OSH Mural 4 Hoover Leaders Event Friday 11/3

It’s been almost a two-year process since AHC first engaged Hoover elementary students in the Self as Super Hero curriculum. These young people collectively reinvented themselves as super heroes to creatively solve some of our community’s biggest problems. Two 3rd grade classes, an approximate 50 kids, with the help of teachers Ms. Lau and Ms. Lynch spent weeks in small groups and developed 8 Super Hero characters. From there, with the help of Creative Originator Amana Harris, Art Director David Burke and Lead Artist Lindsey Millikan, the characters were merged into 5: Debow Jalapeno, Fantastic Girl, Golden Boy, Lava Queen and Lava Boy.  

When Caltrans put a stop to the approval of mural #4 due to legal constraints, these young people were relentless in writing letters to our assembly members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmon; Senator Nancy Skinner; Mayor Libby Schaaf, and the leaders of Caltrans. It was Senator Nancy Skinner that took their complaints to the next level. She was appalled and didn’t stop until victory and justice prevailed. This process was a beneficial learning experience for our young leaders and a gift in many ways.


On November 3, 2017 we celebrated the mural approval and the launch of OSH Mural # 4. At the gathering, the group stood below the hanging life-size paintings, which have been gracing the walls of Hoover library since 2016. Under the leadership of ArtEsteem Program Manager Christina Samuelson, the Hoover ArtEsteem Youth leaders are in their second year in the leadership program. AHC knew that it would be essential to keep the group strategically involved to have the opportunity to see the project through. AHC’s ArtEsteem program has worked with Hoover students to understand the vital importance of advocacy, the power of civic engagement, and the complexities of city and state processes for public art.

For 2017 Hoover ArtEsteem Youth Leaders attended an exhibit of one of their Super Hero paintings at the California Museum in Sacramento in the Unity Center. In addition, they visited the Sacramento Capitol House, made trips to City Hall, and will soon make walking  fieldtrips down the street to participate in the painting of this transformative artwork.

The project is due to start the week of November 27th! Look out for the AHC team of children artists as we embark upon another effort to bring beauty into the community. Let’s give an applause for our outstanding leaders for their patience, tenacity, vision and hope for their community. They are an inspiration for us all! 

Join us in this effort! Donate Now!


West Oakland Legacy Project Update


Our thoughts and hearts go out to those most affected by the North Bay Wildfires. Due to Air quality in our area we’ve moved our classes indoors until there is significant improvement.



On Tuesdays We are getting familiar with the West Oakland Farm park and making yummy meals that we harvest on site. We are also feeding the chickens, weeding, making compost, watering plants, harvesting and planting. We recently took down the snap pea trellis and planted a cover-crop to prepare the soil for the next growing season.



Thank you for supporting AHC and attending our open house September 14th The event was a hit! In September we made our own sketchbooks and we’re getting acquainted with the elements of art and design while learning to utilize drawing tools like charcoal and ink. This past week we watched part one of “Race: the Power of an Illusion” as part of an intensive workshop focused on demystifying the origins of race and the way this affects our daily lives, fueling preconceptions about ourselves and others, educational institutions and more. The Attitudinal Healing principle, “Perception is a mirror of what is in our minds,” guided our dialogue around stereotypes and prejudice. We are continuing to build drawing skills and will be helping design the AHC Artmobile! Stay tuned for updates.



Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project

Caltrans blockade released after advocacy, resolution, and agreement.


After months of advocacy, Hoover elementary students will celebrate their triumph with city and state leaders at their school. Caltrans and local non-profit Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC) have finally come to an agreement. 

The project stood at a halt for nearly a year, not only affecting projects led by AHC but many artists and agencies across the state. When Senator Nancy Skinner and other policymakers received letters from the children pleading their case, the Senator didn’t stand by. For months she urged Caltrans leadership to figure out a way to move the project forward. Caltrans District Director Bijan Sartipi became an ally and put pressure on his team. The city of Oakland and Caltrans are finalizing their maintenance agreement which is the final step. The Maintenance agreement will go to City Council on November 7th and the project aims to begin November 27th.  Hoover students will soon understand how their advocacy set the stage for new agreements and policies that will have long-lasting effects for art that beautifies the bleak walls of our state highways.

