“Our Oakland” Poetry – Edition #3

Assertion Paragraphs

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


For the Anti-Graffiti Law

The anti-graffiti law should pass so that Oakland has one less thing that makes it have a bad reputation. In November 2012, forty-four percent of people surveyed say that they see graffiti everywhere. If the anti-graffiti law passes then there will be less graffiti and people won’t see it everywhere. Oakland will become cleaner and there won’t be as much graffiti as there is now. Oakland residents feel like graffiti has and impact on how people see Oakland. To begin with, Maribel Carrazco, a junior at Life Academy High School, says, “I think the graffiti, the majority graffiti around here when people see it, it makes this city look bad. Like our city is already bad with all the high crime, high violence, and high death rates, umm and then when people see that…then it just makes this city look bad” (Carrazco, 11/19/12). Because Oakland already has high crime, murder and violence rates, graffiti adds to Oakland’s problems. If the law passes here will be one less thing that hurts Oakland’s Reputation. In addition, Victoriano Ramirez, a student at Life Academy, says, “It feels cool to me because also I like graffiti and if I want I would tag graffiti wherever I want.” (Ramirez, 11/15/12) Some people think about doing graffiti anywhere they want but they choose not to because they think about if their action is right or wrong. If the law passes, the youth will think about their action on doing graffiti even more and eventually will do even less graffiti in Oakland. In conclusion, the law passes graffiti won’t be much of a problem anymore, Oakland’s youth won’t think about doing as much graffiti as they do, and Oakland’s reputation would improve.

-Natalie Carrazco 3rd Period

Against the Anti-Graffiti Law

The proposed anti-graffiti law should passed because it will make Oakland have a better reputation. Results indicate that about sixty-six percent of Oakland residents believe that youth start doing graffiti at the age of thirteen. It is not surprising that everyday in Oakland youth start doing things that are not acceptable. Oakland residents are not surprised when they see graffiti in the streets. To begin with, a local student, Kasy Macias states, “I have seen graffiti basically everywhere In Oakland.”(Macias, November 15, 2012). If this law passes, residents will not have to put up with being used to seeing graffiti. They should not accept something that is not right. Oakland is known for its bad reputation; graffiti, gangs, violence, etc. Furthermore, an ex-Oakland resident named Juan Casillas says, “I got tired of getting bad looks when I told people that I was from Oakland.”(Casillas, November 26, 2012). People are getting embarrassed to say that they live in Oakland. Non-residents automatically assume that every resident is how the news says Oakland is. Since the news only repots negative things of Oakland, people believe we are all bad influence when we are not. Evidently, the anti-graffiti law should be passed.

-Alondra Casillas 3rd Period


I Got Tired

Juan Casillas, works for the City of Oakland

(Mid 50’s, sitting in the passenger seat of a black SUV. We are heading out to the Airport. Soft music from the radio is playing. The car is warm from the heater and smells like fresh berries. Outside it is very dark since it is 4 a.m. There are also a few cars in the freeway.)

I got tired

Since I work for the city of Oakland

In the graffiti department

We were like the first people

That found out

(scratches his beard)

I got tired

I got tired of getting bad looks

When I told people

(takes a deep breathe)

That I lived in Oakland

That is the reason

Why I moved to Castro Valley

If it is not done

In private property

I would accept it

I got tired.


                                                                                                            -Alondra Casillas

The Answer is No, Never

Oscar Rojas, a resident of Oakland

(He’s a 39 yr. old man. He’s wearing a grey t-shirt and white jeans and socks. He is the father of two girls one 14 year old and a 9 year old. He’s tired. He speaks in a Spanish accent. He arrived home from work 10 minutes ago.)

I heard about it but I don’t know what will be the penalty.

(Dog jumps on the bed)

But you tell me about it.

Because most people they do graffiti…

I don’t know about it

But I think they’re gang members

No, not for me

The answer is no, never

I know they will be affected very negatively

But I think we deserve a better view of the city

If they do something wrong they have to pay for it

I don’t like it

I don’t like to see all the scratches

(Plays with dog)

The parents of those people

If they are younger, um, make the parents and how you say?

The guy who did it

The answer is no, never

Every single corner in my neighborhood

Que el barrio 13 ese

Que I’m from this block

Or from this block

The answer is no, never

-April Rojas

The Image of the Streets

Carlos Silva, father of three children

(He has an accent when he speaks in English. He is wearing a blue sweater. He is lying on a couch. One of his children is playing soccer in the other room making loud noise.)

