Dear America,


As we witness Blacks and others taking to the streets to protest the murder of yet another unarmed black man, we must stop to ask ourselves how do we fit into all of this? 


The San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art (SDAAMFA) is compelled to join this conversation that has gone for too long with no sustained change. 

Some may ask, how do the arts fit in? For Blacks, art has been the eyes and ears of the movement. Painters, sculptors, musicians, poets, and 

photographers have historically used their time and talents to document and affect change. This continues in 2020. Today SDAAMFA asks that you join us in the fight for change.


Join us as we thank . . . 

·       the peaceful protestors who have taken to America's Streets.  

·       Mr. Kaepernick and others in the NFL for "taking a knee".

·       the Black Lives Matter movement.

·       the Civil Rights activists for leading the way.

·       the artists novelists, poets, musicians as they integrate elements of the struggle in their work

·       the non blacks who sincerely want to see this nation change it’s narrative.


We need . . . 

·       to extend condolences to the hundreds of families who have loss loved ones at the hands of the police.

·       Americans to listen, so you can learn and acknowledge that we are all human with different levels of privilege. 

·       the police, to listen first, so that they can respect and serve ALL of us!

·       to continue to protest and support those that do.

·       to vote for those who demonstrate a true willingness to work for change. 

·       our federal, state and local legislators to be courageous in their leadership as the entire world watches. 


 The San Diego African American Museum is dedicated to work for lasting change in America. We invite you to join us.



With optimism,


Gaidi Finnie

Executive Director, SDAAMFA


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)


African Masks

The Art of Masquerade


Keepers of the Culture 2021

Date: February, 2021

Location: San Diego History Center

If you know an individual or organization whose contributions have helped to preserve

African American culture in San Diego, please let us know by submitting via email the name(s)with a brief explanation about their contribution. Nominations must be received by October 31, 2020.

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.