The Community Rejuvenation Project cultivates healthy communities through beautification, education, and celebration. We achieve this mission through experiential programs that promote professional development, artistic and cultural expression, and community empowerment.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reflections from a New Volunteer

Mercedes and Wren rock the spot at 25th and MLK (Photo by Pancho Pescador)

Working on this mural was the first time I was part of an entire mural making process from the beginning to finish. I had taken a Mural Creation and Design course at Berkeley City College with the fabulous Xicana Muralist Juana Alicia Montoya. I participated more in developing the blueprint than getting my hands dirty in the printing process. I also it was my first aerosol mural, though the part I worked on was 50% hand brush and 50% spray can.

I wanted to participate in this project because I believe art and culture can be a tool for activism and activate minds to think more politically. Plus making art is always a beautiful thang, especially when made in a collective for the benefit of the community and not simply one individual. And contrary to “popular belief,” police, and government officials the neighbor was receptive to the aerosol art.

Folks would walk by and ask, “Y’all opening a restaurant?” We would reply, “Naw, just painting a mural.” During the experience I met a lot folks and engaged in different conversations with folks in around the block. My favorite was listening to the elders talk about the Frosty Freeze that once stood there and the construction of the freeway and all their personal stories of the neighborhood. My experience for the most part was positive, than of course there were people yelling at us on how to paint and what to include. But that was expected.

My assignment was simple. I kept telling Desi, “I can’t draw or paint.” But he didn’t care. I was given the job to paint a pattern along the top of the building. “Perfect,” I thought. Being that the mural was going to be in West Oakland-a predominately African American community and I being a Black person it only made sense to paint some kind of African rooted pattern. I chose to paint adrinka symbols from the Akan people of Ghana. Each black and red symbol holds a specific meaning and chosen specific from this neighborhood. Though majority of the residents in the area who will walk pass these symbols may not understand the meaning behind them, there’s still power in these and hopefully spark the curiosity of one individual to up look the meaning.

mercedes martin
april 19, 2010

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