San Francisco Public Library Celebrates Local Black Artists Who Captured a Movement and Transformed Oakland
SAN FRANCISCO – After the extrajudicial murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Oluwatoyin Salau and countless other Black people in 2020, thousands of artists painted murals on the streets of Oakland as an expression of protest, activism and solidarity. Recognizing the historic significance of this artistic groundswell, EastSide Arts Alliance teamed up with Nomadic Press to document and preserve the outdoor gallery and the stories behind them. Their new book, Painting the Streets: Oakland Uprising in the Time of Rebellion, is a full-color, hardcover art book featuring nearly 100 murals created in support of the ongoing struggle for Black liberation along with essays, poems and other reflections by activists and cultural workers.
In honor of its publication, San Francisco Public Library’s African American Center is hosting a 3-month exhibition showcasing the local Black artists who captured the spirit of the June 2020 movement and transformed Oakland.
“Libraries were built in the racist, white supremacist society of our country and have an obligation to fight against injustice by taking actions to create equity,” says Shawna Sherman, manager at the African American Center. “The African American Center of the San Francisco Public Library is grateful for the opportunity to host an exhibit showing examples of the art and writing in Painting the Streets, and we hope from viewing these ‘artifacts of the social justice movement’ others are inspired to action as we join in the work toward transformation.”
A coalition of Oakland organizations led by the East Oakland Black Cultural Zone and including the Oakland Museum of California, Oakland Art Murmur, RBA Creative, Spearitwurx and other Oakland artists and arts leaders, committed themselves to cataloging this outpouring of street art across the City from 2020 and to pushing the conversation around social transformation forward. As shared in the Black Cultural Zone’s essay within Painting the Streets, 423 artworks have been cataloged and 55 have been removed and preserved.
The Library exhibition includes reproductions of murals by Sharon Virtue, JJ Harris, Zoë Boston, Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith, pieces by Peezy, Gaia WXYZ and Timothy B, along with their first-hand accounts about the genesis of their murals and the messages they hoped to convey in their images, as well as other murals in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. According to Virtue, “As fissures continued to crack open across the nation, the inherent and insidious nature of racism in our political, police, institutions and social systems became more and more obvious. As a woman of mixed heritage (Jamaican and Irish), I could not remain silent to the injustice. As Trump’s support for white supremacy emboldened his supporters to be more and more outspoken, I felt a counter message needed to be sounded.”
This exhibition concludes Painting the Streets’ summer-long book tour around the Bay Area and beyond intended to facilitate critical dialogue, remembrance and healing. Painting the Streets serves as a record of the people’s critical response to social injustice, while offering a perspective of where we are now, what is to be reckoned with still and how art is a part of the process to move forward, heal, bring joy and more.
“All books take a village, and this book took the Town,” says J. K. Fowler, Founder and Executive Director of Nomadic Press. “With endless thanks and gratitude to all of the workers who joined us on this journey, we hope that this book (perhaps one of a few to come), serves as tribute and remembrance for lives lost at the hands of state systems while offering another platform to the future-casting brilliance and love that runs rampant through these streets.”
The exhibition includes a presentation and panel discussion on art activism and the Oakland Uprisings on Sunday, August 28, from 1–3 p.m. PST with local artists and activists.
OTHER PAINTING THE STREETS BOOK TOUR STOPS:
Oakland Library, July 16, more info here
Eastwind Books, July 16, more info here
Oakland Museum of CA, July 29, more info here
Oakland Asian Cultural Center, August 6 [event link to come]
EXHIBITION & EVENT DETAILS
Exhibition: Painting the Streets: Oakland Uprising in the Time of Rebellion
DATES: August 20 through November 27, 2022
WHERE: San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, African American Center, Third Floor
Panel: Art Activism and the Oakland Uprising
WHEN: Sunday, August 28, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, African American Center, Third Floor
The African American Center — located on the third floor of the Main Library, the African American Center welcomes students, researchers and anyone interested in learning more about the historical, political and cultural experiences of African Americans in California and beyond. In addition to housing a collection of reference materials that span a range of subject areas the Center also partners with other library departments and community organizations to sponsor exhibits and programs that are free to the public. More info: sfpl.org/locations/main-library/african-american-center
Nomadic Press — a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization and community-focused publisher that supports the works of emerging and established writers and artists. As part of Nomadic Press' mission to stimulate conversation among eclectic voices, Nomadic Press seeks out and encourages the translation and publication of non-Anglophone voices. The organization collectively weaves together platforms for intentionally marginalized voices to take their rightful place within the world of the written and spoken word and aims to build community among artists across disciplines. More info: nomadicpress.org
EastSide Arts Alliance — an organization of Third World artists, cultural workers, and community organizers of color committed to working in the San Antonio and other Oakland neighborhoods to support a creative environment that improves the quality of life for our communities and advocates for progressive, systemic social change. The EastSide Arts Alliance & Cultural Center presents free youth art classes, cultural programming, public art projects, ongoing gallery exhibitions, community town halls, the annual Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival and other events in collaboration with other organizations and community groups. More info: eastsideartsalliance.org
To learn more, please visit sfpl.org and follow on Twitter @SFPublicLibrary and on Instagram @sfpubliclibrary.
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Public Relations Officer | San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street | San Francisco, CA | 94102