by JR Valrey, People’s Minister of Information, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau
Greg Hodge is well known throughout Oakland, Calif., as a community father and pillar; he may be best known as the leader of the African-centered Wo’se Church, which houses the African-centered school Ile Omode.
Alongside other prominent Black candidates for mayor such as City Councilman Loren Taylor, City Councilwoman Treva Reid, human rights lawyer Alyssa Victory, and entrepreneur and restaurateur Derreck Johnson, Greg Hodge is placing his bid in the hat to rescue a town that Mayor Libby Schaaf has run roughshod over and left in tatters over her eight-year tenure.
Although I have known Greg Hodge to be an honorable man over many years, I still asked to interview him, so that his politics can be spelled out for the community. “Being Black is necessary, but it’s not sufficient,” is a quote by political prisoner Imam Jamil Al-Amin, also known as H. Rap Brown, that comes to mind every time I think of Black people in the U.S. running for a position in electoral politics. Check out Greg Hodge in his own words.
JR: What inspired you to want to run for mayor during the upcoming election?
Greg: I am running for mayor because I love Oakland – its people, its distinct neighborhood life and the spirit that makes us who we are. I believe in Oakland’s ability to rise, and our leadership needs to show that.
I love our town because of its people. We are an amazing diversity of cultures and experiences that make us a rich expression of the best of humanity. We raise our children here to be committed, caring, loving people.
We honor and take care of our elders here as we listen and learn from them. We make art together. We make music together. We laugh together. We cheer our teams on together. We support one another. We cry together. We fall down and pick ourselves up, together.
I love our city because of its land. Lake Merritt is our jewel. Our city and regional parks are wonderful spaces for holding us, grounding us. These are the places where we play, where we sit, where we eat, where we rest, where we share, where we renew ourselves. Our neighborhoods are full of depths and dimensions, each unique in both challenges and opportunities.
Schools are more than just places where students go to learn: they are hubs of our neighborhoods.
I love the array of experiences that we can share, from the views in the hills to the murals along city streetscapes, from the gardens and green spaces to the realness of The Town’s outdoor community living rooms. We are a one-of-a-kind place. Our spectacular racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, faith, ability and age diversity make up who we are and why we stay here.
I love our city because of our incredible youth, educators and schools. I know that a lot of people in Oakland are seriously hurting over what is happening to our neighborhood schools. Schools are more than just places where students go to learn: They are hubs of our neighborhoods.
For many of us, they are our second homes. I know this is deeply personal. I believe that we must have a process that includes community input and support for equity and thoughtfulness.
I will advocate for the resources needed to fully finance our community schools. What a mayor can do is fight for resources, be responsive to the community by ensuring voices are heard, and bring innovation when our community’s needs demand it. We can find resources and innovation to help our school district to be accountable and responsive to our vibrant communities.
Because I love Oakland, I want to see us do better. I want to see all of us shine! I want to make economic and social justice real. I want us to be safe. I want us all to have a decent home to live in. I want us to live in a clean city.
I want to see us work together to cultivate hope. I want to see us heal together – to attend to what hurts, to address what causes us pain, to find ways to manifest a brighter future. For all of us.
Because I love Oakland, I want to serve as your next mayor. I want to deepen my service to the young people I have met over the years in our neighborhoods, schools and youth development centers. I want to broaden my service to the elders of this city who deserve the best of what we can offer them.
I want to bring our arts community to the center of the healing that we all know that we need. I want to use my skills to help us arrive at a consensus for what makes us better on this common ground.
Over the past 40 years, I have worked in leadership positions for a range of community and governmental organizations locally and nationally. I have worked as a facilitative leader who builds consensus, an advocate for progressive policy and an implementer of effective programs. I have supported others with healing approaches and brought artistry to every endeavor.
In each of the roles that I have played, I have learned important lessons that have informed my work with the practical skills and real-world experiences that have prepared me to take on the challenge of uniting Oakland to make life here in The Town better for everyone.
