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The San Francisco Standard: Celebrate Black History Month at Museums, Festivals and More Across the Bay

Celebrate Black History Month at Museums, Festivals and More Across the Bay

Article Link:

Written by Christina Campodonico

Published Feb. 01, 2023 • 12:36pm

From the heady days of the Fillmore’s “Harlem of the West” to the rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, the Bay Area is rich with Black history and culture that has shaped and defined the American experience. 

From fascinating art exhibitions to programs dedicated to local activists and sports legends, Bay Area museums and cultural centers are packed with opportunities to immerse yourself in music, fashion, film and more, paying homage to Black leaders and luminaries. Here are some highlights of the month ahead.     

Black History Month Kick-Off and Procession

Civic Center

📍 City Hall
🗓️ Feb. 3
🎟️ Free

The San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society leads a celebratory second line procession from the steps of City Hall to the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch at noon on Feb. 3. MJ Brass Boppers, a New Orleans-style brass band, bring the beats. 

Big+Black+Brunch Events 

📍 Various locations & times

Big+Black+Brunch partners with Black-owned restaurants, bars, chefs and wineries to bring pop-up brunches to these venues and build Black economic power and community. 

The group is organizing and hosting events for the entire month of February. Pick up the pace with speed dating or slow it down with a supper club—there is something for everyone. Check its Instagram and website for more details.

BHM Kick-Off Celebration 


📍 855 Battery St., SF
🗓️ Feb. 1 
🎟️ Free

Mix and mingle with local reporters, news anchors and media influencers at this networking event featuring small bites, a beer tasting and a performance by San Francisco’s poet laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin.

Black & Asian Solidarity

📍 Oakland Asian Cultural Center
🗓️ Feb. 4
🎟️ Free

Two communities of the Bay Area come together to show the importance of unity against hate. With Lunar New Year in late January leading right into Black History Month, you can celebrate both with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The event will feature live performances honoring the intersections of both cultures.

Black History Month Walking Tours

If you’re the type of person who likes to immerse yourself in history and actually experience it firsthand, grab your comfy walking shoes because here’s a quick map of two tours recommended by Conde Nast Traveler.

Black Panther Party Legacy City Tour

📍 Black Panther Alumni Legacy Network
🗓️ All February & year-round
🎟️ $25-$110

Courtesy Black Panther Legacy Tour

The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 in Oakland. A political organization dedicated to the wellness of Black communities in America, the Black Panther Party’s presence was pivotal to Black history. Learn more about the Black Panther Party with a guided tour from an original Black Panther member, Saturu Ned. After touring Downtown Oakland, catch BART and hop off at West Oakland station to see the “Women of the Black Panther Party” mural at the intersection of Center and Ninth streets.

Black Liberation Walking Tour

📍 West Oakland Cultural Action Network
🗓️ Feb. 18 & year-round
🎟️ Free-$50

If you’re still feeling up for it while in West Oakland, you can go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour. The tour is led by locals and natives of the neighborhoods and showcases Oakland’s rich Black history and culture, taking you back 100 years from the origins of the West Coast civil rights movement to the Black Lives Matter movement of today.

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir

📍 Freight & Salvage
🗓️ Feb. 12
🎟️ $13-$30

Through Black spiritual musical traditions, the award-winning Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir aims to spread unity and joy. The group performs its eighth annual Black History Month Celebration concert in mid-February. 

Black Queer Men’s Brunch

🗓️ Feb. 4
🎟️ Free

Socialize and sip at this gathering honoring the spirit of Black luminaries such as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Bayard Rustin. Meet like-minded folks from across the Bay Area and learn more about how to support and volunteer with this new social group. Reach out to Andrew Rayner via Instagram @imakeitrayner if you have questions. 

‘Reparations’ Drag Show

📍 Oasis
🗓️ Feb. 10
🎟️ $15-$60

RuPaul Drag Race’s Latrice Royale headlines Nicki Jizz’s all-Black drag show “Reparations.”  The show, which began as an online streaming revue in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, has become a monthly performance showcase at Oasis and centers Black artists. Stop in for an extra-awesome Black History Month edition. 

