This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity.
Julieta Kusnir: You’re listening to La Raza Chronicles, I’m Julieta Kusnir and I’m so happy to have on the line with me Rick Tejada Flores. Many people know Rick from his filmmaking, he’s produced incredible documentaries that serve to be a history of so many important movements, everything from looking at farm worker struggles to looking at his own personal journey understanding the context of Bolivia’s revolution through his own family story. So Rick it’s so wonderful to have you here on the line with us. Thank you so much for joining us.
Rick Tejada Flores: It’s wonderful too. It’s nice to talk about things to people who care about them.
Julieta: So you actually have a really exciting exhibit that is opening up soon and it’s related to Emmy Lou Packard’s life, who was a California post-war activist, muralist, painter, many many many other things. But let’s just start there – a lot of people maybe don’t know about her work – why don’t you give us some context. Who was she and what was happening in the world while she was most active?
Rick: Well, she was a great artist and I think her art career started when she was twelve. Her parents took her to Mexico because her dad was an agronomist working for the Mexican Government on irrigation issues and her mother introduced her to Diego Rivera, the famous muralist. And they met and Diego Rivera decided this is a really talented young girl – she was twelve at the time – so I’m going to give her art lessons. So imagine, you’re twelve years old and Diego Rivera is teaching you how to paint. This sort of set the direction for her life. She grows up, studies art, and then Diego comes to the United States to paint a big mural at Treasure Island in 1940 and he brings her on; she’s his chief assistant on the mural. So I think that connection with Rivera formed her political vision and her artistic vision.
Rick: After the mural she goes back and lives with Diego and Frida in Mexico. She’s a very good friend of theirs. Then she comes back and starts her own artistic path. It’s the end of World War Two and she goes to work at the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond as an artist drawing illustrations about integration, women in the workforce, the importance of health and vaccinations. And that sort of gets her started as an artist and as someone who can make a social connection. After that, she’s a very political person, but she focuses on ordinary people and ordinary life. She doesn’t paint pictures of demonstrations or people with guns. She celebrates humanity. She did a wonderful series of images – she’s a printmaker, by the way, she did large linoleum prints – of ordinary people: net menders, artichoke pickers, fisherman, things like that. Those [works] become what she is known for.
Rick: But there’s a connection between her art and her politics. For example, her most famous print is a print called ‘Peace is a Human Right’. It came out of the anti-war movement after World War Two. It shows three children sitting around a sunflower. They’re just ordinary kids. But they have a right to peace and to live a life. She brings her politics and beautiful images of life together in that way.
Rick: I met her in the 1960s. I was an art student, and she asked me if I wanted to sit her gallery for her and she taught me how to print artist editions. That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship for me. And later on, she knew I was a filmmaker… I said, “Is Diego Rivera Mexican artist?” And she said, “Well, not quite. He was an American artist too.” And she gave me a wonderful biography of Rivera to read, and that led me down the path of doing a big film on Diego Rivera in the United States. I have very strong connections with her. She’s a significant figure.
Rick: Given the way politics influences art… The 1950s was the age of abstract expressionism. Political art, social art, it was forgotten. It was shoved to the side. So she was pretty much ignored. She died in 1998, and she was known to a small circle, but no one has seen her art in many, many years. So this was an ideal time to bring her back to the public. Especially since of her connection with Rivera. There’s a large Rivera show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and so I thought if there’s any time to do an Emmy Lou Packard show it’d be now. She was a San Francisco artist. She worked with Rivera on his San Francisco mural. So that was the impetus for what I’m doing now, working on this show with Robbin Henderson, my co-curator. To do a retrospective, to connect all the dots; between her personal life, her political life, her connections with Rivera and Frida, and paint a real portrait of this wonderful woman.
Julieta: Her artwork was telling these stories. I know that she was also involved with UC Berkeley. Tell us about some of the movements, touchpoints, and issues that were important to her.
Rick: She had a wide range of issues: she was concerned about history, she was concerned about working people, she was an educator too. She’d been a teacher in San Francisco schools and she’d taught kids to make murals. There’s still one of her murals at a San Francisco public school.* At the bottom it says, “Created by 650 children and Emmy Lou Packard.” So that was her vision of including people. At UC Berkeley she did a very large relief underneath the campus commons dining hall, so she did architectural work. But her real love was prints. You know they’d say, “Why do you do prints? Why not paintings or more murals?” “Well, it’s hard to get murals done and for people to see them. And people need art. So I want to make beautiful pictures that-” (and they can’t afford art? Who can buy a painting if you’re taking care of your kids?) “I want to create beautiful affordable art that they can have in their houses.” Even the implicitly non-political art had a political motive. It furthered what she thought was important. Art is important. And as we know, art is the first thing to go onto the chopping block, art teachers are fired at schools, it’s considered expendable. So she was making the point that art is really important to us; to our culture, to our society.
Julieta: We’re speaking to Rick Tejada-Flores who is part of an important exhibit. So tell us how we can get to know about Emmy Lou Packard and actually see her work. So tell us about this opportunity to actually get to know Emmy Lou Packard’s work.
Rick: Well, as I said, the impetus was this big Rivera show at SFMOMA, which is opening very soon. We’re cross promoting this show and telling people about the Rivera show. And people at MOMA are telling people if you want to know more about Rivera and his work in California then go and see Packard. So this is new to me. I’m a filmmaker, never done an art show, even though I was somewhat of an artist at one point. So I got a very good friend of mine involved; Robbin Henderson, of the Berkeley Art Center. She’s a brilliant curator who sort of guided me through the process. And it’s been a three year path. We started working on this show three years ago: trying to find the art, put it together, the history, the context. So it’s not just her pictures, it’s photographs, it’s statements that Rivera wrote about her. It’s her politics, especially with someone like Emmy Lou Packard you can’t just look at her work. You have to understand the context. Well, you don’t have to, you can enjoy her work. But if you see the context you really get the significance of it.
