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KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Black Life In Southern California Featured In Photography Exhibit

 August 30, 2019 at 9:59 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 The San Diego Museum of art has an exhibition about African Americans living in southern California that will officially open tomorrow. The exhibit is called black life images of resistance and resilience. It's a collection of photos that tells the story of black people during the last half of the 20th century. I stopped by the San Diego Museum of art to talk with the curator Guy AAD Feeney, who is the board chair of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts. Speaker 2: 00:28 GoDaddy. Phinney. Thank you so much for joining us here today. Thank you. So tell me about this exhibit. There are 40 black and white photos here, right? Yeah, this started almost two and a half years ago. Uh, working with the, uh, San Diego Museum of art, trying to put together a project that would fit in the space that will showcase what the museum is about, which is showcasing African American culture. So we worked with California State University, Northridge, who had some 23,000 images and we call through those images and got them into four categories. Um, entertainment, lifestyle, sports, and civil rights. Wow. And all of these photos, um, are really from a specific time period. Tell me about that. Uh, in my [inaudible] then Ian, these really a surround the changing of African American culture in the west coast. In other words, you had the people coming back from World War II, those soldiers who felt like when they came back from fighting for you as they should have a better shot at at life, you had the people who are migrating from the south coming north for jobs. Speaker 2: 01:35 You had the civil rights movement and the changes that, that affected people's culture. And then you also had just people living differently than they had been in earlier times. And so that is the period in which these exist. Okay. And it spans about what, 50 years? About 50 years. So who are some of the, the, the notable names in these photos? Everyone's got it. Every picture has that something very special about it. Yeah. And so as we look to these images, we call them through at California State Northridge, we tried to find those that would relate to the community. So we have Diana Ross in Muhammad Ali and James Brown and politicians and Malcolm mix and Martin Luther King. You've got a Stokely Carmichael and mark and a Muhammad Ali for the, quite a few different things. Things that people can relate to, uh, who come to visit it and I think they will want them to take something home from, from thing. Speaker 2: 02:27 How difficult was it to find photos that you feel people could relate to and that would resonate with people? I mean you had hundreds upon hundreds of pictures to look through. Yeah, it, it, it wasn't easy. Um, and that's the job of curating is to kind of get it down to two year theme and it was just a matter of just slowly going through them, trying to relate myself and with my board who helped me, uh, to pick out these images to get the ones that we have. Yeah. Was there one in particular that you wish you hadn't been able to incorporate in into this? There was one we talked about that there was one that showed the migration. There was a train station where people were coming off the train into Los Angeles for their new lives and that one is not in the exhibit. Are there any other aspects of black life, um, that you can see in these photos? Speaker 2: 03:16 I mean, I know they're broken up into four categories. You have politicians, you have activists, you've got entertainers, you've got, um, athletes. Um, but you've also got just some aspects of life. Um, one of the pictures down there, w we see the Black Panther party in that picture. Um, tell me something about that. Well, that one was very important to me. In fact, when people ask me, what am I famous one that is one of the ones that I really chose as one of my favorites. One is because all that we're getting ready to ramp to that goal, the, the headquarters of the Black Panthers, but also has a picture of the, of them feeding the kids, which is a lot of people don't know that that's what they would do doing. They were very popular for feeding kids. Yeah. Taking care of neighborhoods. Yeah. So that, so that's an important aspect of who, who they are and what we want to project as well. Speaker 2: 04:05 Both. And who, who captured these? These photos? Guy Crowd or Clarence Williams and Harry Adams. Those are the ones that they have a lot of collections from. But um, they are those photographers who captured them and they do they work for the, the publications are no, oddly enough, these photographers during that time they couldn't get jobs. There was very little, the Associated Press wasn't hiring them. The UPI wasn't hiring them, so they had to create their own, they also would treat the school of photography for African American photographers. So it really was organic because later on you get more pretty pictures, but they were just trying to get paid someone they did this for the black newspapers for the most part in La, Los Angeles area. How important do you think it is to have these images captured? Um, and through the lens of a black photographer? Well, it's always, you need to have, for lack of a better term, his story. Speaker 2: 05:01 And when I think of his story, sometimes that gets kind of a loss. What that means. It means that history is his stories. So you want to have the perspective of the people in your history. So having a black photographers give his story, uh, is what we want to provide for history. How important do you think exhibits like these are two, sort of moving the culture forward and to, and to sort of keeping the stories of the black community here in southern California live? Well, you hit the nail on the head with that one because the reason that the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts exists is for that very reason is to keep the culture alive, keep it moving forward, and to give people a history that they can recognize and talk about now become part of themselves. I mean, to me this whole thing is about making black art, African American art, giving it to the culture of San Diego. Yes, the African American culture, but for the whole community of San Diego. And that's why we exist is to bring that out. We have a very, very rich culture. Uh, in all kinds of areas. And so the San Diego African American museum is really in the forefront of doing it, although we have no wall space. We collaborate with many museums. This is our latest, but it really is to bring it back to the community so they can see the richness of our African American culture guy. Andy Finney, thank you so much for joining us. Welcome.

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The exhibit, "Black Life: Images of Resistance and Resilience" will be on display at the San Diego Museum of Art until Dec. 1, 2019.
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