Photos courtesy of Ella Baker Center, photography by Brooke Anderson
OAKLAND, CA — More than 500 individuals and families packed Josie de la Cruz Park in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood on August 2 for performances, children’s activities and mutual aid to celebrate Night out for safety and liberation (NOSL), an annual national event that redefines unattended safety and joy. The free community event included free diapers and books for all ages, food, free bike giveaways, air purifiers, self-defense training, a drag show, and performances by poets and artists including Lauren Adams, TJ Sykes and Voces Mexicanas.
Night Out for Safety and Liberation was started in 2013 by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain and is held as an alternative to the police-focused National Night Out. Since 2013, the event has spread across the country with more than 50 events scheduled this year where communities make the night about the power of the community, not the police.
“We have been reinventing what safety beyond policing means to our communities for more than 25 years at the Ella Baker Center. When we create safe spaces for our community to come together and support each other, when we provide living wage jobs so people can put food on the table, when we empower our children and give them opportunities to thrive, when we invest in care resources medical and mental health, that’s how we create real safety,” said Marlene Sanchez, executive director of the Ella Baker Center.
Through Night Out for Safety and Liberation, communities are creating safety not through policing, but through healing and restorative justice, by creating gender-affirming spaces and protecting trans and trans communities. LGBTQIA, by reinvesting funds in alternatives and community-based solutions that truly keep communities safe.
“We don’t need more police on our streets. We don’t need more surveillance. What we need are resources!” said José Bernal, Organizing Director of the Ella Baker Center. “What we need is housing, diapers, legal resources, jobs. East [Night Out for Safety and Liberation] It’s what keeps us safe. This is resilience.”
The event was hosted by Nifa Akosua, senior organizer and advocate for the Ella Baker Center, and TJ Sykes, author and community activist, both natives of Richmond, California. The show included entertaining performances by break dancers from Oakland Originalz, mariachi band Voces Mexicanas, singer Lauren Adams and a drag show from Afrika America.
“Night Out for Safety and Liberation is about love of neighborhood and neighborhood safety. It’s about connecting, introducing yourself to one another, and staying connected as a community. This is how we keep each other safe,” Nifa said.
More than 20 organizations and vendors participated in Tuesday’s event, offering community resources, face painting, giving away 500 books for all ages and free diapers. Participants included: Help A Mother Out, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, ACLU of Northern California, TGI Justice Project, Urban Peace Movement, Ella Baker’s Readers & Cesar Chavez Public Library, Alliance for Girls, Bay Area Women Against Rape, Centro Legal de la Raza, Common Humanity Collective, Street Level Health Project, Malikah – Self Defense, East Bay Community Law Center, Unity Council, Young Women’s Freedom Center, East Bay Family Defenders, Bay Area Workers Support, L’Artiste A La Carte, Education Super Highway , Cut Fruit Collective and WIC.
Another night out for safety and liberation events they were held in Oakland, San Francisco, Chicago, Portland, Phoenix, Denver, Minneapolis, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Waco, Hampden, Conway, Washington DC, and other cities. Follow the conversation and see photos from events in other cities using #SafetyIs and #NOSL22.