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Classic Black: African-American Voices from 19th Century San Francisco

"If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday." ~Pearl Buck

Told in stories, poems, music and slides, devorah major’s newest poetry perforance show, Classic Black, gives dramatic voice to the stories of a few of the African-Americans who played important part roles in the founding years of San Francisco. She presents
portraits of Mary Ellen Pleasant, William Alexander Leidesdorff, Sylva Dennis, Margaret Ann Brown Dennis, Green Dennis, and Archy Lee.

Mary Ellen Pleasant was nicknamed ”The Black City Hall” because of the power she wielded.
William Alexander Leidesdorff was a trader, entrepreneur, and politician was California’s first Black millionaire. George Washington Dennis became a leading figure in California’s struggles to free Black people and have justice under the law, after buying himself free in a San Francisco saloon. And Archy Lee brought to California as slave found freedom with the help of the entire Black community of San Francisco in a case that was known as California’s Dred Scott case.

These are some of the men and women who devorah major brings to life to tell their own stories and the stories of others while bringing rich colors to the ornate historic tapestry that created San Francisco.

“The music and text were seamless; your reworking of the history beautiful.” Audience member

devorah major is accompanied by two or three of the Bay Area’s most respected jazz musicians and there is an accompanying slide show.

"If we do not learn our history, we are not only condemned to repeat it, but condemned to be blind to the greatness that we have been. “Audience member

Poet, performer, novelist, devorah major is former San Francisco Poet Laureate (2002-2005), and arts educator and activist. She has toured nationally and internationally with and without jazz musicians and is a featured poet on six CD albums. She has been performing her poetry in San Francisco schools, community centers, and social institutions for over twenty years.
As a part of Daughters of Yam with Opal Palmer Adisa she has performed at the Lincoln Center Outdoors Summer Festival, Brava Theater for the Arts and the Oakland Ensemble theater.
She has also performed one woman shows at UC Santa Barbara , California State University at Humboldt, and with AfroSolo. Her most recent poetry collections are black bleeds into green and Amour Verdinia/Verdinia Amour (with Opal Palmer Adisa), where river meets ocean and with more than tongue. She teaches poetry as Poet in Residence or adjunct professor to people of all ages and backgrounds from elementary school age through community elders. In all of her presentations she seeks to find , and if need be, create common ground and understanding.
The performance can be shaped to meet your group needs. Performed with jazz trio and full tech it is from 45-75 minutes With a jazz duo it is 35-50 minutes. As a solo performance 30-40 minutes. In all cases there can be a Q&A session about the history at the end.

“Ms. Major shines a light on the strong history of blacks that has been hidden in the shadows for far too long.” Audience member

This show would not be possible without the support of San Francisco Arts Commission’s Cultural Equity Individual Artist Commission Program

If you would like to have this performance at your school community organization
Contact info:
P.O. Box 423634 San Francisco, Ca. 94142
415-621-1664 Phone/fax