices launched a new series called “Black Voices in the Town” with grant funding from The African American Response Circle Fund with a focus on stories about how the pandemic has impacted Black-owned businesses, Black artists, and health, written by Oakland Voices alumni and local freelance writers.

The Oakland Voices program includes more than 60 members who have completed the community journalism training program over the course of the past 10 years. Many in this group have actively contributed to the Oakland Voices website with articles, interviews, and personal essays, as well as freelancing for other outlets and continuing their professional development.

On February 1, 2022, a group of the alumni gathered virtually to catch up, talk about what they wished to see in 2022 for the program, and discussed story ideas.

About “Black Voices in the Town” Series

‘Black Voices in the Town’ is funded by The African American Response Circle Fund. In 2020, the Brotherhood of Elders Network in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation established the fund in response to the impact of COVID-19 as a public health crisis for African Americans who live, work, and worship in Alameda County.

The series of stories and photo essays will address the impacts of COVID-19 on Black people in Oakland, California.

The first piece published, by Iris M. Crawford, highlights two Black outdoor enthusiasts, and how nature provided a space for them during the pandemic.

Continued Training and Workshops in Data Journalism, Mapping, Investigative Journalism, and More

More than a dozen of the Oakland Voices alumni gathered virtually last week In small breakout groups to catch up and talk about what types of continued professional development and opportunities they’d like to see. Oakland Voices alumni expressed interest in workshops for the group around investigative journalism skills, public records requests, data journalism, mapping, a design workshop, and more.

When COVID arrived in March 2020, the alumni program coordinator at the time (now Co-Director of Oakland Voices) Momo Chang and coordinator (now Co-Director) Rasheed Shabazz invited guest speakers via Zoom to chat about being a local journalist and around topics such as immigration coverage and beyond. Guest speakers included Oaklandside’s Azucena Rasilla, UC Berkeley Journalism School Professor-in-Residence Andrés Cediel, KQED columnist Pendarvis Harshaw, local investigative and community journalists Darwin BondGraham and Davey D, Program Manager at Disability Media Alliance Project Cara Reedy, and others. The alumni who attended the most recent meeting expressed that the webinars were valuable.

Not in Isolation

Many of the Oakland Voices alumni expressed gratitude for the group itself and members of the group. As alumni, many who freelance write now while balancing day jobs or school, expressed that writing can be isolating. The alumni group helps to make them feel less alone as writers and provides a network and supportive community, as well as an outlet to tell authentic stories about Oakland.

“I have published stories in several Bay Area outlets, and I can irrefutably say that Oakland Voices is the most committed to telling the real Oakland story.” Tony Daquipa, 2017 Oakland Voices alumnus

Daquipa has been covering OUSD school issues, as well as arts & culture coverage. His most recent stories focus on school closures..

Finally, many expressed how the group is enjoyable because it gives people an opportunity to talk about Oakland and the many facets. The stories written are real and some are about serious issues, yet the group as a whole wanted to uplift positive and hopefully stories about The Town as well.