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Article: Oaklandish Innovators Award Recipients

Oakland innovators banner image. Here are the orgs you support when you shop with us.

Oaklandish Innovators Award Recipients

2023 Winners - Oaklandish Innovation Awards

Oakland is a hotbed of renegade activity. It's a place where boundaries are mere suggestions, and trends are created rather than followed. Oaklandish is proud to nurture this legacy with our Oaklandish Innovators Award Fund.

This award offers recognition and grants to individuals and organizations doing trailblazing work in the East Bay. It celebrates local programs that exemplify the values of innovation and progress in all areas of civic life, including arts, education, technology, and business. The recipients represent diverse social interests unrestricted by political agenda. 

And, our support doesn't end after we write the check. Our award winners gain an ongoing partnership that can include event organization, collaborative designs, public awareness campaigns, and so much more. 

We created this award in the spirit of the multitudes of Oakland legends who've positively impacted national and global culture. These include architect Julia Morgan, martial artist Bruce Lee, musician Larry Graham, dancer Isadora Duncan, aviator Joe Fong Guey, artist Mike 'Dream' Francisco, and director Russ Myer, among many many others.

These awards recognize diverse local organizations and individuals working on many community issues. We've supported community-based food distribution, educational support for homeless youth, tech training for underrepresented communities, violence prevention workshops, and crisis response for people impacted by homicide.

So wear your Oaklandish with pride, because it's so much more than a shirt or a lifestyle. It's a commitment to do good where you belong, wherever that might be. 

We hope these stories inspire you to take the Oaklandish spirit and spread it far and wide.

Homies Empowerment 

Homies Empowerment is an independent, grassroots, community-based organization in East Oakland. They are dedicated to helping gang-impacted youth by providing them spaces to heal, thrive, and self-actualize. They provide an alternative to gangs by creating a sense of belonging, protection, and rites of passage for youth in gang-inflicted communities.

READ MORE > We are Oaklandish: Dr. Cesar A. Cruz & Homies Empowerment

Image of a volunteer digging a planter box.

Urban Peace Movement

The Urban Peace Movement is a racial justice organization working to transform the social conditions that create violence and mass incarceration in Black and Brown communities. Their unique healing-centered organizing model promotes youth leadership alongside hope, empowerment, and organizing for positive community change.

UPM strives for social and economic justice and more peaceful communities through free community healing workshops and wellness advocacy. They also provide a safe place for people to gather and celebrate Oakland.

A photo collage of artists who performed at Town up Tuesday, a live music event.

Black Liberation Walking Tour (WOCAN)

The Black Liberation Walking Tour a community-created interactive collection of mapped assets celebrating the multi-generational Black history and culture in the Hoover Foster neighborhood of Oakland.

It captures oral histories and documents the lives, art, and culture of long-time residents and local historical figures. The goal is to reinvigorate and raise awareness about rapidly disappearing Black cultural spaces.

The tour is led by its creator, David Peters, a third-generation resident of the Hoover-Foster neighborhood. It takes about two and a half hours and tops at ten historically significant locations.

The tour is sponsored by the West Oakland Cultural Action Network (WOCAN), whose mission is to preserve and uplift the socio-cultural, political, economic, and social conditions of the Hoover, Clawson, and McClymonds neighborhoods. Donations will help to fund public scholarships for these important walking tours.

Black Liberation Walking Tour leader speaks to a group of participants while giving a tour outdoors.

Community Kitchens

Community Kitchens is a nonprofit food justice organization that has operated a free, accessible meal program in Oakland since 2020. They bring together restaurants and grassroots organizations to feed people left behind by other food programs especially the unoused and low-income youth.

Their Free Meal Program focuses on the whole person's health and offers nutrition, spirit-seeking dignity, and opportunities for community inclusion. Their goal is to create new foodways for communities where existing options are reinforced marginalization and contribute to persistent food insecurity.

Woman holding community kitchens flyer next to a table of donated meals.

past winners

Alameda County Community Food Bank

For 35 years, ACCFB has remained steadfast in its belief that food is a fundamental human right. They distribute millions of healthy meals annually, serving one in four residents of Alameda County, and are at the forefront of new approaches to ending hunger and poverty.

