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Oakland walks to end poverty

on May 24, 2010

In Oakland, 76,000 people—that’s 19 percent of the city’s population—live at or below the federal poverty level. This is a statistic that the City of Oakland wants to lower. Part of the solution is bringing attention and awareness to the fact that this type of poverty exists in Oakland.

On Saturday, for the fifth year in a row, the Oakland Community Action Partnership, a City of Oakland agency, sponsored the 5K “Walk to End Poverty.” About 500 people showed up at the Lake Merritt bandstand to join the symbolic walk around the parameter of the lake to show that they care about poverty in Oakland. The walk was hosted in collaboration with the United Way of the Bay Area, and one of the goals of this event’s organizers was to bring together different government agencies and non-profits that work with people in poverty to offer social services to low-income participants.

“We all know someone who can benefit from these services,” said Estelle Clemons, the manager of the Oakland Community Action Partnership, “and someone who we can support.”

As the walkers put on their free T-shirts and did some last minute stretches, Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” blasted through the speakers. Walkers of every imaginable age and race were present doing jumping jacks, laughing with their friends and drinking water. Everyone was wearing the same t-shirt — yellow, red or white — all with the “Walk to End Poverty” logo. Then Sista Boom, an all female drumming group, kicked off the walk, leading the crowd toward the lake’s walking path. As the stragglers emptied out of the bandstand, one volunteer worker called out, “Ya’ll better catch up, they’re half-way around the lake already.”

Some walkers took the lead, going at a brisk pace, while other partnered up with friends and strolled and chatted. They wound around the curves of the lake, walking past geese, gardens and dodging out of the way of dogs and joggers. One time around was the full 5K.

As people started to arrive back at the bandstand, a celebration was ready for them. Dozens of organizations, including Head Start, Bay Area Legal Aid, Volunteers of America and the Alameda County Food Bank, had set up tables where volunteers gave out pamphlets and told people how to get help for those participants in need social services.

It is important to address the reasons why people are living in poverty and that the organizations at this event are looking at such issues, said Clemons. “We want to give people a leg up instead of just a hand-out,” she said as she worked at one of the tables.

Oakland City Council member Nancy Nadel, who had joined the walk around the lake, gave a short speech explaining that, in California, a child is born into poverty every five minutes; and that 17.3 percent of children in California live in poverty—1.5 million children. “Something isn’t right here,” Nadel said.

But Saturday’s event wasn’t only about serious issues—it also was a family event to celebrate Oakland. Bands played, like the teen group Pop Lyfe—made up of kids in skinny jeans with colorful shirts playing pop covers. Dance groups performed, including Asian fan dancers, Navajo dancers and the Northern California Soul Strutters—who all danced in unison to old soul hits. Walker Carolyn Wilkins welcomed being able to sit down and watch. “We walked today,” she said. “That’s why I can’t do nothing but sit.”

For more information on what the City of Oakland is doing to address poverty visit Oakland Community Action Partnership’s website.

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1 Comment

  1. Anders on May 24, 2010 at 9:46 am

    Nancy Nadel keeps people poor by arguing against all smart policies that will actually increase the tax rolls in Oakland.

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