Oakland & the World Enterprises, Inc.

Empowering the Disadvantaged and Reducing Recidivism

Oakland & the World Enterprises, Inc. (OAW) is a business that was founded by Elaine Brown, former chairwoman of the Black Panther Party, and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. OAW also has an advisory board of prominent individuals such as Bay Area attorney Zack Wasserman and Judge Gordon Baranco. Brown worked with David Roach—founder of Mo' Better Food, which in 1998 [1] was the “first farmers’ market at a school site in California”— to tour several abandoned properties to find a location for the farm [2].

In 2014, OAW “entered into a license agreement with the City of Oakland to develop a vacant, blighted property at 7th and Campbell Streets in West Oakland into an urban farm.” [3] Seventh Street is a historical location as it was once “known as a blues and jazz destination; . . . [however, it has been largely erased] by freeways, aboveground BART tracks, and a massive postal center.” [4]

Brown claims that: “West Oakland has become a vast, empty place where people are being pushed out by gentrification, by mass incarceration, arrests, and so forth. . . .We thought we would be able to do something more meaningful than what other people had slated for these properties. . . . I’m not some rich developer dropping into West Oakland with a plan to remove what's left of the black community. We want development--nobody wants to live in blighted areas--but without displacement.” [5]

The farm is also an attempt to support “those [who are] disproportionately denied access to economic opportunity, particularly formerly incarcerated people.” [6] As such, this project promotes both food accessibility and social justice. The farm will be owned and run by men, women, and young people who were once incarcerated.

OAW is committed to addressing preexisting social problems in Oakland such as poverty, recidivism, and crime. OAW’s staff believes that they can reduce crime and increase economic growth by using urban farms and agriculture to help individuals become more autonomous and empowered. For example, “three days a week . . . former prisoner[s]” come to the farm to “prune . . . collard greens, weigh . . . just-picked corn and water . . . redwood-framed beds . . . [of] yellow flowers.” [7] The ten farmers who work on this property not only learn how to garden, but they are also taught valuable skills like bookkeeping and entrepreneurship. (OWA uses aquaponics to grow organic vegetables that will be sold to individuals, restaurants, and farmers’ markets.) In September, 2015 OAW “struck a deal to sell the farm’s produce to Pican, an upscale Oakland restaurant and the farm’s first major customer.” [8]

In addition to this farm, OAW plans to “create a number of businesses at 7th and Campbell for cooperative ownership . . . including a fitness center, a tech business, a juice bar, [and] athletic shoe and clothing manufacturing companies.” [9] In addition, OAW plans to provide 100 units of housing forty percent of which will be made available to low-income and very-low-income candidates. The housing development will be family friendly and accessible to the disabled and the elderly.

Cite this Page:

Zenzele Olatunji, “Oakland & the World Enterprises, Inc.,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 14, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/56.
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