Rick: So the show is opening in Richmond this week, June 18. And it’ll run June 22 to August 20. But the Richmond Art Center where it’s at is a wonderful institution. Great, great gallery and a wonderful place to put this show on too, because Emmy Lou Packard worked in Richmond. That’s how we hope to get people there, through the Rivera show. But also through talking to you and people who cared about her, and maybe had a print on their wall. Sort of trying to bring her back in that way. And I should also mention when I did the film about Rivera, Emmy Lou Packard was one of my inspirations and naturally she is one of the people interviewed in the film. So we did a little gallery piece too so people can look at her art and then also hear her and see her talking about her art to understand who she is as a person. It’s been a wonderful journey and it’s time for people to see it. And see what they think about it.
Julieta: That’s the voice to Rick Tejada-Flores, he’s been working on this Emmy Lou Packard exhibit. It’s going to be at the Richmond Art Center. And it’s going to be up for a couple of months. We recommend people check it out. Are you doing any opening or closing activities?
Rick: Yes, first of all the opening reception is this Saturday, the 18th, from 2pm to 4pm. There’s going to be a bunch of activities during the length of the exhibition. We have her [printing] press. So we’re going to be doing a demonstration how Emmy Lou Packard made her art. And the end of the show is going to be celebrated with edible art with an appearance and a presentation by the Great Tortilla Conspiracy, who silkscreen tortillas with chocolate. Kids eat them and adults save them as art. So it seems like the perfect way to end her visit to the Bay Area, hearts and minds.
Julieta: Oh, and it’s also a wonderful project by the Yañez father-son duo, where Rio continues that tradition which is such an important one.
Rick: There’s another side that I think should be mentioned, that is very important to the Bay Area. She lived in Mendocino for a very long time and she moved back to the Bay Area in the 1970s. And she was an inspiration and a role model. When people wanted to learn how to make murals they didn’t know how to do it, and she taught them how. She mentored a whole generation of Latina women and people in the Mission, supporting the new emergence of murals and political and social art. So that’s a really important side of her that people don’t really know about. You know if you talk to an artist who lives in the Mission District, they’ll say, “Oh yeah, Emmy Lou Packard.” But that’s an unknown part of her that I think is quite important: the issue of whatever you do passing it on to the next generation. I think that’s a real important thing about who she was and what she cared about.
Rick: So the show is in downtown Richmond. It’s part of the Civic Center complex on Barrett Avenue. The opening reception is this Saturday, June 18, from 2 to 4. The show actually opens the following Wednesday on June 22 and will run until August 20. The galleries are open Wednesday through Saturday each week. Admission is free. There’s information there. You can take a handout and learn more about her. And enjoy her work I hope!
Rick: It’s been a real pleasure talking to you and spreading the message about this important artist.
The Richmond Art Center (RAC) has selected community based art collective Liberación Gráfica as its artists-in-residence this year, with its residency to encompass hands-on community screen printing workshops, a summer youth class and a major fall exhibition. Funding for the artistic endeavor has been provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The art collective—which consists of Richmond artists, teachers and community organizers Eddy Chacon, Lisette Vera, Daniel Cervantes and Francisco Rojas—aims to provide opportunities for personal and community expression via silkscreen printing, said the RAC.
Midway through this month, Liberación Gráfica will bring live screen printing demos to community events throughout Richmond at these locations: The Richmond Juneteenth Festival, Sat., June 18, 12-3 p.m., Nicholls Park, 3230 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond; Low Rider Sundays, Sun., July 31 12-3 p.m., 23rd St. between Grant Ave. and Rheem Ave.; and the Richmond Flea Market, Sun., Aug. 21, 12-3 p.m., 716 W. Gertrude Ave. in Richmond. Additional dates/locations will be announced, per the RAC.
According to the RAC, the prints will raise awareness surrounding Richmond social issues, while also “reflecting the joy and resilience of the community.” The art center added that the project aims to “bring art directly to the people and inspire the community to engage with Richmond and each other through art.”
Another facet of Liberación Gráfica’s residency will be teaching a summer youth class at the RAC centered on screen printing through a social justice lens. During a six-week class, students will become familiarized with basic screen printing materials and techniques “while choosing a theme that is related to community, culture, social justice and/or societal issues,” per the RAC. The class welcomes Richmond youth via referral.
Liberación Gráfica’s residency will hit a crescendo when—this fall from Sept. 13 through Nov. 17—the RAC’s Main Gallery will feature work created by the art collective, as well as Richmond youth and additional community artists.
The Richmond Art Center (RAC) will feature Artist of Conscience, an exhibition, from June 22 through Aug. 2, that will explore the life and work of Emmy Lou Packard (1914-1998), an artist not only known for her paintings, prints and murals, but also for her activism, per the center. Robbin Légère Henderson and Rick Tejada-Flores are curating the exhibition.
An Open Reception will be held Sat., June 18, from 2-4 p.m. at the RAC, 2540 Barrett Ave. in Richmond.
According to the RAC, the exhibition will be organized around significant periods of Packard’s life and “will tell the story of this remarkable, though overlooked, artist” via her artwork, photos and ephemera.
Packard had strong local ties. She worked at Kaiser Shipyard’s Fore ‘n’ Aft newspaper in Richmond during WWII, during which time she created images that “urged ending racial segregation and supported voting rights,” said the RAC. She also assisted her mentor, Diego Rivera, on a mural he painted in 1940 on Treasure Island for the Golden Gate International Exposition; the work is currently on display at SFMOMA.
