Speaking at times with tears in his eyes, Bishop Frank Pinkard Jr., pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church on West MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland, became emotional when discussing the housing shortage crisis in our city.
“We have 120 units of beautiful, affordable housing for disabled and senior citizens – 80 units at the J. L. Richard Terrace on E. 12th, and 40 units at the adjacent Mother Irene Cooper complex,” he said.
“Seniors deserve a safe, affordable place to live,” he said. “We need more.”
The Evergreen housing development was already underway in 1984, and when Bishop Pinkard came to lead the congregation in April of 1985, he supported and completed the vision of Pastor J. L. Richard. The church’s housing commitment also includes a house close to their sanctuary in addition to the 120 units on E. 12th Street.
“We need to keep as many Black people as possible in the city,” Bishop Pinkard went on to say. “So many with deep roots here, fell prey to the suburban flight and social climbing mentality, and now they wish they had stayed.”
“Moving van out, moving van in,” said Bishop Pinkard. Only now the cost and availability of housing is prohibitive. His intention is to preserve the senior population of the city to allow seniors and the disabled the “luxury” of living out their lives in comfort, safety and community.
Evergreen started as the first “Black Church” pastored by a Black minister in the City of Alameda. This was unprecedented in 1947, when racism and ignorance prevailed. Over the next 10 years, from 1947 to 1957, the church moved five times to its current location and 408 West MacArthur Boulevard was transformed into the beautiful sanctuary it is today.
And that physical location is what weighs heavily on Bishop Pinkard’s mind.
“There is a parking lot behind the church,” said Bishop Pinkard. He discussed his thoughts that the parking lot is “only filled on Sundays and for funerals.”
He feels that there is a possibility that the church could make use of that land for a building project.
“Black churches have a lot of land,” he said, “and I believe we are charged to use that for community-building efforts, and for Evergreen that may mean more affordable disabled and senior housing.”
“We have not made a decision, but it weighs heavily on me. So we shall see.”
“Beth Eden has done housing. Allen Temple has done housing. Acts Full Gospel is mounting a large housing project. Williams Chapel is doing the same – and on their parking lot,” he said.
“These are all pioneers, and we were, too. Now, we may be again.”
At 83 years of age, Bishop Pinkard said he might not be here for this project, but after deeper consideration and prayer, he will decide whether or not to bring the idea to his dedicated and committed congregation.
“What a glorious past we have had! What a promising future we have!
“Let us move forward in confidence for He has said, ‘For I am the Lord, I change not.’ Go forth in joy and confidence no matter what might occur, knowing that in Jehovah God our future is secure.”
Evergreen Baptist Church, under the leadership of Bishop Pinkard, may become the next faith-based organization to answer the call for much needed affordable housing in Oakland.
Bishop Pinkard has earned the following academic and seminary degrees: B.A., M. Div., D. Div.