I work cleaning graffiti

And most of the time they finish a new building

And people would plaint all the new walls

I don’t like it

I work cleaning them to keep the streets clan

I like the kind that tells a story

Sometimes they are about buildings or people

A lot of people do bad graffiti

Just to destroy or vandalize properties

Sometimes they paint

Then weeks later it is all graffitied again

I hate the bad graffiti

But I love the good graffiti

They do it to destroy private property

They do it to destroy the image of the streets

I’ve seen them every where I go

I’ve worked in Oregon, Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and in Mexico


-Carlos Silva

Graffiti All Over Oakland

Anthony Arellano, a seventh grader at United For Success Academy.

(It’s Wednesday at 11:25 a.m. He is 12 years old. He is sitting down, watching novellas on the television. He wears a white Nike t-shirt, black jeans. He likes pozole with juicy sour lemon and picante Tapatio with delicious repollo.) 

Train rails, liquor stores, pizza stores,

And public cell-phones.

Graffiti all over Oakland,

Yes, I do,

Yes, only I have done on paper,

Yeah, my friend,

Yes it is, some people be putting up

Signs like Norte, Sur… yeah,

(He thinks, he laughs for three seconds)

Graffiti is like gang-banging,

The city because is their city and they got to

Be responsible for it,


 -Cristopher Gonzalez

The Streets of Oakland

Juan Molina, a nineteen year old worker in a hotel.

(A tall young man about six foot tree tall. Black curly hair kind of like an afro. He’s wearing a dark blue shirt purple shorts and long white socks. He’s lying down in his bed while being interviewed.)

Taking away graffiti from the

Streets of Oakland charge as a felony.

Well that’s what I heard.


Yes I have done graffiti before no I don’t regret doing it.

Because in a way graffiti is a way to express yourself.

Graffiti is art, there’s all type of graffiti.

I like wild sky and bubble letters.

I like graffiti I really like it.

(Thinking & laughing)

By taking away graffiti the youth is going to want to do it more.

That’s their thing to do something there not suppose to do.

Which is doing graffiti on privet property?

(Scratching his ear.)

Graffiti cleaners should be the ones to clean over graffiti.

If the law passes fuck it, it won’t effect me.

I only do it on books now.

Is better for the youth to do it on books instead of walls.

They won’t go to jail and be in troubled with the law.

You now what fuck the law and the police.

 -Estefanya Lira

Police Don’t Care

Maria Franco, Little Caesar Manager

(Working mother of 3 laying down wearing pink. Pajamas tired quietly watching Soap operas helping her daughter with her homework speaking softly)

No…. what is it

Ohhh… (Laugh) that sounds like

A good law its going

To stop (pause)

Bad things in Oakland (cough)

Umm….. No? (Sarcastically)

I don’t know anyone who does

Graffiti (asks a question)

Do you do graffiti?


I have never had

Problems with



I have

I’ve seen on stores

Walls and other places

To show what they are




(Calls daughter)


I don’t think the police


Anything about this

Because they have


Important things to do (cough)

THE POLICE DOES NOT CARE                                                                                

-Ever Alvarado


Yeah It Should Be a Law

 Samuel Maya, a worker in the Bay Area

(He’s wearing a gray shirt ,glasses, black shoes, using the computer and drinking coffee. He likes to fix cars. And  likes to go to the stores and buy clothes and shoes and also likes to work really hard.)

No I have not heard about the Anti-Graffiti Law.

Its ok for the people

Who do graffiti to go to jail.

No never in my life. I don’t

Like graffiti. No because its

Not ok to draw in the streets.

No I don’t know no one who

Does graffiti. I see a difference

Between art and graffiti for me

Art its like drawing and graffiti its like drawing

And graffiti its like bubble letters yeah.

(He’s thinking)The person that had draw in the walls…

to see how much people waste money on

the paint. Also everywhere in Oakland in front of my house

I don’t have no idea yeah it should be a law

So that people should stop doing graffiti. I

Feel that graffiti should stop and not do graffiti and not do graffiti anywhere.

-Fernando Maya

Most of Oakland

Roberto Rodriguez, a student at Life Academy

(He is sitting in a chair. He is light skinned and has a mustache. He has dark hair and his hair is in a fohawk. He is wearing a long sleeve shirt. He talks in a deep voice and he is very serious. He wears black glasses.)

Most of Oakland

I think they should

pay the price.

I consider graffiti a talent

art graffiti.

I think…that…they should

only uh…stop

bad graffiti (gang graffiti).

No ‘cause I don’t have

Time to do such

little things like that.

It depends on what kind

of graffiti

If it was gang graffiti I

would kick their ass

But if it

was good graffiti

I would support them.

I think you will find out

a lot of more Oakland


to get in more


Most of Oakland.

Passionate about it.

