Oakland to Joburg (2018)

Melanie Cervantes

12″x 18″, 4-layer, handmade screenprint, archival paper, Printed in my kitchen, San Leandro CA, March 2018

Text from fundraising pitch that accompanied print:

“Please join me in supporting 28 Oakland youth from Mack H.S. who will travel to South Africa as a part of a cultural exchange. If you have had the opportunity to travel please remember how it impacted your view of the world and understanding of yourself.

Late last summer, I learned that I have a rare form of lung cancer. After a successful surgery and a half year in recovery, I learned that my latest scan showed no new cancer growth. In the nine months of wrestling with the weight of this disease, I watched as places around the world were devastated by the intersection of climate chaos and the intentional abandonment of affected communities.

The continued threat of police executions of Black youth and the kidnapping and expulsion of Brown families from the U.S. broke my heart. I was unable to act constrained in my body by my scars and need to heal. I was literally learning how to breathe again with 1/3 of my lung removed. I had to take it slow. When I received the good news that my scan came back with no evidence of new cancer I knew that I waned to celebrate with an action… an act of solidarity.

I initiated a partnership with Culture Keepers at McClymonds High School to support their fundraising efforts to take students to South Africa.

As the film Black Panther has become a global and cultural phenomena, I have spent countless hours listening to director Ryan Coogler talk about how he “had a lot of pain inside of me due to not being able to know my ancestry” and that the film allowed him to explore “what it means to be African.” I believe this trip to South African will allow these 28 young people from Coogler’s birth place of Oakland to answer this question themselves, to begin to salve the pain of fragmentation caused by colonialism and slavery, and to build bridges with youth in South Africa.”

Many people, myself included, have had the privilege of traveling to different places in the world very different from the U.S., and each experience deepened my knowledge of self, strengthened my world view, and grew my love for my community back home. I want these young people to know we have their back and we will support them as they grow as leaders in our community.

The group also worked with a printer to make shirts.