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Hey local-lovers! The 9th annual Oakland Indie Awards invites you to celebrate and discover the businesses and artists who are doing great work for our community. Come out to the Indie Awards Party on May 29 from 6:30pm-9:30pm overlooking the water at Jack London Square’s Market Building. Tix are only $10 in advance! Support your Indie community! Here’s a look at some of the nominees. See you there!

Oakland Soul: Represents the soul, essence and spirit of Oakland. This business or artist appreciates diversity and creativity, is confident in their individuality and humbly supports their brothers and sisters. 

Aisha Fukushima

Photo image Creative Commons via TEDxSitka


Fukashima is the founder of the ‘RAPtivism’ project, where culture and activism intersect, using rap as a vehicle for social and political engagement. Aisha’s 2012 album Raptivism featured collaborations with 20 leading political hip hop artists spanning 7 countries and 4 continents. Aisha is currently filming for the  docu-series Loyal to My Soil, featuring female emcees in the Bay Area.

Betti Ono Gallery

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Photo image Creative Commons via Flickr user Dianne Yee


Founded by Oakland native Anyka Barber, Betti Ono gallery remains one of the few authentic spaces in the continually gentrified downtown Oakland. After being laid off from her job at the Richmond Art Center, Barber decided to do things her way and open her own gallery. Betti Ono originally started as a small popup gallery on Telegraph that remained semi permanent until Barber rented the larger downtown space.

Candice “Antique” Davis

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Photo Credit:  Hodari Davis

Website/ Facebook /Twitter

Oakland based singer, songwriter, educator, personal and professional coach, Davis founded Antique Edutainment in 2011, a local band which uses music as a tool for healing and education. Like Barber, after being laid off from her job as a program director for a youth arts organizer, Davis took a leap of faith, bridging her two passions of social justice and music together.

Feelmore Adult Gallery

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Neena Feelmore opened Feelmore adult boutique ad art gallery Valentines Day 2011. Opening the shop was no easy feat. Mixed reaction came from the community over concerns of opening a shop near Oakland School for the Arts and Youth Radio. Luckily, Oakland city Planning commission voted 4-0 to grant a permit to our now favorite local sex boutique. Neena also just authored their first book.

Jennifer Johns


Facebook/ TwitterMusic

Oakland native, singer, spoken word artist, emcee and activist, Jennifer Johns has traveled the world uplifting others since the release of her first project HeavyElectroMagneticSoularPoeticJungleHop in the spring of 2004. Inspired by her mother’s personal health battles, Johns is also a food advocate–she’s currently working on an app called Go Liv, a project dedicated to promoting urban sustainability and food justice.


Social Changemaker: This socially responsible business or individual incorporates positive social change into their mission, operations, and/or measures of success. They use creative approaches to give back to the community and address economic and environmental issues. 

Dr. Crystallee Rene Crain*

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Photo Courtesy  Crystallee Rene Crain


Dr. Crain has worked as a professor for 10 years teaching in political science and sociology departments in California and Michigan. Crain’s area of focus is justice, equity, and access for low income communities and communities of color.

Her Resilience Artist Collective



Her Resilience, a female art collective comprised of Hazel Street, Elizabeth Welsh, Gabrielle Rae Travis, Nicole Gervacio, and Monica Santos and  founded by Street, a local community organizer and activist, Her Resilience honors the lives of women affected by violence in Oakland . The project was inspired by the death of Kimberly Roberston, who was found raped and beat to death by a cyclist in the early hours of April 5. The project also aims to highlight women artists in public spaces.

Hipline Dance Studio



Hipline is an all inclusive dance studio welcoming everyone that walks into their doors. They infuse love energy, power and feminism all into one singular space. Hipline also hosts a community gathering of female entrepreneurs called Boss Club, allowing women to connect, exchange ideas and support each others work.

Joy Elan

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Photo courtesy Joy Elan


An East Bay native, Joy received an undergraduate degree in African American studies at U.C Berkeley, later going on to receive her graduate degree in education from Stanford. Elan is heavy on the open mic circuit, regularly performing her spoken word pieces. She has authored four books  and is an an advocate for people of all disabilities.

