Unveiling our Cultural Strategists– and What’s Next!
We are pleased to introduce our Cultural Strategists, instrumental in bringing creative expression to our Love Over Fear campaign in Oakland. Gala King, the IM4HI Regional Director for Northern California and the dedicated organizer of our impactful Love Over Fear Oakland Project, passionately conveys, “Art and culture serve as foundational cornerstones in all social justice movements, possessing the extraordinary ability to open hearts, uplift spirits, and expand minds, thereby fostering tangible change.”
The Love Over Fear Oakland Project responds to the challenges faced by communities of color in Oakland, where economic inequality and public violence strain connections and hinder community collaborations. Hate crimes have heightened fear among Asian Americans, while African Americans fear police shootings. Latine immigrants stay in the shadows to avoid immigration enforcement. This growing anxiety continues to hinder collaboration and trust, let alone collaborate to solve shared challenges. Even in moments of great need, community trauma prevents us from embracing each other and forging collective solutions.
IM4HI acknowledges the root causes disrupting local communities and expresses a commitment to creating dialogue, reforming public discourse surrounding community safety, and nurturing connections among AAPI, Black, and Latinx communities. Through various mediums, including podcasts, photo series, and community concerts, IM4HI organizes initiatives centered around crucial themes of safety, healing, and spiritual rejuvenation.
IM4HI was one of 33 organizations to receive a one-year grant from the San Francisco Foundation’s Bay Area Creative Corps Program designed to address and solve complex challenges by amplifying and mobilizing the creative potential of changemakers, and by supporting the solutions that are developed by and for communities that are most directly impacted. This grant acts as a catalyst to empower the infusion of diverse art and healing modalities into IM4HI’s transformative initiatives, marking a major stride in the organization’s mission.
“For me, art is more than learning or painting; it’s a spiritual practice, a transformation from within”… “It involves using creativity and imagination with the goal of collective liberation in mind.”– Eileen Amina Lei
In the realms of art and activism, Eileen Amina Lei, 41, creatively known as Amina Lei, stands as a luminary—a 2nd generation Chinese-Muslim woman, visual artist, organizer, and storyteller. Amina’s childhood, shaped by the revolutionary spirit of Oakland, represented the complexity and beauty of growing up in the diverse culture of the Bay Area as a self-taught Chinese painter, teaching artist, and illustrator.
Her transformative journey began at a young age, unfolding as a profound exploration of the power and struggle of creativity in confronting societal issues. Through her collaborative efforts with Oakland-based organization, Freedom Soul Media Education Initiatives (FSMEI), Amina manages dual roles as both a teacher and artist, dedicating her efforts to anti-racism initiatives within schools. Her connection to the vibrant streets of San Francisco Chinatown and Richmond neighborhoods, where she grew up, is evident in her work, consistently reflecting her deep-rooted love for the Bay Area’s community culture.
Amina’s journey, sparked by a referral from a sister from her mosque, gained momentum from her work in Los Angeles, including events like ‘Under the Sky, One Family,’ emphasizing unity between the black and AAPI community. This momentum continued as she extended her involvement to foster connections among the black, API, indigenous, and Latinx communities.
Amina’s work now spans from community organizing in Oakland to the Mohammed University in Los Angeles, where she cultivates collaboration between parents and teachers to tackle racism from elementary to high school levels. Her artistic impact extends beyond traditional boundaries, contributing to illustrating children’s books and organizing events in Los Angeles, emphasizing solidarity among Asian, Black, and Latinx communities through the powerful lens of art and history.
Amina stresses the crucial role of artists in social discourse, asserting that art breaks down barriers and cultivates understanding among diverse communities. Inspired by Grace Lee Boggs’ call to Reimagine Everything, she envisions art as the source for bridging communities and integrating diverse perspectives, aligning seamlessly with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity.
“Doing this work of art and spirit is a beautiful endeavor. For me, art is more than learning or painting; it’s a spiritual practice, a transformation from within,” said Lei. “It involves using creativity and imagination with the goal of collective liberation in mind. Art, ultimately, is about manifesting something new.”
Joining IM4HI as a cultural strategist for the Love Over Fear campaign holds profound significance for Amina. “I am proud that we are doing the work centering our faith and art. My faith, my path as an artist and my passion for justice and social change is one,” said Amina. “I’m grateful to work with amazing community leaders and artists in my hometown of Oakland that have helped shape the woman I am today.” Amina acknowledges the city’s rich history as a leader in using art and culture for impactful social change and hopes to contribute to continuing that movement.