Every morning, dozens of trucks arrive at their Oakland warehouse filled with fresh fruit, veggies, milk, eggs, bread, and so much more. They distribute enough food to serve more than 70,000 people a day. Every day, thousands of pounds of food leave their doors and fill countless tables and cupboards in our community. ACCFB also partners with more than 200 food pantries, hot meal programs, senior centers, and other non-profits to distribute millions of pounds of food every year.

READ MORE > Oaklandish Support for Alameda County Food Bank.

food bank employees in warehouse and kid holding an envelope with donation

Rightnowish Podcast and Radio Show

Rightnowish digs into life in the Bay Area right now… ish. Every week, Journalist Pendarvis Harshaw, host of Rightnowish on KQED-FM,  talks to movers and shakers about how the Bay Area shapes what they create and how they impact the place we call home. 

Read More > We are Oaklandish: Pendarvis Harshaw, Radio Host & Writer. 

Asian Health Services

Asian Health Services provides health, social, and advocacy services for all regardless of income, insurance status, immigration status, language, or culture. Their approach to wellbeing focuses on whole-patient health, which is why they provide more than primary care services, including mental health, case management, nutrition, and dental care to more than 50,000 patients in English and 14 Asian languages.

They also recognize that a patient’s health is directly linked to their social and economic circumstances. They are dedicated advocates promoting policies that make our communities safer and healthier places to live. 

Youth ALIVE!

Youth Alive's mission is to prevent violence and nurture young leaders. They have worked as mentors, youth leaders, counselors, case managers, intervention specialists, and violence interrupters since 1991. Their work helps violently wounded people heal themselves and their community.

They believe that young people growing up and going to school in Oakland's most violent neighborhoods possess the power to change the city for the better. Youth ALIVE! Meets clients where they are, at home, in school, at the hospital bedsides of young shooting victims, on the streets of our most dangerous neighborhoods.

Their frontline staff is made up of men and women who grew up in the communities they serve. Some are former victims, some former gang members. All are highly trained in the best practices of their profession. They bring not judgment but only understanding, knowledge, and a path to greater peace for traumatized individuals and the city.

three smiling people, pink wall, one wearing a black Oaklandish beanie

Loved Twice

Loved Twice collects gently-used baby clothes in sizes 0-12 months, then sorts them into boy and girl wardrobes-in-a-box, to be distributed through social workers in hospitals, shelters, and clinics. They support disadvantaged babies while reusing thousands of onesies, swaddling blankets, and babywear that would otherwise end up in landfills.

All collected baby clothes are given directly to newborns in need. The clothes are often given to new mothers when they leave the hospital so that their babies have what they need as quickly as possible.

woman in front of boxes of donations

Camp Reel Stories

Camp Reel Stories is closing the gender gap in the film industry and is shaping the next generation of female filmmakers with an eye on a more equitable horizon. This nonprofit organization also empowers women to create their own media, view current media critically, and motivates them to aspire to leadership in their field. They believe that if women and girls are better represented behind the scenes in the media, they will be better reflected on the screen.

At the Camp Reel Stories programs, girls work in small, collaborative groups to write, shoot, edit and broadcast their own short films. These programs are led by media industry professionals who understand that young women have stories to tell, that their ideas have value, and that their audience is waiting.

students brainstorming


dNaga works in partnership with EastSide Cultural Center to offer the GIRL Project, which serves girls of color, ages 11-14, living in East Oakland. The GIRL Project empowers young girls by hosting free dance workshops taught by women of color who are acclaimed artists and activists in their fields. GIRL Project programs also enable young women of color to have fun and play while learning practical skills like self-defense, bike safety, urban gardening, and urban planning.

All programs are offered when Oakland Unified School District is closed to provide food and activities for these girls while parents are at work. They also offer healthy food through free snacks and lunches. Through these practical classes and interactions, they hope to inspire a new generation of empowered girls who are passionate about reinvesting in the East Oakland community.

students dancing

Upward Roots

Upward Roots' mission is to teach Oakland youth to be leaders and changemakers via youth-led community service initiatives delivered in partnership with Oakland Title 1 public schools. They've designed community engagement curricula for students in grades 4 to 8 focused on leadership and community service.

