Oakland students hosted a block party with painting, music and an open mic in partnership with Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP), Youth Vs. Apocalypse and CURYJ at Oakland Technical High School. The event was for students to mourn the killing of Tyre Nichols by police in Memphis, Tenessee.

After attending a rally and march demanding justice for Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man who died after being beaten by Memphis police officers last month, Oakland Technical High School students Georgia Wallace and Satya Zamudio felt inspired to plan an action at their school for other students.

On Monday, they did just that, inviting students from their school and others across Oakland to a vigil and block party honoring the life of Nichols, whose gruesome beating was caught on video

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Students painted a mural on the street in front of Oakland Technical High School on Broadway in honor of Tyre Nichols. Credit: Amir Aziz

“Being the biggest public high school, I think it’s important that the student body feels united and understands how powerful we are,” said Zamudio, a senior at Oakland Tech. “Holding events like this is a really good way to have those moments of being united. Seeing all of us out here is already empowering in itself.”

Students painted a mural on Broadway in front of the school to memorialize Nichols, expressed their thoughts anonymously on a note board, and also dropped ideas and comments into a suggestion box for Oakland Tech Principal Martel Price on how to improve the school. 

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Students left messages on a corkboard about their feelings about police brutality. Credit: Amir Aziz

The action was supported by Youth vs. Apocalypse, a climate justice group, Anti-Police Terror Project, and CURYJ, an organization working against mass incarceration. 

“I’m Black and I live in America. I’m doing this to advocate for myself, and for Black youth and their voices,” said Tonica Coulter, a junior at Castlemont High School. “I’m also tired of hearing stories of another Black person dying in the streets. It makes me sad and I’m tired of it.”

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Ra’Mauri Cash, a sophomore at Skyline High School and member of Youth Vs. Apocalypse, addresses the crowd outside of Oakland Technical High School on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Teachers and students from Abundant Beginnings, a local community preschool, also stopped by. At times, students as young as toddlers led chants using a megaphone. The school, a nontraditional academy, brings students to protests and marches regularly to teach them about activism and social justice.

“Especially in this month, we’re talking a lot about Black power and Black futures and how kids can be freedom fighters,” said Dylan Cureton, a founder and teacher at the school. “They’re here to witness these big kids fighting for justice so they can know that they have the power to fight for justice as well.”

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Children from Abundant Beginnings, a community preschool, lead a chant at a vigil for Tyre Nichols on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Walk-outs and protests aren’t new to Oakland Tech. In the past few years, students have held demonstrations protesting sexual harassment in schools and opposing school closures. Between 100 and 200 students attended Monday’s action.

“I don’t know if this is as much about Oakland Tech as it is about our generation,” said Wallace, a senior at Oakland Tech and one of the event organizers. “I hope that the more we do things like this, students feel empowered to hold space for their own emotions and pain.”

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Students paint a mural protesting police violence during a vigil to honor Tyre Nichols. Credit: Amir Aziz
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Bre’Asia Calwell, a ninth grader at Castlemont High School, addresses her peers at a vigil to honor Tyre Nichols at Oakland Technical High School on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2023. Credit: Amir Aziz

Ashley McBride writes about education equity for The Oaklandside. Her work covers Oakland’s public district and charter schools. Before joining The Oaklandside in 2020, Ashley was a reporter for the San Antonio Express-News and the San Francisco Chronicle as a Hearst Journalism Fellow, and has held positions at the Poynter Institute and the Palm Beach Post. Ashley earned her master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Amir Aziz is a photographer and videographer from Oakland, California. Using photography as his primary medium, Amir documents life and times in his community and the rapid changes in his environment. He's covered music events and social justice movements in the U.S. and abroad for local and international publications. Before shelter-in-place, he traveled to over 10 countries producing multimedia projects juxtaposing the experiences of locals elsewhere to those in his hometown of Oakland. Amir hopes to continue to bridge the gap between African diaspora communities and oppressed groups in the world through multimedia storytelling.