When I first moved to Oakland about a year ago, I was instantly fascinated by the prolific street art. One of the first buildings I encountered was this bright pink building just as safely enclosed with chain link fence as the yard of beautiful chickens next door. A year later, I finally found the time and inspiration to do drive around town documenting some of my favorite pieces and found this building to have changed its message. After some research, I can only presume that the original slogan, “It only takes a pair of gloves,” was present until sometime this August. I found a great blog post from Oaktown Art illustrating the mural’s original message. The original empowering image, fashioned after the stance of two African American Olympic medal winners of 1968, remains the same but the caption now reads, “born with insight a fist,” an abbreviated version of lyrics from the 1992 song by Rage Against the Machine, “Know Your Enemy.” The lyrics were originally “born with insight and a raised fist.”
Both captions are abstract enough to keep their meanings elusive. While the original seemed to have a more empowering and positive slant, it appears the times have changed enough for optimism to dim a little. What was once, in my opinion, a celebration of an empowered moment and sign of progress has become a call for another act of boldness. Rage Against the Machine’s lyrics are often anti-war and anti-authoritative sentiments, which considering the political dynamics in not only Oakland but the entire nation, are not surprisingly poignant. The image on the side of the building, a robot succumbing to a natural entanglement, keeps the hopeful glimpse of progress alive through the statement’s evolution. What seems so mighty can be overthrown. Nature has it’s own usurping power.
Whoever is responsible for this building has something to say. The community is paying attention.