Black Lives Matter in the Bay Area

Stanford University is less than one hour away from significant sites of rich African-American histories. Across the United States, in cities like San Francisco and Oakland--the focus of two conversations in the Methods of Protest series--people of African descent created strong artistic cultures to generate positive social change within the Black community. From their start, these artistic movements helped facilitate the often better-known political arms of the Black freedom struggle in the Bay Area. In multiple ways, the performing arts, such as hip hop and dance, are crucial to Black freedom struggles, and understanding their integral role offers a window into the Bay Area’s Black past, present, and future. Over the course of two conversations with Black artist-activists, Aliyah Dunn-Salahuddin (History, Stanford) explores art and activism in the Bay Area, touching on the connected themes of Black history, expression, and freedom.

Movements of Change: Dance, Liberation, and the Power of Aesthetics - October 26, 2020


In a pre-recorded conversation, Dunn-Salahuddin describes her own journey as a dancer and historian as she speaks with two dance luminaries and her own mentors in the Bay Area: Joanna Haigood, Artistic Director of Zaccho Dance Theater based in San Francisco, and Colette Eloi, Artistic Director of El Wah Movement Dance Company and Research Group based out of Oakland California. They each share insights into their method as it relates to place, community connections, oral history, and archival research. They discuss the role of movement within the diaspora, framing dance as a liberatory act and practice.

Colette Eloi's work protests the ideological violence and widespread dehumanization of the people called Black. Her performances aim to reaffirm life, and restore [added e] identity and histories, reconnecting people to the wisdom of indigenous and pre-colonial worldviews. Over her career, Eloi has focused on the African diaspora and West African dance movements and cosmologies. She sees dances as carriers of African lineages, and, in her words, as a "pre-colonial archive." In this video, Eloi shares two short excerpts from performances that build upon this research and her fieldwork. "Alkebulan's Awakening," (2017) was a site-specific performance staged at the Cape Coast Slave Dungeon/Castle in Ghana. "Call All the Good People," (2013) was performed at the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival.

Joanna Haigood is the award-winning Artistic Director and founder of Zaccho Dance Theater in San Francisco. Through immersive and place-based dance performances, Haigood's art combines archival material, oral histories, and the built-environment to layer the past into spaces of re-imagination, "sculptural" dance, as she describes it. In this conversation, Haigood shares two excerpts from "Picture Bayview Hunters Point" (2018), a site-specific performance weaving together the stories of the neighborhoods and community where Zaccho Dance Theater has been based since the late 1970s. Scene three, in particular, recounts the 1966 Bayview Uprising which was set in motion when the San Francisco Police Department killed sixteen year-old Mathew "Peanut" Johnson."


*A note about the historical chronology referred to in this video. The correct sequence of events is:  American Revolution (1775-1783), Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), American-Civil War (1861-1865), Reconstruction (1863-1877)


Arts and Resistance in Black San Francisco - October 30, 2020

In the live event, moderated by Umniya Najaer (Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford), Dunn-Salahuddin speaks with Khafre Jay, Founder and Director of Hip Hop For Change, about the complexities of Black life in San Francisco, California, and their work as community builders and change makers. They will focus on San Francisco and how its rich history has shaped their art and practice.

Reading List

Dunn-Salahuddin, Aliyah.  "A Forgotten Community, a Forgotten History: San Francisco’s 1966 Urban Uprising." In  The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North: Segregation and Struggle Outside of the South Edited by Purnell, Brian, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard. New York: New York University Press, 2019. LINK