During Black History Month, Eat. Learn. Play. is celebrating influential Black leaders in the Oakland community who are doing fantastic work supporting our mission of providing access to the three essential pillars of a healthy childhood — nutrition, education, and physical activity.
Last but not least, meet our very own Courtney Lamar, Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation Associate. Utilizing her love of storytelling and community outreach, Courtney has been instrumental in capturing the voices of those in the Oakland community and sharing them in the most authentic way possible.
Read more about Courtney's work and love for the Oakland community below, and thanks for following along as we’ve highlighted our friends in the Oakland community this Black History Month.
What do you love most about Oakland?
I moved to Oakland four years ago from Memphis, and I was instantly attracted to the people, diversity, culture, talent, and passion Oakland and the Bay Area offer. There’s something exceptional and unique about Oakland and how people go hard for the city. They show up and show out, standing in solidarity for local and national social justice issues, and that’s something I genuinely admire. I look at organizations like The Black Bay Area and Black Organizing Project, even us at Eat. Learn. Play., and many others as they do the work in the community. That is because we believe everyone should have a seat at the table. Oakland is truly resilient.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Being a Black woman, Black History Month means everything to me. The month represents my heart and roots, my struggles and successes. Growing up in Memphis, TN, one of the epicenters of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, you experience the amplification of Black History Month. I grew up tracing my Southern roots through food and music and was always excited as a child by all the momentum and joyous celebrations that came with Black History Month.
While I embody these intentions all year long, Black History Month is also a time to unlearn decades-old normalized racist and anti-Black ideologies that continue to uphold white supremacy. It is a time to ask, in 2021, why is a Black person five times more likely to be stopped without just cause than a white person? Or why do laws have to be passed to stop discrimination of natural Black hairstyles? Or why we have to continue to explain that most times, yes, it is about race.
Thus, Black History Month is also a time to uplift Black history and stories from the Black perspective by discovering new literature and art from Black artists and recognize the work of Black people that too often goes unnoticed.
What does it mean to you personally to be able to support the local community?
I am very fortunate to be able to serve my community through the work I do at Eat. Learn. Play. Over the past year, I have spoken directly with community members, program partners, donors and supporters, students and parents, and even Oakland restaurant owners. I have captured the very real stories and most authentic voices to show how this pandemic has changed lives and that no one is alone in this effort. The impact is more significant than us; it is community-wide. The stories have given a voice to the voiceless, and I have been humbled to hear them first hand. I hope through my work, their stories can inspire others in the community and drive even more impact. That is why I am so thankful to work for and with the Eat. Learn. Play. team to continue making an impact around the Oakland community. Forever grateful.
How is your organization helping kids now that distance learning has become a part of their reality?
I admire the Eat. Learn. Play. team for our collective resilience and passion for supporting our community. Even though we do not brag about ourselves often, we are a small, strong but mighty team that goes hard for kids and families in Oakland. Together, our partnerships in 2020 alone resulted in ELP providing over 15 million meals for kids and families in the Oakland community. Check out our other initiatives on our website, and stay tuned soon for more announcements about our ambitious plans to tackle literacy in Oakland schools in 2021.
Have a question for Courtney?
Connect with her be clicking below!