Living abroad in the time of Corona virus and lockdown, I was thinking a lot about the importance of the communities in our life and inspired by leaders who unite people around the same values. In the book “The Truth We Hold,” Kamala Harris mentioned the Rainbow Signs social club in Berkley, California. She attended this club regularly being a teenager with her mother.
Rainbow Sign was built by Mary Ann Polarwho, a producer who organized concerts for Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa, Nina Simone, and many other artists. After making big outdoor musical events for famous musicians, Mary decided to create a much smaller space that will belong to her – Rainbow Sign. She created not just a venue but a cultural center with the focus on education, literature, music, politics, and performing arts. And all of it should be black-oriented.
It is a place for the most prominent black thinkers and artists, including musicians, filmmakers, writers, and poets. The Pulitzer Prize Alice Walker did a reading there, and Nina Simone gave a concert.
The artistic and intellectual freedom of expression was the main sign of Rainbow Sign: it was a place to perform, experiment, and test things out. The club had a stage, areas for rehearsals and workshops, and a restaurant with a big kitchen. On the text of the membership brochure, you could read: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign; the fire next time…” James Balvin, who used to go to Rainbow Sign, used it for his book The Fire Next Time.
Harris says that she saw for the first time in Rainbow Sign how magical it could be to bring together food, politics, music, dance, and art.
Here you can find more information about the club: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wiYcwx-Z-k&t=1870s and https://revolution.berkeley.edu/projects/rainbow-sign/