29.2.16

Black is Beautiful 23-Soul Beat TV (Oakland)


I used to watch SoulBeat for the music videos and occasionally the talk shows they'd host as a teen. You could turn it on in the middle of the night and find a gospel show, a prayer, or crazy commercial for a local business. It wasn't the most polished filming or broadcasting but it gave a lot of people from around the way a chance to say something and was one of the first to play Bay Area hip hop artists videos like Souls of Mischief, E40, RBL Posse, or Digital Underground. It was cable access television. I went by the old building today (73rd ave) and actually couldn't remember which door was theirs, only the red building with the big yellow and black sign (which is no longer there) so I asked a local church member and a postman walking his beat who knew as soon as i asked. Whether it was a show by Chauncy Bailey, brother Billy Jones, the local pastor, rap and soul videos from the immense talent of the Bay Area's hip hop scene, the Black muslim community, or just a small business it was loved and valued in the community. SoulBeat started in 1978 and ran until 2003. Chuck Johnson from Tulsa, who started as a radio DJ, started the station and kept it "100% Black owned". The station had to shut down shortly before Mr. Johnson passed away because of financial difficulties and the fact that it is expensive to run a media business without corporate funding, just ask kpfa who does fund drives through out the year. But, to watch Soul Beat was to see Black TV like I had never seen before and it should be counted in Black History and Bay Area history. How important is it to own and distribute your own content that no one can direct or question?

28.2.16

Black is Beautiful 22- Marcus Books Oakland

Lets talk "now". Right now, Marcus Books has the absolute largest selection of picture books, comics, novels, and non-fiction written and illustrated by/about African Americans than ANY other store in the Bay Area. The next time you think of getting a gift for a new born or a young child, consider starting there, and consider starting them young when it comes to reading for fun. The San Francisco Marcus Books store was the first to be established in 1960, and an Oakland location was opened soon after. For as long as I can remember Marcus Books has been there providing comic books for children, novels, biographies, and text books with a Black focus for college students. lBefore the days of the internet, when I was a student at SFSU you could get anything from Octavia Butler to Assata at Marcus Books, and you still can. The store held meetings, hosted authors and signings, printed their own books, and put their store and lives on the line for students who were protesting for ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. I wont go into the closing of the SF store because it involves a displacement of Black folks in SF and the Fillmore that has been going on for decades, but I will say the Oakland store is a 2 min walk from MacArthur bart and they are still open. If they don't have the comic, picture book, or novel you're looking for (focusing on African Americans) then ask them to order it. Marcus Books is landmark in Black History for the Bay Area and the country.

25.2.16

Black is Beautiful 21-KDIA radio station (Oakland)

Every weekend almost as a kid I would go to San Francisco from the East Bay to visit my grandparents in the city. We would cross the old Bay Bridge and on the way we'd pass this radio station on the right of the freeway. I didn't know it at the time, but it is one of the first stations to play black music in the Bay Area alongside KSOL and KPOO. "Kdia Lucky 13", was founded in 1959 and covered Alameda, Contra Costa, SF, Solano, Sonoma, Santa Clara, and reached almost out to Stockton. You would hear songs like "the midnight hour" by Ray Charles, "tell it like it is" by Aaron Neville, or Bay Area musicians like "Confunkshun" and "Marvin Holmes and The Uptights".  I consider it part of this months history because for over 30 years this radio station not only played Black Music but hired Black DJs and was awarded for some of their reporting and/or segments. There were DJs there like Roland Porter, Belva Davis, John Hardy, Jay Sweet, Diane Blackmon, and later would be owned by Adam Clayton Powell, journalist Chauncy Bailey, Elihu Harris, and Willy Brown. I was reminded of KDIA by the African American library on 14th st. in Oakland recently. Why is media black owned or directed media important? You tell me! Shout out to Hard Knock Radio and Block Report Radio.

23.2.16

Carmen Amelia Robles-Black is Beautiful 20

Colonel Carmen Amelia Robles was an Afro-Mexican soldier in the Mexican Revolution 1910-1920. I could find very little on Colonel Robles except that she dressed like a man of the times and assumed a more masculine stature fighting alongside men as did many women during this time. The first place i saw information and a photo of her was through the Lati-Negros blog. This led me to other blogs such as "Beyond Black and White"and "Numero F". They put her birth at 1889 en Xochipala, Guerrero. She was a part of Emiliano Zapata's army and participated in many battles such as La Batalla de la hacienda de pozuelos.

