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Zendaya helps refurbish basketball court at West Oakland park

The Oakland Native partnered with Project backboard to paint a basketball court at Lowell Park late August
(Photo courtesy: Foot Candles Photography)
(Photo courtesy: Foot Candles Photography)

Actress and singer Zendaya worked along with a non-profit organization to paint an Oakland community basketball court.

Project Backboard, whose mission is to renovate public basketball courts to strengthen communities and inspire play and creativity in the people, facilitated the project. Emmy award-winning actor Zendaya and her sister Kizzi Thompson, along with the help of the Oaklandish, Alo Gives, GCMF (Guitar Center), West Oakland Middle School, 100 Black Men, Chance Athletics, Rock the Bike, Foot Candles, Bright Black Candles, and Basalt 360, came together to help refurbish and paint the court.

Project Backboard was founded in 2015 to renovate public basketball courts and install large-scale works of site-specific art on the surfaces to strengthen communities, improve park safety, encourage multi-generational play, and inspire people to think more critically and creatively about their environment, according to their website. Oakland-based artist Adia Millett was contactedby the organization to do the project.

 “They presented some artists to Zendaya and her team, and I was the artist that they selected,” Millett said in an email. She is originally from Los Angeles but has been based in Oakland since 2010, where she now considers the Bay Area to be her home. 

“Oakland prides itself on diversity, justice, cultural integrity, and collective evolution. These are all beliefs and actions that I admire and strive for in my personal and professional lives,” Millett added

The design “Taking Flight” was inspired by the West Oakland community. 

“This piece is inspired by the idea of communal levitation, lifting each other up, like a child lifts a kite, paper airplane, or basketball. Traces of these objects, and an ancestral mask, lay across the court’s surface. The colors and shapes were chosen to evoke expansion, joy, and strength,” said Millett, when asked to describe the message behind the piece. 

Project organizers chose Lowell Park, since it’s located in the heart of Oakland and its public transit accessibility across the Bay Area. 

Millett shared what the process was like, noting, “The process consisted of talking to the city council and community members about what they wanted to see on the basketball court and considering that West Oakland Middle School sits right next to the basketball court. Doing public art with the city requires several steps and coordination with many different entities. Fortunately, Zendaya’s team and Project Backboard were extremely supportive and patient throughout this process.” 

Located across the street from West Oakland Middle School, the community thinks this refurbishment will be a huge benefit for the community, especially the kids, Oakland-based photographer Vivid KZ said. 

Photo: Instagram, Resoe_27

I really think this will be a benefit, the kids deserve a new court, a place to play or focus on the sport they love,” Vivid KZ explained.

Vivid KZ then went on to share what opening day was like, adding that “opening day was a little nerve-racking, but it was a lot of fun!” 

“There were so many hoopers and local celebrities that came out from all over the U.S. to support,” the photographer said. “The kids got the opportunity to play on the same court as Tom Holland, who’s literally their (and now mine) Spider-Man!” 

When asked why Millett agreed to do this project, she said “It was a great opportunity to collaborate with other artists and people supporting bringing beauty to community parks.” 

She also described working with Project Backboard and Zendaya as “working with family”.

Lowell Park is located in West Oakland between Adeline Street and Market. Lowell Park features amenities such as a fitness court, playground, soccer fields, as well as tennis and basketball courts. It is pet-friendly and open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily.

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