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.
Meet Yvette Radford. Eat. Learn. Play. Board Member and Vice President of External & Community Affairs at Kaiser Permanente for more than 25 years. Being able to live and work in the Oakland community, Yvette has a deep appreciation for the Town’s deep-rooted history in activism and aspiration to provide equal opportunities for its residents, especially during this Black History Month.
Together, with Yvette’s facilitation, Eat. Learn. Play. and Kaiser Permanente have forged a dynamic partnership to help serve the community. In 2020 alone, Kaiser Permanente provided $1.5 million to fund 150,000 nutritious meals prepared by local restaurants to keep Oakland students and families fed during the pandemic.
Continue reading about Yvette and her community work below. Stay tuned this month for more profiles of our friends in the Oakland community.
What do you love most about Oakland?
I have had the opportunity to both work and live in Oakland and despite the shifting demographics, it remains one of the most diverse communities in the country. I love the city’s food, arts, and rich culture. I remember living in Adams Point and hanging out at Lake Merritt – a place that has always been a jewel and a community gathering place. In addition to being the “spot” to hang out on the weekends, it was home to memorable events like the Festival at the Lake.
Through its various iterations, one thing that is always true about Oakland - it is resilient. The Town picks itself up, stands up for what is right, provides hope and promise for all who live there, and often leads the country in solutions to some of our community’s most challenging issues. For example, the Black Panthers started free breakfast programs in the late sixties to make sure Black children didn’t go to school hungry. As a result, this program’s success put pressure on the government to launch a national program, which today feeds millions of children.
Oakland’s deep roots in activism and aspiration to provide equal opportunities for its residents continue to guide the city today. You can see it in programs like Oakland Promise, which provides a pipeline of support for the city’s children, from the moment they’re born through college.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
This year’s Black History Month comes at a historic time for our country with the racial awakening for Black lives and a pandemic that has disproportionately harmed people of color.
These unprecedented activities make lifting Black stories, voices, and history especially critical this year. Understanding our history and how it led to today’s society better equips us to dismantle the systems that discriminate against and disadvantage Black people and hopefully construct a more equitable post-pandemic world.
Black History Month is also a time to reflect on the history we’re still making today. We witnessed the historic election of our first Black Vice President, Kamala Harris, who was born at Kaiser hospital in Oakland. Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett's work, the scientist who was at the forefront of developing the Moderna vaccine that could help end the pandemic. We also witnessed Black women who successfully organized our community to get out to vote, like Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and LaTosha Brown. It is also a time for joy–a time to celebrate our contributions to art, music, culture, and so much more. You cannot tell the story of America without including Black people. Black history is American history.
What does it mean to you personally to be able to support the local community?
Improving our communities’ health and wellness, and in particular people of color, has always been important to me. I am fortunate to work for an organization like Kaiser Permanente, where improving the community’s health conditions has been embedded in its mission for more than 75 years.
To that end, I am currently co-leading regional and national efforts to address critical issues facing our most vulnerable residents:
Today, these emerging issues now include the pandemic and its disproportionate impact on people of color coupled with the racial justice movement. We have an opportunity to effect lasting change and truly improve the health of the communities we serve. I feel fortunate to be in this position to support Oakland at this critical time in Oakland’s history.
How is your organization helping kids now that distance learning has become a part of their reality?
In addition to supporting Eat. Learn. Play’s efforts to provide food for Oakland’s youth and their families during these challenging times, Kaiser Permanente has supported the Oakland Promise and has helped children, teachers, and schools cope with distance learning through our Thriving Schools initiative. This program allows schools to become healthy vibrant places of learning and development for all. A few of the resources we’ve developed include: