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Wanda's Picks June 2009 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wanda Sabir   
Monday, 01 June 2009

Congratulations to all the graduates!

Many trees fell during the month of May. We remember: Ivan Van Sertima, Mother Mary Ann Wright, Father Jean Juste.
(Visit
http://www.margueritelaurent.com/pressclips/JJTribute.html#BellAngelot)

Remembering Ave Marie Montegue

Ave Montegue’s San Francisco Black Film Festival would be gearing up about now, but as most readers know, Ave passed earlier this year and there will be no Juneteenth Film Festival or San Francisco Black Film Festival this June. I’d like to sponsor a salon in the East Bay, perhaps early July, if not late June, to honor her work and look at how we can continue it. Let me know if you have a location and would like help get the word out.

Happy Father’s Day! and Happy Birthday to me and to other June Geminis/Cancers: Raymond Nat Turner, the late Sister Saadiqa and Sister Louise Muhammad; Sister Nida Ali, Alison Gates, Kokovulu Lumakanda, Genevieve Bayan, Yusef Najem

Mother Wright

Our beloved Mother Mary Ann Wright passed last month (she was 87) after dedicating her life to service. She fed the hungry, clothed the naked and often sheltered those who were without shelter. Her life touched so many others here in Oakland that she lay in state for an entire day and multiple services were held in her honor throughout the City. Her reach was local and international. Rep. Barbara Lee called her "our Mother Teresa." The ceremonial farewell May 27-28, reminded me of what it would have been like to attend the services for Coretta Scott King. Mother Wright was the Bay Area’s First Lady of Grace.

I remember when I read her booklet, quite a while ago. It spoke of her early life in rural Louisiana, orphaned at two upon her mother’s death, teen marriage to a brutal older man and first husband, her escape to California and liberation, the trials of raising such a large family (12 children) combined with her duties as a wife to a loving second husband, her strong faith and belief in God, and her calling to feed the hungry –a dream which shook her from sleep in 1990.

Soft spoken when not in the pulpit or behind her bullhorn holding church at her multiple food giveaway sites, frail-looking physically in her later years, yet always sharp, focused on her mission--to eradicate hunger, always internally strong, I marveled over this woman who’d done so much to comfort the poor, a woman loved by all who knew her.

Mother Wright spoke at my friend Joy Holland’s funeral two years ago. It was here that she mentioned her upcoming birthday party at Sweet's Ballroom in downtown Oakland. I wish I'd gone.

At Joy's funeral, she said to “give her her flowers while she could still smell them. They were of no use when she was gone.” I know Mother Wright received many flowers while she was alive from her loving children and other children (all of us) whose lives she touched. She received many proclamations and awards, one was given to her by the late, Diane Howell, Ph.D. at the Black Expo honoring “101+ Women Making a Difference.” There were/still are so many good women in the San Francisco Bay Area like Mother Wright quietly changing the world one life at a time. I was on that list too, and got a chance to take a picture with this great woman.

I first met Mother Wright when I was working at Acorn 2 Apartments in West Oakland and she gave away Thanksgiving groceries to residents. I later visited her organization and she gave me a tour. She could always be counted on to show up at Old Man’s Park on Jefferson--rain or shine, giving away hot food, clothing, good cheer...faith and hope. (I learned last week, OMP or "Lafayette Park," its official name, was the site of the first Chabot Planetarium).

She was the epitome of a forgiving and selflessness. Her life was one of service, but she also knew how to have a life too. She celebrated her birthday, she loved her family and she showed up when she needed to show up for others, like as I said two years ago, to honor my late friend, poet, artist, activist, Joy Holland.

Mother Wright is survived by 10 children, 33 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by two sons. Visit http://www.mothermary.qpg.com/ and http://www.insidebayarea.com/obituaries/ci_12326298

Remembrance for the Ancestors

It's that time again, our annual ritual pouring libations for our ancestors. We join communities in Charleston, South Carolina, Panama, West Indies, Cape Coast, Ghana, and Long Island, New York.

