Bay Area muralist honored in ‘A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone’ at Oakland International Film Festival

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

“My dream was to develop a new color that no one had ever seen in life. It hasn’t come true yet, but that was a dream of mine when I was a little girl,” says Bay Area muralist Edyth Boone in the documentary about her life, called “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone.” It screens on April 6, 5:15 p.m. at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland, as a part of the Oakland International Film Festival. Go to oiff.org for more information.

Edythe Boone
Edythe Boone

“If you look at (her) work, you think about a little girl who walks past billboards, and this little girl is maybe ebony or mocha or cappachino, with the hues we come with,” said Melorra Green, who at the time “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” was being shot was the curator for the art gallery at the African American Art and Culture Complex in the Fillmore, aka Western Addition District of San Francisco.

The beautifully crafted “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” documents her 75th birthday, which was celebrated in Benecia, attended by a large number of family members, including her great grandchildren. The film also documents her first art show in the Black community, which was at the African American Art and Culture Complex.

“I started doing (art) because people don’t know how beautiful African American people really are. And I always felt we were a beautiful race, and most of us didn’t know it,” says the 77-year-old muralist, whose work I would put in the legendary Black visual artivist pantheon of the Bay right alongside the great revolutionary artists Emory Douglas, Tarika Lewis, Karen Seneferu, Nia Imara and many others.

“When I draw or paint or do any art, you know, time just goes by and I just go into a different world, and it’s just wonderful. I can’t explain it; it’s just an urge. It’s almost like sex,” says the extremely candid and at times comical elder Edythe Boone.

“A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” screens on April 6, 5:15 p.m. at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland, as a part of the Oakland International Film Festival.

What I liked most about “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” was its undertone of Black revolutionary politics. “I admire Huey Newton for the food program,” she proclaims in this documentary which oozes Bay Area culture.

“The day Malcolm X got shot, I ran over there. I lived about six blocks away. What was he saying? That Black was beautiful, women were to be treated with respect, and the white man was the devil. Well, I did feel like the white man was the devil because of all of the things that happened to me. People just didn’t care about African American people and their health,” laments Edyth Boone.

“When I draw or paint or do any art, you know, time just goes by and I just go into a different world, and it’s just wonderful. I can’t explain it; it’s just an urge. It’s almost like sex,” says the extremely candid and at times comical elder Edythe Boone.

She talks about her experience when she went to the March on Washington.

She talks about leaving Harlem because of the government sponsored crack cocaine epidemic and moving to Berkeley to try and protect her sons.

The film talks about the Trayvon case, the cop in Ferguson not being charged for Michael Brown’s murder. She talks extensively in the documentary about her nephew, Eric Garner, being murdered by the NYPD on camera and more.

But just as much as “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone” talks about politics, it discusses art and local community culture. One of my favorite times in the doc was hearing the young people at West Oakland Middle School, the old Lowell, talk about their politics around food, and being disappointed in not being able to paint their mural on the wall because of some bureaucratic b.s.

Edythe Boone and six other women artists painted this magnificent mural, called the “Maestra Peace Mural,” in 1994. It continues around the building that stands on a prominent corner in San Francisco and is, deservedly, world famous.
Edythe Boone and six other women artists painted this magnificent mural, called the “Maestra Peace Mural,” in 1994. It continues around the building that stands on a prominent corner in San Francisco and is, deservedly, world famous.

The film exposes the viewers to Edythe Boone’s extensive resume of work on Bay Area walls. She worked on the People’s Park mural in Berkeley. In ‘94, she worked with six other women muralists to paint the Women’s Building in San Francisco.

In 2012, she worked on the crew to restore it. She worked on the “We Remember” mural in San Francisco, which is about AIDS. She worked on the “Breakfast and Art Program” mural in Richmond. She worked on the “From Catacombs to Color” mural in the Richmond Public Library. She also worked on the “A Garden Grows in Oakland” mural in West Oakland, just to name a few of the pieces discussed.

So many people accomplish just enough in life to survive, while Edyth has found a way to freedom-fight against injustice through painting and teaching others about the beauty inside of expressing ourselves on issues that affect our world, in the different ways in which we could speak.

“I always tell kids, you can’t change your beginning, but you can put a nice beautiful ending to the story,” philosophizes muralist Edyth Boone at the end of “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone,” which screens on April 6, 5:15 p.m., at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland, as part of the Oakland International Film Festival. Go to oiff.org for more information.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.