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Oakland Community Builds Small Homes With Unhoused Residents

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Oakland residents built homes for unhoused people on a small tract of publicly owned land between 14th and 16th avenues and East 12th street during the MLK holiday weekend.

“If you were inside one of these units and you closed the door, minus what you may hear on the outside in terms of noise, it’s not different from being inside a normal house,” said Ayat Bryant-Jalal, who’s helped to organize the homebuilding project.

Bryant-Jalal, who grew up in San Francisco and then moved to Oakland, is also unhoused.

“I haven’t built my own yet and haven’t had a chance to” said Bryant-Jalal. “I’m in a two-man tent now that’s movable.”

Bryant-Jalal said he wants to build a small home for himself but needs to be mobile now to aid other unhoused people.

About 75 people came to help out on Jan. 18 and 19, and about 50 people showed up on Jan. 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Besides skilled builders, others served food and helped clean up, including Food Not Bombs, which served soup, fruit and bread.

Since the labor and many of the materials were donated, Bryant-Jalal estimates each home cost between $2100-$2500 to build.

Oaklanders, including unhoused residents, had already built three homes prior to the weekend project. By Sunday evening, the builders had constructed most of five new homes. Next weekend they plan to start construction on three more new homes, bringing the total to 11.

The homes are 8 feet by 12 feet and most will house one person. One will house a couple and their new born baby. They are fully insulated against the cold and crafted to reduce fire risk.

Oakland residents paint a mural on the side of a home in The Right to Exist Village on Jan 19. Photo by Zack Haber.

The city’s Community Cabin units, used to temporarily house Oakland residents for up to six months, are 10 feet by 12 feet and can house two people, although they do not allow children. At least three of the residents already housed or set to soon be housed in small homes on site were kicked out of the city’s program after less than a month.

Lifelong Oakland resident Needa Bee helped to set up and promote the weekend’s event, which she called “Guerrilla Housing: Reclaiming Dr King’s Legacy of Radical Housing.” She seeks to help create a community for residents who cannot afford to rent or buy housing in Oakland.

Already experienced in this project, she helped create and lived in a community called Housing and Dignity Village which the City of Oakland destroyed in December 2018.

Bee told the Oakland Post that, after the 11 homes are constructed, the next steps will be to set up a kitchen and a solar shower. She arranged for a portable toilet to be used during the build, fundraising $140 dollars-to rent and service it. She hopes the city will fund the toilet in the future. The community, which is calling itself The Right to Exist Village, is also in conversation about installing solar lights.

The City of Oakland destroyed self-built small homes in Oakland in 2019, based on fire code violations, but people involved in building The Right to Exist Village are using better construction.

“They’re pretty close to code,” said Paul Brumbaum, a lifelong carpenter who is helping on the project. “All these houses have a door plus a window that’s big enough to get out of.”

In order to be fully up to code, the units have to have plumbing and electricity, which is outside of The Right to Exist Village’s current ability. But the insulation and the two exits give them fire protection.

DeGuzman, who says he says he has been homeless for 20 years, recently moved into one of the small homes.

“I want to say thank you to all the people who helped build this place up. You make us proud to be humans,” he said. “I’ve been sleeping like a baby.”

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Oakland Native Serves in Navy’s ‘Silent Service’ of Submarine Technology

A major component of that maritime security is homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., where Zeigler is stationed.

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Justin Ziegler

An Oakland native is serving aboard USS Florida, one of the world’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarines.

Fireman Justin Zeigler, a 2008 Life Academy High School graduate and 2017 University of California, Los Angeles graduate, joined the Navy one year ago.

“I joined the Navy to be a part of something new and completely outside of what I had been exposed to,” said Zeigler. “I really wanted to challenge myself. and I feel the core values of the Navy represent what I strive for.”

Today, Zeigler serves as a machinist’s mate whose responsibilities include working on nuclear propulsion machinery.
According to Zeigler, the values required to succeed in the military are similar to those found in Oakland.

“I learned resilience from my hometown,” said Zeigler. “I think that’s been a part of my life and childhood. It’s what’s keeping me going while serving in the Navy.”

Known as America’s “Silent Service,” the Navy’s submarine force operates a large fleet of technically advanced vessels. These submarines are capable of conducting rapid defensive and offensive operations around the world, in furtherance of U.S. national security.

There are three basic types of submarines: fast-attack submarines (SSN), ballistic-missile submarines (SSBN) and guided-missile submarines (SSGN).

As a member of the submarine force, Zeigler is part of a rich 121-year history of the U.S. Navy’s most versatile weapons platform, capable of taking the fight to the enemy in the defense of America and its allies.
Serving in the Navy means Zeigler is part of a team that is taking on new importance in America’s focus on rebuilding military readiness, strengthening alliances and reforming business practices in support of the National Defense Strategy.

“The submarine force is always out there ready to strike,” said Zeigler.

With more than 90% of all trade traveling by sea, and 95% of the world’s international phone and internet traffic carried through underwater fiber optic, Navy officials continue to emphasize that the prosperity and security of the United States is directly linked to a strong and ready Navy.

A major component of that maritime security is homeported at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., where Zeigler is stationed.

As Zeigler and other sailors continue to train and perform the missions they are tasked with, they take pride in serving their country in the United States Navy.

“Serving in the Navy means being a part of something more than myself,” added Zeigler. “I’m committing to my team, always striving to be better and bringing more to the table.”

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East Bay Area Section of NCNW: 70th Anniversary

Knowledge is Power

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East Bay Area Section of NCNW: 70th Anniversary Flyer

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Events

Ella Baker Center Turns 25

Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

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Michelle Alexander/Photo via pbs.org

Alicia Garza

Co-founder of Black Lives Matter (BLM) Alicia Garza and Michelle Alexander, acclaimed author of “The New Jim Crow,” will join youth justice leader Xochtil Larios to discuss a collective vision for liberation at the Ella Baker Center’s 25th Anniversary Celebration, 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27.

After 25 years of working to empower Black and Brown communities and fighting for a world without prisons and policing, the event will seek to inspire organizers, community members and changemakers to reflect on past victories in the movement for social justice and imagine how to continue moving toward a world based on justice.

The event will include entertainment by musicians, poets as well as comments by founders of the Ella Baker Center, Dianna Frappier and Van Jones. Community members will have the opportunity to join the celebration virtually or in person at Restore Oakland at 1419 34th Ave, Oakland, CA 94601.

The in-person event will be held outdoors and available to vaccinated guests only. 

To RSVP for the virtual event, please email ashley@ellabakercenter.org by Oct. 14 

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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