Joe Perez of Cuba Travel Services, John Albrecht from Oakland International Airport, Carol Steele - Global Exchange, Mike Zucatto - Cuba Travel Services, Isaac Kos-Read - Port of Oakland

A direct flight from Oakland to Havana?  It’s closer than you think!

Yesterday, in partnership with U.S. Representative Barbara Lee, who has a long and progressive history of championing improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba, the Port of Oakland hosted a Community-based round table to discuss how to increase travel between the San Francisco Bay Area/Northern California region and Cuba via the Oakland international Airport. Oakland is the only approved regional gateway for direct flights to the island.

I was proud to be present at this inaugural meeting of the minds and want to report that it was a very productive discussion, in a room that was buzzing with passion and information about why operating these flights would be a great thing!

There were representatives there from many different parts of the community, from religious and community leaders to people representing the health and the medical community, to many of us, like Global Exchange, who have been operating Legal Delegations to Cuba for more than 20 years, offering a wide spectrum of cultural, educational and sustainability-focused trips, with many participants coming from all over Northern California that would jump at the chance to fly directly from the Oakland International Airport!  Also present at this meeting were Joe Perez and Michael Zucatto of Cuba Travel Services, tour specialists with Cuba for many years, that would be operating the charter flight.

This was an excellent opportunity to foster greater ties between our two countries and explore the possibility of history making flights and economic development! Who knows?  Maybe by the time some of our trips are leaving in the Fall, people will be able to fly directly to Havana from Oakland International Airport!  What has been a dream of many of us that work with Cuba, seems to be a very tangible reality in the not so distant future! Thank you Congresswoman Lee for inviting us, and thank you for all of the work that you do to to further develop our relations with Cuba, and untiring efforts to End The Embargo!!

I want to be on that first flight – who’s coming with me?

On November 2, 2011, Global Exchange stood in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland movement and the broader #OWS movement and participated in the General Strike/Day of Action.

We united with thousands to demand an end to corporate greed, bank bailouts, the gross income disparity destroying this planet and a shift to new alternatives for a peaceful and just society. We are the 99% who say enough is enough.

We spent a large portion of the day at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza, seeing friends, meeting new ones, listening to speakers from the stage, joining the various actions throughout the day and as the sun sank we marched with 5000 people to the Port of Oakland participated in the shut down of the nation’s fifth busiest port.

Who showed up? Check out the videos and photos  below to meet some of the people we met yesterday!

Marching in the street we asked young adults, parents, teachers and a Jewish Voice for Peace why they showed up.

Peace Activists!



People of faith!

Stop the pipeline!


GX members!

Mothers and toddlers!




The youth!

Being at the Oakland General Strike/Day of Action for most of the day, you would think that you would be completely exhausted, but surprisingly, when 4 o’ clock rolled around to begin the march to the Port of Oakland the energy was high.

A large group had just returned from the march on the banks where the crowd had shut down the Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Crowds of people had gathered in front of banks singing, dancing and forming chains to prevent people from coming in, thus successfully shutting down the banks for the day.

We had all returned to the corner of 14th and Broadway to cheers, chants, music and excitement as we embarked on the nearly 3 mile march to the Port of Oakland to shut it down.

We all looked around and saw the diversity of the crowd from students, babies in strollers, teachers, union members, and even an 88 year old man with a cane named EJ who had traveled from San Francisco to march in solidarity. Walking side by side with this whole group you started to feel really connected with the strangers around you who were there for a common cause — to show that people power is a strong force to make positive change.

As we kept marching, we turned a corner to cross the bridge toward the port and as we did, there was a collective gasp from everyone turning that corner as we saw the amount of people that were there. As we continued to walk up the slope of the bridge, we kept looking forward and looking back at the crowd that we were part of and it was breathtaking. Throngs and throngs of people kept streaming in with no end. It was hard to tell where it all began or ended. As we looked forward toward those famous Oakland cranes, the sun was setting and everyone was soaking in the feeling of the dawn of something new. There were embraces, smiles, excited chattering and chills running through peoples bodies as we really began to grasp the strength of our numbers.

“The change is finally here.” “We’ve made this happen.” “This is a beautiful thing, and I’m really happy to be sharing this with you.”

People were standing on top of rigs and scaffolding waving flags, cheering, singing and dancing. There were some truck drivers in their halted big rigs honking their horns in solidarity. There were drum circles, encouraging speeches being given and general joy throughout the crowd as the people shut down the Port of Oakland — the 5th largest port in the nation.

Darkness continued to set, and as 8PM approached, an announcement came through the crowd trying to mobilize more people to get to the end of the port to block the shift change. As the call came in, more people marched to the end of the port and successfully blocked the shift change and officially shut down the port that day. Success in mobilization.

