Just a stone’s throw from Mama’s Royal Cafe is the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an action center working for justice, opportunity, and peace in urban America. There are some wonderful murals on the exterior of their space, depicting the themes and goals on which their organization is focused.
Co-founded in 1996 by Diana Frappier and now famous Van Jones of Green for All, the Ella Baker Center has grown in a little over 10 years from a small-scale operation with only one full time staff person, to a “grassroots powerhouse” with 24 “world-class” human rights activists. Their work is focused through four primary campaigns designed to promote positive alternatives to violence and incarceration:
- Books not Bars works towards redirecting California resources away from youth incarceration facilities and towards youth opportunities
- Green Collar Jobs works towards promoting California as a leader in creating a thriving and equitable green collar economy, strong enough to provide employment opportunities for all
- Soul of the City “works to transform Oakland into a socially just, spiritually connected, ecologically sustainable city with shared prosperity for all”
- Heal the Streets as an outgrowth of Silence the Violence, works to provide hands on training for future social justice leaders through a 10 month fellowship program for Oakland youth and young adults (ages 15 – 18)
Ella Baker is pictured above. Born in 1903 in Norfolk, VA, she grew up listening to her grandmother, a previous slave, tell stories of slave revolts. She graduated valedictorian of her college class in 1927 in North Carolina, moved to New York, and became a leading African-American civil rights leader and human rights activist for over five decades. What an incredible woman!
The Ella Baker Center continues her important work into the 21st century. Please check them out… They’ve got a blog, multi-media page with music, videos, and podcasts, volunteer opportunities, and could really put your tax-deductible donations to fantastic work here in Oakland.
The murals were created in 2007 through the Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center based in San Francisco, with funding from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. Artists include: Fred Alvarado, Eli Lipppert, Gerry Chow, Anna Szumowski, Ronnie Freeman, and others.