Reflecting & Rejoicing Celebrating 60 Years of Impact »
Photo by Cristina Isabel Rivera

There are so many things that we love about the Dia de los Muertos Festival in Fruitvale, but one of our all time favorite things is the Poster Art contest that takes place every year. A few months before the event, The Unity Council makes a call to artists and community members to submit artwork to be featured on the official Dia de los Muertos poster. The art chosen is selected by a community panel, who looks at the quality of the work, its ability to be reproduced as a poster and t-shirt, its connection to the theme, and the connection the artist has to the community. The art chosen is then reproduced and shown on billboards, t-shirts, posters, and online, and is seen by the 60,000+ people at the festival, and thousands more leading up to it.

This year the community panel had an extremely challenging time narrowing down the approximately dozen submissions. All of the submissions were creative, original, and high quality. And many of the artists showed a strong connection to the communities of Fruitvale and Oakland.

Leslie Lopez, known as “DIME” is a Xicana Graffiti Writer, educator, and first generation Mexican-American, born and raised in East Oakland. DIME is a lifelong artist who, carrying on the intergenerational traditions of cultural and spiritual resistance in her family, began painting graffiti as a young teenager. Through her politicalization within the Xicana Movement and Oakland’s Eastside Arts Alliance, she developed into an educator, organizer and public artist for community empowerment, healing, and self-determination. Being one of the few women writers of her generation in Oakland, DIME developed a strong bond with the new rising generation of young women and used it as an opportunity to build a sisterhood and mentorship through a course she developed and taught to Middle School and High School young women called SHE’Rose.

About the Dia Community Panel

The Panel is formed by the main festival organizers, artists, and Fruitvale community members that love the festival and want to make sure the festivities keep their authentic and traditional flavor. Members on the panel cannot submit art for consideration.

  • Chris Iglesias, CEO of The Unity Council
  • Dana Kleinhesselink & Itzel Diaz (nonvoting members), Development & Communications Team at The Unity Council
  • Virginia Jardim, Professor of Art, California College of the Arts
  • Zuleyka Jinks, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of A2Z Media Group
  • Beatriz Mora, Fruitvale Resident
  • Victor Moreno, Board Member of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park and Fruitvale Resident
  • Evelyn Orantes, Arts consultant and guest curator at the Oakland Museum of California

To pick the top three finalists the community panel took two votes: First, each member of the panel selected their top three art pieces; the art pieces that got the most votes moved on to the second stage of the contest. Then, the members picked their top three from the artwork that made it to the second stage. The three artworks with the most selections made it to the top three. Then it was time for Chris Iglesias, the CEO of The Unity Council and Zuleyka Jinks, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of A2Z Media Group, to narrow it down to one artwork.

Finally, after three meetings with various members of the panel, Leslie Lopez DIME’s artwork was chosen. Leslie’s artist’s statement helped Chris and Zuleyka make the final decision:

“My passion and goal is to use art not only as a tool for social justice but as a tool for violence prevention, to reach young people, and entire communities and use art and muralismo to cope, create change, and empower generations.” – Leslie Lopez DIME

Copyright 2017 Leslie Lopez DIME,

To learn more about Leslie Lopez “DIME” and her artwork visit her website: 

Photo taken by Cristina Isabel Rivera