Help create a lasting, meaningful holiday tradition in Downtown San Leandro!
San Leandro is a beautifully diverse community, and the Downtown San Leandro Community Benefit District is looking for joyful design concepts that reflect that diversity. The project includes ten commissioned holiday trees, and we are looking for at least one design each to represent Hanukkah and Kwanza. Not all trees need to describe a specific holiday tradition. Design concepts can reflect what the holiday season embodies.
Holiday plants in my San Leandro Neighborhood
I used to live in Detroit Michigan where the holidays look like the actual holidays. For example with snow, evergreen trees light the streets, big holiday parades and events and of course warm hot Coco and attending holiday events. When I moved to the Bay Area about 5 years ago the holidays looked incredibly different. In San Francisco's Union Square they do their best to make it look like a snowy Christmas wonderland but it still doesn't feel like a true holiday. When I moved to San Leandro 2 years ago I had the chance to settle in. I walked my dog around my block everyday and I started to notice how our city subtly changes but yet still stays the same, and the plants around the block bloom the most during our winter months. The plants ultimately inspired this piece. Instead of evergreen trees glittered in snow, we have palm trees covered in holiday lights, jade plants that multiply and grow like trees and aloe vera that grows bigger than you can ever imagine. Instead of trying to hold on to holiday traditions I previously enjoyed, I started to embrace the California way. It brought me joy and laughter to see non traditional holiday plants covered in holiday attire. The sun still out like summer never left and people spending time with one another. Since there really isn't a traditional holiday celebration here in California, my San Leandro neighborhood made me feel like I was a part of an inclusive community where it doesn't matter what you celebrate. Ultimately I hope people don't just see a piece of art on a tree. I hope people see a small glimpse of the moving community and take joy in the small things around our neighborhood this winter.
We Are All Connected
This piece represents a traditional holiday tree with ornaments, however the colorful ornaments represent a number of gender identities all individual but connected as a community.
Monarchs, Our Winter Visitor
Designed by M Kathleen Kelly for the San Leandro Art Association
When trying to come up with a design to submit for the San Leandro Art Association, I contemplated Winter and Holiday imagery that would be able to be shown in a different light. It occurred to me that the Monarch Butterflies come to roost near the San Francisco Bay in San Leandro every year in Winter. We have the correct microclimate and kinds of trees for them to safely stay during the months where it is too cold in their original home West of the Rockies. The butterflies are a welcome guest and are also held in great esteem by many indigenous people. For example, the Hopi paint Monarchs on their Kachina dolls, which are then given as gifts in hope of future abundance and health. It was a pleasure to figure out how to present the Monarch Butterfly in an unexpected way.
Poppies on the Hill
This piece was based on one of my favorite early childhood memories of the East Bay hills. It had been a temperate summer that transitioned into a warm bay area winter. That year, flowers that would often go dormant during the heat of the summer bloomed far into autumn. On a morning walk with my family through one of the first chills of winter, we came across a patch of California poppies on the hillside that were far out of season and still in bloom. That memory of the orange of the poppies fighting for their final breaths of warmth against the frosted blue and green hills has stuck with me throughout my life. Poppies in winter have continued to be a symbol of perseverance for me, and I always look for them during the holidays.
Four Seasons of San Leandro History
The history of San Leandro inspired my tree design. I have four designs representing different parts of San Leandro's History. First, we have the landscape of the San Leandro and San Lorenzo Creek, which represents our current resident's recreational use of land by featuring a modern kayak, as well as recognizing the landscape that the Muwekma Ohlone thrived in prior to colonization, by featuring a landscape without homes or buildings. Second, we have a sarape design representing San Leandro's Rancho period. San Leandro is now on what was known as Rancho San Leandro, owned by Jose Joaquin Estudillo, and Rancho San Antonio, owned by Don Luis Maria Peralta. The third design represents the agricultural period in San Leandro and our beloved Cherry Festival! Last, we have a representation of the Oakland Speedway, which was located at the now Bayfair Shopping Center. There are many other parts of San Leandro's past besides these four designs. Please visit us at the San Leandro History Museum for more information.
KWANZAA is HERE!
This Holiday tree is dedicated to the African American community, people of the diaspora who celebrate Kwanzaa and anyone who is curious to learn more about it. Kwanzaa is a contemporary tradition based on harvest festivals practiced around various parts of West and SouthWest Africa that celebrates African (diasporic) heritage, unity and culture. During December 26 - January 1st, each of the seven principles are highlighted by lighting red, black and green candles on the kinara (one for each day) and sharing a handmade gift. The principles discussed are as follows: 12/26 UMOJA (Unity): To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race; 12/27 KUJICHAGULIA (Self-Determination): to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves; 12/28 UJIMA (Collective Work and Responsibility): to build and maintain our community together and make our community’s problems our problems and to solve them together; 12/29 UJAMMA (Cooperative Economics): to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together; 12/30 NIA (Purpose): to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness; 12/31 KUUMBA (Creativity): to do always as much as we can to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it; 1/1 IMANI (Faith): to believe with all our hearts in our people and the righteousness and victory of our struggle. Growing up, I had the privilege of celebrating this special holiday and learning about these cultural practices - which gave me a strong sense of identity, community and ancestral values. I hope when people on the street see this holiday tree they are filled with inspiration and curiosity. If you watch people pass by this holiday tree, don't forget to say "HABARI GANI?" a swahili phrase which translates into: "What's the news?" and depending on what day it is during that week, you respond with the corresponding principle (ex. UMOJA!) or when in doubt, you can always say "KWANZAA!" Many blessings to you and your family during this winter holiday season.
Nature is Home
During the holidays, we bring nature in through our decorations and customs…lights on a tree or wreath; a bit of ivy, a pinecone, or a bright red flower; even the food we eat. It is a time that provides the opportunity to not only reflect on the world around us but to sit, be still, feel the crisp air, look out at the moon and stars, and remember who we are. I hope this tree reminds us all that we are all part of something larger - that we should appreciate, live compassionately, and protect our surroundings here in the Bay Area. Happy Holidays!