Kin Folkz

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Image Credit via Facebook page


Kin Folkz is the founder and CEO of SPECTRUM Queer Media, an LGBTQIA media ally and creative arts community empowerment organization. SPECTUM Queer Media’s mission is to highlight and support the LGBTQIA community by showcasing authentic media representations of singular diversity and shared experiences.

Mamacita’s Café


Website/Facebook /Twitter
Mamacitas cafe is a women owned cafe that creates jobs and provides training for female identified women in Oakland. Founded by Renee Geesler and Shana Lancaster, Mamacita’s goal is the enable young women with the power and tools to become entrepreneurs.

Phat Beets*

Photo via Phat Beets Twitter page


Phat Beets Produce mission statement  aims to create a healthier, more equitable food system in North Oakland by providing affordable access to fresh produce, facilitating youth leadership in health and nutrition education, and connecting small farmers to urban communities via the creation of farm stands, farmers’ markets, and urban youth market gardens.

Pillar: A long-established Oakland business or artist with deep roots in the community and long-standing ties to the people, culture and history of The Town. This person or business mentors newbies and is renowned for their contributions to Oakland’s living history.


Joyce Gordon Gallery+

Photo Credit Flickr user Earthworm via Creative Commons


Joyce Gordon Gallery is a commercial fine art gallery–the epitome of the cultural diversity that is the Bay Area. Founded by Joyce Gordon in 2003, the gallery makes art accessible to everyone, regardless of income. “…a lot of people who walk by here have never been in a gallery before, never been in a museum in their lives. They’re welcome here, too”, Joyce said in a 2013 interview.

Marcus Book Store

Marcus Books Oakland, Ca

Image Credit Flickr user Steve Rhodes via Creative Commons


Marcus books is the oldest independent Black bookstore in the country, founded in San Francisco in 1960 by Julian and Raye Richardson. The store was once on the brink of foreclosure, but has since made a comeback and thriving at its Oakland location.

Maya Songbird

Website/ Facebook /Twitter /Music
Local musician Maya Songbird has been singing since she can remember. She began singing at the age of 4, and took the leap of becoming a full time artist in 2009. A scary thing to do for anyone to abandon the traditional route and follow your dreams, Maya is proof that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

Naming Gallery



Naming gallery has much to do with 15th st’s thriving  art scene.  The gallery was founded by local artist Lisa Aurora and Josef Lucas in 2012. Aurora is also the owner of Tilde, a clothing, vintage, arcade, shop and communal space and free bookshop, with Sarah Carlburg, founder of Libros Libres (which is also up for an indies under Innovative Newcomer) . Aurora is also a local D.J, regularly spinning with other women D.Js at your favorite local bars.

The Perfect Sidekick


The Perfect Sidekick is the first LGBT gym in the nation and of course it’s right here in Oakland, founded by Nathalie Huerta. “We gender neutralize everything from the bathrooms and the showers to the exercises,” said Huerta in a colorlines interview.

Urban Stitch Boutique



Owner Alanna Rayford, a curator of fashion, opened Urban Stitch Boutique, the uptown boutique shop showcases emerging local fashion designers such as Harumi K, Jaeja, and Nneka. Rayford is a supporter of fellow local businesses, in fact, Wear Your Voice’s first pop up shop was at Urban Stitch!

Valerie Troutt


Bay Area born, Valerie Trout received critical acclaim with her debut album The Sound of Peace. Troutt has worked and collaborated with Oakland Public Conservatory, the Museum of African Diaspora, Higher Ground Neighborhood Corp. and the Embodiment Project.

Innovative Newcomer: A business or artist who started in the last three years that excites and inspires with a creative new idea, perspective, model or solution. 

Natalie Coblentz

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An artist, Natalie brings art, fashion and the LGBTQIA community together as a fashion and art curator.  Natalie is hosting a pre SF pride kick off, La Garçonne Gala, inspired by the last dapperQ fashion show Natalie executed at CalAcademy of Sciences for San Francisco Pride. Natalie also aided in the Brooklyn dapperQ fashion show called (un)HEELED executed well by Anita Dolce Vita. THIS YEAR, Natalie is forming the excitement of Queer Fashion and combining it with High Art, Queer Identity Projects, Female Musicians and Awesome DJs @ SOMArts Cultural Center for a non-profit affair.


