“Our Oakland” Poetry – Edition #2

This fall, the Oakland City Council debated adopting a new anti-graffiti law. The proposed law would make graffiti a misdemeanor, require property owners to remove graffiti on their proper within a certain time frame and hold the parents of minors fiscally responsible for the cost of graffiti removal. Inspired by Our America and Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight Los Angeles, 1992, Life Academy freshman investigated the issue by conducting interviews and surveys throughout Oakland. Once the students gathered their data, they wrote assertion paragraphs for or against the proposed law. Below, please enjoy the strongest two assertions and several exemplary poems from each of the three sections of 9th grade English.

-Jill E Thomas and Kyle Halle-Erby


Against the Anti-Graffiti Law

Graffiti is a problem in Oakland, but the anti-graffiti law will not do anything to address the issue because people will keep on doing graffiti. To begin with, a student in Oakland named Jose Martinez sais, “I don’t think graffiti affects my life but I do think it can affect others” (Martinez, 11/20/12). Even though graffiti does not affect every person’s life in Oakland it can affect some residents in a positive or negative way. If the Council passed the law, most of the people would not care and the city will have graffiti and nothing would have changed. According to Arturo Aguilar, a father in Oakland, “Well, I’m in between. I like it and dislike it. Some people do it to show their expression into art, but sometimes they do it to do vandalism” (Aguilar, 11/20/12). Some Oakland residents believe graffiti is art and can also be vandalism. If the Council passes the law, the graffiti artists would not be able to show their expression by doing graffiti. Oakland would not be the same if the law passed because graffiti makes Oakland a unique place from other places in the Bay Area. On Lakeshore, twenty-six percent of people think that at the age of fifteen youth start doing graffiti. Even though this might be true, we cannot think that every fifteen-year-old in Oakland does graffiti. In fact, most fifteen-year-olds in Oakland do not do graffiti. In conclusion, the anti-graffiti law should not pass. Many people are okay with graffiti and the law would not make a difference because people with spray cans will keep on doing graffiti.

-Mayra Aguilar 2nd Period

Against the Anti-Graffiti Law

Graffiti might seem bad, but it is the only thing that makes Oakland look unique so the anti-graffiti law should not be passed. To begin with, ninety-three percent of people interviewed saw graffiti as art, not vandalism (Oakland survey, 11/28/12). It is incredible that the majority of Oakland does not have a problem with graffiti, but some members of the City Council still want the law to be passed. Residents in Oakland express their emotion on graffiti. A student at Life Academy High School commented, “It shows true feeling in the Oakland community” (Lu, 11/16/12). The anti-graffiti law would get rid of the soul and feeling of the city. Another reason to reject the new anti-graffiti law is that the law neglects the talent of some folks. According to one Oakland resident, “illegal artists with talent, waiting to display their art. That is the spirit of this city” (Garcia, 11/22/12). Without graffiti, many talented people would have to give up on their skills and do something they do not want to do. These artists might fall to doing drugs or committing forms of violence that will affect them for life. In conclusion, something needs to happen so the one thing that makes Oakland unique does not go away. The new anti-graffiti law will take away from Oakland, not add to it.

-Francisco Garcia 2nd Period



Yadira Paez,  Student at life academy

(Long brown hair, sunny day, in a class at life academy. She is nice, a lot of people talking, she is very respectful. )

I don’t know how to do graffiti

So it’s not interesting

But I would like to learn

I don’t agree with the law

People should be able to express themselves

By doing art

I’ve seen more graffiti at the end of the freeway

The law will affect the teens

Because they do it more

Most of graffiti says

Free him

Or some ones nickname

My cousin went to jail

Went to jail because of graffiti

He got caught tagging

On a bridge

Stayed in jail for three months

-Hector Avila

Hard To Say You’re Against Some Thing If You Fit In That Category 

Edgar Rentira, Graffiti Artist Oakland Resident

(Age 17, Deep voice 9:30 Pm, interview done over the phone on 11/22/12)

As been a graffiti artist

I don’t see it as


I see as art just like painting

, music, dancing and etc is


It’s like my first love

My first love

My first love

And my wife my first love

Ain’t nothing ever going

To change that!

