By Lynette Gibson McElhaney
On Tuesday April 5th, the Oakland City Council will consider the proposal from my office to adopt “Love Life” as the official motto for the City of Oakland and to incorporate the motto in official communication for the city and on the City’s welcome signage.
On October 20, 2015, members of the public including Donald Lacy, Dwain Butler and numerous members of the Love Life foundation appeared by the City Council during Open Forum. Mr. Butler and others had come before the council repeatedly over the past 5 years asking the Council to consider adopting “The Love Life City” as Oakland’s official motto. The basis of the request is a desire by these families and others to send a strong message to Oakland’s youth that their lives matter, that life is precious and to elevate love over fear and greed.
In 1997, 16-year-old LoEshé Adanma Lacy, whose first name means ‘love life’ in Ibo, was tragically shot to death as a bystander across the street from her school, McClymonds High. Prior to becoming a victim, LoEshé was moved by the death of too many of her classmates and had begun an anti-violence campaign to tell her peers that they should love life. She laid the framework for the Love Life foundation and inspired efforts to provide comfort and support to families who have lost a loved one to homicide.
Love Life honors the lives of the thousands of members of our community who have been killed by senseless violence – especially our youth, and articulates our aspirations for the future. Love Life reflects the joy and energy that characterize our artists and businesses. Love Life responds to our communal desire to build an inclusive, equitable, and authentic Oakland.
Businesses, corporations, non-profits and movements throughout the world know and understand the power of a motto. Mottos inspire and unite. They quickly provide a reference in order to galvanize people to act. In 2004, Kaiser launched its’ “Thrive” campaign, which has been so successful that it continues today and has influenced other local messaging efforts, including the Oakland Unified School District’s strategic plan which sets out its aspiration as a place “where every student thrives.” This is the power of a message.
The cost of adding the “Love Life” message to the City’s welcome signage is nominal compared to the powerful lift that the City will gain from codifying its care for every resident by adopting the “Love Life” motto. The spin-off impact will be great as schools and businesses develop supporting messages that celebrate Oakland as a city of love, art and culture.
I urge you to join me on April 5th in supporting the community’s desire to create Love Life as our motto. It is far more representative of the love Oaklanders hold for their city and our youth than the current unofficial tagline “the bright side of the Bay.” In adopting this Ordinance, the Council will send a clear message that honors residents who have lost their lives to gun violence and speak hope and healing to the communities of residents who are dedicated to living robust lives.
Now is the time to act. For more than 10 years, the community has asked for this motto. There is now immense public support, and I believe that the current crescendo of this movement reflects a desire of our long-tenured residents who continue to believe in Oakland.
I urge you to join me in supporting this beautiful community initiative to proclaim to the world what Oakland is all about: Love and Life.
Lynette Gibson McElhaney is president of the Oakland City Council.