A Love Letter to Oakland

Published by Oakland Rising Action on

If I could write a love letter to Oakland

and do the work

it would be about how much

I learned to break my heart wide open

the seen and unseen


to try to make this town

better for us all

so we can not only dream bigger

but live better

not in generations or decades

to come but now

so we could say when we were liberated

in generations or decades

that we played a role

in making it a reality

If I could write a love letter to Oakland

I would write about how much

I learned to break my heart wide open

to love more deeply

myself and my community

and then break it open even a little more
















(Photo by Brooke Anderson)

With my heart wide open full of gratitude and love for the Town that raised me and is currently raising my kids, I am announcing my transition out of my role as Executive Director of Oakland Rising and Oakland Rising Action at the end of December 2023. I stepped into this role with a three-year personal benchmark and a five-year vision for the organization. With vision and guidance from our collaborative partners, allies, family, friends, and community, I set internal and external goals for the organization. I believe I leave the organization strong and in very capable and dedicated hands.

Fifteen years ago, the Oakland Rising collaborative was established with the mission to build political power in the flatlands of Oakland utilizing the civic engagement process. Shortly after that, Oakland Rising Action was established to change the face of Oakland’s government by elevating progressive candidates into office. In 2021, I stepped into the role with my eyes wide open knowing what this role meant for the organization, the Town, my family, and myself. I stepped into a role previously filled by formidable strong women who led the organization and a collaborative of organizations that built a progressive political home for Oaklanders. The year I stepped in was a moment of organizational leadership transition and a political moment for our town, the country, and the world. I stepped into the role when my two kids (8 and 11 years old at the time) were still doing remote learning at home. I knew that this role meant they would need to step up and share their only present parent with the work. I knew how both lonely and fulfilling this work would be – knowing this experience would break my heart open – and then some more.

It has been an honor to work with such an amazing staff, collaborative partners, and allies toward our common goals of powerbuilding and social justice in Oakland. I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished together in a relatively short time. I want to share some highlights I will carry in my chest as I depart.

  • Deeply invested in coaching and the leadership development of our growing staff – particularly our communications, leadership, and program teams
  • Broadened our decision making process to our Directors Team, moving us away from our longstanding Executive Director-centric approach
  • Sharpened our organizational purpose and developed a new collaborative structure to give clarity of roles and room to expand
  • Developed relationships with new funders and donors to strengthen and support our expanded staff and programs.
  • Developed new communications strategies including: Monday Meals, our weekly IG Live segments, and our soon to be launched Arts, Culture, and Democracy project.
  • Led on informing and mobilizing people on the census and redistricting process that led to new district lines that increased Black, Latinx, and Asian voter population representation across all districts.
  • Led several candidate endorsement processes and sent out voter guides to tens of thousands in Oakland and broader Alameda County and organized candidate forums that highlighted our endorsees.

    I am so proud to say I am part of the whole OR and ORA ecosystem – staff, collaborative, and supporters. I am humbled by the work we have done together and walk away with many lessons learned about multi-racial community building, vulnerability, and graciousness to grow in our principles, values, and alignment.

    I still have the rest of this year to continue building and sharpening our internal systems and won’t be far from the work after I step back. I hope to pursue some creative storytelling projects while centering my well being and my children. Our hiring committee is putting on the finishing touches on the job description and in the coming weeks OR/ORA will open the search for our next Executive Director. Please keep your eyes on our email for that announcement. I hope as in all of the best things about Oakland, we can collectively find a new leader for this amazing organization.

    I love Oakland. It is where, with all its complexities, I chose to return to after living abroad a little over a decade ago and where I choose to raise my children. And I love this organization and all those have touched and been touched by the work we do. I look forward to this next chapter and what it will bring to everyone.

    With my fully open heart,

    liz suk

    Categories: Uncategorized