Posted May 5, 2017 by Editorial Staff in Art+Culture
 
 

Highlander Heaven – Toyota Promotes Black History, Riding In Style

The caravan awaits the start of the tour.
The caravan awaits the start of the tour.

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Contributors: Y’Anad Burrell, michaelD

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Tour group at Leidesdorff statue

The Main Event
On Saturday, March 26, 2017, Toyota hosted a very unique and unforgettable driving tour (#SteepedInHistory) of the rich African American history in San Francisco, CA. More than 10 Toyota vehicles caravanned a group of approximately 20 people through the streets of San Francisco. Among the 20, even native San Franciscans were shocked to hear, for the first time, the impact and pathways that Black people played in what is now a very different San Francisco.

In a city that many have called home for an entire lifetime, a unique and colorful history Black San Franciscans was never taught in the public schools. This includes African American Studies class in high school, where this information was never a part of the syllabus.

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John Templeton at Leidesdorff plaque

Well, here it is. Toyota comes to save the day and it’s a breath of fresh air to meet the tour historian Mr. John William Templeton. Here is just a snippet of what I learned on that tour. And go!

  • William Leidesdorff is only one of two people buried in San Francisco, California.  When Mr. Leidesdorff died in 1854, he was worth $1.4M.
  • Langston Hughes lived at 2335 Hyde Street, San Francisco
  • Mary Ellen Pleasant was the first African American female millionaire.  The oak tress she planted in front of her mansion which was located on the corner of Octavia & Bush Streets in San Francisco are still standing today.
  • Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church is 165 years old and the oldest African American church in San Francisco. Located at 916 Laguna Street.

After the last stop in San Francisco (Sargent Johnson Gallery at the African American Art & Culture Complex)  we headed to Oakland. After all, how can you spend the morning talking about African Americans in the Bay Area and not include Oakland, just across the Bay Bridge and home to Northern California’s largest Black population? Lots of cultural ties between Oakland and San Francisco, but that’s another story.

Before we reached our Oakland lunch destination, the popular African American owned Pican restaurant, we were able to sneak in a quick drive by of the African American Museum Library at Oakland, Marcus Books, Beebe Memorial Cathedral and Thomas L. Berkley Square (developed by Alan Dones and former location of Thomas Berkeley’s Oakland Post).

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Contributor: michaelD

Rewind
But before the San Francisco tour, there’s a back story. Isn’t there always?

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michaelD can’t let go!

About three weeks before the tour, I received a call from a woman in Atlanta named “Betsy” asking if theREGISTRY wanted to participate in “Toyota’s #SteepedInHistory Tour.” The offer: You get to drive a Toyota for a week as long as you give up your Saturday morning for a guided tour of San Francisco from an African American perspective. How? You’ll be a part of a Toyota caravan of cars led by John Templeton (widely known as the authority on San Francisco Black History). Everyone will be guided by John as you play follow-the-leader and listen to the tour broadcast (conference call) through your in-car bluetooth system.

Huh? What? It’s March, the middle of the business day, Black History Month is behind us and we’re deep into summer (almost fall) event planning. I’m thinking to myself, “This is what I get for answering an “unknown” 404 phone number. When will I learn?”

I offer up the usual road blocks (very busy, let me get back to you, how am I going to make money out of this) and they don’t work. Then I throw throw in the final, “Well if I’m going to participate, no Prius for me. I’ll only do it if you can get me a brand spanking new Highlander.”

Two days later I get another call from my new Atlanta buddy, Betsy – “We got you your Highlander, so you’re in, right?” What could I say at that point?

Heaven On Wheels
Full Disclosure: I’m a proud Toyota vet, owner of a flawless 192,000 mile 2003 4-Runner which I purchased from my buddy Ronnie Lott’s dealership in Tracy, CA. Over 14 years – just gas, brakes, fluids, oil, battery, wipers, a door lock and a lightbulb or two – that’s it! Only recently did I get the timing belt changed, and that’s because I figured at 192,000 miles I was pushing my luck since Toyota recommended it at 90,000 miles! While I would love to get a new car with new technology, I just can’t justify it given the performance and reliability of the 4-Runner. At this point I’m kinda curious to see how long it will last without the need for a major repair.

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2017 Toyota Highlander

Prior to the 4-Runner I owned a Lexus 430SC hardtop convertible, another stellar performer in the Toyota family. Even though they stopped production in 2010, among the luxury vehicles I’ve owned (BMW, Porsche, Mercedes etc.), that’s the one I would love to repurchase … when we’re done with private schools and college for the kids (sigh).

Toyota delivered the Highlander to my doorstep and the love affair began. Mind you, I own an SUV with 14 year old technology. Although we (me, wifey and two kids) treat ourselves to “modern day” rental SUVs for family road trips, I was still blown away by the Highlander’s interior design and technology, as was everyone that rode in the car during my week-long escapade.

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Highlander Interior

Highlander Highlights
• As mentioned, the interior design. It’s a great look but it’s also the little things, like the extra shelving built into the dash that conveniently held keys, earbuds, notes etc.
• The third row of seats in the back, always a kick for the little ones, and a surprise for me since I had no idea that it could fit in a car of this size.
Exterior styling – aggressive yet refined.
• The video screen that drops down from the roof, making it viewable from the second and third rows – by far the kids’ favorite feature. My favorite part of the system was that it came with two headsets, and while the video was playing the kids could hear their audio undisturbed in the third row while other passengers could listen to beats pumped through the stereo system!
Engine power – plenty to spare.
Ride quality – rode more like a luxury car than a truck – perfect.
• Separately – a visit to African American owned Brown Estate Vineyard in St. Helena (Napa Valley). I took a Friday off, and since the kids were also off from school that day, piled them in the car (third row, headsets and built-in video screen of course) along with a friend and made the drive on a glorious Bay Area day.

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Visiting Brown Estates

Big thanks to Betsy Hughes (the mystery caller from Atlanta) over at BLH Consulting, Inc for hanging tough with all the arrangements. It was a week well worth it!

The kids (age 6 and 9) are still asking, “Daddy, when are we going to get the red car back?” Toyota – we’re ready for part 2, are you?

To be continued … we hope!

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