My first love

(Starts to laugh)

Yes, I do beside I’m one of those

It’s just a life style I choose

I’ve done  it for like a few

years now I gotta admit I’m like

in love with it!

unless it’s gang related

then it’s no art

it’s hard to say you’re against some thing if you

fit in that category!

that category!

-Hilda Chavez


Vanessa Cuevas, student at Life Academy

(Wearing black shoes, black leather jacket, black eyes, black hair)

It depends I like graffiti

Because sometimes




Nice to see different stuff.

Other times

I don’t like

It because sometimes it deals with gangs

And I don’t care

I took a class on how to do graffiti

But I don’t do it the wrong way


Yes about 4 friends, no because I can’t snitch people out

Because they could get caught.

I wouldn’t really care

Because they don’t have the rights

To tag other peoples property.

(Uses her iPod)

I wouldn’t really care because

I’m not against or for

Graffiti I’m neutral

 -Enrique Cuevas


Jesus Medina, a cousin of mine.

(He was interviewed on 11/22/12 he was very descript about graffiti. He was wearing a big hoddie, dark jeans, all black Jordan, and a beanie. He thought graffiti was a good thing, but the police was the deal.)

Because I do it myself.
Duh Yes!
Dude I don’t care.
As  long as I don’t get busted.

Wont get busted!
You already know what I write.
Jers Breh!

To get your name up!
Get em up cus.
You know.
Yeah it makes me known.
I live in a white area there be snitches.
I just do it quick.
And cut.
You feel me.

-Angel Flores

You Know

Anonymous, College Student

(Tall guy with long hair and dark sunglasses. Have a tattoo in his neck. White t-shirt with khaki short and black shoes. He’s Puerto Rican mix with black raise by grandmother. Has leave in Oakland more than 10 years. His on his 20’s.)

They try’na stop graffiti

Would since along ass time but

You know people don’t listen


You know they try’na be



There’s a lot of answers

You know its goanna be dad

For us

But for other people I think it’s going to be good.

You know

(Opens a beer but doesn’t drink it leave’s it in stairs)


Nope cause

You know how people is

They don’t listen


(Pointing at me)

And maybe would do it more often

You know

To feel that they bad

And that 50 (police) is nothing

(Shaking because it was getting cold)

Well cause

You see I’m more into what is now

I don’t think graffiti is a problem is

The people don’t really see what’s

The massage is for some of the graffiti

(Start moving around)

Well I think that graffiti make’s

Oakland looks UNIQUE



You know

 -Sindy Cox

Artistas Ilegales

Juan Carlos Garcia, current student at a local community college

(Glasses, Black V-neck, white belt, black Levis jeans, short beard, bored out face, the room is scary quiet, the beat of the music coming from the television screen, the smell of tacos from our neighbor’s door, the laughter outside of my home.)

Graffiti es positivo & negativo

A mi nada más me gustan

Los murales de graffiti

Yo se que graffiti

Expresa sentimiento

Te relaja y te olvidas

De tus problemas

Es malo hacer graffiti en otra propiedad

Expresa todos los malos sentimientos

Los que lo hacen

Andan en la calle

Los artistas ilegales

Con talento

De arte

Graffiti es positivo & negativo

Graffiti es parte de

Una pandilla

Que ataca a

La otra

A veces se mira

Como arte y otras veces

Como un crimen

Es la pura verdad

-Francisco García

Mal Para Jose Luis Garfias, Oakland resident   

(He is wearing work clothes (for a restraint) and a hat. He seems tired and sleepy.)

No, por que es malo no?.

Es malo oh que- pus nose-ay

si, pero si es de arte no es malo,

si es de pandillas es malo

Es mal para la communidad

No, depende de lo que esta hacienda
Si esta dibujando algo bonito
esta bien, si no
es mal ejemplo.

