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Dream Day 2019: Celebrating Mike 'Dream' Francisco's 50th Birthday

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Mike "Dream" Francisco
Mike "Dream" Francisco. (Spie One)

On Aug. 17, Mosswood Park in Oakland will be full of people gathered in celebration of the 50th birthday of the late, great Mike “Dream” Francisco.

Dream, a legendary graffiti writer, was raised in Alameda and spent time all over the Bay Area. But he found a home on the walls of Oakland—specifically those near 23rd Avenue and East 12th Street, in what’s known as Oakland’s 23rd Yards. He got his first taste of writing in 1983, and from that moment on, Dream used the walls of the Bay Area as a canvas to create artwork so impressive that publications around the world took note.

His notable hand styles and clever messages, as well as the proliferation of pieces that simply read DREAM, helped to spread his name in the graffiti writing world.

Best Of Both Worlds-Dream
Two of Dream’s more popular pieces, ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’ and ‘Sweet Dreams.’ (Pendarvis Harshaw)

Much more than just a writer, Dream was a hustler who grew to be politicized. He had the Bay Area vernacular and charisma, and used it in conversation. He was a proud first-generation Filipino guy who loved hip-hop, and kicked it with folks of all nationalities.

He was also a founding member of a crew of writers known as TDK, which originally stood for “Those Damn Kids.”  But you know how it is: multiple meanings for an acronym emerge, depending on what the crew got into. So, when they did devious things, they were “The Dark Knights.” When they were talking politics, it was “Tax Dollars Kill.” When they were bragging about how dope they were, they were “The Damn Kings.”


Years have passed and the crew has grown. A lot of them still paint; you can find TDK pieces in all corners of the Town. Some have used their artistic ability for other things, like becoming tattoo artists. And a few of them became teachers, still carrying the TDK name—you know, “Teach Da Kids.”

Dream memorial at the front door of East Side Arts Alliance
Dream memorial at the front door of East Side Arts Alliance. (Pendarvis Harshaw)

After Mike ‘Dream’ Francisco was killed on Feb. 17, 2000, in Oakland, the City of Oakland officially designated that day as Dream Day in 2010. His legacy not only lives on in the photos of his work and his crew’s continued contributions to the arts, but through his son Akil as well.

I have a close connection to Dream’s story: my 2014 documentary film, TDK: The Dream Kontinues, highlights just a bit of his life and artistry.

But for a real sense of his legacy in the Bay Area, there’s nothing like being around the people he worked with, and the writers he inspired. At Mosswood Park this Saturday, friends, family and writers from around the world will share signatures, tell stories and listen to golden-era hip-hop, with music by DJ Qbert, Wes, Nump and more. It’s all to honor the life of one of the most well-loved graffiti artists of the region.—Pendarvis Harshaw

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