So glad Belva Davis is still at her fine craft as a TV commentator; her show This Week in Northern California, airs each Friday at 7:30pm on KQED HD Channel 9 as it has 14 years. Belva is one of us Petalumans, settling here with her husband, former TV cameraman and pioneer in his own right, William Moore, after a brave, marvelous, scary life which began in the deep south, moved her to Washington D.C., Oakland/Berkeley.
Following an intense and painful early childhood shuffled back and forth between poor Southern relatives, often with just blankets on the kitchen floor for a bed, Belva found some peace with an aunt and uncle and a sense of well being from at deFremery Park Recreation Center where Oakland kids, including Ron Dellums and others who made their mark later, found their second home (or perhaps the first place that felt like a home).
Belva pioneered in-depth television news programming with a team of journalists she respected at a time the country was used to 15 minutes of Walter Cronkite. “No wonder the country had the same ideas,: she said, “Walter Cronkite was all we heard.”(paraphrase) She’s covered anti-Vietnam War riots from the streets of Berkeley, reported from Soledad prison, interviewed Black Panthers’ Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, who told her of the breakfast for kids program they initiated and Huey invited her to his home to discuss culture and literature, knowing of her love for Shakespeare and the classics. A whole other view of these infamous street warriors; often stories no one else would cover she knew needed to be heard.
She’s played her part as a journalist, DJ and commentator over the years at Oakland’s Sun Reporter, KDIA in Oakland, KPIX TV SF, KJAZ FM, KNEW, KRON TV and notably KQED TV where she presides to this day at an age when most of her compatriots are just home (she’s a graceful 78!).
Well, you should buy the book, Never in My Wildest Dreams; A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism. Am very glad I did Sunday at Belva’s author day in Copperfield’s. Sat next to John Bertucci, Director, Petaluma Community Access TV (PCA) who will undoubtedly show the video he was shooting, also a present to his beloved mom, Dorothy Bertucci, now in hospital. Dorothy, if you didn’t know, is another Petaluma pioneer, and there’s a room named Dorothy’s Place in our library to mark her contributions there.
Wildest Dreams is a great book, inspiring me to dig in deeper for causes I care about; lending courage to anyone who reads it. The book is lauded by Belva’s close friends Bill Cosby, Maya Angelou and Dianne Feinstein among others. Dr. Maya Angelou says “No people can say they understand the times in which they have lived unless they have read this book.” There are definitely revelations.
Admit I know more of Oakland and Berkeley now. What a lot of nasty discrimination early on! A huge rally of Ku Klux Klan in Oakland, many of the group later appearing as well-regarded men about town. Nasty.
Lots more on Belva Davis may be found at Belva’s history with This Week in California is mentioned, of course, and she’s received “several dozen awards…including national recognition from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ohio State, San Francisco State, and the National Education Writers Association” as well as seven local Emmys, a Certificate of Excellence from the California Association Press Television and Radio Association and three honorary Doctorates for her television work and community service. She received the first ever honorary Doctorate issued by John F. Kennedy University, Golden Gate University and Sonoma State University.
Davis, the first African American woman television news reporter on the West Coast, has interviewed Willie Brown, Fidel Castro, leaders of African nations, and several U.S. presidents. She currently serves on the board of the Institute on Aging and advises retirees to keep engaged. “The Worst thing you can do is look backwards. In order to grow and stay vital you need to keep your mind active and looking at the next challenge,” she said to Bonnie Allen in an interview for Sonoma Seniors newsletter this month.
Get used to the internet, she says.
Belva Davis is media star in her own quiet way, always kind and with a clear and fair voice. Hers is a story you can afford to open your heart to and be enriched by in the process. Buy or borrow the book; you’ll be warmed and nudged to do more that has meaning for you.