Oakland students 'reclaim' sidewalk outside their school through chalk art

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Wednesday, May 17, 2023
Oakland student artists 'reclaim' sidewalk outside their school
Hundreds of Oakland School for the Arts students drew on the sidewalks outside their campus with chalk Tuesday to spread messages of joy and hope.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Art, beauty, poetry, community - it all flowed onto the streets of Oakland outside the Fox Theater Tuesday as students took over the sidewalks to fight back against loss of safety outside their own school.

You could call it art activism - hundreds of students from Oakland School for the Arts armed themselves with chalk to express their feelings of being trapped inside their urban school in downtown Oakland.

"Recently, the conditions have shifted as we've all seen. I now have a security guard accompany every PE class. What they witness on the streets daily is not something I want young people to see and be exposed to. If people know it's a school zone, crime is less likely to happen in the immediate area," Mike Oz, the executive director of Oakland School for Arts said.

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Student artist Sonia Suarez said, "I feel more safe instead of getting hassled. You don't have to look over your shoulder today? Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Instead of chalking up their safety, these students used chalk to create a new uplifting energy.

"Messages of joy, messages of hope, messages of safety needs of our students," Oz said. "And just show Oakland what it looks like when we're all out here and bringing life to the streets."

The artist who spearheaded this effort was gratified. "Reclaiming the streets - that's exactly what it is. And identifying there's a school here," Michele Pred said.

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Student body president William Truong said, "If this space is now ours, then that safety could be significantly increased for the students."

Part of the plan is to fundraise and create a safe zone on this one-acre parcel across the street from OSA to build basketball courts, a soccer field and a performance amphitheater for the students to use by day and for the community to use by night.

The goal is to create a bubble of security and positivity around this school in the heart of downtown Oakland. The drawings are a start.

"I kinda just drew this flower because I thought it was pretty. It could represent new blossoming in OSA. Yeah," Suarez said.

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