Keep Oakland Beautiful and Urban Compassion Project Collaborate to Revitalize MLK Corridor through Cleanups and Art Initiatives

Marcus Books – iconic, oldest black-owned bookstore in the United States.

(Oakland, CA) – On November 18th, undeterred by the rain, 75 enthusiastic volunteers joined forces to collectively remove 1.8 tons of litter and debris while also diligently removing graffiti, making strides toward enhancing Oakland’s Grove Shafter Park’s aesthetic appeal.  

The following day, over 100 community members gathered at Marcus Books, located five minutes from Grove Shafter along MLK Jr. Way, for the unveiling of a stunning mural. Marcus Books, the oldest black-owned bookstore in the country is renowned for its specialization in African-American literature and has a rich history as a cultural landmark for Oakland residents. The mural, made possible by the dedicated efforts of the international art collective AeroSoul and inspired by Marcus Book’s owner, Blanche Richardson’s vision, is a visual celebration of black culture and heritage and a representation of the legacy of the store and its pivotal role in shaping young black minds.   

Owner Blanche Richardson and artist Refa One, pose next to the mural.

Oakland-based artist Refa One, the creative force behind the mural, was present at the reveal to share the compelling story behind his work. Reflecting on the importance of creating images of black self-determination and historical culture, Refa One emphasized that the mural serves as an investment in the community. “It’s important for me to create images of black self-determination and the historical culture of our people, it is a blessing,” he shared. His vision is clear – to ensure that Marcus Books remains a vital educational institution, continuing to enlighten and inspire future generations. “This is a place I’ve been in for as long as I can remember” he added, “my first books as a child during the 1970s came from this bookstore… and at a time when our people were coming out short to get access to this kind of knowledge, this store helped revolutionize information and education in the Bay Area”. 

Owner Blanche Richardson Blanche selling books to one of the many mural unveiling attendees turned customers – over 100 people showed up and most left with a book!

As Keep Oakland Beautiful and its partner Urban Compassion Project continue to make strides in revitalizing key areas within the city, their latest endeavor stands as a shining example of community engagement and the positive change that can be achieved through collective action. “Keep Oakland Beautiful efforts along the city’s MLK Corridor exemplify their commitment to fostering a cleaner, more beautiful, and culturally enriched Oakland for all its residents to enjoy,” said Western Regional Director, Gabriela Polo. “It’s been inspiring to see the Oakland community come together to revitalize cherished community spaces like Grove Shafter Park and Marcus Books”.  

Volunteers pick up litter and paint over graffiti as part of the cleanups and art initiatives along the MLK Corridor.  

 This project was made possible by the Clean California Initiative as well as the Martin Luther King Neighborhood Improvement Grant from Keep America Beautiful® (KAB) in partnership with the sponsor Toyota. 

About Keep America Beautiful®:

Keep America Beautiful®, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful® strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. We believe everyone has a right to live in a clean, green, and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision. The organization is driven by the work and passion of 700 Keep America Beautiful® affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the collaborative support of corporate partners, social and civic service organizations, academia, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. Join us on FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedin, and YouTubeDonate and take action at


McCall Vrydaghs

Keep America Beautiful®