Mission Statement

The mission of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art (SDAAMFA) is to present and preserve the art of African Americans globally and to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the visual arts in Southern California generally and San Diego specifically by collecting, preserving and displaying works of art by and about African Americans; by creating and hosting quality traveling exhibitions; by collecting and preserving fine art and by developing and helping to foster an appreciation of art through meaningful public programs, symposia, and other educational programs.

Museum History

In 1992, the late Shirley Day Williams a long time San Diego resident and patron of the arts established the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art.  A decade following her passing, the museum’s activities became dormant. In 2013, Gaidi Finnie convinced a small group of individuals that a need remains for an African American Museum in San Diego. The inaugural exhibit for the reestablished museum was installed in February 2014 entitled“In Our Lifetime…”The photographic exhibition featured images of some of the individuals who were participated in the events of the Civil Rights movement that culminated with President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The purpose of this museum is to present and preserve the art of African Americans globally. The museum’s programing is curated with the goal of educating those who are interested in learning and impress even the most seasoned art enthusiast.

It is clear that great art is simply that, great art. Where there is a difference is in the stories that are told through art; the lifestyles, the pain, the joy, the love, the struggles as told through the perspective of an African American Artist. These experiences translate into art, which is varied, unique, and undeniably the source of great pride for people of the African Diaspora.



"The immense contributions of African Americans to the art world is well documented. This is an exciting time in the arts. We are seeing a renewed appreciation for renowned artists like Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, and Romare Bearden. At the same time the next generation of artist approach the canvas with no limitations. The result is the opportunity to experience some of the best art this country has produced. SDAAMFA is the answer to a frequently asked question. “Where  do you go to experience African American Art in San Diego?” Our exhibits feature art that is original, thought-provoking, interesting, and most of all a little something for everyone.”

(Gaidi Finnie, SDAAMFA Chairman of the Board)



The "Say Their Names" Memorial Exhibit is a memorial honoring individuals who have died at the hands of those perpetuating injustice and systemic racism. This grassroots exhibit had it's start in Portland Oregon and is an outgrowth of the protest that took place nationwide in 2020. The informal outcry is now an organization called the "Say Their Names Memorial" It is the goal of the organization to make sure that never forget the victims and that we are able to place a name with a face. In San Diego, our exhibit will also recognize local Civil Rights advocates who have worked to level the playing field.

The "Say Their Names" exhibit has been shown in over 25 cities. This is the first exhibition south of Los Angeles county.

About the Memorial:

The “Say Their Name Memorial” is a nationwide initiative to honor Black lives taken by systemic racism and racial injustice.  The memorial was started in Portland, Oregon on Juneteenth 2020 and has been put up in over 25 locations nationwide since then.  We manage an ongoing submission driven database that includes names, photos and bios.  We produce traveling memorials for public exhibition as well as providing support for communities looking to create grassroots memorials in their own neighborhoods.  Our aim is to facilitate conversation around systemic racism while honoring those whose lives have been taken by it.

African Masks

The Art of Masquerade

Keepers of the Culture

Previous Honorees Include:


Common Ground Theatre- for implementing the vision of the late Rufus Dewitt and Dr.
Robert L. Matthews to start a theater in 1963. This theatre which has allowed San Diego to experience the stories and voices of the Black community for over 50 years. 
The importance of their efforts to produce works by and about people of African descent cannot be underscored.

Ms. Starla Lewis– for her work in higher education, and various programs and initiatives developed with an appreciation for Black culture. Her multi-generational productions with her daughters continues to offer a unique way to educate people from all walks of life about the brilliance of African Americans culture.

Dr. & Mrs. Robert L. Matthews– for  the establishment of the Common Ground Theatre with the late Rufus Dewitt, the Martin L. King Parade and Pageant, leadership and financial support of organizations such as the Jackie Robinson YMCA Board, RADY Children’s Hospital Auxiliary, Common Ground Theatre, Jack and Jill, Tema Ghana Sister City, and the Elementary Institute of Science. San Diego has benefited greatly because of their unwavering commitment to the cultural life of our city.


Dajahn Blevins - in recognition of his extraordinary commitment to the Legacy of African Americans through the creation of KuumbaFest in 1993. His multi-generational productions utilize the arts to educate people from all walks of life about the brilliance of African Americans culture and history.
Manuelita Brown - for her extraordinary talent as a sculptor and activist through her art. She has paved the way for future sculptors with her vast installations nationwide and 
her willingness to pass on her knowledge to any and all who are interested. 
Makeda “Dread Cheatom- in recognition of her vision for cultural awareness that resulted in a major gift to the City of San Diego, the development of the World Beat Center in Balboa Park, World Beat Radio and her television show WorldBeat Live.  She has brought international recognition to the beauty found in the art and culture of the Africa Diaspora.



Professor Chuck Ambers - For his work as the Founder/Director of the African Museum Casa de Rey Moro.


Harold K. Brown - For his recognition as the Founder/Director of the San Diego Civil Rights Museum and being the first African American Administrator at SDSU.

Dr. Willie Morrow - For his work as the Media pioneer, Art Collector/curator of, nationally known 400 years without a comb and his work as an inventor, barber, historian and entrepreneur.

Jack Kimbrough (Posthumously) - For his work in private collections of African American Art and being San Diego's first African American dentist.




For any inquiries, please fill out the form below.

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Museum Office

Mailing Address:

555 Saturn Blvd. Suite B, #261

San Diego, CA



Tel: (619)253-8499

Fax: (619)575-4089


To volunteer or intern with SDAAMFA, contact us by email and send a cover letter.

Thank you for contacting the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. Due to the high volume of e-mails we receive, it is important that you make your request as specific as possible. We will make every effort to respond to your request promptly.