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International Women’s Day: Civil Rights Icon Xernona Clayton, Other ‘Herstory Sheroes’ Honored in Atlanta

Civil rights and media icon Xernona Clayton became the first woman to be enshrined with a statue in downtown Atlanta on March 8, 2023, International Women’s Day. The eight-foot statue with its arms open, high on a pedestal, looks down on Xernona Clayton Plaza, making the petite icon a giant in the cradle city of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

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Xernona Clayton (center), Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens (right) and statue sculptor Ed Dwight as the statue of Xernona Clayton is unveiled in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Photo by Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media.
Xernona Clayton (center), Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens (right) and statue sculptor Ed Dwight as the statue of Xernona Clayton is unveiled in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Photo by Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media.

By Maxim Elramsisy

California Black Media

Civil rights and media icon Xernona Clayton became the first woman to be enshrined with a statue in downtown Atlanta on March 8, 2023, International Women’s Day.

The eight-foot statue with its arms open, high on a pedestal, looks down on Xernona Clayton Plaza, making the petite icon a giant in the cradle city of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

World renowned sculptor Ed Dwight created the bronze statue despite challenges with his vision. With Dwight by her side, Clayton announced that it would be his final commissioned project. “As he was making this statue he lost vision in his good eye,” Clayton said at a private dinner before the unveiling. “But if he could do this without seeing, imagine what he could do if he had vision.”

More than 20 speakers, including representatives from the Bahamas and Ghana, praised Clayton at the unveiling ceremony, which was followed by “High Heels in High Places,” an event honoring distinguished women in business and journalism.

Among the “sheroes: honored at the dinner were California Black Media Executive Director Regina Brown Wilson and LA Focus Publisher Lisa Collins. Clayton also acknowledged the mothers of several local celebrities, including Silvia Dickens, mother of Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens, Trice Morgan, mother of rapper T.I., and Mary Tucker, mother of comedian Chris Tucker.

A few of the speakers at the event claimed to be Clayton’s boyfriends, including Mayor Andre Dickens, who began working on the project as a city councilman, and Clayton’s close friend and fellow civil rights icon, Ambassador Andrew Young. Former CNN President, Tom Johnson spoke on behalf of Ted Turner, who was ill, lauding Clayton’s outstanding achievements and attesting to her contributions to broadcast media. Clayton was also a consistent supporter of the Black press across the country.

Martin Luther King III reflected on his memories of Clayton growing up. “There is no greater honor than what is being done here today,” said King III.

At the unveiling, Clayton recalled arranging logistics for a meeting between Dr. King and supporters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the heart of Atlanta. “I pride myself in getting everything right before I start out, and I knew I had all my details in order for this special luncheon hosted by Dr. King, but everything went wrong,” Clayton said.

The motel which supposedly had an “open door policy,” expressly told Dr. King to leave. “I, Xernona Clayton was thrown out of a hotel. Now, you are standing backed by a street named Xernona Clayton Way.”

“The idea for a monument to Xernona Clayton was born from a 4 a.m. meeting with her in 2020. Our kids didn’t know who she was, and we felt that such an inspiring figure deserved recognition,” said Project Co-Founder Mariela Romero, a Latina journalist, originally from Venezuela, who co-presented the idea for the statue and has been one of the forces helping to make the monument a reality.

Romero said when she learned about Clayton’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and all her personal accomplishments, she was surprised that more Americans of all races did not know about her life story and legacy.

“Seeing the statue standing proudly in Xernona Clayton Plaza, facing downtown Atlanta, fills me with incredible pride and accomplishment,” Romero added.

“This project was important to us because Xernona Clayton has been a role model, she has dedicated her life to serving others and we have always admired her tenacity, grace, and vision.”

Romero partnered with philanthropist and Bank of America-Merrill executive Rick Baker to spearhead the campaign that made Clayton’s monument a reality.

Xernona Clayton (center) and Xernona Clayton Statue Project Co-Creators Mariana Romero (Left) and Rich Baker (right) cross Xernona Clayton Way in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia toward the unveiling of the Xernona Clayton statue on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Photo by Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media.

Xernona Clayton (center) and Xernona Clayton Statue Project Co-Creators Mariana Romero (Left) and Rich Baker (right) cross Xernona Clayton Way in Downtown Atlanta, Georgia toward the unveiling of the Xernona Clayton statue on Wednesday, March 8, 2023. Photo by Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media.

Clayton became involved in the civil rights movement working for the National Urban League in Chicago. She went undercover to investigate employment discrimination against African Americans at Marshall Fields, a major Chicago department store.

She moved to Atlanta at the behest of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, where she organized events for SCLC and grew close with Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

Clayton was instrumental in the desegregation of Atlanta’s hospitals by organizing the city’s Black doctors. In 1967, Clayton became the first Black female in the southern U.S. to host a weekly prime time talk show. The show eventually came to be known as “The Xernona Clayton Show.”

In 1968, Clayton’s impact in the fight against bigotry became clear when Calvin Craig, a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, denounced the Klan, crediting Clayton’s influence in the decision.

In 1988, Clayton was named Corporate Vice President for Urban Affairs with Turner Broadcasting System. In her role she served as liaison between Turner Broadcasting and civil rights groups, both in Atlanta and across the country.

As a broadcast executive, Clayton founded the Trumpet Foundation and, with Turner Broadcasting, established the prestigious Trumpet Awards in 1993 to highlight the achievements and contributions of African Americans.

With the unveiling of the Xernona Clayton statue, an influential Black woman is finally immortalized in Atlanta, a city that still holds several confederate monuments and countless stories and memories of its history in the segregated south.

