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Aspire San Francisco marks 20th anniversary of Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California


SACRAMENTO -- For decades, the mural of Queen Califia in the California State Capitol was covered by sheet rock.  Hardly anyone understood the significance of the image.
Likewise, the mural of Queen Califia in the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco was in plain sight since 1926, but very few wondered why there was a nine-foot mural of an Afro-wearing woman warrior atop Nob Hill.
It took the 1991 book Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, 1500-1900, to pull the veil away from the account which gave the Golden State its name.
Within the 300-page, picture-laden title, an extensive account of honor, courage, perserverance, dignity and accomplishment beginning with the conquistadors who accompanied Cortez followed the translation of the 1510 saga "Las Serges de Esplandian."
Three additional volumes covering the periods 1900-1950, 1950 to 2000 and the lesson plans in the fourth volume The Black Queen: How African-Americans Put California on the Map followed.
ASPIRE SAN FRANCISCO, the imprint of eAccess Corp., also produced a 1993 public television documentaryOur Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, which aired on KMTP-TV32 in San Francisco.
In 1995, the book was the inspiration for an exhibition in the Historic State Capitol Museum, later displayed in the Los Angeles Central Library and San Francisco Main Library.
Educators soon learned that Our Roots had a transformational impact on student achievement.  Culturally-responsive specialists like Dr. Bruce Gaines in Los Angeles, and Chuck Ambers in San Diego used the title in their classes.
Agin Shaheed, a San Diego educator, became co-editor of Volume 2, 1900-1950, by incorporating artifacts from his ancestors C.C. Flint, an entrepreneur and campaign manager for the first black Assembly member Frederick M. Roberts; and J. Macfarline Ervin, the first black administrator in Los Angeles public schools and an historian of pre-World War II blacks in the city.
The I.R.I.S.E. program in San Francisco Unified Schools adopted the book for use in all its participating classrooms in 20 schools, under the direction of founder Michael "Chappie" Grice, in 1996.
Bancroft Library at UC-Berkeley was the site for California Council on the Humanities funded seminar The Black Queen: Primary Sources in California History, which explored artifacts like Black Panther photos and documents with David Hilliard and Fredrika Newton.
In 1998, Our Roots Run Deep received a Sesquicentennial Commendation from the California Sesquicentennial Commission.
During 1998-1999, the California Academy of Sciences hosted the exhibition California: A State of Natural Diversity based on Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California.
The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library bestowed the Library Laureate award for Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California in 2002.
In 2003, the exhibition Queen Calafia: California Black Heritage Confirmed by Public Art was shown in the S.F. African-American Historical and Cultural Society and William Grant Still Arts Center in Los Angeles.
Our second exhibition for the California Legislative Black Caucus, Gold Rush Abolitionists, was presented physically and online in 2007.
In 2008, a research study of social science teachers across the state determined that fewer than 20 percent were familiar with the African-American heritage of the state.  The study Black Heritage as Gap Closer was presented as a keynote speech to the California Council for the Social Studies.
Last year, Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco provided a detailed account of the heritage of African-Americans in the city.  It was designed to be the core of a curriculum on local black heritage.   Seven weekly classes this winter drew dozens of local residents who wanted to learn more.
All these titles are available in a classroom package at a group discount.  Libraries from Hampton University to Boise State to the University of Texas hold Our Roots Run Deep in their collection.  The package includes:
  • Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, Vol. 1, 1500-1900
  • Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, Vol. 2, 1900-1950
  • Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California, Vol. 3, 1950-2000
  • The Black Queen: How African-Americans Put California on the Map
  • Black Heritage as Gap Closer
  • Our Roots Run Deep: the Black Experience in California DVD 56:30
  • Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco

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