Hoover students will end 2017 knowing that their voice matters and that they can impact policy leaders and their community. Fifth-grader Angelly exemplified this spirit in her letter to Caltrans: "It is important for the community to recognize elementary students' work. We work hard to plan. We are very enthusiastic about this. We need your approval because we really want to inspire others and maybe others will inspire others. We are bright students and we can do it!"

Although challenging, the legal struggle that beset osh Mural 4 and its resolution through activism and grassroots support is a heartening example of the power of people to change their world and making it a brighter and more colorful place.

The students of the Hoover youth leadership group created the concepts behind the superheroes that will be featured in the upcoming mural design.  AHC and the students were highlighted in the California Museum in Sacramento.  Because of their activism they were visited by Senator Nancy Skinner and were invited to tour the capital house and see the exhibit there that featured their work.  



A Visit from California Senator Nancy Skinner

On June 9th, the last day of school, Hoover Elementary students received a special visit from  California Senator Nancy Skinner. Senator Skinner has been following closely the work of Attitudinal Healing Connection, Inc. (AHC) and The Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project which, this year, has faced a major bureaucratic roadblock, delaying the 4th mural timeline and resulting in the Youth Leadership students being unable to see the completion of this project. AHC community organizers, parents, principals and the youth eagerly joined to question the senator on "why" our mural project was being delayed. Caltrans, the property owners of the freeway walls, is requiring Moral Authority Copyrights of mural imagery as part of their new approval process.  This request is being replicated statewide, and has deterred the production process for artists all over California.

The students had many questions on if and when their mural project would be completed, if it would be before graduating from elementary school, and most importantly, if she would be able to help them. Senator Skinner said she had joined the youth’s advocacy efforts by joining with another Senator to request an amended agreement to the Director of Caltrans. She said she believed that this project would be approved, trusting that the good in people would be moved by the youth’s art and voice which powerfully shows why public art, especially public art about concepts that relay peace and represent the community, is so important.  

The Hoover Elementary Youth Leadership students have taken an incredible journey for the last two years in the collaborative process of AHC’s Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project.   As third graders  in the ArtEsteem program, they created a series of life-size superheroes that address problems in the community by using powers to bring peace, food and homes to people in need.  The characters would become the inspiration for the 4th large-scale mural to be painted under the 580 freeway.  This year as fourth graders, the students continued to conceptually develop the meaning of the next mural. They attended the Public Art Advisory Committee (PAAC) meeting to have the design approved and worked hard on developing their art skills to prepare for mural production.

 When the Caltrans copyrights issue blocked the project, the youth quickly moved into advocacy efforts which included gathering petitions, writing letters to Caltrans and public officials, and holding a peaceful protest down by the 4000 sq. ft. blank wall chanting “Art Can Inspire” and “Art Is Peace.”  The students' courageous activism received new coverage by Channel 7 and KQED, who are in the process of creating a documentary about this project and the community’s journey.

 While the project has gained more awareness and nearly 700 people have signed a petition, there is still work to be done.  The community is waiting for Caltrans to reconsider their position and allow this important project to move forward.

 Ways to Get Involved: Sign the Petition through change.org (Click Here) and recirculate through social media, call and write letters to  the Director of Caltrans, Malcolm Dougherty and California representatives in support of this project, donate to AHC to assist in the fundraising efforts to ensure mural completion and congratulate our youth for their inspiration!

Support the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Approval

Sign our petition. Click here.

In recent months during the final mural approval processes, Caltrans, the property owners of the freeway walls, has created a legal barrier and we are now unable to move forward.

WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW!!!  Encourage Caltrans to approve the production of the next mural. Our underpasses are in a crisis state and present so many problems in our area. Reviving this public space through art and beauty means a stronger investment from Oakland residents to keep the city safe and respected by all.