Later, she was a mentor to many Bay Area female Chicana artists, and a few hours north, headed up an effort to keep the Mendocino headlands from development, said the center.
The artist was also a printmaker who created “portraits of workers, explorations of the joys of childhood, the beauty of nature and the importance of history,” per the RAC. A signature image she created—Peace is a Human Right—earned global distribution and featured three children of Asian, black and white ethnicity sitting around a sunflower. “The message is framed in human terms—children are not political; they are just children.”
The Emmy Lou Packard: Artist of Conscience exhibition will overlap SFMOMA’s own exhibition—Diego Rivera’s America—which will open July 16 and provide the opportunity to “learn about Packard’s mentor and understand her oeuvre within a broader artistic movement focused on social change and justice,” said the RAC. The center will partner with SFMOMA on a collaborative public program to be announced at a future date.
Funding from California Humanities and The Jay DeFeo Foundation have supported the upcoming exhibition, as have collectors and organizations that have loaned their work, including the Mendocino Art Center and Emmy Lou Packard’s son Donald Cairns and granddaughter Shannon Cairns.
To learn more about events related to the exhibition, click here.
Kids of all ages and their grown-ups are invited to the Richmond Art Center’s Spring free, family event. Celebrate the gifts of spring through art making activities, dancing and music including Bomba music and dance from Quenepas, pive printing by Liberación Gráfica, succulent art planters, photo booth, pottery demonstration and more.
From April 6th to June 4th, the Richmond Art Center is presenting the paintings of popular local artist Dewey Crumpler. The exhibit features an absorbing survey of Crumpler’s “shipping container” work.
More than 120 pieces of his art will be on display, providing an opportunity for viewers “to consider the history, lived legacy and future impact of the global shipping industry”. In this series of works, including new large-scale paintings, Crumpler juxtaposes our dependence on container shipping with the consequences and heritage of cargo ships crossing the oceans over the centuries.
Dewey Crumpler: Crossings asks us to consider the history, lived legacy and future impact of the global shipping industry. Presenting over 120 works, from sketches to large scale paintings, the exhibition represents Crumpler’s twenty-five years of investigation into the beauty and power of ribbed, metal cargo boxes.
In Crumpler’s work shipping containers are dense metaphors; encompassing stories of mass migration, transformation and voyages destined to be repeated. They trace transatlantic trade routes that emerged in the 15th century and are still used today. They also show industry that has irrevocably shaped port cities like San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond. Through connecting historical and contemporary systems, time in Crumpler’s work becomes a loop of rebirth and decline pressed forward through the crossing of water. Crumpler explains, “At the heart of these works is memory.”
For more than 30 years Dewey Crumpler has been a major influence in Bay area artist communities. He has taught at the SF Art Institute since 1989. Recent retrospectives and exhibits include the Hedreen Gallery in Seattle and Frieze 2020, a virtual presentation curated by Zoe Whitley of London’s Chisenhale Gallery.
Crumpler’s work is in the permanent collections of museums in Oakland, Santa Clara and Los Angeles. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and other grants.
JEANNE POWELL is a published poet and essayist. She holds degrees from Wayne State University and the University of San Francisco. Jeanne has taught in the CS, UB and OLLI programs at universities in the City. Her books in print include MY OWN SILENCE and WORD DANCING from Taurean Horn Press.
Scroll down to see Art of the African Diaspora at Richmond Art Center listed in the San Francisco Chronicle among many awesome events happening during Black History Month!
Black History Month 2022: events, performances and more ways to celebrate in the Bay Area
Anne Schrager January 31, 2022Updated: February 2, 2022, 3:23 pm
February is officially dedicated to celebrating the legacy of African culture in America. However, with events commemorating the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. starting in mid-January, the San Francisco Public Library programming notes that it’s “More Than a Month.”
As we enter the third year of the pandemic and face other worldly challenges, community members may take pause and look inward, asking what they can do to better confront racism and inequality and take part in making our world a healthier, happier and more peaceful place to live. Through visual art, social action, lectures, performances and more, we can honor the people, events and achievements that originate from the diverse African diaspora.
Here’s how some Bay Area organizations and arts institutions plan to celebrate Black History Month in 2022. Event information is subject to change, so check the venue or organization website for the latest updates.
Meditation in the S.F. Public Library African American Center
Take time each week to build up your mindfulness through weekly secular meditation, hosted by Dennis Billups, blind disability rights activist and contributor to the Netflix documentary “Crip Camp.”
Noon-1 p.m. Wednesdays. Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Free; vaccination proof and masks required. African American Center Exhibit Space, S.F. Public Library, main branch, 100 Larkin St., S.F. 415-557-4400. sfpl.org
Marin Theatre Company presents: ‘Pass Over’
Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s acclaimed play about two Black men trapped by fear and confusion, in a world where many of their peers have been killed by police, was originally scheduled to start on Jan. 27 but was postponed. Performances will now begin on Wednesday, Feb. 2, and run through Feb. 20.
24th annual S.F. Independent Film Festival presents: ‘The Sleeping Negro’ and ‘Across’
Filmmaker Skinner Myers presents a tale focused on a young Black man who struggles for self-peace after committing fraud under orders from his white boss in “The Sleeping Negro.” This festival opening-night screening is also set to include Matthew Riutta’s short film “Across” and a discussion moderated by San Francisco Examiner race and equity columnist Teresa Moore.
