Family, friends and fans of renowned artist, printmaker Casper Banjo, 71, murdered by Oakland police on March 14, are rallying to his support and need you to join them. Below are tributes and statements from Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir; Leroy Moore, pillar among Black disabled artists; and another leading Oakland artist, TheArthur Wright.
Taken from their statements are these upcoming events at which your participation is urgently requested:
- Candlelight vigil Tuesday, March 25, 7-8 p.m., at 73rd Street at Garfield, Oakland, near the police sub-station where the shooting occurred. Organizers are looking for a turnout of at least 200 people for the vigil and the memorial service.
- Memorial service Wednesday, March 26, 11 a.m., at the Baker Funeral Home, 980 Eighth St., Oakland. After the memorial there will be a repast at Prescott-Joseph Center, 920 Peralta St. at Ninth Street, Oakland, (510) 208-5651.
- Rally Thursday, April 10, 6 p.m., Oakland Citizens’ Police Review Board meeting in the City Council Chambers, third floor, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. For more information, call Leroy Moore at (510) 649-8438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Excerpt from March 19 column by Wanda Sabir
When I heard that Casper Banjo had become Oakland’s latest homicide, shot to death by Oakland Police, I couldn’t believe it. I asked Orlonda Uffre, who was the bearer of the sad news Monday evening, why would OPD shoot to kill a 71-year-old man – so no Black man is safe from assassin’s bullets, not even old Black men?
I immediately thought about the film “Reign Over Me” (2006) with actors Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler, where Sandler’s character is traumatized with grief over the loss of his entire family in a 9/11 plane crash, so he designs new kitchens for his dead family who will never return until one day he snaps – takes his gun into the center of New York traffic, waving it as he dares the police to shoot him and put him out of his misery. But the police are surprisingly sympathetic.
Suicide by police doesn’t work if you’re a white man with a real gun on film, but let the person be a Black man in East Oakland, in front of the Eastmont Station, and even in the movies he’d get killed, never mind that in real life it’s a toy gun – the news article called it a “replica.” The police don’t try to negotiate when they see that you’re an old Black man. They don’t use kindness and, if that doesn’t work, shoot the gun out of your hand – no, they kill you. At 7 p.m. on Friday evening at Eastmont Town Center, not far from where Casper lived, it’s almost a ghost town. Not many people are around at that time.
Known for his brick print designs, I recall how supportive Casper was of other artists, especially younger artists. He studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts and at the Art Institute and taught at Laney College in the 1950s. The article I read said he was a transplant from Memphis, he and four siblings.
One time when my daughter was in art school, he took the bus to San Francisco and then walked over to the California College of Arts and Crafts for her show. I remember I asked TaSin’s father to give him a ride home after they dropped me at BART. I’d see him all the time on the 62 bus when I rode public transportation for a year.
Friday evening, as I rode BART to San Francisco after leaving James Gayles’ “Jazz Masters” preview reception at Swarm Gallery, Casper was being gunned down.
I don’t live far from 73rd Avenue. Last month there was a drive by across the street from my house that is, as of yet, unsolved. My neighbor, whose houseguests were injured, said the police haven’t said anything about suspects. Oakland police are working longer shifts now too, wired on caffeine. Trigger fingers might be a bit more jumpy than usual.
I’ll certainly miss Casper. He survived heart surgery, but couldn’t survive Oakland PD. Orlonda said he’ll be cremated. I’m sure his niece Akili Banjo will host a memorial for her uncle. I’m not aware at this time if there is a fund set up for the family to defray any unforeseen costs. If anyone has any information to share, send me an email.We need to take care of out elders – accompany them at night on errands, give them a ride and make sure they are not worried about shelter and food, the basic necessities everyone should have, especially those who are responsible for paving the road for us today like Casper Banjo. I missed him at the Jazz Masters preview. He certainly would have been at the Thursday, March 20 reception. We will miss him dearly; he was one of Oakland’s treasures.
Read the rest of Wanda's Picks here.
Urgent appeal to honor Casper Banjo
by TheArthur Wright
By now most of you are aware of the tragedy visited upon Casper Banjo. That it was at the hands of the Oakland police compounds the issue concerning the magnitude of force used to subdue him. The questions will long outweigh the answers forthcoming, if at all, but the fact remains that our brother, in art and life, was a man of few means other than sustaining a thing that meant more to him than anything in life, which was his art.
