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It’s Martin Luther King Day. Many years ago, when he was killed I was running a gallery on 21st street called , "The Beginning”. It was my best I think. A beautiful big sand rock building. I grew flowers in the ceiling. The day after he was killed (King) I made a banner and hung it.
“Honor the life of Martin Luther King ''
At the time it was a risk, but my, my. How many more risks would my life take and make.
-Inez Running-rabbit 2007
Inez made trips from Oklahoma to San Francisco and she would take me out of school to go with her. On one of these trips I was a young teenager, maybe 17 years old. When we got to San Francisco she would walk into galleries, introduce herself and say, "I am an artist from Oklahoma and I'd like to know if you would be interested in having a 'one man show' of some of my artwork? I've got some art that we brought from Oklahoma and we can bring it in and show you if you are interested." Before you knew it we would have a gallery willing to give us an art show!
One of these shows was in a gallery in Oakland, California. The owner gave us his clientele list with 500 or so people on it. Inez cut a wood block and hand printed all the invitations, and bought all of the stamps for postage. Opening night she would have hors d'oeuvres, alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, and so on. It was an expensive thing to have a "one man show". Inez would provide all of this, doing all the ground work, curating the show and everything necessary to make it a success.
On the opening of this particular exhibit, no one showed up! No one! We had sent out 500 invitations, spent $100s worth on refreshments! We were astounded! This had never happened to us before! We did not know what to think. We were so disappointed and dismayed! So, we thought, "We'll just go back to the gallery the next day and pick up all the paintings."
The next day we went and the gallery was all LOCKED UP! We pounded on the door and the man eventually opened it. Inez said, "We've come for our paintings." and the man said, "What paintings?" He had given us a fake list and that is why nobody had come. His scheme was to steal all of Inez's paintings and he would not let us in.
So, in our despair, we went across the Bay to Haight Ashbury where Inez had become good friends with the Black Panthers, particularly the leader of the Black Panthers, Roy Ballard. We had spent a month or so with them before the exhibit was supposed to happen. In fact, almost every day we would go across the Bay and hang out in what was called, "The Black Man's Free Store", run by the Black Panthers. Roy Ballard was running for mayor and so Inez asked him one day, "Why are you running for mayor when you know you can't win?" and he said, "I'm running for my people, the black people. Just to have someone running, even though they lose, is an uplifting thing for them." We immediately understood and we loved Roy. He was a towering figure in the San Francisco area. He had a wonderful, big German shepherd named King!
So, to continue the story, we went over to Haight Ashbury and told Roy about our dilemma with the art gallery. Roy said, "The Black Panthers fight against injustice and it does not matter what color you are! We are going to get those paintings for you!" So he called in the troops and before you know it, we had 3 or 4 station wagons just loaded with Inez and me and as many Black Panthers as we could squeeze in! We caravanned back across the Bay Bridge to Oakland!
Roy was like a general and he positioned his men all the way around the block. It was a sight to see, all the Black Panthers surrounding this block, this art gallery! After everyone was positioned, we went up to the door and Roy pounded on the door. We could see the owner looking out of an upstairs window in the building. He must have been scared to death looking outside and seeing all those Black Panthers. We hollered up at him, "Hey! We know you see us! You'd better open this door because we're coming in!"
He came down and opened the door and Roy said, "We have come for Inez's paintings." He said, "I don't know what you are talking about - I don't have any of her paintings!" At that moment Roy's dog, King, had just gotten wind of this guy and knew he was a bad man, so he started growling ferociously. Roy gave orders to King, "No King, if anyone's going to hurt this man, it's going to be me!" So Roy said, "Stand back, we are coming in!" and we went in! Right away we found all of Inez's paintings, all stacked up in a room! Roy called his men and we just carried them out, put them in the station wagons, and took off!
We caravanned back across the bridge and had a celebration - joy was to be had by all! It did not matter that we had lost so much money because the memories and experience we gained were priceless! We were happy and thrilled, enjoying Haight Ashbury in the 60s!
We went over to Haight Ashbury and told Roy about our dilemma with the art gallery. Roy said, "The Black Panthers fight against injustice and it does not matter what color you are! We are going to get those paintings for you!"