7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3. $14-$15; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Available to view online from Feb. 3-10. Roxie Theater House, 3117 16th St., S.F. sfindiefest2022.eventive.org
BAMPFA presents: An online conversation with Robert Moses
Join a live-stream discussion from the museum with the Robert Moses Kin director/choreographer. Moses has choreographed for many companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the San Francisco Opera and Lorraine Hansberry Theater, and has taught at festivals and college campuses across the world.
The Grammy Award-winning trumpet player is set to perform in celebration of his quintet’s 25th anniversary and Black History Month. Featuring saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Anthony Wonsey, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Adonis Rose.
7 and 8:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Feb. 4-6; 10:15 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 4-5. $25-$45; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Black Cat Club, 400 Eddy St., S.F. 415-358-1999. blackcatsf.com
Hammer Theatre Center presents: Camille A. Brown & Dancers
The New York choreographer Camille A. Brown offers a historically informed dance theater piece focused on issues of race, culture and identity.
7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Feb. 4-5. $25-$60; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Live-stream viewing option available. Hammer Theatre Center, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. 408-924-8501. hammertheatre.com
MoAD and the Lorraine Hansberry Theater present: ‘The DePriest Incident’ online reading
Award-winning playwright Charles White’s drama, set in 1929, depicts a Black civil rights advocate elected to represent Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives who stages a debate focused on political strategy practices for social change.
Pear Theatre presents: ‘The Mountaintop’ and ‘Sunset Baby’
Directed by Sinjin Jones, playwrights Katori Hall and Dominique Morisseau’s works address Black activism through the eyes of a chambermaid in 1968 Memphis and a widowed black revolutionary with an estranged daughter.
“The Mountaintop” performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and 2 p.m. Saturdays; “Sunset Baby” at 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Friday, Feb. 4. Through Feb. 20. $20-$42; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Live stream available. Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View. 650-254-1148. thepear.org
Mills Music Now: Nicole Mitchell
Mills College Music Department and the Center for Contemporary Music present a performance from Jean Macduff Vaux 2021-22 composer in residence flutist Nicole Mitchell. Her weeklong residency will culminate in this concert featuring her works with harpist Zeena Parkins.
8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5. Free-$15; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Live-stream viewing link provided on the day of the event. Littlefield Concert Hall, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 510-430-2191. performingarts.mills.edu
Melvin Seals and JGB
The former Jerry Garcia Band keyboardist and vocalist invites attendees to dance the night away to the jam-band quartet’s good vibes.
A weekly Sunday concert series celebrating Black History Month will be hosted by vocalist Faye Carol, in collaboration with renowned jazz artists including saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Essiet Essiet, vocalist Kenny Washington, drummer Dennis Chambers, trombonist Steve Turre, flutist Elena Pinderhughes, pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and others.
Thomas’ multidisciplinary artworks include drawing, painting, photography, sculpture and installations addressing issues of race and gender and reflecting feminism through the lens of African American protest and social traditions. See her work at Mills College Art Museum in “Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of the Paulson Fontaine Press,” an exhibition on display through March 13. The college also plans to host other Black History Month events online throughout the month. See its website for more information.
7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9. Free; registration required. Online event. Mills College Art Museum, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 510-430-2164. mcam.mills.edu
Quincy Troupe in online conversation with Danny Glover & Terry McMillan
Troupe is joined in conversation by actor Danny Glover and best-selling author Terry McMillan in an online discussion moderated by Kim McMillon, celebrating the release of Troupe’s new poetry collection, “Duende: Poems, 1966–Now” (Seven Stories Press). The program will also feature appearances from artist-educator Mildred Howard and musicians Will Calhoun and J.D. Parran.
2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10. Free; live stream available on the S.F. Public Library YouTube channel. 415-557-4400. sfpl.org/events
Zaccho Dance Theatre presents: ‘Love, a State of Grace’
A dance performance installation, with choreography and direction by Joanna Haigood, in one-hour cycles repeated over three hours on each performance date. The program features Bay Area aerial dancers performing to composer Walter Kitundu’s score, which incorporates recorded and live music activation within the space. Theologians Yohana Junker and Cláudio Carvalhaes will offer meditation and small rituals that the audience may engage with as they move freely throughout the cathedral.
2020 Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award winner Aram Demirjian is set to conduct the symphony in a performance of works by American composers Florence Price, William Grant Still and George Gershwin, featuring pianist Michelle Cann. There will be half-hour pre-concert talks with Demirjian and Cann one hour before each performance.
2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 (open rehearsal); 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12 and Feb. 14; 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13. $10-$97; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park. 707-546-8742. srsymphony.org
54th California International Antiquarian Book Fair: ‘Collecting Oakland’s Activist Roots — Black Panthers and Beyond’
As part of the event’s multiday lineup, Black Panther Party archivist, publisher and activist Lisbet Tellefsen and historian/Bolerium Books owner Alexander Akin plan to show and discuss a selection of historical ephemera from past social movements in Oakland. For those who cannot attend in person, a virtual book fair will be available online from 9 a.m. Feb. 12 through 5 p.m. Feb. 14 at abaa.org/vbf.
4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. Included with admission to the fair. Event hours: 3-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13. $10-$25. Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland. 415-919-9220. cabookfair.com
SFBATCO Presents: ‘I, Too, Sing America’
Composer Othello Jefferson’s work presents a diverse cross section of people of color in theater, represented through stories focused not on negativity, but rather joy, striving and other positive themes through poetry, music and dance. The program features direction by Jamie Yuen-Shore and choreography from Christine Chung.
