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A vigil on Wednesday for Antonio Ramos (image via Facebook)

Some deaths are painfully senseless, and that’s certainly true for that of Antonio Ramos. On Tuesday, the 27-year-old street artist was murdered while painting a mural that was meant to brighten the run-down streets of northwestern Oakland, which has one of the highest violent crime rates in the United States. 

According to Bay Area News, Ramos had been working on the mural for a full week with others from the anti-violence organization Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC), which seeks to empower local youth through the arts. Around mid-morning he began arguing with a seemingly random passerby. The man pulled out a gun and shot him, and Ramos was pronounced dead at the hospital. “All they were doing was painting, trying to beautify a neighborhood that has seen its challenges,” Oakland police Lt. Roland Holmgren told the newspaper.

Antonio Ramos (image via Facebook)

Ramos began volunteering with AHC three years ago when he saw a group from the organization painting a mural in his neighborhood and asked if he could help. “From that day on he was working on the project every day,” ACH wrote on its Facebook page. “From his work on that mural, he stayed in touch to be brought on as a paid muralist for wall #3, on West Street.”

When he died, AHC was putting up the third of six murals planned for the area along Interstate 580 as part of the Oakland Super Heroes Mural Project. Designed by local middle schoolers, the mural featured a row of sunny houses that resembled the type of community they’d want to live in. Ramos had recently posted a Facebook photo of the mural, showing a detail of a woman’s outline, and wrote, “I can’t wait to see [her] get painted in.”

He never lived to see the mural finished, though Ramos’s colleagues will continue work on it Monday. “The muralists have decided that the project must continue, in the name of Antonio and the message of the Project, to offset violence and blight and empower young people and artists,” the project’s organizers wrote on Facebook. “However, they must be protected. It is unacceptable that our artists must have to watch their back and feel unsafe while they bring youth images of hope and beauty to the neighborhood.”

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...