Category Archives: street art

Art on International and 18th Ave.

As my students would say, I haven’t posted street art in a koo minute.  Lucky you, I drove by an unexpected alley one sunny Saturday afternoon.  This artist’s movements caught my attention and I had to see what was up.




Two different murals obviously.  But they looked like they were having fun dancing together.


How cool that you can’t entirely be sure of the gender and age of this person.


New tattoo place around the corner.  I like the curves against the hard metal fence and straight brick lines.


I could wear these colors everyday.

Not much else to say about the art.  It’s bittersweet though.  These days this type of art and home improvement usually signify a trend in gentrification.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this area– where Asian men lounge in greasy auto shops, Vietnamese sandwiches are sold, and sex workers appear before the sun gets to kiss the horizon– in 10-15 years will be teeming with hipsters a la the Mission District in San Francisco.

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Street Art: Oakland Today

I apologize for the hiatus on street art photos.  I can’t promise any regular posting though, so enjoy what’s here:

I.C.E, SB 1070, Fox News, Glenn Beck, militarism.  MLK Jr Way and 16th St.

Ras Term’s mask and yes, Haile Selassie’s angel.  14th and Jackson.

Pear Ocult and Black Power.

We define wealth.  Re-define wealth.  Glad I saw this one because I’ve always thought the cowry shell stencils that I saw around Oakland was a venus fly trap.  Shells have been used as a form of currency all over the world.

I was biking to work two weeks ago thinking about street art as an indication of where the U.S. and the economy is headed.  It’s an oversimplification, but I dare to say that more graffiti signals more hard times for working-class folks, as we get more agitated.  I’ve noticed more and more explicitly political pieces too.  That same day on my bike, I missed the chance to capture a “Tupac” piece I saw that morning.  Our memories are on fire, trying to rebirth a new tomorrow.

Gone but not forgotten.  This meant a lot to see.  Google “oscar grant graffiti.” I believe this artist goes by “Golden State Warrior.”

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Is There Justice?: Fears on Hearing Mehserle Verdict

Etched posters on Webster & 14th St (-ish).

Last week at West Oakland Middle School, normally calm adults jumped at loud noises. The week before we started teaching summer school, we found out about a shooting injuring five mourners in a crowd.* The vigil in West Oakland was for a young man killed at a bus stop in East Oakland. Youth taken by violence—unfortunately the line rings like a cliché. As we rolled out the first week of summer school, instructors and principals alike have been startled by July 4th firecrackers and trucks backfiring as the city awaits the verdict of Johannes Mehserle, the killer of Oscar Grant. Police control stations have been set up in advance and businesses have been boarding up their windows in preparation for a riot. I say—no matter what the verdict is, no matter how powerful the uprising—justice will not be served.

People are angry. Things will burn. I pray we all stay safe. These conditions have been building up for years. Though I do worry about the outcomes of an uprising, it is not this for which I am afraid.

What I fear is that—in anger—we lose the deeper analysis. What is the bigger picture we strive to see? First, even in the proceedings of the Mehserle trial, officials carried out unfair measures. Jamilah King from Colorlines reports, “Mehserle’s trial was moved from Alameda County to Los Angeles after the presiding judge ruled that a fair, local trial wasn’t possible. The jury currently deliberating Mehserle’s fate doesn’t have a singly [sic] Black juror, and reports from the courtroom are that some local Black press and outspoken Black journalists have been banned from the court room. All this sets up a false hope in justice through a court system predicated on exclusion, say some advocates. And the assault and murder of unarmed Black men wouldn’t end, Gomez says.” As community organizer Christina Gomez reminds us, let’s continue pointing our finger to the racism in our country, killing segments of our society.

Furthermore, the conversation needs to progress to what we think is the role of policing. Do we think that security increases proportionally to the number armed men and women? I hope not. U.S. “defense” policy alone demonstrates my point. If we want to take it local, the complex development of crime can be read in a recent article in East Bay Express, which describes the relationship between crime and health care. Parolees linked with the services of health clinics are less likely to return to prison than those who were released from prison without similar support.

I would also argue we should expand our definitions of crime and justice. Our government officials operate under criminal impunity (seriously Oaklanders– check out the link), whether one looks at SB1070, Prop 8, poverty, or unwarranted raids. On the point of impunity, Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic writes, “…if an officer can can [sic] demonstrate that he was afraid for his life, he’ll walk [away from charges]. How do you know the officer was afraid? Because he says so. It’s not important whether Amadou Diallo had a gun or not. What’s important is that the cops thought he did.” Police officers are innocent until proven guilty, while people of color are guilty until proven innocent. Our laws protect our supposed protectors more than they do us. It is about time our laws protect people, in a country “for the people.”

In the end, what is “justice” to Grant’s family? Real justice would not have involved his murder.

The point is, no matter what the Mehserle verdict, I know that justice has not been served in this country. Not in this trial, not in many others. This doesn’t anger me as much as it saddens me. My greatest fear is not the violence. It is that the sadness of this place and time will eat at me. So I keep working. Let’s keep working.

