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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bike Bingo Night for CRP Mural Series on San Pablo!

The community turned out last night for a raucous night of Bikes and Bingo as a Benefit for CRP's San Pablo Cultural Corridor project. Actual Cafe was packed with avid bingo players competing for a wide selection of prizes ranging from vegan donuts to CRP posters to free dental cleanings. Transcendentist, the event's sponsor, brought its entire office and filled its booth with bingo cards that spilled out onto the chairs around them. Participants took turns pedaling a bike to stir the bingo balls while Steffy Sue and Actual Cafe owner, Sal called out numbers and hosted the event. CRP artists Pancho Pescador and Desi W.O.M.E brought more color to the event by painting new works that were auctioned off at the end of the night. Richmond Spokes organized a ride all the way from MacDonald Ave to the event rolling in with Urban Tilth and Zap Inc. The San Pablo Avenue Golden Gate Improvement Association (SPAGGIA), who invited CRP to transform their area, estimates the event raised over $500 for the first mural, which will be painted next weekend at Golden Gate Liquors on 60th and San Pablo.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blight Reduction in Oakland: Holistic Approach Should Include Community-Based Solutions

Despite the notice, the city hasn't gotten the message. Photo by Eric Arnold. More Photos at
Blight is a major problem in urban environments like Oakland. Homes and lots which fall into disrepair, either from neglect or as a result of foreclosures, can become defenseless targets for vandalism, squatting, and dumping. This can lead directly to drug dealing, prostitution and violence. Blighted areas negatively impact property values and lower the self-esteem of community residents.
Blight in and of itself is bad enough. But longstanding problems surrounding the city’s much-maligned Building Services department—which include a noncompetitive bidding process for city contracts, exorbitant fees charged to property owners, and little to no community oversight or involvement in the process—only make matters worse.

Holistic Clean-Up should include new art as well. Photo by Eric Arnold. More Photos at
A recent grand jury investigation of Building Services has spurred Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana to convene a task force to outline recommended reforms, which city officials promise will result in a more “holistic” approach.

This lot remained a dumping ground for at least two years despite notices from the city. Photo by Eric Arnold. More Photos at
The Community Rejuvenation Project commends the city of Oakland for stating its intent to reform the beleaguered department. However, it is questionable whether any bureaucratic institution can effectively institute a holistic approach without considerable input from community organizations and cultural practitioners.
The appearance of unattractive tags on poorly-maintained, vacant or foreclosed buildings is a gateway to more serious forms of blight. Graffiti abatement, therefore, should be seen as a preventative measure and the first step in a blight reduction strategy.
However, the city of Oakland’s current abatement process is flawed. The strategy of hiring clean-up crews to buff, or paint over tags, is more band-aid than permanent fix; it is only a matter of time before the tags return -- requiring additional labor and expense.

Community murals are far more effective deterrents to recurring vandalism. Photo by Eric Arnold. More Photos at
There are other, less costly, alternatives. Over the past five years, CRP and its community partners have successfully transformed numerous blighted neighborhoods throughout Oakland into vibrant mural districts at a fraction of the cost the city has paid for abatement. In that time, we have developed techniques and practices for maximum visual and cultural impact, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and community engagement, which could easily be implemented on a larger scale throughout the city.
A truly holistic approach to blight reduction would entail more permanent, economically efficient solutions, combined with youth development, education, and antiviolence programs, while incorporating eco-sustainable, community-oriented components.

CRP incorporates community clean-up with murals to transform the most blighted areas of Oakland. Photo by ARISE students. More Photos at

CRP incorporates local heroine Mother Wright with a raised bed garden at the California Hotel in a collaboration with People's Grocery. Photo by Eric Arnold. More Photos at
For instance, a team of muralists instructing youth from the community to create murals in the city’s most blighted neighborhoods would cost a fraction of the $100,000s to millions of dollars spent on the current abatement process annually. Under a year-round program, murals could be constantly created and maintained in the areas of greatest blight. Funding could be divided between Building Services, DPW, and the Cultural Arts Commission’s cultural fund; data collected onsite could be correlated and shared between these city agencies to allow for maximum efficiency of the mural program over time.
This strategy could be reinforced by a program which allows community members and groups to adopt high-blight commercial properties and volunteer upkeep in the same way that medians, garbage cans, and highway sections are maintained, meeting local community needs and enhancing the quality of life by creating public art or garden spaces. Under this model, residents or community groups who adopt the property would be responsible for the costs of creating the art and maintaining it.