The Oakland Super Heroes Project is in progress with the fourth large scale mural in West Oakland in a series of six murals to be painted under the 580 freeway. This project is a true community endeavor, which has enlisted the participation and enthusiasm of hundreds of our families and neighbors.

The murals address some of the deepest concerns in Oakland relaying concepts by students who designed superheroes that advocate for peace in the community.

A letter from AHC's Executive Director Amana Harris to:

State Representative Rob Bonta

State Senator Nancy Skinner

Governor Jerry Brown

State Representative Tony Thurmond

My name is Amana Harris and I am the executive director of Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC). As you may know, AHC is a 27-year old non-profit organization based in West Oakland, whose mission is to empower individuals to be inspired through art, creativity and education.

You are a key public leader, and on behalf of AHC we ask that you publicly stand with us on this profound collective effort to accomplish the 4th mural in the Oakland Super Heroes Project: A series of artwork that rebuilds, inspires and strengthens our community. Governmental investment in public spaces, especially local and state government, can support and uplift our community.

In 2011, AHC created the Oakland Super Heroes Project engaging over 300 Youth in designing four of the six murals to be painted under the 580 freeway. This project is a true community endeavor, which has enlisted the participation and enthusiasm of hundreds of our families and neighbors.

While the entire community waits, AHC is making every effort to move forward in the completion of mural #4. The intended mural production timeline of March 2017 has now passed and our sense of urgency is weighing heavy on our hearts. Hoover students, the designers for the next mural have written letters, started petitions and are developing communication skills as advocate representatives for the community. Please see quotes below from student handwritten letters to Caltrans:

“I am so excited because we’re going to be the first elementary school to have our art in public, if it’s possible, if you can, it’s important to put our art in public because it can show peace, love, and respect.
Sincerely, T.J, 4th Grade

"It is important for the community to recognize elementary students’ work. We work hard to plan. We are very enthusiastic about this. We need your approval because we really want to inspire others and maybe others will inspire others. We are bright students and we can do it!"
Sincerely, Angelly, 5th Grade

In recent months during the final approval processes, Caltrans, the property owners of the freeway walls, requested a Moral Authority Copyright of the artwork imagery. This request is one that creates a legal barrier and we are now unable to move forward. Our underpasses are in a crisis state and present so many problems in our area. Art and beauty from the community and our children gives the public a stake in these neglected and blighted spaces. WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW!!!

We are reaching out to your colleagues as well and would urgently like to schedule a meeting. Thank you.

A partnership with Naku - The Sapara Ecotourism Project of Ecuador

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Sapara Peoples of Ecuador in the beautiful Amazon rainforest with my friend and AHC ally Susie Poncelet, Board Member of the East Bay College Fund.  In my brief time in this green, lush and mystical ecosystem I was reconnected to my own indigenous beliefs, deepened my awareness of the ills of consumerism and learned a great deal about the Sapara land, people, language, traditions, rituals, medicine and how our Western lifestyle threatens all with extinction.


Led by indigenous leader and shaman Manari Ushigua, Naku aims to connect with friends around the world, share the rich cultural history of the Amazon and critically awaken the hearts, minds and souls of humanity to what we need to do to support human beings to awaken to the dangers of their consumerist life. Naku has merged his wisdom with Belen Paez of Pachamama Alliance and together they are forming a powerful network to awaken humanity from the dream of consumerism.  

Our effort to inspire youth entrenched in a poverty mindset and shaped by our consumerist culture about their critical role in advocating for their communities and the environment through the West Oakland Legacy Project.  These youth are learning that they have the power to change their world by changing their mind about how they will live in the world. The leaders at AHC see an opportunity to make a crucial alliance and merge the issues that plague urban communities of color with those that threaten indigenous communities and environmentalists. Using art we will begin to make connections globally, to gain a deeper understanding and express the broader environmental ramifications of land and human exploitation.

We are incredibly excited about the possibility of partnering with Naku.  Our hope is to take Oakland youth in June of 2018 to Ecuador to deepen their understanding of the value of the Rainforest and how all life is connected. Stay tuned for more updates and a more detailed blog about the gifts imparted to the world from this amazing place and people. For more information about Naku, visit: www.naku.com.ec

Thank you!


