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 dot.com 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 www.UhuruPies.org
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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