The project, which was initially called The Holdout, was started in 2011 by a group of mostly white anarchists as a social space, events space, bookstore and bike workshop. The initial project was largely unsuccessful at living up to its goal of being a true community center– in that those representing the space could not address or engage with the issues plaguing the largely black and brown surrounding communities. Through many open discussions that involved diverse individuals and communities, a transformation process occurred in which management of the space changed hands from the original organizers of the space to a group of revolutionary people of color.
These people reorganized, diversified, and reimagined the space, while maintaining principles of non-hierarchical organizing and decision-making. Through this process, our organization reopened its doors as Qilombo, and was reorganized to address the need for a true community center for black and brown communities in February 2014– one that sees its neighbors, one that provides nourishment and empowerment, and one that stands beside them as they face compounding oppressions.
Most importantly, Qilombo opens it doors and provides public space to all peoples during these times of intensive gentrification, systemic oppression, and displacement, while also striving to empower those whose political and economic voices have been marginalized. This has been a long process and is still ongoing as we seek to find more ways to empower our communities. People are increasingly building connections and working to solidify relationships and resources. This kind of work takes time and patience to flourish, and has meant that in a short period of time we have experienced a lot of growth out of our challenges.
Our mission and work have changed over the years in this transition to Qilombo. We now provide space for meetings, gatherings, educational workshops and classes, collectives, and celebrations for our surrounding community. We have language learning courses (KiSwahili), yoga/meditation classes, CPR certification courses, community breakfasts, film screenings, a bike repair collective, a bookstore, a community garden and a “free store” where people can get free clothing and appliances. Our hygiene resources include a needle exchange, feminine products and STI prevention, thanks to The HEPPAC collective on Friday mornings.
With our neighboring mural and our large community garden, we will be hosting new volunteer-run workshops on Decolonial Herbalism and Sustaining Ourselves through Gardening. The garden nourishes the community and is open to the public at all times. All of this is part of the crafting of a new space which will represent and nourish revolutionary potential. We have an excellent selection of books on African liberation, Indigenous liberation, Anarchism, revolutionary movements, critical theory, a choice selection of zines, and some excellent fiction. Come by and read a book, or buy one that you’d like to take home. Lastly, be on the look out for our printing studio and expanded computer stations (in the works!)
Spaces like this are crucial to the ability to support and sustain movements and, importantly, build resistance here in Oakland. And we need your support.
As we begin this new stage of struggle, one that includes creating Oakland’s first Afrika Town, we are asking for the support of comrades from all over the world by becoming Friends of Qilombo and making a one time or recurring donation.
If you have any questions, would like to be added to our announcement list, or would like to host a class, meeting or an event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org