Remembering our Elders

Carolyn Saulson, Founder and President

mom black renaissance

Carolyn Saulson (Feb. 24, 1948 – Jan. 14, 2019) passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 70. A resident of Berkeley, California, she was the board president and a founder of Iconoclast Productions, a Bay Area media arts non-profit serving the Black community.

She attended Berkeley City College, had an AA in Psychology, and attended Cal State Dominguez. She’d been diagnosed with multiple myeloma Aug. 10, 2009. It is a rare blood cancer that predominantly affects African Americans. Carolyn was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Los Angeles, California. She’d been a Bay Area resident since 1987.

She leaves behind two children, Sumiko Saulson and Scott Saulson, and three grandchildren, Franchesca Saulson, Elisabetta Maria Saulson and Joshua Andrakin; sisters Yvonne Matthews, Gloria Matthews, Glenna Matthews, and a brother, Stephen Matthews, as well as a number of nieces, nephews and cousins including Tim Smith, Toni Matthews, Coco Matthews, Damon Pascal, Loren M. Jordan, Marilyn Meeks, Crystal Anthony, Christopher Anthony, Keda Matthews, Rae Rae Matthews, Dashenae Matthews, Antoine Matthews, Gina Lee Shansey, Angie Martinez, Crystal Terrell, Elizabeth Saulson, Mike Saulson, and Brian Saulson. She was predeceased by her brother James Matthews, parents Eleanor Matthews nee Lynch and Leon Matthews, her ex-husband Robert Allen Saulson and his siblings Donald Saulson, Charlene Martinez and James Saulson.

Carolyn was a community leader in both the African American and the Disabilities Rights Advocacy Community. She was a founder of the Iconoclast San Francisco Black Independent Film Festival and the African American Multimedia Conference. She was a proud member of WryCrips Disabled Women’s Reading Theater and the African American Historical and Cultural Society. She volunteered at the African American Art and Culture Complex between 1987 and 2005. She was a San Francisco Juneteenth Festival board member throughout the ‘90s.

She co-authored a Black Who’s Who directory with Joyce Durant for the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) in the late 1970s and was a published professional poet. She was also the author of several plays and the novella and graphic novel “Living a Lie.” She was the lead singer for the band Stagefright, a family band where she sang with her son Scott and daughter Sumiko.

She was on a radio program with Mickey McMeel in Los Angeles in the 1970s, exposing psychiatric abuses with the Citizens Commission on Human Rights. She had a television program, Stagefright, a variety show with local talent that aired in San Francisco, Berkeley, Vallejo, Dayton, Ohio, New York City, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Detroit and Toronto between 1993 and 2016.

Carolyn was a Baptist and a member of Greater Faith Baptist Church.

Board Members

Bobbie Webb

Pastor JR Richardson

Reverend Eugene Lumpkin

Sharen Hewitt

Robert Saulson

Harry Silver

Volunteers

Gregory Hug

Natalya Fay

Black Celebration – new this Halloween!

Iconoclast Productions is proud to announce a collection of essays, articles and interviews by and with African American authors on the subject of Black representation in horror. The book includes work by Paula D. Ashe, Valjeanne Jeffers, Crystal Connor, Linda D. Addison, James Goodridge, Balogun Ojetade, Nicole Kurtz and Sumiko Saulson.  The book will be released on October 31.

A collection of articles, essays and interviews with and by African American horror writers on black representation in horror, horror diversity, reviews of African American horror films, horror novels, weird fiction, dark fantasy and more.

“This essential collection captures thought-provoking essays (ex. Southern Gothic Horror, Magical Realism & Horror in Toni Morrison Novels, The Inimitable Tony Todd, Black Horror Films of the 30’s and 40’s, etc.), fascinating reviews, and insightful interviews written by horror authors from African Diaspora. You could search for each piece or buy this exceptional book and have all the remarkable work at your fingertips.”

–Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize A Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner.

