Akonadi Foundation’s mission is to support the development of powerful social change movements to eliminate structural racism and create a racially just society. We believe that racial justice movement building requires communities-of-color-led efforts to build power, shape policy, and strengthen culture. The Racial Justice Poster Project is one way in which Akonadi Foundation honors and inspires racial justice movement building in Oakland and around the world.
In 2008, Akonadi Foundation’s founder and then-President Quinn Delaney commissioned Melanie Cervantes, an artist with Dignidad Rebelde who was also a Program Officer for the foundation, to create a racial justice image to commemorate March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This day commemorates the Sharpeville massacre of March 21, 1960, when the South African movement against apartheid was spreading as blacks across that country began demonstrating against “pass laws” that required them to carry identity cards. In the township of Sharpeville, a huge crowd of black Africans gathered peacefully outside a police station, singing and subjecting themselves to arrest for failing to carry cards. The police opened fire and killed 69 people, among them 10 children. It was from this history that the first image, titled ‘Building a Movement for Justice,’ was created; it inspired the launch of Akonadi Foundation’s Racial Justice Poster Project. Today, in the U.S. and internationally, the structures of racism live on with devastating impacts: in redevelopment policies that destroy and displace communities of color; in public school funding tied to property values; in denial of jobs to people struggling to escape the prison-industrial complex; and in immigration policy that criminalizes people of color trying to survive global exploitation.
2018 marks our Racial Justice Poster Project’s 10th anniversary. We want to use this milestone to lift up the artistic legacy of racial justice movement building, paying tribute to the courage of artistic and cultural ambassadors engaged in the ongoing struggle for racial justice locally and nationally. We are excited to announce this year our featured artist is Oakland-based Afrofuturist Joshua Mays. Joshua’s murals are an act of storytelling inspired by looking to the future that we want to create, while also honoring lessons from our ancestors. His work often features images of women of color immersed in magical realism and science fiction. His murals can be found on several buildings in Oakland. We will be unveiling his poster, titled ‘Transmission: Received’ with an artist spotlight on March 21.