Aztec dancers performing at the 2019 Dia de los Muertos festival in Oakland's Frutivale neighborhood. Credit: Jayasimha Nuggehalli Photography

The city is opening up the application process for its “Neighborhood Voices for Festivals” grant program starting May 16. Now in its second year, the program will provide about  $420,000 in funding for non-profit organizations and community groups that want to host festival events in their neighborhood. 

“This opportunity is grounded in the understanding that our neighborhoods are unique and that manifests through festivals, so we want to strengthen that festival culture,” Roberto Bedoya, Oakland’s cultural affairs manager, said. 

Applicants can apply for a maximum grant of $20,000. Organizations must be Oakland-based nonprofits and all festival activities must be held in the city between July 1, 2022 and June 30, 2023. The program is funded through money allocated from the city’s general budget. Last year, Oakland set aside $316,250 for the first grant round. 

The emphasis is on festivals that highlight cultural heritage practices and public art exhibits that represent Oakland’s communities impacted by racial disparities. 

“Festival culture in Oakland is really diverse, and it can range from a Dia de los Muertos celebration to a Laotion community block party,” Bedoya said. 

Last year’s grant recipients included Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, Eastside Arts Alliance, and the American Indian Child Resource Center. All three organizations are using the funds for upcoming festivals, which will occur this May and June.

The cultural affairs commission is also hosting informational webinars to assist organizations with the application process. These webinars are scheduled for May 24 and June 2. All grant applicants are strongly encouraged to attend one of the free webinars.

Bedoya said the cultural affairs commission intends to keep the program going so long as they secure the necessary funding. 

“I’m pretty committed to sustaining this going forward,” Bedoya said, “and I don’t see it ever going away.” 

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Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.