Mildred Howard puts her mother’s legacy in Berkeley with Mable’s Promissory Note

Berkeley’s most expensive public art installation honors South Berkeley

The Youngest in a Family of Ten from Galveston, Berkeley Juneteenth is a special day for international art star

BERKELEY — One of the most site-specific works of public art ever was inaugurated as part of Berkeley Juneteenth by the daughter of the South Berkeley community leader who forced Bay Area Rapid Transit to dig an underground tunnel at that very spot to protect the predominately Black community.

Mildred Howard is an international public artist who also drew on her Congolese heritage to design Mable’s Promissory Note while noting “I’m transcending history by scale. My mother said “No Berlin Walls in Berkeley.”

“I’m the youngest in my family,” said Howard. “My nine brothers and sisters were all born in Galveston.”

Councilmember Ben Bartlett of the 3rd District commissioned the work to affirm the continuing need to honor the historic South Berkeley neighborhood that he and Howard grew up in.

Dr. Stephanie Johnson, former chair of the Berkeley Civic Arts Committee got even more site-specific. Johnson noted that even Howard had been priced out of the neighborhood and demanded that the artist have a home in South Berkeley.

BART Director and 12th District Democratic nominee for Congress Lateefah Simon said BART had been designed to help suburbanites leave communities where Black families lived and commute into San Francisco for work, wreaking havoc on the neighborhoods it passed through. She said new housing planned for the Ashby BART station where the sculpture sits should have a right to return for South Berkeley residents.

The art installation was the highlight of the Berkeley Juneteenth Festival, drawing friends of Howard from as far away as Egypt.