A podcast about history

That's not stuck in the past


In 1968, an exhibition titled “New Perspectives in Black Art” opened in the Kaiser Center Gallery of the Oakland Museum. The show was curated by Evangeline “E.J.” Montgomery, a woman who was at the nucleus of the West Coast’s vibrant Black Arts movement during that radical era. According to Montgomery, the “New Perspectives” collection was “the first time that a Black Arts association has organized and set up their own art exhibit in a museum of this size.” 

Now, more than five decades later, Oakland-raised radio producer Babette Thomas is revisiting the life and legacy of E.J. Montgomery in a new season of SFMOMA’s Raw Material podcast called “Visions of Black Futurity.” Across seven episodes, Thomas will explore the local roots of the Black Arts movement to understand how this often overlooked past could inform the kind of future they want to see, a future of Black creative expression released from the limitations of traditional art institutions. Explaining why they chose to focus this series on E.J. Montgomery, Thomas explained, “Black Art was her language, and she used it to advocate for the role and work of Black artists and ensure that Black art was accessible to the communities to whom it mattered to the most.”

Listen to the podcast now to hear episode one of Raw Material’s “Visions of Black Futurity” and an interview with Babette Thomas covering what they discovered about the history of California Black Arts while making this series. Available via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts.

Radio producer Babette Thomas studied Black Arts in college, but didn’t learn about their hometown’s significant contributions to this movement until embarking on their own research. Their discoveries are chronicled in the “Visions of Black Futurity” season of Raw Material.
When asked about the purpose of hosting an exhibition of Black artists, curator E.J. Montgomery explained, “We want the public to be aware that we exist. We want our own people to know who we are.” [Video clip via San Francisco State University’s Bay Area Television Archive]
Babette Thomas was inspired to research the local history of Black Arts after seeing downtown Oakland covered in murals during the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. They said, “Before George Floyd’s face went up on murals across the country and all over the world, Black artists in 1968 were grappling with the police killings of Black boys like Denzil Dowell and Lil’ Bobby Hutton. They were surrounded by the same conditions of police violence that led the Black Panther Party to be founded in the first place.”

Listen to the episode via Apple, SoundCloud, Spotify, or wherever you get podcasts.

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“Black Art was her language”

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