DREAM Day 2016 Attracted Aerosol Art Fans Of All Ages, & Further Fueled Legacy of Legendary Late West Coast Street Art Pioneer

Posted by Billyjam, August 25, 2016 10:45pm | Post a Comment

It may be sixteen and half years since the death of Mike "DREAM" Francisco, but the dream and legacy of this widely beloved pioneering East Bay artist/activist is more alive than ever. This fact was made abundantly clear at last Saturday's DREAM Day 2016 at the Greenpeace Yards in West Oakland.

Organized by friends and family, notably DJ Willie Maze and DREAM's brother Lil' John Francisco, the annual heartfelt homage to DREAM celebrates the life and legacy of the Bay Area aerosol art pioneer who has become a bona fide Bay Area legend.  That most refer to him as "King DREAM" demonstrates just how revered he is by so many today. 

DREAM was equally artist and activist.  A pioneering figure in Bay Area graffiti history, DREAM was first and foremost a down-to-earth, real good person. He was instantly likable, always sharing and giving props to others, never ungrateful, but readily displaying his passion for hip-hop in all its elements, and for justice in his community. If DREAM were alive today he would be active in Oakland in the fight against injustices.  Back in the summer of 1992, DREAM and Plan B (murdered a month later) were at a Spice-1 video shoot where they painted a big "NO JUSTICE NO PEACE" piece for the East Bay rapper's Jive Records single "Welcome To The Ghetto." The following year DREAM, with other artists, continued the theme via the "No Justice No Peace" art exhibit at the Pro Arts Gallery in Downtown Oakland. The message of that 1993 Oakland art exhibit titled "No Justice No Peace" exhibit? "The problems that go on in our community, as far as East Oakland and any other ghetto out there. You deal with police brutality. You deal with the oppression by the city and by the government. You deal with that all the time," said DREAM in an interview with Melinda Bell at the time.

Among DREAM Day 2016's many tributes to the life and legacy of the artist was one of his quotes that
graced the wall near the stage: "Freedom is a constant struggle." For Mike Francisco freedom was a constant struggle: a struggle to do his art and to survive in his East Bay environment: one that would eventually take his life. He grew up in the projects in Alameda and dealt with the realities of life on the daily in the troubled Oakland of the 80s and 90s. In 1992 his good friend Plan B, who lived in East Oakland's notoriously dangerous Sobrante Park which was the East Bay city's ground zero for crack cocaine in that troubled time period, was murdered in a case of mistaken identity.

That senseless murder occurred right before Plan B was to launch his hip-hop career with the aptly titled first single "Quest 4 Survival" that featured Saafir.  DREAM, who was down with the Hobo Junction crew too, would for the rest of his life religiously honor Plan B's memory via art shows and dedicated pieces. Tragically 8 years later DREAM too would be shot and killed on the streets of Oakland. In a February 2000 street robbery on San Pablo Ave., not too far from where DREAM's life was being celebrated last weekend, the famed artist was murdered by two stick up kids who would later be arrested and given lengthy prison sentences.  At the time of his murder, DREAM's young son Akil was only ten months old. Last weekend's event was in part a benefit for the now seventeen year old.

In the years since his death, DREAM's influence has grown and been felt by a new generation of aerosol artists who look up to the iconic West Coast figure. The annual DREAM Day celebrations further fuel
DREAM's growing legacy. At last weekend's event DJs including MykeOne and Sake One, and MCs (including Nump, Husalah, and Equipto) provided the soundtrack, as artists painted walls and other surfaces (including a big van). As in previous years, DREAM Day 2016 attracted a broad mix of people of all ages. Even those too young to have ever met the artist, have been impacted positively by DREAM and all he stood for. Family,  old friends, longtime aerosol artists gripping their black books (many members of TDK), as well as admirers of all generations converged with one thing in common: a shared love of King DREAM.

From early in the day and into the early evening when the DREAM Day 2016 came to an end, inspired aerosol  writers worked on big bright beautiful pieces. Reportedly all these pieces will remain safely for the next year in the fenced off Greenpeace yards. At one point onstage, always entertaining old school Frisco writer UB (aka UB40) and sometime Qbert hype man did a fun improv dance to E-40's "Tell Me When To Go" followed by him singing and rapping along to Blondie's "Rapture," and the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight."

A glance at the surrounding Greenpeace yards' painted surfaces, DREAM's name was written repeatedly. So too was that of TDK: the crew that DREAM founded back in 1985. TDK originally stood for Those Damn Kids but later became known as The Dream Krew, and The Damn Kings.  Last Saturday afternoon, Mike DREAM's brother Lil' John, also of the TDK crew, reminded me that TDK also stood for Teach Dem Kids. The late artist's sibling told me this as we walked past DREAM Day's hands-on art booth for young kids, saying with a wide satisfied smile, "That's what DREAM was all about: teaching and sharing and passing along knowledge. TDK: Teach Dem Kids. DREAM would have liked this!" Indeed DREAM, who was very much present in spirit, would have absolutely loved and approved of the whole event. Long live King DREAM! 

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Dream (13), King Dream (2), Mike Dream Francisco (9), Graffiti (52), Street Art (9), Williemaze (3), Tdk (8), Lil' John Francisco (1), Spie (8), Dream Day 2016 (2)