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Gaidi Finnie was one of the first people I met upon arriving in San Diego during the winter of 2000. He acted as co-director of the Museum of Photographic Arts during my tenure as their film curator, and it pleases me to no end to announce his involvement with the new African American Museum of Fine Arts. He’s even planning on putting a picture show or two!

According to Finnie, SDAAMFA was originally designed as a “museum without walls” that “operated for years until 1999 when its founder and director, Shirley-Day Williams, died and nothing has happened since.”

The museum, located on the grounds of Bayview Baptist, is separate from the church. A museum board member at the time, Finnie took a look at the space with an eye toward revitalization. As the current spokesperson and board chair, Finnie was able to turn his vision into reality.

The museum will hold its gala opening from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Saturday, February 1. Tickets to the event are free.

The first film scheduled to be shown is Fruitvale Station, the story of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old man gunned down by police officers while waiting for a train. Matthew Lickona credited writer-director Ryan Coogler with keeping “the tone even, the pace steady, and the drama unforced: he knows what he's got is powerful, and he doesn't need to overplay.”

Fruitvale screens on February 15 and will be followed by a symposium titled “Why is America Afraid of Young Black Men?” The panel discussion is scheduled to include members of Grant’s family.

Finnie’s goal at the SDAAMFA is to be able to “host traveling exhibits from museums like the Smithsonian. We want to renovate the space to host the finest art exhibits from across the country. In order to get there we must first work on security, lighting, climate control, and other essentials that will go into making us a world-class operation.”

For more information call 619-253-8499 or visit their Facebook page.

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