Staying close to home has a big positive: Becoming familiar with just how much your local area has to offer. And as you do that, you realize how much you can do to support the people and businesses all around you.
This can be summed up by “Spend.Stay.Love,” the campaign organized by Visit Oakland, the city’s not-for-profit Destination Marketing Organization. They’re encouraging East Bay residents to recognize the vitality and resilience of the city and its businesses—and act on it. As they put it, “every dollar you spend in Oakland, stays in Oakland, so show some love to The Town.”
Take the popular Oakland Cocktail Week. This year, it’s extended through Oct. 11, and has accommodated a new environment. “Our goal every year is to help support businesses through unique experiences that allow people to connect with them,” said Raquel Navarro, program development for OCW. “However, this year we had to get creative to still drive traffic and awareness for the local bar community while keeping people healthy and safe.”
That means that all events for 2020 are virtual, but with components that encourage consumers to go to local bars or restaurants to buy. “For example, our virtual cocktail-making classes were paired with cocktail-making kits from participating bars. And our 3rd Annual Town Throwdown is a To-Go Edition this year,” said Navarro. “Folks are encouraged to order to-go cocktails from the list of contestants and vote on their favorite.” Visit www.oaklandcocktailweek.com for more information.
Encouraging networking between local organizations is also part of Spend. Stay. Love.
Oakland Cocktail Week has partnered with the Oakland Indie Alliance (OIA), which “works to help small independent business not only just survive, but thrive,” said Executive Director Ari Takata-Vasquez.
“We know our community wants to show up and support,” said Takata-Vasquez. “It can be so difficult to constantly be bombarded with bad news. In partnering with Cocktail Week, we can make giving and community support fun. Cocktail Week is a place for people to come together and get a taste of the connectedness and community that we all deeply miss.” In return, Oakland Cocktail Week is helping OIA raise awareness and funds for its #KeepItOakland Fund, said Navarro. “The goal is to raise funds that will be distributed as grants to Oakland’s independent small businesses facing hardship.”
It’s a busy time for OIA, which is working hard to support Oakland’s small businesses. “We’re helping both in direct aid, and to clarify and streamline communications to help businesses keep up with the latest developments,” said Takata-Vasquez. OIA is also working closely with Oakland’s Office of Economic Development and the mayor’s office through the “Flex Streets Initiative,” which is expanding the use of sidewalks and streets for use by businesses.
“We’ve helped our members understand the process and see how it can benefit their business,” said Takata-Vasquez. OIA helps build free parklets for small businesses using pro bono expertise and material donations, and is always seeking more partners for this effort, Takata-Vasquez confirmed. Visit www.oaklandindiealliance.com for more information.
Spend.Stay.Love is also promoting the programs of the Black Cultural Zone Community Development Corporation (BCZCDC). One of these is the recently launched “Art for the Movement,” described by the BCZCDC as “ a collaborative initiative to document, preserve and present recent artworks created in support of Black lives.”
This includes the many murals painted by Black artists on boarded-up Oakland storefronts. Said Carolyn Johnson, BCZCDC’s CEO, “We are tracking the art, storing the art, and working with artists and arts organizations to program opportunities for discussion related to the art.” The first of several virtual Conversations for Change, “Honoring the Artists,” is on Oct. 7, 6-8 p.m., followed by “Art and Racial Justice” on Nov. 4, and “Forwarding the Movement” on Dec. 2. Visit https://youtube.be/oyhpnpog8lo for the live discussion.
Jackson noted that the public can also visit the current exhibit at the Peralta Hacienda. “We are working on upcoming exhibits at our Liberation Park,” she said.
The new AKOMA Outdoor Market is another BCZCDC project. A city-owed, 54,000-foot lot in East Oakland is now transformed each Sunday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. into a vibrant marketplace, featuring certified farmers, urban farmers, food vendors, merchants, and nonprofit organizations. Extensive and strict protocols are in place and enforced to protect both vendors and visitors during the market.
The Outdoor Market offers enticements for “early birds” who visit before 9:30 a.m. in the form of raffles and “special items.” Early visitors can also join the Outdoor Market Walking Group at 8:30 a.m., or take an outdoor, donation-based yoga class at 9 a.m.
“This will be an ongoing activity post-pandemic,” said Jackson. “We need an outdoor market in East Oakland to support community and our vendors, many of whom are not able to join other markets.” Akoma means “heart” in a language spoken by the Ashanti people of Ghana, and the market is truly a project coming from the heart of the community, the “Love” part of Spend.Stay.Love. Visit www.blackculturalzone.org for more information about BCZCDC programs.
Spend.Stay.Love has its own page, www.visitoakland.com/spendstaylove/, where anyone can access information about the multiple ways to assist Oakland businesses, with sections including “Culinary Scene,” “Local Shops,” and “Events and Activities” Since many of these need to update hours of service, reservation requirements, and event info frequently, Visit Oakland has added a “call out” to all food & drink and shopping pages to encourage people to call ahead and get the latest information.
Visit Oakland also provides a COVID-19 page that has many resources for locals, visitors, and small business owners at https://www.visitoakland.com/covid19-oakland-travel-updates/.
Watch for our next post, in two weeks, which will feature inside information about this year’s Dia de los Muertos Annual Festival in Fruitvale.