EJS 20th Anniversary – Reflecting on 2004, The Arts, and Marcus Shelby

Marcus Shelby performing at an Equal Justice Society annual gala.

2020 is the 20th anniversary of the Equal Justice Society. Every week leading up to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, we will highlight one year in our history. This week we remember 2004, the arts, and Marcus Shelby.

In 2004, the Equal Justice Society continued to build on its early success in developing legal thinking and collaboration. We organized the conference, Protecting Equality: Dismantling the Intent Doctrine & Healing Racial Wounds at the University of Michigan Law School, convening students, journalists, legal scholars, and advocates to discuss implicit bias theory.

We also co-authored Blend It, Don’t End It: Affirmative Action & the Texas Ten Percent Plan after Grutter & Gratz, documenting the continuing lack of racial/ethnic diversity at Texas universities, despite efforts in attempting race-neutral alternatives.

2004 was also the year that we began to manifest our strategy of transforming the nation’s consciousness through the arts.

Marcus Shelby and the Marcus Shelby Orchestra performed Port Chicago in December 2004 to a sold-out crowd at EJS’s first annual benefit. Inspired by the Port Chicago mutiny of 1944, we commissioned Marcus Shelby to compose the original 75-minute jazz and swing composition.

The composition commemorated the 60th anniversary of the tragic World War II explosion at a munitions loading dock just north of San Francisco that killed more than 320 sailors, most of them African American.

In 2011, EJS commissioned Marcus and Zaccho Dance Theatre to create Dying While Black and Brown, which fused Marcus’ music with the unique movements of Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theatre. Performed at EJS’s annual gala in 2011, it marked the first collaboration between Marcus and Joanna.

In 2013, Marcus and Joanna were joined by Steven Anthony Jones of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in a three-year collaboration in which the three artists and their teams would create performances as the main features of EJS’s annual fundraisers from 2013-2015.

Last year, our Remembering 1619 marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans at Jamestown, Virginia. The remembrance was centered on an artistic presentation at our annual event at SFJAZZ involving our largest ensemble of artists ever: The Marcus Shelby Quintet, Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theatre, Actor Steven Anthony Jones, The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, Pianist Joe Warner, Directorial Consultant and Dramaturg Kim Euell, Set Designer Wayne Campbell, Filmmakers Cheo Tyehimba Taylor and David Goldberg, and Executive Producer Eva Paterson. Watch the video here.

Our inspiring and dynamic relationship with Marcus Shelby continues into this year, our 20th anniversary. The evening will include a oratorio by Marcus inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman and by the two decades of EJS.

We welcome sponsorships to our 20th anniversary celebration on September 17, 2020, at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Please contact Ginger Johnson at gjohnson@equaljusticesociety.org for more information. Thank you!