The Voices of Swan’s Market

 In After School Program, Board Member, Community Initiative, corporate philanthropy, foundations, grantmaking, non-profit, PVF Donors, PVF News, PVF news, teacher grants, Youth Joy and Wellness

Recently, PVF’s Administrative Assistant, Cayman Bentley, attended “The Voice’s of Swan’s Market” event, presented by Chapter 510. The event was a presentation of transcribed audio stories and poetry by Oakland Youth and was curated by Chapter 510’s Oakland Belonging program. Attended by over 100 of their closest family, friends, and community members, several Bay Area high school students participating in the program presented their stories of belonging, Oakland culture, gentrification, heritage and more. “How do we reflect past, present, and future stories into the built environment? How might this process enable place-making, place-holding, and belonging?” – Elena Botkin Levy, Chapter 510 Teaching Artist.


The presentation was in the style of a self-guided audio tour, featuring a map, QR codes with built in stories, and colorful art associated with the stories themselves to create a fully immersive listening experience. It was apparent that all of these students felt an immense sense of pride for their hometown, and wanted to express that through a creative medium. “Belonging is Oakland, the way you know how to move from the border of Berkeley, to the border of San Leandro, It is finding your friends and family on every corner, their smiles greeting you, making you feel seen.” – collaborative poem by multiple program participants.

Many other students used the program as a creative outlet to express their appreciation for the community staple, Swan’s Market, which Chapter 510 is located directly next to. “Swan’s Market is a place of community. Walking into the marketplace gives you a sense of unity. Like you’re being welcomed with open arms. Colorful banners line the streets. Restaurants, cohousing, shop and stores.” – Isis Pascual, Oakland School for the Arts.


Throughout the entire self guided tour, one thing became apparent to me, and that is that Oakland shaped many these students lives in ways that they’ll never forget. They’re inspired the city’s history and it drives their creative expression. “Oakland is known for many things. Not only is it known being the fourth most diverse major city in the US, but also the deep-rooted history of political movements like the Black Panther Party or the music scene which ranges from hip-hop to jazz.” – 15 year old “Town Native”, Phoebe Lefebvre. 


It was also very refreshing to the educators and teaching artist take a back seat and let the students facilitate the presentation. All instructions, conversations, q&a’s, and acknowledgments were led by the students themselves. The Oakland Belonging program has taught these students to be independent in addition to helping them hone their creative expression skills. The presentation was a showcase of the incredible power of youth when they are allowed to embody their passions. I hope to attend more Oakland Belonging poetry and audio story events at Chapter 510, which was funded by Youth Joy and Wellness Grant Fund which Oakland Thrives and PVF, which has been a proud supporter of Chapter 510 for over 10 years, partnered to administer.

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