Oakland, CA – Freedom To Grow: This month, I joined our friends from Homies Empowerment to clean up and transform a 20,000 square-foot vacant city-owned lot at 10451 MacArthur Blvd. into one of East Oakland’s largest community gardens. The City of Oakland is partnering with Homies Empowerment to launch FREEdom Farm. This partnership builds on our commitment to prioritize the health and wellness of our community. “We should value growing our own food because it creates self-sufficiency within the community. And we should give back to the land that gives so much to us,” said Dr. César A. Cruz, Co-Founder of Homies Empowerment. “I am grateful to be here making a change within this neighborhood.”
Opportunity For Renewal: For nearly two decades this city-owned lot sat vacant and blighted. In 2005 a hotel at this lot, known for illegal drug use, violence, and human trafficking, was demolished. Former City Councilmember Larry Reid worked to gather community and city leaders to help execute the demolition of the hotel with a vision to increase affordable housing at this site. On July 21, 2020, the city council authorized the city administrator to designate this site as a city surplus property. In December of 2021, with the support of our District 7 council office, Homies Empowerment was approved to lease the site until the future development of affordable housing.
The Power of Love: Homies Empowerment’s passion stems from enduring their own struggles and experience with food insecurity, poverty, and displacement. The life-changing work they lead is rooted in their revolutionary love for people, to overcome the disparities faced by our Brown and Black neighbors through culturally affirming outreach, programs, and services. Homies Empowerment understands, with more than 12 years serving Oakland and especially in the wake of the pandemic, that when churches, schools, and other agency resources are impacted, access to fresh food and other goods is crucial to the survival of a community.
Homies Empowerment has also created the FREEdom Store, which provides an abundance of resources for free, including a 24/7 accessible food pantry and prepared meals for those in need. They educate, empower, and provide workforce opportunities to uplift Oakland residents of all ages through their program's vision toward self-sufficiency.
Successful First Steps: The first cleanup at the FREEdom Farm was successful in preparing the land to grow our own food. There were more than 50 individuals of all ages in attendance throughout the day. Together, we filled the two 20-yard waste bins our District 7 office donated to support the effort. By mid-afternoon, over 20 tons of waste had been removed and the lawn was mowed to reveal a beautiful area to further develop. Next on the FREEdom Farm to-do list is to begin landscaping and placing over 100 raised planter boxes around the farm.
We invite you to volunteer with us to realize the incredible full vision of our FREEdom Farm. Email email@example.com to stay informed on the next steps and upcoming events to help maintain the land. You can also contribute by donating to Homies Empowerment any items from the wishlist below:
FREEdom Farm Wishlist:
- 1. Generator
- 2. 100 Stackable chairs
- 3. Port-A-Potty
- 4. Welder (for the gate)
- 5. 1,000 pieces of wood (to build planter boxes)
- 6. Soil for 100+ planter boxes
- 7. Stage
- 8. Sound system
Your support to help launch and sustain the FREEdom Farm is greatly appreciated!
To learn more about Homies Empowerment visit their website at homiesempowerment.com