February 11, 2020

Celebrate Black History Month at OMCA

In honor of Black History Month, we're sharing the different ways you can remember important people and events in Black history right here at OMCA.

OMCA Staff

In honor of Black History Month, we are sharing the many different ways you can remember important people and events in Black history right here at OMCA. From artists to activists, servicemen to sailors, and everything in between, our galleries highlight numerous people whose contributions to American history should be celebrated during Black History Month, and every month. Here are some ways you can celebrate with us this month and year-round.

The Gallery of California Art highlights the creativity of Californians. Check out these pieces in our gallery that showcase the diverse ways these Black artists express themselves.


Question Bridge: Black Males

Question Bridge: Black Males is an intimate and powerful multimedia installation on the Black male experience featuring over 160 Black men answering each other’s questions and sharing stories in a personal portrayal of their lives. Encompassing themes of family, love, interracial relationships, community, education, and wisdom, Question Bridge: Black Males presents nuanced portraits of past, present, and future of Black men in American society. Listen, watch, learn, and start your own conversations with this profoundly moving installation by artists Chris Johnson and Hank Willis Thomas in collaboration with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair.


Walter Gordon Phillips paintings

Three paintings by San Francisco-born artist Walter Gordon Phillips hang in the gallery’s Pluralism/Identity section. Phillips’s painting technique was a unique one as he elected to use a palette knife rather than a brush to achieve the bold strokes of paint in his artwork. He often used scenes from everyday life and photographs or sketches as inspiration for his work. The three paintings in the gallery, Five Young Men, Flower Seller, and The Pavers, display his style of capturing these singular moments.


Diedrick Brackens quilt

Diedrick Brackens is an LA-based textile artist known for his creative and expressive weaving techniques. Inside the Gallery of California Art hangs an untitled tapestry he created in 2014. In an interview with the Daily Californian in March of 2015, Brackens said, "I can use the medium (weaving) to talk about my identities as a Black man, gay man in America. I pull on textile traditions from the cultures that are a part of my makeup: European tapestry, strip-woven kente cloth of Ghana, and the quilts of the American south. Through weaving and sewing, I am able to make a fabric that fully integrates all parts of my experience.”


The Gallery of California History demonstrates the profound impact that Californians have made in the past and how that influences our world today. Explore the important ways these people and events helped shape Black History.


Black Power

In response to the widely-popular 2016 exhibition All Power to the People: Black Panthers at 50, this installation illustrates the creative ways Black anti-racist activists in California supported their communities and challenged the U.S. government. Focusing on the example of the Black Panther Party, Black Power brings to light the tensions between a culturally and socially progressive California and examples of economic racism and oppression in the state.


Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters

In The Railroad Brings People: 1869-1930, you will find a history of The Pullman Company of Chicago, which was at one time the largest employer of African American men in the county. Oakland, at the end of the line, was home base for many porters, who organized into the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925 to fight for better wages and more reasonable working hours.

Charlotta Bass

In the Off to War: 1941-1945 section of the gallery is the profile of Charlotta Bass, the managing editor and publisher of California Eagle, one of the longest running African American newspapers in the west. A committed advocate for civil rights, Bass challenged racial barriers to employment and housing during the war. Her life was threatened many times, and the FBI placed her under surveillance on the charge that she was inciting opposition to the government.


The Gallery of California Natural Sciences offers a look at how humans have impacted the world around us. Take a look at how these people have helped our environment and continue to help it today.


Cordell Bank

Meet the Black Ahab, the first African American whaling captain on the West Coast. In 1886, Captain William T. Shorey sailed from his home in Oakland to hunt whales from the Arctic to the South Pacific, including the Cordell Bank. His multi-ethnic crew was devoted to him, and he brought them safely through many dangerous adventures, from an Arctic shipwreck to tropical typhoons.