Oakland answers the call for art amidst protests

On Friday May 30, 2020 during the George Floyd protests, Tribune Tavern’s windows were broken on Franklin Street in downtown Oakland. For several days their windows, like many of their neighboring businesses’, were covered in plywood and graffiti. This was another blow to Tavern’s business which had been closed for several months due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. 

A call was then put out on social media by a friend of the Tavern, asking artists to use the plywood boards as their canvas. While thousands of people took to the Bay Area streets protesting, paint supplies, snacks, water, and time were all donated to the effort to beautify downtown Oakland.

“I think that people are hurting around the country right now and everybody wanted to be able to contribute, to lend a hand,” said Tribune Tavern co-owner Jana Pastena. “I think that, locally, this was a just a prime opportunity for people to feel like they were making a difference right now.”

In the course of five days, over 300 volunteers came to bring supplies to paint over graffiti, clean up glass, and to primer plywood, according to Pastena. 

An artist known as El Maldito said “this area is like home base for creativity. All the art being manifested currently is the current inspiration and I just wanted to contribute with making color, perspective and imagination visible for the people during this challenging time.” 

It seems that overnight, and within days, pieces were painted by individuals and groups, all contributing to the vibrancy of Oakland. It seems that more are popping up each minute. On what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday last Friday, several artists paid tribute to her as well.

Parents have taken their children on “art walks” to learn about the current issues, and writer Pendarvis Harshaw notes on Twitter that “downtown Oakland is currently an art gallery.”

Over the weekend, groups of people stopped by the mural of George Floyd in front of Somar Bar in Uptown Oakland. The mural was one of the first mural tributes to George Floyd in Oakland. It has also been made into an alter for Floyd, with flowers, candles, and more gathered in front of the mural. People drove by taking photos of the alter, and pedestrians stopped to photograph it as well.

Below are just a few of the murals around downtown Oakland; there are dozens more to be seen.

An image of a brown person wearing a bright pink head wrap

“This piece is about the connection of global rebellions, uprisings and struggles from Chile to Oakland, from Minneapolis to Palestine and the solidarity links that are being made globally to fight Capitalism, racism and injustice.” via IG: @panchopescador. Photo by Brandy Collins.

A mural of a black woman with an afro that is multihued.

“It takes a village. So I ensure what I am able to provide I give and it always comes in a full circle. However, remaining altruistic and spreading the message is my ultimate goal.” Photo by Brandy Collins. IG: @onibadgal & @miss_rogue

“My work is my attempt to bring visibility to indigenous souls who’ve had to face struggles with colonialism. My image represents a cross with eyes and faces, the many who’ve come and gone. In these times of pain and struggle with our communities of color, I want to shift the perspectives and honor those who have fallen to theses colonial forces.” Photo by Brandy Collins. IG: @elmalditoarte www.malditoria.com

A mural with a white background says "bread and roses too BLM" with an image of roses adjacent to it.

Tribune Tavern Franklin Street window’s mural. Artist: Amanda Bliss. Photo by Brandy Collins.

A large mural with an eagle in fire orange colors.

“Through the fire, we rise,” writes one of the artists of this mural, Cece Carpio of Trust Your Struggle Collective. IG: @cececarpio @misterbouncer @the_letter_thi @trustyourstrugglecollective. Photo by Momo Chang.

A mural says "Oakland is still proud" in big letters.

“It’s been about unity and and we have been able to create and prove that it can be done with art. I’m just humble that I’ve been able to be a part of something so great.” Aireon Tavarres IG: @the_hyphy_kid. Photo by Brandy Collins.

An image of a smiling Black woman with flowers and leaves surrounding her. The words say "Breonna Taylor Say Her Name."

A mural commemorating Breonna Taylor in Oakland. Photo by Momo Chang.

An image of two hands tied together with "shut it down" behind it.

“Let it be known that the twinsies are against any system that oppresses Black, Brown and other people of color ESPECIALLY YOUTH!” via IG: @TwinWallsMuralcompany. Photo by Brandy Collins.

An image of a megaphone with the words "Amplify Black voices" coming out of it.

Artist unknown. Photo by Brandy Collins.

An image of an African American man at the center of a mural with a green background. Flowers are in front of it. It is an alter for the man who was killed by police.

“George Floyd lives in us.” The artists of this mural outside of Somar Bar, the Oakland graffiti crew #TheDreamKontinues (#TDK/TDKCrew), talked to Alicia Garza, one of the founders of #BlackLivesMatter. Garza suggested this messaging, according to a KQED Arts interview. Photo by Momo Chang.

3 Comments

  1. Catalina Cariaga-Nakamura

    This article impelled me to take Junteenth off from work at home and walk around to see the murals. I especially liked the Black Equestrian on Luka’s Taproom. it is really powerful to capture her riding out there with the peaceful protest. I like Cece Carpio’s murals and all the murals on Tierra Coffee. Cornel West, and memorial to Breanna. Just learned who Bayard Rustin was. As a poet, I am inspired by these huge works and the imagination, and urgency — as well as the impermanence of these artworks. We must keep them in our hearts as they have been in the hearts of these outraged artists who take it upon themselves to bravely create their art in this time of pandemic and violence against blacks. Peace & Salamat.

  2. Could we get in touch. I’m with Community Vision Capital and Consulting. I’m also an Oaklander. I want other investors and community agents to take this further. I’m trying to convene a conversation to take it to the next level. I have never seen Downtown Oakland this beautiful!!!

  3. Justin Hughes

    I’ve known @onibadgal for nearly a decade and she’s always been one to show more passion in things than most people. I’m not surprised she’s helped create something as amazing as this, for that’s exactly who she is as a human being. I’m hoping to see more from her and everyone else visualizing their ideals! We need this kind of expression now more than ever.

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