This California Black Media article was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library

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Art

Mayor Breed, Actor Morris Chestnut Attend S.F.’s Indie Night Film Festival

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry. The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

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(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell
(Left to Right) Dave Brown, CEO, Indie Night Festival, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, and actor Morris Chestnut. Photo by Y’Anad Burrell

By Y’Anad Burrell

On June 1, the acclaimed Los Angeles-based Indie Night Film Festival arrived at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco.

San Francisco native Dave Brown, Founder and CEO of the Indie Night Film Festival, has a vision for the film industry that is squarely focused on promoting the many talented producers, actors, and designers contributing to this billion-dollar industry.  The festival has been running for 12 years and it’s only up from here, he says.

A weekly celebration of cinematic artistry designed to elevate emerging talent while providing a platform for networking and collaboration, entrepreneur Dave Brown created Indie Night to bridge gaps within the filmmaking community by fostering connections between like-minded individuals worldwide. The Indie Film Festival currently has over 450 film submissions worldwide, and its cinematic vault only continues to grow.

The festival showcased over 10 short films and trailers, and featured Faces of the “City: Fighting for the Soul of America,” produced by veteran actor Tisha Campbell.  This film is about the vibrancy and legacy of San Francisco. The festival also previewed “When It Reigns,” a trailer by Oakland’s burgeoning filmmaker Jamaica René.

Indie films have not just challenged traditional cinematic norms; they’ve shattered them. These films offer unique storytelling perspectives and push creative boundaries in truly inspiring ways. With their smaller budgets and independent spirit, they often tackle unconventional subjects and portray diverse characters, providing a refreshing alternative to mainstream cinema. As a result, indie films have resonated with audiences seeking an escape from formulaic blockbusters and are increasingly celebrated for their authenticity and originality.

Organizers say the mission of Indie Night is to elevate the craft of independent artists and creators. It also provides a venue for them to showcase their work, network, and exchange information with new and established creatives. It creates a community that values and supports independent art.

For more about the Indie Night Film Festival, visit www.indienightfilmfestival.com.

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Art

El Cerrito Calls for Artists to Transform Its Utility Boxes

The City of El Cerrito’s Arts & Culture Commission is seeking individual artists, teams of artists or community groups to apply for its “2024 Utility Box Public Art Program.” The project is a beautification initiative designed to add to the vibrancy of the San Pablo Avenue corridor by having community artists transform unsightly utility boxes into attractive works of art, according to the City.

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An artist stands by their work that transformed the utility box from drab to fab. Photo courtesy of the City of El Cerrito.
An artist stands by their work that transformed the utility box from drab to fab. Photo courtesy of the City of El Cerrito.

By Kathy Chouteau

The Richmond Standard

Do you have an idea for beautifying urban public spaces with your art? If so, this initiative might be perfect for you.

The City of El Cerrito’s Arts & Culture Commission is seeking individual artists, teams of artists or community groups to apply for its “2024 Utility Box Public Art Program.” The project is a beautification initiative designed to add to the vibrancy of the San Pablo Avenue corridor by having community artists transform unsightly utility boxes into attractive works of art, according to the City.

This program’s theme is “Artwork that Celebrates El Cerrito’s Natural Beauty and Environment,” and any artist/team/community group residing in Contra Costa County can apply. The boxes, including one main utility box and a smaller traffic signal box adjacent to each other, are located at Ashbury and Fairmount Avenues, next to Harding Elementary School in El Cerrito.

A $2,500 stipend is offered for each utility box completed and the application is due Friday, June 14, at 4 p.m. Work on the boxes begins Aug. 5, with work to be completed by Sept. 6.

To date, eight utility boxes have been painted by local artists as part of the initiative throughout 2021 to 2023. Artists including Adaleyd DeLeon, Kristen Kong, Shanna Strauss, Martial Yapo, Jesse White and Ricardo Cerezo have been selected by the city to beautify utility boxes with their art since the program’s inception.

Questions? Contact Will Provost at 510-215-4318 or wprovost@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us. Applications can be submitted online https://el-cerrito.org/1522/Utility-Box-Public-Art-Program

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Art

Mario Van Peebles’ ‘Outlaw Posse’ Screened at Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre

The Oakland International Film Festival hosted a screening of “Outlaw Posse” at the Grand Lake Theatre on Monday. Special guests included director/actor Mario Van Peebles and his co-star, Oakland native Scytorya Rhodes. The film is Peebles’ second western, the first being ‘Posse,’ 13 years ago.

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Film director Mario Van Peebles, who also stars in “Outlaw Posse,” appeared at a press conference held at RBA Creative on MacArthur Boulevard hosted by the Oakland International Film Festival. Photo By Carla Thomas.
Film director Mario Van Peebles, who also stars in “Outlaw Posse,” appeared at a press conference held at RBA Creative on MacArthur Boulevard hosted by the Oakland International Film Festival. Photo By Carla Thomas.

By Carla Thomas

The Oakland International Film Festival hosted a screening of “Outlaw Posse” at the Grand Lake Theatre on Monday. Special guests included director/actor Mario Van Peebles and his co-star, Oakland native Scytorya Rhodes. The film is Peebles’ second western, the first being ‘Posse,’ 13 years ago. Filmmaker Van Peebles shared his passion for independent artistry and producing projects with his son, Mandela, who also starred in the film, along with Whoopi Goldberg and Cedric the Entertainer. Next week, The Post will publish an in-depth interview featuring Peebles’ reflections on his work, future projects, and continuing his father’s legacy and Rhodes on her grandfather, a real-life cowboy.

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