Participants identify issues they are passionate about in their communities and design and implement service projects to support those needs. Participants also develop social-emotional skills such as empathy, critical thinking, communication, and teamwork. 

person tutoring a young student


Gameheads is working to create a world where young people of color and low-income youth thrive in the tech and video game industries. They use video games to engage and train Bay Area youth ages 11 to 25 in skills like coding, design, animation, project management, and teamwork. 

Gameheads’ students use video games to tap into Oakland's rebel culture and learn to produce socially responsible games that express their culture, family, and community. In addition, they receive educational counseling, one-on-one mentorship from game developers, and direct involvement in some of the industry's most exciting gaming events. 

Outdoor Afro

Outdoor Afro is the leading national network celebrating and inspiring Black connections and leadership in nature. Outdoor Afro helps people take better care of themselves, their communities, and our planet by lowering barriers between black people and nature. 

group photo of happy members including founder

Ever Forward

Ever Forward Siempre Adelante (EFSA) is a mentor-led youth development program for at-risk middle school and high school age boys. EFSA aims to address the underlying causes of high school dropouts, the growing achievement gap of inner-city youth, and youth violence in a preventive manner by providing young men with tools, support, and a safe place to openly share their emotions and build character. 


MISSEY motivates, inspires, supports, and serves sexually exploited youth. It was founded by two survivors and two allies who came together to help victims and center the voices of survivors. Since its inception, MISSSEY has served nearly 1,000 young people in what the FBI has identified as one of the nation's top hubs for human trafficking. 

They exist to provide services to commercially sexually exploited victims and work for systemic change on behalf of the youth we serve. MISSSEY envisions a world without commercial sexual exploitation of children.

The Oakland Public Education Fund

The Oakland Public Education Fund provides several services that support Oakland schools. Since 2003, they have raised more than $50 million to put the right tools in students’ hands. 

This includes managing the Oakland School Volunteers program, which ensures that volunteers are appropriately screened and also helps to place them with teachers or principals looking for help. They also started an A to Z Fund, which gives mini-grants to schools with low operating budgets to continue to offer programs like field trips, music programs, and teacher development training. 

teacher in classroom, seated, reading to kids sitting on floor

Trees for Oakland

Trees for Oakland builds and sustains urban forests in Oakland by planting and maintaining trees in the city, emphasizing areas with limited canopy. Since its inception in 2017, Trees for Oakland has planted more than 70 trees in and around Oakland. They primarily focus on east and west Oakland, areas that historically have the least number of trees. Its mission is to educate people about trees, combat climate change, and provide a more equitable distribution of trees within Oakland.

Hack the Hood

Hack the Hood introduces low-income youth of color to careers in tech by training them to build websites for local small businesses. They host workshops to teach young people technical & professional skills, provide them with a peer community, and career coaching and mentoring. They host six-week-long workshops to give young people valuable hands-on experience, build a portfolio, learn about opportunities in the tech industry, and build technical, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills.

participants using computers in a classroom

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland 

The Boys & Girls Club of Oakland’s simple mission is to help youth grow up to be positive contributors to society. Founded in 1941, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland is committed to providing support and guidance to youth from all backgrounds, particularly those from disadvantaged circumstances. They serve over 2,500 kids ages 6-17 annually by giving them a safe place to learn, grow, and prosper through ongoing relationships with caring adult role models.nd lend a helping hand.

Level the Playing Field

Level the Playing Field is an Oakland-based non-profit committed to eliminating the barriers underrepresented people of color face in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The organization was founded to address the issue of for-profit businesses' inability to foster diversity. They tackled the problem from a different vantage point using rigorous study methods to determine why diversity efforts fail and understand how they may succeed. The

Town Kitchen

The Town Kitchen is a community-driven food company on a mission to empower underserved youth in the Bay Area. It employs and trains our youth by delivering chef-crafted meals to wholesale and retail customers. The organization addresses a need in the Bay Area area for locally-sourced meals, livable-wage jobs, and job training programs for local youth.