Elizabeth Catlett- Black is Beautiful 19

This is the 2nd time I've drawn Elizabeth Catlett after seeing her amazing show at MOAD in San Francisco last year. Ms Catlett was born in 1915 in Washington DC and died in 2012 in Mexico. Her style of sculpture and printmaking were incredible. They had a color and style all their own. She studied at the "Taller de Gráfica Popular " for many years and before going to Mexico studied with Lois Mailou Jones and many others at Howard University. Elizabeth was into depicting beautiful images of both Black and Brown people. She became politicized while living in Mexico and was working as a teacher, artist, and as an activist. So much so that she was barred from entering the US for many years. 

22.2.16

Jim Simon-Black is Beautiful 18

Jim Simon is an artist and animator. He is the first African American to found his own studio called Wantu Animation. He worked on films/shows such as Fat Albert, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Smurf's, X-Men, Vegetable Soup, Sesame Street, The California Raisins, Peter Pan, Sonic the Hedgehog, and he animated the opening credits to "Soul Train"! He was featured as an up and coming business man in Black Enterprise in 1977. Wantu was making nearly 100 short animations in the late 70's for which, they received over 25 awards. Despite the awards in the early days, Simon had to go to work for the bigger companies to survive.  He had to put his studio Wantu (which would focus on content featuring African American stories) on hold, probably drained financially and emotionally from projects or studios that were not interested in Black characters. Simon left animation, went homeless for many years and stopped making art all together. It wasn't until the last ten years that he returned to making art, and is now living in San Diego. I salute him because he was a pioneer in the art form. Today I see brothers like LeSean Thomas, Carl Jones, and Everett Downing out there today trying to extend the path. Shout out to "African American Animators Past & Present" who got me hip to Jim and so many other folks.

21.2.16

Lois Mailou Jones-Black is Beautiful 17

I've been a fan of Ms Jones' work ever since I took a Black Art and History class in college. It was the first time I became aware of Black folks as painters, sculptors; not just musicians and/or dancers. Lois was born in 1905 and was encouraged as a child to be creative. She started to paint in her early years and attended an arts college. She was active as an artist from the time of the Harlem Renaissance up until her mid 70's. Her work was exhibited internationally and is still in collections across the US. She was an arts professor at Howard University for over 40 years and she was given many awards. But really, it is her style of both painterly and graphic African iconography that caught my eye. Please check out her work.

20.2.16

Oakland's fight for arts funding and gentrification

Please read this in order to learn about what has been happening in Oakland which is happening all over the US. If you're at all interested in artwork in Oakland and living here this is something you should read.

18.2.16

Blake Brockington- Black is Beautiful 16

"When you're trans it just means that your sex assigned at birth doesn't match the gender you identify with". -Blake 
I just came to know who Blake was, and from what I can tell he was a very strong young man, he came out to his family and friends about who he was as a teenager in North Carolina. He was also the first trans boy ever in the state to be crowned home coming king, which is no small achievement. I didn't know him and won't pretend to know his whole story, but I know that he championed trans rights and was a role model for other youth who were trans, lesbian, gay, etc. And I know that living with the ignorance, stupidity, and hate of others that simply being himself was hard and it shouldn't have to be. 
"Nobody should be scared to be themselves, and everybody should have an equal opportunity to have an enjoyable high school experience". -Blake
Blake committed suicide. I don't know why, but I suspect it had something to do with a lack of support and positive encouragement. I salute you Blake by painting your image in the hopes that someone who is not aware of trans youth struggles will be a tiny bit more aware, or that someone questioning their gender or sexuality will know they are not alone. Please read more at http://www.advocate.com/obituaries/2015/03/24/trans-teen-activist-homecoming-king-dies


17.2.16

Zun Lee-Photographer inspiration

InFrame - Zun Lee from InFrame on Vimeo.

Floyd Norman - Black is Beautiful 15


Floyd Norman is an animator, storyboard, layout, and concept artist. He was born in in 1935 and grew up in Santa Barbara California. He came to have a career in animation nearly 60 years ago when he started as the first African American to work for Walt Disney. While there he worked on films like The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, One Hundred and One Dalmations, and many more. He would later go on to work for Hannah Barbara, Ruby-Spears, Film-Roman (a Latinx owned studio), and Pixar. Most recently he worked on Monsters University, Mulan, The Hunchback of Norte Dame, and Toy Story 2. He has been recognized through many awards, invited to lecture and speak at countless schools. He has also published a book called "Animated Life", and is the focus of a new documentary about his life. I found out about Floyd through the African Americans in Animation past & present facebook page.