Amina’s philosophy on Love Over Fear becomes a clarion call—an acknowledgment of both light and darkness within, a refusal to fear uncomfortable truths, and a commitment to questioning the perpetuation of societal norms. This approach becomes the foundation for creating something new, enabling thriving beyond mere survival.
Navigating this transformative journey, Amina draws a poignant metaphor, likening it to a woman in labor—beautiful, yet accompanied by pain and trials — emphasizing that the work transcends the external. “It delves into introspection, unraveling the intricacies of being Chinese, being Chinese Muslim, and, more uniquely, a Chinese Muslim artist and woman navigating the complexities of our times,” said Lei. “The challenge lies in reconciling these multifaceted identities while grappling with feelings of isolation, a sense of not fitting into societal norms, despite advocating for belonging and safety for all.”
The internal work involves defining safety, cultivating unconditional self-love, and making a commitment to well-being. Art, for Amina, emerges as a vital tool, elevating and maintaining her well-being—a spiritual cultivation echoing the unshakable peace found in Islam.
As IM4HI welcomes Amina Lei, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity welcomes not just an artist but a catalyst for unity, understanding, and liberation. Amina’s work extends beyond the canvas, weaving a tapestry that transcends boundaries through the transformative power of art and love.
Stepping into her role, Amina will spearhead a captivating series of IG Live Sessions, commencing with a special episode featuring Executive Director Rev. Deborah Lee on February 23rd. With the focus on “Unveiling Love: Stories of Community and Social Change,” the podcast will explore the deep connections between individuals and their environments, while lifting up the ways ordinary people are creating community safety and building multiracial solidarity. The podcast will extend until June, encompassing a range of 10-20 interviews and creating a safe space for meaningful conversations and reflections. Tune in to our podcast, engage in community dialogue, and join us in taking meaningful action to promote Love Over Fear!
“In essence, we, as artists, take on the role of historians, diligently archiving the past, present, and future. Some of us aim to remind our communities of their roots, while others create awareness and cultivate hope for the future by acting as conduits for visions and possibilities.”– B Dukes
In the intersection of art, healing, and community empowerment, B Dukes, 30, emerges as a passionate and powerful force—a Black, trans, non-binary organizer, sound facilitator artist, and healer. Committed to serving marginalized communities, including Black, Brown, Indigenous, Queer, and Trans communities, B Dukes plays a pivotal role in the pursuit of a more inclusive and interconnected world.
As an organizer, storyteller, and advocate, B channels their efforts into resource mobilization and bridge-building for marginalized communities. Engaged with the Freedom Community Clinic and the enigmatic project, WTFWTH, BDukes pioneers initiatives such as artist residencies, providing spaces for creative rejuvenation and envisioning future endeavors.
Hailing from Batesburg-Leesville, South Carolina, B reflects on their transformative four-year journey in the Bay Area, with the upcoming fifth year marking a significant milestone. They emphasize, “Immersing myself in a community goes beyond physical relocation; it’s about delving into the intricacies of local issues and challenges. This understanding becomes the essence that I weave into the fabric of my artistic practice.”
B’s approach is deeply rooted in understanding local issues and diverse communities, guided by the inspiration of proximity, purpose, spirit, and invaluable mentorship. This awareness becomes the tapestry of their art and healing practices, contributing authentically to the places they now call home.
Inspired by Marvin Gaye’s impactful melodies during their upbringing, B draws a parallel between art and culture, recognizing the role of artists as historians, diligently archiving the past, present, and future. Their mission involves encouraging, influencing, and sharing knowledge in ways that resonate and reach people.
“When artists engage with their tools, they communicate using the threads of their culture to shape their perspectives. In essence, we, as artists, take on the role of historians, diligently archiving the past, present, and future. Some of us aim to remind our communities of their roots, while others create awareness and cultivate hope for the future by acting as conduits for visions and possibilities. Our mission involves encouraging, influencing, and sharing knowledge in ways that resonate and reach people,” said B.
As a cultural strategist with the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, B Dukes extends their transformative work, aligning seamlessly with the organization’s commitment to justice, freedom, and healing. “Love Over Fear,” envisioned by B Dukes, serves as a catalyst for stronger community bonds, fostering mutual understanding and connection, aiming to dismantle barriers and cultivate a profound sense of belonging.