Yes and no but bad graffiti is

and good graffiti isn’t because

I just think that

bad graffiti is bad and

Art graffiti isn’t.

I consider graffiti a talent

Art graffiti

takes a lot of time.

Gang graffiti doesn’t.

Most of Oakland.



They should allow art graffiti.

The one that looks nice.

Gang graffiti no.

 -Gemma Campos

 A Great Form of Art

Alondra Casillas, student at Life Academy

(She is wearing a pink and white sweater. She is also wearing glasses, the regular reddish, maroonish square ones. She is writing, looking for paper, sitting across from me. Students talking around us. We are in English class.)

Graffiti is a great

For of art,

I think taggin’ is a

Problem in Oakland.

But sometimes…

Sometimes, I see

Pretty paintings

On walls.

I think it’s pretty.

Graffiti is a great

Form of art,

I’ve heard that it is,

About … that it is about,

People, umm (twirling with her hair)

Getting an, umm, trouble

For graffiti

Graffiti is a great

Form of art,

People can express themselves.

I haven’t seen it in like,

city hall, umm other than that,

pretty much everywhere.

                                                                                    –Kasandra Macias

I Was Relaxed

Josefina Blanca, works in a store named Fruitvale Shipping Center

(She was wearing glasses with a suit, with a gum in her mouth, she’s seating down in a chair.)


Shakes her head.

Nunca nun and laughing.

She likes it when umm is only art

Not when people write random stuff

But graffiti is beautiful.

No, because its art, it’s only bad for kids that

Don’t know how to use it.

… She’s thinking, she considers graffiti beautiful.

She will feel bad and he would get in trouble.

She’s thinking, she would feel bad.

Ok, she said the mayor.

-Leonardo Bernal

Freedom of Speech
Claire Crossett, Teacher at Life Academy

(Blond short hair, blue eyes, dark clothing)

I’ve never heard of the anti graffiti law

I don’t know what’s about

I like graffiti

It’s artistic

If someone writes their name

It’s stupid

It’s a form of expression in Oakland

There’s both sides

People gets upset when it drawn on their property

They might get sick of it

Other than that

It’s a type of freedom of speech

I see it everywhere

It’s bring drawn on buildings and bars

I did it

In high school

I tag my name

I was 16 years old

It’s expressive art

 -Lucy Tovar


Kevin Miles, a dermatologist

(He is a tall African-American man wearing a tan Ecko United jacket, light wash blue jeans, and brown/tan vans. He is sitting on the couch in his living room and holding a pillow to his chest in a defensive position.)

No I haven’t,

what is the anti-graffiti law?


um, I don’t want to deface anyone’s property

and I don’t want anyone to deface mines.

Some graffiti, yes, I like graffiti that is made into art.


(shifting in his seat)

um one it… a lot of places

I mean I can’t read a billboard cause’ there’s graffiti


Um spray paint,

um in form of designs, signs in public places.

Yes there’s (coughs) graffiti art.

Graffiti art is used for visual pleasure

while graffiti is tagging and destruction.


held responsible so they won’t do it as much,

but it would also make them mad.

As an outlet from everything youth goes through.

It’s a youth’s way of expression.

The kids will hate them even more.

Well anybody who is oppressed often hates their oppressor.

 -Megan Jeffery

Honestly I haven’t

Megan Jeffrey, Life Academy Student

(Smiling, has a pencil, hair down, pink, converse, pink shirt, jeans, laughing, kicking the table, looking around the room)

Some, I don’t know I like graffiti that stands

for something not just

trash not really

trash something that is

shriveled up

Honestly I haven’t

Honestly I haven’t

I consider graffiti

a way to express your

self in what society thinks is


No when someone

vandalizes or tags on someone else’s

property its unacceptable put on an


property its ok

It will affect because there are a lot of

kids who do it as a way

to get out of there house

to do something they like to do instead

of banging or

something like that

-Miguel Corona

Is An Addiction

Luis Hurtado Gonzalez

(Khaki Buttoned with white T-Shirt under black and white Raiders hat, Light  blue jeans sagging to his knees  white earring.)

People be taggin all over tha town,

they do it because they want to be known or

they wanna represent they gang but

that shit is stupid they could get popped but

that’s they art  (laughs and sits down).

This shit is a problem tha whole city looks

like fuken shit you know I hate that they

stupid asses once they get caught up

they ass is grass (looking serious and

turns around looking at the 2 gray pit bulls ).

Is an addiction to these people they don’t respect

shit, they can’t respect they self’s they just can’t

stop doing “desmadre imedio’’(stands up taking

his phone out, looks at his phone to change the music).

