Marin-City was over 96 percent African-American throughout the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s, and mid-1990s, until development, gentrification, and other forces began to change the landscape.
Today, the population of African-Americans in Marin City is under 35 percent and continues to decline. This same fate is being experienced across the nation, and in the Bay Area, many former Marin City residents now reside in Vallejo, Richmond, Antioch, or elsewhere. Some have moved back to the southern states but remain deeply connected to their hometown roots. Ironically, upon relocation, they find that the nostalgia for their native-hood is shared by others, revealing a sentiment that they are bonded by deeper roots and shared history; ultimately reconnecting them to the African Continent.
The Black Beyond Borders exhibit at the Marin Civic Center connects artists whose families were part of the Second Great Migration of African descendants from the American South (1940-1970). It is inspired by an emotional, but strategic response to the disappearance of culturally rich, vibrant communities as a result of that migration.
Black Beyond Borders also mourns and then responds to the threat of invisibility by creating a new community—expressed through the arts—a community that in its unity creates another exodus. A Third Migration towards freedom, consisting of individuals with shared legacies and shared vision beyond the borders of city or neighborhood.
The exhibit includes paintings, photographs, and sculptures by some 20 artists from MC Arts and Culture, a multi-disciplinary artist group based in Marin City. Featured artists include Asya Abdrahman, Maalak Atkins, Tony Be Conscious, Orin Carpenter, Zwanda Cook, Lumumba Edwards, Mitchell Howard, Oran Hutson, David Johnson, Margot Jones, Godfrey Lee, Ricardo Moncrief, James Noel (RIP), Natalie Nong, Adrianne Pasley, Michael Tabb, The Arthur Wright, Jasmine Young, and students from Bayside/MLK Academy Artists Collective.
Q&A with Oshalla Diana Marcus, Director - MC Arts & Culture
Tell us a little about MC Arts & Culture and what you do?
MC Arts and Culture is a membership association of artists from various genres, and educators who use art mediums to teach. Our mission is to connect African Culture with the public through the arts and conscious economics. We are committed to inspiring and mentoring a new generation to create art and to share their stories. As Director, I founded the group to establish a platform for the many gifted artists in my community, expose audiences to their work, and provide them with opportunities to mentor and apprentice youth. An LLC business structure was chosen, emphasizing a conscious capital exchange so that money received goes directly to the artist. However, we partner with an umbrella non-profit organization to provide tax benefits for those desiring to contribute to our work.
How can art and culture help a community thrive?
To create art is to develop discipline and the incentive to cultivate oneself towards excellence. To create is to be united with a source that can move emotions, mediate difficult conversations, and make learning enjoyable. Communities thrive as individuals use the arts to heal themselves. Unlikely bridges and relationships are formed as a result of interactions between artist and audience. Art is one of the great levelers that bring meaning and joy to living.
Talk about the artistic landscape in Marin City?
Although the support for and cultivation of the arts has taken a backseat to the concerns of survival and politics, there are notable exceptions committed to bringing world class teaching and art appreciation. The Center for Excellence, (CFE) an organization whose young artists are represented in this show through the MLK-Bayside Academy Arts Collective, has been diligent in bringing Arts into a school that had little or no funding for the Arts. We have partnered with them and other agencies to produce Inter-generational Community Theater, which, in my opinion, is the ultimate medium for forming deep bonds, improving literacy, practicing accountability and developing grace.
What do you hope people take away from this special exhibit at the Civic Center?
Ultimately, I would like for people to take away lots of art! Invest in local art and support the artists in this show. I trust that our audiences will consider their investments as conscious acts for justice and equity. I want them to take away pieces to beautify their home or office, or to give as special gifts. Most importantly I want our viewers to discover the connection between themselves and the art they contemplate. On a deeper note, I want our audiences to reflect on their, or their children’s relationship to Spirituals, Jazz, Swing, Blues, Rock & Roll, Hip Hop, and the many art forms born out of Black culture; reflect on the disappearing African-American communities throughout the United States, the mass incarceration of African-American men; and further reflect on how these realities are impacting America’s future heritage and landscape.