Available on Smashwords for Pre-Release

Available on Amazon for Pre-Release

Black Celebration front

Here is a list of the essays and interviews in the book as it currently stands:

  • The State Of Speculative Fiction: Why Race Matters
  • Genesis – The First Black Horror Writers/Storytellers
  • An Interview With L.C. Cruell
  • Black Horror Films Of The 30s And 40s
  • The Inimitable Tony Todd
  • Black Creators In Horror Comics
  • My Life My Horror: On The Dearth Of Black Characters In Horror Movies
  • Living Among Legends
  • Black Occultist Rollo Ahmed
  • Movie Review: Pooka (2018)
  • Haunted Hickory Hill
  • Gagool To Akasha: Black Characters In Horror Fiction
  • A Forgotten Catalysis: Son Of Ingagi
  • Movie Review: Sorry To Bother You (2018)
  • Review Of Chesya Burke’s Strange Crimes In Little Africa
  • Black Herman
  • Sycorax’s Daughters Stoker Nominated
  • Sycorax’s Daughters Gives Black Women In Horror A Voice
  • Fierce. Fearless. Female.
  • The Sounds Of Horror In Black American Music
  • Movie Review: Voodoo Black Exorcist
  • Why Television Needs Damali Richards, L.A. Bank’s Bad Ass Black Vampire Slayer
  • Horror Blackademic Is A Real Thing
  • Black Magic Women Highlights Horror By Black Women
  • Oh, Susannah: How The Dark Tower’s Explores Black Woman Stereotypes
  • How Wesley Snipes And Blade Saved The Marvel Movie Franchise
  • Interview With Dr. Kinitra D. Brooks, Horror Scholar
  • Maman Dragonne
  • African American Folklore, Magical Realism And Horror In Toni Morrison Novels
  • Review Of Dawn By Alex Fernandez
  • Interview With Dawn Filmmaker Alex Fernandez
  • Sugar Hill: A Blaxploitation Gem
  • Linda D. Addison Wins HWA Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Interview With Linda D. Addison
  • Sister My Sister: An Open Love Letter To Abby And Jenny Mills From Sleepy Hollow
  • Warmth: An Unforgettable Journey
  • Review Of Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror By Eden Royce
  • Southern Women’s Influence On The Weird

Resurrecting the African American Multimedia Conference

Resurrecting the old African American Multimedia Conference (1996 – 2009) is bringing a big nostalgic tear to my eye. I can’t believe how far we have come, and how far we still have to go in terms of narrowing the digital divide. Between honoring my mother Carolyn Saulson who we lost this January and the new column in the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper it is all coming together so fast now.

Here are a bunch of photos from Back in the Day portraying us between 1996 and 2001 in our Hey Day. I can’t believe Kevin E Myrick is on our board of directors now. I feel like our elders Carolyn SaulsonBobbie WebbDoris Rowe, and Sharen Hewitt are looking down on us from above along with my dad Robert Saulson, holding us steady as the new generation ascends to our place on the throne as the Black Kings and Queens we are.

London Breed is the Mayor of San Francisco and Kamala Harris is running for President but it seems like just yesterday we were all a bunch of knuckleheads running around San Francisco. I got called a Johnny Come Lately because I am from Los Angeles and my mom started to work at Cultural Odyssey with Rhodessa Jones and Idris Ackamoor in 1987 when I was 19 years old. Thomas Simpson told me yesterday “I remember you running around here with your mom when you were this high” and I kind of laughed because everyone though I was like 13 but I was already 19! Little did they know.

Now I am an award-winning, bestselling author, author of Black Magic Women, an anthology of black women in horror including our convention’s Guest of Honor horror writer, podcastter, convention runner and film festival organizer Crystal Connor. Crystal is organizing Beyond Us: Black Minds in Horror a film festival. She is going to be working with HorrorAddicts.net and Emerian Rich on a Black History Month Black Film Festival Black Convention Pod Cast!

All of the kids from the Cultural Center are all grown up and we are back making it happen! Craig SamuelsHugh E MCSimon SmithHasonji HasanDavey D CookEdwin Hagler, and more. Don’t call it a comeback! Cause we been here for years.

Elisabetta SaulsonScott Saulson, Franki Saulson and Joshua Andrakinknow that the legacy of Carolyn Saulson lives on!

African American Multimedia Conference is back!