Engaging the youth is critical in transforming blighted communities and making lasting change. Here CRP artists collaborate with students from Youth Radio. Photo by Desi W.O.M.E. More Photos at
This strategy represents a truly holistic approach to blight reduction because it:
  • employs local artists and youth;
  • creates an alternative to simple abatement;
  • promotes a sense of environmental responsibility and accountability within the local community by making them stakeholders in the neighborhood.
For blight reforms to be truly effective, practices must result in actual change in the way things are done. We strongly urge the City Administrator and the blight task force to consider a comprehensive abatement and reduction strategy which could serve as the first line of defense in Oakland’s ongoing battle against blight—while promoting long-term, sustainable, community-based, affordable solutions.

A powerful mural makes a lasting difference. Photo by Desi W.O.M.E. More Photos at
For more information about CRP, interviews with CRP artists, or sample images for media usage, contact Desi at or (510) 269-7840.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Community Rejuvenation Project’s Latest Mural Urges Commuters, Consumers to “Decolonize”

Community Rejuvenation Project’s Latest Mural Urges Commuters, Consumers to “Decolonize”

For Immediate Release: March 7, 2012

(Oakland, CA) -- As we enter the third month of the year, the Community Rejuvenation Project has rolled out another monumental mural. Located at the intersection of East 12th St. and 16th Ave. in East Oakland -- a highly visible location facing both the BART tracks and the 880 freeway -- a massive "Decolonize" message greets thousands of commuters daily.

The 30’ x 200’ mural-- painted over the course of 2 and ½ days by CRP artists Mike 360, Raven, Release, Beats 737, Desi, Rate, Abacus, Pancho, Yesenia, and Dora--suggests a return to traditional values and ancient wisdom.“Decolonize is a universal message to all people of the earth to reconnect to their ancestry, the earth, to their traditional medicines and knowledge, and to a global consciousness that we are all related,” explained CRP guest artist Lavie Raven. “Everyone on the planet has indigenous roots to somewhere.”

At the wall’s right hand-corner, Mazatzin Aztekayokalli, a local elder, is shown standing in front of an accurately depicted Tonalmachiotl, the sacred Mexica sunstone sometimes referred to as the Aztec Calendar. The sunstone symbolizes how understanding ancestral culture and knowing one's place in the space-time continuum of the universe is an important aspect of decolonization.

The wall’s left-hand corner depicts Huitzilopochtli, an Aztec solar deity and the patron saint of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan, in hummingbird form. Huitzilopochtli represents the light’s constant struggle to overcome darkness, which remains a relevant theme, especially in this day and age.

In the center of the painting is a picture of Mixtli, the newborn son of CRP members Mike 360 and Dora Chavarria. Mixtli is depicted emerging from the cosmic womb with an outstretched arm in front of a bright star, symbolizing the galactic equinox, an event which occurs precisely every 26,000 years. This represents the hope of new life as well as the eternal renewal of the celestial cycle.

On either side of Mixtli, elaborate calligraphic letters spell out the phrases “One Heart” and “One Mind” – reminders that we must be unified in our struggles if we hope to succeed.

Other imagery includes corn and sunflowers-- references to native plants targeted for genocide along with indigenous people by colonial settlers and the U.S. and Spanish governments; peyote, a hallucinogenic plant used in traditional shamanic ceremonies as medicine, representing the need for spiritual healing as part of the decolonization process; and the Andes mountains, considered to be the sacred home of the gods.

“Decolonize” also represents CRP’s commentary on the Occupy Oakland movement, and a reminder that indigenous communities of color already inhabited native lands before colonizers, settlers and tourists arrived. In October 2011, the Occupy movement began its encampment in Oscar Grant /Frank Ogawa plaza by asking the blessing of local indigenous elders. This was an appropriate first step. Yet since then, however, the indigenous community and communities of color have repeatedly voiced concerns around exclusion, despite the fact that these communities were affected by economic woes, underemployment, and bank foreclosures long before the recession hit the white middle-class. Many in these communities also objected to the name “Occupy” – a term inherently identified with colonialism and the colonial mentality. Yet a proposal to rename the movement “Decolonize Oakland” was voted down by the General Assembly.

It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that since its failure to uphold the heartfelt message of communities of color—that decolonization should be the goal of the people’s uprising – the Occupy movement has become unfocused and is lacking in direction.

“With the ‘Decolonize’ message, CRP is taking a stand to address the larger social, economic and environmental justice issues that are faced in the communities that we work in,” CRP Founder Desi W.O.M.E said. “We maintain that forward progress is not possible without a connection to indigenous roots and a greater awareness of nature. This mural, like others we have done, is beautiful to look at. But we also want it to make you think. This piece of art will be viewed by thousands of commuters daily. If just one of them stops to think about what the mural is really saying, even for a moment, then CRP has done its job.”

For more information about CRP, interviews with CRP artists, or sample images for media usage, contact Desi at or (510) 269-7840.

All readers are invited to celebrate the Mexica New Year with Mazatzin Aztekayokalli this Sunday beginning at Noon at CCSF Mission Campus 1125 Valencia St. San Pancho, Califaztlan. For more info:,, (415)756-5589