During Black History Month, #EatLearnPlay 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.
Meet Nicholas Williams. Director of Oakland Parks, Recreation, & Youth Development (@oakparksrec), a cornerstone partner of the Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation. As an Oakland native passionate about giving back to the community that raised him, Nicholas has worked for OPRYD supporting Oakland kids to have healthy, active lifestyles by providing programming options for youth and support for thousands of families during the pandemic. We had the opportunity to ask Nicholas about his love for Oakland and Black History Month. Check out what he said below!
In addition to Nicholas’ incredible work with OPRYD and in the community, Eat. Learn. Play. has been a major supporter of their summer camps, have helped refurbish OPRYD play spaces, and have also provided restaurant meals to their families during the pandemic.
Stay tuned this month for more amazing profiles of our friends in the Oakland community.
What do you love about Oakland?
Resilient. Bold. Fair. Diverse. Oakland is where I was born and raised. Oakland taught me as a kid, ‘Play with whoever comes outside!’ Now, faced with all the challenges of an urban city, Oakland still believes. We always show up. We still demand our voices are heard, and we still have a heart for our community. Oakland is the birthplace of ‘Everybody’s Cool.’
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History month is the celebration of Black excellence, both past and present. It is intended to share the champion stories of African Americans. It is a time to celebrate the various African American cultures and values. Additionally, Black History Month is a time to reflect on the journey of African peoples. Perhaps the literary genius of Langston Hughes, and the wisdom and depth of Maya Angelo together paint the most colorful and vivid depiction of Black History Month’s essence. “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair... And still, I rise.”
What does it mean to you personally to be able to support the local community?
When you’ve lived somewhere for a while, you naturally develop a sense of community. When you are blessed to work in your community, it is extra special, and it becomes way more than a job; it becomes who you are. My fondest memories as a child were in the same parks, and community spaces where I learned to ride my bike, where I hit a baseball for the first time, where I made my first bucket, where I made a macaroni necklace for my mom and a paper bow tie for my dad. The work in Parks, Recreation and Youth Development in Oakland is life-changing for all involved.
How is your organization helping kids now that distance learning has become part of their reality?
Distance learning has proven to be difficult for everybody. The kids, teachers, parents, and families are all struggling. During this time, OPRYD has continued to provide programming options for our youth. With a combination of virtual and in-person opportunities, we have still managed to give the most necessary enrichment, physical fitness, and other creative programming to help break the Manitoba of the Stay-at-Home orders. We’ve served over 1 million meals since Covid-19 drastically changed the way we usually functioned. A check-in call from the center to a kid we haven’t seen in a while means so much in these times. We’re just happy to be able to provide resources and support to thousands of families and communities.