8 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays; 2 p.m. Saturdays through Feb. 13. $15-$40, vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St., S.F. 415-484-8566. sfbatco.org
The Marsh presents: ‘Talk to Your People’
Award-winning actor and playwright Dan Hoyle returns to perform his latest thought-provoking, video- and music-laced comedic performance piece addressing race, power, privilege and masculinity in the wake of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement.
7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 11; 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12. Through April 16. $25-$100; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St., S.F. themarsh.org
10th Annual San Jose Jazz Winter Fest presents: Tiffany Austin
The jazz vocalist will perform with her quartet, featuring drummer Leon Joyce, bassist Marcus Shelby and pianist Adam Shulman. The festival runs from Feb. 11 to 27. See the website for the full performance schedule.
8 p.m. Feb. 17. $25; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Hammer4 Theater, 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. 408 288-7557. sanjosejazz.org
Brian Copeland: ‘Not a Genuine Black Man’
Told with wit and clearheaded honesty, Copeland’s one-man comedy show confronts what it meant to grow up as an outsider in a largely white Northern California suburb in the 1970s.
2 p.m. Feb. 20. $20, vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Arts and Education Center, 2250 Bancroft Ave., San Leandro. sanleandrohistory.org
Black History Month film screening: ‘Evolutionary Blues … West Oakland’s Music Legacy’
A full-length documentary featuring interviews with artists who played regularly in clubs that used to line the blocks of Seventh Street, before an “urban renewal” plan decimated the formerly musically vibrant West Oakland Black neighborhood. A discussion with the director, Cheryl Fabio, is planned following the screening.
6:30 p.m. Feb. 24. $14; vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland. 510-452-3556. oakland-rotary.org
SFJazz and MoAD present: Black History Month concert with Martin Luther McCoy
A closing reception for “Amoako Boafo: Souls of Black Folk” and “Billie Zangewa: Thread for a Web Begun” exhibitions with a performance from San Francisco native Martin Luther McCoy (the Roots).
4 p.m. Feb. 26. Included with museum admission. Vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., S.F. 415-358-7200. moadsf.org
Fifth annual Black Joy Parade and Festival
This family-friendly event celebrates joy in California’s Black community. The festival is set to feature more than 200 local artists, food and drink vendors, live performances, and more.
12:30 p.m. Feb. 27 parade; noon-7 p.m. festival. Free; registration highly encouraged. Parade starts at 14th and Broadway, Oakland. Festival entrance at 20th Street and Broadway, Oakland. blackjoyparade.org
‘Dust Specks on the Sea’: Contemporary Sculpture From the French Caribbean and Haiti
A mixed-media group exhibition focused on sculptural works by contemporary artists from Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana and Haiti. Curated by Arden Sherman with Katie Hood Morgan and Marie Vickles for Hunter East Harlem Gallery in New York, it includes works from Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Raphaël Barontini, Sylvia Berté, Julie Bessard, Hervé Beuze, Jean-François Boclé, Alex Burke, Ronald Cyrille, Jérémie Paul, Marielle Plaisir, Tabita Rezaire, Yoan Sorin, Jude Papaloko Thegenus and others.
Noon-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. Through February. Free, masks required. Walter and McBean Galleries, S.F. Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., S.F. 415-749-4500. sfai.edu
Museum of the African Diaspora February exhibitions
“Soul of Black Folks,” is a solo exhibition of paintings created from 2018 to 2021 by Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo. “Thread for a Web Begun” presents Johannesburg artist Billie Zangewa’s first solo U.S. museum exhibition including layered silk tapestry works. The “Beyond the Sky” installation features short films from a selection of contemporary African filmmakers. Films include Kalu Oji’s “Beyond the Moon,” Lebohang Kganye’s “Ke sale teng,” Yo-Yo Gonthier’s “Burey Bambata” and Tabita Rezaire’s “Deep Down Tidal.” Also, 2019-20 Emerging Artist Vincent Miranda’s “Florida jitt,” an exhibition of sculptures, and “Sam Vernon: Impasse of Desires,” a site-specific installation and exhibition of paintings and prints.
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. $6-$12, under 12 free. Through Feb. 27. Vaccination proof, masks and reservations required. Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St., S.F. 415-318-7152. moadsf.org
Richmond Art Center presents: Art of the African Diaspora 2022
The 25th anniversary Bay Area Black artists group exhibition features works from more than 100 artists of African descent showcased at the Richmond Art Center as well as in open studios and satellite exhibitions at different venues across the Bay Area. See website for offsite schedule details.
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Through March 19. Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond. 510-620-6772. richmondartcenter.org
‘We Are Not Strangers Here: African American Histories in Rural California’
A touring exhibition and education program highlighting the diversity of experiences of African American pioneers, miners, farmers and civic leaders in rural California. An adjacent exhibition also features portraits from the collection of the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, artifacts on loan from the San Joaquin County Historical Society and Museum and images of rural life during the early years of statehood, courtesy of California State Parks.
10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. Through Aug. 12. Free, masks required. Society of California Pioneers Museum and Library, 101 Montgomery St., S.F. Presidio. 415-957-1849. californiapioneers.org
For decades, activists around the world have been pushing for the release of Leonard Peltier. The Native American activist was convicted of murdering two FBI agents in 1971 during a shootout on a South Dakota reservation. Peltier has been in a federal prison for 45 years, serving two life sentences, and says he didn’t kill the agents. Irregularities in the story from that fatal day are why activists say Peltier didn’t get a fair trial.
When you speak of Leonard, you’re not just talking about individual. You’re talking about hundreds of thousands that this person has somehow come to represent and be a symbol for.
The statue Rigo 23 created is inspired by a self-portrait of Leonard Peltier. The feet of the statue are detachable and have traveled around the country to historic sites of Indigenous resistance, including Standing Rock and Alcatraz.