After 3 years writing arts and entertainment pieces for the Examiner.com as an Arts and Culture reporter for the Oakland Art Scene, I am now writing serious investigative reporting for the award-winning Black Newspaper the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper. The Examiner.com was an online extension of the Hearst newspaper owned that allowed people to report nationally from cities that didn’t have their own print edition of the Examiner. I learned how to write for an online news blog there. But the pieces I wrote were non-controversial, arts-centered, and uplifting works that centered on how creative the Bay Area is.

SF Board of Directors 1997 tech committee

I went anywhere where there were Oakland artists, including to all of the local fairs and festivals and conventions. I had to adhere to their journalistic standards and link all kinds of reference materials. To this day, I am affected by the experience.

Now I work at Search Magazine – a local neighborhood style paper like the Sunseter – writing those kinds of uplifting feel good pieces – and writing much more seriously political works for the SF BayView. Both papers are black owned, but have a multicultural editorial staff. It amazes me how much I am a part of the black writing world, from the black owned Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC that published Black Magic Women and where I do proofreading work for their horror division, to the Black Women in Horror project. I am touched and honored.

That is why it is very important to me to restart the African American Multimedia Conference in San Francisco and give back to the community once more.

black renaissance kay davey miki

Iconoclast Productions is a grassroots San Francisco Bay Area based community media arts non profit organization, producers of the African American Multimedia Conference and the Iconoclast Black Independent Film Festival. We were established March 19, 1993. Our programs included computer literacy workshops, plays, and our public access television program Stagefright, which was on Access stations in San Francisco, Vallejo, Oakland, Berkeley, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Dayton Ohio, and New York NY from 1993 to the present, although it is only on in Vallejo as of this writing. It ran in Vallejo and Berkeley up until 2017. It was  a variety show that included community issues and local artist and entertainers. It focused on the African American community and the disabled community, including the homeless, as artists. Because our band Stagefright was a crossover multiethnic black-centered Goth band, we worked with a lot of disabled goth artists, many of whom were queer.

Courtland Creek Adopt A Spot 2019

Photos from 2019 Earth Day Effort

Courtland Creek Adopt A Spot 2018

Photos from 2018 Earth Day Effort

Scry of Lust: Benefit Anthology for AIDSWalk

Scry of Lust event poster tabloid

Dark and seductive, alluring and imaginative, perverse, shocking, and at times hilarious—Scry of Lust is an arousing collection of erotica, paranormal romance, sexy poetry, and kinky tales that will spark your desire and quicken your breath. Indulge in the lustful imaginings of this diverse group of writers, all by your naughty self, or share it out loud to entice your lovers. Scry of Lust will charm the pants off of you—literally!

Profits from this collection are being donated to the San Francisco AIDSWalk, through SFGoth Team #5015, in memory of Gregory Hug.

The Kinky Writers Group meets weekly at Wicked Grounds Cafe, home of the San Francisco Bay Area’s kink and BSDM scene, at the center of the City’s Leather & LGBTQ Cultural District. We welcome writers of all experience levels, races, genders, orientations, and sensual proclivities.

 

Group: fetlife.com/groups/183690

 

SFGoth AIDSWalk Team: 5105 SFGOTH

 

 

This anthology was published by Iconoclast Productions, a San Francisco Bay Area media arts nonprofit organization that works with artists with disabilities, in African American community, produces multicultural programs honoring the African Diaspora, in the homeless community, and in the LGBTQIA+ and Kinky communities.

African American Folklore, Magical Realism and Horror in Toni Morrison novels

 

2018 WiHM Black Women in Horror

This article is a part of a series of the Fifth Annual Black Women in Horror Month celebration, an annual February presentation of blog articles highlighting black women in horror for Women in Horror Month and Black History Month.  The series will include new lists of black women who write horror, interviews, articles, and book reviews. We are very excited to be presenting the Black Women in Horror project for the fifth year. Iconoclast Productions is the sponsor of the Black Women in Horror project.

This is a reprint of an article written by Sumiko Saulson for HorrorAddicts.net for Black History Month in 2017.

