29 days are not enough Tag

Black is Beautiful 23-Soul Beat TV (Oakland)

I used to watch SoulBeat for the music videos and occasionally the talk shows they’d host as a teen. You could turn it on in the middle of the night and find a gospel show, a prayer, or crazy commercial for a local business. It wasn’t the most polished filming or broadcasting but it gave a lot of people from around the way a chance to say something and was one of the first to play Bay Area hip hop artists videos like Souls of Mischief, E40, RBL Posse, or Digital Underground. It was cable access television. I went by the old building today (73rd ave) and actually couldn’t remember which door was theirs, only the red building with the big yellow and black sign (which is no longer there) so I asked a local church member and a postman walking his beat who knew as soon as i asked. Whether it was a show by Chauncy Bailey, brother Billy Jones, the local pastor, rap and soul videos from the immense talent of the Bay Area’s hip hop scene, the Black muslim community, or just a small business it was loved and valued in the community. SoulBeat started in 1978 and ran until 2003. Chuck Johnson from Tulsa, who started as a radio DJ, started the station and kept it “100% Black owned”. The station had to shut down shortly before Mr. Johnson passed away because of financial difficulties and the fact that it is expensive to run a media business without corporate funding, just ask kpfa who does fund drives through out the year. But, to watch Soul Beat was to see Black TV like I had never seen before and it should be counted in Black History and Bay Area history. How important is it to own and distribute your own content that no one can direct or question?

Black is Beautiful 21-KDIA radio station (Oakland)

Every weekend almost as a kid I would go to San Francisco from the East Bay to visit my grandparents in the city. We would cross the old Bay Bridge and on the way we’d pass this radio station on the right of the freeway. I didn’t know it at the time, but it is one of the first stations to play black music in the Bay Area alongside KSOL and KPOO. “Kdia Lucky 13”, was founded in 1959 and covered Alameda, Contra Costa, SF, Solano, Sonoma, Santa Clara, and reached almost out to Stockton. You would hear songs like “the midnight hour” by Ray Charles, “tell it like it is” by Aaron Neville, or Bay Area musicians like “Confunkshun” and “Marvin Holmes and The Uptights”.  I consider it part of this months history because for over 30 years this radio station not only played Black Music but hired Black DJs and was awarded for some of their reporting and/or segments. There were DJs there like Roland Porter, Belva Davis, John Hardy, Jay Sweet, Diane Blackmon, and later would be owned by Adam Clayton Powell, journalist Chauncy Bailey, Elihu Harris, and Willy Brown. I was reminded of KDIA by the African American library on 14th st. in Oakland recently. Why is media black owned or directed media important? You tell me! Shout out to Hard Knock Radio and Block Report Radio.

Carmen Amelia Robles-Black is Beautiful 20

Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles was an Afro-Mexican soldier in the Mexican Revolution 1910-1920. I could find very little on Colonel Robles except that she dressed like a man of the times and assumed a more masculine stature fighting alongside men as did many women during this time. The first place i saw information and a photo of her was through the Lati-Negros blog. This led me to other blogs such as “Beyond Black and White”and “Numero F”. They put her birth at 1889 en Xochipala, Guerrero. She was a part of Emiliano Zapata’s army and participated in many battles such as La Batalla de la hacienda de pozuelos.

Elizabeth Catlett- Black is Beautiful 19

This is the 2nd time I’ve drawn Elizabeth Catlett after seeing her amazing show at MOAD in San Francisco last year. Ms Catlett was born in 1915 in Washington DC and died in 2012 in Mexico. Her style of sculpture and printmaking were incredible. They had a color and style all their own. She studied at the “Taller de Gráfica Popular ” for many years and before going to Mexico studied with Lois Mailou Jones and many others at Howard University. Elizabeth was into depicting beautiful images of both Black and Brown people. She became politicized while living in Mexico and was working as a teacher, artist, and as an activist. So much so that she was barred from entering the US for many years. 

Here’s one of artist Wilhelmina Godfrey

Jim Simon-Black is Beautiful 18

Jim Simon is an artist and animator. He is the first African American to found his own studio called Wantu Animation. He worked on films/shows such as Fat Albert, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Smurf’s, X-Men, Vegetable Soup, Sesame Street, The California Raisins, Peter Pan, Sonic the Hedgehog, and he animated the opening credits to “Soul Train”! He was featured as an up and coming business man in Black Enterprise in 1977. Wantu was making nearly 100 short animations in the late 70’s for which, they received over 25 awards. Despite the awards in the early days, Simon had to go to work for the bigger companies to survive.  He had to put his studio Wantu (which would focus on content featuring African American stories) on hold, probably drained financially and emotionally from projects or studios that were not interested in Black characters. Simon left animation, went homeless for many years and stopped making art all together. It wasn’t until the last ten years that he returned to making art, and is now living in San Diego. I salute him because he was a pioneer in the art form. Today I see brothers like LeSean Thomas, Carl Jones, and Everett Downing out there today trying to extend the path. Shout out to “African American Animators Past & Present” who got me hip to Jim and so many other folks.
Dig this? Check out Brenda Banks and Floyd Norman

