Movers and Shakers

December Movers and Shakers: With Art and Justice for All

Illustrations by Olivia Wise

Bay Area high achievers on our radar this month include household names and the next generation shaking things up.

Lava Thomas

Berkeley artist Lava Thomas’ sculpture of Maya Angelou will grace the steps of the San Francisco Main Library after all. But it wasn’t without a fight. Last year, the San Francisco Arts Commission greenlit her monument to the famous poet, only to reject it later because the project’s legislative sponsor, District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, was expecting something in a traditional statue form. (Thomas’ bronze artwork was proposed in the shape of a 9-foot book featuring Angelou’s portrait and words etched onto its front and back covers.) After a year of Thomas and her supporters demanding accountability, the SFAC officially apologized to Thomas over the summer and granted the artist $250,000 to move forward with her vision. “Black women should get to decide how we are going to be represented in the public realm, not politicians,” Thomas recently told the New York Times.

Martin J. Jenkins

In November, Martin J. Jenkins made history as the first openly gay justice to be confirmed to the California Supreme Court, and only the third Black man in the state’s history to hold the position. Jenkins most recently served as judicial appointments secretary for Governor Gavin Newsom, who recommended him to fill the vacancy of Justice Ming Chin, who retired over the summer. “Justice Jenkins is widely respected among lawyers and jurists, active in his Oakland community and his faith, and is a decent man to his core,” Newsom has said. Jenkins got his start in 1980 as a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office and has spent 40 years holding multiple judicial positions in California. The new justice is praised for his “brilliant intellect, first-class temperament, and boundless humanity” in a report issued by the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation.

James Trinh

In October, the City breathed a collective sigh of relief when Maki, the lemur who went missing from the San Francisco Zoo, was found safely in Daly City. Five-year-old James Trinh is to thank. Trinh spotted 21-year-old Maki, an endangered animal, on the playground at his day care, Hope Lutheran Day School, on October 15. “It’s exciting,” Trinh told ABC7 news, when questioned about his high-profile discovery. Police believe Maki was stolen from the zoo’s Lipman Family Lemur Forest on October 14, and they’ve since arrested someone suspected to be connected to the crime. Maki is now back in the care of the zoo’s veterinary staff and zookeepers and has been recovering from the traumatic experience. Trinh’s reward? A certificate of honor from Mayor London Breed and a lifetime membership to the zoo.

Tanya Holland

Last month, chef Tanya Holland toasted the debut of her new cooking show, Tanya’s Kitchen Table, on Oprah Winfrey’s network, OWN. Holland rose to fame in the Bay Area food scene when she opened modern soul food favorite Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland. In July, she launched Tanya’s Table Podcast, in which she interviews personalities, chefs and artists such as Samin Nosrat, Alice Waters and Questlove. Tanya’s Kitchen Table has been a long time coming for Holland, who was a Top Chef contestant in the show’s 15th season and served a brief stint as co-host on the Food Network show Melting Pot, but had a difficult time breaking into TV on her own terms, according to Eater. “You can look at the networks and see who is dominating the programming — it’s always a white dude,” Holland said to the publication. Tanya’s Kitchen Table will examine global flavors from a local lens.

Ralph Remington

As San Francisco bids adieu to the SF Arts Commission’s outgoing acting director of cultural affairs, Denise Bradley-Tyson, it welcomes Ralph Remington to the role in January. A longtime screenwriter, playwright and actor, Remington will be taking the reins on the City’s artistic and cultural endeavors, as well as grantmaking, special projects and policy in his new position. Remington will be moving to the City from Tempe, Arizona, where he was deputy director for arts and culture, with a focus on performance and visual programming at the Tempe Center for the Arts. “We live in times that require bold, fearless leadership around issues of arts and culture interwoven with equity, diversity and inclusion,” says Remington. Roberto Ordeñana, SFAC president, notes, “Ralph’s fresh perspectives and incredible intersection of skills will help deploy strategies to keep the arts so very central to what San Francisco values.”

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