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Legendary Soul Singer Bobby Womack, 70

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By Jason Newman, Rolling Stone

Bobby Womack, whose career spanned seven decades, died last Friday at age 70.

The son of two musicians, Womack began his career as a member of Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers with his siblings Curtis, Harry, Cecil and Friendly Jr.

After Sam Cooke signed the group to his SAR Records in 1960, they released a handful of gospel singles before changing their name to the Valentinos and earning success with a more secular, soul- and pop-influenced sound. In 1964, one month after the Valentinos released their hit “It’s All Over Now,” the Rolling Stones put out their version, which went to Number One on the U.K. singles charts.

Three months after the death of Cooke in 1964, Womack married Cooke’s widow, Barbara Campbell, and the Valentinos disbanded after the collapse of SAR Records.

After leaving the group, Womack became a session musician, playing guitar on several albums, including Aretha Franklin’s landmark Lady Soul, before releasing his debut album, “Fly Me to the Moon,” in 1968.

A string of successful R&B albums would follow, including Understanding and Across 110th Street, both released in 1972, 1973’s “Facts of Life” and 1974’s “Lookin for a Love Again.”

After the death of his brother, Harry, in 1974, Womack’s career stalled, but was revived in 1981 with the R&B hit “If You Think You’re Lonely Now.” Throughout most of the Eighties, the singer struggled with drug addiction, eventually checking himself into a rehabilitation center for treatment.

A series of health problems would follow, including diabetes, pneumonia, colon cancer and the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease, though it was unclear if any of these ailments contributed to his death. Womack was declared cancer-free in 2012.

In 2012, Womack began a career renaissance with the release of “The Bravest Man in the Universe,” his first album in more than 10 years. Produced by Damon Albarn and XL’s Richard Russell, the album made Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2012 alongside numerous other critical accolades. “You know more at 65 than you did at 25. I understand the songs much better now,”

Womack told Rolling Stone at the time. “It’s not about 14 Rolls Royces and two Bentleys. Even if this album never sells a nickel, I know I put my best foot forward.” Upon his death, Womack was in the process of recording his next album for XL, tentatively titled “The Best Is Yet to Come” and reportedly featuring contributions by Stevie Wonder, Rod Stewart and Snoop Dogg.

Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. “My very first thought was — I wish I could call Sam Cooke and share this moment with him,” Womack said. “This is just about as exciting to me as being able to see Barack Obama

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Bay Area

Willie O’Ree, 1st Black Player in NHL, is a Real Ice Man

In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awarded O’Ree a Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, for his contributions to “hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity.”

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Willie O’Ree on the ice in mid-career.
Willie O’Ree on the ice in mid-career.

By Tamara Shiloh

Historically, professional hockey has held fast to its tradition of lacking diversity among its players. But no Black on the ice did not hold Willie O’Ree back. He started playing hockey at age 3 and instantly had a passion for the game.

Born on October 15, 1935, in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada, O’Ree at the age of 14 years old, played with his brother Richard in organized hockey. Within a year, he was playing with the Frederickton Falcons in New Brunswick Amateur Hockey team.

O’Ree played in Canada with the Quebec Frontenacts in the 1954-55 Junior League and the Kitchener Canucks of Ontario during the 1955-56 season. It was during this season that he lost 95% of his vision in his right eye after being hit by a puck. He also suffered a broken nose and cheekbone. Knowing that the NHL bylaws would prevent him from playing with the eye injury, he kept it a secret.

After one year in Ontario, O’Ree returned to play in Québec and was eighth in team scoring with the Quebec Aces in the 1956–57 season with 22 goals and 12 assists for 34 points. He would play two more seasons with the Aces in 1957–58 and 1958–59.

As a result of the relationship between the Boston Bruins and the Quebec Aces, O’Ree was called to play with the Bruins making him the first African American to play in the National Hockey League.

That same night the Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3–0, so there was no fanfare in the fact that O’Ree was the first Black player to play in the NHL. Neither The Boston Globe nor The New York Times wrote anything about the historical event.

O’Ree would only play two games for the Bruins in the 1957–58 season. He returned to the team in the 1960–61 season and scored four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 43 regular-season games. On Jan. 1, 1961, O’Ree also became the first Black player to score a goal in the NHL, in a 3–2 win over the Canadiens.

Racism continued to show its ugly head on and off the ice. On the ice there were always fans throwing things at him and players would make racial remarks and he would suffer body abuse.

However, during one game he returned the favor and broke his stick over a player’s head. During an interview, O’Ree shared that he was treated worse in the United States than in Canada.

He retired in 1979 at age 43. He has spent the past two decades as the NHL’s diversity ambassador, working to expand the sport.

O’Ree has received many accolades since his retirement. In 1998, he became the NHL’s director of Youth Development and an ambassador for the NHL Diversity program. He traveled throughout the United States promoting hockey programs, with a focus on serving economically disadvantaged children.

In 2003, he was named the Lester Patrick trophy winner for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States. O’Ree received the Order of Canada in 2010 for his outstanding service to youth development and promoting hockey within North America.

He also received the Order of New Brunswick (2005) and was named an honored member of the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1984. In 2018, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 2021, as a celebration of Black History Month, all NHL players wore a commemorative helmet decal honoring O’Ree from January 16 to February 28.

In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awarded O’Ree a Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, for his contributions to “hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity.”

O’Ree is the first player in NHL history to receive the honor.

