AeroSoul 2: Urban Hieroglyphics

A historic event honoring the contributions of Black/African Spray Can Muralists and supporting community mural projects aimed at curbing the crisis of violence plaguing youth of color

by Idris Hassan

Aerosoul-front-0211, AeroSoul 2: Urban Hieroglyphics, Culture Currents On the corner of 14th and Campbell in West Oakland, one lone aerosoul face sits on the corner of a wall. The face, once part of a larger mural in progress, is all that remains of the monument to a fallen young man in the neighborhood.

Along the BART corridor near 51st and Martin Luther King Jr. in North Oakland, a painting of a smiling winged young Black man emanating from rays of light once donned the concrete column. It was painted near the very spot where young Gary King ran, unarmed and in fear, before police bullets entered his back.

From The Corner at 17th and Broadway in Downtown Oakland, the beaming face of Oscar Grant gleams among roses and sunbeams, a tribute to his untimely death on a BART platform one New Year’s Day.

With violence claiming their lives daily, many city walls are becoming RIP monuments for youth instead of a celebration of their existence. Now, re-imagine walls filled with color and wisdom. Walls for miles etched with the sacred scribbling of imagination. Stepping forth to foster such a vision is the Bay Area Aero Soul Heritage Society, which is dedicated to reclaiming city walls to foster positive mural projects for youth suffering in violence-torn communities.

Murals are a lively and engaging way to connect with young people and to create a positive community environment. The BAAHS is galvanizing seasoned writers to mentor youth in the art of spray can calligraphy as a way to curb the crisis of staggering violence and toxicity facing young people in many urban communities across the country.

In honor of African History Month, the Bay Area Aerosol Heritage Society is proud to present the second AeroSoul event, “AeroSoul 2011,” which will kick off on Feb. 4 at the Joyce Gordon Gallery in Downtown Oakland and be followed by a month-long series of events, including an artist panel, slide show lectures, youth art workshops, live painting and educational seminars. Refa 1 is the event curator.

With over 40 well-known muralists from around the globe, this artistic consciousness-uplifting endeavor is advancing to bring forward a movement dedicated to fostering peace, mutual love and healing. This is a movement that will enlighten the minds and spirits of the community at large, sending shock waves of change to a society in desperate need of social facelift.

Aerosoul-back-0211, AeroSoul 2: Urban Hieroglyphics, Culture Currents AeroSoul 2 will showcase some of the most cutting-edge, dynamic Black urban calligraphers in the world, featuring artists from writing’s east coast origins to the new lettering stylists of the day. Participating and invited artists include Case 2, Pose 2, Mode2, Mad Hatter, Refa 1, CRE8, Toons and many more.

Participating artists will demonstrate the creative benefits of the art form and promote the essence of writing culture, including how it is a means to address many of the social ills facing the Black and Brown community today, as well as a tool for collective empowerment and cultural liberation.

This historical event strives to give recognition to the visionary creators of this urban craft. The fact that these contributions are rarely shown in their proper historical context if acknowledged at all has also been a driving force to bring these gems to light.

Oakland Youth, as well as youth across the nation, are facing critical times and taking responsibility as a community is vital if positive energy and peace are to become the new driving force in our city streets.

The Bay Area Aerosol Heritage Society actively promotes non-violence and youth empowerment through art and hip hop culture. BAAHS, founded in 1999, is an organization created to foster community enlightenment in the city of Oakland. Their mission is to promote positive youth development and knowledge of culture and the arts with an emphasis on Bay Area Spray-Can History.

Event calendar

Aero Soul Art 2: Satellite Youth Art Exhibit

• Feb. 1–March 4 at Janina’s Posh Pieces Studio, 3824 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

• Friday, Feb. 25, 6 p.m., at Janina’s Posh Pieces Studio: Reception, screening and discussion on youth art and hip hop culture. This satellite art exhibit will showcase art by the TCB Crew as well as work created by East Bay students, including a special showing of work by youth involved in art programs at the San Francisco Juvenile Hall Facility. The reception will also feature a screening of “Urban Hieroglyphics 3,” a work in progress produced by Chocolate Beats Media and Royal Crownz.

Aero-Soul-Youth-Art-Exhibit-0211, AeroSoul 2: Urban Hieroglyphics, Culture Currents Art Exhibit

• Feb. 4-27 at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Downtown Oakland

• Friday, Feb. 4, 5–11 p.m., at Joyce Gordon Gallery: Opening Day. AeroSoul is both a social action and a cultural celebration. Hosted by the Universal Zulu Nation, the Feb. 4 opening is an opportunity to celebrate culture and the high caliber works of iconic artists of the movement. Many of the artists will be present to share and discuss their works. All hip hop cultural elements will be represented at the event opening through music, dance and visual art. It will be open to all ages and free for youth 18 and under. This event also aligns with Oakland’s monthly Art Murmur in which art galleries open their doors to the public to engage in cultural sharing and dialogue.

Mural Painting, Wednesday-Sunday, Feb. 2-6: In addition to the gallery presentation of their artwork, visiting artists will paint murals in Oakland’s inner-city neighborhoods with youth trained in the art form by Oakland-based muralists. The cultural practice of bringing together older artists and the youth they mentor has the purpose of collective community engagement in defining and designing the public spaces in which we live. The end result will be public artworks that foster a healthy and vibrant environment in which Oakland’s youth can grow, develop and learn.

Panel Discussions and Presentations, throughout February: Diverse speaking events complementing the exhibit will take place throughout the month at various art and education venues. All events will be open to the public; youth and adults of all ages are invited to participate and attend.

• Saturday, Feb. 5, 6 p.m., at Joyce Gordon Gallery: Panel lecture, discussion and slide show from visiting artists on the state of the art form and its cultural context from a black/African perspective. Lecture and slide presentation by Writing Historian CRE8 of Los Angeles.

• Friday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m., at Joyce Gordon Gallery: Panel lecture on research being conducted, scholarship being produced about the impact of using aerosol art and hip hop cultures in classrooms and other youth learning settings. This will include discussions on art, culture and education; language and literacy theory; and hip hop culture as a critical pedagogical framework for youth learning and development.

Urban Calligraphy Workshop, Saturday, Feb. 12, at Joyce Gordon Gallery: AeroSoul coordinators and local legends Refa 1 and Kufu will host a three-hour workshop and community art project for and with youth from across the Bay Area.

Gallery Tours, Wednesdays throughout February at Joyce Gordon Gallery: Artist and historian Refa 1 will guide you through the gallery explaining the cultural significance of the genre as well as giving insight into the artwork displayed on the gallery walls.

For more information, contact event curator Refa 1 or media coordinator Idris Hassan at or visit