– – – – – – – – –

* I believe one of the young people has passed and another may be blinded.

See the clip to the right-hand to get a sense of police response:

Mural on Broadway & 17th

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Street Art: West Oakland

Rode my bike around West Oakland this week to acquaint myself with the gears of my new-old bike. I’m just going to say this once more: riding in Oakland is beautiful. I feel empowered as I actively engage with neighborhoods, make “driving” decisions, and rely on my body for fuel. The physicality of it is… well, pretty sexy.

Of course, like most developments in my life, biking reminds me that some have access to information and others do not. I watch bikers of color make dangerous decisions on their bike– Asian men riding against traffic as they collect aluminum cans, black homeless men hauling their loads at night without lights, Latino men riding to work on sidewalks. And did you notice? Male bikers out-number female bikers. I am hoping as biking becomes more popular, more women will take it up as a mode of transportation. Eventually so many people will bike that urban planning will prioritize the two-wheelers over the four-wheelers. By then, it will be difficult to make bad biking decisions because the roads were planned for us, as it should have always been.

“A quality city is not one that has great roads but one where a child can safely go anywhere on a bicycle.” -Enrique Peñalosa, mayor of Bogotá, Colombia. His events have inspired many similar ones like Oaklavia.

In the present day, however, advocacy groups unfortunately prioritize areas where white, middle-class cyclists proliferate. Way to shoot the cause in the foot…

West Oakland is slowly seeing more bike lanes created. This is mostly due to the gentrification happening in Oakland. The photos below were taken on the same day. I would argue they were done by the same artists. One sees that the style of street art changes as a population changes. Sure, taggers of color use stencils and labels too… but rarely like what you see below. I would guess these pieces were created by someone who had more supplies and idle time on his or her hands.

If I had to name this, it’d be called “The Heart of Peace.”

A critique of capitalism/neo-liberalism/neo-anarchism(?)

A close-up. What does the image of the bra and knives suggest?

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Evolving with Oakland

I think of this as a playful twist on the “rise up” mantra. This is bathroom decor in Jumpn Java’s restroom. I spent a morning working there and half-listening to a high school adviser conduct an hour long parent-student conference. Ugh, painful.

“MOUCH”? I spotted this next to SubRosa Cafe, on my way to test-drive a bike next door… actually at a bike shop I previously disliked because it was named “Manifesto.” But that’s another story… Believe me, one feels alive cycling on city streets, speeding alongside cars. Oakland is beautiful via two wheels.

About two blocks down… is this mural alongside the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which is on my list of places to get better connected with.

Spring tulips… enjoyed with a dash of Howard Zinn and Ronald Takaki.
(I know I’m not analyzing the images, but today, the story of how they intertwine in my experience seems to matter more.)

They say live in northern California once…
but leave before it makes you soft.
I wonder if that time is coming.
I worry if I will recognize its arrival.
How am I evolving?

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Not Forgotten: Oscar Grant and others

This New Year’s marked one year since Oscar Grant’s death. Pictures from the gathering at the Fruitvale BART.

The board with the images are of men and women killed by law enforcement, including Gary King and Daniel Son Pham (both below).

King reminds me of so many of the young men with whom I went to school. And Pham, he could be a relative…

I cannot explain the psychic fear and sadness surrounding the issue of police brutality. I can, however, say that that fear and sadness is only intensified when one medium of people’s voice is silenced. The beautiful mural of King was buffed a few months ago. A reason to hate graffiti abatement. The City of Oakland spends money on a special squad that works on this “issue,” policing our material world to fit into one aesthetic viewpoint.

Good night.

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Street Art 3: trucks, bikes, books

I’ve been wanting the capture these trucks for years. Here’s a pair that I chose to post. I’m a bit bothered by the caricature of the Asian faces. Yet what’s more interesting is what I see as the orientalization of the sexual images of the black women in the second photo. Black hair = Chinese queues? Gives “chinky eyes” another layer of meaning.

I learned today that a bike lock costs double the price of the bike my mom bought. So much for an environmentalist alternative…

Bike culture is evolving in Oakland. Driven heavily by the growing white hipster population of the city. These images are from outside a cafe, which did not exist a year ago and is frequented by young white middle class folks. I did not think much about the use of the word manifesto when I first saw it. I assumed it was from a community org but alas, it’s a bike shop. Nothing wrong with that inherent concept. However, who is driving this “urban bike culture” and who has more access to “self-expression,” a value claimed by Manifesto Oakland? What happens to activism when terms like “manifesto” and “movement” are appropriated by whites uncommitted to radicalism? This is a set-up that heavily resembles the position of white hippies during the 60s and 70s. How do radicals of color then engage with “anti-wealth” whites (for lack of a better term)? It’s an issue Huey Newton considered but I don’t know if he found an answer…

Went into Berkeley for some books to supplement the shitty state textbook. And realized what I already knew– teachers pay to teach.

But that’s ok… Anthony Hamilton told me:

We don’t have to worry bout no groceries/ we can fill up on love alone
Quit your crying lady/ we can conquer the world

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