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Oakland Artists Organize a Town Hall to Shape the City Budget

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A mural in downtown Oakland by T. Banks (@reallyfebanksy). (Cianni Jackson)

With the grief and isolation of the pandemic, many have referred to artists as “second responders” to the crisis. It was the creative people in our communities, after all, whose music, poetry and murals got us through this dark time. And in a more literal sense, artists were often on the forefront of protests and mutual aid efforts, advocating for racial justice and community care.

In that spirit, a group of Oakland artists wants to help shape the city’s 2021–23 budget, and they’re planning a virtual town hall to advocate for themselves and their communities on May 25.

Right now, Oakland residents have an opportunity to give their input before the next city budget is set in stone. Mayor Libby Schaaf published her budget proposal on May 7, and it includes a plan to allocate $448,731 for arts grants and events in the 2021–22 fiscal year and $573,930 in 2022–23. More controversially, her budget proposal seeks to increase police spending by 8% at a time when many community advocates have called to reallocate funds from the police to social services. The city council will need to approve the final budget by June 30, and council members are currently soliciting feedback from their constituents.

The Artists in Action virtual town hall on May 25 invites participants to bring their ideas and voices, and join a slate of artists and activists advocating for racial and economic justice. Speakers include pianist and MC Kev Choice, who is on the Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission; artist and activist RyanNicole; liz suk of Oakland Rising, an organization that advocates for low-income people of color; James Burch of the Anti Police-Terror Project and Defund Police Coalition; artist Favianna Rodriguez, who is president of the Center for Cultural Power; and many more.

More details about the town hall can be found here.

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