Golden Gate Library After Hours

Celebrating Neighborhood African American History

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Golden Gate Branch Library

5606 San Pablo Avenue

Oakland CA

We loved seeing everyone grooving with the MERCER Brotherhood! Born and raised in Oakland but currently displaced from his hometown, Leo Mercer leverages Hip Hop as a platform for social change. A self-named 'raptavist', Leo collaged recorded neighbor stories with local music from the library's Summer Jazz Concerts. Summer Jazz Concerts at the Golden Gate Library has been organized by longtime neighbor Josephine Lee, celebrating 95 years this August! Every summer, the Friends of the Golden Gate Branch Library treat Oaklanders to a series of free Sunday afternoon jazz concerts featuring top-notch local talent. This year would have marked three decades of these fantastic concerts. Sadly, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the concerts are canceled.

It was magical to be at the library when it’s usually closed to celebrate African American neighborhood history, enjoy local music from the Golden Gate Summer Jazz Concert series, and experience the Golden Gate Library Local Collection. We’re grateful to the Golden Gate Library staff for staying late to host 'After Hours'. On the quieter side of the library, folks benefited from healing massage and community wellness provided by TranquilityRx. Located in Paradise Park, North Oakland, they promote care and compassion with a community-oriented practice that addresses systemic inequalities.

Hope. Freedom. Liberation.  Perseverance.

Memories of Susan Anderson's powerful presentation, 'Public Memory, Social Forgetting, & the East Bay Negro Historical Society' are nourishing. Historian, curator, and author focusing on California's African American history, Susan is the newly appointed history curator at the California African American History Museum.

Susan unpacked the tremendous impact of the East Bay Negro Historical Society (EBNHS) and its founders. Through hands-on exhibitions, the EBNHS shared with youth Black history not taught at schools. The EBNHS debunked the mythology that African Americans first came to California during the Great Migration. Ruth Lasartemay's family, the Hacketts, have been a seminal Alameda family in Alameda since the late 1800s.  And Susan's own family came to West Oakland in the 1880s.

"For generations, white professional historians and other professions and institutions that present history, such as museums and national parks, have excluded the presence of African Americans, and particularly omitted the influence of African Americans in the development of the United States. In the 19th and 20th centuries arose a mostly grassroots movement to preserve African American history and culture by building museums, libraries, and archives, decolonizing systems of knowledge and information."

It was no coincidence that the founders formally launched the East Bay Negro Historical Society on July 4, 1965. The group had been active since the 1940s through their shared church, Beth Eden Baptist. 1965 was a year of groundbreaking change, including:

  • California as the  first state to teach African American history
  • Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama
  • Passage of the Federal voting rights act
  • Viet Nam War draft card burnings
  • UC Berkeley teach-ins

The EBNHS's trailblazing work laid the foundation for downtown's African American Museum & Library at Oakland (AAMLO). From 2017-18 Susan served as AAMLO's Interim Chief Curator. We're looking forward to the publication of her presentation in UC Berkeley’s BOOM: A California Journal. Take a look at AAMLO archival images from the presentation here. We're grateful to archivist Sean Dickerson for his research and James Butler for his beautiful event documentation.