As we returned to the Ogawa/Grant plaza, the energy was still high and people were reflecting on the events of the day. We all thought back on the crowds of people, the creativity of the movement and how well we all worked together to get our voices heard around the world in a peaceful manner.

Global Exchange had an amazing time connecting with our Oakland community and beyond to share in the common struggle for peace, social justice and economic equality. We are still trying to look through our loads of photos and videos and will be sharing them with you as we compile it all.

In the meantime, you can look back at all our blogs updates and read our twitter livestream as it happened.

Thank you #OccupyOakland and everyone who made this possible. A new beginning is near.

Good morning Oakland! It’s a crisp and sunny day in the Bay Area. Reports from Oakland say that the intersection surrounding Oscar Grant/Frank H Ogawa Plaza is completely packed with 2000 people.

Angela Davis speaks to Oakland crowd

Angela Davis just spoke at the rally happening now – watch the livestream here. Her words open the day – she said that we DO NOT assent to economic exploitation, corporate inequality nor police violence. She then said we DO assent to community, education – free education, health care – free health care, housing, happiness, hope and future.

The Longshoremen have announced that they have shut down the Port of Oakland.

Flash mob just getting ready … Are you?

We’ll be using our website, blog, twitter account and facebook as a hub of information and live updates, so check in throughout the day. The good folks at Movement Generation have a great list of events posted here.

Mosswood Park in Oakland is about to get hit with a heavy dose of youth driven freshness at this Saturday’s FreshFest 2010. Said to be a Green Festival for the people, the event is set to bring eco-sustainability and environmental awareness into an urban, community-oriented context.

A collaboration between Grind for the Green, Youth Movement Records, Livity Outernational Clothing, Global Exchange, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Oakland Green Youth Media Arts Center, and others, FreshFest is billed to be the largest youth led eco-music festival in the nation.

The FreshFest is the kick off event of the Get Fresh campaign which uses the hip-hop culture to inspire the next generation of leaders to reconnect to the earth, gain knowledge and take action to address environmental issues in their communities. The FreshFest is a unique eco-festival because it speaks directly to groups who have been traditionally left out of the mainstream eco-movement — the youth and communities of color.

According to Zakiya Harris, one of the main drivers behind Get Fresh, change begins with young people.

“Urban youth can benefit from awareness of their environment and education around sustainability issues. Get Fresh is about giving the youth access to information and knowledge about the best sustainable practices. We are lifting up solutionaries and highlighting the work of people of color across the country who are using culturally-relevant approaches to environmentalism.”

By using the ‘fresh’ aesthetic of hip-hop culture for awareness and action, and hip-hop to get the message across the youth have a new way to play an active role in creating change and being part of the solution in the environmental movement.

“We’re bringing back the old-school hip-hop concept of ‘fresh’ and adding an environmental, conscious twist to it. We’re basically saying, it’s fresh to be informed about environmental issues. Conscious lyrics are fresh, and so is organic, locally-grown produce and green fashion.”

And trust me folks, this kick off event is going to be FRESH. There’s going to be a fresh food pavilion featuring locally-grown organic produce, hands-on demonstrations, health and wellness activities, a kids zone, a hip hop competition, and a booth run by the youth of Global Exchange’s Environmental Service Learning Initiative (ESLI) which will showcase solar cooking, bike-powered smoothies and guerrilla gardening tips to green up your ‘hood.

Oh. It doesn’t stop there. There are special guests including NY hip-hop legend Pete Rock who will perform a solar-powered two hour DJ set, and West Oakland resident Boots Riley of the Coup will be hosting the show. Other beats and rhymes will be provided by local artists Erk Da Jerk, Nu Dekades, Do D.A.T., and Holly Saucy. Say word!

So, the only place to be this Saturday August 14th is at the FreshFest in Mosswood Park in Oakland from 12-6pm. Why? Because it’s fresh! And, most importantly because we are reminded that social and environmental justice begins with awareness of one’s environment. By combining eco-sustainability with conscious hip-hop, Zakiya says it

“…brings together the green world and the hip-hop world into one organic, progressive cultural movement. The hip-hop community is telling us, we’re ready to go green, and we’re not only listening, we’re helping them get there with FreshFest.”

My peoples. Believe it. Ain’t no festival as dope as this, it’s just so fresh, so green.

What: FreshFest 2010
When: August 14, 2010 12pm-6pm
Where: Mosswood Park, Oakland (MacArthur and Broadway)
$$$?: FREE

Hear Zakiya Harris speak to OaklandSeen about Grind for the Green.