Economic development is booming in Oakland, California! But many local youth still face steep barriers to securing good jobs in the Bay Area’s competitive workforce. Mamacitas Cafe’s mission is to create fair wage jobs, specifically for young women of color ages 18-24, and to expand employment and leadership opportunities for youth in transition from the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Our team started Mamacitas Cafe almost three years ago as a way to ensure that all Oakland youth have access to economic stability and to the healing they need to thrive.


We believe that connection, imagination, and economic empowerment are key! Mamacitas Cafe is a holistic approach to community development, placing the power for economic growth directly in the hands of those most harmed by gentrification.

Our goal is to establish clear pathways to upward mobility in a stable, supportive, and educational environment. We believe that Oakland’s young women are extremely capable leaders and we offer mentorship and sisterhood so they can build their skills and confidence.


Mamacitas Cafe is led by a multi-racial and intergenerational team. Founding members Simone Obidah, Shana Lancaster & Renee Geesler are all fierce advocates of Oakland and are committed to building racial and social justice in our town.

Simone Obidah is a chef, educator and mentor in the buddhist community. Simone has cooked at a number of popular Bay Area restaurants including Miss Ollie’s in Oakland and Gather in Berkeley.

Shana is an artist and a third-generation Oakland resident who is deeply connected to the city’s unique landscape. She has over 17 years of experience in the food service industry and served as Program Director for a youth workforce development program housed at California Lawyers for the Arts.

Renee is a community builder, communications strategist, and rock-star mom. She founded Mamacitas Cafe after 10 years in public radio and community work. Renee also serves as the communications coordinator at Akonadi Foundation, an organization that supports and nurtures racial justice movement building.