Storytelling & Live Performances at Fairyland

📍 Children’s Fairyland 
🗓️ Through Feb. 12
🎟️ $15

For over 100 years, Oakland’s Black community has made indelible contributions to the city. Fairyland, the oldest storybook theme park in the U.S., celebrates these achievements with a series of programs, including an electrifying stage show featuring rapper-poet Jamey Williams on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. Bay Area storytelling legend Kirk Waller brings a mix of music, spoken word and movement to his performances on Feb. 11 and 12.   

The Black Kung Fu Experience 

📍The Great Star Theater 
🗓️ Feb. 19
🎟️ $15

The Chinese Historical Society of America celebrates Chinese and Black American unity with a special documentary film screening and kung fu demonstration honoring African American martial arts masters. “The Black Kung Fu Experience” follows how a group of Black martial artists became pioneers in a field dominated by Chinese and white men. Veteran martial arts athletes and coaches Sifu Donald Hamby and Troy Dunwood lead a Q&A and demonstration following the screening. 

A Tribute to Richmond’s Sports Leaders 


📍 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond
🗓️ Feb. 23
🎟️ Free

The Richmond Public Library holds a video tribute and program in honor of the city’s greatest athletes and local sports legends like Charlie Reid, who was director of Richmond’s Shields Park. Reid’s athletic programs helped launch the professional sports careers of Major League Baseball players Pumpsie Green and Les Cain, Green Bay Packers football player Travis Williams and more. 

East Oakland Youth Development Center Community Celebration

📍 8200 International Blvd., Oakland 
🗓️ Feb. 23
🎟️ Free

The East Oakland Youth Development Center holds a community event with dance and spoken-word performances, a youth art exhibition, hands-on activities, free food, music and giveaways. 

Black Winemakers Showcase 

📍STEM Kitchen + Garden
🗓️ Feb. 23
🎟️ Free 

Sample wines from across the Bay Area at this free tasting event highlighting Black vintners. 

Two Languages/One Community Poetry Reading


📍 Angel Island State Park
🗓️ Feb. 25
🎟️ $10-$21

Poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr come together for a unique cultural exchange honoring Black History Month and Chinese New Year in a historic destination at the Angel Island Detention Barracks museum. Yu and Warr will read their poems in Chinese and English accompanied by projected images and text. 

Black Joy Parade

📍 14th & Franklin streets, Oakland
🗓️ Feb. 26 
🎟️ Free 

Celebrate Black culture and community at this family-friendly event featuring a jubilant procession, two stages dedicated to Black performers and highlighting over 200 Black-owned businesses, selling everything from yummy food and drinks to clothing and handmade items. 

SFJAZZ Concert Series

Hayes Valley 
🗓️ Through Feb. 26
🎟️ $5-$65 

SFJAZZ continues its celebration of Black history, experiences and voices with a series of concerts honoring jazz as a singular American art form rooted in African American and Afro-Carribean sonic traditions. On Feb. 18, Marcus Shelby’s New Orchestra combines music, text and video in a musical suite reflecting on the impact of Covid. Then in late February, NEA Jazz Master, drummer/composer and SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director Terri Lyne Carrington teams up with an all-star jazz septet and an Alonzo King Lines dancer for a two-night-only multimedia concert confronting the injustices Black women face throughout their lives.

Angela Davis & Tsitsi Dangarembga

Hayes Valley
📍 Sydney Goldstein Theater
🗓️ Feb. 28
🎟️ $30-$36

Author, playwright and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga and legendary activist Angela Davis come together for a discussion presented by the Museum of the African Diaspora and City Arts & Lectures.  

‘The New Black Vanguard’

📍 Museum of the African Diaspora
🗓️ Through March 5
🎟️ $6 – $12

Highlighting images at the intersection race, gender, beauty and power, “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion” features over 100 works from a community of groundbreaking international Black photographers, including Tyler Mitchell, the first Black photographer to shoot a cover story for Vogue. 

