Planting Opportunities

After a thirty year hiatus former Black Panther chairwoman, 72-year-old Elaine Brown, returned to Oakland to continue her activist legacy. In October 2014 Brown began West Oakland Farms in an effort to improve the neighborhood, answer the question of healthy food accessibility in West Oakland, but primarily to educate and empower former inmates. “I’m in the business of creating opportunities for Black men and women who are poor and lack the education, skills, and resources to return to a community that is rapidly gentrifying without economic avenues for them in mind,” stated Brown. On the corner of Seventh and Campbell St. the BART train can be heard whizzing overhead the three-quarter acre plot leased by Oakland & the World Enterprises, an organization established to create profitable programs that are operated and owned by formerly incarcerated people. Grammy-award winning Tony! Toni! Tone! musician and Oakland native, D’Wayne Wiggins, is one of the board members hoping to bring change to this struggling community. ‘“Oakland was a different place when I was a child—I remember running outside and eating fruit from my neighbor’s plum trees. It can be that kind of place again,” he says. “I’m inspired by Brown’s commitment to bring about change and I’m confident this program will continue to grow.”’ Brown considers the farm a model for additional enterprises that will be used to create opportunities for people returning to the community and are considered by most unemployable and will often resort to crime to survive. The farm recently obtained their first client contract with the successful upscale southern restaurant, Pican, who purchases produce from the farm and hosts fund-raisers. Brown’s ambitions stretch well beyond the farm and she hopes to add additional facilities, including affordable housing and a grocery store, something that West Oakland is in desperate need of.

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Augusta Hohn, “Planting Opportunities ,” Street Stories: Oakland, accessed December 14, 2017, http://streetstoriesoakland.com/items/show/85.

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