Stop what you are doing Saturday, June 13th at 9 a.m. PST and pour libations for our African ancestors who were taken against their will from Mother Africa. Ask them for strength and endurance. Freedom is a constant struggle. For those who'd like to pour libations in unity. Join us at 8:30 a.m. We will pour precisely at 9 AM. Bring your drums and other percussion instruments to celebrate our ancestors' lives. Bring flowers, breakfast pastry and fruit to share. It is traditional to wear white, but for those who know me. Bring yourself, it's what's inside that counts.

Feel the power of that moment as we recall their greatness of spirit and give thanks. Ashay!

Last year we met at the fountain at Lake Merritt in Oakland, across from the Merritt Bakery where the fountain is. We can meet there again this year. It is a nice spot, easy to locate and wheelchair accessible.

This is our fourth year participating in the international remembrance of the African ancestors who were bought and sold during the European slave trade. This is an opportunity to reflect on those subsequent ancestors like Mama Tubman and Baba Denmark Vesey, and ancestors elsewhere in the African Diaspora. It is, a prayer for our survival and an opportunity to greet and support one another in this important work: healing from enslavement: social, political, and economic. It is also an opportunity to reclaim our personal and collective power, plus long overdue justice and equality.

Visit http://maafasfbayarea.com

Listen to Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, June 5, 2009 8-10 AM. I have asked "Remembrance for Our Ancestors" founder, Tony Akeem, and long time supporter, Osei Terry Chandler, to be my guests that morning. You can listen on-line or by calling (347) 237-4610. The website is: http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org

Odunde Festival in Philly

I was going through my mail and Marvin X forwarded information to me about a celebration of our African ancestors which is older than any others I know. Each year, the second Sunday in June, ODUNDE, one of the nation’s oldest African American street festivals take place.  ODUNDE will be celebrating its 33rd year in the traditional south Philadelphia location near 23rd and South streets.

Events include a banquet with invited ambassadors from throughout the African Diaspora: Nigeria, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, an African Business Roundtable, and the culmination: the Egungun River Procession Sunday, June 14, 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. which leaves from ODUNDE Cultural Center - 2308 Grays Ferry Avenue (23rd & South Streets).  The Egungun Procession celebrates the memory of our elevated and honorable African ancestors. Everyone is asked to wear white clothing. Bembe (a drum and dance celebration) follows the procession. Also on Sunday, June 14, 10-4 there is a cultural festival and African Marketplace. Visit http://www.odundeinc.org/Index.htm


Porgy and Bess

San Francisco Opera's George and Ira Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” is set, this production, in the '50s. Dubose and Dorothy Heyward's play is the basis for the opera, which opens June 9-27, 2009 at the War Memorial Opera House, Van Ness at Grove Street in San Francisco. Bass-baritone Eric Owens and soprano Laquita Mitchell headline the cast as "Porgy" and "Bess," an unlikely couple who manage to find love amidst the squalor of Catfish Row. 

Visit http://sfopera.com/press/porgyandbess/PorgyandBess.pdf

To listen to a great interview with Eric Greene “Jake, the Fisherman,” recorded May 26, rebroadcast May 29, visit: http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org.


Ethnic Dance Festival: Four weekends in 2009: June 6-7, 13-14, 20-21, 27-28 

African-Diaspora dance companies featured this year are: Diamano Coura West African Dance Company (June 13-14), Imani’s Dream, Obakòso Drum & Dance Ensemble, and Las Que Son Son: (June 20-21); De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association, Fua Dia Congo (June 27-28).  The final two days of the festival feature special storytelling performances.  All of the shows are at the Palace of Fine Arts with two shows on Saturday, 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. only. For more info call (415) 474-3914.  Tickets can be purchased at (415) 392-4400 or on-line at www.cityboxoffice.com or www.tickets.com or http://www.worldartswest.org/main/edf_index.asp

Healdsburg Jazz Festival continues Friday-Sunday, June 5-7.

John Handy will be performing at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival on Friday, June 5, 2009 at 8:00 p.m. in the Raven Theater, 115 North St., in Healdsburg.  The Festival has an interesting line-up in addition to John, and including saxophonist James Moody, Sunday, June 7, pianist Randy Weston Saturday, June 6, and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir Sunday morning, June 7.  You can learn more at the Festival website, www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org or by calling the Festival office at 1-800-838-3006.