Casi no, nomas antes
pero yah ace mucho que no miro eso,
Mal- no pus yo me siento mal,
yo no qusiera ver mi hijos hacer esas cosas

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        – Luis Garfias

Hidden Talent

Cecilia Martinez, A Mother of Two Who Lives In Oakland

(She is wearing a blue and white shirt with blue jeans. She is also wearing black shoes. She is tall, young, and has long hair. She has a very classy ring on. We are in a quiet room by ourselves).

Yes I do because usually there

Is a story behind it. I see it as art.

I’m not sure because it could be

Seen as a good and bad thing.

I don’t think it would make it a better

Place because there’s still violence which

Is the main issue in Oakland.

Because sometimes the graffiti is on business

Property and it makes it look unprofessional.

Hidden talent on the street.

It’s both because it shows talent,

But it’s on private property.

Hidden talent on the street.

Near the train tracks and on trucks.

My nephew and he does it because

He enjoys it.

It’s unnecessary and won’t look good

On their record.

Hidden talent on the street.

– Danny Martinez


Junior Martinez, a sibling that attended Life Academy in the year 2011

(wearing a black CR base ball cap and black hoodie with dark Jeans and red 2005 Jordan’s)

Yes I like graffiti

I use to do graffiti

but I never

got the hang

of it.

Yes I think it can

change our community

by doing murals.

Yes I like graffiti.

I do think it’s a waste of spray paint,

but I still think people should do


you know what I


I don’t think graffiti

should be



it  really

express how people


I like graffiti


Different kind of artist

Have different

Kind of styles

And Imagination.


 – Octavio Valentine Martinez

I Don’t Like It

Alejandra Velez, a 20 year old Latina with a one year old baby born in Arizona, living in Mexico visiting Oakland for a few weeks.

(Wearing a hot pink shirt and blue skinny jeans)

Yeah I like graffiti

I feel like it’s a way of

Expressing yourself and

Like drawing.

Yes I’ve done graffiti,

On paper not on walls

I have not heard of it



I feel like its retaining them of

Doing what they like.

In Mexico no

In Arizona, yeah

But I don’t like it,


But I don’t like it,

I feel like they should have

Their own place to do that

Not just on any wall they see

Yes they do. I have friends who

Do it on their

Own stuff not just

Any wall

I think its art because

It’s a way of

Expressing your art

Well people who do graffiti


They are trying to stop them

From doing what they


No it will not affect me

Because its not my passion

if it was then it would


Well one thing is because

They are going to do it anyways

Another thing is because

They are stopping people from

Doing what they like

Its like stopping people who

Like skating from


-Stephanie Melchor

We Need It

Salomon Ortiz, a 43 year old man that works at Smart Alec’s

(The room is quiet there is a baby girl on the bed. My mom comes into the room a couple of times making sure I am doing my homework and not something else. Wearing a black t-shirt jeans and black shoes.)

Yes I do because

I think it’s a way of expressing

How you feel

Yes but

I don’t understand why

We need it

I think its both

Depends on where it’s located

Yes everyday when I ride the bus

And I look out the window and

There it is on the walls

On fences

And signs


No because
well I don’t do graffiti.

So why should I care?

I think graffiti is



-An Anonymous 9th grade Student

Expressive People

Jessica Paez, a student at Life Academy

(Short sitting down eating chips her brother sitting down in the floor playing with his toys listening to the whole interview. It’s a rainy day the room we are in is warm it smells like her hair products. There’s a aroma that comes from the leaving room it smells like fabuloso.)

Yeah I do,

I think it’s nice

I think it’s a way


Type of art

I love art

I think it’s the

Way that some people

Expresses themselves,

Like graffiti

It’s a type of mural,

And a mural is like


ya know,

There are murals that

I like

That has a positive message.

I think that

We each have

a little art/ graffiti talent

Somewhere inside

It’s just a matter of trying and showing.

-Yadira Paez 

 Expressing yourself

David Perez, student from life academy

(serious, sitting down wearing a gray shirt Black and white strips shorts, black hair, wearing black creatives. Smells like vanilla from a candle that’s in the room)

No I don’t like graffiti

I don’t know if I like graffiti.

