Category Archives: Cafe

1001 Black Men #991


If you go to the Peet’s Coffee on Fruitvale, right across from Farmer Joe’s Market, you will probably see this brother.  You’ll see him holding court at a corner table, surrounded by people listening intently to his theories of hidden global networks and wide-reaching social change.

After noticing him for more than a year, I finally approached him and ask him if I could do a portrait. We didn’t speak for more than 10 minutes, but it was one of the most interesting conversations I’ve had in a while.

The man in this drawing told me I should refer to him as American Sultan, Dr. Bey. Dr. Bey is an unrepentant conspiracy theorist. But while most conspiracy theorists I’ve encountered lean toward the negative, Dr. Bey has an optimistic vision to share.  He believes that recent events—like the activism surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the changes in the Congress, and shifts in leadership and migration worldwide–are ushering in a new era of positive social transformation. In our relatively brief conversation, Dr. Bey told a tale that wove the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton, the waves of migrants leaving North Africa, and the leadership of Germany and France into a sweeping vision of a coming golden age; and he did all of this at a time when the most optimistic and progressive thinkers have lost all sense of hope.

Since I spoke with Dr. Bey, I’ve returned to Peet’s coffee several times. He’s always there, wearing his fez and surrounded by a diverse group of admirers. As curious as I am to hear his theory of the moment, I am usually in a hurry; and to really have the true Dr. Bey experience, you need to take your time.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #938


At the, 7th Street Post Office, Oakland, California.


The 7th Street Post Office is a portrait artist’s bonanza. It’s one of the places in the city in which you can encounter a truly representative cross section of the working men and women of Black Oakland. Whenever I go there, I see a least a couple of people I want to include in this series. I don’t always  get a chance to add them, but this portrait and the next depict men who were waiting in line with me during a Christmas Eve errand to the P.O.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #936


I’m always fascinated by Black men who choose to wear relaxed hair. In the African American community, straightened hair is gendered in the same way skirts and high heels are gendered, and Black men who wear relaxed hair (or straight hair weaves, for that matter) are often doing so as part of an expression of their embrace of femininity and the body rituals associated with feminine gender performance.  In other contexts, though,  straightened hair on Black men serves as a mark of hypermasculine sartorial excess. Think Snoop Dogg in Shirley Temple curls in the 1999 music video for Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode.”

Whether deployed in the service of femininity or masculinity, though, Black men’s adoption of straightened hair almost always exemplifies the classic Afro disaporic aesthetics of excess, and that in and of itself is worth capturing in this series of portraits.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #935


The Hive: The Place to Bee, MacArthur Blvd. near Fruitvale Ave., Oakland, California.


In the midst of posting my drawings from a day at The Hive cafe on MacArthur, I had to do a lot of travel in a relatively short time, and I had to do some of that travel away from my laptop. It’s good to be back, though, and I have lots of new drawings to share.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #929


The man in this drawing was sitting diagonal to me at the picnic style table where Eddie and I were camped out at the Hive. The man in this drawing was having an animated conversation with the woman seated beside me, and I liked that he kept glancing my way to see my progress on his portrait. When he got up and walked around me, on his way to the door, he paused to look over my shoulder; and when I looked up at him, he smiled. But he left before I had a chance to offer to send him the finished drawing.

Ajuan Mance

1001 Black Men #928


I saw this man through the window during my art afternoon at the Hive. He was one of several Black men who either walked past the cafe or stopped in. I enjoy drawing figures who have some sort of variation on the traditional beard or goatee, so this highly symmetrical guy with the slightly unkempt chin beard was a perfect subject. I also really like drawing knit caps. The texture is a fun challenge, especially if you like to do line work. I included this guy’s beard and sideburn (and haircut) stubble to add to the texture in the portrait.

Ajuan Mance