Bay Area icon Belva Davis recalls a different Berkeley

Journalist Belva Davis, who has risked her life reporting stories, spoke in Berkeley on Thursday. Photo: Tefari Casas

Belva Davis is a Bay Area icon. The first black female TV journalist in the West and Berkeley High graduate (’51), spoke Thursday at the Jewish Community Center East Bay on Walnut Street.

A familiar face on TV for many Bay Area residents, Davis has covered stories from the People’s Park protests of the late 1960s to the terrorists attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya in 1998 — and she has risked her life for these two stories, along with many others.

Davis spoke with Bill Schechner, a former KPIX reporter and contemporary of Davis, about her childhood in Monroe, Louisiana and her time growing up in a very different Berkeley than the one she sees today. The entire auditorium gasped in disgust as she recalled an old custom at Trader Vic’s: smashing the glasses that African-American people had used at the store restaurant.

Despite experiences such as these, Davis also reflected on some of the more comically awkward moments of her career, such as her emotional breakdown in front of Fidel Castro in response to the arrival of Barbara Walters in her professional prime. This breakdown paid off with an exclusive interview, nonetheless — a memory that still brings a smile to Davis’ face.

Davis published a memoir, Never in My Wildest Dreams: A Black Woman’s Life in Journalism last year.

Schechner, a long-time anchor for KPIX, guided the conversation with an interview style that kept Davis’ stories flowing.

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

Print Friendly
Tagged , ,
Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comments policy »
  • Eric Westby

    Chilling story about Trader Vic’s: but FYI, it’s a longtime East Bay restaurant and bar, not a “store” as you call it. Maybe you’re thinking of Trader Joe’s?

  • Thanks Eric. We’ve made the fix.

  • oz

    The Trader Vic’s story needs a first-hand source. She is not speaking from personal experience but is relating what some acquaintance told her about the days when Trader Vic’s had to admit blacks.But the truth is, California had a civil rights law requiring hotels or restaurants to serve all, dating back to the 1910’s. A law that was disregarded by some hotels — sure you could stay at the Fairmont if you were Ralph Bunche, but good luck if you were some unknown business man of color from Chicago). So the story *could* be true, but then, the patrons of Trader Vic’s had servants of color who cooked and served their food and diapered their children. Hard to imagine that they thought black people had cooties, even if they snobbishly did not want them at the next table at their favorite hangout.