My appeal goes out to you, along with that of his niece, Akili Banjo, for financial help in laying Casper to rest. Because he was a military veteran, there is some recourse available, but not enough. Akili has been diligent for many years in helping Casper to take care of his affairs. She has asked that we send contributions to the following address: Akili Banjo, P.O. Box 2493, Berkeley CA 94707. Make checks and other donations payable to Akili Banjo.
Memorial services will be held for Casper Banjo at the Baker Funeral Home in Oakland at 980 Eighth St. at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 26. After the memorial there will be a repast at Prescott-Joseph Center, 920 Peralta St. at Ninth Street, Oakland, (510) 208-5651.
One way to see that enough funds are raised is that if anyone is interested in purchasing any of his works please contact me or Akili at these numbers: Akili Banjo (510) 260-0739 (home) or (510) 302-5517 (cell) or TheArthur Wright (510) 532-4515 (home).
If you would like to help the California Society of Printmakers collect money to purchase some of Casper’s work – he was a long time member of the Society – and then donate the work to a museum collection, send your contribution to CSP at P.O. Box 475422, San Francisco, CA 94147. Write Casper Banjo on the memo line. Also send an email to Peter McCormick at MCPETERLEONE@ hotmail.com saying how much you are contributing so the family will know what to expect from the CSP.
Building brick by brick: Casper Banjo
by Leroy F. Moore Jr.
As a member of the Black, disabled artist community in the Bay Area and member of the National Minorities with Disabilities Coalition (NMDC), I had many experiences visiting, traveling, organizing, talking race, disability and art with Casper Banjo, who was shot and killed by the Oakland Police the night of March 14.
In 2006 Casper, three other Black disabled artists – Safi wa Nairobi, Charles Blackwell, Lee Williams and I – traveled to New Jersey for the Greater Newark Black Disabled Arts Festival. Casper was excited to be a part of this new organization for Black people with disabilities and to show his art. He was so proud to be involved with other Black artists with disabilities and returned home to Oakland with many plans for the future of NMDC and the Black Disabled Arts Festival.
I felt so privileged that I was with my Black disabled elder, Casper Banjo, to experience what we call home as Black disabled artists. It’s hard to imagine that he will never create and teach his craft again! What a loss for the Black, disabled and arts communities here in the Bay Area, in New Jersey and worldwide!
The members of NMDC have clear questions regarding the newspaper report about the shooting of Casper Banjo. Safi wa Nairobi, a good friend of Casper and fellow Black artist with a disability, was in contact with Casper before the night of March 14 and was informed that his neighbors had been harassing him. Could this be the reason why he was walking to the police station at the Eastmont Mall?
A common sentiment from friends and family members is that what has been described about Casper Banjo is not the person they knew, causing friends and family to raise questions of what really happened the night he was killed. Thus far the San Francisco Bay View newspaper is the only family, friend and artist focused article I have come across. Family, friends and artists are now speaking out about what they knew that could have led the police to shoot Casper Banjo.
Casper was a talented, peaceful person who touched the world with his printmaking, brick layering, Black activism. Safi, as a close friend, also discovered his love of stories. Safi told me that Casper Banjo was a great storyteller and she wanted to record his stories; however, these stories can no longer be heard in Casper’s voice. We – family, friends, artists and members of the National Minorities with Disabilities Coalition – will make sure Casper’s story and the night his life came to an end will be told.
Family, friends and the California chapter of National Minorities with Disabilities Coalition are holding a candlelight vigil Tuesday, March 25, 7-8 p.m., at 73rd Street at Garfield near the police sub-station where the shooting occurred. We need at least 200 people to show up at the funeral on Wednesday, March 26, 11 a.m., at Baker-Williams Mortuary, 980 Eighth St., and at least that many at the candlelight vigil Tuesday at 7:00.
It is critically important to honor the life, work and legacy of Casper Banjo and let authorities know that we, the residents of Oakland, family and friends of Casper Banjo, want justice and full disclosure of the shooting incident. Each of us will build brick by brick as we stand with candles on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. to assert support for our friend and mentor, Casper Banjo.
On Thursday, April 10, we will attend – and rally – at the Oakland Citizens’ Police Review Board meeting at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers, third floor, One Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. For more information, call me at (510) 649-8438 or email email@example.com.
Donations to the Banjo family can be made to Akili Banjo, P.O. Box 2493, Berkeley CA 94707.