A few months ago, SGBI had the pleasure of meeting Ashanté Washington, Chief Executive Officer of The Ashanté Washington Foundation which houses two growing initiatives: Pray 4 Oakland (P4O) and Juice up the Hood (JUH). We reached out to Ashanté to learn more about her organization:
“I’m so glad we’re finally getting a chance to talk!” Ashanté said, “I have sooo much I want to share with you, so I hope you’re ready!”
As an East Oakland native, Ashanté was inspired to create P4O after seeing back to back violent
situations in her neighborhood. The catalyst being the killing of 16-year-old, Reggina Jefferies in downtown Oakland. “It was just too much,” said Ashanté, “I told my friend, ‘we need to pray for Oakland.”
With the concepts of P4O focusing on youth empowerment, violence prevention and community building, Ashanté pitched her idea to her friend, Antoine Shavers. Antoine immediately got behind P4O, and the two launched the first set of P4O T-shirts on July 5, 2016 and the movement took off!
Sadly, Antoine was never able to see their dream fully realized. On July 17, 2016 (just 10 days after the launch), Antoine was shot on 85th and Bancroft Avenue in Oakland, while trying to save someone else’s life. Antoine passed away the morning of July 16, 2016.
Devastated but still determined, Ashanté, with the support of friends and family, is keeping Antoine’s legacy alive by turning Pray 4 Oakland into a full-fledged initiative with growing community support. In  short months they have had 14 events, including neighborhood makeovers, criminal background ‘clean slate’ workshops, tree plantings, bike giveaways and festivals for the kids.
On March 18th SGBI was able to witness the excitement and dedication P4O brings to the community through their “TRANSFORM: The Neighborhood Makeover Project of East Oakland”. We were amazed by the energy, turnout and commitment of everyone who participated. Music was going, food was being served, all while volunteers were working hard painting over graffiti, pulling out weeds and beatifying the streets.
I ended our conversation by asking Ashanté about a moment she’s most proud of since the launch of P4O.
“It has to be The Fall Fest 2016, ‘The Pumpkin Giveaway’ at Arroyo Park. We ended up handing out 215 pumpkins to kids and families right there in the East Oakland community! We had 6 food trucks and a bouncy house, it was really fun.” She continued, “My favorite part was being able to help that many people. I have a huge thing about turn
ing people away. I never want to turn people away, and I was happy because we didn’t have to. We [had so much we] were able to walk through the park, and into the community and actually give more kids pumpkins – they were so happy!”
I thanked Ashanté for her time and asked her, “If nothing else, what do you want people to take away from reading this?”
She paused and responded “ [That] we really help OUR hood.”
Nuts & Bolts
The Ashanté Washington Foundation (AWF) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting citywide peace and unity in Oakland, California. Juice up the Hood is a project focusing on neighborhood arts, beautification and community building. Pray 4 Oakland (P4O) is a campaign dedicated to youth empowerment, violence prevention and community building. P4O is not affiliated with any religion; however P4O believes “as a city, due to SO MANY ONGOING and UNANSWERED issues, Oakland needs prayer in all denominations, forms, languages…spiritually, and through meditation. If we UNITE as a city, we can all help OUR city.”
Ashanté Washington: Ashanté@juiceupthehood.org