In June 2020, Oakland was transformed from broken windows and boarded storefronts to a public art and activist movement in the timespan of a few days. Artist collectives have been coming together and beautifying downtown Oakland with their voice and message for the Black Lives Matter movement. We have moved from a void of voice and personal expression, to people coming together in activism, community, and artistic expression for racial justice. Fueled by the protests to end police violence spurred by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and countless other victims of racial violence, artists are speaking out through their mural work throughout the streets of Oakland. Demands for justice and true memorials rather than hashtags and a quick social media buzz to honor the countless murders of black lives is voiced through these very talented muralist and art collectives throughout the city.
Black Women and Police Violence
“Say Her Name”, “Bring Me Justice”, and “Black Girls Deserve Better” murals emphasize the need for attention for the disproportionate killings of black women in the U.S. Although black women have the highest rate of homicide in the U.S., often women’s issues are not emphasized in the media as much as men’s. Campaigns like #SayHerName, launched by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), brings awareness to the often invisible stories of black women and girls who have been victimized by police violence.
The mural below is a memorial to Nia Wilson, Kayla Moore, Breonna Taylor, and Charleena Lyles.
The mural “Bring Me Justice” was dedicated to Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police who burst in her home in Louisville, Kentucky in March 2020. Her murderers, three Louisville Metro Police Department officers, have not been punished for their crimes. Although there is usually a huge level of outrage regarding the deaths of black men, there has not been the same level of outrage for the deaths of black women. Because of this, we still need to keep the same energy to fight for justice for her death, amongst the many other black women who have died at the hands of the police.
In the lower right corner of the “Bring Me Justice” Mural the scroll reads: “In Memorium, Breonna Taylor, June 5, 1993-March 13, 2020. Each flower has a meaning: King Protea: change, transformation, diversity, daring, resourcefulness, courage, strength. Chestnut flower: do me justice. Yarrow: healing, war”.
The mural “Black Girls Deserve Better” honors Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Korryn Gaines, Aiyana Jones, Breonna Taylor, and too many more.#SayHerName.
Black & Brown Communities Coming Together
Some of the murals such as “Black Brown Unity” by Chris Gazaleh and Trust Your Struggle art collective show the intersectionality of movements. Chris wrote, ” It’s always so critical to remind our Black brothers and sisters that we have your back and your front! Our relationship is vital to the blood line of both struggles, hand in hand we will fight together for freedom, justice and victory against white supremacy and corporate/government greed that wants to keep our people back from reaching self determination. We won’t stop till we see 100% justice. Rest In Peace to all the lives lost at the hands of the brutal US police who have been trained to incite violence and criminalize the innocent and much respect to all the people fighting for justice out here. Palestinian Black Solidarity all day everyday! Struggle until justice!” Trust Your Struggle art collective has been involved in several of the murals in Oakland and they are committed to social justice and community activism through art.
Pancho Pescador, artist of the “Together We Rise” mural has depicted a water protector showing the intersectionality of Indigenous movements and Black movements. He writes on June 3rd, “Today was a beautiful day to see…an army of artists came out to paint in community, the city is turning into a gallery of images and messages of resistance. This painting is based of a picture of the water protector #autumnpelteir,from #standingrock to #minniapolis from #walmapu to Oakland the struggle for life is global.
Artists and activists from all walks of life are seeing how the movement against racism and racial violence is needed in the U.S. The murals are inspiring us to take action and speak up. We are asking for “justice for all”, not just justice for some. Hopefully the movement will continue and dialogs surrounding these issues will raise awareness and transform our nation.
All photos done by Bree Doan. More found @bree_doan_photography .