Reflecting on Night Out for Safety and Liberation
In July I had the opportunity to do a “community walk” with Ella Baker Center organizer Darris Young. We walked the neighborhood of the Little Bobby Hutton Park and talked with people, inviting them to Night Out for Safety and Liberation, NOSL, an event which would be held at the park on the first day of August.
During the previous several weeks, many Ella Baker Center members had been involved in planning and organizing NOSL. We brainstormed together how the event could contribute to building a community without surveillance and policing, but with caring and support. We shared responsibilities, preparing for community games and art projects and contacting various local organizations and individuals who might be interested in organizing activities with us.
Darris opening up this year's Night Out for Safety and Liberation Event
But for the event to be successful, the participation of as many local residents as possible was vital and learning from community members about their concerns and desires was necessary. The community walk would be essential to accomplish these goals. In addition, it would plant a seed among those who would be interested in being involved in future actions. Building a long-term connection was, after all, more significant than a short-term turn out. Moreover, accompanying Darris in the walk was an invaluable time for me, personally. In between conversations with community members, he shared with me his knowledge about the culture and history of West Oakland, which he had accumulated through his life experiences.
On the day of NOSL, I went to the park about an hour early. Many members were already there with the Ella Baker Center staff to set up the place. When the event commenced, I walked around the park, encouraging folks to participate in the “community bingo” game. The game consisted of twenty-five questions which participants could ask each other, and through which they could learn about each other – questions such as whether they had visited the Oakland Museum if they had shared a meal with a neighbor, and if they had lived in West Oakland for over 20 years.
While explaining the game, I did my bingo -- or the other way around: the best way to explain how to do the game was to show what I was doing. I enjoyed talking with over forty people by way of playing bingo and some of them started their bingo right away by asking me back some of the questions. When I learned that many of the participants had gotten information about the event through a community walk, I again realized its value.
Sunny at last year's Night Out for Safety and Liberation Event
Photo by Brooke Anderson
By 6:30 pm, a lot of people had joined the event. I could see volunteers from Art Bison Print Collective, Kiss My Black Arts, and Ella Baker Center assisting participants to create their own masks, T-shirts, face paint, and buttons. A long line at the food station made volunteers busy constantly serving people fresh handmade pupusas. Folks from Bike East Bay and Mandela Marketplace were providing participants with their resources to make “man-bike” powered smoothies. In the back of Wellness Station, two Reiki providers were working on people for healing, and at one corner lawn games were going on.
On the way home, I was overwhelmed with a sense of deep appreciation toward those who prepared, volunteered for, performed, served, and participated in the festivities. At the same time, I was thinking about to what extent we accomplished our goals of creating a new vision for safety and liberation. I was curious if participants felt a sense of connection and collectivity -- a feeling that I believe is an integral part of people’s continuous participation in movements for social justice. Although the event is over, the most difficult task thus still remains, I believe: How do we nurture the movement to grow and expand in the future?
Sunny Lim has been a member of the Ella Baker Center for two and a half years. She appreciates meetings and activities with the Ella Baker Center, in which she learns a lot about how the prison-industrial complex works in a concrete way, and in which she gets connected with many different people. To learn more about joining the Ella Baker Center as a member and other ways to get involved please learn more here.