Oakland, CA – Everyone has a story to tell, a story either based on their life experiences, a story to educate listeners, or just simply a story to entertain others.
Ms. Elisha Greenwell who lives in Oakland, California, has a story to share that includes a little variety of all three, but she is doing it in a unique way by creating a space for African-Americans to tell their story. A story of celebration for who they are, where they come from all that they’ve created as a culture of people.
As the founder and organizer of Oakland’s First Annual Black Joy Parade, Greenwell wanted help to tell a story that people could be proud of far and wide and for years to come. Growing up in Sacramento, Greenwell described her household with a lot of positive energy, “my parents were very encouraging and wanted the best for us, and stressed the importance of an education,” says Greenwell. The love and appreciation she uses to describe her father as being the “best father in the world,” makes her sounds like a daddy’s girl, but the respect and compassion she uses to paint the image of her resourceful and empathetic mother would give one the impression that her mother is her world; not to mention a sister that she proudly claims with a big smile as her true best friend.
Growing up Greenwell enjoyed watching images she saw on television and developing stories of her own to share of them. As she grew older her interest in storytelling was nurtured, and she eventually entered University College of Santa Barbara, majoring in Business-Economics and Creative Writing. After completing her undergrad, Greenwell relocated to the Bay Area for grad school, and then afterward to Portland and then Los Angeles for reasons of life experiences.
Recently returning to Oakland after securing a job with Facebook’s consumer marketing department, Greenwell experienced a cultural shock by observing that Oakland was no longer the city that she once adored so much. Greenwell’s previous stay in Oakland, she states, “I really began to understand and appreciate my Blackness and all its beauty and glory,” which grew to be very special to her.
But the Oakland that she knew wasn’t the same, “I wanted to go back to L.A.,” is what she thought to herself. But after reconnecting with the community, family and friends, she began to feel comfortable once again in the city that she once proudly called home. “Everyone is so positive, energetic, creative and talented, but unfortunately Black communities aren’t at mass right now,” says Greenwell. Throughout the BayArea, the population and essence of the Black community are slowing fading because for one reason or another, but the stories of these communities continue on, and Greenwell wanted to do something to help make sure that their stories will continue to be told.
Inspired by the lives of her parents and grandparents who are actively involved in their communities, Greenwell wanted to do something to celebrate the people and the community of Oakland. And like every entrepreneur, one day she went to bed with a problem and woke up with a solution… a parade.
Greenwell floated around the idea of organizing a parade that not only celebrated the life and well-being of African-Americans but the many stories that the African-American community has to share with the world. Oakland and many other communities throughout the Bay Area became the home to many descendants that migrated to the California Bay Area to work in the shipyards and mines. Over the years the Black community grew stronger and being Black became a very joyful thing and the essence of it was fully embraced by many.
Greenwell wants to bring back that proud notion by hosting the Black Joy Parade in one of the nation’s most profound communities once known for its public display of the Black culture. Regardless of the Black communities’ hardships these past 400 years, Greenwell wants to share their many stories of the joy of who they are, the joys of what has been accomplished, and the joys of just how far they have come to be where they are today.
Since September of 2017, Greenwell has moved full speed with the concept of the parade and seeking support. She has managed to obtain the support of Oakland’s own Oakland Athletics of the Major League Baseball, Facebook, the LGBT community, and much more along with speaking with the office of U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district Rep. Barbara Lee.
A GoFundMe campaign has been established and has raised over $12k of its $50k goal to help pay for the associated cost of the entire event. The parade will be held on Saturday, February 25 at 12:30 pm beginning at the corner of 14th and Alice, and will end on 20th and Broadway with a celebration afterward with tables to play Dominos, Black wineries, food trucks, spoken word poets and more.
Greenwell was asked what is her goal five-years from now, and she tells me, “to be a better version of what I am today and grow with empathy.” One her goals is to one day be able to work with Oprah and learn her “secret sauce.” But with the direction that Ms. Greenwell is going, she will soon have her own homemade sauce and people seeking to obtain it. But after all the praise and credit she is receiving for this growing anticipated event, she herself praise and credits her parents and grandparents as an inspiration and her growing team for continuing support including Stacey Greenwell, Amber Lester, Shavonne Reel- Graham, and Maya Sykes.
The Black Joy Parade is still trying to raise funds to help with the operation of the event. If you would like to make a donation, please click on the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/blackjoyparade
For more information on this event, please click on the following link: www.blackjoyparade.org, and perhaps you can find the inspiration to tell your story. Everyone has a story to tell… What’s yours?
“I think what motivates people is not great hate, but great love for other people.”
::Huey P. Newton::
Co-founder of the Oakland based Black Panther Party for Self-Defense