Category Archives: Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #978


Here’s another portrait from the opening of The Black Woman is God exhibition at SOMArts, in San Francisco. Did I mentioned that roughly 1000 of the best dressed young Black tastemakers in the Bay Area turned out for this event? In my white button-down and khaki’s I felt underdressed; but I was happy to be upstaged by beautiful Black people in amazing clothes.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #977


This guy was one of the people in the audience at a panel discussion I participated in at the San Leandro Public Library. The topic was voting rights, and my fellow panelists were Ronald Moore, Board Member of the Alameda County Paul Robeson Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California; Penny Peck, Secretary of the League of Women Voters, Eden Area; and Donald Tamaki, an attorney at Minami Tamaki LLP in San Francisco and former executive director of the Asian Law Caucus representing Asian Americans in civil rights and poverty law. This panel took place on September 8, nearly two months to the day before the recent presidential election. I don’t usually get a chance to speak at community events like this one, and I was impressed with both the turnout and the truly warm welcome we received. While the man in this drawing was not among the people who asked questions, I did notice him nodding and taking notes during each of the panelist’s introductory statements. That felt good, too. I’m a 19th-century African American literature specialist, not an expert on voting rights. So, it’s kind of amazing that anything I said might have ended up in somebody’s notebook.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #975


I crossed paths with this brother at Farmer Joe’s Market, where he was narrating his way through the produce section.  He wasn’t talking to himself; he was sharing his opinion on the price, the quality, and the uses of all the fruits and vegetables with whoever seemed willing to listen. I smiled and nodded politely as he picked up a large red bell pepper and said to me, “Now that’s what I call a vegetable!” Around the corner, I saw him waving a bundle of lemongrass at an elderly couple, saying, ” This is good with everything. You wouldn’t think so, but it is.” As I moved into the dairy section, I could still hear him behind me, telling someone that he’d always thought cauliflower looked like brains.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #974


One of the best parts of living in the San Francisco Bay Area has been the opportunity to connect with so many other artists of color. This drawing is a portrait of William Rhodes, a local sculptor, and mixed-media artist whose work is included in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, in Washington, DC. In this drawing, he’s dressed as I saw him at the opening of the Making a Scene exhibition at SOMArts, in San Francisco. Click on his name (above) to view some of his amazing work.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #972


At the “Making a Scene Opening,” SOMArts, summer 2015.


SOMArts really knows how to throw an opening. From “Glitterbomb” and “Making a Scene” (both in the summer of 2015) to “The Black Woman Is God” (in the summer of 2016), SOMArts openings have drawn huge crowds of art lovers from across the Bay Area. I think it’s because SOMArts group shows include a diversity of artists, each of whom draws their own community of friends and family. Even those openings that have been overwhelmingly Black or LGBTQ draw on a richly diverse array of identities within those respective communities. There’s something about these events that feels so Bay Area. As much as I whine about missing my beloved Northeast, the art community in the Bay always reminds me of why, since coming to Oakland in 1999, I’ve decided to stay put.

Ajuan Mance