Race, Social Justice, Interviews

Meet Candice Elder, the grassroots organizer battling gentrification and racism in Oakland, CA

This CEO is batting gentrification, racism, and police brutality in a city infamous for all three: Oakland, CA. Meet Candice Elder: entrepreneur, activist, badass.

Black History Month is not just about touting the same handful of names that we memorize as children: Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth. This year, we want to connect readers with everyday women who go largely unappreciated for what they bring to us. Throughout the month of February, we will highlight some fascinating Black women around the United States and introduce you to their work. These women are activists, writers, coaches, performers, and community leaders.

We will always honor the generations of powerful Black women who came before us since they have paved the way for our activism, writing, and art. Our goal now is to highlight the incredible powerhouses who are doing work in the present – and introduce you to their work. Today, we are excited to talk about a woman who works to combat gentrification in Oakland, CA: Candice Elder, the founder and CEO of the East Oakland Collective.

In the films Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You, and (to a much smaller degree) Black Panther, mainstream audiences got a look at the overarching displacement crisis happening in Oakland. It’s no secret that with the Silicon Valley tech boom came unapologetic gentrification. Few know this tragedy better than today’s feature Candice Elder. Sister Elder was born and raised in East Oakland.

Here are 3 ways she is combating gentrification and racism in Oakland.

Planning: There is a lot be said about a person who stands up and takes action, but as bell  hooks described, theory and practice are equally important. One is not as strong without the other. Through her Feed the Hood Program, she plans out events that proliferate resources to our unhoused neighbors. In an interview with the Ghetto Sun Times, she not only called out the injustice of gentrification, but she provided a plan for how to address the most pressing issues.

Collaborate: In addition to screening neighborhoods for those in need and spreading the gospel of grassroots movements, Candice was honored as a Jefferson Award winner because of her commitment to collaborating with oppressed groups rather than speaking for them. In her own words, one of the most challenging things in this work is “remaining positive when facing professional adversity…your work will always speak for itself and always keep your integrity and personal values.” In addition to her work with the East Oakland Collective, Candice has also collaborated with Laney College,

Act: Candice Elder is the Ella Baker of our generation. She is not in it for the fame. Rather than promote herself, she promotes justice. She is a force to be reckoned with and an unyielding advocate for the most marginalized communities of Oakland and beyond. Candice founded EOC to address the disinvestment and lack of resources in East Oakland and lack of representation of East Oakland residents in local politics and governing bodies. Candice brings her wealth of experience serving on community-focused committees, boards and more to her leadership role in EOC and the community. Candice served on the advisory committee for Breaking the Silence Town Hall on Women and Girls of Color in Oakland from 2015-2016, an annual town hall creating space to amplify, educate, and advocate in support of girls and women of color in Oakland. It is Candice’s passion for Black arts and culture that lead her to serve as the President of the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) Vanguard from 2014-2016, where she increased membership, visibility, and funding. MoAD Vanguard is the young professional and membership group committed to supporting the museum through distinctive art, social, education, and philanthropic initiatives.

Above all, Candice offers this advice for grassroots organizers: “Figure out your passion and pursue it. Networking is your best friend. Surround yourself with like-minded professional friends and mentors for personal/career development.”

You can donate to East Oakland Collective and volunteer for their Feed the Hood Program in Oakland.