16.2.16

Dondi White - Black is Beautiful 14

Dondi White, born in 1961 hailed from Brooklyn, New York City-the planet as they used to call it. Dondi was one of many early pioneers in the beginnings of Graffiti writing on trains in New York City. He started writing in the early 70's and had many aliases such as Noc, Slave, or Mickey. He founded the crew CIA-Crazy Insides Artists. It was in the late 70s that his work was being photographed by the likes of Martha Cooper, who shot his iconic "Children of the grave" car in the book Subway Art. Dondi painted complex, simple, wild, so many styles. I guess thats why they named him "Style-Master General". His work like that of Skeme stood out to me because of the style and colors. He should be counted among the greats in African American and U.S. Art history and he is missed. For further reading, check out Zephyr's obituary in Art crimes.
http://www.graffiti.org/dondi/zeph.html

12.2.16

Toni Stone- Black is Beautiful 13

Toni Stone was born in Saint Paul Minnesota in 1921. She was the first woman to play professional baseball in the National Negro Leagues. She started playing baseball with a local church group and when she was old enough she moved to San Francisco to play baseball for the short lived negro team the "Sea Lions". From there she went to the New Orleans "Creole's",  the Indianapolis Clowns, then the Kansas City Monarchs. Toni faced racism from whites at the time and sexism from some of the men in the negro league, but she continued to play until her 30's. A lifelong athlete Stone played many sports and excelled at baseball, once batting 364 during a season. She spent the majority of the rest of her life after baseball in San Francisco and Oakland. In 1985 she was inducted into the Womens Sports Foundation's hall of fame, and in 1990 she was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Womens studies professor Martha Ackmann wrote a book about her called "Curveball"! 

Roc Raida-Black is Beautiful 12


I met Grandmaster Roc Raida while living in Brooklyn. I got to meet some inspiring folks who I'd been following for years. So many I didn't get to meet. I contacted Raida and volunteered to do some artwork for his new Dj Battle called "Gong". We spoke over the phone, I showed him what I was working on which he dug, I brought it to the Knitting Factory in Manhattan and got a front row seat to draw the djs while they competed. It was an amazing battle and I was proud that a Bay Area veteran "DJ Mistah B" was in the house representing. Roc, is one of the pioneering members of the legendary X-Men/ X-ecutioners DJ crew. They represent a long line of brothers in NYC rippin shit on the turntables whether they were scratching, making mixtapes, on the radio, or party rocking. Roc and his crew did all of that. Roc Raida was an incredibly skilled Dj who won the 1995 World DMC championship after placing or winning so many other battles. Those folks who were into DJ culture knew of the Invisible Skratch Piklz(SF) vs The X-Men (NYC), and knew of Raida's rep for battling. On stage he was all business, serious as fuck. But in person he was all smiles, very kind and welcoming. Roc put out countless LPs on his own and with the crew. He DJ'd for MF Grimm and Immortal Technique I believe. He was the judge for countless battles, and he also produced tracks for many hip hop legends. He not only gave do respect to his elders, but he was putting in work for the next generation of battle djs. Known for his body tricks, I wanted to show him in one of his infamous behind the back crossfader moves. His presence is greatly missed and I hope to see more about his life's story. Respect to the X-ecutioners and the DJs that have paid tribute to him! RIP Roc Raida (1972-2009)

10.2.16

Queen Nanny - Black is Beautiful 11

Nanny of the Maroons was born in Ghana in the 16th century. she went from being a free woman to being brought to Jamaica as a slave. The Maroons were groups of folks who fled slavery by escape or revolt and established their own societies, often in the mountains or the jungle away from the plantation. Nanny, along with many other Maroon leaders established small village strongholds; hers was known as the Portland Parish. She was known to be a great guerilla warrior and a strategist who organized counter attacks when the British tried to attack her village. The village came to be known as "Nanny Town". It is in the north eastern part of Jamaica.It was destroyed in the early 1700s but not before Nanny could free hundreds (over 800) slaves. Today there are tours of the area she once ruled in Jamaica.

