Da Town Graphics – Alternative Spring Break

We strongly believe that our future is in the hands of the young folks.” -Mutulu Shakur

During the spring break of 2009 Jesus and I worked at Oakland’s Spanish Speaking Citizen’s Foundation with several Raza youth, ages 12 to 17, conducting five workshops teaching students how to develop a political posters. The weeklong series of workshops acted as an alternative Spring Break, organized by the Center to give students an opportunity to learn more about the arts from Xican@ community artists. Throughout the week we prepared students to design their own poster, teaching them about the history of political posters and their use in social justice movements to provide a context of the work they were making. Leading them through the process, students learned the steps to develop a poster that reflect their values and interests.

We presented a slideshow on graphic artists of color who have used the poster medium as part of their movement building work, including our work as part of this trajectory and examples of the continuation of community poster making. After the history presentation students were taught about the fundamentals of thumbnail sketches as the first step in brainstorming their design. This was interesting and challenging because the workshops was being presented in English and Spanish. We worked diligently to make sure any Spanish or English monolingual speakers were always understood. It was so great to know the young people were down to translate what their own statement to make sure everyone is included.

Each student learned to create a thumbnail sketch for their poster layout as well as brainstorm ideas for our collaborative poster design. The class worked together to design a screen printed poster that they helped print and distribute during the the May Day (im)migration mobilizations. We held daily group critiques as we developed the collective poster and decided on various distribution plans Рsome students distributed the posters at their schools and post them in classrooms, while others worked with community organizations to distribute picket signs and others approached local shops to post them in their windows. After much deliberation and discussion, the final decision the group made was choosing the name Da Town Graphics for the project.

We had a vary focused group that was determined to finish their posters and put as much thought and time into them as possible. The youth designed individual posters on topics that they felt passionate about, with topics ranging from demands for universal health care, an end to the ICE raids, a declaration of Indigeneity, and a call to end racism.  

During the closing weekend of Spring Break we had a couple students join us in the studio to print the poster we collectively designed during the week. It was an amazing opportunity to share stories and learn more about the students and how they came to participate in the workshop. Despite the rain, on May 1st students gathered before the march began and grabbed a stack a posters to help distribute, it was great to see everyones excitement to grab their poster and march proudly with them.