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Arts and Culture

Heaven Meets Earth in David Bruce Graves Work Showing at the Joyce Gordon Gallery

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David Bruce Graves’ work gives the viewer a lot of room to think.

“Heaven and Earth,” the title piece in the window of the Joyce Gordon Gallery in downtown Oakland features a Black woman’s face. Her eyes are closed, her countenance serene, lights shine in her hair. Her bare shoulders glimmer beneath what appears to be a watery surface.

Is a Black woman the link between heaven and earth? Are heaven and earth a Black woman’s dream? Is this what it looks like to exist between the two?

Now in his mid-60s, Graves has traversed a career that includes commercial and fine art with an imagination and skill in multi-media that seems to know no bounds.

Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., yet raised in Oakland, Graves has been drawing and making art all of his life. His career began in the commercial art field when he graduated from the Academy of Art at the University of San Francisco before heading for New York City, where he lived and worked for many years, returning to the Bay Area in 2012.

Graves credits his success to his relationship with his dear “Aunt Ann Tanksley who was and is a fabulous artist and her husband, John, [who] was one of the best photo re-touchers in New York City,” Graves said. “When my family would visit their home in New York as a child, I was enchanted by their world and how they were so successful at it. Aunt Ann inspired and mentored me as she still does.”

Once he moved to New York, John Tanksley mentored him. “The many hours I spent looking over his shoulder as he retouched and manipulated photos for major advertising agencies had a big influence and closely relates to the technique I’m currently working in.”

Graves is shy about talking about his work, but visual art is the kind of medium where silence is often justified. In Graves work, the viewer wants to just live in the painting, and project what a subject might be thinking.

One example is “The Griot’s Wife,” where we see a man with a bag and his musical instrument, the kora, preparing for a storytelling journey. His wife walks with him, yet her eyes speak volumes as she appears to contemplate her husband’s impending departure.

Graves uses a mixture of digital and traditional techniques and his compositions allow histories or multiple narratives to exist simultaneously. The works are not stagnant, but invite us into the medium to share our perspectives.  We are in the now and then, joined at the horizon or along the edges where, as in African mythology, two calabashes meet, Damballah or the sacred snake holding the two hemispheres of the universe together.

Each of the 31 pieces deserves its own audience. Besides the art in the window, “Heaven and Earth,” there is “Bush,” featuring a woman with an Angela Davis-size Afro hairstyle crossed with Eve and Adam’s abode … or maybe it’s the countryside just outside of Accra – a place untamed, natural, pure. This “bush” is a world atop a woman’s head. Butterflies and hummingbirds like her energy, too – symbolic images that populate many of Graves’ landscapes.

Like an artistic DNA, the motifs allow the viewer to trace artistic creations through the large gallery from wall to window, across multiple canvases.

There are images of warriors standing unafraid with wild animals as others show subjects dissolving, turning swiftly, spinning into funnels. One painting of liberated women stepping from the plantation into commerce and prosperity indicates Graves’ fascination with the period after slavery when Africans could join this American society as participants economically and politically.

So, we see these women dressed for success challenging prejudicial and racist ideas of worthiness or equality.

In fact, the majority of the subjects are Black women with emancipated, take-charge personas, free from white pathology. It is no wonder his work flies from the walls wherever he exhibits.

David Bruce Graves “Heaven and Earth” exhibit at Joyce Gordon Gallery through Jan. 31, 2020, 414 14th St., Oakland, CA, 94612.

Activism

Amos C. Brown Fellowship to Ghana Begins

The students come from colleges and universities throughout the United States. Leaders from the NAACP and the Church of Jesus Christ are traveling with the students. NAACP leaders include President Derrick Johnson and the fellowship’s namesake, the renowned civil rights leader and NAACP board member the Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco. From the Church of Latter Day Saints are Elders Jack N. Gerard and Matthew S. Holland of the Seventy, along with their wives, as well as the Africa West Area Presidency.

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Students with the Amos C. Brown Fellowship to Ghana visit the Jubilee House in Accra on Aug. 2, 2022.
Students with the Amos C. Brown Fellowship to Ghana visit the Jubilee House in Accra on Aug. 2, 2022.

