By Jasmine Williams, Staff Writer
December 16, 2016

“IVE was amazing. The door-knocking just brought us together as a community and reminded us why we value face to face interactions with the community,” “The work we did with IVE was very unique. It was work by Black people for Black people. you could feel the energy, it was different–intentional. We noticed a lot of gratitude and appreciation from our community which affirmed the very important work that we set ourselves out to do.” -Mirishae McDonald

The Black Organizing Project has always been invested in outreach and listening to our community. Through door knocking, street outreach and listening sessions we have been able to hear the concerns of our community and strategize together around solutions. Through consistent outreach we are able  to create transformational  change  that is rooted in the power of community . Civic engagement  can be another  vehicle to  leverage that  power, especially around local and statewide propositions. This year, along with other groups across the state, we chose to launch our first Integrated Voter Engagement Program. We believe that creating practices that encourage civic engagement as well developing leaders in the community can support the long-term change that we are invested in as an organization.

The IVE program is part of a new initiative launched by California Calls that supported groups across the state like Youth Uprising, PANA, LA CAN, Safe Returns, among other groups that are working for social justice.  It is a strategy sought to get Oakland residents informed on local and state ballot measures and increase the number of African American voters.BOP’s  program launched officially October 20th of this year and entailed 13 days of street outreach, door-knocking, surveying and phone-banking to reach over 1300 residents in East Oakland.

Through surveying the East Oakland  community, the IVE team found that 91% of the people believed that funding for police within OUSD should be shifted to counselors and restorative justice practices, while sixty-four percent  of folks believed that the police should be prevented from receiving military weapons.

The responses were enlightening, uplifting, affirming, and perhaps most importantly — a reminder. A reminder of the strength of people power and community. A reminder that two minute conversations and exchanges are just enough to spark the potential for deeper conversations that create spaces for  healing , community,  and strategic discourse.

The community spoke and we listened– and we are aligned. We do not need to be policed or surveilled. We do not need to be treated as criminals. Counselors are more suitable for school environments.  We yearn for proper education and welcoming school environments. We worry, we hurt, we see the changes in our community . We see that they are not for us.

In an unpromising political climate, the work that was put into our first IVE program was a great springboard of strength for challenging years to come. We got people out to vote because yes– the local initiatives and statewide proposition work is important, but even bigger is the organizing that happens before and after the election season.  Civic engagement can be a tool but only as long as it’s rooted in  long term organizing, deep relationship building, and truly coming together in community in a unified front.

We know through our collective power and determination that we will continue to progress towards equity for Black people, and we will do what it takes to reach that goal one way or the next.