Shaniece Alexander is one of HOPE's Steering Committee members, the Executive Director of Oakland Food Policy Council, and a fierce advocate in our Oakland community. One of her most recent advocacy efforts has been drawing much-needed attention to Oakland's issue with illegal dumping. Shaniece first called attention to this issue through an
open letter to Mayor of Oakland Libby Schaaf
, and then through a
follow up letter
that she wrote in response to the now-viral racist actions of a White woman harassing a Black family at Lake Merritt. Both letters address this issue at its root cause and contain practical steps and solutions.
We spoke with Shaniece about her articles as well her thoughts on HOPE's role in seeking solutions for illegal dumping.
Could you describe your relationship and history with HOPE Collaborative?
Oakland Food Policy Council is a long time community food justice collaborative partner and HOPE Collaborative steering committee member. OFPC has held a steering committee member seat with HOPE since about 2010.
How would you explain the issue of illegal dumping in Oakland to a class of 5th graders?
Oakland has been experiencing trouble with people throwing lots of garbage around the city. No one likes trash where they live, walk to school, and play so the community is looking for ways to help clean up the city and make sure people know where to throw their trash away so we can all enjoy a clean environment.
When did you first become aware and involved in the issue of illegal dumping?
As a resident of deep East Oakland, I see parts of the city that have a lot of dumping and others that do not. Unfortunately, where I live, there is a lot of dumping and it makes it difficult to really enjoy Oakland! I have known that dumping has been an issue in Oakland for many years, and through keeping up with community concerns and conversations among elected officials, I have been able to think of some simple solutions. Many are things that the other cities (Chicago and Detroit) I have lived in have incorporated as efforts to keep the city clean.
How has/is HOPE addressing the issue of illegal dumping described in your article?
HOPE's connection to community members is key to understanding how to best solve community concerns. As a policy leader and community advocate, I am committed to creating meaningful opportunities for community members who are most impacted. HOPE is able to get information directly to and from community members and we work together to use these community driven solutions to create policy that works.
How have you seen an impact from the work that HOPE has done?
When I call on HOPE, HOPE shows up! Policy change takes community mobilization. In my role with Oakland Food Policy Council, sometimes it is difficult to connect with community members in a meaningful way. I often look to HOPE to help create transparency among community members and close the gap between what's happening "on the ground" and at the policy level with the City. HOPE is great at mobilizing people, especially youth, to get involved with systems change.
What are some ways that the community can engage in the effort to solve this problem?
It is important that the community think about solutions with both short term and long term impact. What do you want to see happen in your community now (clean, safe places to live, go to school, work? Job creation?) How would you like to see the City of Oakland help you keep your community clean, healthy, and safe? (More trash cans? Community clean up days?) It's great to think outside of the box then let elected officials know! Send them letters, call their office, attend their meetings, and let them know exactly what you want to happen. Sometimes it feels like we go unheard but community voices can really make change.
What are some things to look out for in the future concerning illegal dumping?
Unofficial policing of communities that are impacted by illegal dumping through a possible increase in interaction with the Oakland Police Department (OPD) is a concern. Other than looking for ways to fine people who are dumping, what physical changes is the City making to help keep our communities clean? Are there more trash cans, increased trash pick up? How can Oakland communicate its goals and resources so that community residents can help create healthier communities? Oakland's general fund budget is heavily weighted in funding the OPD, and many community members feel that this is not a good solution. Are there ways to reallocate money that is already being spent to other areas of City resources? We all must pay attention to what our elected officials are proposing and provide feedback to them before ineffective policies are put into place.