Putting Africa in Santa Barbara

The 8th Annual African Heritage Film Series Comes to

by Matt Kettmann and Shelya Molho

stanley_nelson.jpgIt’s a common observation by many an
out-of-towner that Santa Barbara lacks a visible population of
African Americans. But, explained Gwendolyn Hampton, who cofounded
the S.B. African Heritage Film Series with her husband, Friday,
back in 2000, “We are here. Just because there’s not quote-unquote
a community or a neighborhood doesn’t mean we don’t exist.”

And so, to honor those residents and shed light on the cultural
contributions of Africans and African Americans in Santa Barbara
and beyond, the Hamptons proudly present their eighth annual affair
this month, which, of course, coincides with the national Black
History Month. And though film is at its core, the series also
involves art exhibits, a community celebration, collaboration with
the Jewish and Latino communities, school visits, and events for
children, too.

“We want to give a perspective that sometimes isn’t presented in
Santa Barbara,” Hampton explained. “This series allows us to
present the culture is a positive way, whereas a lot of times the
media depicts African Americans in a negative way.”

Here’s what this year’s Santa Barbara African Heritage Film
Series entails.

Art and History

Running through February 28 are two exhibits. The first is
focused on history and is being held right now at the Karpeles
Manuscript Library on Anapamu Street. There are several documents
on display, as well as a coin with the face of the African leader
Saint Maurice from the Roman Theban Legion in the 3rd century.

The second exhibit is more artistically inclined, featuring
works from various artists around the theme of Black History Month.
This one’s being held at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion, which is the
de facto headquarters for much of the series.


Keeping true to the community-oriented nature of the series,
there will be a celebration with several award ceremonies, film
shorts, and African drumming and dancing accompanied by delicious
soul food. This goes down at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center on
Saturday, February 17 from 3 to 7 p.m. This is the series’ main
fund-raiser each year, so be proud to fork over the $20 admission
fee. (Seniors are $15 and kids younger than 12 are $10.)


In conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League for the second
year in a row, the series will screen a significant film to touch
the entire community. This year’s film is From Swastika to Jim
, which shows the lives of Jewish scholars who fled Europe
and retells their journey and how they came to work at historically
black colleges in the South. The screening will be followed by a
discussion facilitated by the Honorable Denise de Bellefeuille and
UCSB Professor Otis Madison. This is on Thursday, February 22 at 7
p.m. at the Museum of Natural History’s Fleischmann Auditorium.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students.


The heart of the African Heritage Film Series is, of course,
film. So on Saturday, February 24 from 1 to 10 p.m. at the Fiesta
Five Theatre, prepare for a full day of screenings.

Most awaited is My Brother, a tale about the bond
between two brothers — one who is developmentally disabled — and
the life-threatening events they face on the streets of New York
City. The film, which starts at 7 p.m., stars Vanessa Williams,
Tatum O’Neal, Fredro Starr, and Nashawn Kearse. Following the
series’ tradition of bringing silver screen classics to life,
theater-goers will also get to see St. Louis Blues, a
music-drenched treat that depicts the life of Will C. Handy, known
as the Father of Blues. Starring such familiar faces as Nat King
Cole, Cab Calloway, and Ella Fitzgerald, it’s sure to be a popular

Also on the bill for February 24 are three other films. The most
anticipated is director Stanley Nelson’s Jonestown: The Life
and Death of Peoples Temple
, a riveting documentary that
traces the rise and fall of Jim Jones and his followers. That will
be followed by a discussion involving a survivor from the Jonestown
massacre. Then there’s The Color of the Cross, which
depicts Jesus as a black man and explores race as a reason for his
execution. A discussion with the director will follow the
screening. And in a collaboration with Santa Barbara’s populous
Latino community, the series shows the premiere of El Milagro
de Candeal
, a film tracing Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés’s trip to
Salvador, Brazil. It’s a musical feast for the ears and eyes.

And lastly, on Wednesday, February 28, UCSB’s MultiCultural
Center gets involved by hosting a screening and reception for
Freedom Never Dies: The Legacy of Harry T. Moore, about
America’s “first civil rights activist.” That’s at 5:30 p.m. and is


The 8th Annual African Heritage Film Series encompasses exhibits
of art and historical documents, a festival, and lots of films. The
events occur throughout the month of February. For more details,
see sbahfs.org or call


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