MoAD also hosts a series of engaging community events throughout the month, including in-depth talks about the exhibition, fashion, photography and music, discussions of 1970s Black “Soul Cinema,” film screenings, open mics and poetry readings. A conversation between MoAD’s inaugural chef-in-residence, Bryant Terry, and his successor, Jocelyn Jackson, dives into the intersection of artistry, politics and food accompanied by small bites and drinks from across the African diaspora on Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. Visit for the full calendar and to register for events.

Art of the African Diaspora 

📍 Richmond 
🗓️ Richmond Art Center 
🎟️ Through March 18

Courtesy Art of the African Diaspora

Originating from the 1989 African American artists salon known as “Colors of Black,” this exhibition highlights the work of over 120 artists of African descent and is accompanied by open studios and satellite exhibitions throughout the Bay. 

Angela Davis—Seize the Time

📍 Oakland Museum of California
🗓️ Through June 11
🎟️ $18-$25

Dive into the life, image and influence of activist Angela Davis at this exhibition examining the Oakland-based icon’s legacy through historical artworks, archival materials and rare manuscripts of Davis’s writings. A series of events throughout February activates the exhibition and honors Black History Month. 

On Feb. 17, the museum hosts a dance battle and food truck celebration with Off the Grid and local performers. On a more serious note, strategist, consultant and housing advocate Ndidi Love and Cat Brooks, founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and executive director of the Justice Teams Network, discuss the case for reparations on Feb. 26.

Golden State Warriors Events

Mission Bay
📍 Chase Center
🗓️ Through Feb. 28

The Golden State Warriors and Chase Center team up to host a series of community events in honor of Black History Month. The monthlong celebration’s marquee event takes place on Feb. 25, when the plaza around the Chase Center comes to life with live entertainment, arts and craft stations, balloon artists, face painters and a pop-up book fair, featuring Oakland’s Marcus Books, the oldest Black-owned bookstore in the country. Visit for the full roster of events.

Christina Campodonico can be reached at

Three New Bookmaking Workshops

Three New Bookmaking Workshops

Starting Soon!

Workshop for Adults | Beginners Welcome

Coptic Sewn Book

Saturday, February 4, 10am-1pm


Learn to sew a hard covered book with an exposed spine. This book opens perfectly flat and is a fun structure to make!

More info…

Workshop for Adults | Beginners Welcome

No Glue Watercolor Sketchbook

Saturday, March 4, 10am-1pm


This fun book form uses no glue whatsoever but still has a very sturdy body that will hold up to being tossed in a backpack or dropped on the floor. Learn to sew a multi section book using precut watercolor paper and create a wrap around cover to hold it all together.

More info…

Workshop for Adults | Beginners Welcome

Mixed Media Sketchbook

Tuesday, March 7, 10am-1pm


Learn to use an unlikely material for the pages of a sketchbook: packing paper! This material is amazing for drawing, sketching, and painting with opaque media. Paint pens, acrylic paints, and gouache pop off the page in beautiful contrast and typically do not bleed or come through he opposite face of your page.

More info…

Art of the African Diaspora Closing Party

Art of the African Diaspora Closing Party

Saturday, March 18, 2pm-4pm

Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond, CA


Let’s come together one last time at Richmond Art Center to celebrate Art of the African Diaspora 2023!


Artwork Pick Up: Exhibiting artists may pick up their artworks after the Closing Party event from 4pm-5:30pm. Please note, no earlier artwork pick up can be accommodated.

Artwork Pick Up Times:

  • Saturday, March 18, 4pm-5:30pm
  • Monday, March 20, 11am-4pm

ArtDaily: Richmond Art Center presents ‘The Remembrance Project’ as part of their winter exhibition schedule

Richmond Art Center presents ‘The Remembrance Project’ as part of their winter exhibition schedule

Published January 17, 2023


RICHMOND, CALIF.- The Remembrance Project will open January 18th at the Richmond Art Center as part of their winter exhibitions project, which will include an opening reception on Saturday, January 21st from 2pm-4pm, as well as a project workshop and book talk.

