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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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Arts and Culture

Oakland Jazz Great Offers Master Class as City Declares “John Handy Day”

World-renowned jazz master saxophonist John Handy, a McClymond’s High School graduate, was presented with a Mayor of Oakland Proclamation declaring Feb. 12, as John Handy Day in the city. Handy is most notably known as the featured saxophonist for Charles Mingus on “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” from the album “Mingus Ah Um” (1959) and on “Hard Work” from his own album “Hard Work” (1976).

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(L-R) Del Handy, John Handy, Roger Glenn, and Joe Warner celebrate John Handy Day at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, Oakland. Photo by Lady Bianca.
(L-R) Del Handy, John Handy, Roger Glenn, and Joe Warner celebrate John Handy Day at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, Oakland. Photo by Lady Bianca.

By Conway Jones

World-renowned jazz master saxophonist John Handy, a McClymond’s High School graduate, was presented with a Mayor of Oakland Proclamation declaring Feb. 12, as John Handy Day in the city.

Handy is most notably known as the featured saxophonist for Charles Mingus on “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” from the album “Mingus Ah Um” (1959) and on “Hard Work” from his own album “Hard Work” (1976).

“John Handy is a jazz icon and an inspiration to musicians everywhere,” said Ayo Brame, a 16-year-old Oakland tenor saxophone player who is enrolled at the Oakland School for the Arts.

In celebration of this day, the reception in downtown Oakland at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle was a gathering of artists, young and old, coming together in his honor and celebrating his 91st birthday.

Handy presented a Saxophone Colossus free masterclass for musicians. This class afforded a rare opportunity to learn about the saxophone from an aficionado. The class was free and open to all – saxophonists, vocalists, aficionados, students, and casual listeners.

“As a longtime friend for over 60 years, and fellow musician who has had numerous opportunities to share the stage with John, it has always been a pleasure performing with him and hearing his creative interpretations of the music and his gift of ease inspiring the next generation of jazz musicians,” said Roger Glenn, a multi-instrumentalist.

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Arts and Culture

Musical Chronicling Life of Betty Reid Soskin Set for Bay Area Debut

Betty Reid Soskin’s storied 102 years includes time spent as a WWII defense worker, activist, business owner, songwriter, National Park Service park ranger and so much more. Now the Richmond icon is the subject of a musical based on her incredible life.

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Betty Reid Soskin. Photo courtesy of Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.
Betty Reid Soskin. Photo courtesy of Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.

The Richmond Standard

Betty Reid Soskin’s storied 102 years includes time spent as a WWII defense worker, activist, business owner, songwriter, National Park Service park ranger and so much more. Now the Richmond icon is the subject of a musical based on her incredible life.

Sign My Name to Freedom,” a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO) production which will focus on the life, music and writing of Ms. Soskin, will premiere at San Francisco’s Z Space Friday, March 29 and continue through Saturday, April 13. Tickets range from $15–$65 and can be purchased online at https://www.sfbatco.org/smntf

The musical is directed by Elizabeth Carter, while playwright Michael Gene Sullivan integrates Ms. Soskin’s own music throughout dialogue between what SFBATCO calls “The Four Bettys” as they progress through a century of experiences of this awe-inspiring American woman.

The cast of “Sign My Name to Freedom” features Tierra Allen as Little Betty, Aidaa Peerzada as Married Betty, Lucca Troutman as Revolutionary Betty and Cathleen Riddley as Present Betty Reid Soskin, according to Artistic Director Rodney Earl Jackson Jr. and Managing Director Adam Maggio. Other casting will be announced in the future.

Jackson said that having Soskin’s blessing to steward her life’s story is an honor and career highlight for him and that her journey stands as “a beacon for Black Americans, women and people of color all across the world [and] is a testament to the strength of the human spirit.”

San Francisco’s Z Space is located at 450 Florida St. in San Francisco. Check out the trailer here at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-ap9N2XBB0

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Arts and Culture

Gov. Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom Host 2024 Hall of Fame Ceremony

Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and three other African Americans were among 10 luminaries inducted into the 2024 Class of the California Hall of Fame on Feb. 8. The 17th Annual California Hall of Fame ceremony was held at the California Museum.

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Willie Brown, Former California Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor, was proud to be among the Hall of Fame inductees. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.
Willie Brown, Former California Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor, was proud to be among the Hall of Fame inductees. CBM photo by Antonio Ray Harvey.

By California Black Media

Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and three other African Americans were among 10 luminaries inducted into the 2024 Class of the California Hall of Fame on Feb. 8.

The 17th Annual California Hall of Fame ceremony was held at the California Museum.

“The California Hall of Fame is one of our families’ favorite traditions as it is a time to come together to celebrate remarkable Californians as well as their loved ones because we know that it is about partnerships,” Siebel Newsom said. “The governor likes to say that California is a dream factory because it doesn’t matter what zip code or background you come from, the California dream is alive and well to everyone who calls this state home.”

The other Black honorees were filmmaker Ava DuVernay; Federal Judge and civil rights leader, the Hon. Thelton Henderson; and basketball Hall of Fame player and broadcaster Cheryl Miller.

“It’s what I’ve been waiting for and to be among a great group of individuals that also deserve the honor,” Brown told California Black Media on the event’s red carpet before the ceremony began. “No, I never thought someone from Texas would be recognized this way. But here I am, and it all happened in the great state of California. It’s a fantastic feeling.”

Other 2024 inductees are: master chef and “mother of fusion cuisine” Helene An; computer scientist and “father of the internet” Vincent A. Cerf; all-female pop punk band The Go-Gos; Chicano Rock band Los Lobos; former U.S. Secretary of Defense and Congressman Leon E. Panetta; and artistic director and choreographer Brenda Way.

This year’s honorees join a history-making club with over 150 inspirational Californians previously inducted for their groundbreaking achievements and personifying the state’s innovative spirit.

“It’s just a humbling experience. I want to thank the Governor and First Partner. Who would have thought 100 years ago (that I would be inducted?) It’s incredible,” Miller said after her induction. “I want to thank the governor and First Partner for an incredible event.”

During his acceptance speech, Henderson said he was deeply honored.

“You know, it really would have been a really big deal to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the area where I grew up, for example, South Central Hall of Fame, or the Watts Hall of Fame, or the Straight Out of Compton Hall of Fame,” he said. “But being inducted into the California Hall of Fame, Hall of Fame of the greatest state in the country in this great nation is something else.”

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