Amana Harris

Executive Director


Our Leadership Class' Tour of California College of the Arts

Last week students of ArtEsteem’s West Oakland Legacy and Leadership Project (WOLLP) visited the California College of the Arts (CCA) Oakland Campus. The trip was led by CCA students of the Art in the Public Interest course, which is taught by professor Amana Harris. Harris is also the Executive Director of Attitudinal Healing Connection Inc. and brings in CCA students as interns for the organization each year.

Emerging slowly and rotating slightly, the black iron bar exited the orange glow coming from the mouth of the furnace. Punctuated by a lemon sized orange jewel of molten glass, Brett ( 22 year old glass student at CCA, and student intern at AHC from Amana Harris’ AIPI class) skillfully manipulated the iron bar out from the 2,000 degree furnace, and with great care swung it around and brought it close to a large sand box in the middle of the room. If dropped accidentally, the glass could dissipate its heat safely in the sand. Standing behind the large red safety line painted on the ground, the class of the WOLLP watched quietly and intently as other glass students from CCA watched with a certain satisfaction observing the faces of others less fortunate to be so well acquainted with the process. Brett explained the challenges and joys of working with glass, especially the need to kiln some pieces for weeks on end to gradually reduce the temperature of the glass and ensure it does not explode.  This was just one of the first stops that the WOLLP class made on their recent field trip to the CCA campus.

The next stop was the ceramics studio where the group was greeted with warm lighting, dark wood shelving filled with varieties of sculpture pieces, as well as clay vessels in various stages of completion. They were greeted with a welcoming attitude and beckoned in by CCA student Kelsey to first take a look at the 3D ceramic printer that the students have at their disposal.

In the far corner of the studio, 10 professional electric pottery wheels were lined up and the students of WOLLP were treated to a demonstration by Yao, an upperclassman thrower who was fabled to be able to throw backward, facing away from the wheel, with his hands behind his back, although the group was unable to see such a feat on this visit.  He demonstrated the delicate control and subtle strength needed to first center a block of clay, literally thrown at the center of the wheel when starting a new piece, and then to guide it up into the elegant curves of a vase, bowl or cup.  Later the WOLLP students were able to get their hands dirty, and try to coax a recognizable form from their own shapeless mound of potential.  


The trip to CCA culminated with a trip to the animation department where the students learned that artistic expression and creativity could lead them to a decidedly more technical world where powerful Mac computers and 27-inch Wacom graphics tablets are the tools of the trade.  With our ever changing world becoming more digital, Grace and Kalista, our CCA animation majors who were chaperoning this leg of the trip explained to us how the traditional and the digital meet in front of the glow of a high resolution computer screen in a technique they all lovingly called “tradigital.”  That is traditional techniques done digitally.  

What trip to a college campus would be complete without a trip to the campus cafeteria.  After a long and intensive look at just some of the facilities available to students of CCA and a picture of what an art school education might look like in general, our students had worked up an appetite.  After a bite to eat it was time for us to pack up and return to our homes.  It is uncertain if what they saw and experienced might someday lead them down the path to an art school education, but one thing is certain:  CCA is an exciting and dynamic environment with the tools, the engaged student body, and the guidance from teachers for seemingly limitless expression of creativity.  We hope that that feeling will rub off on our students so that they can be the the next generation of active, expressive minds that believe in their limitless potential to change the world around them with their creative ideas, and that there is a place out there for them that is ready to offer support, and has the tools ready and waiting.

Oakland Tech Artesteem Dance Performance Backdrop Project.

5 foot by 8 foot, the backdrops for Oakland Tech’s dance performance are a collaborative piece between ArtEsteem students at the high school and the Tech Techies. The pieces feature portraits of women of color through a high contrast, posterized color motif that has been used to create a dynamic and striking presence on stage. The pieces are hung at either side of the stage and are moved on and off the stage with a pulley, smoothly and ethereally interacting with the dancers.  

Students of the Oakland Tech Artesteem group along with the CCA student interns work on penciling in the image on canvas using a projector.

