Creative Expression, a Catalyst for Social Change: In Honor of Oscar Grant

Photo by Nina Sparks

Editor's Note: My goal is to gather the creative works dedicated to Oscar Grant from artists, musicians, writers, photographers and others. Any form of creative expression will be accepted. It could be a video of a dance work, audio, song, comic strip, photography, art project, links to website pieces, etc. Selected portfolio work will be featured in several Bay Area publications including Race, Poverty & the Environment, Street Spirit, Media-alliance.org, and InColor.net(print and online). If you have any questions or would like to contribute to this project please contact christinejoy@urbanhabitat.org. All submissions should be sent to artwork@urbanhabitat.org by March 21, 2009.

People are angry. Early morning on New Year’s Day, 22-year-old Oscar Grant III was shot and killed in Oakland, California by a Bay Area Rapid Transit agency police officer. Grant was unarmed. The young black man’s arms shackled behind his back. His face—pressed down against the cement. Onlookers video-phoned the horrific spectacle as his life was taken from him.

Thousands have been appalled by the Oscar Grant shooting and have taken a new stand to fight injustice. Many have chosen to creatively express their stance through art. Songs have been written and dedicated to Oscar Grant. Poems, paintings and posters have been created. Graffiti artists have painted murals.

Illustration by Pitzeleh8

These visionaries protest against the injustice of police brutality, discrimination, prejudice, racism, and white privilege.

Throughout history, from gospel singing in the Civil Rights Movement to today's t-shirts and posters donning portraits of Che Guevara and President Barack Obama, art plays a very important role in social movements. Art has been used for framing, to attract resources, to communicate information about themselves, to foster useful emotion, and as a symbol (for communication a coherent identity, marking membership, and cementing commitment to the movement), explains Jacqueline Adams in her article “Art in Social Movements: Shantytown Women’s Protest in Pinochet’s Chile.”

The struggle continues. Don’t stop creating.

Oscar Grant's Glimpse of the New Year
By Rashida Mack

"I am an African American 22 yr old man,
I am told to hit the ground,
pushed down,
I am lying on a [Oakland] platform,
As commanded,
Face down,
I hear a shot,
Then feel pain
I am shot,
Fading black.

Your Happy New Year to me,
Now called a mistake?
Glock 9mm,
Taser gun,
Glock 9mm,
On my stomach,
Face down,
Taser or Glock,


Dear Tatiana (Letter to Oscar Grant's Daughter)
By Ruckus, produced by Kid Konnect

Artist Unknown. Photo by Frederic Larson, San Francisco Chronicle

ONE (Ode to Oscar Grant)
By Shiko

"...the one man in uniform holds out his one gun and shoots
the son
the father and
the friend
Black silence
born from years of white oppression
effective white brain wash that taught a black man to be a
taught him that he is worth nothing
taught him that even after emancipation he was still three fifths of a man
effective brain wash that caused the black men to be submissive
leaving thoughts of change to his "white washed" brethren
but now I hear protest
black voices raised in unison


Novel dedicates "Mad World" to Oscar Grant
By SOHH Soul Rebel

"Out of the cradle endlessly rocking
Five score years ago,
Out of the mocking bird’s throat, the musical shuttle,
A great American signed the Emancipation Proclamation
Out of the ninth-month midnight,
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free"


Poster Illustration by Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Barraza

First posted on February 3, 2009 on http://www.in-color.net