This trip is a collaboration between the NAACP and the Mormon Church

Forty-three students are in Ghana for 10 days to experience Ghanaian culture, learn about their ancestral heritage and become ambassadors of racial harmony.

This group — part of the first Amos C. Brown Fellowship to Ghana — is the fruit of a collaboration between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In June 2021, Church President Russell M. Nelson pledged $250,000 for this fellowship. This and other initiatives the two organizations are engaged in, President Nelson said, “represent an ongoing desire of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to teach and live the two great commandments — to love God and neighbor.”

The students come from colleges and universities throughout the United States. Leaders from the NAACP and the Church of Jesus Christ are traveling with the students. NAACP leaders include President Derrick Johnson and the fellowship’s namesake, the renowned civil rights leader and NAACP board member the Rev. Dr. Amos C. Brown of Third Baptist Church of San Francisco. From the Church of Latter Day Saints are Elders Jack N. Gerard and Matthew S. Holland of the Seventy, along with their wives, as well as the Africa West Area Presidency.

“Welcome to Ghana. We’re so grateful that you are here,” said the Church’s new Africa West Area President Elder S. Gifford Nielsen on Monday night during a welcome dinner. “I was listening very closely to the opening prayer. And there was a plea for light. And the way that you find light is to connect hearts. And so, in the next 10 days, to all of our fellowship students, and to our leaders and anybody else who has any part of this, as we connect hearts, get out of our comfort zone just a little bit, we’re going to have an even more amazing experience.”

The Rev. Dr. Brown said, “Words fall far too short for me to define and convey to you the significance of what we are doing.” He added that “this momentous occasion is not about one man. This embodies what a dream team has brought to pass.”

In interviews after the dinner, several students talked about why they wanted to go on this trip.

“[I thought this fellowship] would be a great opportunity for me to get out of my comfort zone, to see outside the American lens, to see what it would be like to not be a minority for once,” said Lauren George, a student at San Francisco University. “I thought that would be a life-changing experience that is necessary for me, because in my field of work, I want to be able to be as innovative as possible.”

Carter Martindale of Utah said, “the purpose of the fellowship, of talking about how we can better address racial divides, how we can better love our neighbor as we love ourselves, is really important just in general in America.”

This report is from the newsroom of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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Activism

Oakland City Council Approves Funding for African American Healing Hubs

The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, said Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”

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Dr. Wade Nobles says the healing hubs proposed by Oakland Front Line Healers will be a first in addressing specific traumas African Americans experience daily living in a racist environment.
Dr. Wade Nobles says the healing hubs proposed by Oakland Front Line Healers will be a first in addressing specific traumas African Americans experience daily living in a racist environment.

By Tanya Dennis

Last week, the Oakland City Council approved $250,000 to assist the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists (EBABP) and Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) open two emergency mental health centers, one at True Vine Ministries and BOSS in East Oakland.

Oakland Frontline Healers, a collaborative of Black-led non-profits and medical doctors that joined together in April of 2020, to combat COVID-19 in the African American community by providing free PPE, testing, vaccines and support services.

Last October the collaborative, after assessing their successful frontline status in serving the African American community determined they must address other critical issues. They decided to address Black mental health.

Reaching out to the East Bay Association of Black Psychologists, Oakland Frontline Healers discovered that providing mental health services specifically to Black folks would be more detailed then simply securing a space and providing services.

Dr. Wade Nobles, a co-founder of the Black Psychologists Association, revealed that the European model had done a disservice to the African American community. In October 2021, the American Psychologists Association offered a public apology to the African American community with a commitment to “shed racist and colonial roots to embody the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion to become an actively antiracist discipline.”

With that knowledge, both EBABP and OFH committed to creating an African-centered mental wellness model.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has glaringly illuminated the disparities in America that compromises Black health daily,” Nobles said. “Unfortunately, incarceration or worse is presented as the only recourse as resources addressing Black trauma is extremely limited and for many non-existent.

The economic, physical, and spiritual damage, coupled with the pandemic crisis, must be met with healing and love, he continued. “Black people must save ourselves, for no one is coming to our rescue. Therefore, we are working towards constructing an African American Healing Hub that embraces African-centric mental wellness modalities utilizing a holistic approach.”