Lois Mailou Jones-Black is Beautiful 17

I’ve been a fan of Ms Jones’ work ever since I took a Black Art and History class in college. It was the first time I became aware of Black folks as painters, sculptors; not just musicians and/or dancers. Lois was born in 1905 and was encouraged as a child to be creative. She started to paint in her early years and attended an arts college. She was active as an artist from the time of the Harlem Renaissance up until her mid 70’s. Her work was exhibited internationally and is still in collections across the US. She was an arts professor at Howard University for over 40 years and she was given many awards. But really, it is her style of both painterly and graphic African iconography that caught my eye. Please check out her work.
In case you missed it, here’s one of Elizabeth Catlett

Floyd Norman – Black is Beautiful 15

Floyd Norman is an animator, storyboard, layout, and concept artist. He was born in in 1935 and grew up in Santa Barbara California. He came to have a career in animation nearly 60 years ago when he started as the first African American to work for Walt Disney. While there he worked on films like The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, One Hundred and One Dalmations, and many more. He would later go on to work for Hannah Barbara, Ruby-Spears, Film-Roman (a Latinx owned studio), and Pixar. Most recently he worked on Monsters University, Mulan, The Hunchback of Norte Dame, and Toy Story 2. He has been recognized through many awards, invited to lecture and speak at countless schools. He has also published a book called “Animated Life”, and is the focus of a new documentary about his life. I found out about Floyd through the African Americans in Animation past & present facebook page.

Dondi White – Black is Beautiful 14

Dondi White, born in 1961 hailed from Brooklyn, New York City-the planet as they used to call it. Dondi was one of many early pioneers in the beginnings of Graffiti writing on trains in New York City. He started writing in the early 70’s and had many aliases such as Noc, Slave, or Mickey. He founded the crew CIA-Crazy Insides Artists. It was in the late 70s that his work was being photographed by the likes of Martha Cooper, who shot his iconic “Children of the grave” car in the book Subway Art. Dondi painted complex, simple, wild, so many styles. I guess thats why they named him “Style-Master General”. His work like that of Skeme stood out to me because of the style and colors. He should be counted among the greats in African American and U.S. Art history and he is missed. For further reading, check out Zephyr’s obituary in Art crimes.

Roc Raida-Black is Beautiful 12

I met Grandmaster Roc Raida while living in Brooklyn. I got to meet some inspiring folks who I’d been following for years. So many I didn’t get to meet. I contacted Raida and volunteered to do some artwork for his new Dj Battle called “Gong”. We spoke over the phone, I showed him what I was working on which he dug, I brought it to the Knitting Factory in Manhattan and got a front row seat to draw the djs while they competed. It was an amazing battle and I was proud that a Bay Area veteran “DJ Mistah B” was in the house representing. Roc, is one of the pioneering members of the legendary X-Men/ X-ecutioners DJ crew. They represent a long line of brothers in NYC rippin shit on the turntables whether they were scratching, making mixtapes, on the radio, or party rocking. Roc and his crew did all of that. Roc Raida was an incredibly skilled Dj who won the 1995 World DMC championship after placing or winning so many other battles. Those folks who were into DJ culture knew of the Invisible Skratch Piklz(SF) vs The X-Men (NYC), and knew of Raida’s rep for battling. On stage he was all business, serious as fuck. But in person he was all smiles, very kind and welcoming. Roc put out countless LPs on his own and with the crew. He DJ’d for MF Grimm and Immortal Technique I believe. He was the judge for countless battles, and he also produced tracks for many hip hop legends. He not only gave do respect to his elders, but he was putting in work for the next generation of battle djs. Known for his body tricks, I wanted to show him in one of his infamous behind the back crossfader moves. His presence is greatly missed and I hope to see more about his life’s story. Respect to the X-ecutioners and the DJs that have paid tribute to him! RIP Roc Raida (1972-2009)

Janet Bragg- Black is Beautiful 8

I first read a blurb about Janet in a book called “Black Wings” by Born in Georgia in 1907, Janet Bragg was a pilot who was the first African American woman to get her aviation license in the U.S. After taking flying courses at several white schools which denied her a license because of her race . Determined, she worked hard and attended an aviation school for black folks, but found she would be discriminated there because she was a woman. Un-phased, she donated her own money to buy the school’s first airplane, helped the school build a proper runway, and got her private pilot’s license. After trying to get her license again at other school’s she finally received her aviation license in 1943.
She was a Spelman alumni and I was struck by her story and that of so many Black women who flew planes and continue to fly today. She gave a very short interview for the Smithsonian in the early 90s.