Kinsey Collection sparkles in California Museum

An exhibition is a window into the point of view of the curator.
“African-American Treasures: History and Art from the Collection of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey” is a window into the soul of the collectors, and the artists, as well.
The stunning show is presented by the California Legislative Black Caucus through May 2 on the second floor of the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts in the Secretary of State Building at 1020 Ø Street in Sacramento, two blocks from the State Capitol.
Despite the stunning sculptures, fabrics, paintings and artifacts, I was most drawn to a clipping which put the entire remainder of the exhibition in context.
The newspaper story referred to Bernard Kinsey’s father in Palm Beach County, FL, who filed a successful lawsuit in the 1940s which brought about equal salaries for black and white teachers. The story said the suit was the precedent for the Brown vs. Board of Education litigation begun by NAACP General Counsel Thurgood Marshall.
It made the biographies of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey as much a work of art as the other items. A couple of the milestones include his role in developing perhaps the most successful black employee organization in history at Xerox in the 1970s. The New York Times helped describe why in a profile Sunday about Ursula Burns, the new CEO of Xerox, after a 30-year climb through the organization. He also brought millions in investment to south Los Angeles after the riots of the early 1990s.
Like their stories, the pieces in the collection connect the dots of the African experience to America. The Ed Dwight sculpture African-American Revolutionary Soldier is inspired by Crispus Attucks, an escapee from slavery who was the first American to die in the Revolutionary War during the Boston Massacre in 1770. Dwight’s saga connects to Attucks because of Dwight’s own military background as a pilot and the first African-American chosen to train as an astronaut.
Attucks also inspired the California Legislative Black Caucus decades ago to have March 5 declared as an education holiday in the State of California as Black American Day because that was the day Attucks gave his life for America. According to the Education Code, the entire day is to be spent studying the contributions of African-Americans to the nation’s history.
That extends the opportunity afforded by Black History Month, which the Legislative Black Caucus also celebrated Wednesday night and Thursday by honoring eight distinguished Californians:

  • Oral Lee Brown who adopted a first grade class in 1987 and paid for the college education of the entire class.
  • Lou Gossett Jr. whose many acting roles include a 1982 Oscar for Best Supporting Actor as well as quest to tackle discrimination through his Eracism Foundation.
  • Dr. Anthony Iton, newly named senior vice president of Healthy Communities for the California Endowment and a leader in addressing health disparities
  • Rafer Johnson, 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon and founder of Special Olympics of Southern California
  • Gwen Moore, an expert on utility policy from her days as a member of the California Assembly and first vice president of the California Conference of Branches of the NAACP.
  • Dr. Raye Richardson, owner of Marcus Books in Oakland and San Francisco and former chair of Black Studies at San Francisco State University
  • Dennis Richmond who spent 40 years as a reporter and anchor for KTVU-TV in Oakland
  • Rev. Cecil Williams, the Minister of Liberation at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco
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