Stanford Jazz Festival

James Moody Quartet featuring Benny Green
On Friday, June 26, 8 PM James Moody, saxophone; Benny Green, piano; John Wiitala, bass; Akira Tana, drums in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Tickets are $34 general, $17 students

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, solo piano, Saturday, June 27, 8 PM at the Campbell Recital Hall
Tickets: $40 general | $20 students.  Visit http://tickets. stanford.edu or 650.725.ARTS (2787). For more information, visit StanfordJazz.org or call 650.736.0324. Tickets to SJF events range from $20 - $40 general admission (depending on concert) with a half-price discount for students with valid ID and children under the age of 18.

Early Bird Jazz: Crosspulse with Keith Terry

The free concert features: Keith Terry, Amber Hines, Tacuma King, Evie Ladin & Omar Ledezma.  The event is Saturday, June 27:  Kids 5 and under, 10 AM (Crosspulse duo); Kids 6 and over, 11AM (Crosspulse ensemble) at the Dinkelspiel Auditorium

Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet

Peter Apfelbaum, tenor saxophone; Manuel Valera, piano; Armando Gola, bass; Dafnis Prieto, drums at Campbell Recital Hall, Sunday, June 28, 7:30 PM  Tickets: $36 general | $18 students

Junius Courtney Big Band

The band is performing at the Ebony Boat Club Jazz and Wine Festival, Saturday, June 6, 1 p.m., San Joaquin Yacht Harbor, 3305 Wilber Avenue, Antioch, CA 94509, (925) 757-4430, http://www.ebonyboatclub.com/  Visit http://www.juniuscourtneybigband.com/calendar.html
 

Jazz Ambassadors’:  A Retrospective Conversation featuring pianist Randy Weston, moderated by jazz historian Dr. Herb Wong, Thursday, June 4

There is a dinner from 5:30 - 7:00 at Yoshi’s Restaurant, 1330 Fillmore Street in San Francisco. This is followed by the discussion at the new state-of-art Media and Education Center hosted by the legendary jazz critic Dr. Herb Wong from 7:15 to 8:15.  Randy Weston will share stories and insights from his 14-country diplomacy tour sponsored by the State Department in 1967. From  8:30 – 10:00 is the reception. The cost varies: A Platinum Pass gives participants ‘all access’ for $250 and includes dinner, discussion and the reception.  Those who wish to attend the discussion and reception only, can purchase a Gold Pass for $100.  For $50 a Silver Pass is also available for those who can only attend the reception.  Everyone can save 20% off this event by registering to become a ‘Friends of Jazz’ Member.  Visit www.jazzheritagecenter.org