Social Justice Sewing Academy presents The Remembrance Project, a cloth memorial of activist art banners commemorating the many people who have lost their lives to systems of inequity and racist structures. These banners have been created collectively by volunteers across the country to help educate and inform communities about the human impact of systemic violence.

The Remembrance Project banners are displayed by local and national organizations to express solidarity in the fight for social justice and remembrance of those lost to violence. The project remembers those lost to: authority violence (officer-involved shooting, police brutality, etc.), community violence (victims of gang violence, neighborhood or family, drive-by shooting, etc.), racial violence (hate crimes, racially motivated, etc.), and sexual and gender-based violence (violence against LGBTQ+, domestic violence, “missing, murdered Indigenous women,” etc.).

The Remembrance Project Workshop will be on Saturday, January 28, 2pm-4pm. Join Social Justice Sewing Academy in an interactive hands-on workshop that merges craft, art and activism to create textile art pieces that are displayed nationally in museums and other shows. This workshop allows participants to discuss topics pertaining to social justice issues in a brave and safe space. During the two hour workshop you will participate in critical discussion and create a piece of textile art that you are passionate about. This workshop is free, open to all and no rsvp is necessary.

Stitching Stolen Lives: Book Talk With Author and Founder of SJSA, Sara Trail will take place Saturday, March 4, 1pm-2:30pm. Join us for a talk and book signing with Sara Trail, founder of Social Justice Sewing Academy and co-author of Stitching Stolen Lives, a book that chronicles the work of SJSA and the Remembrance Project. With forewords by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr, the book includes personal stories of individuals and their families whose lives have been cut short due to social injustices. This event is free, open to all and no rsvp is necessary.

Post News Group: Richmond Art Center Announces Trio of Winter Exhibitions

Post News Group: Richmond Art Center Announces Trio of Winter Exhibitions

Community members can check out Art of the African Diaspora Jan. 18 through March 18 in the RAC’s Main Gallery, with the opening reception being held Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The exhibition will spotlight the work of more than 120 artists of African descent “through representation, professional development and building a creative community,” per the RAC.


By Kathy Chouteau | Richmond Standard

Published January 14, 2023

The Richmond Art Center (RAC) has announced its lineup of three winter exhibitions, including Art of the African DiasporaConnected Always and The Remembrance Project, on display at its galleries Jan. 18 through March 18, 2023.

Community members can check out Art of the African Diaspora Jan. 18 through March 18 in the RAC’s Main Gallery, with the opening reception being held Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The exhibition will spotlight the work of more than 120 artists of African descent “through representation, professional development and building a creative community,” per the RAC.

Artists Derrick Bell, Cynthia Brannvall, and Pryce Jones will be featured in the exhibition and community members can find the Art of the African Diaspora print catalog at the center for info about open studios and satellite exhibitions off-shooting from the RAC event. Learn more about the exhibition

Amanda Ayala’s exhibition, Connected Always, will take place in the RAC’s South Gallery Jan. 20 through March 11, 2023. An opening reception is set for Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m., while a free Ancestor Wheel Workshop and artist talk open to everyone will be held by the artist Saturday, Feb. 18, 12 – 2 p.m.

Connected Always will see Ayala — who identifies as a Xicana indigenous visual artist — explore our ancestral connections through her latest works. The interdisciplinary Santa Rosa artist runs workshops “that combine artist liberation and social justice for people of all ages,” per the RAC, and will have one as part of her continuing Ancestor Wheel project during her RAC exhibition. Find out more about Ayala’s exhibition at:

The third winter exhibition, The Remembrance Project, will be shown in the Community Gallery Jan. 18 to March 18, with the opening reception being hosted Saturday, Jan. 21 from 2 – 4 p.m. The Remembrance Project Workshop will be held Saturday, Jan. 28 from 2-4 p.m. and a book talk with Sara Trail will happen on Saturday, March 4, from 1-2:30 p.m.

The Remembrance Project is not only “a cloth memorial of activist art banners commemorating the many people who have lost their lives to systems of inequity and racist structures,” per the RAC, but also two special events for community members — the aforementioned workshop and book talk.

