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You Tell Us: An Uhuru Pies team member gives thanks for a way to support social justice

on November 22, 2010

For the past decade and more, my family and I have spent the days leading up to Thanksgiving talking, living, baking, breathing, delivering and selling Uhuru Pies as part of a fundraising project organized by the African People’s Education and Defense Fund (APEDF). We have lived in Oakland for 12 years, and as I look back, I am thankful for an experience that connects me to so many people in my community and around the region.

The mission of the APEDF is to end disparities in health and health care, education, economic development, health, health care faced by the African (black) community. I am doubly grateful for APEDF’s purpose, which aims to transform these conditions through grassroots community efforts.

This year, more than ever, the mission of the APEDF is reaching an ever-widening public and support for its programs is growing in vision and support. APEDF is building African-led economic development programs rooted in creating sustainable economies and community commerce within African communities in the United States. The key economic development institutions that Uhuru Pies is funding include a commercial kitchen that will allow individuals to grow food businesses, and a state-of-the-art recording studio for cultural workers to develop their talents into a way to sustain themselves.

For the past several years, the Uhuru Pies fundraiser has involved hundreds of volunteers through an after-school program that connects students with global projects to build schools. We have also involved more traditional service organizations that exist at high schools in Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and San Francisco.

Back in 1999, I was able to connect with people within the bubble, breaking down the cubicle walls to sell loads of Uhuru Pies at now-defunct companies in an economy that we can now see was unsustainable and benefited very few people. When I went back into education in 2005, I was able to connect with teachers and students. At that time our Uhuru Pies team had learned how to at once open up students to the brutal reality of poverty and injustice while at the same time give them a sense of ownership, accomplishment and purpose as they poured hundreds of pie custards into shells and readied the pies for the ovens. Time and time again, these students say they love to work with us because they get to connect their volunteer requirements for school to a larger purpose.

This year, Uhuru Pies has introduced its “to die for” sweet potato and pecan pies to the Best of the East Bay, Eat Real and the Green festivals, opening up possibilities for support from a larger sector of people who are making the connection between social justice and sustainability.

In these harrowingly uncertain economic times, Uhuru Pies is an easy way to bring people the message that sustainable economic development for the African community is the way towards social justice and a better world for all.

APEDF not only coordinates economic development projects that address national disparities in health, health care, education and economics, but also locally with the popular, community-based Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles, which has now been in Oakland for 21 years. Uhuru Furniture and Collectibles won the Best of the East Bay “People’s Choice Award” celebrating over twenty years in the Grand Lake area. This time of year, store salespeople invite customers to buy a pie with their piano.

APEDF is also is in the planning stages of renovating the Uhuru House at 7911 MacArthur in East Oakland to re-initiate many of the community based events and programs it has carried out over the past 30 years. The local organization held events this year to address the question of health and to place it in the larger context of a community under siege by poverty, imposed violence and unhealthy conditions.

The  “Uhuru Health Uprising” just recently took place at Arroyo Viejo Park.  Its main message was “overturning the death verdict imposed on our African community and “taking control of health in our community.”
The health festival, small but powerful, was the first annual event that brings health practitioners, community housing, healthcare and education activists into connection to approach collectively and comprehensively the issues that affect the black community.

This year Uhuru Pies will help complete the funding of a commercial kitchen at the national Uhuru House center in St. Petersburg, Florida. The vision of this kitchen is to bring access to a licensed kitchen to a neighborhood suffering from 70 percent unemployment, enabling the start-up of food businesses in the community. With growing support from all over the globe, the kitchen and recording studio are prototypes for economic sustainability that will transform the conditions faced in communities too countless to name including South St. Petersburg, the South Bronx, South Central LA and  East and West Oakland.

I don’t live in East Oakland. I live in the Temescal neighborhood, a district heralded by the Wall Street Journal as “run down to reborn” with popular coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries galore. My neighborhood can support East Oakland by volunteering, selling and buying Uhuru Pies. In fact, Temescal folks can order Uhuru Pies to be picked up at Remedy Coffee, the hip new happening on Telegraph on Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

During this holiday time, regardless of the type of work we do or where we live, many of us can find an opening to connect with others and broaden our worldview. Once again, I am thankful for this opportunity and invite others to join me.

For all the ways to participate and info about pick up and delivery locations of Uhuru Pies, see

Wendy Snyder is the Outreach Coordinator for Uhuru Pies. She is a teacher in Oakland and resides with her family in the Temescal neighborhood.


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  1. randy on November 22, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I have a hard time getting over Uhuru’s support of the alleged child-rapist Lovelle Mixon who killed 4 Oakland Police Officers.

    Until I can get an adequate justification of why this support was warranted, I will not buy their pies

  2. scathingharpy on November 22, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I second Randy’s emotion. I DO live in East Oakland, and remember Uhuru’s little Mixon shrine and parade. Saw it with my own eyes. Shame on you. You’ve got a lot of community outreach to make up for that one.

  3. OakGrrl on November 22, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    Let me see, if my options were either certain death or an Uhuru pie, I would choose death every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Like Randy, I can not and will not support any organization that wants to turn an alleged child-rapist and cop killer into a hero.

  4. JC on November 22, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    The last group of people to call me an ethnic slur were two Uhuru Pie salesmen twice my age when I was a teen. It was completely unwarranted; I had just politely turned down an offer to buy a pie. I understand they were just guys being jerks, but that was not an isolated incident and when enough individuals of one organization treat me the same way, I tell all my friends to avoid their products.

