Oakland politics: Rebuilding The Town in 2021 after COVID-19 and protests

Oakland politics: Rebuilding The Town in 2021 after COVID-19 and protests
Photo: MJ Carter
By MJ Carter - Published on March 11, 2021.

So much happened in 2020 that cities like Oakland had to fight to survive, but 2021 is full of hope. The pandemic harmed cities like Oakland in major ways, economically, politically, and socially. And then the death of George Floyd and the protests surrounding it deeply impacted cities across the country, including Oakland.  This added element brought more stress to the community, however, only the strong survive, and Oakland is a strong city. Now, with the vaccine rollout, people are finally able to breathe again. 

According to the Oakland Chamber of Commerce (OCC), “As COVID-19 continues to impact Oakland’s economy, the Chamber will continue to provide resources and programming to support our small businesses and nonprofits through this difficult time.” 

The Chamber is combining efforts to recover economically, to address both COVID19 and last year's protests. The OCC website also states, “Several opportunities are underway to help small businesses impacted by the demonstrations in response to the tragic police killing of George Floyd.” 

The political fallout behind COVID-19 and the protest. Hoodline interviewed former Oakland Councilwoman Lynnette McElhaney, and she spoke about how low-income communities around the Bay are struggling the most due to the pandemic. McElhaney said that she hoped there would not be another uptick in COVID cases, whether due to protests or other causes, and she discussed the trickle-down impacts of the pandemic on the city's small businesses.

"Small employers make up about 50% of our employment, and when they are hit, they are hard hit. They tend to be underinsured, cash-dependent businesses, restaurants, bars, small retail. And without the ability to gain revenue they’re in a devastating community and we are deeply concerned that more than half of them will not be able to survive,” said McElhaney.

The city is facing challenges with the reopening of businesses, and it's all the more important as they reopen that the community comes together to support Black-owned businesses that are struggling. Hoodline spoke to Ira Coogler, the father of Blank Panther director Ryan Coogler, who is a pillar in the Oakland community. He said that many wealthy Oaklander’s just are not supporting small Black-owned businesses.

“I see from the grassroots perspective from my lens... I see several prominent African American, people of color... who still have to eat. You’re still eating through this. You’re still shopping through this... but you’re not spending your money in our community," Coogler says.

Oakland will survive the economic, political, and social fallout that stem from both the pandemic and protest. From the Chamber of Commerce's perspective, the answer is clear: Businesses need to pool their resources if they are to survive. The Oakland City Council is key to making that happen. And community leaders like Ira Coogler will continue to hold people accountable for where they shop.

My question is, what will you do to support rebuilding Oakland? I guess you can start by getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you. I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine and I am prepared to get my second dose in a few weeks. FEMA is helping with the rollout in Oakland, and it seems to be working.