David Hackney (Death)- Black is Beautiful 10

I'm late to the party, but just saw the documentary "A band called death" about the Detroit band DEATH. It was an awesome documentary about the lives of three brothers, David, Bobby, and Dannis Hackney who together formed what some believe to be the first punk band in 1973. I wasn't so interested in who started punk, but more just the lives of these three young men and how they came up with some amazing music back then. Their style proved to be way ahead of its time and people from the typical black music labels like Motown and many others did not understand them. I kept wishing as I watched that more young Black artists like them get more support to create without all the BS that comes with being an artist. Go watch the documentary and see how the children of these guys rediscovered the music of the band and how they have reclaimed it and have been performing it. This resonated with me since i have family that played all kinds of music and were in bands before I was born. David Hackney, the oldest of the group passed away , but before he died predicted that the world would come looking for their music, and it did. Two of the brothers are still performing as Death and can be reached at http://deathfromdetroit.com/

8.2.16

Special One- Black is Beautiful 9

Man, rest in peace to "Special One" aka Karryl Smith from the Conscious Daughters. The first time I hear the daughters I was like "I'm getting that tape" and I still have some TCD vinyl. Her style was rough, feminine, and masculine and she just had flow, timing, and cadence that its hard to find now days in the Bay. You could tell they took the time with their craft. Special One and her partner CMG were an incredible duo, classic Bay Area hip hop group who sold plenty records, toured extensively, and still have a loyal fan base. Shout out to CMG who I believe is still making music! And shout out to Paris of Guerilla Funk. Just wanted to pay my respects to this Bay legend who is dearly missed. "How we roll" is one of my favorites that I heard on a compilation and of course "Fonky Expedition" and "We roll deep".

Janet Bragg- Black is Beautiful 8

I first read a blurb about Janet in a book called "Black Wings" by Born in Georgia in 1907, Janet Bragg was a pilot who was the first African American woman to get her aviation license in the U.S. After taking flying courses at several white schools which denied her a license because of her race . Determined, she worked hard and attended an aviation school for black folks, but found she would be discriminated there because she was a woman. Un-phased, she donated her own money to buy the school's first airplane, helped the school build a proper runway, and got her private pilot's license. After trying to get her license again at other school's she finally received her aviation license in 1943.
She was a Spelman alumni and I was struck by her story and that of so many Black women who flew planes and continue to fly today. She gave a very short interview for the Smithsonian in the early 90s.

Marsha P. Johnson -Black is Beautiful 7

A couple of years ago I saw a documentary about Marsha called "Pay it no mind". I have always grown up around queer, gender fluid, gay, or bisexual adults and kids but I was surprised I'd not heard of Marsha until I was a parent myself. I hope you look her up and see what she did. She was out and proud at a time when there were no pride parades, no marches of support, and certainly few "out" people in popular media. Like so many queer or trans youth she had to leave her home. From what I hear it is because of death threats, disownment, teasing, ignorance, or just lack of understanding and support. Marsha moved to NYC . She was fabulous, extravagant, kind, supportive of other gay, trans, or queer youth and she was a homeless. She along with many folks set off what was to become the "Stonewall riot" and became an activist alongside Silvia Rivera and many others fighting for Gay rights, affordable medication for Aids patients, etc. Silvia and Marsha founded an organization called STAR-Street Transvestite and Revolutionary, the first organization to reach out to homeless trans youth. When we think of Black History Month all across the US, gay, bisexual, transgender folks are often invisible. I believe all black folks should be celebrated for their humanity and their achievements. 

6.2.16

School Visit- Woodland Elementary Oakland





This week I had he pleasure to visit Woodland Elementary in East Oakland off of 81st ave for African American literature week. I got a chance to read from "A Bean and Cheese Taco Birthday" and "I am Sausal Creek". I read to a group of Kindergarden and 1st-5th grade students. I also was asked to bring some artwork to show the students which they really liked. They all had really cool questions and its always fun to read to and reach the youth. Plus, we were at one of my favorite libraries in Oakland-the 81st branch.

BIG thanks to Janine Macbeth, Oakland Education Fund, and the staff/parents of Woodland Elementary!

Steve Muhammad-Black is Beautiful 6

It was recently after showing my uncle a documentary about black folks in martial arts that I came across Steve (Sijo Sabir Muhammad) ). Steve is an incredible martial artists with many years of experience under his belt.  He was taught by Ed Parker, and has himself trained hundreds of students. He is a 10th degree black belt in Karate Kenpo and he is the founder of BKF-the Black Karate Foundation, which he started because of racism in the competition circuit and magazine publishers of martial arts. He was a good friend of Bruce Lee's, and if you saw "Enter the Dragon" there is a scene where Jones visits an all black karate school where Steve was the head instructor. Steve also trained many brothers as part of the Nation of Islam's security and suprisingly was an LAPD police officer before joining the nation.  And he also served as Wesley Snipes' bodyguard at one point. Steve is still practicing and teaching today, much respect to you brother. You can visit him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/steve.muhammad.9

