By: Movement Generation
It still feels unreal to drive through the redwoods, just a few miles from Oakland, and find ourselves at home among old oak trees, native grasslands, bobcats, and waters flowing to Lisjan Creek.
It’s been just over one year since we closed on the purchase of 43 acres of land in the East Bay and rematriated the land in partnership with Sogorea Te’ Land Trust. We’ve spent a lot of the past year in observation mode, building relationships with the land and learning what it needs of us. We’ve experienced all the seasons. We’ve made offerings. We’ve welcomed guests, some of whom have helped us tend the land already.
To reground in why Movement Generation took on a land project and what it means that we’re here: We believe that land is central to a just transition and the liberation of all of our peoples. After years of developing and teaching theories and frameworks of ecological justice to organizations and activists, we now have a place to put those theories and frameworks into praxis, rooted ecologically, locally, and in community.
To be a collective of radical Black, Indigenous, people of color, and queer/trans folks practicing resilience, land care, and collective governance, within an urban context, in one of the most expensive and extractive markets in the country, at a time when we are facing severe climate disruption and a rise of fascism—it is both a huge privilege and an epic responsibility. We hope to inspire and support more land projects like this to happen everywhere, whether they are Indigenous women-led land rematriations, Black land reparations, or other forms of land justice. We can do this through sharing lessons learned, sharing resources, and staying sharp together on the ecological principles and practices that help us remember our way forward to a resilient future.
Huge thanks to everyone who has supported us this past year, whether through making a gift to our Free the Land Campaign to build the Justice & Ecology, getting your hands in the dirt with us, or singing us some songs. Of course, infinite gratitude to Sogorea Te’ Land Trust for making this possible. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane and share a bit about our experiences through the seasons in our first year on the land.
Atmospheric river times! We got a good glimpse into how the water flows abundantly through this land on its way to Lisjan Creek. We started dreaming of rain gardens and swimming holes. On the slightly less glamorous tip, one of our first big undertakings was grading the dirt road leading up to our site. This improved road access, but we still have a ways to go to make this a fully accessible space; we’re committed to doing that and are drawing inspiration from the ongoing work of Shelterwood Collective on the Sonoma coast and the brilliance of the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.
As we began to have some of our first staff meetings at our new home, we fully smudged our space. This was much needed, y’all. The land had been held for more than 100 years. We also swept some chimneys, making way for more good fire to keep us cozy through the winter. Lots of goal setting, planning, and dreaming.
We were grateful to get to spend some quality time with our friends at Sogorea Te’ as we began to discuss what collective governance of the space could be like, with lots of great support from our friends at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC).
After the rains, we took on some urgent repairs and renovations. Lots of lessons learned about foundation, roofing, solar, insurance, wildfires, and more.
We spent lots of time exploring the land. We did a mushroom walk! And we geeked out on a botany walk with JoeJoe Clark! There’s an abundance of native plants here, from purple needlegrass to black walnut trees to California poppies.
We had our first staff land care work day where we did some weed whacking and mulching. Fuel reduction work began in the spring as well.
And we brought in a tiny home! Our collective member and land team lead Desi moved in so she could spend lots of time on the land as we plan for our future dreams.
A major highlight was Sogorea Te’ coming by for our first visit all together on the land since we rematriated it. We broke bread and made sun prints and cedar bundles on a most beautiful day.
At the summer solstice we finally let the broader world know about this little land project we’re working on. After a few months of building our relationship with the land and grounding in our relationship with Sogorea Te’, we felt good about starting to come out with this wonderful news. We were excited to see our land project on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle—love to see examples of land rematriation in mainstream news! We also launched our Free the Land Campaign to raise $1 million to build our dream: The Justice & Ecology Center.
So many incredible homies came through last fall: organizers, activists, architects, ecological designers, as well as some coyote and bobcat neighbors! We were super geeked to host a visit with Kendall and Brock from Occidental Arts & Ecology Center. They brought tons of permaculture wisdom and showed us that a big role we will be playing in this ecosystem is tending to the grasses. Our collective member Angela’s danza Azteca group also held ceremony here; so grateful for that blessing for the land.
Our big moment happened in October when we celebrated with homies and supporters of our Free the Land Campaign! This was our first time hosting that many people on the land at once, and it was a truly magical day of song, food, and nourishing relationships.
Towards the end of the year, CAL FIRE conducted a prescribed burn on part of our site and adjacent land. Can’t wait to see what grows! We’re learning so much about the land—who lives here, the path of the sun through the seasons, where the water flows. After a year of observation, we’re excited to dig deeper into design in 2024.
We’re hoping to invite some volunteers over to help us care for the land this year. If you haven’t already, please sign up for our enewsletter to stay updated!