Jocelyn Gama Puts the Hyphy in Multi-Hyphenate
A Contributor from our Next-Gen Inspiration Team
Jocelyn Gama stays busy. A college student, activist, educator, athlete, model, and fashion designer, the 22-year-old multi-hyphenate uses her many talents to tackle issues that have plagued Oakland for decades. “I’m focused on helping my community heal,” she says.
After immigrating from Mexico at the age of one, Gama witnessed Oakland’s devastating inequality firsthand. She recalls: “I always wondered why we lived in el barrio — the ghetto — right next to big houses in the Oakland Hills. My father collected cardboard and sold tamales on the street for a living; my brother was in and out of jail. It was depressing, but something within me always said to look on the brighter side and ask: what can you do about it?”
“Now that I’m older, I see why people fall into drugs and gang violence. East Oakland has been disenfranchised for decades,” she explains. “We come from a history of redlining, and the economic system doesn’t help people of color find autonomy or financial independence.”
Today, Gama interns for the Urban Strategies Council, a local advocacy group that works with the Oakland Unified School District curriculum. As program coordinator, she helps facilitate innovative programs like Y-Plan, which connects high schoolers to green infrastructure, earthquake readiness, climate resilience, and other urban planning projects. Gama says, “We recently presented at Oakland City Hall. It was rewarding to be able to talk to the mayor and other city officials, instead of feeling marginalized and unwelcome in those spaces.”
Through her internship, Gama has also touched base with the West Oakland Environmental Indicator Project, which is working at the frontlines of environmental justice and climate change risk-reduction along the industrialized Oakland shore. “Climate change will affect my future and the future of Oakland. Our water, land, and air are being jeopardized by big corporations, and humans that lack knowledge of this phenomenon. We need a lot of government intervention to decrease air pollution, clean our oceans and reduce unsustainable products that harm our environment.”
And the soon-to-be UC Berkeley graduate has big plans for the future. In 2020, she single-handedly founded Hyphy x Educated, a nonprofit that hosts a diverse set of low-cost community workshops. She explains: “I love dancing, acting, sports, modeling, and spirituality — but growing up, none of those activities were available to us. So, I wanted to create a central hub for Oakland residents to connect with resources and heal their intergenerational trauma.” Over the past two years, Hyphy x Educated has held entrepreneurship, financial literacy, fitness, modeling, and meditation classes.
When asked what Oakland needs most, Gama’s reply is confident: “I think we need more people like me, to be honest. It breaks me when people in positions of power forget where they came from and who they need to help. If someone like me can come up with a plan to improve education, why can’t the people who were hired by the city do it?”
“You have to maximize the opportunities you work for and are given,” Gama reflects. “I won’t be able to save everyone, but I know that I can save some people. And that’s impactful because everyone matters, you know?”
All photos courtesy Jocelyn Gama. Audio produced by Callie Rhoades.