Jenee Darden is an award-winning journalist, author, public speaker and proud Oakland native. She hosts the weekly arts segment Sights & Sounds and covers East Oakland for KALW. Jenee has reported for NPR, Marketplace, KQED, KPCC, The Los Angeles Times, Ebony magazine, Refinery29 and other outlets. In 2005, she reported on the London transit bombings for Time magazine. Prior to coming to KALW, she hosted the podcast Mental Health and Wellness Radio.
Top image: Native American activist Anne Begay at the Richmond Art Center event “Gathering in the Spirit of Gwarth-ee-las,” held Oct. 8 in honor of imprisoned activist Leonard Peltier.
Story and photos by Denis Perez-Bravo
Through word and art, the call to free activist Leonard Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement, from his 45-year imprisonment was amplified Sunday in the Richmond Art Center courtyard.
The center hosted the event “Gathering in the Spirit of Gwarth-ee-lass” to honor Peltier, his family and their sacrifices while giving free access to artist Rigo 23’s exhibit “Time and Again.”
In 1977, Peltier was convicted of the murders of two FBI agents. The agents were killed in 1975 at the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. The trial was marred by many procedural issues, casting doubt on its outcome. For example, one alleged eyewitness to the shooting recanted her testimony and said the FBI threatened her. And a Freedom of Information Act ruling in 1980 revealed that evidence that might have helped Peltier was hidden by the prosecutors.
“He is in jail for a federal offense that is nothing but lies,” said activist Anne Begay at the event Sunday.
Begay is the mother of Peltier’s daughter, Kathy Begay. Both were present at the event.
Anne Begay and Rigo 23 led a discussion about her life and her memories of Peltier.
“Leonard is a father. He is a grandfather. He is a great grandfather. And he has never held his grandchildren,” Anne Begay said.
She also asked the crowd “to be more aware” and to raise awareness of one of the latest actions to free Peltier.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the chair of the Natural Resources Committee, and 10 other members of Congress sent a letter Oct. 8 formally requesting clemency for Peltier. The letter was addressed to President Biden; Attorney General Merrick Garland; Michael Carvajal, the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; and J.A. Keller, the bureau’s southeast regional director. (Peltier is imprisoned at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida.)
“Mr. Peltier has yet to receive a fair trial that is free from constitutional violations. Mr. Peltier is 77 years old and suffers from severe health conditions, including diabetes and an abdominal aortic aneurysm that can be lethal if ruptured. He has served more than 43 years in the federal prison system, some of which have been in solitary confinement,” the letter read, in part.
After the discussion between Rigo and Begay, a lineup of poets came to the stage to perform.
One of them was Kathy Begay, who is in her 40s. She read a poem about waiting for her father to come home that she wrote when she was 16.
“He sits behind walls, waiting to see my family,” she read to the crowd.
Apart from hearing the speakers, attendees also got to see Rigo 23’s sculpture of Peltier.Artist Rigo 23’s exhibit “Time and Again” features a 12-foot-tall sculpture of activist Leonard Peltier on a 6-foot-by-9-foot base — the size of a prison cell like the one Peltier has spent most of his life in.
The 12-foot-tall work depicts Peltier sitting on a base 9 feet by 6 feet, the size of a traditional jail cell like the one where he has spent most of his life, Rigo 23 said.
The sculpture is crowned with sage brought back from a Sun Dance ceremony and behind the Peltier figure hangs a traditional quilt from the Pine Ridge reservation. In between the giant feet of the sculpture, an altar sits. The sculpture is surrounded by photographs and artwork that have been arranged in a timeline from 1977 to 2021.
The various artworks were contributed by people from all over the country.
A line runs from Rigo 23’s first solo exhbit at the Richmond Art Center to this one. Twenty-five years ago, he did an exhibit dedicated to the Black Panther Geronimo Ji Jaga and his political imprisonment. After his release, Rigo met Ji Jaga. Rigo said Ji Jaga told him to continue fighting for political prisoners, and that led him to Peltier’s cause.
Rigo said he sees an extreme culture of violence against Black and Native American lives alike in the U.S. And he hopes to continue raising awareness of these issues, and especially of Peltier’s case until he is released.
“Things change, but they stay the same,” Rigo said.
In honor of Indigenous People’s Day, the Richmond Art Center will host “Gathering in the Spirit of Gwarth-ee-lass,” a free event on Sunday featuring spoken word, candid conversations and live music, all in the backdrop of artist Rigo 23’s newest exhibit “Time and Again.”
The exhibit’s centerpiece is a 12-foot sculpture created from a self-portrait of Native American political activist Leonard Peltier.
Peltier has been in prison for about 45 years, serving two life sentences after his controversial conviction in the murders of two FBI agents during a shootout at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in 1975.
At his trial in North Dakota, Peltier acknowledged being involved in the confrontation along with other members of the American Indian Movement, one of whom was killed. But he maintained he did not kill the agents. Two others charged in the murders were tried in Iowa, where a jury found that they acted in self-defense.
The firefight occurred at the site of the famous 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, where U.S. soldiers killed about 300 Lakota people, most of them women and children.
Peltier has been incarcerated since 1977. The sculpture of him is about as high and as wide as a standard prison cell, said Roberto Martinez, a curator at the Richmond Art Center.
“I wanted the visitor to feel enclosed and uncomfortable, similar to a prison cell,” Martinez said.
Peltier’s daughter Kathy and her mother, Anne Begay, as well as Rigo 23 will attend the event. There will be a recitation of “He Sits Behind Prison Walls,” a poem Kathy Peltier crafted as a tribute to her father.