The Social Justice Sewing Academy is presenting the cloth memorial, which has been created by volunteers nationwide “to help educate and inform communities about the human impact of systemic violence,” said the RAC.

The community can coalesce with others fighting for social justice and remember those lost to violence, while also learning about the academy’s work, through two related special events. A workshop on Saturday, Jan. 28 will blend craft, art and activism, while the founder of the academy, Sara Trail, will give a talk and book signing of her work Stitching Stolen Lives on Saturday, March 4. The events are free and available to community members of all ages. Learn more about The Remembrance Project at

The RAC is located at 2540 Barrett Ave. in Richmond. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; the exhibitions and events are free and open to the community.

Top image: The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right)

Gratitude and News

It Was a Rollercoaster End to 2022

  • We are so grateful to our community! Despite the devastating loss of three major donors last year, we’re happy to announce that we reached our End-of-Year Appeal fundraising goal and raised over $80,000. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
  • On December 23, Rigo 23’s statue of Leonard Peltier—that was previously exhibited at Richmond Art Center—was stolen from a U-haul in Oakland. Thanks to alert community members – extra special thanks to Darby (pictured above) – most of the statue was recovered a few days later

Onwards 2023!

Meet Teaching Artist Anna Kingsley

Meet Teaching Artist Anna Kingsley

Anna Kingsley is an artist from Oakland, California. Since 2011 she has owned and operated Brick Factory Designs, a letterpress studio and bindery, and has happily produced customs designs for even happier clients. We spoke with Anna about her work, as well as the classes and workshops she’ll be teaching at Richmond Art Center this winter.

Can you please introduce yourself to our community?

Hello! I’m Anna and I’ve been teaching adults and children for over fifteen years. I started as a teacher for students with intense learning and behavioral challenges and later moved into teaching art. During the school year I teach origami at five different schools in the East Bay. I also run a small letterpress and bindery and print custom posters, announcements, broadsides, and more. I have three young adult children. Our family is very queer / trans. 

What has your artistic journey been like?

Art is a meditative process for me. I have ADD and repetitive motions help me focus.

I have always been a dabbler and creator. As a child I drew, painted, made my own books, and built magical sculptures. As an adult I do the same but with more skill and experience. I studied Photography and US History for my BA. 

What projects are you currently working on?

At present I am gathering print samples to photograph. This year has been busy and I haven’t had a moment to document my projects. I am also slowly working on cataloging the pigments I produced last summer. Some via chemical reaction (laked pigment) and some purely soil and mineral based sampled from local trails.

What do you like about teaching?

To be honest, a huge flex of mine is being able to help three students out at the same time with three separate issues while five other kids are scrambling for my attention. I love almost everything about the act of teaching. The community: spending time together with a common goal. Teaching is humbling. In order to teach , you also must remember what it is like to be a student. Those moments where you reach a learner who continually refused to believe they could complete a complicated project. Keeping my brain in shape when I have to change tactics mid lesson for half the class because my original way was not working for them. Teaching has zero down time. You are always ‘on’, and while this exhausts me sometimes, I apparently enjoy the sprint.

From my understanding, you have taught at Richmond Art Center before. What is it about RAC that keeps you coming back?

I love the staff at the RAC. They haul a** to get things done. The studio spaces work nicely with my classes and the age diversity of the student population is great.

Can you tell us about your class offerings this winter quarter?

So, I’m teaching two multi-session classes and three one day workshops. All printing and book binding. The workshops are fast paced and go less in depth because more of the prep will be done for you beforehand. The bonus is that you get to take home a beautiful and functional book after just three hours.  My intro to books and printing is a much more leisurely paced program. Beyond the specifics of ‘what’ and ‘how’, we will also have a chance to discuss the ‘why’ of certain techniques. This is really important for artists because we all have our own ways of getting to the same solution. Having a deeper understanding of factors such as  paper grain, ink additives, and  thread tension will allow a student to make better choices in future projects. 

Is there anything else you would like to share? About your classes, yourself as a teacher, or as an artist?