Hidden Genius Project

Hidden Genius recruits and trains volunteers to provide high-quality academic tutoring for homeless children in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. They also offer all of their student's grade-appropriate backpacks, school supplies, and books throughout the school year. Additionally, they provide homeless students opportunities to participate in extracurricular enrichment activities like field trips, summer reading clubs, and family reading nights.

hands in fromnt of laptop open, in front of screen, in classroom

Omni Commons

Omni Gardens is a progressive multi-disciplinary community space. It includes a citizen-run science lab, DIYbio space, print studio and bindery, health and wellness center, the Food Not Bombs kitchen, a celluloid film lab, and a worker-owned cafe and bookstore. There is also a grand ballroom to host gatherings and celebrations.

Destiny Arts Center

Destiny Arts Center’s mission is to end isolation, prejudice, and violence in the lives of young people. They offer dance, theater, and martial arts classes for youth ages 3 to 18. Destiny’s movement arts classes are taught by professional working artists. Movement programs are integrated with a violence prevention curriculum offered during after-school hours when youth are most vulnerable to violence. 

Mamacitas Cafe

Mamacitas Cafe is an Oakland-grown enterprise that hires and trains women, ages 16-24, to run a mobile cafe. Through employment, training, and mentorship, they provide meaningful solutions to the city’s high unemployment rate while encouraging employees toward their higher goals and aspirations.

Cat Town

Cat Town partners with Oakland Animal Services to help rescue the cats who are least likely to be adopted from the city shelter. The Cat Town Cafe is a fun way to showcase the cats, get them adopted and highlight their mission.

International Black Women's Film Festival

The International Black Women’s Film Festival explores the social, aesthetic, and political contexts of Black women in society through film, television, and other media. The festival has screened over twenty-five films and has showcased a multitude of panel discussions, championing global and local independent filmmakers, many of whom are Oakland residents. The organization aims to provide these filmmakers with a professional visual forum to help generate a new audience of moviegoers who demand better representation of Black women in the media.

Bay Area Spartans Midgets

The Bay Area Spartans Football program is a progressive athletic organization dedicated to providing healthy sports activities, in a safe environment, to urban youth, between the ages of 5-14. They take pride in helping each participant develop self-worth, self-discipline, teamwork, leadership qualities, and physical fitness. 

Zoo Labs

Zoo Labs is a music accelerator located in West Oakland. They are a thought leader in the Bay Area music scene and provide a gathering space for music fans through their Release Day concert series and other events. Their Zoo Labs Music Residency offers music-making teams the space needed to record. They also provide professional guidance to help focus creative minds on business strategies.

Critical Resistance

Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the prison industrial complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. Instead, they believe that basic necessities such as food, shelter, and freedom are what really make our communities secure.

The Estria Foundation

The Estria Foundation creates art in public spaces with artists, youth, educators, and activists to raise awareness and inspire action in the movement to resolve human and environmental issues.

The Khadafy Washington Foundation

The Khadafy Washington Foundation was founded to honor Marilyn Washington Harris’s son, Khadafy Washington. He was shot and killed in West Oakland on August 4, 2000. The foundation aims to be a catalytic agent in preventing the murders of young people in our communities.

Street Level Health Project

Street Level Health Project is an Oakland-based grassroots organization dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of underserved urban immigrant communities in the Bay Area. They offer health care to the uninsured and provide health care education while working to break down institutional and systemic barriers to health equity.

man marching in street with crowd, speaking into a bulllhorn

Planting Justice

Planting Justice is a grassroots organization working in North Oakland to solve the urban hunger crisis. In addition to creating green jobs in edible landscaping and grassroots organizing, Planting Justice increases access to healthy food and offers environmental education and green entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged communities.

Town Park

Town Park was created in 2007 by local artist and arts educator Keith "K-Dub" Williams with the help of the local skateboard community at the historic De Fremery Park in West Oakland. Their goal was to create a facility that enabled young people to skate in their own community instead of traveling to nearby parks. The site is now a destination park for many local youth and adults of all ages, skill levels. It's a hub where everyone can come together to learn and showcase their skills. 

