Students Rising Above

By Jennifer Mistrot and Michelle Griego

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Kathy Liang’s mural tribute to Breonna Taylor keeps watch over Oakland’s downtown. The haunting portrait was painted to inspire others to learn more about its subject.

“People get to see her face and then they get to see her name,” explained Liang. “So hopefully they get inspired to do some research, look up her story.”

It’s a story that touches the young artist at her core.

“I’ve grown up seeing a lot of violence.. and it’s really normalized also in school,” said Liang of her experiences. “And I’m just walking down the street. It’s not safe for a girl, much less a woman of color to be walking down the street.”

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But it wasn’t her own safety that inspired the mural. Instead, it was another heartbreaking loss, that of George Floyd, that moved Liang to say and paint Breonna’s likeness and name.

“They were shouting George Floyd, a lot, George Floyd, which is very valid,” Liang recalled of the protests she participated in, touched off by the brutal murder of Floyd. “But I also noticed that, you know, whenever we try to shout out Breonna Taylor things died really quickly and we just didn’t see the same amount of attention brought to her story as you know, other people’s.”

So Liang set out to change that. The 18-year-old high school grad came down to 12th and Franklin in downtown Oakland and spent the afternoon among other street artists painting tributes to lives lost. She never expected to be given an entire area to paint on all her own.

“I never really expected that I would, like, have one full board to myself,” said Liang with pride as she gestured towards Breonna’s mural. “It’s cool to say to say yeah there is a mural that I painted.”

Now Liang is also using her art as a way to heal and help her community. She paints custom designed earrings, working with each customer and having the individual pick out their own design. She sells each pair for around $40 or less on social media and donates the profits to Black social justice causes.

But it’s her portraits that Liang is most proud of. Recently she took her mom and dad to see the Breonna Taylor mural for the very first time. As the trio snapped photos together, it was clear both parents are very proud of their daughter.

“I think she is doing a good job,” said Kathy’s mom, Lisa Liang.

As she heads back to college on the East Coast, Liang leaves behind a unique mark in the Bay Area, while carrying with her the memory of another very special young woman.

“I think, gosh, it makes people wonder who it is, just the publicity of murals and paintings,” Liang said of Breonna’s mural. “The fact that you can just see it freely out in the open and. just look at it. So I think it makes people just think more about what they’ve seen… so that curiosity can lead to… more interested in social justice and… other people’s stories.”

 

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