 

Toni Morrison goodreads photo
Toni Morrison photo from Goodreads

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford in 1931, eight-four year old Toni Morrison is one of the most prominent voices in African American literature. The bestselling author has won the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize, and earned such an enduring place in in American hearts and minds that she’s already a staple of many college English literature course curriculum in her own lifetime. Although her works often defy genre classification, the vagaries of genre politics have her firmly associated with the high-classed literary fiction genre. Literary fiction is the darling of critics and the academia alike.

Speculative fiction, and especially horror and the supernatural, are considered low-classed, tawdry genres. We sit in a dirty little niche corner, along with romance and erotica, as those genres that are just not prestigious enough for the so-called serious writers. Genre prejudice is so deeply ingrained that many do not recognize a horror story for what it is even when its nature is vastly apparent.

In essence, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a gothic horror story. It is a ghost story set against a backdrop of slavery and the post-Civil War restoration. It takes on the tone of gothic horror immediately at the outset of the story with the line “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom,” referring to 124 Bluestone Road, the address of the protagonist Sethe’s home. The use of a building, most commonly a house, is a trope commonly associated with the gothic fiction genre.

The story also utilizes many elements of the subgenre American Gothic. English gothic Image result for beloved toni morrisonhorror took place in the Victorian era, the same period of time that the Civil War and the post war Restoration took place in the United States. The dark histories involving the African slave trade and the genocide of New World’s indigenous peoples were primary features of a guilt-ridden American conscience. Wronged native peoples and oppressed African slaves were some of the ghosts and bogeymen of American gothic. That is clearly the case in Beloved, which is about the petulant spirit of Sethe’s murdered two year old daughter, Beloved. Sethe killed her own child to protect her from slavery, and has been haunted ever since.

While Toni Morrison’s overall literary genre is American or African American literary fiction, Beloved is widely categorized as Magical Realism. Magical realism is a genre that involves the insertion of folklore and supernatural elements into otherwise realistic narratives. Beloved is not Toni Morrison’s only venture into magical realism. Song of Solomon, Sula, Jazz, and The Bluest Eye all use elements of the genre.

Image result for sula toni morrisonIf it weren’t for the fact that Sula won a Nobel Prize for American literature, we might think of it as magical realism, as it certainly utilizes many elements of the genre. Many supernatural elements are used to illustrate the town of Bottom’s discomfort with and rejection of the unconventional protagonist Sula Peace. These magical elements are illustrations of the town’s scapegoating behavior. They clearly symbolize the tendency to demonize women for liberal and sexually unrepressed behavior. However, there is a more than superficial resemblance between Sula’s connection to the paranormal occurrences and witchcraft. Sula seems like a witch, and the town seems to be on a witch hunt.

In magical realism, these things are seen as symbolic, not necessarily to be taken literally, as in horror. There is an additional layer of psychological complexity in magical realism, as it is often unclear whether the supernatural is at play, or characters are just superstitious. That mystery is part of what keeps magical realism psychologically terrifying.

The strange appearance of a swarm of agitated birds in Sula is a great example of this. They arrive when she returns to town, and they occur in such unmanageable numbers that some townspeople are driven to sadism in an effort to get rid of them. They are so populous that the birds create a danger to themselves and others. However, the book never explains their mysterious arrival and disappearance. That is where magical realism differs from traditional horror: in horror, a cause, usually a diabolical one is assigned. In Sula, people superstitiously connect the appearance to the protagonist and her sexually loose moral behavior, which includes interracial relationships and sleeping with married men.

Image result for song of solomon toni morrisonToni Morrison’s Song of Solomon opens up with some of the most horrifying scenes I’ve ever read. One involves the hunting of a runaway slave by a pack of dogs, and the other involves an extended analogy about leaping to suicide while attempting to fly away from enslavement. Song of Solomon uses several elements of magical realism. Many of these are directly or indirectly connected with a character named Pilate, a woman who was born without a belly button.  She is guardian angel/earth mother figure in the life of the protagonist, Milkman.