Founder of town park, k-dub, holding up a branded skate deck on site.

Caught in the Crossfire

Caught in the Crossfire is a hospital-based intervention program that hires young adults who have overcome violence to work with youth recovering from violent injuries. These highly-trained Intervention Specialists offer long-term case management, links to community services, home visits, and follow-up assistance to violently injured youth. The purpose is to promote positive alternatives to violence and reduce retaliation, re-injury, and arrest. This program was the first of its kind in the nation and the inspiration for creating the National Network of Hospital-based Violence Intervention Programs.

25th Street Collective

The 25th Street Collective is a sustainable business incubator whose mission is to bring job-creating industries back to Oakland. Their Innovators grant funded a pilot program to reinvigorate high-tech garment manufacturing in our city. The program focused on producing custom-made, sustainably-sourced garments while educating local youth about sustainable business practices. The program aims to create quality inner-city work opportunities while introducing Oaklanders to local, made-to-order clothing.

Oakland Art Murmur 

The mission of the Oakland Art Murmur is to increase widespread awareness of and participation in the arts in Oakland. Their outreach efforts include a monthly First Friday Gallery Walk and Saturday Stroll, which provides free public programming such as artists' talks, concerts, and tours.

two people, one on ladder, painting a mural on the side of a building

Oakland Local

Oakland Local is East Bay's non-profit independent news and community site.  They combine original writing, reporting, and discussion of issues with a solid commitment to training people of color and under-served communities in digital storytelling and social media.

Brett Cook Reflections of Healing

Reflections of Healing is a community-building initiative that initiates the collaborative development of large-scale public works featuring Bay Area residents focused on healing. The project culminates with both temporary and permanent installations of the pieces across Oakland.

Agricultural Institute of Marin - Grand Lake Farmers Market

The Grand Lake Farmers Market in Oakland is widely acclaimed as the best farmers' market in the East Bay. It welcomes over 44 local farmers, 30 specialty food purveyors, and a handful of local artisans.

My Yute Soccer

My Yute Soccer helps improve the quality of life in Oakland by providing high-quality soccer camps at no cost to families. Not only do children learn about soccer, they learn more about diversity issues within their community.

kids playing soccer in front of a goal on an outdoor grass field

38th Notes

38th Notes is an online resource center dedicated to curating Oakland’s fantastic urban arts and culture canon. It reaches an international audience via a local lens by paying tribute to past innovators and documenting today’s emerging hip-hop culture with depth and detail.

Oakland Digital Arts & Literacy Center

ODALC is committed to empowering citizens with digital literacy, professional skills, and mentoring services while nurturing community building and volunteerism.  ODALC makes education more relevant and provides participants with the tools to be effective 21st-century citizens and productive members of the digital economy.

Youth Radio

Youth Radio is a youth development organization offering free services to the community to prepare young people for pathways to meaningful careers. Remix Your life is a project that explores the creative spaces between traditional case management, therapy, the literary arts, and slam poetry.

The Bikery

The Bikery offers middle school students the opportunity to earn a customized Donk bike they build themselves. The experience teaches the value of work, the pride of ownership, and the feeling of freedom that comes from riding a bicycle.

Planting Justice

Planting Justice creates energy and water-efficient gardens that demonstrate how to grow a complete nutritional diet in urban neighborhoods. They host food justice workshops exploring permaculture design, the connection between food and cultural heritage, and food and social justice movements.

Dimond's Hidden Jewels Mural

The art students of Sequoia Elementary School used their Innovators grant to create a 60-foot long mural depicting the history of Oakland's Dimond neighborhood from the native Ohlones until today. 

Oakland Urban Paths

Oakland Urban Paths is a group of dedicated walkers, planners, and historians whose shared mission is to maintain and celebrate the heritage of Oakland's paths and stairways. These urban paths weave together neighborhoods and are essential to our social infrastructure.

woman standing outside with headset talking

Oakland Underground Film Festival

The Oakland Underground Film Festival emphasizes local filmmakers and shows films that entertain, educate, and inspire. In addition to the annual event in September in Jack London Square, the OUFF produces original works and hosts events and presentations throughout the year.

