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.

Monday, April 30, 2012

CRP x People’s Grocery: Chestnut Green Corridor Project Grand Opening Block Party

This past weekend, the Community Rejuvenation Project (CRP) was honored to be a part of the Chestnut Green Corridor Project, a community initiative of the People’s Grocery. The project symbolizes what can happen when sustainable, healthy living meets food justice, and is emblematic of the positive community spirit happening in West Oakland these days – which is too often overshadowed by negative perceptions.

Situated at 35th and Chestnut streets, the Chestnut Green Corridor Project includes a series of sidewalk planters, intended to “green up” the block, raise residents’ self-esteem, and deter illegal dumping which often results in blight. Alongside the planters, CRP was commissioned to paint a series of portraits of sevenhistoric, inspirational civil rights leaders: Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Huey P. Newton, Mother Wright, C.L. Dellums, Paul Robeson, Ella Baker, and Harriet Tubman.

The Chestnut Green Corridor is adjacent to the California Hotel, a historic building home to many African American and Latino residents, which has also been the site of Peoples Grocery’s Urban Farm and gardens for the last three years. Community residents, together with housing-rights organization Causa Justa/Just Cause, fought and won the battle to keep the building’s doors open and prevent the displacement of its residents.

On Sunday, April 29, People’s Grocery hosted a community block party and spring plant sale which made full use of the Chestnut Green Corridor. Deejay Lady Ryan played sweet tunes all afternoon, as healthy food was provided by local vendors. Community organizations, including City Slicker Farms, Revolution Foods, and the Stop the Injunction Coalition, set up tables with demos and info. There were clowns, a bouncy castle, masseurs complete with tables, and live performers. It was a festive, fresh event – the type of happening one almost never hears about in media representations of Oakland in general and West Oakland in particular.

Jumoke Hinton of People’s Grocery brought CRP founder Desi WOME to the front to say a few words to the crowd. After his benediction, Mike 360 blessed the crowd with his signature flute/beatbox. There was also a sadly poignant moment, illustrating the cycle of death and rebirth. As his family looked on, silent tribute was made in honor of Coty Luster, a neighborhood youth and Mother Wright's grandson,  who recently lost his life.

While the block party was happening, CRP was doing what CRP does best: painting a mural on the wall of the California Hotel Urban Farm, operated by People’s Grocery. CRP artists Release, Desi, Mike 360, Pancho Pescador, Tidus and Dora all collaborated on the done-in-a-day project. 

Appropriately, the mural depicts a pastoral garden scene, with a ladybug, an ear of corn, a rooster, a butterfly, a caterpillar, and a farmworker. Four colors—white, red, black, and yellow—comprise the farmworker’s aura, symbolizing the four types of corn, four nations, and also four directions. To the right of the farmworker, a butterfly begins to hatch from a cocoon, suggesting the metamorphosis of consciousness which begins with choosing sustainable, healthy food. Adding a point of emphasis, the words “food” and “sovereignty” are spoken by the ladybug and rooster, sending a message that taking control of one’s diet is an act of empowerment.

The CRP crew, which also included Director of Communications Eric Arnold and Communications intern Kimberly Kim, was treated to homemade tamales wrapped in banana leaves and an incredible meal of black-eyed peas, rice, and mango salad by People’s Grocery cooks. During a break in the mural creation process, we wandered over to a nearby yard, where we were serenaded by a spirited version of “Summertime” sung by an African American elder, accompanied by a wheelchair-bound electric guitarist. Returning to the mural location, Dora, with her and 360’s son Mixtli in tow, added an Azteka glyph to “seal” the deal.

The mural completed, there was just one more task to accomplish: to present an RIP tribute to Coty Luster, which Desi had painted, to his family. The piece was presented, blessings were said, and yet another CRP community partnership collaboration was history. Big ups to Nikki, Max, and Jumoke at People’s Grocery for inviting CRP to be a part of this project. And to the people of West Oakland, and Chestnut Green Corridor residents, this one’s for you!  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

CRP Rocks Seattle, Chicago and Oakland in One Week

CRP Rocks Seattle, Chicago and Oakland in One Week!

The production of new work by the Community Rejuvenation Project jumped last week as collective members painted numerous new works around the country. In Oakland, Pancho Pescador and Mike Threesixty added several new pieces to the front of Golden Gate Liquors and finished the production of the Pedal Power to the People project. The reflective mirror at the front of the store became the "O" in an "Ozelotl" tribute to Mike Threesixty's son rocking a landscape still with a crane walking in it. Down the block, Pancho added some Hummingbirds and the two collaborated on a cheetah who states "Migration is Natural" and "Save Wirikuta," a reference to the holy lands of the Huichol people, represented in the piece by their sacred peyote sacrament. 
Release PYC and Beats 737 continued their hard-hitting work by creating a second massive "Decolonize" wall in Seattle. Images included were a large bear and Release's trademark sacred geometry. Release has been supporting the occupy movement and painting murals in Seattle for the past several months incorporating CRP's trademark connection between ancient symbols and modern culture. 

Desi W.O.M.E took Chicago by storm, blasting three large scale unreadable masterpieces around the city including at the historical Mobil wall in Hyde Park, Chicago's longest continuously running free wall that he founded exactly 20 years ago. Desi also rocked his largest piece ever, a 50 ft "Heart" in South Chicago as part of a collaboration with Raven and JInx. When he wasn't painting letters, Desi rendered a colorful Bruce Lee at Alternatives on Chicago's North Side as part of the Connect Force's Aerosol Writing month. Desi and Raven painted another mural with students from North Lawndale High School including several african images and Frederick Douglass.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

CRP Demands Justice for Trayvon and Shaima

Photos by Desi W.O.M.E, Eric Arnold, and Meghan Pergrem

The murders of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi have capped a recent spate of attacks on unarmed people of color which also include Rahmarlee Graham, who was unarmed when shot by police in his own home, and Kenneth Chamberlain, who was shot in his home by police responding to a medical call. Trayvon's murder has sparked massive outrage due to the Stanford (Fla.) police's unwillingness to arrest his admitted shooter, George Zimmerman. Shaima Alawadi was a mother of five children, murdered with a note beside her accusing her of being a terrorist simply for being Iraqi. No one in any of these cases has been charged with a crime. 

Community Rejuvenation Project artist Miss Ammo took the initiative to call for and create a mural that addressed these issues. She called in CRP Founder Desi W.O.M.E to collaborate on a piece that went up this past Sunday, April 1, at the former site of the Parkway Theater, in Oakland's Funktown Arts District. The new mural--which has received hundreds of likes, shares and retweets in social media spheres in just over 24 hours--demands justice for the victims and an end to the fear-mongering prevalent in America that pushes both its citizens and law enforcement officers to attack and kill unarmed civilians for everyday acts of wearing hoodies or hijabs, or eating skittles. The attacks on Martin and Alawadi have been only the most widely reported of numerous recent incidents that connect to a long pattern of racially motivated killings that date back to the founding of the United States. The latest mural connects to previous CRP pieces at the same location through the message at the top of the wall: "Spiritual Release." CRP believes that being in touch with one's spirituality can present a solution to crimes of hate and ignorance.