Her lack of a navel suggests a supernatural origin, because bellybuttons are a sign of earthly birth. Created creatures, like angels or golem, wouldn’t need navels. Pilate shows other signs of supernatural knowledge or power, as does the ancient former slave Circe. Circe tells the protagonist Milkman of his great grandfather Solomon, who is the title character. Solomon was said to have literally flown to escape slavery. However, throughout the story, various attempts at flight are ambiguous and often seem more like suicide and less like escape.

Image result for the bluest eye toni morrisonThere is the further complication of determining whether or not supernatural occurrences are real in magical realism. In Toni Morrison’s controversial debut novel The Bluest Eye, Pecola Breedlove, a sexually molested young black girl, retreats into a fantasy world where she feels beautiful because she imagines she has blue eyes. The book has been banned multiple times because it deals with tough subjects like incest and child molestation. However, at the core of it is a deeper truth: our most terrifying monsters are the ones that are real.

Horror as a genre allows its readers to confront subjects that are too hard to look at directly. Like a filter that allows us to look at the sun without going blind, horror softens the impact of unimaginable subjects by replacing horrific human monsters with supernatural creatures. They are less upsetting than the idea that the real monsters are us.

There is a close synergy between magical realism and gothic horror. They are flip sides of the same coin. Magical realism is a genre label usually ascribed to people of color talking about ourselves, and integrating our own folklore, history, legends and mythology into stories that contain both realistic and fantastic elements. Gothic horror, especially American gothic, is written from a white person’s point of view and has to do with outsider fear and suspicion of the same folklore, history, legends and myths.

A novel like Beloved might have been considered gothic horror if it had been written from a white person’s perspective by a white author. A story like Bernard Rose and Clive Barker’s Candyman might have been mystical realism if it were written by a black author and from Candyman’s point of view. Both stories are about a tragic character that died unnecessarily as a result of racism and slavery who returns as an avenging spirit. The change in the point of view character is also key to the genre categorization here: Candyman is about how slavery impacted white people. Beloved is about how it impacted African Americans.

Toni Morrison’s forays into magical realism may not be universally considered horror for the same reason that not everyone considers Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein horror: the monster is so sympathetic that from time to time, human beings seem the real monsters. The monster is the one who has been wronged here. If we feel more sympathy for the monster than it persecutors, then we lose a lot of the fear we associate with the horror genre.

100+ Black Women in Horror debuts February 21st

100 Black Women in Horror print covere

February 21 is the official release date for the biographical reference 100+ Black Women in Horror. Containing the biographies of over one hundred black women who write horror, 100+ Black Women in Horror is a reference guide, a veritable who’s who of female horror writers from the African Diaspora. This volume is an expansion of the original 2014 book 60 Black Women in Horror.

February is African American History Month in the United States as well as Women in Horror Month (WiHM). 100+ Black Women in Horror is a result of the intersection between the two celebrations. It consists of an alphabetical listing of the women with biographies, photos, and web addresses, as well as interviews with 17 of the included women and an essay by David Watson on LA Banks and Octavia Butler. It is not limited to African American authors, but includes women from all over the diaspora!

100+ Black Women in Horror began as a series of blog posts, written for Women in Horror Month and Black History Month, between 2013 and 2018. This book contains seventeen of the interviews originally featured on Sumiko Saulson’s horror blog, Things That Go Bump in My Head, http://www.SumikoSaulson.com.  The women in this release are either primarily authors of horror prose or poetry, such as Tananarive Due and Linda Addison, or women who write in other genres primarily, but have one or more works in the horror genre, such as Octavia Butler, Toni Morrison, and Zane.

A free version of the eBook will be available exclusively through Goodreads. Free eBooks will be made available to schools and libraries through a special distribution program through Smashwords.

Discounted versions of the book are available exclusively through Lulu.com, through buy links you can find at www.SumikoSaulson.com and the publisher, the non-profit www.IconoclastProductions.com.

The book is available everywhere else for the standard price of 99 cents for the eBook, available through Kobo, iTunes Store, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Smashwords; $10 for the Standard Paperback, $12 for the Premium Paperback, and $30 for the Deluxe Hardcover with Case Wrap, perfect for libraries and schools wishing to keep it as a reference guide.

100+ Black Women in Horror will be a great addition to the libraries of horror lovers, African Diaspora or horror scholars, and fans of Black literature.

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