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

By Tefari Ezequiel 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.

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