Sidewalk Scenes – An Internship Reflection

4 February 2015

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By Dorian Toy, Communications and Development Intern

I will begin with a quote from Master Yoda:

“Strike back against the empire, we must.”

On my morning walks to the CFJC office, I find this quote on a mural depicting Master Yoda wielding his lightsaber with a grim expression. To walk through a neighborhood and use all your senses to absorb the scenery can be so much more compelling than simply driving through it. Every day that I walked along Alcatraz Avenue, I witnessed more than just wall art and graffiti. Most of the walk was residential, but I counted six fast food establishments and a handful of corner liquor stores. The occasional Caucasian jogger and I were the minorities, with many people up and down the street being African American. My attempts to scooter failed when I felt the uneven pavement that needed reworking. Some streets were littered with shredded newspapers, empty cheetos bags, and broken glass. To the average eye, this may seem like an under-privileged neighborhood lacking the resources to “strike back”. However, my time here at CFJC has provided me with a perspective to convince me otherwise.

Despite the mishaps, I also came across trinkets of inspiration. Some of the front yards practiced edible landscaping, growing chard in planter boxes placed adjacent to the sidewalk. In front of restaurants, I noticed free boxes of slightly spoiled but packaged carrots (they even provided ranch sauce packets). A residential “STOP” sign was accompanied by a sticker placed under it saying “EATING ANIMALS”. And of course, I was inspired by the wall art. My time at CFJC has taught me that with the “empire’s” oppression comes community resilience. I was invited to participate in community meetings with Oakland’s Climate Action Coalition, the Edible Parks Task Force, Food Policy Councils, and more. Although the meeting locations ranged from PHI office buildings, to resident’s homes, and even trailers behind chain linked fences, this helped me understand the importance of CFJC’s commitment to engage across all levels. At the meetings, collaborative discussions addressed pesticides in foods, accessibility to healthy food, edible landscaping, effective policy implementation, and more. After attending the meetings, I could see how the level of engagement among residents and policy makers is present and that the carrots on the sidewalk were more than just a mere coincidence.

On my last day at CFJC, I was invited to take photos at Supervisor Wilma Chan’s press advisory announcing the “All In To End Hunger 2020” initiative. The initiative seeks to “end hunger” by providing food, jobs, and stability to its residents. I think this marks a tremendous step towards addressing the food insecurity and the economic disparity among Alameda County residents. Although my walks along Alcatraz Avenue have ended, this initiative gives me hope for the future of Alameda County and the rest of the nation, if successfully replicated.

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