The life of the late Rev. Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, founder of Four Seasons Arts, was celebrated recently as hundreds gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.
Board Chairwoman Kay Adams, speaking at last Sunday’s event, introduced Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who set the tone for the occasion.
“I welcome you here today to remember the wonderful, magnificent Rev. Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams…. He was an accomplished scholar, theologian, musician, civil rights activist and community leader,” said Lee.
“He was a man of incredible integrity and faith, and he firmly believed in the healing and restorative role that music played within the community,” she said.
Lee listed many of Williams’ accomplishments and talked about her personal relationship.
“I was still in college when Dr. Williams founded the National Black Church Arts program and asked me and a friend to coordinate same,” she said. “He knew I was struggling, raising two small kids on public assistance…trying to do what I had to do to get through school.
“He helped me tremendously. He counseled me; he mentored me, and he gave me the wherewithal to make it through college.”
Following Lee’s speech, Leon Bates, pianist, performed. After receiving a standing ovation, he closed with the encore “The Banjo” by Gottschalk.
Four Seasons Arts flew Bates into the Bay Area on Thursday, and on Friday morning had a Yamaha Grand Piano delivered to East Oakland Leadership Academy.
Bates played and spoke to 70 high school students about his career in classical music. He told them he started playing at age 6, practices 6 or 7 hours a day, and memorizes all his music.
“It is important to find something you love to do and to work at doing it,” he said.
On Friday afternoon, the Yamaha Grand was moved to Santa Rita County jail where Bates performed two concerts – one for 60 women and the second for 150 men.