On Thursday evening, the 6th Annual Oakland Indie Awards honored local business and artists at the Henry J Kaiser Permanente Center in the rooftop garden room. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, craftspeople, and vendors attended the event including honorary hosts Mayor Jean Quan and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
This year, there were over 200 nominees among Oakland’s businesses, restaurants, manufacturers, clothing designers and artists. Hosted by One Pacific Coast Foundation and the East Bay Express, those in attendance enjoyed performances by the Oaktown Jazz Workshop and DJ Platurn, who kept the crowds moving with hip-hop, soul, and reggae music.
Local vendors kept attendees busy with booths offering cupcakes, T-shirt screen-printing, a diverse assortment of food and a chance to watch in the creation of graffiti murals. The smell of sizzling meat from the Victory Burger booth drew some of the longest lines as the chefs worked tirelessly to serve customers.
“This is my first time at the Indie Awards, and it’s amazing to see so many community leaders and businesses in Oakland come together for something positive,” said Kevin Jackson, a program director for the Oakland Food Connection organization. “We were invited to come out and promote food justice and nutritional awareness in low income communities as well as catering from our urban garden.
Jackson works with the Oakland Food Connection to provide community-based farmers markets and youth entrepreneurship projects at East Oakland schools, including Castlemont High School, Oakland Unity High School, and Thurgood Marshall Elementary School. The organization also takes students on field trips to rural farms and teaches them micro-enterprise skills to create green jobs for their communities.
“Every vendor that was selected by the committee brings their own unique sense of commerce and interest to the table,” said Jody Colley, publisher of East Bay Express and the event’s coordinator. “Geographically, we tried to be as diverse as possible. There are businesses here representing every part of Oakland.”
Colley says that the winners were selected by judges based on their community leadership,being environmentally responsible, and creating innovative projects. “I’ve never seen another city like Oakland that supports entrepreneurship,” said Colley. “It brings the small town values of people who support and respect their community to the big city.”
The 25th Street Collective, a sustainable business incubator in Oakland, won the Innovative Newbie Award for their model of allowing small businesses to share space, resources, and ideas with other artisans in the area.
“We are trying to change the commerce in Oakland through the synergy of sharing resources and constantly building our network,” said Elwyn Crawford, a member of the 25th Street Collective and fashion designer of O’ Lover Hats. “Each month we bring in at least 15 new artisans to generate new ideas about sustainability at the 25th Street Warehouse.”
O’ Lover Hats produces handmade hats for men and women combining felt and straw, and has recently created their own head ornaments as wearable three-dimensional art. Crawford works closely with 25th Street Collective founder Hiroko Kurihara in nonprofit projects to create designer clothing from donated fabric from homeless shelters.
“Tonight is about promoting the most positive aspects of Oakland and showing the community alternative ways of impacting our economy,” said Kurihara.
Congratulations to the rest of the winners. Visit the Oakland Indie Awards website for more information.
Oakland Soul Award – Ise Lyfe
Ripple Effect Award – Taco Grill Taqueria & Pozoleria
Innovative Newbie Award – Ecologic Brands and The 25th Street Collective
Socially-Responsible Rockstar Award Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Revolution Foods
Mike Pherson Pillar Award – Head Designs