Students of the Oakland Tech Artesteem group along with the CCA student interns work on penciling in the image on canvas using a projector.

The effort took a total of 4 weeks, from start to finish, to paint and mount the 5 pieces. The images were manipulated by ArtEsteem instructor Josh Krey, and then projected onto canvases.  Students learned techniques on how large scale imagery can be quickly and systematically produced, where size is no limit and only the imagination and hard work determine our achievement. The painting process was simplified by penciling in the contours of large areas of flat color in varying values to create the sense of depth. The areas were filled in by hand with acrylic paint, magically revealing the image and its colors and showing first time painters that painting does not have to be intimidating.

One of our ArtEsteem students, Kathy Liang, described her take on the backdrops and performance:

“The Black Girl Magic backdrop seemed to represent the presence of people especially women of color. Having many women of different ethnicities up in large scale and also on the stage. In our society, I feel as if women of color have so much to deal with just because of their gender and race. The women we painted onto the canvases were empowering and I felt like they were screaming, We belong here!”

The images depict women of color from different cultural backgrounds, addressing the theme of diverse standards of beauty, of which the dance performance, “Black Girl Magic,” has been founded upon. The dances touch upon differing ancient and non western stories and concepts about feminine strength and beauty. The backdrops are designed to evoke the idea of diversity and feminine beauty, as well as to create a bright and striking palette for the dancers to draw from and interact with visually.

A special thanks goes out to Casey Fern, the instructor of the Tech Techies, who put a lot of time, effort, and the use of their space for this project.  Also a special thanks to the two CCA student assistants Iris and Pamela who were integral in the paint mixing process and general logistics of the project.



"What makes a great leader?"

The 4th grade Youth Leadership group at Hoover Elementary, as you may know, consists of the creators and inspiration for our fourth Oakland Superhero mural project. The painting of the mural on the West Street I-580 underpass is set to begin in April 2017.

In the meantime, the group has been honing in on both the artistic and political advocacy skills they will be utilizing to paint the mural in April. This past week the discussion centered around leadership and actions that can be taken to solve issues they witness within their communities on a daily basis.

“Trustworthy!” shouted TJ, to suggest a necessary attribute that every leader must have. “They don’t follow the crowd and they do the right thing,” suggested another student. Another emphasized that what makes a great leader is one who “is not racist and knows the importance of diversity,” as well as one who can create “new ways of thinking and be a change-maker.”

Influenced by their experiences and their environments, the students were inclined to create superheroes that could solve the issues they brought up when discussing leadership and action plans that can be taken. Through their artistic expression, the students work on personal growth and practice the skills of community-building and collaboration that they need for community advocacy.

Stay tuned for more news on ArtEsteem’s programs and the installation of our next mural, and help us continue to build self-esteem through creation. Our work is impossible without the support of the community.

Click to donate at http://www.ahc-oakland.org/donate/

Black History Month - A Break in Tradition

This February we are called to think deeply about why Mr. Carter G. Woodson pioneered the celebration of "Negro History Week" in 1926. It is telling. He noted that Black American contributions "were overlooked, ignored and even suppressed by the writers of history of text books and the teachers who use them." Race prejudice, he concluded, "is merely the logical result of tradition," the tradition of the United States of America. In 1933, Mr. Woodson wrote his famous book, The Miseducation of the Negro, which some might say could be renamed The Miseducation of the Citizens of the United States of America. World renowned actor, Morgan Freeman, similarly stated, " I don't want a Black History Month. Black History is American History."

It is interesting to note that this commemorative time was chosen during the second week in February of 1926, to coincide with the marking of the birthdays of Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Black History week was designated by Congress to honor the contributions of Black Americans in the development of the United States of America to become a country that works for everyone. The honoring of Black History Week was acknowledged and later it was extended to the full month of February, the shortest month in our calendar year.

It has been over 90 years since the establishment of Black History Week and as you can see we still have much work to do to honor the contributions of all citizens, regardless of color, creed, religion, or language. Learning about the contributions of people of color is the first step in opening up our minds to the histories that have been denied to the world.