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Opal Palmer Odisa collaborating with The African American Museum and Library

Award: $35,000 Literary Arts award granted in 1998

Premiered: 1999 display at the West Oakland Branch of the Oakland Public Library; 2000-03 exhibition at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland

As she embarked on this project, writer Opal Palmer Adisa had lived in West Oakland for seven years and witnessed rapid changes in the neighborhood. She sought to preserve and honor the voices, stories, and images of of its residents who had lived in West Oakland for 20 years or longer. Ultimately, she completed 46 interviews and written profiles of these long-time residents.

“Tales of a Forgotten Glory: West Oakland Senior Citizen Oral History Project,” culminated in several forms. Oakland photographer Jonathan Eubanks photographed the seniors for an exhibition of photos and written profiles at the African American Museum and Library. Video producer Ian Dawkins-Moore created a documentary using footage from the library’s collection, and juxtaposing West Oakland’s past with overlays from Palmer’s interviews.

The African American Museum and Library of Oakland addresses the needs and documents the achievements of the Bay Area’s African American community. It was created in 1994 through a public-private partnership between the Oakland Public Library and the Northern California Center for African American History and Life.  During the course of its collaboration with Adisa, Eubanks, and Dawkins-Moore, the library moved from 56th and Peralta to 14th Street in downtown Oakland.

Jamaican-born Opal Palmer Adisa is a multidisciplinary writer–the author of numerous poems, the novel It Begins With Tears, and the performance piece, “The Despair Series,” which was produced as a video. She had collaborated with photographer Jonathan Eubanks and video producer Ian Dawkins-Moore on prior projects. (Photo credit: Jonathan Eubanks)