Tagging is koo I sometimes want to tag but I ain’t tryna get caught up again you kno bruh. In Oakland you get addicted to hella shit but many youngsters out here doing the wrong things like tagging and smoking. I fucked up and it’s to late for me but not for the young people like you, stay in school cuz out here the addictions can kill you and survival is not easy with out education. Fuck eht bruh be someone in life and the addictions of this shit we living will be nun compared to the ones you will have later on when you win stacks of money. (rolling up his blunt)                                                                                                             

 -Miguel Jr Gonzalez

Ignorant Child

Maribel Carrazco, student at Life Academy

(Just got out of the shower, wearing a blue ford shirt from the green festaville, black sweats, and has her hair wrapped in a towel. She is sitting in her bed. The wall behind her is light blue, has her hand print in brown paint and there is a college of pictures behind her.)

I consider art to be done somewhere

Like on something abandon

Some where like

Bringing beauty to somewhere

Like if its and ugly neighborhood

And there’s hella stuff

Like on buildings that are abandon

And they just go and paint a mural

I think that when it has nothing to do

With gangs I personally like it

When you are on the freeway

And you pass abandon building with graffiti

It’s nice

The kids who are already doing it,

Already don’t care

Umm I hope

I hope que los alpaca

That is makes it so

They don’t want to do it anymore

They gotta pay

They gotta have the families pay

Don’t have respect for,

For where they live

For where they were raised from

Where they’ve grown up

That they don’t have respect

For other people’s property, especially

It’s, it’s, it’s just like that feeling of

Like dam

Like just thinking about the type of person

That it would take to do something

Like that

Which would be like

An ignorant, ignorant child

And then thinking about

Like the person who lives there

Has to go and paint over it

Because that ignorant child

Messed up their house

 -Natalie Carrazco

Affect Your Mind

Miguel Gonzalez, a student at Life Academy

(He was wearing a tshirt with a earphone, spikey hair, creation shoe, and wearing cargo short.He was a little bit shy but he had a lot of good ideas.WE were at school during 3rd period when I interviewed him.)

Because of the gang member,

I seen graffiti in all over the place.

Even though I havent seen nobody tag,

Its still a good way

not a bad use.

(laughing hard)

If some gang members got cought,

while doing graffiti they should be responsible.

It affect your mind.

(scratching his leg a lot)

If kids got cought,

Parents should be responsible.

(laughing hard and scratching his leg)

Little kids might do it too

Because of the gang members

It could be art or vandalism,

But it affect your mind.

-Norman Corpuz

Talent in the community

Gemma Campos, Life Academy Student

(Brown reddish hair, wearing an angry bird’s shirt and usually wears glasses but is not at the moment, also short and tends to laugh at jokes made about her size)

Yes I’ve heard about it

And I’m against it but it depends

No I’ve never graffiti

But I do like graffiti

(She stops and silently laughs for awhile)

Yes many times I’ve considered tagging

Not really I just

I just

I just think it’s a way they show

Their feelings

I don’t know(stops to giggle)


I think it will mess up their record

Because it’s a way they show their talent,

In this community


Because graffiti shows a



Inside my house

(She stops for awhile to talk to ever)

Ok sorry umm well?

It depends on what type of graffiti

If it was gang related I would


But if it was art graffiti I would support them

I just think their talented people

Yeah… why not

The one who did the graffiti

More than Half of Oakland

I don’t graffiti


-Roberto Rodriguez


Anonymous man from the street, graffiti artist

(He is black. When he stood up, his height was tall. He puts on a warm jacket for the cold. He is old and his hair is disappearing).

I have been doing graffiti

For a long time

For about five to six years

I liked showing my friends

That I can do graffiti.

The type of graffiti that I liked

Was tagging

Especially on walls


I was doing it wrong

I shouldn’t have been tagging

On people’s property.

I think that they are doing

A good job of creating a law

Against graffiti.

I’ve heard that

Um, uh

There are people (sitting down)

Who don’t like when other people

Tag graffiti on their property and

They call it a crime

So I think that graffiti

Is a problem in Oakland (sigh).

I see


That graffiti is when


When you tag anything that you know

And um…

Art (standing up) is when you draw

When you can imagine

How your drawing looks


Graffiti you can’t really

Read what it says.

If people do graffiti on others property

Um, yeah

It is a crime

But if they do it on their own property

It is not a crime so I think that

Graffiti is not

Really a big deal.

People say that graffiti is a crime

So I think that of that

There is a law against graffiti


They don’t like it tagged

On their property.

The people who do graffiti are

The ones who are going

To get arrested


If they I mean if police don’t see them tagging.

 -Victor Ramirez



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