Oakland Leaf

Oakland Leaf cultivates community transformation through creative education for youth and families. Oakland Leaf offers culturally relevant school and community-based programs rooted in interweaving the challenges faced by the community.

Children's Fairyland

Since 1950, Fairyland has been the place, on the shores of Oakland's Lake Merritt, where children’s literature comes to life with whimsical storybook sets, gentle rides, friendly animals, and wonder-filled puppet shows. A place for kids to be kids, where over 7,500 low-income kids are admitted each year at no charge.

Walk Oakland Bike Oakland

WOBO's mission is to improve neighborhood livability and vitality by making Oakland a better place to walk and bike. Their Oaklavía event is a car-free event for recreation and community building on city streets. Roadways become opportunities for strolling, cycling, roller skating, hula hooping, dancing, board games, or people-watching.

guy standing behind a bike holding signs in spanish.

The Kung Fu School

The Kung Fu school Kajunekbo Kwoon opened in North Oakland in 2006. The Oaklandish Innovators Award grant helped fund the Kung Fu Grocery Summer Camp. This neighborhood-based project aims to give kids ages 6-16 the opportunity to practice Kung Fu and learn practical skills to earn their own money. The program includes Kung Fu workouts and other sports activities, math practice, and cooking healthy snacks to sell at the student-run store. 

Just Cause Oakland

Just Cause is a powerful voice for Oakland's low-income tenants and workers. They help residents advocate for housing and jobs and mobilize for policies that produce social and economic justice. 

Youth Spirit Artworks

Youth Spirit Awards is an interfaith youth education and jobs program working to empower and transform the lives of homeless and low-income young people. Their innovator grant helped them create permanent outdoor art benches focused on health. This is a key historical and social issue that references the health-related outreach done by the Black Panthers.

Scraper Bikes

The Scraper Bike movement gives East Oakland youth a positive, fun, educational place to be while promoting healthy lifestyles. Founded by Tyrone Stevenson Jr., this grassroots movement seeks to empower youth through the artistic re-creation of bicycles. The goal is to support youth entrepreneurship and cultural innovation. The Scraper Bike movement could have only been founded in Oakland, where discarded items are rendered beautiful and uplifting through the creative hustle of its citizens. 

A long row of kids outside, posing with the scraper bikes they designed.

Digital Underground Storytelling for Youth

D.U.S.T.Y. is an afterschool program for middle and high school students in Oakland. DUSTY students work on computers to create their own Digital Stories and generate rap and hip hop beats and rhymes. Through the creative process, students learn to master programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Premiere, iMovie, and Fruity Loops with the help of skilled instructors. At the end of each semester, the students' creative masterpieces, including digital stories, raps, beats, and performances, are showcased in events at The Parkway Theatre, The Metro, and other local venues. 


SpaceShare develops environmental networking tools that help people connect, travel together, and save resources. They look for existing communities that can support a carpooling system and, in turn, be strengthened by the connections created. The Innovators Awards Grant enabled them to design and implement a carpool system for an East Bay faith community. Our grant funded a pilot ride-sharing program that we hope will spread to communities across the country and beyond. 

WAGES: Women's Action To Receive Economic Security

The mission of WAGES is to promote the social and economic empowerment of low-income women through cooperative business ownership. Its mission is to develop eco-friendly house cleaning companies that provide stable, safe, and dignified work while protecting the environment. With WAGES' assistance, women move out of poverty through cooperative ownership. They use the collaborative model to allow women to pool their skills and work together to succeed. 

East Bay Asian Youth Center

The East Bay Asian Youth Center is a non-profit community-building organization based in Oakland's San Antonio neighborhood district. E.B.A.Y.C. has a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multilingual membership of over 700 Oakland families involved in one of five after-school learning centers located at Franklin Elementary School, Garfield Elementary School, Manzanita Elementary School, Roosevelt Middle School, and the East Bay Asian Youth Center. E.B.A.Y.C. also has a membership of over 100 families who participate in R.I.S.E., an after-school learning center at Berkeley High School. 

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