When Michael Muscadine and his friend Ruben Leal walked down the streets of their beloved Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland, they noticed something was missing: their community’s stories.

“[W]e realized that every Latino community, in L.A., in San Francisco, in San Diego, they all have murals in their neighborhood, but in Fruitvale we didn’t have so much,” Muscadine told the Oakland Tribune. “We’re tired of looking at walls getting tagged up with graffiti.”

oak_mural2_090811.jpgAnd so the two approached the Eastside Arts Alliance with the idea of organizing a community project to bring the stories of Fruitvale’s immigrant communities to life in a mural they could call their own. What resulted was a 30 by 15 foot mural at 24th and Foothill depicting the Chicano experience, from Aztlan to modern-day fights against oppression and toward self-determination.

Muscadine and Leal know the narrative well–both have been named in Oakland’s proposed gang injunctions, which would limit the movement of the dozens of people labeled as gang members. Muscadine, who’s 25, has several convictions on his record for vandalism and robbery and gun possession. As a teen he also admitted that he was a member of the Norteños gang, which has been a primary target of the injunctions. Critics say the injunctions, far from being a preventative crime-fighting measure, would only make it harder for young people to get their lives on track. The collaboration with the Eastside Arts Alliance was born out of their desire to build a stronger bonds in the neighborhood in light of what the community is facing.

In early August the arts organization gathered artists for a block party to bring the mural to life.

“We need to bridge a gap between older and younger generations in this community, and what better way to do that than through our art?” Eastside Arts Alliance’s Leslie Lopez told the Oakland Tribune. “The spray can meets the paint brush.”

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