the roof is on fire

While frantically collecting research tidbits and images for my final art history presentation (due Wednesday! It's not that I procrastinate exactly...I just don't have enough time to work on things very far in advance!) and paper (due May 9th...phew!), I came across information about a performance in Oakland in 1994.

Grant Kester writes in Conversation Pieces, at the same time as another project he describes, "over two hundred high school students were staging their own conversations on a rooftop parking garage in downtown Oakland, California. Seated in parked cars under a twilight sky, they enacted a series of improvisational dialogues on the problems faced by young people of color in California: media stereotypes, racial profiling, underfunded public schools, and so on. More than a thousand Oakland residents, along with representatives of local and national news media, had been invited to 'overhear' these conversations as part of a performance art project titled The Roof Is on Fire."

The project was organized by Suzanne Lacy, who writes about Oakland in her artist statement: "Oakland, California - with its history of political activism, diversity and culture - is the site of a developing public voice for youth. With a public school population of 55% African American, 20% Latino, 20% Asian American, and 5% European American students, Oakland is a nationally recognized center for urban youth culture. Media stars Danny Glover, M.C. Hammer, Tom Hanks and rappers Toni Tony Ton-e all emerged from this vibrant cultural scene. Paradoxically, Oakland youth are also beset with high rates of violent crime, poverty and school drop-out."

Anyway, the project probably won't make its way into my presentation, so I thought I'd give it props here instead.


Anonymous said...

do you know where I can possibly find this film?

Becky G. said...

I haven't been able to find anything, although I know a one hour documentary was filmed and aired locally at the time. I'd check Suzanne Lacey's site for starters. If I find anything else, I'll add a comment to this post. Great project, huh?

Anonymous said...


I was a part of the team who produced THE ROOF IS ON FIRE!

It was amazing and KRON-Channel 4 filmed the Doc (one hour) it was nominated for an Emmy as well (in 1994/5).

Becky G. said...

Thanks, anon, for your comment and link! I get a lot of traffic to this post so I'm sure future visitors will appreciate it. I'm back in Oakland now (was in Boston when I originally posted this) so I have a greater appreciation for the project.

Becky G. said...

Should anyone come here looking for linkage - looks like it's on Suzanne Lacy's vimeo: https://vimeo.com/39865636