  5. Wendy Snyder on November 22, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    The African People’s Education and Defense Fund addresses the conditions that the black community faces which includes police violence and massive imprisonment. Mixon faced those conditions. Derrick Jones did too. He was killed by the Oakland police officers on November 8th. We support a self-reliance for a community victimized by these conditions.

  6. Rebren on November 22, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Derrick Jones had multiple gun and domestic violence convictions and was known to the police. And it was proven that he did was reaching for something when shot, a scale. What would you do if you were a police officer faced with a known gun offender running from you then turning toward you and reaching into his waistband? The autopsy reoprt shows he was shot in the front, not the back. Stop making excuses for bad behavior. Plenty of black folk live in the same conditions and don’t go around raping, beating, and killing people over it. No one is denying that there are many issues in the community that need to be addressed and that police brutality is a reality that affects many. But don’t try to make heroes out of common crooks and thugs who cause far more harm to the community. And quit operating under the premise that all black folk are helpless victims that need your white goodwill to step in and show them the way. It’s an insult. The Black Panthers fed our school children, not you and your high-sugar content pies.

  7. Marie on November 23, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Well REMEDY COFFEE, you just lost my patronage FOREVER. I will never support a business who openly supports a racist organization through allowing them to fund raise on your premises.

    Too bad, you had good coffee.

    • remedy on December 5, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      upon further research, remedy coffee canceled being a pick up location

  8. Felix on November 23, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Rebren, last I heard, the punishment for gun and domestic violence convictions was not capital punishment.

    Having said that, Uhuru is a cult with an organizational structure that, depending on your point of view, is either innovative or bizarre. Whites are auxiliary support members with no decision making power. (Although they make up the bulk of the membership.) While this is an interesting way to structure a radical organization given the racist inequalities in our larger world, I personally doubt whether that structure can lead to lasting social change. They certainly do push a certain outside radical edge in the occasional demonstrations they organize, but I don’t see them doing significant community work.

    There are some interesting pieces about the history of Uhuru Movement here and here.

    Having said that, I think it’s cool Oakland North gave a forum for this post and the discussion that followed as this isn’t a group that gets a lot of mainstream attention and dialog, and its certainly an interesting part of Oakland’s history and community.

    • slk on November 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

      “Rebren, last I heard, the punishment for gun and domestic violence convictions was not capital punishment.”

      That’s not what Rebren suggested. He/she observed that Jones’ actions during the chase contributed to his shooting.

      None of us were there so we can’t judge whether Jones’ actions (allegedly reaching in waistband for a metal object) justified the OPD shooting him. Whatever happened that night it’s a sad thing.

      • Felix on November 25, 2010 at 1:49 am

        I’m not sure what bad behavior rebren alludes to, I certainly oppose partner abuse, but a history of “bad behavior” does not justify being summarily executed without trial, and I find it upsetting to read justifications for the killing of anyone (and this is a man with a child).

        In a democratic society we must not allow police to become judges, juries and executioners. We have a process of law laid out in our constitution and when people go around that process, because they have power and weapons and uniforms, or because they’re scared, we all become less safe and our society becomes less about fairness and more about an arbitrary and unequal distribution of justice.

        It doesn’t matter what Derrick Jones did in his past or even the night he was killed: we know he was not an immediate danger to the police, and therefore the police were unequivocally not justified in killing him, because he was outnumbered and unarmed. There was no scuffle or struggle with the police. He was running away. Apparently, when he came to a dead end at a fence, he turned around, perhaps reached for his waistband (only the police have said this is true) and then was shot to death with several rounds of bullets (the cops aren’t saying how many).

        And to pretend that his murder has no context, to ignore that other unarmed black and brown men are shot by police with regularity (and not to mention that this falls on the heels of the Mehserle trial) this is dishonest.

        • slk on November 25, 2010 at 10:48 am

          Your reply carries a lot of baggage. I really don’t think Rebren was suggesting that the police would be justified in ‘executing’ Jones or should act as judges. Rebren was only suggesting that in the circumstances of the chase their reaction to Jones’ alleged actions was understandable.

          Neither of us were there that night and don’t know exactly what happened. It’s possible the police shot him without good reason and are lying about the events to cover themselves. But it’s also possible that they were faced with a credible threat and reacted with deadly force to defend themselves.

          Rather than jump to politically loaded conclusions I will consider the various possibilities and leave my mind open. I know the police are not perfect, but I’m not going to judge them without knowing the facts of the case.

        • OakGrrl on November 26, 2010 at 9:34 am

          Felix, your understanding of Rebren’s comment is shaky at best. What we do know is that Derrick Jones’ actions contributed to the tragic events that resulted in the loss of life. I’ve spoken to others about this incident and most agree that had DJ not run or simply stopped and raised his arms he would be alive today. Actions create perceptions.

  9. slk on November 24, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Lovelle Mixon was a horrible person. Wrong is wrong, no matter the skin color. Trying to make him into some kind of martyr is disgusting and ultimately does more damage to the groups that Uhuru purports to defend.

    Uhuru is a racist organization. Sorry if that offends, but how else can their behavior be explained? It’s race-based thinking… and the rest of us are trying to move beyond that and foster a diverse, welcoming community.

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