In 2020, I got to know an amazing organization that I’m eager to introduce to Lakeshore.
Homies Empowerment is a community development organization based in East Oakland. We believe that everyone has a warrior, healer, hustler and scholar inside of us, and we are in the process of our collective emancipation.
My first encounter with Homies came when I listened to its founder, Dr. Cesar Cruz, preach at a Martin Luther King Jr., service. I remember him sharing about the walls that society puts up all around us to keep us in “our place,” and of the resourcefulness of human nature to build ladders that allow us to overcome those walls. Although I long for the day when we live in a world without walls, the creativity and empowerment of building and sharing ladders to overcome the walls that seek to separate is a powerful vision.
A few months later, shortly after the pandemic shut down life as we knew it, I got a call from a friend asking for food for the community. I dropped off some contributions from the Hunger Task Force Pantry and was again inspired by the makeshift FREEdom Store Homies had created. Outside their building were tables filled with food for the community. Every Tuesday morning, they set up shop and invite people to pick up canned goods, diapers, fresh fruits and more.
In March, Homies was providing $8,000 worth of groceries to the community each week. Today, they provide $40,000 worth of groceries weekly. This short video offers the inspiring vision and work of the FREEdom store to respond to the needs of those deeply affected by COVID’s impact. They have also been able to create a COVID Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to help with utility, rent or mortgage payments.
Last fall, I returned to Homies to introduce them to our friend Oscar, who was looking for work. (If you look closely, you can see him in the video link!) Homies had secured a grant that would cover a number of jobs to expand their work. Oscar immediately felt at home and quickly endeared himself to the community. It was during these visits that I began to see their larger work of mentoring, leadership development and unlocking the inner warrior, healer, hustler and scholar in the young leaders they had cultivated.
I have been so inspired by the work of Homies Empowerment that I’ve invited their founder, Dr. Cruz, to be our guest at Bible Study on Tuesday, June 1, at 6 p.m. Many of Homies’ programs embody the Biblical mandates to welcome the immigrant and love our immigrant neighbors. I encourage you to come to Bible Study (via zoom) to learn more about the amazing work they are doing and how we can work together.
As part of my Anne Braden work, I am working with Homies to fundraise for their FREEdom Store, their COVID Relief Fund, and their Job Opportunities for people like Oscar. If you would like to support the work of Homies, you can do so at www.homiesempowerment.org. You can earmark your donation for any of the three programs I mentioned above, or simply give to the overall work of the organization. If you are able to make a donation, please let me know the date and amount, so I can track my fundraising progress.