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Dr. Nontsizi Cayou, 82

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Nontsizi Cayou, a force in the development of African diaspora culture in the Bay Area, has died at the age of 82.

Born Delores Kirton on May 19, 1937, in New Orleans La., she moved with her family to Oakland, Ca.

She had an almost insatiable appetite for education, obtaining Bachelor’s and Masters’ degrees in Spanish and Dance in the early 1960s. By 1963, she was teaching jazz dance at her alma mater, San Francisco State University and began to pursue an interest in African-derived dance and culture.

A dance student of the late Ruth Beckford, she performed professionally in many dance theaters, musical revues and dance ensembles throughout the United States, eventually founding her own ensemble of dancers, poets and musicians in 1969, which she called Wajumbe.

A Kiswahili word that means ‘people with a message,’ the group Wajumbe was anchored in Cayou’s Project ACE,  an Academic and Cultural Enrichment program for under-served children in San Francisco.

As Cayou mastered more dance forms—Haitian, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Jazz, she taught master classes throughout California, and Wajumbe came to represent the vanguard of the Black Arts Movement on the West Coast.

Unabashed in openly seeking, embracing and claiming her African heritage, Cayou led Wajumbe in appearing in the 2nd annual World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1977.

Four years later, she took a 21-person group on a five-state tour of Nigeria, culminating in a performance before the foremost king of the Yoruba people, the Ooni of  Ile Ife.

Cayou was renowned for instituting an annual celebration of the Kwanzaa principle, Nia (purpose), at the San Francisco Center for African and African American Art and Culture that emphasized presentations by youth and children.

In the same manner, she hosted or presented Black History Month celebrations and programs at SFAAAC or at Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, bringing in international acts like the ONE steel drum band from Trinidad/Tobago; ‘Flash in the Sun’ from  the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and jazz sessions by saxophonists John Handy and David Hardiman.

In 1986, Cayou hosted a 45-member ensemble from Nigeria as part of a cultural exchange program with the production of ORI at the Herbst Theater, opening doors between African and the U.S. in unique ways.

In the early 1990s, she brought the World Dance Festival to San Francisco and it was held at SFSU and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Her unflagging interest and dedication to African spirituality was evident in organizing the 5th World Congress of Orisha Tradition and Culture in San Francisco in 1997. Practitioners from the motherland, Brazil, Cuba, Puerto Rico and all over the United States attended the 10-day conference.

Cayou was also known for her sense of social justice and was instrumental in helping SFSU maintain its standing as a center for ethnic and cultural studies.

After retiring from her position as chair of the Dance Department at SFSU, she continued her quest to raise consciousness over all things African through the African American Institute and the African Trade Center.

She was an avid devotee of African spirituality and was initiated  into the mysteries of Obatala in Osogbo, Nigeria, in 1977. Cayou was known for organizing initiations and ceremonies in the Bay Area and even as her health declined, she went to events resplendent in white clothing, covering every visible area of her black wheelchair with white cloth or paint. She passed away on Oct. 3, 2019.

She was so beloved by Baba Ifayemi Elebulban, that he traveled from Nigeria to attend her final services.

A solemn celebration of life will be on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Seventh Avenue Missionary Baptist Church at 1740 Seventh Ave., in Oakland. Interment will follow at Rolling Hills Cemetery in Richmond and mourners will return to the church for a repast.

An Orisha Cultural Tribute will take place at the Greenlining Institute, 360 14th St., from 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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Art

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.

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The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right). Images courtesy of the Richmond Art Center.
The Remembrance Project (left). Caption 2: Amanda Ayala Ancestor Wheel 2020 (center). Fulfillment by Cynthia Brannvall, 2021 (right). Images courtesy of the Richmond Art Center.

 

By Kathy Chouteau | Richmond Standard

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 https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/art-of-the-african-diaspora-2023

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: https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/connected-always/.

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 https://richmondartcenter.org/exhibitions/the-remembrance-project

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.

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Activism

What Took So Long? Statue of Henrietta Lacks Will Replace Robert E. Lee Monument

In a video of a December 19 press conference posted on the city’s Facebook page, it was announced that a statue honoring Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled in fall of 2023 in the very place that once held a monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The new statue’s permanent home, which was once named Lee Plaza, was renamed Lacks Plaza in Henrietta’s honor.

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Henrietta Lacks / City of Roanoke Facebook page.
Henrietta Lacks / City of Roanoke Facebook page.

The Black woman whose cells have helped advance medical research will be honored in her hometown

By Angela Johnson

The city of Roanoke, Va., is honoring a Black woman who made tremendous contributions to modern medical research without her knowledge or consent.

In a video of a December 19 press conference posted on the city’s Facebook page, it was announced that a statue honoring Henrietta Lacks will be unveiled in fall of 2023 in the very place that once held a monument dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

The new statue’s permanent home, which was once named Lee Plaza, was renamed Lacks Plaza in Henrietta’s honor.

Civil Rights attorney Ben Crump, who was on hand for the press conference, said the new Lacks statue is a step toward healing some of the racial divisions of the past. “In the past, we commemorated a lot of men with statues that divided us,” he said. “Here in Roanoke, Va., we will have a statue of a Black woman who brings us all together.”

Fundraisers collected over $160,000 for the project. Roanoke artist Bryce Cobbs created the sketch for the 400-pound bronze sculpture based on two photographs.

And Larry Bechtel, a Blacksburg, Virginia, artist, will sculpt the statue of Lacks who was a Roanoke native.

“I really wanted to have a distinguished, powerful pose. And I wanted her looking up. I always remember, like, looking up as being something like a feeling of proudness and of having that confidence in yourself and the strength in who you are,” Cobbs told NPR.

Henrietta Lacks was undergoing treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951 when doctors sent portions of her cancerous tissue to another laboratory without her consent. Lacks passed away in October of that year at age 31.

Researchers used her tissue to harvest a line of living cells known as HeLa cells that are still used in medical research today.

According to Johns Hopkins, the HeLa cells have contributed to several major medical developments over the past several decades, such as the development of polio and COVID-19 vaccines and the study of leukemia and AIDS.

Johns Hopkins says they have never sold or profited from the HeLa cells and have shared them freely for other scientific research.

That is little consolation to the Lacks’ family, who is still seeking justice on Henrietta’s behalf.

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