The East Oakland Youth Development Center has been serving young people since 1978. Credit: Courtesy of EOYDC

The East Oakland Youth Development Center is hosting its first annual Black Futures Ball Saturday, August 6th to raise funds for its Pathway to College and Careers program. The gala and awards ceremony will acknowledge 32 scholarship recipients and recognize four community members for their work supporting and inspiring youth throughout Oakland with the “Champion for Youth” award. 

The event will be hosted by EOYDC alumnae and Oakland native and Grammy-nominated artist RyanNicole. Bay Area DJs DCisChillin and Davey D will provide the soundtrack for the evening with appearances by Goapele and Jwalt, an EOYDC alumnus who recently taught spoken word to middle school students.

“The intention behind the ball is to bring the community together, centering Black joy, to really invest in the future of our black and brown youth” said Selena Wilson, the chief executive officer of EOYDC. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards funding for the Pathway to College and Career scholarship and programming fund. 

The East Oakland Youth Development Center, or EOYDC, was opened in 1978. Over the past 44 years it has provided GED preparation, youth job opportunities, counseling services, and physical development activities. 

About 90% of young people served by EOYDC programs are Black and brown students from economically exploited and low income households, said Wilson. The Pathway to College and Career program is free to participants and is designed to help youth beginning in 9th grade up to the age of 24 with their career and college planning. 

EOYDC launched the Pathway program in 2003 and has distributed over half a million dollars in scholarships to more than 200 students since 2015, while building social and leadership skills in participating youth. In 2021, the Pathways program distributed $150k in scholarship funds to Oakland’s youth. This will be the first year EOYDC has held a formal gala in an effort to raise money while celebrating the scholarship recipients and community members. 

Young people are invited to apply online for college preparation support. Application reviewers take into account economic factors such as a person’s expected family contribution, sociological factors, and academic grade point average, as well as if the student is connected to programs within the EOYDC. The Pathway program’s 32 recipients will receive scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $5000. The gala fundraiser is expected to provide more funding toward serving youth in the fall. 

Youth in the Pathway program also get the opportunity to experience a national college tour. Each year, EOYDC staff take students on national college tours at no expense to their families. Tours to Historically Black Colleges and Universities are led by EOYDC alumni or current participants. Wilson said it is impactful for youth to see and communicate with someone from their own community about their experiences and challenges first hand.

“It’s very unusual that you can find a program where you can send your child on a college tour with no money. We feed them. We transport them,” Wilson said. “It’s through community engagement and supporting events like this that we hope to be able to continue to do that.” 

Oakland youth on an EOYDC college tour visiting Rice University. Credit: EOYDC

The theme for the Black Futures Ball will be “Oakanda,” playing on the concept of the fictional African nation of Wakanda from Marvel movies Black Panther and the forthcoming sequel Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, both directed by Oakland’s own Ryan Coogler. 

Dress code for the gala is expected to be formal and semi-formal fun. EOYDC’s social media has shared some fashion inspiration posts to give people ideas about what to wear, Wilson said. People of African ancestry can come in African attire. Guests are encouraged to try an upscale afro-futuristic and AfroPunk-inspired look to align with the Oakanda theme. It’s not encouraged that non-Black guests wear African print attire.

“I recommend flats [shoes] because we want to keep people on a dance floor and visit the different activations,” Wilson said. “If your heel game is up to par go for it! But I will be wearing flats.”

Fundraising sponsorship levels for the gala also play on the Black Panther theme, starting at “Vibranium” Level ($25,000) and scaling down to Bronze Level ($2,500), and Silver ($1,500).

“Unfortunately, this year, we did not secure a Vibranium sponsor,” Wilson said. “But we were able to secure a pretty significant number of Silver sponsors, Bronze sponsors, and Oakanda sponsors, which are our custom smaller-but-mighty sponsors.”

As part of the festivities, four community members will also be honored with the “Champion for Youth” award for being positive and uplifing influences. Honorees include Oakland rapper and activist Stanley “Mistah F.A.B” Cox; current President of the Meadow Fund and former president of the Akonadi Foundation Lateefah Simon; Andre Chapman, president of foster youth support program Unity Care; and Nehanda Imara, Peralta Colleges professor and lead of the community development team at Black Cultural Zone. 

There will be a number of “Activation hosts,” spaces that feature various black-led organizations and companies. Activation hosts include AfroComicCon, Black Terminus AR, Run The World Clothing, Museum of Children’s Art, AeroSoul Art, The Town Experience, Ade Dehye, and Dark Star Universe.

“I really just want to make sure that folks know how much their support to our young people means,” Wilson said. “It’s more than a transaction. It really is a qualitative investment that means a lot to our young people.”

Black Futures Ball will be held at The Bridge Yard in West Oakland and is a 21 years and older event. Tickets are available for purchase. General admission is $125 per person and includes two drink tickets. A VIP ticket is $250 and includes lounge access, a gift bag, and three drink tickets. Group admission is $450 for four with food and drink tickets.For more information on East Oakland Youth Development Center programs and events visit their website or Instagram page.

Brandy Collins is a writer and public services advocate, born and raised in the Bay Area. She is a 2019-2020 cohort graduate from the Maynard Institute for Journalism, a correspondent for Oakland Voices, a blogger, and the funny one in numerous group chats. She is concerned with civic engagement and leadership development toward making public works more efficient for the people. Brandy is full of Scorpio magic and a self-proclaimed Professional Aunty. Follow her on Twitter @MsBrandyCollins or Instagram @story_soul_collecter.