With IM4HI, they will curate a Photo Series that spotlights community leaders actively providing safe alternatives to reduce violence and increase care in local Oakland. This intersectional and culturally rich exhibit is a testament to BDukes’ dedication to showcasing diverse voices and promoting positive change.
In this exhibit, B aims to feature a “Love Letter to Oakland,” expressing the heartfelt appreciation for the city’s unique and positive qualities. Guided by them, the exhibit reflects Love Over Fear Oakland’s “commitment to authenticity, imperfection, acceptance, and self-love”, serving a significant role in the transformative influence of love, art and collective action into the community.
“Love is courageous. Love is intelligent. Love is effective and efficient. And we have to really recognize that and push that.”– Francisco Herrera
In the heart of community and cultural intersections, Francisco Javier Brambilla, widely known as Francisco Herrera, stands as a transformative force. A Chicano cultural worker, musician, and co-founder of Caminante Cultural Foundation, Francisco, at 61, draws on his Mexican heritage, blending a rich range of music, storytelling, and activism, reflecting the depth of his d=contributions to his community.
Born in Calexico, California, raised on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border, Francisco’s cultural work reflects a nuanced perspective. Guided by the influence of his father, he embarked on a musical journey at the age of seven, fostering a profound connection to art as a daily source of healing and communal nourishment. “The arts and culture have always been, not a performance per se, but the daily medicine, the daily vitamin,” Francisco articulates, emphasizing the role of cultural work in daily regeneration, growth, and community building.
A figure for decades in the human and immigrant rights movement, Francisco addresses systemic issues like war funding and racism in all its forms. A long-term collaborator with Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, Francisco advocates for a compassionate and equitable community, challenging the narrative that love and compassion are impractical.
His engagement in the Love Over Fear initiative reflects a commitment to building communities that embody compassion and courage, challenging violence and harm, whether in Palestine, Israel, Mexico, and Oakland.
“Love is courageous. Love is intelligent. Love is effective and efficient. And we have to really recognize that and push that,” said Herrera.
The arts, including “liturgy as the work of the people,” play a crucial role in IM4HI’s approach, fostering a slow and consistent process of building relationships and creating safe spaces. The Love Over Fear initiative with Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity strives to cultivate a space where people can authentically express their desire to make a positive impact and build a beloved community.
Despite the challenges posed by economic and social hardships, he emphasizes, “People really want to celebrate and be with each other and create spaces of love and support for each other.” Love, in its truest form, serves as a powerful motivator, transcending the influence of harm and hate.
Francisco’s journey is one of unwavering dedication to social justice, using music and the arts to amplify marginalized voices. His advocacy for love over fear encapsulates a profound belief in the intelligence, effectiveness, and courage that compassion brings to transformative social movements.
Looking ahead, Francisco’s role in the Love Over Fear Oakland project is organizing a lively series of three community concerts at the Fruitvale Plaza over the next six months. These pop-up events aim to celebrate diversity, nurture community bonds, and embody the transformative power of art and love. Showcasing the interethnic character of the Fruitvale neighborhood, the concerts will feature community artists, church choirs, poets and visual performers. More than entertainment, these concerts strive to contribute peace to the neighborhood and provide alternatives to traditional policing, sparking meaningful conversations about community empowerment and safety. Join us in shaping a city where safety is a shared responsibility and community connections thrive through music, cross-cultural engagement, and collective action.
With Amina Lei’s powerful fusion of faith and art, B Dukes’ commitment to dismantling barriers through culture, and Francisco Herrera’s musical journey, IM4HI embarks on a transformative exploration of community empowerment led through creativity, unity and most importantly, love.
Stay tuned for our upcoming Love Over Fear Community projects and events!
Together, let’s build a safe, more connected Oakland. The work with our Cultural Strategists seeks to create safe and thriving communities, recognizing that community safety is intricately linked to the well-being of the most vulnerable among us.
We invite community partners, faith communities, artists, and collectives who resonate with this work in Oakland to participate in small or large ways. To begin with,
How Can You Get Involved?
- Explore our Love Over Fear 2023 Concert page on our website dedicated to the work with our first concert and Cultural Strategists
- Stay tuned for upcoming creative projects led by our Cultural Strategists, such as the Love Over Fear Oakland podcast, photo series and community-driven concerts and learning what community safety looks like.
Stay connected with us on Instagram and Facebook for updates on future events and initiatives. We look forward to building the Love Over Fear campaign and creating more opportunities for our community to come together in celebration and solidarity!