Bishop Bob Jackson, pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church of God in Christ, has not given up hope on the Black community’s ability to come together with its own finances and resources to create affordable housing, businesses and jobs.
Bishop Jackson’s vision calls for an all-out effort by churches, community groups and businesses to initiate inspired self-help efforts which will attract additional funding to build on available land especially in the “Africa Town” section from 73rd Ave to the San Leandro border and from International Boulevard to MacArthur Boulevard.
He said Oakland is in the midst of a major gentrification tidal wave of high rents by greedy landlords that is “driving many Black families out of town.”
Citing the prophetic words of fellow pastor J.A. Smith Jr., of Allen Temple Baptist Church, “Within the next decade the Black population could dwindle down to 5 percent.”
“The Acts Full Gospel Development. Corporation will step into the breach and provide affordable housing for those who are stuck,” said Bishop Jackson. “We are not trying to make excessive profits. We want to make sure our people have an opportunity to stay in the city.”
He drew on the historic successes of some of the city’s other Black churches, including Allen Temple Baptist, Evergreen Baptist, Beth Eden Baptist, Taylor Memorial Methodist and Hayward’s Glad Tidings C.O.G.I.C, which have built housing through the years, saying we need to revive those solutions today.
“We must come together economically as Blacks to lead the way in helping to solve our own problems by acquiring the land to build mixed use housing for our seniors, low-income, veterans, formerly incarcerated and our church members,” he said.
“Let’s pool our monies, pledge our land and move out on faith.”
With the help of Councilmemeber Larry Reid and staff, Acts Full Gospel pledged its land valued at $1.3 million, which attracted a city match of $7.7 million, a Housing Authority commitment of $2.6 million, conventional financing of $1.9 million and Tax Credit Equity of $16.6 million.
“We can replicate this approach throughout Oakland on vacant city and county-owned parcels as well as on land owned by churches and other non-profits,” he said. “Let’s step out on faith and work together. Let’s pool our resources and make affordable housing happen.”
Bishop Jackson is already moving on all fronts through dozens of community-outreach programs. He mentioned how his “Men of Valor Program” helps the formerly incarcerated population with housing and employment skills.
“We are removing the stigma of the low-income label, which for some has long meant ‘drug-addicted and/or violence-prone,’” he said
“Some of these men are now accepting the responsibility of fatherhood by marrying the mother of their children.”
He said they are no longer deadbeats. His church’s ministry and chaplaincy at Alameda County Juvenile Hall are also having positive impacts on the youth.
Through his successful street ministry and evangelistic broadcasts, he says he feels the pressures to set a positive example for his congregation of more than 3,000.
“I welcome the pressure that’s on me to do my best to provide some housing and employment solutions for my members and the low-income residents of my community” said Bishop Jackson, the church’s pastor for the past 32 years.
The recent successful county A-1 Housing Bond and the city’s bond Measure KK for infrastructure improvements mean that additional sources of money for non-profit and faith-based HDC to build could be available.
“If other landlords and housing developers won’t accept Section 8 vouchers, then we must provide for our people,” he said.
Jackson plans to address the City Hall Jan. 4 public forum at 5 p.m., co-sponsored by the Post Salon and hosted by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.
He said he will encourage housing advocates and community activists to “carefully watch the money from those bond measures to make sure it doesn’t get redirected to other uses.”
“The low-income residents need a voice just like the downtown developers have. Let’s remove the stigma of being low-income,” he said.
Jackson, who founded the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, now headed by Rev. Charley Hames Jr. is inviting groups, churches and individuals to encourage and patronize Black entrepreneurship.
“Let them come and relocate in Africa Town,” he said.
There are already several churches with plans from four units and above that are looking to mobilize the community and their congregants and the community to build.