Artists paint rabbit mural over graffiti at Our Saviour, Oakland

Jun 13, 2023 | #DidYouKnow, #Stories

Story by Canon Stephanie Martin Taylor, Photos by the Rev. Merry Chan Ong

Late last week, a new mural appeared on the front of Our Saviour’s building in Oakland’s Chinatown. The mural depicts a rabbit, this year’s Chinese Zodiac sign.

The rabbit is a welcome sight for Our Saviour’s rector, the Rev. Merry Chan Ong, who has been shepherding her congregation through a series of traumatic events in recent weeks. These include an arson fire in the church doorway, a homicide in front of the building, and a series of graffiti attacks that have further defaced Our Saviour’s fire-scarred edifice.

In a text message, Ong said the rabbit and its symbolic qualities remind her of “Jesus, our hope.” “A rabbit symbolizes welcome, compassion, kindness, humbleness, gentleness, and affection,” Ong said.

Ong said artists from Three Thirty Three Arts (333) painted the rabbit mural at the request of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce. 333 is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building community through art. Its artists often paint murals to cover and deter graffiti on local schools, stores, and other buildings in East Bay neighborhoods.

Ong said that even before the arson attack in April, the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and Our Saviour’s congregation had been working together to increase security in the neighborhood by installing surveillance cameras on the church’s building. The cameras captured footage of the arson attack as well as the homicide, helping police in their investigations.

Now the chamber is helping Our Saviour in its nearly-constant struggle to keep its building free of graffiti. In addition to 333, the chamber has asked a nonprofit called Family Bridges Oakland to send volunteers to help remove and paint over graffiti tags.

Ong said the frequency and extent of the vandalism have been exhausting, but her congregation won’t give up. With the help of the Chinatown Chamber and other artists and volunteers, Our Saviour is sending a strong message to the community that it cares for its building.

The diocese has created a new digital link for donations to Our Saviour’s fire recoveryClick here to contribute.  

Checks may be sent to the Diocesan House address (see below), noting that the donation is for “Fire Relief for Our Saviour, Oakland.” Thank you for your prayers and support for Our Saviour and the Oakland Chinatown community.

DioHouse address:
The Episcopal Diocese of California
1055 Taylor Street; San Francisco, California 94108

Ellie Simpson
Author: Ellie Simpson



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