SCC English Professor Alexandria White, who also works with Umoja students, has received the Unsung Hero Award from the California Legislative Black Caucus.
Alex moved to Sacramento from Oakland 2 1/2 years ago to buy a home for and raise her family. We asked her to talk about the work she is doing that is receiving recognition in the community.
Are you from the Sacramento area?
I am originally from the Bay Area, specifically from Oakland. I attended San Francisco State University as an undergraduate where I studied abroad to the United Kingdom and earned a B.A. in Creative Writing/English. I later attended UCSC for an M.A. in Literature. I focused on postcolonial literature and literature of the African diaspora.
What drew you to Sacramento City College to teach?
I moved to the Oak Park area from Oakland two & half years ago to buy an affordable home for my family. Our house in Oakland was being sold and I was pregnant again (we had a son who was 3 at the time), so we had to make a tough decision about where to move. I had been adjuncting at 3 Bay Area schools up until that point, but I knew that could not sustain that level of work with a toddler, new born and the possibility of our rent being doubled or tripled due to crazy Bay Area rental prices. We decided to leave the Bay Area as renters and move to the State Capitol as homeowners. When we got to Sacramento I did not work because my baby was literally two days old and I planned on staying home with her for at least a year to breastfeed and bond with her. I had my mind and heart set on SCC as soon as I knew we were planning on moving here; and it just so turned out that our new house was literally 2 miles away!!!
Can you tell us more about your work in the Oak Park community? When you started?
Since I was new to the area and a new homeowner who didn’t know anyone in Sacramento, I started attending neighborhood association meetings where I quickly became involved in community engagement and neighborhood improvement projects (2016).
I helped to organize a park party at our neighborhood park; then later our neighborhood was selected to receive a $90,000 grant from Kaiser to update and beautify the park. The caveat was that someone from the neighborhood had to be involved in all aspects of the project: 1.) weekly planning calls with South Gate Parks & Rec, Kaiser (fiscal sponsor) & Kaboom (the non profit playground specialists); 2) canvassing the community to participate in the design day; 3) volunteering to actually help build the play structure; 4) regularly organizing activities, park clean ups & events at the park to help maintain and take care of the park.
We are currently installing a beautiful mural at the park and we are planning for our annual park party which has evolved into a 3-on-3 basketball tournament with free food and prizes to the community members who attend.
What inspires you about your work in the community?
I love interacting with others and learning more about people’s stories. I needed a community for myself and my family for my own sense of wellbeing. Additionally, I hate accepting society’s ills and I feel obligated to be the change I want to see in the world. I want to set a good example for my children and my students about civic engagement and feeling empowered to transform themselves and their communities. Many people of color are living in communities with a history of redlining, neglect and disinvestment–I feel personally obligated to address those historical inequities in the best way I can. Working with a neighborhood association and a group of likeminded people is much more impactful than working as an individual.