Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) presents Wall + Response, a series of four poetry reading events curated by Megan Wilson and Maw Shein Win, featuring 16 poets responding to the social/ political/ racial/ justice narratives of four murals on Clarion Alley. Participants include: poets Heather Bourbeau, Aileen Cassinetto, Tongo Eisen-Martin, and Chris Stroffolino responding to the mural Justice for Luís D. Góngora Pat by Marina Perez-Wong and Elaine Chu, working with Justice4Luis; poets Karla Brundage, Jennifer Hasegawa, Tureeda Mikell, and Kim Shuck responding to the work We Want Respect, Freedom, Land, Housing, Justice, Peace, Bread by Emory Douglas/Black Panther Party / remix by CUBA D8, Mace; poets Celeste Chan, MK Chavez, Paul Corman-Roberts and Tim Xonnelly responding to the mural Affordable Housing/Vivienda Asequible by the SF Poster Syndicate working with the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP). Poets Youssef Alaoui, Jason Bayani, Genny Lim, and Michael Warr responding to the mural The Will To Live by Art Forces, Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC), and Arab Youth Organizing (AYO).
The poets are creating new poems in response to the murals and selecting works from their existing body to read for the public presentation.
Wall + Response was originally conceived to culminate in four quarterly public events to be presented on Clarion Alley with the SF Poster Syndicate live printing posters. However, due to the pandemic the poets will instead be filmed by videographer Mahima Kotian reading their work in front of the murals on Clarion Alley. Kotian will be creating videos for each series that will be presented as part of live online events. All the events are free and open to the public. The videos will be available for viewing on CAMP’s Website.
The specific dates for each event will be announced in the month prior to the event – October, December, February, May.
Wall + Response is made possible by the generous support of the San Francisco Art Commission and the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Thank you!
Development and Curation of Wall + Response
In 2019 CAMP artist and organizer Megan Wilson approached poet Maw Shein Win with the idea of co-curating a project that would bring poets together to respond to a selection of CAMP’s murals on Clarion Alley. Wilson and Win have collaborated on numerous projects over the past 15 years, including the ambitious 2-year collaboration Broadside Attractions | Vanquished Terrains that brought 24 Bay Area poets and artists together to create new works, culminating in a 2-month exhibition at Intersection for the Arts in 2012. Win responded affirmatively, suggesting the title Wall + Response, and the development and curation of the project began.
In selecting the murals for Wall + Response, Wilson reflected on CAMP and its role in the community over the past decade in response to the hyper-gentrification that has plagued the Bay Area. The cultural shift has meant an epidemic of evictions, a significant decrease in Black and Latinx communities; devastating income inequality, an overwhelming number of people who are unhoused, and a disturbing increase in police violence and fatal shootings of citizens by police.
In the midst of this harrowing transformation of a city once known for progressive values, diversity, and affordability, CAMP has become a ‘destination’, or as some have coined it, ‘one of the most Instagramable spaces in San Francisco’, due in part to a myriad of developments in the cultural landscape over the past 10 years, including increasing sales/use of smartphones with cameras; an acceleration in numbers of social media companies and users, most notably Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube; and rising numbers of tourists every year. This relatively new designation for a project that grew out of the neighborhood for the neighborhood, has meant not just a global audience of more than 200,000 visitors directly on the alley annually, it has also translated to millions of people now viewing CAMP’s work through social media platforms, numerous online publications, and appearances in film and video productions, including three Netflix series. In response to the impacts of hyper-gentrification in the Bay Area and throughout the world and to the project’s growing visibility, CAMP made the conscious decision to prioritize projects that give voice to local and global narratives in support of social, economic, political, racial and environmental justice.
The four murals selected by Wilson for Wall + Response exemplify successful collaborations between artists and larger organizing forces to create public works and messaging that represent this collective effort.
Justice For Luís D. Góngora Pat (2018) by Marina Perez-Wong and Elaine Chu, working with the Gongora Pat family and Justice4Luis, is a memorial to Luís Demetrio Góngora Pat, a 46-year-old man from the Mayan village of Teabo, in the Mexican province of Yucatán. Góngora Pat was killed by two San Francisco police officers in an act of police brutality on April 7, 2016 at the encampment he was living on Shotwell Street following an eviction. Perez-Wong and Chu presented the mural to Luís’ family and their supporters in an emotional ceremony on the two-year anniversary of his death. The Justice4Luís campaign has continued its work towards justice and restoration in the name of Luis Góngora Pat through their advocacy and organizing efforts.
