Check out Brandon’s interview below!
Brandon Nicholson is a native Oaklander, a husband, and a lifelong practicing Buddhist. Committed to trying to make opportunities for communities and for people, he is Executive Director of a nonprofit called the Hidden Genius Project, a program that teaches technology skills to underserved, black male youth and provides them with mentorship.
Brandon is a first generation Oaklander whose parents, both black attorneys, originally hail from Chicago. When his parents came out to California from a place with a rich, vibrant black culture, it was important to them to respect the diversity of culture already established in Oakland, and they taught him to value Oakland’s culture as well. They encouraged him to play baseball and participate in activities in different parts of Oakland, giving him a great appreciation for the city. He recalls how his parents didn’t come to Oakland thinking about how they could change the city and make it more like where they came from; rather, they wanted to be part of things and bring their own flavor to the mix.
Mr. Nicholson is forthright when it comes to the subject of gentrification. He says that many black people came here from the South or the Midwest, but Indigenous people have been here long before that. It’s ridiculous to him how some newcomers to Oakland, often white, tend to think of themselves as “urban pioneers,” as if there weren’t already people and long-established communities with rich histories here. Nicholson describes gentrification as “almost dehumanization,” and as “not recognizing the humanity of people who were there, and finding any number of ways to almost make them not matter or disappear.”
Nevertheless, Brandon Nicholson finds that Oakland has many opportunities, and he loves his hometown for its vibrancy, diversity, and its “Southern texture.” The people here are “Oakland tough,” like his wife, also from Oakland. Together with her, Brandon wants to be “the first generation of a multigenerational Oakland story.”