I co-chaired the COVID Advisory Group convened by the Alameda County Health Department and led the African American Response Circle – which raised and distributed $1.1 million in resources that were deployed in the community.
I recognize that everyone in Oakland, in one way or another, has been affected by the COVID pandemic. These past few years living through a pandemic has hit everyone hard. I am running at this time because I feel what I can offer right now are skills as a facilitative leader, informed by years of community leadership experience and a balanced temperament which is grounded in love.
I have gained invaluable insight and experience over the last two years in joining in with and leading a local response to the COVID pandemic. During this pandemic, I worked with the COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force convened by the City of Oakland and the County of Alameda; I co-chaired the COVID Advisory Group convened by the Alameda County Health Department and led the African American Response Circle – which raised and distributed $1.1 million in resources that were deployed in the community. Additionally, AARC has created a $100 million investment plan for the Black community.
What these past two years have demonstrated to me is that Oaklanders are strong. We are resilient. We are willing to work together to solve the challenges that lie ahead. I believe that we are becoming stronger together and can rise to the challenges of creating a more inclusive, equitable and thriving Oakland. I also believe that I can help make that happen, which is why I am running for mayor.
JR: How has your history of community service helped you in understanding who lives in Oakland?
Greg: I have served as a community leader, consensus builder, facilitator, healing practitioner, community attorney, policy advocate, cultural artist and youth mentor with 40 years of leadership experience.
From 2001 to 2009, I served on the OUSD School Board. From 2003 to 2005, I served as OUSD board president. I am the owner and principal consultant of Khepera Consulting.
I have served as the chief network officer of the Brotherhood of Elders Network, an intergenerational network of African American men that mentors and supports Black boys and young men of Oakland.
Over the past two years, I have worked as the lead facilitator of the African American Response Circle Fund, which was established by the Brotherhood of Elders Network in partnership with the East Bay Community Foundation.
The AARC Fund was created as a response to the public health and economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on African Americans of Alameda County, a community that was among those hit the hardest during the pandemic. Established in April 2020, the fund has raised a total of $1.1 million for local non-profit organizations that serve African American communities.
My other leadership roles have included being the executive director of the Executives Alliance for Boys and Men of Color; executive director of Safe Passages; executive director of Urban Strategies Council; chair of the Workforce Investment Board; chair Of the Rockwood Leadership Institute; strategist for the California Funders for Boys and Men of Color; strategist for the Equal Voice for America’s Families campaign; strategist for CEO of California Tomorrow and racial equity trainer for the Association of Black Foundation Executives and numerous foundations and nonprofits.
I managed the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth and served as the first director of the Oakland Freedom Schools. I was also the first director of the Oakland Child Health and Safety Initiative, what is now Oakland Thrives and Safe Passages.
The biggest challenges are providing equitable economic opportunity, redefining what keeps us safe and providing shelter fit for human beings – as was articulated by the Black Panther Party in its 10-point plan.
As a cultural artist, I am a founding member-musician for the Bantaba Dance Ensemble. As a healing practitioner, I have served as a lead minister at the Wo’se Community for 23 years. I hold a bachelor’s in psychology from Northwestern University and a J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law.
JR: What are some of the biggest challenges facing Oakland in your opinion?
Greg: The biggest challenges are providing equitable economic opportunity, redefining what keeps us safe and providing shelter fit for human beings – as was articulated by the Black Panther Party in its 10-point plan. Here are some of my ideas about how we approach these issues:
Reimagining equitable economic opportunity
– Improving access to capital with innovative approaches including the establishment of a public bank, a local crypto currency and creating an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District within the city. An EIFD is a tool to fund economic development projects within a geographic boundary using tax increment financing.
– Creating municipal incentives for a BIPOC tech and green tech hub in Oakland to attract venture capital and technology sector investment in the local economy.