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Bay Area

Presidio Unveils New Facilities, New Park.

“We been doing this since 2018, taking groups to walks as a way to relieve stress and get out and see nature,” said Gilkerson, who is the Rafiki Coalition’s Community Outreach and Engagement manager. “The Presidio is a prime park and a good place to be. The additions to this place are nice for children to go and run around in.”

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Maxine Gilkerson is the outreach and engagement manager for Rahiki Coalition for Health and Wellness. Photo courtesy of Maxine Gilkerson.
Maxine Gilkerson is the outreach and engagement manager for Rahiki Coalition for Health and Wellness. Photo courtesy of Maxine Gilkerson.

By Lee Hubbard

Once or twice a week, Maxine Gilkerson leads a group of people from the Rafiki Coalition for Health and Wellness on walks in various parts of San Francisco.

The Rafiki Coalition is a health organization that tries to eliminate health inequities in San Francisco’s Black community through education, advocacy, and holistic health services.

On one of those walks, Gilkerson was leading a group through the Presidio, San Francisco’s only national park, next to the Golden Gate Bridge when she came across its newest outdoor path and park, the Outpost. The Outpost is on top of Presidio Tunnel Tops, a 2-acre outdoor destination full of creative play, benches, slides, BBQ pits and educational centers and science lab.

“We been doing this since 2018, taking groups to walks as a way to relieve stress and get out and see nature,” said Gilkerson, who is the Rafiki Coalition’s Community Outreach and Engagement manager. “The Presidio is a prime park and a good place to be. The additions to this place are nice for children to go and run around in.”

As the summer heats up people like Gilkerson and her group are looking for outside activities, recreation and fitness opportunities. The Presidio is a park that fits that bill. In fact, the Presidio is a must-see San Francisco destination that’s broken into four parts.

These four parts include the Golden Gate area, where the bridge is located; Crissy Field, which consists of a walking trail and a beach; Southern Wilds, which is the woody area in the southern part of the park; and the Main Post which has office buildings and outposts from the 1800s.

The Presidio Outpost is between the Main Post and Crissy Fields, The Presidio has rehabilitated the area and opened up a new facility for youth and adults, with the building of attractions and walking paths.

“This Outpost was designed by pediatricians and youth experts,” said Beatrice Kilgot, a public relations specialist with the Presidio.

In the park structure, there is a hydro-tunnel for crawling and hiding, which was constructed through a boulder land form, a fallen, 250-year old white oak, sculpted into three pieces that you can crawl into, and a bluff slide, made of the Presidio coastal bluffs.

“We work to facilitate activities that are environmentally based,” said Briana Canizales, an adventure guide leader with the Presidio. “We brought in natural materials in creating the outpost.”

A field station was also built on the outpost structure. It is an indoor facility, with a lab and an indoor exhibit, which deals with the environment and animals that exist in the park.

“The field station showcases some of the animals that have been found in the Presidio or the Golden Gate National recreational grounds,” continued Canizales. “It is a research center that study’s the Presidio and its habitat and it shows the historical growth of the park.”

The official Outpost grand opening will take place on July 17, 2022, and it will be open to the public.

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Bay Area

Going to County Fair? Take Bus or Ride Your Bike

“We encourage fairgoers to leave their cars at home and take advantage of transit options,” said Cultural Services Director Gabriella C. Calicchio. “Once again, we’re incredibly grateful that Marin Transit is offering this free option. The staff there has been such a generous partner of the fair for many years.”

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“We want to welcome back our current riders and encourage new riders by making all Marin Transit rides free during the long holiday weekend,” said Marin Transit General Manager Nancy Whelan.
“We want to welcome back our current riders and encourage new riders by making all Marin Transit rides free during the long holiday weekend,” said Marin Transit General Manager Nancy Whelan.

Free Marin Transit buses and bike valet service from June 30 through July 4

Courtesy of Marin County

Visitors to the 2022 Marin County Fair should consider bus service or pedal power when arriving at or leaving from the festive fairgrounds in San Rafael.

All fixed-route bus rides countywide will not cost a cent during the fair, which starts Thursday, June 30, and runs through the Fourth of July. It’s a convenient arrangement between the Marin County Department of Cultural Services, which runs the fair, and Marin Transit.

There will be additional buses and operational hours during the five-day fair, located just off Civic Center Drive in San Rafael. The Marin Transit Board of Directors unanimously approved free local transit rides countywide on all Marin Transit fixed routes during the fair.

“We want to welcome back our current riders and encourage new riders by making all Marin Transit rides free during the long holiday weekend,” said Marin Transit General Manager Nancy Whelan.

Riders should note that the Paratransit, Catch-A-Ride, and Muir Woods Shuttle services will be exempt from the free fares.

“We encourage fairgoers to leave their cars at home and take advantage of transit options,” said Cultural Services Director Gabriella C. Calicchio. “Once again, we’re incredibly grateful that Marin Transit is offering this free option. The staff there has been such a generous partner of the fair for many years.”

Fair guests can also ride Golden Gate Transit and the SMART train directly to the Marin County Civic Center campus. Make sure to check transit schedules for pricing and timing.

Marin County Bicycle Coalition will offer free bike valet service from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1-4. The bike lot will be near the main gate near the front of the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium.

Everyone, whether fairgoers or passers-by, is encouraged to avoid traffic near the fairgrounds during that time.

Vehicle parking at the fairgrounds is $15-$20.

For more fair information, check www.marinfair.org.

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