A little rounding off can make a frame a kind of “O,” so it seemed clear how this poster, “O is for Odetta,” should be framed. The 21″ x 15″ silkscreen is by long time Berkeley High School art teacher Miriam Klein Stahl, and is one of her illustrations for the children’s book “Rad American Women, A-Z” written by Kate Schatz. The frame is walnut stained black. I found Ms Stahl’s bold graphic handling of form rather wonderful, and so shaped the frame in appreciation.
Speaking of appreciation, Bob Dylan once told an interviewer that, “The first thing that turned me on to folk singing was Odetta.” Often called “the voice of the civil rights movement” and proclaimed by Martin Luther King, Jr. the queen of American folk music, Odetta sang at the historic 1963 March on Washington where King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech.”
“Odetta Holmes was born in Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 31, 1930, in the depths of the Depression,” according to her December 2008 obituary in the New York Times. “The music of that time and place,” the Times wrote, ”particularly prison songs and work songs recorded in the fields of the Deep South, shaped her life.” Odetta herself once framed the significance of those songs to her life and career in words that today, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, are haunting:
“They were liberation songs. You’re walking down life’s road, society’s foot is on your throat, every which way you turn you can’t get from under that foot. And you reach a fork in the road and you can either lie down and die or insist upon your life.”
See Odetta in a 1964 concert for television here…
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