Burning Spear News
Nomination of Bakari Olatunji for Comrade of the Quarter
Comrade of the Quarter Bakari Olatunji at Uhuru Foods & Pies, Oakland, California
Bakari Olatunji has been an important part of the Uhuru Movement in Oakland, where he grew up, since the mid 1980s.
He has been a political and practical leader in many campaigns of the Uhuru Movement and has taken a fighting stance in support and defense of the African working-class.
In August of 2017, Bakari agreed to the position of Uhuru Foods & Pies Market Manager in Oakland.
The market is a booth where Uhuru Foods & Pies cooks and sells our African Comfort Food every Saturday of the year.
This was a position that had never been fully filled, in the sense that the tasks of the market were split between production, operations and the market manager.
The job that Bakari agreed to take on was one that incorporated all aspects of managing and growing the Uhuru Foods & Pies booth at the Oakland Grand Lake Farmers Market, from the shop to the dishes and staffing all day and developing the growth of the market.
In the first quarter of 2018, the average income from the Uhuru Foods & Pies booth at the market is up 25 percent over the average for all of 2017.
In the same period, the average income is up 35 percent over the income for the same three months of last year.
Moreoverer, the amount of money that Uhuru Foods & Pies customers and supporters put in the donation can is up 33 percent over the same period last year! Sometimes a donor does not even get food.
This shows the political support for the Uhuru Movement—that the presence Bakari has built at the market—generates.
It also shows the relationship with the community that is such an important aspect to the success of Uhuru Foods & Pies.
Bakari starts working on the market every Saturday, rain or shine, hot or cold, at about 5:30 in the morning and does not end until 4:30 in the afternoon.
During the week, Bakari does inventory, updates systems and equipment for the market, does the shop and cleans the equipment.
He interacts with the Market Production Coordinator to ensure that we have exactly the right amount of inventory to sell at the market.
He also staffs the Uhuru House three afternoons each week.
At every weekly Uhuru Foods & Pies meeting, Bakari brings a written report that contains victories, contradictions and suggestions for growing the market income, efficiency, better presence, recruitment and safety.
Bakari introduced a new menu item, an African Curry Lentil Stew, to great success, especially as the months are colder.
We have since turned this stew into a new pie: An African Savory Pastry. It is also vegan! We sell out every week.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. The real achievement of Bakari Olatunji is the political leadership that he provides in Uhuru Foods & Pies.
He works with a steady team of volunteers to achieve all of the above. They come back week after week after week.
Many of the volunteers are14 to 16 year- old high school students, as well as adults.
The Uhuru Foods & Pies booth at the market has become the MOST BEAUTIFUL under Bakari’s leadership, because it is plastered with laminated print outs from The Burning Spear, volunteer posters strategically placed, posters and postcards of our current events, updated signs for our special menu items, the pop-up banner from Black Star Industries and Uhuru Pies banners.
It is a stationary agit-prop booth that sells food and wins support.
Bakari is signing up Africans and North Americans to become a part of Uhuru Foods. He immediately follows up with these contacts.
Some of these contacts have created additional vending opportunities for Uhuru Foods & Pies.
This work is all tied to the Black Power Blueprint, of which Uhuru Foods & Pies is a component.
Finally, and not least, Bakari led the outreach to our contacts to bring them out to the events we held in Oakland at the Uhuru House with African People’s Socialist Party (APSP) Chairman Omali Yeshitela on February 17 and 18.
He also MC’d the events and made the appeal for resources. These events were successful with many Africans hearing the Chairman for the first time.
Bakari brings African Internationalism and self-determination to the work of Uhuru Foods & Pies.
For these reasons and more, it is an honor to work with and to nominate Bakari Olatunji for Comrade of the Quarter.
Maureen M. Wagener