This week has been wonderfully hectic and filled with so much exciting discoveries and encounters regarding my dad and his art work. This is the end of my second week of my sabbatical leave and I cannot believe everything that I have accomplished including the launching of this website and my blog entries. I was able to visit the Main Library located in downtown Miami; it is a beautiful building and has always been my all-time favorite library for many reasons. I recall a field trip with my 4th grade class where we visited the library along with the history museum. It stands out in my mind because I remember showing off to all my classmates that it was not my first visit. My daddy takes me there all the time, I said. I took the lead and toured the class through the children’s story telling section and all the ins and outs of owning a library card. It was true my father would take my brother and I to the Main Library all the time when he wanted to look up historical figures to paint and/or read up on. The Main Library has always been a special place for me. You can only imagine how absolutely invigorating it feels to be able to go into the archives of both the Main Library and the History Museum to read about your own father, the late Oscar Thomas Sr. I was able to find over 100 newspaper articles that he headlined or that featured my father and/or his artwork dating back to the early 1980’s when he first arrived to the United States from Central America. The most exciting part that I was not prepared for was actually reading the article in his words, in quotations… I had to pause…remember the words….close my eyes…..and picture my father speaking them. Often I would smile and say yes, that was him, he would say that.
I can now say that I have mastered both microfilm machines. The librarian finally stopped checking up on me when he realized, she knows what she is doing. I felt excited as I scrolled through my list of newspaper articles and roamed through drawers looking for specific dates of the articles I had previously researched and collected. I would then narrow down the article section, neighbors, living & arts, and finally the neighborhood where the story was featured. My heart would jump when I would finally locate the actual article. Excited to see if there was any undiscovered photos of my dad or his artwork or both. I would slowly and meticulously examine the entire page and the subsequent pages to follow. My heart would fill with joy when I came across the Holy Grail….a feature story of my dad with his photo AND his artwork. I am happy to say those moments were frequent and as exciting each time they occurred.
If that were not enough I had a week filled with exciting interviews. I was able to meet with Mr. Horace Roberts, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Belafonte TACOLCY Center. This year marks the centers 50th anniversary, so I was honored to have been able to meet with Mr. Roberts during these busy and special times. Mr. Roberts is a founding member and also serves as the agency’s historian and photographer. He knew my father well so I was excited to learn more about the center as well as his relationship with my father. To my surprise Mr. Roberts gifted me the most special gift of all! Negatives that were over 30 years old of my father and his artwork. To say that this was a gift from God is no overstatement. My father passed away before the age of mainstream digital photography. I am so excited to get these negatives developed, from the looks of them they are phenomenal! In addition to the negatives, Mr. Roberts gave me a tour of the center and my father’s painting of Malcom X was prominently displayed at the entrance. Finally, I was happy to learn of a large beautiful piece that he owned in his private collection of my father’s artwork. It was a GREAT interview and a special day for me. To learn more about the Belafonte TACOLCY center visit http://www.tacolcy.org/
William D.C. Clark invited me to his home this week to discuss my father artist Oscar Thomas Sr. and what he meant to the local community. Our conversation was delightful, insightful, and comforting. To say D.C. is outspoken is the understatement of the year. He is loud, vocal, in your face, and most importantly honest. He will give it to you how he sees it and to hear only kind and thoughtful words used to describe my father and their relationship and his impact on the community was motivating. I truly enjoyed learning about how D.C. acquired Afro Books In Things, the premier African American Bookstore in Liberty City, from owners Dr. Wells and how his relationship blossomed with my father once they were neighbors. My father’s art gallery names Expressions by Oscar Thomas (his original logo is located above) was located adjacent to his bookstore. In addition to an entrepreneur and mentor, D.C. is also a published author. In his book entitled Lesson from the Other Side, D.C. briefly discusses my father and the benefits of having him as a neighbor.
He described my father as a servant and I could not have said it better myself. He wanted to serve his community, serve his people, serve his family, and though my father was not a very religious man he was extremely spiritual and knew what it meant to be a servant of the Lord and he was.
Hearing D.C. say he was retired reminded me how much work I needed to do. I am sure he work more than any full-time employed person that I know. He too is a servant to his community and I appreciate every minute he set aside to meet with me. When he said his door was always open I believed him.
Last but certainly not least, I was able to meet up with my childhood best friend Patrice Campbell as well as Altine to photograph more of my father’s pieces from their personal collection as well as learn about more people who have my father’s pieces. This project has already exceeded my expectations. I have met some great contacts thanks to the help and support of so many people.
Despite my hectic week, I still found time to get my done. An additional SCORE!
If you have a private art piece or have worked with my father in the past, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com. To stay current with me and my projects, please visit my website at www.tashathomas.org and follow me on Instagram at @dr.tasha.thomas or look up #findingmyfatherspaintings #oscarthomassr