bay area history Tag

Kindred Journey 40 – Asia


As a teen obsessed with graffiti I dragged my parents to go snap pics of pieces and throw ups. Asia is one of the artists I’d see. She inspired me not only to be proud but to be stylish. 20 years later I spoke with her thx to DJ Willie Maze.
Born in Japan in the early 70s, she grew up in San Francisco and started writing in 1991. One of her early influences was a young woman who wrote like NME who gave her the name “Asia”. Later it was King 157, Spie, Giant, and a guy named “Orfn” who was up everywhere in the 90s who inspired her. Crew wise, she was down with VC which included Muet and Duer. She’s still down with TDK (Teach Dem Knowledge) and had a crew of sisters called HMP- “Her Mighty Presence”. 
Asia was most active in the Bay between 91-95 before moving to NYC in the late 90s. Although she bombed out there she told me New York was on a whole other level. When I asked her about some of her proudest moments she quickly mentioned the “Tax Dollars Kill” production TDK did with every damn body in the crew. It was in magazines and it got a lot of attention! She also mentioned a mission her and Muet went on to bomb a tank!! A Tank! 
When asked about advice for young women getting into Graff/art she said “It’s hard to do, but be free of judgement by others. Don’t be concerned about how they see your work. As long as you enjoy it, that’s what matters. Do it for yourself, your soul”.
Although she doesn’t write anymore, she still makes art for herself.  She said she was motivated to piece  by TDK, but she really loved was to hop buses and go bomb! She didn’t document most of her stuff and wasn’t thinking of legacy, but she really loved it and had so much fun doing it. If you’re reading this and remember “Asia” PLEASE share a word or photo for her to see! Respect to OG Asia!
Sources: Interview w/ Asia
The last asrtist I painted is Hung Liu! And check out this drawing of Lady Pink

Black is Beautiful (2018) 13 – Greg Liggins

Greg Liggins is a BMX Rider from Hayward California. He came to prominence in the mid 80s for his speed and abilities on the track. He was so fast that he was called “lightning”. He won hundreds of  trophies in his teens and early twenties. He would go on to break a record as the first rider to win four ABA (American Bicycle Association) races. He would ride for large bike companies such as Hutch and Jag. But, in the 80s his team for Hutch was invited to ride in South Africa. Although he was excited to travel he declined in protest once he found out about the apartheid and how Black folks were being treated. For this act of protest, much like Kapernick, he was let go and black balled from racing and his team. But, he stood by his principles and later went on to be a newscaster for KTVU. If you have any connections to Greg, please show him this piece.

As a kid who loved to ride my BMX bike, my GT, I was really excited to learn about Greg!

You can purchase a print for $20 (includes shipping) , email at 

Sources: Home Turf, BMX Life, 38th Notes, and Super Kids

Black is beautiful (2017) 10- Betty Reid Soskin

Betty is 95 years young! She has a quiet grace and strength about her, multiple lives lived, a progressive grasp of world events, and a beautiful singing voice. She was born in 1921 in Detroit and spent her early years in Louisiana. Her family moved to Oakland California after a huge flood of New Orleans in 1927. After coming to California she found that most Black women had only a few options for work. In her talks she makes a point to mention getting a job doing clerical work was a step up in those times. In the 40s her and her first husband Mel Reid owned a Gospel record label in Berkeley, California. She later on remarried to William Soskin, had several children, and outlived two husbands. She lived as a house wife in Walnut Creek, wrote songs, participated in civil rights work, and at the age of 85 starting working as a park ranger. She is the oldest working park ranger today. She has spoken at events about her life and history all across the US, and has been  awarded the ACLU, California state legislature, and by former president Barack Obama. One of the most instrumental things she did as a park ranger was consult during the creation of a urban national park. She explains that because finding decent paying work was so difficult for Black families then and in many cases now; that people of color often did not have the leisure time or disposable income to access the larger state parks (and there are many) so they decided to bring them to inner cities like Richmond. I took my son and his mother to the Rosie The Riveter museum in Richmond where Betty works. Betty gave the planners some context as to which areas in Richmond that would be included in the park were sites of racial segregation and struggle for African Americans, a detail she remembers by saying “What gets remembered is determined by who is in the room doing the remembering. There was no grand conspiracy to leave my history out. There simply was nobody in that room who had any reason to know that”. If you get the chance, listen to her speak or read her blog.

You can purchase this $40 (includes shipping) Sidenote: recently, she was attacked/robbed in her home (she’s ok). For folks interested in buying this, I will donate a portion of this to her to help replace some of what was stolen from her home. Email me at

sources: National Park Service, Wikipedia,

Who is She? 23- The Women’s Building (SF)

Founded in 1971, the San Francisco “Women’s Building” became the first building of its kind to be owned and operated by women in the country. It started as a way to help facilitate the projects of both artists and activists in the SF Bay Area. It was founded on the idea that all women no matter where they came from should be respected and have a safe place to take care of themselves. Inside services range from childcare, wellness classes, help with taxes, tutoring, help with immigration papers, and now computer classes, and help with tech.  I have walked past this building so many times, and been invited there to participate in social justice workshops or performances. It is a beacon for women to find assistance with social issues, social justice, advocacy on their behalf, and connecting with the many facets of their community in the Bay Area. Organizations like SFWAR (SF Women Against Rape) and Mission Neighborhood Centers have functioned and/or grown out of its belly. I’m sure there are a lot of men and maybe even women who would wonder why such a place is needed. But once you see the care, warmth, and toughness of its staff and vibe you’ll see how it helps. Conversely if you are a woman and seek help through the typical city or state run programs it can feel a lot more sterile, institutional, and uninviting.

In 1984 one of my mentor’s muralist Juana Alicia, along with Miranda Bergman, Susan Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton, Edythe Boone, and Irene Perez painted an enormous mural all over the two main sides of the building facing 18th and Lapidge st highlighting beautiful images of women from all over the world. in 2012 it was restored and still stands today. The Women’s Building is part of what is San Francisco, and part of what makes the Bay Area my home.

Sources: The Women’s Building (site)

Dig this? Check out this illustration about a historic Black club for house music called The Warehouse