Keena Azania Romano

Oakland, CA | Visual Artist | @LAMAKINA510

Project Title: Monument as Living Memory
Identies/Ideas in Artists Work: Black Liberation and Indigenous Sovereignty , Divine Feminine Principle, Cultural Solidarity Location: San Francisco, CA - Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)

Keena Romano, Sarah Siskin, and Rivka Louissaint joined forces in February 2020  to contribute to Caleb Duarte’s ongoing Monument as Living Memory project at the YBCA. This project was in response to the direct actions and rejection of our current (confederate) monuments in 2020 such as Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Virginia and other places around the United States. Our community has spoken, and city officials have responded to the concerns of the people: these monuments represent the harmful history of the oppression of indigenous and enslaved peoples; they urgently should be removed. We discussed themes such as Zapatista and Black Panther synchronicity and solidarity, ancestral reverence and protection, the Poor People’s Campaign, the BPP Free Breakfast for Children Program, the Moms 4 Housing movement, and the nationwide call for the cancellation of rents. A highlight of the middle of the monument was a wheatpaste of Mari Evan’s poem “I Am a Black Woman” over the faces of several black (and female) revolutionaries: 

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
on me and be

How do you reclaim the collective sensory experiences that will tell the story of your community? 

As a Muralist, I have reflected much of the importance of public art and community dialogue. I have become increasingly aware of the prompt to intentionally spread the advocacy of the communities right to interact and contribute to public spaces; aka our neighborhoods where we live, travel, work, play and dine. My role as an artist is to help represent the times and relevance of the issues at hand: the culture and voice of the local community, its needs and resources, and to bring about empowering and beautiful imagery/messages to enhance society and the where/how we live circumstances.

Ultimately, it is important to include public artwork that combats the overwhelming commercial marketing and bombardment of capitalistic advertising. The role of public art is a tool to educate/ remind the community of the (historical) power of peoples’ movements that has successfully brought us many of the things we benefit from today. Especially during a time period that we are fighting for access to accurate historical representation and contribution by BIPOC in our country (learn more about Critical Race History, etc).

Who is your audience? How do you imagine your work will inspire change?

My audience is anyone with an open heart and open mind to relearn the context and willingness to reposition themselves after reflecting on new information. The audience I speak to particularly is the Black/African, Indigenous Diaspora. My wish is for folks to feel inspired after seeing themselves and their (our) people represented larger than life on the everyday walls they pass as they walk to the store, go visit relatives, etc. Representation matters, because as it is now, many of our young black and brown youth are forced to look up to White Male Military-Esq Heroes - many who have forced genocide and displacement of our people. This strikes a chord of pain, it belittles our contributions (strengths, achievements, etc) to our modern-day society and stands as a strong reminder that we will always be considered inferior in the White Supremacist Patriarchal Systems of Oppression that exists locally and globally. I hope my work inspires our people of the diaspora to love themselves, their culture(s), and to fervently work on their skills and pursue their dreams. We need to organize and course correct in each generation and carry out our important destinies. I hope to see more equality and equity in the workplace/economy, in the schools, in places of recreation, and more. I imagine my work to also promote the importance and healing energy of the artist - necessary to mend the damage of the past and as first responders in creating a more beautiful nearby future.

Is there a call to action you want the reader to do or take? 

The call to action I wish the reader/audience to take is to first identify what issue most resonates with you/ what are you most passionate about in seeing improvement in society? The second action is to find resources to educate yourself and others about who are the members already in the movement in contributing to the change on a community, city, and national level (and beyond). Thirdly, identify people you can begin to start having safe, yet challenging conversations with; with hopes to open others’ minds and hearts and ultimately, see how it can take form or manifest in a useful way: such as creating advocacy groups at your school, community center, or workplace. If you can bring it to City Council meetings even better.  There is no step too small or too big. And even better, find your creative voice with it - it makes it more enjoyable, authentic, and enticing.

Keena Azania Romano exercises her creative mind through the exploration of diverse artistic mediums as a way to engage and understand both individual and collective purpose. Romano received her BFA from Pomona College then returned to her native Bay Area to pursue a career in the Arts. Her Murals can be spotted from Sacramento, California, to Richmond, Virginia to Oaxaca, Mexico.

Inspired by cultural practices, Romano combines spirituality with urban experience to produce work that draws upon the quest for a greater understanding of intersectional beauty in this world. She fuses traditional native arts with contemporary inner-city techniques to reflect a new language that encourages the healing and empowerment process between community members and their environments. Her style is described as “vibrant and insightful”. With her art collectives’ Los Pobres Artistas and Few and Far Women, she aspires to create a colorful trail of art by exploring the modern Diaspora based on her multi-ethnic experience.