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San Francisco Stories: The Harlem of the West

EVT 925
Mar 16
7:30 pm
CEMEX Auditorium, Knight Management Center
Status: No Registration Required
Billie Holiday. Duke Ellington. Dizzy Gillespie. Charlie Parker. The San Francisco Stories series continues with an exploration of the city’s Fillmore District during its jazz heyday of the 1940s–1960s. Back then, the Fillmore was a swinging, eclectic, racially integrated neighborhood. Its streets were lit up with lively restaurants, packed theaters, busy pool halls, and eclectic shops—many of which were owned by African Americans. Within one square mile, it boasted two dozen active nightclubs and music joints that thrived for decades—until it virtually vanished, abruptly and thoroughly, in one of the largest redevelopment projects in US history. Its memory, held by those who lived and played music in the district, has been captured by Professor Lewis Watts and documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Pepin Silva as part of their Harlem of the West project. They have created a book filled with rarely seen photographs, a companion website, and a traveling museum exhibit.

In this presentation, Watts and Silva will bring that lost era back to life, and examine the policy decisions that led to its demise. As San Francisco again undergoes dramatic transformations today, their reflection on a nearly forgotten cultural history can help us to appreciate the glories of San Francisco’s past while also suggesting solutions to its current challenges.

Elizabeth Pepin Silva, Filmmaker; Journalist; Photographer

Elizabeth Pepin Silva is an Emmy Award–winning filmmaker, journalist, and photographer who contributed to the PBS documentary The Fillmore and served as the writer for the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency’s Fillmore Sidewalk and Plaza Project as well as the Fillmore Center’s Historical Panel Project. She is the co-author of Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.

Lewis Watts, Professor Emeritus of Art, UC Santa Cruz

Lewis Watts’ photographic documentation has focused on African-American migration and has been exhibited at many venues, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Oakland Museum of California, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. He is the co-author of Harlem of the West: The San Francisco Fillmore Jazz Era.
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