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Founded by Oakland native Trevor Parham, Oakstop is currently the most affordable co-working spaces in Oakland. The shop also doubles as a gallery and recently curated the Black Artists on Art exhibit.


PicMonkey Collage

Photos sourced from solespace.com. Click on image to view original source. 

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SoleSpace acknowledges the artistic expression of fashion. Listed one of 11 women who rocked Oakland in 2014, it’s no surprise that artist and cultural organizer Faviana Rodriguez  is partially responsible for one of my favorite shoe stores. Created along with Jeff Perlstein, Solespace doubles as a creative lab, so be prepared to feel ultra artsy and inspired while browsing for shoes.

Job Creator: An independent business that has a positive effect on the region by consistently providing good jobs for residents of the Bay Area, employs 50 people or more, is socially responsible and/or environmentally sustainable.

Planting Justice*

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Planting justice was founded in June 2008, aimed at addressing environmental injustice issues, particularly around food and economic justice issues for low income and communities of color.

Ripple Effect: A business that supports the local economy by buying supplies and services from other local vendors, creating a “ripple effect” as money circulates within the community.

Arizmendi Bakery



Arizmendi Bakery is a worker-owned cooperative specializing in morning pastries, artisan breads and gourmet pizza.  Berkeley based Cheeseboard helped create the Oakland bakery, which is named after Maria Arizmendiarrieta,  a Catholic priest and founder of the Mondragón cooperative movement.

Bissap Baobab Oakland



Bissap Baobab Oakland serves Senegalese food in Downtown Oakland, and offers weekly live entertainment with traditional dance hall style flare. East Bay was especially excited when the restaurant, opened an additional spot outside of San Francisco. If you haven’t gone and want to experience authentic dancehall, this is your go to spot.



Founder Angela Tsay has been doing amazing work through her clothing company, which also serves as B-Corporation (a for profit company that is intended to serve the community and environment though its brand.) Angela strives to put Oakland artists on the map by partnering with local designers to create images for her iconic shirts.

Greenie: An environmental champion who works to improve our community through sustainable practices, products or services. This local business or individual reduces waste or consumption, creates green products or provides green services. 

Back to the Roots+


Founded in 2009, Back to the Roots by fraternity brothers Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Valez, the duo decided to give up their corporate job offers to become full-time mushroom farmers. Back to the Roots’ mission is to bring back our personal relationship with the food on our plates.

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse*


The mission of the East Bay Depot is to divert waste materials from landfills by collecting and redistributing discarded goods as low-cost supplies for art, education, and social services in our Depot Store. The educational mission is to increase the awareness of school children and the general public regarding the green benefits of reusing materials.

American Steel Studios



Via American Steel Studio’s Facebook page: American Steel Studios provides affordable space in which artists and entrepreneurs can create and inspire. The population is diverse and creative, manifesting a space that is resplendent with cross-pollination and inspiration.

* Nominee is ineligible to win because it holds 501c(3) charitable status or is a not-for-profit entity.
+ Nominee is ineligible to win because s/he/it is a winner within the past four years. Click here to view past winners!

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Originally from the Bay, I was uprooted from my eclectic surroundings and forced to spend my formative years in conservative San Joaquin County (Stockton) after Loma Prieta. Earthquake central couldn't deter me, and in 2010, I relocated to San Francisco. After a year of not being rich or knowing how to code, I moved to Oakland, where my momma and my momma's momma were born. Oakland has changed A LOT from when I was growing up, and I love getting reacquainted with my roots. Like our city's logo, Oakland grounds me, it's where I've rediscovered myself and unleashed my creativity. If I were a tattoo, I'd be eyes on my eyelids so I can snooze the day without anyone noticing (which I do often.) If I were a street in Oakland, I'd be Skyline Blvd, because, the view. Favorite spot in Oakland? I love it all! But I'd have to say Redwood Regional Park...or Raj Indian in Piedmont.

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