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Scene 1: Community Vans

In a neighborhood where 26 percent of residents rely on public transport, older neighbors can have a hard time getting to medical appointments and performing daily activities. Inspired by Seniors Against A Fearful Environment (SAFE), a 1970s non-profit founded by the Black Panthers that offered free transportation to older residents, local community groups have come together to operate a fleet of vans that host services and provide no-cost rides.

Each van is run by a community group that customizes its interior and staffs it with employees from the neighborhood. Vehicles and services are paid for by the City with local hospital funds, augmenting the existing paratransit system. Some of the vans are shared accessible taxis driven by West Oaklanders while others offer mobile programming — one is a community health clinic, another offers classes. Distributing care and resources beyond individual buildings and institutions, these vans contribute to health equity and spatial justice.

The health clinic van parks alongside a San Pablo Avenue pocket park and arranges seats outside for clients and neighbors. Sally prefers the van to Alta Bates Hospital. She can visit the van for blood pressure check-ups and meet with friends before and after her appointments.

A long grab bar spray painted pink attached to an angled shelf behind a green and white model.
Aging Against the Machine

Illustrated Scene

Visual Description

A digital illustration of the inside view of the Oakland Care Mobile. Two older individuals sit to the left side of the van: a man with a blood pressure cuff around his right arm and a woman next to him who receives attention from a younger man in scrubs. The entrance to the van has a handicap sign and large hand railings on the doors, which a man is gripping as he climbs the steps into the van. Above him, a sign reads, “Next OCM Date 04/21/22.” The sides of the van have large windows, and a small skylight in the ceiling looks down onto the patients of the van. Individuals are rendered in greyscale while the van itself is rendered in shades of green.

Black and white photograph of a group of people standing in front of van with written label that reads “1973: Senior Citizen’s for Safe”
Photo by Ducho Deennis. Black Panther’s It’s About Time Archive (1973).

Related Research

Older Oakland residents in front of a Seniors Against a Fearful Environment (SAFE) van, managed by the Black Panthers.

Visual Description

A black and white photo depicts 21 people standing in front of the long side of a bus facing the camera. The individuals are holding a variety of items, including handbags, sweaters, and newspapers. At the top of the bus there is a sign that reads “CHARTER.” The bus door is open and there is an individual standing inside the bus by the entrance. On the bottom register of the photograph is a white bar with a paper label pasted on that reads “1973: SENIOR CITIZEN’S FOR SAFE.”


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