– Leveraging federal and state funding for equity-enhancing initiatives to attract underrepresented business enterprises to invest in Oakland’s post-pandemic revitalization.
– Helping interested residents develop an array of work skills so they can thrive and help boost the local economy. Bolstering the city’s community-based jobs training and increasing entrepreneurship opportunities.
– Investing in and growing the city’s arts and culture economy to its fullest potential. Increasing financial and community support for Oakland’s emerging arts districts.
– Ensuring equitable participation of women and minority-owned businesses in the city’s procurements and development agreements.
– Crafting a compassion-led, comprehensive approach to community safety that includes shoring up the mental health, social and economic safety net in partnership with the county government to keep our neighborhoods safe and healthy.
– Fully implementing the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland MACRO program. MACRO is a community response program for non-violent, non-emergency 911 calls. It aims to meet the needs of the community with a compassionate care first response model grounded in empathy, service and community.
– Ensuring full funding for the city’s Department of Violence Prevention. Prioritizing combating domestic violence, street outreach and other proven violence prevention strategies.
– Prioritizing how law enforcement resources are deployed to ensure focus on serious crimes, improving response times and coordinating with other community-driven crime reduction efforts.
– Establishing a city-wide beautification effort that engages neighborhood clean-up crews, public art installations, neighborhood-based arts festivals and small business facade improvements.
Reimagining thriving neighborhood school
– Boldly advocating for the necessary resources from state, federal and philanthropic sources to fully finance our community schools.
– Leading a meaningful equity assessment of how our schools are serving our most vulnerable students and families.
– Connecting county and city resources to improve the conditions of neighborhoods surrounding our city’s schools.
– Providing parents and students with ample opportunities to voice their ideas to find sustainable solutions to the challenges of creating culturally competent, safe and enriched learning environments at every neighborhood school.
Reimagining how we shelter
– Crafting a comprehensive policy for providing our unhoused fellow neighbors in Oakland – our city’s most vulnerable residents – with decent housing fit for the shelter of human beings.
– Working in collaboration with business and community partners to:
- Produce more affordable homes.
- Preserve existing housing that’s affordable.
- Protect people from unaffordable rent increases and unfair evictions.
- Improve and implement the City of Oakland’s Encampment Management Policy.
JR: What is your position on building the Oakland A’s a new stadium?
Greg: I think that a better outcome would have been to rebuild at the current Coliseum site. As the Howard Terminal effort goes forward, I believe there are significant questions that need to be answered that have been asked by the community, especially West Oakland residents, regarding community benefits, including constructing significant affordable housing units, environmental concerns and real economic benefits to Oaklanders.
JR: Are you for defunding the police or increasing the police presence in Oakland? Why?
Greg: I support re-investing resources in our community through the Office of Violence Prevention. I think we need to re-deploy policing resources in a balanced fashion, in ways to support community safety. See my response in number three for reimagining safety.
JR: What are your ideas around youth employment?
Greg: See my response in number three for reimagining equitable economic development. We need to invest significant resources for summer jobs, internships, entrepreneur development and career readiness.
JR: How is Schaaf’s administration doing in managing Oakland in your opinion?
Greg: It is clear that Schaff’s leadership has not resulted in safe, prospering, well-housed neighborhoods for working class residents, most of whom are BIPOC. We don’t need business as usual. We don’t need political transactions. We need transformative change.
We need hope, we need healing. We need a new vision for what we can be as a city. I love Oakland. I believe in its people. As mayor, I will listen to our collective wisdom, lean in, lift up the best ideas and get things done. Are you ready to be part of something truly transformative? Join me to help our beloved city manifest its full, unrealized promise, for it to be a place that works for everyone who lives and works in The Town.
JR: How can people get more information about your campaign?
Greg: Visit us at www.hodgeforoakland.com.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Facebook and on Instagram @ministryof411podcast. Visit www.BlackNewWorldMedia.com to read more. Listen to the Ministry of Information podcast on Patreon and YouTube, out April 2022.