All kinds of litter—plastic bags, Styrofoam cups, golf balls, compact discs—will be guided into scoop nets at Lake Merritt on Saturday during a lake clean-up that is one of the dozens of volunteering opportunities available during the second annual “Throw Down for the Town,” a service festival that gives Oakland residents several options to transform their neighborhoods.
The event, organized by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, attracted over 300 volunteers last year. Organizers are working to double that number this year by promoting 34 service projects—nine more than in 2011—to accommodate 500 volunteers.
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights is named after an unsung hero, Ella Josephine Baker, who inspired and guided prominent leaders during the Civil Rights Movement. The centers’ campaigns—fellowships that address violence, juvenile detention and green job creation—are designed to give people the skills and opportunities to work together in their community.
“We started doing community service projects—partnering with allies—a few years back and really focusing on adding capacity to some of the great work already happening in Oakland,” said Nwamaka Agbo, a campaign director at the center’s Soul of the City program, which helps young adults gain leadership skills and mobilizes minorities to vote during elections. “But it’s also about building community—everything from planting trees, to community education, to gardening. This is an opportunity for Oaklanders to recognize that as individuals we all have unique skills that we can share with one another on a day-to-day basis that’s for free and puts the well-being of Oakland into the hands of the community. This event is really focused on highlighting all of that.”
On Saturday, there will be cleanup and community service projects throughout the city from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Some of the listed projects include “Feed the Community,” during which volunteers can prepare and serve lunch at the Free Dining Room at St. Vincent De Paul; “Bring Books to Oakland Kids,” where help is needed to sort and organize books for the East Bay Children’s Book Project; “Garden near Courtland Creek” at the Land and Life Garden between Vicksburg and Ygnacio Avenues; and “Beautify Emerson Elementary” in North Oakland where volunteers will painting three buildings.
At the end of the day, volunteers will gather at Snow Park from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. for a food-and-fun-filled community festival featuring music by hip-hop artist Mystic and other local musicians.
“It’s important for the city on a number of different levels,” said Agbo of the impact of the annual service project. “I see community members being really eager to engage directly on transforming Oakland. People can see the fruits of their labor at the end of the day—I mean really put their hands on something tangible.”
Many of the service events require pre-registration. Find more information and view the day’s full schedule here.