Come take a class with me. I’m good at what I do and I love seeing the creative light turn on inside someone who has not had time to prioritize art in their lives. Also, I’ve been told I’m hella funny. 

Anna Kingsleys website is She is also on Instagram @brickfactorydesigns.

Anna’s Workshops:

Coptic Sewn Book

No Glue Watercolor Sketchbook

Mixed Media Sketchbook

Anna’s Classes:

Explorations with Relief Printing


Press Release: Announcing Winter Exhibitions at Richmond Art Center

January 5, 2022


Winter Exhibitions at Richmond Art Center

January 18 – March 18, 2023
Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Avenue, Richmond, CA 94804
Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm
Exhibitions and events are all free and open to the public

Richmond, CA: Richmond Art Center will present three new exhibitions this winter: Art of the African DiasporaConnected Always, and The Remembrance Project.

Art of the African Diaspora 2023
Main Gallery
Exhibition Dates: January 18 – March 18, 2023
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 21, 2pm-4pm

The longest running event of its kind in the Bay Area, Art of the African Diaspora, in partnership with Richmond Art Center, supports artists of African descent in the Bay Area through representation, professional development, and building a creative community.

In 2023 the exhibition at Richmond Art Center will showcase work by over 120 artists of African descent. Featured artists are Derrick BellCynthia Brannvall, and Pryce Jones.

Pick up a copy of the Art of the African Diaspora print catalog at Richmond Art Center for information about open studios and satellite exhibitions accompanying the main event at RAC. 

Exhibition Link:

Top image: Cynthia Brannvall, Fulfillment, 2021

Connected Always
South Gallery
Exhibition Dates: January 20 – March 11, 2023
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 21, 2pm-4pm
Ancestor Wheel Workshop / Artist Talk: Saturday, February 18, 12pm-2pm

Connected Always is an exhibition by Amanda Ayala, who presents a series of new works that explore the extensive generational connections we have with our ancestors. As part of her ongoing Ancestor Wheel project, Ayala’s work adopts circular patterns to visualize the magnitude of seven generations.  

Amanda Ayala is an interdisciplinary Xicana Indigenous visual artist and maker who centers people targeted by oppression and acknowledges their brilliance. Based in Santa Rosa, Amanda leads and facilitates workshops that combine artist liberation and social justice for people of all ages. Ayala will lead a workshop at Richmond Art Center on Saturday, February 18, 12pm-2pm. This workshop is free, open to all and no RSVP is necessary.

Exhibition Link:

Image: Amanda Ayala, Ancestor Wheel, 2020

The Remembrance Project
Community Gallery
Exhibition Dates: January 18 – March 18, 2023
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 21, 2pm-4pm
Remembrance Project Workshop: Saturday, January 28, 2pm-4pm
Book Talk With Sara Trail: Saturday, March 4, 1pm-2:30pm

The Social Justice Sewing Academy presents The Remembrance Project, a cloth memorial of activist art banners commemorating the many people who have lost their lives to systems of inequity and racist structures. These banners have been created collectively by volunteers across the country to help educate and inform communities about the human impact of systemic violence. 

Accompanying the exhibition are two special events for the community to express solidarity in the fight for social justice and remembrance of those lost to violence, as well as learn about the work of the Social Justice Sewing Academy. A hands-on workshop that merges craft, art and activism will be held on Saturday, January 28, 2pm-4pm. A talk and book signing with Sara Trail, founder of the Social Justice Sewing Academy and co-author of Stitching Stolen Lives, will be held on Saturday, March 4, 1pm-2:30pm. Both the workshop and talk are free, open all too ages, and no RSVP is necessary to attend. 

Exhibition link:

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.
For more information contact:
Amy Spencer,



Hyperallergic: Statue of Native Activist Mysteriously Lost (and Found) in Oakland


Artist Rigo 23’s sculpture of Leonard Peltier was eventually found with its arm missing and racist graffiti scrawled on a U-Haul truck in which it was being transported.

by Matt Stromberg

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Artist Rigo 23’s statue of incarcerated Native American activist Leonard Peltier has traveled across the county, stood watch alongside the water protectors at Standing Rock, and survived bomb threats. But it almost met its demise in the back of a U-Haul truck in Oakland last month.

