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Article: Taking Flight with Zendaya, Adia Millett, and Project Backboard

Aerial view of refubished basketball court at Lowell Park in Oakland

Taking Flight with Zendaya, Adia Millett, and Project Backboard

Oaklandish is honored to participate in an inspiring project uplifting and celebrating a cherished Oakland community space — the basketball court at Lowell Park.

The Lowell Park in West Oakland has always been a place of community for all ages. The beloved basketball court at the park was recently renovated and refurbished in an expansive community collaboration envisioned and led by Emmy Award-winning actor Zendaya and her sister Kizzi Thompson in partnership with the nonprofit Project Backboard.

Born and raised in Oakland, Zendaya is one of the world’s most prominent and influential names in entertainment and fashion. Zendaya first gained notoriety for her role as “Rocky” Blue on the Disney Channel sitcom Shake It Up. She also played MJ in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Spider-Man films and starred in the HBO series Euphoria, for which she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

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.

After the Lowell Park basketball court refurbishment, Oakland-based artist Adia Millett and community volunteers painted the court's surface with a multicolor design inspired by the idea of communal levitation or the idea of lifting each other up like a child lifts a kite, a paper airplane, or a basketball. Traces of these objects and an ancestral mask can be found in the new design depicted on the court's surface. The bright red, blue, yellow, coal black and earthy brown hues are meant to evoke expansion, joy, and strength.

Adia Millett is an Oakland-based artist who works in multiple mediums such as sculpture, textiles, embroidery, painting, collage, drawing, installation, and video. She is known for weaving threads of African American experiences with broader ideas of identity and collective history. Her work investigates the interconnectivity among all living things. Fragmented, constructed, and reassembled, her art sheds light on the multifaceted and complex parallels between the creative process and the nature of personal identity.

Adia’s art was recently unveiled on the refurbished Lowell Park basketball court in a welcoming community event. Zendaya and her sister Kizzi enlisted Oakland businesses, artists, non-profits, and community leaders to participate in and support this project. 

The project started with a simple idea: to provide the community with a safe place to play basketball and engage in other healthy community-building activities. It quickly grew into something much more significant, as the organizers came to understand the park's impact on the broader Bay Area community.

The project's overall goal is to make the park a centralized location for community members to use for activities and gatherings ranging from sports to wellness that promote positivity and togetherness. Zendaya says, "We believe that providing an outdoor space that embraces individuality, creativity, and community is fundamental in uplifting youth and creating long-lasting bonds that strengthen ties between Bay Area residents."

Lowell Park is located in West Oakland between Adeline and Market. It is a cherished green space offering many amenities, including a community center, amphitheater, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, a soccer field, a children's playground, and picnic table-strewn green spaces with ample mature trees providing both shade and beauty.

The project organizers strategically chose Lowell Park because of its central location in the heart of Oakland and because it is easily accessible via public transit from all parts of the Bay Area. Lowell Park has also historically been a hub of community activism and social justice movements.

Additional project supporters include 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.

Oaklandish is proud to support the project via the launch of a commemorative tee featuring Adia Millett's design. 

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