On the Fly
Visit
www.reggaefestivalguide.com for information about the Sierra Nevada Music Festival June 19-21 in Boonville, CA. Headliners are: Femi Kuti, Michael Rose, and King Sunny Ade. Reggae in the Desert looks fun, June 13. Featured is Gregory Issacs. San Francisco Shakespeare Festival opens next month everywhere but in San Francisco.  Just kidding, but we have to wait until August before it arrives at the Presidio in San Francisco. Visit http://www.sfshakes.org/park/index.html California Shakespeare Festival opens with Romeo and Juliet, May 30 through June 21. Visit http://www.calshakes.org/ San Francisco Mime Troupe’s Too Big to Fail opens 4th of July Weekend at Dolores Park in San Francisco.  Visit www.sfmt.org or call (415) 285-1717. Told in the tradition of the West African Griots, this modern day epic follows Filiji, a man in love with his family, his village, and most of all, his goat, Bamuso. What more could a man need to be happy? How about two goats? Three? A flock? Turned down for a loan by the village micro bank, Filiji, now the self-proclaimed Goat Lord of Kanabeedomo, borrows from a new lender in town, a small subsidiary of a much bigger bank in a distant, mystical land called Wall Street. Greed is his new lover, the only problem is, he can’t afford her. Her baggage is too heavy and well…come see the play. Better yet, what the sitcom on CNN – how does American plan to get out of debt?  Yerba Buena Gardens Festivals, between Mission & Folsom, 3rd & 4th in San Francisco, Thursday Concerts 12:30 p.m. and Friday/Saturday, Children’s Garden Series June-August. Call for the details (415) 543-1718 or www.ybgf.org Zap Mama at Bimbo’s 365 Club, June 18, 8 a.m. doors open. Visit www.bimbos365club.com or call (415) 474-0365. Applause for the Cause, benefit for The Carol Ann Read Breast Health Center at Alta Bates, features Dionne Warwick & Sinbad, Sat., June 6, 7:30 p.m. at the Oakland Convention Center. Visit www.investmentinmiracles.org or call (510) 204-1667. Big Idea All Night Party at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Friday, June 5-Saturday, June 6, sounds fun. It’s free. RSVP at www.ybcafree.org Abdullah Ibrahim in San Francisco, Friday-Sunday, June 5-7. Visit www.yoshis.com. Nancy Wilson in Oakland, June 4-6. Visit www.yoshis.com or (510) 238-9200. Del Tha Funky Homosapian at the Fillmore in San Francisco, Friday, June 5. Call (415) 346-6000 or visit www.livenation.com. Berkeley World Music Festival, Saturday, June 6,12 noon to 9 p.m. Visit www.berkeleyworldmusic.org Free Opera Simulcast of Puccini’s “Tosca” at AT&T Ballpark in San Francisco, Friday, June 5, 8 p.m. Sign up early for best seating sfopera.com/simulcast, Kim Nalley sings Nina Simone, Saturday, June 6, 8 p.m. Visit www.sfjazz.org “Dream Girls” at Black Rep on Adeline in Berkeley. Visit http://blackrepertorygroup.com/ Lenny Williams is a special guest this month at selected performances. The play is choreographed by Reginald Ray Savage. Other special guests are: Courtney “Goldie” Jackson from Flavor of Love and Danesha Simon. Donald Lacy’s back with his one man odyssey: Color Struck at the Guild Theatre in Sacramento, through June 21. Visit http://www.colorstruck.net/ and Visit www.imagestheater.org Pro Arts Open Studios, June 6-7, 13-14 with James Gayles at Swarm Gallery.   Visit http://www.proartsgallery.org/ebos/ SF8 Trials begin in San Francisco June 8, 8 a.m. 850 Bryant in San Francisco. Visit http://www.freethesf8.org/  Visit http://www.priorityafrica.org/ frequently for updates on African-centered events.  Don’t forget the Oakland Museum’s First Fridays and the African Presence in Mexico Exhibit up now. Visit www.museumca.org, www.lapena.org and www.ashkenaz.com and www.shattuckdownlow.com, www.theindependent.com, www.goldenvoice.com, and the KPFA calendar, along with Hard KnockRadio’s Calendar. www.pbs.org and www.itvs.org are other good sites to check. The film, “New Muslim Cool,” is going to be on KQED Channel 9, this month. Don’t forget to call Marcus Books frequently to see who is in town. Check back on-line: http://wandaspicks.com for updates this month and listen to Wanda’s Picks Radio. I don’t repeat myself (smile). Call (347)237-4610 (w-6-7:30 AM and F-8-10 AM PST).I will be having special shows and some earlier shows on Fridays this summer (6-8 AM). Visit http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org I didn’t get anything for Richmond Juneteenth or Sacramento Juneteenth or Berkeley Juneteenth, but if I do, I will add it.  Don’t forget Joyce Gordon Gallery this Friday, June 5. Lorraine Bonner has an exhibit going up with another woman artist. Hansford Prince and Michael Torres are in the SF Playhouse production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” opening this month.  Intersection for the Arts adaptation of Fuku Americanus is a bit too long, and while not confusing if one stays focused, it is certainly worth the journey if one is interested in the role of colonialism on identity. Besides that, it is not often that one hears the story of Haiti from the other side of the island, Santo Domingo or the Dominican Republic, which is where Junot Diaz folks hail from. The adaptation is comedic drama, with the more sobering moments captured in subtitles or choreography. The creative collaboration between Sean San Jose and Marc Bamuthi Joseph is evident to anyone who knows either of the men’s creative stamp or style. I started the novel, which got the Pulitzer Prize for Lit last year, and haven’t been able to wade through it yet, so for that reason, I was happy to see a Fuku, which means “curse,” an inherited “curse,” one which can be eliminated once one faces it. This acknowledgement is what strips “fuku” of its power. America is in the trouble it is in presently is because its “fuku” has finally caught up with it. Make sure you’re not sleepy when you go check “Fuku”out. It’s up through June 21.The first act is really long. Thursdays are pay-what-you-can. Visit www.theintersection.org Don't forget to visit http://www.priorityafrica.org/  This website gives you the hook up for all Africa events and if you don't see it there, shoot them an email and they will add your event. I am not on all lists, so I rely on Priority Africa to keep me posted on what I might miss, such as events at MoAD. They do not include me in their press announcements or the SF Bay View for that matter. Other venues don't give me access to the artists they represent and I get tired of listing events while being denied interviews and/or tickets to concerts.  This listing represents almost 48 hours straight research, not including technical trouble where I lost everything and had to start from scratch.

