Young Oakland Superheroes Fight for Their Mural

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When the third and fourth graders of Oakland’s Hoover Elementary School started creating superheroes to creatively address the problems in their community, they had no idea they would have to become their own heroes -- and fight a battle against Caltrans.

The Oakland Super Heroes Project, a classroom curriculum and mural series led by Attitudinal Healing Connection, worked with Hoover students to invent themselves as superheroes. Fantastic Girl has water powers to stop floods and fires and to clean the community; Lava Girl and Lava Boy melt guns with their lava vision; Golden Boy has an electric force field to fight crime; and D-Bow Jalapeño uses magical cheese to transform the community.

Even though the Hoover students’ design would be the project's fourth superheroes mural on a wall under an Oakland freeway overpass, Caltrans suddenly required the artists to sign over the copyright, halting progress on the mural.

Unwilling to back down, the project curriculum expanded to include poster-making, letter writing, and protest chants. What would normally take about a year -- from concepts to designs to completion -- became a two-and-a-half year crash course in taking on the California Department of Transportation.

“I learned I can do anything I put my mind to,” says student artist Daijon Kelly. "Nobody can stop me."


Watch the now fifth and sixth graders of Hoover Elementary over the course of their unexpected journey to bring art and beauty into their community. - Text by Sarah Hotchkiss