We Want Respect, Freedom, Land, Housing, Justice, Peace, Bread (2011) by Emory Douglas/Black Panther Party / remix by CUBA D8, MACE reflects the legacy of the Black Panthers and their core work towards social, political, racial, economic, and food justice. The mural, based on a design by Emory Douglas with elements from the Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program is a remix painted by graffiti artists CUBA (Clarence Robbs), D8 (David Petrelli), and MACE (Alex Douhovnikoff). The artists ensure the work is maintained and periodically add messaging based on critical needs of the moment. These gestures of care and thoughtfulness reflect the intent of the original work and support the ongoing movement to secure the demands stated in What We Want Now!.
Affordable Housing/Vivienda Asequible (2016) by the SF Poster Syndicate working with the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) represents people working together against the structures of oppression to become a powerful force of nurturance, peace, and justice. The mural speaks to WRAP’s critical work to expose and eliminate the root causes of homelessness and poverty, empower communities to demand protection of civil and human rights, and advocate for restoring federal funding for affordable housing. The mural will travel to Los Angeles’ Skid Row later in 2021.
The Will To Live (2018) by Art Forces, Arab Resource Organizing Center (AROC), and Arab Youth Organizing (AYO) celebrates and honors the lives of six Arab leaders: Rasmea Odeh, Mehdi Ben Barka, Naji Diafullah, Leila Khaled, Basel Al Araj, and Yasser Mortaja. The mural manifests and expresses the resilience and resistance of the Bay Area community to attacks on freedom and liberties of Arab, Muslim, people of color, immigrants and refugees. The Will To Live is one of five murals on Clarion Alley with messaging in support of Palestine and in solidarity to call an end to Israel’s apartheid and settler colonial state. The five murals have been hit with hate crime vandalism 21 times in the past two years, between September 2018 – September 2020. CAMP and its artists continue to repair the works as an act of resilience and in support of the global movement for the Palestinian right of return.
Based on the walls selected, poet Maw Shein Win has invited Bay Area poets whose practice includes social and political community engagement. Win considered poets with diverse voices whose work speaks to the issues addressed in the murals: police brutality, societal inequities, affordable housing, and resilience in the face of injustice. Their poems honor not only the intent but also the lives depicted in the murals.
CAMP & Poetry
Since the early days of CAMP, almost 30 years ago, poetry has held a critical place in the project’s history. In 1993 poet Alfonso Texidor selected the poem When We Return by Daisy Zamora for CAMP’s first poetry wall. The work speaks to the importance of home, history, nurturance, and consideration. That same year, CAMP presented WORD UP! at the Women’s Building with “speaking minds performances” by Michael Blake, Michael Franti, QR Hand, Deborah Iyall, Genny Lim, Jack Micheline, Maria Medina Serafin, and Alfonso Texidor. In 1995 QR Hand’s poem Hemisphere was painted over the entire façade of 40 Clarion Alley by Aaron Noble on sections of blue, pink, yellow and brown, with the last line reading: we home here now. Daisy Zamora’s When We Return was restored in 2001 with a translation in Arabic added to the original Spanish and English version as a response to the Islamophobia that rose in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. More recently, Christopher Statton worked with poet Tony Robles and SOMCAN in 2015 to develop the text for the mural In Solidarity with Our Neighbors in SoMa to call attention to the negative impact of the 5M development on low-income communities of color in the South of Market neighborhood. In 2016 CAMP was invited to participate in Litquake’s Lit Crawl, with Home: Narratives of Place & Displacement, featuring Ed Bowers, Raymond Castillo, Shaghayegh Cyrous, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, and Megan Wilson. In 2017 CAMP hosted a 100 Days Action poetry reading curated by Maw Shein Win, featuring Cyrus Armajani, Heather Bourbeau, Yvonne Campbell, MK Chavez, Bonnie Kwong, Raina J. León, Caitlin Myer, Christine No, Andy Sano, Amos White, Josh Wilson, Maw Shein Win, and Jason Wyman.
WORD UP! at the Women’s Building in 1993 with “speaking minds performances” by Michael Blake, Michael Franti, QR Hand, Deborah Iyall, Genny Lim, Jack Micheline, Maria Medina Serafin, and Alfonso Texidor