This month, I am taking a short class at Pacific School of Religion (PSR is my home school at the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley). The syllabus for “Social Transformation in Action” describes the course as follows:
Under the PSR Stackable Curriculum, every student will engage in experiential learning during the intersession of their first or second year. This is a chance to get to know local community organizations and different ways in which they seek justice and peace for their neighborhood. The theme of this course is “Centering the Margins”. Students will consider and reflect on what it means to center the margins in community engagement.
Students will engage with the principles of community organizing, transformational change, and community development within a theological and social justice framework. The course begins with two classroom sessions of readings, lectures, and discussions. This will be followed by engagement with Bay Area social justice organizations and movements who will present opportunities for in-the-field work in various topic areas. Students will participate in a variety of activities with different organizations as a method for experiential learning field work. The class will end with a closing dinner and a final discussion and reflection of their experiences over the week.
This is only the second time PSR has offered the class, so our professor Dr. Joyce del Rosario is experimenting with how it should best go. Our home base for the three community days was the Oakland Peace Center, where Executive Director Sandhya Jha was our host. (Oakland Peace Center was also where a different class I was in visited the “Insider | Outsider: Visionary Arts by, for, and about the Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated” exhibit last year.) This week, our class put up posters, helped to create tiny homes and a garden for The Village (which works to create and support curbside communities, aka homeless encampments), visited the East Bay Meditation Center, joined the Martin Luther King Day rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza, and helped run a community vision day for the Oakland Peace Center.
I was surprised at how much press there was for The Village project. Our class ended up in many of the photos. I am in the background of several painting my garden sign:
- “Homeless activists build ‘Right to Exist’ tiny homes in Oakland over MLK weekend,” By Lisa Fernandez, KTVU, Fox-2, 19 Jan 2020
- “Tired of waiting, homeless advocates build unsanctioned East Bay village of tiny homes – Volunteers are building 8-by-12 foot homes on a street median on E. 12th Street,” By Thy Vo, Bay Area News Group, East Bay Times, 19 Jan 2020 (this article was also reprinted by the San Jose Mercury News)
- “Oakland Homeless Group ‘The Village’ Constructs Tiny House Community On Median,” By Jay Barmann, SFist, 20 Jan 2020
- “Volunteers create unapproved tiny home development on Oakland median,” By Matthias Gafni, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Jan 2020
- “Group Builds Curbside Houses to Fight Homelessness in Oakland,” NBC Bay Area, 19 Jan 2020
- “Homeless advocates build unsanctioned tiny homes near Oakland public street,” By Cornell W. Barnard, ABC 7 News, 20 Jan 2020
Now that lectures and community action are done, I need to write my paper!
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27 Jan 2020: added news story