"They Claim I’m a CRIMINAL"
My newest mural in South Central Los Angeles. It was commissioned by the Southern California Library located at 6120 S. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90044
The first thing I noticed when I saw the wall were the street poles located directly in front of the mural. They cast an awful set of moving shadows across the wall throughout the day. So rather than fight it, I embraced it. The theme of incarceration and enslavement automatically entered my mind. Wouldn't it be cool to paint prison bars on the wall and use the posts as 3 dimensional aspects to the mural?
When I decided to feature CAPA and Mothers ROC as the central imagery, it all came together and made perfect sense. Depending on what time of the day you view the mural, the figures are either locked up or free!
I included images of local youth inside the shirt pattern of Michael Zinzun to denote that he was a leader that worked with people to make change. He never did it for them.
I had dozens of kids come up to me and ask that I photograph them and immortalize them in the mural, only a few of them fit unfortunately. But I was able to photograph and depict Auntie who is a local celebrity of sorts, everyone knows her. I love including neighborhood folks in my murals, it makes it special and allows for ownership from the community.
You'll notice my "popo" characters or spirits who are taking the keys to people's future and tagging up the "Criminal" graff piece. They look like some kind of angel but wear riot gear helmets, so you be the judge. The hands at the bottom of the mural represent those defying incarceration and enslavement. On the other wall, the hands are braiding powerful messages directly into the hair of the woman: empower, organize, and educate.
-Man One © 2010
(slideshow at bottom of page)
WALL DESCRIPTION (by SoCal Library Staff)
Because we are tired of living in the shadow
Because poverty is violence
And more police cars in the neighborhood
than parks is violence
Because we are weary
of seeing those we love locked in cages
Because we are not criminals
We offer this mural
Of people just like us:
tired and weary
angry and most of all
People just like us
who came together
to fight back
defend build and transform the places we live in
We offer this mural
The Southern California Library documents histories of community-led resistance to challenge racism and other systems of oppression, and sustain possibilities for freedom. The Library holds the historical documents of the groups in this mural. All are welcome to come inside and use them.
MOTHERS RECLAIMING OUR CHILDREN
All Prisoners Are Somebody’s Children
Mother’s ROC (MROC) invited all mothers and others struggling on behalf of their children to be seen, heard, and felt in the interest of justice. The mothers transformed their caregiving into activism and the greater project to reclaim all children, regardless of race, age, residence, or alleged crime.
They struggled in a spirit of hope, guided by prayer, to reclaim their children through human action. MROC made no judgment about the innocence or guilt of those whose families came to the group.
While Black women’s leadership and participation formed the core of MROC, women of all backgrounds, and some men, also joined the group, united by the purpose to free loved ones who were imprisoned throughout California. The group identified with activist mothers from around the world, in places like South Africa, Palestine, and Central and South America.
Mothers ROC Believed
Knowledge is the path to power
The responsibility is to witness and to tell
To accomplish their goals, MROC:
Studied the rules of the court system, attended each other’s trials, held demonstrations outside courthouses and police stations, sponsored monthly legal workshops, and researched the criminal justice system.
An immediate end to the War on Drugs; the repeal of the “three strikes” law;
more funding for public defenders; and an end to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, racial profiling, warrantless searches, and the use of electronic databases to identify alleged gang members.
Although the group MROC is no longer formally together, the spirit of the ROCers lives on in all of us still willing to fight and live for our children and communities.
If it takes a village to raise a child then it takes a movement to
Reclaim Our Children
Michael Zinzun and Coalition Against Police Abuse
"WE WON'T STRUGGLE FOR YA ... BUT WE WILL STRUGGLE WIT'CHA"
Michael Zinzun was a community organizer, former member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, co-founder of the Coalition Against Police Abuse (CAPA), and a founding member of Community in Support of the Gang Truce.
CAPA was formed in L.A. in 1976 in response to a wave of police shootings, beatings, and harassment. CAPA’s membership has been drawn from “the Black and Latino communities, workers, churches, the gay community, the women’s movement, and concerned individuals.” CAPA provided counseling and support for victims of police crime, and maintained extensive files both on officers and the systemic practices of police abuse, which they shared with those victimized by police and all those fighting back. These files are now held in the Library.
It was the leading plaintiff in a lawsuit that exposed the unlawful police spying against CAPA and other community organizations, culminating in the disbanding of the infamous spy unit of the LAPD—the Public Disorder and Intelligence Division, a payout of $1.5 million in damages, and the release of names and identities of the undercover officers illegally engaged in political espionage. Michael and CAPA also led several voter initiatives to establish a civilian review board to require the LAPD to replace the biased and ineffective review process of the Los Angeles Police Commission.
The Answer Is Community Control of Police
CAPA was part of a broader movement to end police brutality, end sexual violence by police against Black and Brown women and men, establish and expand gang truces, and build the consciousness and empowerment of people to control the fate of their own communities.
Its demands linked harassment, beatings, and murders of local Black and Brown folks by police with deportations, detainment, harassment, beatings and murders of immigrants. CAPA helped found the Community in Support of the Gang Truce to maintain, expand, and politicize the 1992 peace agreement between different gangs.
Michael spoke around the globe in such countries as Namibia, Cuba, Brazil, China, and across Europe on the issues of racism, police abuse, and the need to link local, national, and international struggles against all forms of economic and social oppression. As a result of his protests, he was arrested more than a dozen times and suffered severe physical damage, including the loss of sight in one eye when he objected to the beating of a homeless man by two police officers who then beat him. Michael died in 2006 at the age of 57.
All Power To The People
Check out some great photos by Eriberto Oriol of this mural on his website:
Forbidden Art LA
Click here to view more pics on my Flickr page