Legendary Sarah Vaughan dress auction benefit
funds Bayview Hunters Point global arts program
By Aldrich M. Tan
April 28, 2006
Judith Blackwell twirls in a dress once worn by famous jazz singer
Vaughan. The lovely chiffon dress, in a winter shade of peach,
is adorned with gold-toned crystals along the plunging neckline
and spaghetti straps.
"I feel like I'm wearing both history and glamour,"
And someone else might too because Blackwell's gown was one of
the jazz singer's six gowns that was auctioned off during "A
Divine Affair," a Bayview Opera House fundraiser Thursday
night at the St. Regis Hotel.
Blackwell, a board member of the Bayview Opera House, said the
money raised at the event will help fund the opera's global arts
The event raised over $13,000 to help bring 15 children from
the Bayview Hunters Point area on a 14 day trip to Senegal and
France this June, said Shelley Bradford-Bell, Bayview Opera House
"Tonight's auction is a launching pad to make this program
into an ongoing annual program," Bradford-Bell told the Sentinel.
The Bayview Opera House started the global arts program after
Sept. 11, at a time when people were still intimated about flying,
Bradford-Bell said. In 2004, the program brought ten children
to France and Senegal. Five children from the previous program
will be participating in this year's trip.
"This is a positive cultural experience that these kids
don't get in their classrooms and an experience that they should
be exposed to," said Francisco Castillo, board member of
the Bayview Opera House.
A three-person documentary team will accompany the children as
it did in 2004, Bradford-Bell said. Director Susan Brown will
be using footage from the first trip and this year's trip to develop
a documentary called "Listen to the Children."
"Even though these children come from a place with limited
experience to the world, they are very open-minded and willing
to learn," Brown said.
The students' art projects from the Bayview Opera House art program
will be exhibited in both France and Senegal during the trip.
This year's trip will cost $225,000 that includes required immunization
shots, passports, meals and airfare.
Fundraisers such as "A Divine Affair", as well as generous
donations to the opera house, will fund the trip. The Scarborough
Insurance Agency pledged $25,000 to the program.
"What the organization is doing is absolutely fantastic,"
agency president Fred Naranjo said.
Judith Blackwell, Susan Horsfall, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Fred
Janice Salaman and her husband Jay donated the Vaughan dresses
for the auction. Janice, an interior designer, said she bought
the dresses from an auction last year and decided to donate the
dresses six months ago.
"I wanted to find a way to serve Vaughan's community,"
Janice Salaman said. "Travel has always opened my eyes to
the world. The kids from the Bayview will be able to open their
eyes to new perspectives of the world through this experience."
Janice and Jay Salaman
Many major city officials attended the event, including District
Attorney Kamala Harris, Mayor Gavin Newsom and State Assemblyman
"This is a divine affair in honor of a divine woman,"
Leno said. "This organization is funding what our state has
not funding and that is good art programs that empower youth."
Assembymember Mark Leno and Shelley Bradford-Bell
Supervisor Fiona Ma said the Bayview Opera House is one of her
favorite organizations to support.
"The African American population in the city has been dwindling
and we need to do what we can to support the community,"
Supervisor Fiona Ma (left)
The event also auctioned off lunch with Public Defender Jeff
Adachi at the Washington Square Bar and Grill, with District Attoryney
Kamala Harris at MoMos, and dinner with famous reporter Warren
Hinckle. A painting of Sarah Vaughan by local artist Wanda Whitaker
sold for $900.
Local realtor Beatrice Jackson-Henry bought the Sarah Vaughan
dress Blackwell wore for $275. Jackson-Henry said she wants to
frame the dress as a tribute to the jazz legend.
"It's for a great cause and I got something good for myself,"
Jackson-Henry said. "It's a win-win situation for all."
Civil Service Commissioner Alicia Becerril (right).
District Attorney Kamala Harris (2nd from left)
Doris Ward (right)
Nicole K. Grigg, Nina Sophia Grigg, Camille Grigg and District
Attorney Kamala Harris