“I wrote this poem about my father when I was 16, thinking of the day when he’ll be free or just breathe fresh air,” she said.
Kathy Peltier was a child when her father was tried for the murders and sent away.
“My dad has been in prison all my life,” she said. “I try to not feel sorry for myself but understand why he is in this position, ”
Leonard Peltier is a member of the Anishinabe, Dakota, and Lakota nations. He was an activist even before joining the American Indian Movement, which fought for fair treatment of Native Americans and came to prominence in the 1970s.
In “Time and Again,” Rigo 23 pays tribute to that activism. Originally from Portugal, Rigo 23 has spent much of his life in the Bay Area, where he was inspired by what he saw on the streets and on the walls.
“I came to the Bay Area and I encountered murals of the Chicano Movement. I saw the urban graffiti which was all about style and calligraphy, and it just blew my mind,” he said.
Much of his work has been influenced by activism, especially the protests and civil unrest of the 1960s. In “Time and Again,” Rigo 23 pays tribute to Peltier and recognizes the 25th anniversary of his own first exhibition, which was curated by the Richmond Art Center.
“As the title suggests, it refers to a process of something that keeps on happening, and the focus is centered on Leonard Peltier’s plight,” the artist said.
The exhibit opened on Sept. 9 and will run through Nov. 19. It includes three stories that provide insight into Peltier’s life and the impact he continues to have on society.
Martinez spoke of the power of art, saying it should be approached with respect and dignity.
“Art is so dangerous that it makes the powers that be tremble,” he said.
From 2 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, visitors at the center will receive a tour, hear a conversation with Rigo 23, and enjoy poetry and spoken word featuring Tongo Eisen-Martin, San Francisco poet laureate, and music by DJ Petrelli.
Guests must RSVP, wear masks and sign waivers to enter the center.
This exhibit centers on “Leonard Peltier – Waiting,” a mixed media 12 X 6 X 9 foot statue that is based on a painted self-portrait that Peltier painted from prison. The statue has been exhibited in four other venues, in Washington, DC; Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Rigo 23.
From September 9 – November 18, 2021, the Richmond Art Center is presenting Time and Again, an art exhibition centered on Rigo 23’s monumental sculptural tribute to Native American activist Leonard Peltier.
The 12-foot tall sculpture sits at the center of the exhibition, anchoring a narrative of Leonard Peltier’s 45-year long incarceration. For the first time, the sculpture is being presented alongside photographs, letters, artwork, posters and ephemera from Rigo’s archive.
According to Rigo 23, who grew up in Portugal before coming to the United Staes, the exhibition “aims to communicate, to share, to create a unique experience for the viewer, as any art exhibit does.”
“But personally, this exhibition is a special marker: 25 years ago I had my first solo exhibition at the Richmond Art Center, and that exhibit centered on the plight of Black Panther leader Geronimo ji Jaga, who was then imprisoned at Mule Creek State Prison. Geronimo would be released the following year, 1997, and awarded a settlement for wrongful imprisonment,” said Rigo 23. “Both the FBI and the LAPD compensated him for plotting against his freedom.”
“The current exhibition, Time and Again, focuses on the plight of American Indian leader Leonard Peltier, whom many institutions, individuals and governments around the World also believe to have been wrongfully convicted. Most notably, the lead prosecutor on the case has called for his release since 2017. The purpose of this exhibition clearly includes calling attention to Leonard Peltier’s continued imprisonment,” he stated.
This exhibit centers on “Leonard Peltier – Waiting”, a mixed media 12 X 6 X 9 foot statue that is based on a painted self-portrait that Peltier painted from prison. The statue has been exhibited in four other venues, in Washington, DC; Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to Rigo 23.
“But I’ve mounted several other exhibitions which centered on Peltier’s art and plight, the first of which was at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, in 1999. That exhibit was titled “Tate Wikikuwa Museum” and it travelled the world, including London, UK; Santiago, Chile; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Lisbon, Portugal; Syracuse, and Niagara Falls in New York,” he stated.
On October 10 at 6 p.m. there will a gathering for Indigenous People’s Day held at the Richmond Art Center.
Rigo 23 explained how growing up in Portugal at the time of the Portuguese Revolution in 1974 had a big influence on the the current path he has taken.
“In my youth Portugal went through a profound transition, from a colonial quasi fascist regime, to a progressive one focused on International Solidarity with Movements for Self- Determination,” he stated. “It was in that light that I first became aware of the brutality of the Reservations System in the United States and the relationship between America’s Manifest Destiny and the Nazi regime’s expansionist ethos in Europe. Leonard Peltier, unwittingly, became a symbol of systemic and collective oppression, much in the same vein as Nelson Mandela became a symbol for European Colonialism and institutionalized racism in Africa.”
To create the huge sculpture of Peltier, he had to learn how to do it as he went along creating it.
“That was on the job training,” he said. “I mean, I had some experience gained with ‘Victory Stand,’ the sculptural tribute to Tommie Smith and John Carlos at San José State University, which I completed in 2005. But still this project was much more DYI. Entirely funded by myself and friends and supporters, it was built over a two year period as I was able to gather the necessary materials and secure a place to built it in. I started by carving the statue’s feet out of two redwood logs, and built it up from there.”
In Time and Again, there is a series of historical photographs by the late Michele Vignes documenting seminal events in the history of the American Indian Movement; original oil paintings by Peltier himself; photographs by Marc Hors, Rio Yañez, Ashley Forbes, Marc Chiat, Francisco Dominguez, Frank Jackson, David Petrelli; silkscreens by Juan Fuentes; Calixto Robles; Liberación Gráfica; Gonzalo Hidalgo; a giant banner by Eric Norberg and many more.
