Oakland was experiencing unprecedented heat the weekend of September 2, 2017. Many in the East Oakland community still came out of the comfort of their homes and gathered at the Rainbow Community Center.
The community center was hosting the 1st-annual Celebrity Basketball Game and Backpack Giveaway; an event made possible through the collaboration of local rappers and non-profit organizations.
The center has been a place of support for the East Oakland Community for more than 20 years in an area that is underserved. They offer tutoring, various programs for the elderly as well as free lunch daily.
Not too far from Rainbow Community Center, is where The Black Panther Party served children in their Free Breakfast Program in the 60’s.
East Oakland rappers Philthy Rich and Cookie Money partnered with The Isaac Taggart Foundation, Brilliant Minds at Work and The Balance Project in planning the charity event.
Some are rappers and some are college graduates, but they all are East Oakland natives seeking to uplift the community through philanthropy, mentorship, and education reform.
“I was a kid just like these kids, who didn’t have anybody to look up to,” said Oakland rapper Cookie Money.
“Nobody gave us anything so I felt like I owed it to the community to give back once I had a chance.”
The celebrity basketball game teams were comprised of local rappers and young men from the Oakland community.
“It is very important to not forget where you come from, you have to pay it forward,” said Isaac Taggart during the charity event.
Taggart is an alumnus of Morehouse College and C.E.O of the Isaac Taggart Foundation.
Although he currently lives in Atlanta, Taggart’s parents still live in the house he grew up in not too far from Rainbow Community Center.
Before founding his own nonprofit, Taggart did a lot of charity work with a non-profit organization he co-founded based in Atlanta.
“I’ve always wanted to serve my community because I am from here but I kind of started where I was located,” Taggart explained.
The charity event had free food, a jumper, free haircuts for kids as well as brand new Beats By Dre headphones as raffle prizes.
“It is so respectable to see a Bay Area rapper giving back and it is something that I really appreciate. It definitely unifies the area,” Reyna Montellano said joyfully.
Montellano is a resident of East Oakland who attended the charity event with her family.
“Seeing a rapper give back and so many people coming out and feeling supported–it gives people the ability to dream,” Montellano continued.
During the event, the Isaac Taggart Foundation, Philthy Rich and Cookie Money were also presented with a proclamation from Councilwoman Destiny Brooks for their philanthropic efforts in the East Oakland Community.
“This was implemented in me through my parents. My dad has done a lot of service work for the city of Oakland,” Taggart said.
“This event could not have happened without the help of Brilliant Minds At Work, The Balance Project as well as all of our sponsors,” Taggart expressed with gratitude.
Brilliant Minds at Work is a non-profit organization founded by three childhood friends from East Oakland who believe that everyone has a brilliant mind. They hosted their own backpack giveaway last summer and continue to uplift their community through sponsoring kids and homeless advocacy.
“I know Isaac from Morehouse and we have the same ideas as far as giving back to the community–so we were all for helping with today’s event,” said Christopher Higgenbotham who is the C.E.O of Brilliant Minds at Work.
The Balance Project also played an integral role in planning the charity event.
“The Balance Project is a mentoring initiative that is community service driven. The children and underprivileged of this community need that type of help, especially the mentoring,” said Omodele Adesanya. Adesanya is also a Morehouse alumni.
Nidi is a San Francisco State University student who volunteered to help at the event through The Balance Project.
“Events like this are extremely important because in neighborhoods like these, sometimes parents do not have the finances for something as simple as a backpack. This may have helped a child prepare for school in so many ways,” Nidi explained.
“You also see public figures come and give their time which inspires me. And it is all for the kids, so it feels good,” Nidi continued.
In addition, The Isaac Taggart Foundation received $10,000 from rappers Philthy Rich and Cookie Money for the foundation’s scholarship fund.
“I came from this neighborhood,” says rapper Philthy Rich. “So I know what it feels like to be broke, to not have nothing and have nobody to give you anything.”
Philthy Rich does Christmas, Thanksgiving and back to school charity events for the families of East Oakland. He expressed that it was important for him to represent his community in the right ways and to plant seeds in the minds of youth who might not have anyone to do so.
“Nobody gave me a backpack when I was growing up. If they did, maybe I would have gone to school,” Philthy Rich said jokingly.