A mural in West Oakland depicting three members of an African American family, dressed in white garb above the words “The Future is Ours,” was defaced this past weekend. It’s the third time the painting has been vandalized in the past two weeks.
The lead artist behind the piece and founder of the street art collective AeroSoul, Refa One, says he doesn’t know the identity of the vandal, but has a feeling racism plays a role in what’s going on.
I've covered Refa's work before. I've had him on my podcast Rightnowish to discuss his Dr. Huey P. Newton mural in West Oakland, and have photographed his Oscar Grant mural at Fruitvale BART Station. And, earlier this year, I wrote a story after Refa covered up a Tom Hanks and Too $hort mural on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland because he felt that it didn't properly benefit the community.
So, you may ask, how is his own mural being defaced any different?
"There's no comparison," Refa One tells me. "We halted cultural gentrifiers from coming into the Black community, and went and created art that is edifying for Black people."
The mural on San Pablo Avenue that depicted the world-famous Hollywood actor beside the MC who popularized rapping about pimpin' and selling tapes out of his trunk—both raised in Oakland—has since been replaced with a note that a new mural is in progress (delayed by circumstances related to COVID-19) and a quote from the Black Panther Party's Ten-Point Program: "We Want Decent Housing Fit For The Shelter Of Human Beings."
Refa says his latest piece is a nod to the future of the Black community.
The recently vandalized mural, with its multicolored geometrical background, is located on 14th Street in West Oakland. The area was once home to a majority African American community that's since embarked on a mass exodus due to a number of factors—urban renewal, the war on drugs, predatory lending, gentrification, you name it. The neighborhood is much like America itself: in the grips of constant tension driven by the all-too-familiar isms of racism, capitalism, sexism and classism.
Some folks in this country have this notion that since Joe Biden has been elected president, we'll be able to "go back to normal." But we all know what normal race relations look like in America. On top of that, we know there’s a large percentage of people—46.9% of voters nationwide—who aren’t too fond of this new president.
Last month the FBI released results showing that, nationwide, the amount of reported hate crimes has been rising for almost 12 years, and this year is no different. For the past decade, California has seen hate crimes reported at a rate higher than the rest of the country.