Esther Goolsby and Daughters

Check out Esther, Jamay, and Acacia’s interview!

Esther Goolsby has lived in Oakland for 39 years. Her daughters, Jamay and Acacia, have lived here for 21 and 17 years, respectively.

Esther is a community advocate and environmental justice activist. She sees herself as a loving, compassionate person who wants to change how people see East Oakland. She’s been through a lot of struggle in her life, and she gives credit to who and where she is today to God and to the strong people in her life who never gave up on her. Her older daughter Jamay describes herself as an active, outgoing, intelligent young lady, who sees herself becoming very important.” Acacia sees herself as “logical and determined” who has been inspired by her friends and family. In one of the photographs, Acacia proudly holds up a placard with an image of one of her sources of inspiration: her grandmother, protesting in front of the Oakland Police Department.

“Without starting to cry” or being “highly pissed off,” Esther says that gentrification signifies to her that people aren’t treated as valuable and, in fact, it reflects an attitude of putting money over people. Her daughters don’t like gentrification either and find it unfair. Nevertheless, they both say that Oakland has had a positive impact on their lives. Jamay says of her hometown: “It taught me how to be a survivor, how to not judge people, how to be friendly, how to open my eyes to bigger opportunities, communication, development…you name it.” She then adds, “It’s a huge part of me.” Her sister Accacia says that Oakland “pushes me to do better things with myself.”

Esther has tears in her eyes during this interview, when Jamay says she wants a future in which people come together and get involved in building a better Oakland, and when Acacia says she wants to be like her mother in working to get Oakland to be the best that it can be. As for herself, Esther wants to be able to share her story with people and use it to help make a difference in their lives. She wants a future in which she continues to do what she loves: working with and inspiring people.