Sandhya Jha collaborated with the congregation she was pastoring (First Christian Church of Oakland) and a dozen nonprofit organizations to found the Oakland Peace Center in 2012.
The Oakland Peace Center is a physical space and a network of people and organizations. There are also staff and a board whose mission is to breathe life into the building and strengthen the connections among the partners so that together we can create a peaceful and just Bay Area.
This is her story in her own words (edited for space and flow).
I never set out to do peace work. My passion has always been racial justice. But, one of my most formative life experiences was that my college boyfriend shot and killed his best friend on our campus. So, I lost a friend who died and I lost my boyfriend to the prison system.
I was pastoring a very small congregation that owned 40,000 square feet of space in one of the most expensive places in the country to live. They had named their dream for their contribution to their neighborhood as being creating peace in the midst of violence.
So, we got together a bunch of nonprofits that are on the front-lines. We said, “Would there be value to you in having a shared space and greater opportunities to collaborate?”
There was a resounding yes.
When we started talking in 2009, the problem was violence in the streets and the lack of opportunity that led to that violence. Now it’s just a flat-out gentrification and displacement crisis.
We’ve lost 25 percent of the African-American population in what was historically a predominantly African-American community.
What happens if the immigrant justice folks, the Black Lives Matter folks, the folks who are working to increase minimum wage so that people in the most expensive rental place in the country can afford to stay where they have grown up, begin to collaborate?
That’s kind of the dream.
It’s clear that my own story led to this moment in some ways that I didn’t realize as it was unfolding.
I couldn’t have done it by myself, or I would never have tried to do it by myself.
Sandhya’s book, “Transforming Communities: How People Like You are Healing Their Neighborhoods,” is available on Amazon.