Guru-Black is Beautiful 5


"Even in this rap game, all that glitters ain't gold. Now that rap is big business, the snakes got bold. They give you wack contracts and try to make you go pop, because they have no regard for real hip hop. They'll compare you to others and say -but yo he sells!-when you know in your heart, that he's weak as hell" -Guru on The Conspiracy
This is brother Keith Elam, better known as Guru from the mighty Gangstarr. Guru, originally from Boston moved to Brooklyn in the 80s as an MC and started a group with DJ Premier that touched a lot of people. I'm one of those people and the first time I ever saw a Gangstarr tape, it was "Step in the Arena" and my cousin Mook had it. After that I bought Daily Operation, Hard To Earn, Moment of Truth, The Owners, etc. And there are so many incredible poetic lines from Guru in them, besides his many side projects such as Jazzmatazz. He passed away in 2010 abut his spirit lives on.

"Ever since the declaration, of independence we've been easily brainwashed but just one sentence. It goes-(all men are created equal). Thats why corrupt governments kill innocent people........And every time there's violence shown in the media, usually its a black face so where are they leading ya? To a world full of ignorance, hatred, and prejudice. TV and the news for years they have fed you this". Guru on "The Conspiracy"


5.2.16

MC Sha Rock-Black is Beautiful 4


"Sha-Rock is the woman with the magical touch. I'm like burning fire! You know I'm much too much!" was the line I remember from seeing Sha Rock on the mic in Beat Street as a kid. Later on I would hear "They're four fly guys, i'm the best female. I'm telling the truth not a fairytale" while she rhymed with the hip hop legends "Funky Four + 1". Sha Rock, is one of the earliest women on the mic during the birth and pioneering years of early hip hop mcing. She's still alive and rocking, but I wanted to give her some props for Black History Month! Much love Sha, I play your records for my son so he knows the sisters were there from the start.
-Rob

4.2.16

El Yanga- Black is Beautiful 3


El Yanga, was a maroon in Veracruz Mexico. Over the centuries many of the Africans enslaved all across the Americas and in the caribbean rebelled, escaped, or fled their captors. Gaspar Yanga or "El Yanga" was one of those who rebelled and established a maroon society in Mexico which survived many years, with countless Africans escaping and fleeing to its stronghold. His maroon society was so strong the Spanish tried to get him to negotiate and they fought back. Please share Gaspar Yanga's story and look for his statue that todays stands in Veracruz.

3.2.16

Asian Art Museum-Timeline Illustrations

Peace and blessings, this is an honor to share. A couple of months ago I began work on a HUGE project to create 5 interlocking illustrations for the San Francisco Asian Art museum. I had the chance to work with an amazing art directing team Jonathan Lee (Head of digital experience) and Mel Chang over at the museum, as well as designer Anne Nguyen who invited me to the project.

The museum has been around for a very long time and I actually had never visited it, growing up my whole life in the Bay Area. But once I started the project i spent hours walking around checking out a fraction of their collection, which rotates yearly because they have so much great artwork there. Here are a few bits from the art making process for the first illustration for the foundation of the museum, the "Gold Rush" period from 1846-1935. Here you can see some of my process for these illustrations.



Please go visit the museum in SF and check out the website + art HERE
and scroll through the pages and links to see the different time periods of the museum's collection, patrons, and exhibitions such as:
A Jewel in GoldenGate Park 1966-1975
Museum comes of age 1976-2002
Heart of the city 2003-Now






Scurlock photographers-Black is Beautiful 2

The Scurlocks were a family of photographers who shot weddings, birthday parties, dances, family portraits, city scenes, and historic figures-all capturing an unforgettable vision of Black life. They worked mostly in Washington DC capturing so many events and people from the 1930's until the early 90's. I found their work looking through books at the publiclibrary and I think more people should know abt them.


I'll be doing these drawings all month and i invite any artists to participate in drawing, collaging, photographing, or just posting photos of black folks for Black history month because "BlackisBeautiful" Peace! 
#artofrobertliutrujillo


2.2.16

Jackie Ormes- Black is Beautiful 1


Jackie Ormes was the first African American woman to be a cartoonist. She worked on both comics and toys. She is one of many stories still yet to be told in full. Join me this month as I illustrate a few people for Black History Month!