The 12-foot-high statue was the centerpiece of Rigo 23’s 2021 exhibition Time and Again at the Richmond Art Center, whose curator, Roberto Martinez, volunteered to drive the artwork down from the Bay Area to the artist’s Burbank studio. He packed the disassembled redwood, metal, and clay sculpture into a U-Haul on Thursday, December 22, and parked it outside his home in East Oakland, with the intention of delivering it the next day.

“He wakes up and there’s nothing there,” Rigo 23 told Hyperallergic. “He calls and says, ‘I have news and it’s not good.’” Martinez began driving all over town frantically looking for the U-Haul, while police and even a private investigator aided in the search. Rigo has never put a price on the work, but estimates its worth at $100,000.

Tom Poor Bear standing on the feet of the Peltier statue in front of his trailer at Wounded Knee, winter of 2016 (photo courtesy Marc Hors)

Rigo 23 (born Ricardo Gouveia) made this sculpture in 2016, after an initial design made of clay, based on a self-portrait that Peltier made in prison in a pose reminiscent of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” In December 2016, the statue traveled to Washington, DC, where it was installed on the campus of American University. On its cross-country journey to DC, it stopped at Standing Rock, the Pine Ridge Reservation, Alcatraz, and other sites, where individuals stood on its momentous feet, acts of solidarity documented in photos. Soon after it was installed, however, the university received a bomb threat and a letter from FBI Agents Association requesting its removal, which the school acquiesced to.

Peltier is a Native American activist who was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences after being convicted of murdering two FBI agents in a 1975 shootout on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He has always maintained his innocence, and a movement for clemency has been ongoing for decades, with one of the original prosecutors in the case asking for clemency in 2017.

Angela Davis on the feet of the Peltier statue at her home in Oakland, 2018 (photo courtesy David Petrelli)

After the truck theft, a few days passed with no leads. “It’s a living monument. The feet are charged with the energy of 1000 people,” Rigo said. “I was particularly distraught that the feet would be destroyed.” The following Tuesday, a woman named Darby identified the truck based on the license plate she had seen in a news story about the theft, and the police eventually found the car abandoned on East 22nd Street by Lake Merritt. Racist graffiti, including the n-word, was scrawled on the truck, and the sculpture’s left arm was missing, but it was otherwise intact.

Despite the controversy the statue has elicited in the past, and the significance of Peltier’s legacy, Rigo doesn’t think it was a targeted attack — instead, he said, it was probably someone’s “last-ditch effort” to stave off the worsening scourge of poverty in the Bay Area.

“At first we didn’t know how to interpret this theft, but as the days passed, it became clearer that in all likelihood this was just another U-Haul truck theft in the Bay Area,” he told Hyperallergic. “One more episode of societal breakdown in an area where teachers can not afford to live near the schools nor the students they are supposed to nurture and teach.”

He added that when it was eventually found, the truck contained a baby stroller and shopping cart, “icons of urban homelessness in the USA.”

A few days later, Rigo received a message from an Instagram user who sent a photo of a dog standing on the sculpture’s missing arm outside an RV encampment. Martinez and a police officer went to the site, and, with a long pole with a loop on the end used to restrain dogs, hooked the arm and dragged it over a makeshift fence.

The Leonard Peltier statue, a bit worse for wear, is now safe in Rigo’s studio. He plans to send it to South Dakota at the end of February for a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Occupation of 1973.

Condition of the interior of the U-Haul truck when the sculpture was found (photo by Roberto Martinez)
Darby standing on the feet of the recovered Peltier statue, the morning after she ran after the U-Haul truck (photo by Roberto Martinez)

Top image: The Leonard Peltier Statue by Rigo 23 at the San Francisco Art Institute (2020) (photo by Alex Peterson)

Visit and Contact

Richmond Art Center
2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, CA 94804-1600


Gallery Hours: Wed-Sat 10am-4pm