1st Saturdays in Oakland: an interview wit’ founder David Roach

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

David Roach is one of the pillars of the Black community in the Bay, especially Oakland, first with his Mo Betta Food Market, which connected West Oakland’s Lower Bottoms neighborhood with California Black farmers and the historic annual Oakland International Film Festival, which profiles some of the biggest films and names in the Black cinema world. His newest project to date is 1st Saturdays, which he describes in depth. Hear the man and the legend in his own words …

M.O.I. JR: How did you come up with the idea of 1st Saturdays? And what do you do on 1st Saturdays?

David Roach: I came up with 1st Saturdays years ago in response to the First Fridays events I had attended in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles. During those events, mostly African Americans networked in the earlier part of the evening, followed by a party.

1st-Saturdays-chess-tournament, 1st Saturdays in Oakland: an interview wit’ founder David Roach, Culture Currents In those days, I thought it would be cool to host events on the first Saturday of each month at parks and other locations that could include the entire family and community. However, over the years, our organization, The Familyhood Connection Inc., presented a few volunteer efforts on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, aka the official service day, to build or rehab a few gardens.

I noticed from hosting these events once a year that soon after, i.e., a month later, the garden would return to its previous state and thought 1st Saturdays could be a solution to keep these gardens maintained and their volunteers engaged.

M.O.I. JR: What happened last 1st Saturday in November? I know that you had a number of festivities planned.

David Roach: Last 1st Saturdays began with a volunteer effort from 8 to 11 a.m. at Lowell Park, followed by a community fair and farmers market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. During this time, Chef Robert Dorsey presented a cooking demonstration, YMCA a Zumba class and several health vendors joined us to provide the community free health screenings and community information and a youth basketball competition.

The link 1stSaturdays.com/oakland gives you a few video clips of some of these activities of the day.

M.O.I. JR: What do you hope to accomplish with 1st Saturdays?

David Roach: We hope to build healthy economics in Oakland and beyond. Although the 1st Saturdays activity mentioned above was held at Lowell Park, our main focus is to have every school adopt 1st Saturdays as the official volunteer day to recruit and empower the schools, student government association, parent teacher association and alumni association to collaborate and plan and operate at every school site a school garden, farmers market and grocery store.

1st-Saturdays-cooking-demonstration, 1st Saturdays in Oakland: an interview wit’ founder David Roach, Culture Currents This collaboration is what we call The Intergenerational Enterprise, which is the main strategy for 1st Saturdays to create at every school site. This Intergenerational Enterprise governs, plans and operates the food related enterprises – school garden, farmers market, grocery store – at the school site.

M.O.I. JR: How can people support 1st Saturdays?

David Roach: People can support in several ways: Volunteer at a 1st Saturdays event in their community or start one. They can also assist in research – helping us understand what schools have functioning student government associations, PTAs, alumni and which ones don’t. They can also donate to The Familyhood Connection Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation, at http://www.1stsaturdays.com/donate-2/ to assist us financially in our pursuit of spreading 1st Saturdays locally, nationally and globally.

M.O.I. JR: What’s going on with your Made in Oakland brand?

David Roach: The Made in Oakland brand is planning to launch in January 2014. The MadeinOakland.net website is practically ready to promote locally, nationally and internationally products, including films and music, made in Oakland.

Currently, Made in Oakland is also featuring 1st Saturdays as a strategy to make the most important resource in Oakland “The People.” Made in Oakland is in the process of recruiting local businesses to participate in the volunteer efforts of 1st Saturdays as mentioned above to not only improve these enterprises at the school site, but to also connect Oakland youth to many of the local businesses in existence around them. Through MadeinOakland.net’s export link in the menu, one can see other “Made ins” globally, and we are currently connected to bridge products “Made in Oakland” to other markets.

M.O.I. JR: How can people stay up with you?

David Roach: People can stay connected to my affairs at these various websites and twitter handles:

To learn more about healthy economics, please visit healthyeconomics.org and/or purchase the book “The Four Steps of Hotep” at http://adventuresofhotep.com/store for $5.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.