‘Impossible Dream’ documentary film pays tribute to Tom Bradley

Screenshot from "Impossible Dream"

Screenshot from “Impossible Dream” | www.mayortombradley.com

The California African American Museum premiered a documentary film yesterday on Tom Bradley, the first African American mayor of Los Angeles.  The 46-minute film titled “Tom Bradley: Impossible Dream” will be distributed to Los Angeles Unified School District high schools as a way for 11th and 12th graders to commemorate Black History Month.

Click play on a story from Annenberg Radio News to hear comments on Bradley’s legacy from South L.A. councilman Bernard Parks and others.

Watch an excerpt from the film on Vimeo.

StoryCorps records South LA’s diverse stories

StoryCorps kicked off its national mobile tour on Oct. 23 with mariachis, celebrities, and public officials at South L.A.’s California African American Museum. From now until Nov. 16, the StoryCorps mobile booth will be set up in front of the museum waiting to record and share the many stories upon which the vitality of South L.A. is built.

Actors Cheech Marin & Art Evans were in attendance

Actors Cheech Marin & Art Evans were in attendance

StoryCorps is no stranger to South L.A. This is its seventh year visiting greater Los Angeles, and its third time at the California African American Museum. It is also partnering with Pasadena-based radio station KPCC to broadcast some of the stories collected.

“We really love the partnership with CAAM and also KPCC,” Mobile Tour Manager Dina Zempsky said. “These organizations embrace our mission to retain diverse stories. We are back over and over again.” [Read more…]

Coliseum deal could go forward today

The California Science Center Board of Directors could vote at its meeting June 5 to approve the latest terms of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum lease agreement with USC.

If approved by the Board, the agreement would give USC full managing rights at the state historical landmark and guarantee the university 70 percent of the parking spaces in the Science Center’s deck on 25 event days per year (33 if the NFL uses the stadium temporarily). It would also extend USC’s lease from 2054, the expiration date agreed upon in a December 2012 plan, to 2111 — a 98-year deal.

But opponents of the deal spoke out at public forums this week, saying that the loss of parking would take both revenue and visitors away from the California African American Museum , the California Science Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. [Read more…]

Angela Davis speaks to a full house at Urban Issues Breakfast Forum

Line outside the California African American Museum

Line outside the California African American Museum

Standing in line, some speculated that Friday April 19 attracted the largest Urban Issues Breakfast Forum crowd they had ever seen. Three lines wrapped around the California African American Museum: one for VIPs, another for reservations, and a last line filled with hopefuls crossing their fingers for the chance to hear Angela Davis speak.

“We want an end to all wars of oppression,” Davis said to a cheering crowd. “We want freedom for all black and oppressed people now held in U.S. federal and state prison and jails.”

Davis, prominent black scholar, activist and feminist, referred to the prison-industrial complex, the idea that the prison system thrives due to its profitability. This was the topic of her talk as well as a central theme in her newest book, “The Meaning of Freedom and Other Difficult Dialogues.” [Read more…]

New exhibit opens at California African American Museum

“Places of Validation, Art and Progression” opened at the California African American Museum last Thursday as part of Pacific Standard Time , the museum-wide collaboration highlighting the birth of the Los Angeles art scene. The exhibit displays art by African-American artists in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the 1980s.

A video of interviews with the artists plays at the entrance of the gallery and sets the tone for the exhibit.

“It’s our art. It’s not anybody else’s art,” says painter Samella Lewis. “We have to validate ourselves if it’s going to be authentic. White folks tend to only validate in terms of their vision.”

The artists in “Places of Validation” define and express themselves in a myriad of eclectic styles and media. Over 65 artworks are displayed, including bronze sculptures, portraits, conceptual art, assemblages and abstract paintings. Even posters, opening invitations, photographs and letters have a place in this revealing portrayal of the Los Angeles art scene among this small but prolific community.

imageSome of the most compelling pieces were by David Hammons, a multimedia artist that went on to win the MacArthur Fellowship (also known as the “Genius Grant”) in 1991.

His featured art is from the 1940s to the 1970s and is characterized by black pigment body prints, reminiscent of Yves Klein’s blue body paintings. But Hammons’ choice of two-dimensional surfaces communicates a provocative message about race and opportunity, or lack thereof. In “The Door (Admissions Office),” the black imprint of a face, hands and torso pressed up against the glass references the lack of access to higher education in the black community. A smaller, more abstract body print lays on top of a page of job classifieds in “Chronically Unemployed,” conveying a similar message of inequality.

Another artist that stands out is Betye Saar, an artist known for her assemblages, three-dimensional artworks using found objects. “Nine Mojo Secrets” has a mystical quality with symbols from different sources and cultures – a star of David, a lion for the zodiac sign Leo and a National Geographic photograph of an African ceremony. The layers of this engaging work will conjure up different associations and stories for each viewer.

“Places of Validation” undertook the difficult task of representing African-American artists in Los Angeles from 1940 to 1980. The breadth and variety of works shown illustrate that there is no stereotypical black artist. The eclectic nature of the exhibit can be hard to sift through, and the design doesn’t necessarily group works into easily identifiable themes. But I suggest finding the works that speak to you, then stepping back to look at the whole of the exhibit. “Places of Validation” in its entirety provides a greater understanding of the history, progression and significance of African-American artists.