A Vigil for Jobs Not Jails on Human Rights Day

Last night, 60 community members and faith leaders gathered in front of the Alameda County Administration building in Oakland to demand more funding for jobs, not jails, from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. 

The candlelight vigil was organized by the Ella Baker Center as part of our 50% for Jobs Not Jails campaign, which asks the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to allocate half of their public safety budget towards community-based programs and services that prioritize employment, healthcare, housing, and restorative justice initiatives.

During the vigil, local organizers Maria Dominguez and Darris Young spoke about the challenges formerly incarcerated people face when they are released from prison. In order to get a fresh start and succeed, formerly incarcerated people need access to services like transitional housing and job training.

Instead of awarding the majority of their public safety funding to the sheriff and contributing to the cycle of poverty and incarceration faced by too many Alameda County residents, the county should help prevent recidivism and improve public safety by providing more funding for community-based programs that provide these essential services.

The vigil also included a light projection of "50% for" "Jobs Not Jails," "Books Not Bars," and "Healthcare Not Handcuffs" onto the Alameda County Administration building, to increase awareness of the county's misplaced priorities. 

Despite the rain and wind, members of the crowd raised their candles and sang "We Shall Not Be Moved," led by Sandhya Ja, who is the founder and director of the Oakland Peace Center, and the chair of the Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy.

Andre Wiley, the director of an organization that provides services for formerly incarcerated people, spoke about how essential it is for the county to provide more funding for organizations like his. Wiley's organization Timelist Group, Inc. offers life skills classes, career mentoring, and resume development, but with funding from the county, he would be able to provide transitional housing, mental health counseling, a food bank, and an enhanced work apprenticeship program.

Reverend Jacqueline Duhart from the First Unitarian Church of Oakland led a faith invocation, and asked each community member present to share a few words about how they were feeling and what they were thinking after the vigil. "Books not Bars," "Black Lives Matter," "Freedom for All," and "Community Togetherness" were a few of the sentiments shared by the crowd.

Rabbi Dev Noily from Kehilla Community Synagogue and other faith leaders were in attendance, as well as folks from Genesis, a regional interfaith community organization in the Bay Area.

After everyone shared their thoughts, Leslie Hassberg from Occupella led the crowd in singing Ella's Song. The vigil concluded with Darris Young sharing a quote from Ella Baker: "Give light, and people will find the way."

Please sign our petition and tell the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to prioritize employment, education,healthcare, housing, and restorative justice initiatives to help advance community safety and reduce recidivism.