There could scarcely be a better example of Rainbow Sign’s mission to draw black culture (and counterculture) together with the clout of black figures holding elected office than this document and the event it represents. Berkeley’s first black mayor Warren Widener’s proclamation disturbs racialized assumptions about the role of city leadership and represents the kind of cultural-political work that the black community expected from black leaders once they had gained power. Here he commends the “High Priestess of Soul” Nina Simone for her ability to “swing” in the greatest tradition of black music and still have the ability to “invoke strong reactions among Black and white audiences…captivating and stirring the emotional and mental faculties of everybody who meets her.”
Widener, like Mary Ann Pollar and so many others during the early 1970s, articulated the contributions of masterful black artists and musicians as a public service that enriches life for everyone.