upper waypoint

A Film About Oakland's Most Important Mural That You Can't See

Save ArticleSave Article
Failed to save article

Please try again

Esailama Artry-Diouf from the West African group Diamano Coura is dressed in bright multicolored fabric, as she dances in front of the now invisible mural in downtown Oakland.
Esailama Artry-Diouf from the West African group Diamano Coura is dressed in bright multicolored fabric, as she dances in front of the now invisible mural in downtown Oakland. (Ayse Gursoz)

A mural stands in downtown Oakland that honors the city’s culture and history. It’s a giant artwork birthed out of years and years of community conversations and the artists’ commitment to the concept.

The problem is that nobody can see the mural. Not anymore, at least. Except for a small patch of paint poking from behind a barrier, the mural depicting Oakland’s culture is now completely blocked by a new six-story luxury high-rise.

The story of the mural, and its disappearance, is shown in the full-length documentary Alice Street. On Tuesday, Nov. 16, as a part of the Berkeley Film Foundation’s documentary screening series, the film will be shown at Oakland’s New Parkway Theatre.

Artists marching to City Hall to make sure their voices are heard.
Artists gathered and marched to City Hall to make sure their voices are heard. (Pancho Pescador)

Lead artists Desi Mundo (founder of the Community Rejuvenation Project) and Pancho Pescador began the project over a decade ago. The process was documented, from idea to outline. There were community conferences and government gatherings, as well as critiques and criticisms from neighbors who felt like the theme—people of color pushing for resistance against oppressive forces—didn’t represent their experience.

Nearby cultural centers were also included. At 14th Street and Alice Street, right across the street from the mural, is the Malonga Casquelourd Center, a hub for African drumming and dance performances. On the other side sits Hotel Oakland, a residential and cultural space for older Asian folks. Elements from the two centers—both the physical design of the buildings and faces of the people who’ve graced those grounds—were incorporated into the artwork.

Sponsored

The artists eventually created a mural covering four large walls of a sizable parking lot. But as the paint dried and the ribbon was cut in August of 2014, a new development was being planned on that very spot.

Performers playing instruments inside of Hotel Oakland.
Performers play instruments inside of Hotel Oakland. (Spencer Wilkinson)

“I’m excited to highlight the artists and what’s happened since the documentary took place,” says film producer Spencer Wilkinson.

He says the two lead artists on the project will be present for a post-screening dialogue on Nov. 16. They’ll be joined by drummer Kiazi Malonga, son of the late world-renown artist Malonga Casquelourd and head of the Fua Dia Congo performance group, as well as musician and poet Destiny Muhammad, who is featured in the film asking the poignant question: “Is what’s coming better than what’s here?”

The film concludes with a note that individuals and community organizations such as the Community Coalition For Equitable Development (CCED) have pushed for and received a set of community benefit agreements, which have led to more low-income housing, more parking—and, in addition to other agreements, they’ve been financially supported in the painting of a new mural.

Drummers gather at a celebration for the new mural on 14th Street in Oakland.
Drummers gather at a celebration for the new mural on 14th Street in Oakland. (Rudi Tcruz and Galex Tcruz)

A couple blocks down from the location of the site of the previous mural, on the side of the Greenlining Institute, now stands a new painting featuring some of the same artists as the previous piece, as well as the themes of housing justice, diversity and cultural arts.

As for the old mural, mummified by a new building? Maybe years, or decades from now it will see new light. But for now, all that’s visible are the names of the artists and the website where you can get more information about the film—and the ongoing conversation about the arts, community and urban development.

‘Alice Street’ screens Tuesday, Nov. 16, at the New Parkway in Oakland. Trailer here, and details here.

lower waypoint
next waypoint
Too Short Is Playing a Free Show Tuesday at the LakeThe Return of East Oakland’s Menudo King8 Refreshing Bay Area Boba Shops to Help Beat the Summer HeatMill Valley’s Sequoia Theatre Reopens With a Week of $1 MoviesThis is Her, Now, in Space: J.Lo Heads to a New Galaxy for AI Love Story in ‘Atlas’Taquerias Come and Go, but La Vic’s Orange Sauce Is Forever10 Collections that Stunned at Bay Area Student Fashion Shows20 New Books Hitting Shelves This Summer That NPR Critics Can’t Wait to ReadMistah F.A.B. Drops ‘N.E.W. Oakland’ Music Video, Nearly 20 Years LaterSan Jose’s Most Creative Paleta Cart Is Leveling Up the Mexican Ice Pop