The current exhibition also includes materials such as original sketches for the banner “It’s 1999, Why is Leonard Peltier Still in Prison?” mounted outside the Berkeley Art Museum; photographs from the Tate Wikikuwa Museum installed at the deYoung Museum that same year; brochure and zine from theTate Wikikuwa Museum at the Warehouse Gallery in Syracuse University where the Leonard Peltier sculpture premiered, in 2011.
On September 12, a special dedication for the exhibit was held that coincided with Leonard Peltier’s 77th Birthday.
“It was a very moving gathering that brought together relatives of Peltier, including his daughter Kathy, with supporters, some of whom have been advocating for his behalf for as long as he has been imprisoned – 45 years,” he stated. “A remarkable moment was when a few sundancers wove a sage crown which they placed on the Statue’s head. The sage had come from Crow Dog’s Paradise Sundance grounds in Rosebud, South Dakota, and Crow Dog Jr was in attendance.”
“After those gathered sang Happy Birthday to Leonard, a group of singers – men and women – gathered and sang the AIM song acapella in his honor. That was the highlight of the day,” he concluded.
Francisco Dominguez, a Chicano/Tarahumara photo journalist and artist, whose photo of John Trudell at Mission High School in 1997 is displayed at the exhibition, said the exhibition is significant “because of how long Peltier has been unjustly imprisoned and how the powers that be have made an example of him as an activist and somebody who is standing up for the people. I encourage all people who care about human rights and civil rights to attend, as we live in a time where the county is turning towards the right.”
Chicano Artist Juan R. Fuentes also has two works that are displayed in the exhibit.
“First, in 1992, I produced the print 500 years of Native Resistance to commemorate the landing of Columbus and I included a large face of Leonard Peltier and the wording, Freedom for Leonard Peltier. Second, in 1990 I created the poster, International Day to Resist the Imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, June 26, 1990,” he explained.
“It has been some time that has elapsed since we have had an exhibition that focuses on Leonard Peltier in the Bay Area. The fact that Rigo has been able to assemble so many levels of interaction with support for Leonard over the years is significant and a testament to the ongoing struggle for liberation for Leonard and his people,” said Fuentes.
In the late 80s, Fuentes was a member of the Native American Defense Committee, anchored by then warrior Sydney Welsh. As an artist, he supported the struggle and his biggest contribution was through his prints and posters.
“My role as a Chicano artist has always been connected to our peoples struggles and I feel that anything that my work lends to the advancement of our struggle is my responsibility as an artist of color,” said Fuentes “What I noticed at the exhibition were the young and old were there to support Leonard Peltier.”
“it is very encouraging to see the next generation of activists gives us all a great sense that the struggle will continue. Leonard’s imprisonment has been so long that people tend to forget and this exhibition will ensure that Leonard’s needs are still addressed and he will be exposed to a new wave of supporters. It was an honor to be in this exhibit and to have the chance to meet Leonard’s family,” Fuentes stated.
Calixto Robles, a printmaker/painter and Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca, Mexico whose art is also on display at the show, said the current show is a must-see because it’s about a man who has been in jail for more than 40 years.
“He is accused of a crime he didn’t commit — just for defending his land and his people. This show is to call the attention of the whole world to demand his freedom,” Robles noted.
He emphasized that art is “an important tool to denounce injustice and to inform people of what is happening in the struggle of the 99% population of this world. I think when people get united for a right cause, it’s impossible to stop it.”
Exhibition: September 9 – November 18, 2021 Main Gallery Richmond Art Center 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond, CA 94804 Gallery Hours: Thurs 10am-2pm, Sat 10am-2pm, or by appt 510-620-6772
The sculpture (California redwood, foam, plywood, and metal) is based on a small hand-painted self portrait Leonard Peltier created in prison. The statue’s 9 x 6 foot base replicates the dimensions of a traditional prison cell. Each time the work is shown, the exhibition incorporates selections from the growing collection of photographs of supporters standing in solidarity on the statue’s feet.
Completed in 2016 and first shown at the Katzen Art Center at the American University, Washington D.C., the artwork was almost immediately censored, removed from display, and subsequently withheld from the artist for one year.
The removal of the statue was in response to a bomb threat and to the University’s president receiving complaints from the FBI Agents Association – events which happened on the same day. Since its return to the artist, it has been exhibited at the Main Museum in Los Angeles (2018), SOMArts (2019) and most recently atop the roof of the San Francisco Institute of Art overlooking Alcatraz Island (2020).
The statue’s feet, which are detachable, have taken their own journey, traveling to significant sites of Native Resistance across the U.S. including Standing Rock, Alcatraz Island, Wounded Knee, Crow Dog’s Paradise, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Supporters have been invited to stand on the feet as an expression of solidarity – and be photographed. In summer 2021, Richmond Art Center also welcomed members of the community to do so.
About the Artist: Rigo 23 has exhibited his work internationally for over 30 years placing murals, paintings, sculptures, and tile work in public situations where viewers are encouraged to examine their relationship to their community, their role as unwitting advocates of public policy, and their place on a planet occupied by many other living things. His projects have included inter-communal collaborations with Native Tribes in North and South America; long-term partnerships with political prisoners; and alliances with underrepresented and disenfranchised individuals and communities. @rigo23studio @peltierstatue #freeleonardpeltier
About Richmond Art Center: Richmond Art Center has been sharing art and creating with the community since 1936. Our programs encompass classes, exhibitions and events at our facility in downtown Richmond, as well as off-site activities that bring free, high-quality art making experiences to WCCUSD schools and community partners. richmondartcenter.org