Oakland, CA–Mya Whitaker, 27, watched her mother obtain two Master Degree’s and a PhD, so she knew early on that education was important. She lived in East Oakland, where she learned she was surrounded by good and bad but that it was her decision to make the choice of how to navigate.
After high-school Whitaker attended San Fransisco State University, where she majored in Communications. She is currently raising her 5-year-old son and serving as Program Director for the Bay Area Urban Debate League. Whitaker was in this same program in high-school and was amongst the first group to win nationals.
As an Emerge graduate, a program that trains young women who want to run for office, Whitaker is prepared and ready to implement the skills that she has learned. She is passionate about the literacy levels of children receiving public education in East Oakland, as well as the rights of renters and those being displaced by gentrification.
Whitaker is aware of the rapid changes that are happening in her community. Many people are attracted to Oakland and increasing rent prices are displacing longtime residents. Wages have not increased locally and many are forced to pack up in search of more affordable housing. Despite this attraction to the Bay area, local residents are still experiencing the same crime and violence in their neighborhoods.
Whitaker is running for District Six City Council and all week she will be gathering 200 signatures to ensure her spot on the ballot. She looks forward to connecting with members in the community.
Why are you choosing to run for Oakland City Council?
I’m from East Oakland and I have always wanted to represent us. I know this is a lower-level seat but I am realistic about the fact that city council affects our lives on the day-to-day. My city is under attack, in a sense. We are losing our land left and right. In the last 10 years 70,000 Black people have left East Oakland, when Oakland used to be a predominantly Black city. For the people who are still here and people who are our allies, we need to work together.
What is the campaign process like running for city council?
A lot of fundraising and getting out meeting my neighbors. I feel like that is the best part of campaigning. I love to see my neighbors get excited about voting and really understanding the power of collective thought. Getting to know my neighbors, really helps to understand there are more people now in the city than just us. It helps in being strategic on how we ask for change and what we want implemented.
How was life growing up in Oakland?
We moved to Oakland in ’96. My mother grew up here and had me in Chico where she went to college. I grew up in San Leonardo until the 9th grade and went to a charter school in Oakland. I’m a Bay area kid, so we grow up in diversity.
I did debate my senior year of high school and I ended up going to nationals. It changed my life. The impact of leaving your community, doing something positive and being rewarded for it. I turned 18 out there with them.
At SF state, I was a commuter person so I didn’t really connect with my campus and I was still hanging out in East Oakland. Where else would I go? I’m in college and they don’t relate because they don’t understand East Oakland so that’s the thing that used to get on my nerves.
When you get to college you realize that you are actually behind on what you need to know. It’s really a strategic game of finding the right classes and talking to people. Where I’m from, you don’t know how to ask for help, so you struggle and you can drown. I had my son at 21, so that was really interesting. Having my son and going to college really taught me that you have to ask for help.
What are the main points of your campaign?
I know my community and I know where we are at. Majority of the Black people have left and we have a 45% latino influx. We are dealing with an economic crisis, a housing crisis and public safety. That’s the platform I am running on. Whatever changes we want to bring to the district, we have to do it together, in a sustainable way. The only way to do that is making sure that everyone is registered to vote and really pushing that when everyone is involved, it’s really beneficial to the city.
Mya Whitaker needs your help! The cost of printing and materials for her campaign can be a lot for those who lack a lot of financial resources. If you would like to contribute to her campaign you can visit the website: https://whitakerforoakland.nationbuilder.com/donations
You can also find her on social media: @Whitfordist6
You have to help people when you can. There are a lot of people out here making bad decisions because they aren’t exposed to better options.