Edy Boone: A life spent inspiring others captured on film

Edy Boone, about whom a film is being made: "She builds bridges between people who don't think they have a commonality"

If you have lived in Berkeley for a while, you have probably crossed paths with Edythe Boone. A spry 74-year old with a quick laugh, Boone has worked as a counsellor and as a health activist, and taught art at several local schools, including currently at Berkwood Hedge and West Oakland Middle School. With her warm personality, she imbues the very young, as well as the very old, with the spirit of creativity. She also transforms lives.

The results of her work can be seen on our cities’ walls. She collaborated on the “Let a Thousand Parks Bloom” mural at People’s Park, and, in conjunction with Berkeley’s Youth Spirit Artworks, the “Music on our Minds” mural at the corner of Ellis and Alcatraz. She also worked on the well-known “Maestrapeace” which graces the façade of the San Francisco Women’s Building, and on the “We Remember” AIDS mural in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley.

Now, Berkeley filmmaker Mo Morris is making a documentary about Boone. Entitled A New Color it will, she says, tell Boone’s incredible story and illuminate her “illustrious career.”

“Edy has a way of inspiring people and embracing a number of causes,” says Morris. “She builds bridges between people who don’t think they have a commonality.”

Boone’s story is a colorful one. Born in Harlem and brought up until the age of seven by a white, orthodox Jewish family, she moved to the Bay Area around 36 years ago when, as she puts it, the prevalence of crack in her neighborhood made her fear for the safety of her children (she has five, one of whom she has fostered since he was a baby).

Boone says she didn’t even know the word “mural” when she began encouraging neighbors in New York to “bring dignity” to their environment with paint. “The buildings were deteriorating and the community was being destroyed,” she says. “We helped people to make the buildings their own, one floor at a time.”

Boone has always been a social activist, whether working with drug addicts or helping kids to eat more healthily. She laughs when she remembers being attacked in the middle of the night when she and some friends were engaged in making some “guerilla murals”: murals that would cover up drug-related graffiti.

Recently she has been working with seniors at Lifelong Medical Care center in Richmond, helping them to grapple with the devastating impact of crime on their young people. She encourages them to pick up paintbrushes and include the images that haunt them. In the mural they are creating, a coffin for a 15-year-old gang warfare victim is carried aloft by his grandparents’ generation. (Watch the video above to see more.)

Edy Boone worked on “Maestrapeace” mural (1995) which graces the façade of the San Francisco Women’s Building

“Edy speaks a simple truth,” says Morris, “and she always helps people learn something about themselves.”

Morris needs funding to complete filming A New Color and begin editing a rough cut. Thanks to the Berkeley Film Foundation, half of the footage has already been shot. And the East Bay Community Foundation has pledged its support in the form of a matching grant so that every dollar that is raised for the film will be doubled. In order to receive this grant, Morris needs to raise an equal amount of funds from individuals. A Kickstarter campaign which is on the way to raising her $6,500 goal expires on Wednesday June 13.

In 2010, Edy Boone was honored by the City Council who proclaimed July 13th “Edy Boone Day” in Berkeley. Morris is hoping her film will be ready to screen at film festivals and at local theaters on Edy Boone Day 2013 so that the acclaimed muralist, educator, and artist will get her well-deserved moment in the spotlight.

Visit the A New Color Kickstarter page and Facebook page for more information.

Related:
Berkeley designer aims to bring color in local kids’ lives [05.14.12]
Neighbors welcome transformation of eyesore on Arch Street [11.10.11]
Coming soon: A three-story mural painted by city’s youth [05.24.11]
Berkeley’s newest mural unveiled in Gourmet Ghetto [07.19.12]

Berkeleyside publishes many articles every day. To see all our stories in chronological order, and read ones you may have missed, check out our All the News grid.

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  • Guest

    Oh my god, Edy Boone!!!   I sat on her lap in the swings when I was 2 at Children’s Community Center.  I’m 32 now. 

  • XicanoParrot

    Amazing person and artist. I met her at a community function once, and was in love in less than a minute. A truly beautiful soul whose legacy must be acknowledged. I also know the film maker and she has a great vision about what this film will be about. 
    “I always tell kids you can’t change your beginnings but you can sure put a nice beautiful ending to the story.” — Edythe Boone. This is one of the greatest quotes, filled with wisdom and inspirational hope.