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spearheaded the City Council to approve $250,000 of City funds towards the training of “culturally congruent” behavioral specialists and frontline workers to support mental wellness in the African American community.

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan spearheaded the City Council to approve $250,000 of City funds towards the training of “culturally congruent” behavioral specialists and frontline workers to support mental wellness in the African American community.

Vice-Mayor Rebecca Kaplan agreed after attending the group’s town halls and submitted a proposal to award $250,000 to the project for culturally congruent training for behavioral specialists and frontline providers.

“The City Council’s vote of confidence and support is amazing! Their vote aligns with the African-centric tenet that it takes an entire community to ensure the wellness of the village,” said OFH facilitator Tanya Dennis.

The Association of Black Psychologists and Oakland Frontline Healers are currently working with Alameda County on the healing hubs and a healing center that has been in planning since 2015.

Dr. Lawford Goddard, an EBABP representative says, “We are committed to wellness, and treating the whole person and the whole community. Our project with the County, once complete, will also serve as a representative of our culture.”

They envision a space for meetings, conferences and banquets, a place where self-care like yoga, Reiki, urban gardening, massage, dance, drumming, healing circles and fun activities that promote wellness are offered.

“Unfortunately, our project with the County is three years or more in the future and we cannot wait,” Goddard said. “We must help our people now, by working with Oakland Frontline Healers and their emergency healing hubs enabling us to provide services within months.”

The County has committed $19 million toward the purchase of a site to establish a larger complex that will embody African American wellness as envisioned by EBASP.

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Arts and Culture

Isaiah Saucer’s Achievements Prove Something Good Can Come out of Richmond

Throughout his life he has been good in sports, particularly baseball and basketball. At age 6, he started playing baseball in the San Pablo Baseball League and at the age of 9 went on to the El Cerrito Baseball League and was on the All-Star Team from ‘Mustang’ to ‘Pony’ level.

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Isaiah Saucer, in cap and gown, is flanked by his father Marvin Saucer, left, and his mother, Altrinice Grant Saucer, right. Photo by Joe L. Fisher.
Isaiah Saucer, in cap and gown, is flanked by his father Marvin Saucer, left, and his mother, Altrinice Grant Saucer, right. Photo by Joe L. Fisher.

From birth, it appeared that Richmond native Isaiah Daniel Saucer was on a journey destined for excellence and achievement.

He showed musical talent playing drums at age 2 and demonstrated athletic prowess and academic excellence once he started school, culminating in receiving a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration Marketing on May 20, 2022. In his entire academic life, he never made less than an ‘A’ in any of his subjects or classes.

He also is the manager at the Pinole Valley Bowling Alley and a watchmen/longshoreman at the Oakland Port at only 21 years of age.

Saucer attended St. John the Baptist in El Cerrito from kindergarten to eighth grade, graduating with honors and receiving a scholarship from the California High School Achievement Society in order to attend St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley. There, he made the dean’s list and graduated with honors, earning a scholarship to the University of San Francisco.

During every semester at USF, Saucer made the dean’s list, graduating on May 20, 2022.

“His study ethics was way beyond comprehension” said Mr. Walton, his eighth-grade teacher at St. John the Baptist.

Throughout his life he has been good in sports, particularly baseball and basketball. At age 6, he started playing baseball in the San Pablo Baseball League and at the age of 9 went on to the El Cerrito Baseball League and was on the All-Star Team from ‘Mustang’ to ‘Pony’ level.

Saucer also played on advanced travel ball teams and won many championships with many of those teams. He played many positions: pitcher, catcher and performed well at first and third base.

At St. John the Baptist in El Cerrito, he was part of a basketball team that won championships each year. On St. Mary’s JV baseball team and he was the manager for both the varsity basketball and football teams for handling all of the team’s players’ scoring and stats.

His musical talents emerged again at St. Mary’s where, in the advanced concert band, he played several wind instruments, including the clarinet and saxophone.

Saucer also does helpful things for others, like tutoring his peers at the high school in various subjects after school and weekends. He also looked after his cousin Asia, who is blind in one eye and has epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

As a hobby, Saucer has recorded music, which he has shared on various media outlets and with some of his friends. His family thanks the many people in the community who supported him as he proved that something good can come out of Richmond CA.

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