Yes I see them say amc or grief.

I think this will affect the kids that do

Graffiti but no this law wont affect

Me  because I don’t do it.

I feel well I don’t know how I feel about


Nope none of them does graffiti.

Well I see some on billboards and

Some like on stores.

Graffiti is a way of expressing yourself.

-Graciela Perez

Graffiti Is Kind of Ghetto

German Rodriguez, Student From Urban Promise Academy

(He is wearing a black shirt with blue jeans. He’s also wearing black and white shoes. He’s short, young, and has short dark brown hair. He’s sitting in a chair with a pen on his hand.)

I like graffiti

I do it for fun

And it’s cool

Yes, I do graffiti

And I do it on a piece of paper

I haven’t heard about the law,

But now that you tell me about it

Then I think it’s unfair


I do any kind of graffiti

I started doing graffiti last year

When I was 11

This law will affect

The people who like graffiti

And the people who don’t like graffiti

I don’t think this law

Will affect me

Because I don’t do graffiti on walls

Or people’s property

It depends on how you use it

Like if you do it on paper,

Is art

But if you do it on other people’s property,

Then it’s vandalism

My neighborhood does have a lot of graffiti

And it’s kind of ghetto

(laughs a little)

– Brenda Rodriguez

 How I feel

 Alex morales, student at life academy

( he was wearing a drak red hoodie with blue jeans and shoes )

It is my way to express my self

How I feel

If I feel sad

Wall’s so they know who I am

(talking to friend )

I would feel sad

Tag more then what I do

Art cause we can do murals

To honor people

Who died

And just for fucken fun

They wouldint tag on my place

Cause I live there

People claim there territory

It clam there place

-Heaven Sae Liew

Think Twice

Valeria Sanchez, Former Life Academy student

(Has sweatpants, hair tied, chilling with no makeup on. The interview was in Valeria’s room. Our cousins came for a visit. One Direction and Ed Sheeran. Room smells like candles. Cousins talking about Harry Styles and just anything One direction related.)

I like some graffiti
(thinking hard)
I like amature like hood
I don’t like professional graffiti
Like the ones muralist make
I like old school chicano graffiti.

I know A LOOOOT of  people who do graffiti.
They want to mark their territories.
Tag like R.I.P. or Free My Friend.
I’ve seen my cousins tag my garage.
The trashcans
The trees
Picnic table
Stop Signs.

I carried Sharpies and I still have a box
Full of them.
It’s just wrong to vandalize people’s property.
I learned that the hard way lawl.
Some taggers might stop and
Think twice about tagging.

-Jesus Sanchez

Self Expression

Jenney Taufa, Hotel worker at San Francisco

(Short, short curly hair, wearing pajamas, sitting in the living on the couch

eating a McDonalds, watching jersey shore on a flat screen TV. It’s a hot sunny day

her mom is sitting in the kitchen making Tongan necklaces. Her husband is sitting

next to her playing on the kindle. Room smells like Victoria secret perfume.)

I think graffiti is

Self expression

Like the varity, designs,

but against tagging.

Really disappointed

if my family member gets introuble. 

Sees graffiti 3 blocks away

on liquor store walls.

Know its drawing on walls

but it could be gang related.

Sometimes it can be meaningful,

but sometimes it has nice meanings.

I think graffiti is

self expression.

-Amelia Taufa 

Is Art Vandalism  

Bertha Foseca, Her documentary

(Wearing black a black shirt, blue jeans, has nice personality, long hair.

Interview her in her bed room. The room was quiet and warm and the smell of my dad making enchiladas.)

They want to express how they feel

And do not have anything to do

That if you do it on the street it is not okay

But on paper is good but

Spray paint on walls is bad that owners have to clean it up.

I don’t know about the graffiti law

But I know that the want to express their feeling

But do it at your house in a destroyed place

People think graffiti is a part of gangs like sur and Norte

But the only thing I like is murals that express how life is

How people put their hardest work to make walls beautiful

Well graffiti is vandalism and art at the same time

 – Cristian Guzman


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