San Francisco Juneteenth 2009
Comedy Benefit


Second Annual SF Juneteenth Comedy Explosion Benefit features some of America's hottest comedians. Hosted by Speedy, the event stars: Cool Bubba Ice, Smokey, R.T. and Ralph Porter.  The benefit is Friday, June 19, 2009 8 p.m. at J'La Chic Theatre 39, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco. All tickets are $35.00.  For more information call: (415) 433-3939 or (415) 931-2729.  Tickets are tax deductable. Visit  http://www.theatre39.com  All proceeds will be donated to the San Francisco Juneteenth Inc.

Juneteenth Festival

The 59th San Francisco Juneteenth Festival will be held June 20th & 21st from 11am-7pm at the Civic Center Park across the street from San Francisco City Hall. It is a free event. Visit http://www.sfjuneteenth.org/  There is a community reception on June 5 at City Hall, Youth Entertainment Auditions on June 12, and a Juneteenth Parade June 20, 11:30 a.m. starting at Rosa Parks Elementary School, Post @ Scott.


Stern Grove Music Festival, June 21 - August 23, 2009


Sundays at 2:00 p.m. at Sigmund Stern Grove, 19th Ave. & Sloat, San Francisco.  Admission is free.  Visit http://www.sterngrove.org/ or call (415) 252-6252. Festival guest artists include: June 21, 2009: ROBERTA FLACK / Davell Crawford; June 28, 2009: LES NUBIANS / Rupa and the April Fishes; July 5, 2009: SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY / Inouye Jazz


Films
Frameline 33,  June 18-28

Visit http://www.frameline.org/ Interesting flicks: Drool (6/20 Castro); Fig Trees (6/21 Castro); Hollywood je t’aime (6/27 Castro); Family (6/24 Victoria); Fiona’s Script (6/20 Roxie); Misconceptions (6/24 Castro); Mississippi Damned (6/25 Castro); Rivers Wash Over Me (6/24 Castro); We are the Mods (6/21 Roxie); Free To Be…You & Me (6/21 Castro);The Baby Formula (6/26 Castro); Girl Seeks Girl: Chica Busca Chica (6/23Castro); Ghosted (6/21 Castro); Lion’s Den: Leonera (9:30 Roxie); City of Borders (6/23 Roxie); Edie & Thea: A Very Long Engagement (6/21 Victoria); Ferron: Girl on a Road (6 Roxie); Off and Running (6/27 Roxie); Standing-n-Truth: Breaking the Silence (6/21Roxie); Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen (6/22 7 p.m.); Straight-laced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up (6/26 Roxie); Training Rules (6/21 Castro); Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez (6/21 Victoria)

Fados

“Fados,” Carlos Saura's tribute to the art of fado, opens Friday, June 5.  Fado is a style of mournful singing which originated in Portugal in the 1820s, as well as a performance archive featuring legendary singers including Mariza, Carlos do Carmo and Cemané alongside newer artists Lila Downs and Chico Buarque.


Munyurangabo

Munyurangabo (Rwanda/USA 2007), Lee Isaac Chung's debut film, opens on SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas on Friday, June 12, 2009. It is written by Lee Isaac Chung. Photographed by Lee Isaac Chung, with Jeff Rutagengwa, Eric Ndorunkundiye, Jean Marie Vianney Nkurikiyinka and Edouard B. Uwayo (Rwanda's poet laureate). 97 min. In Kinyarwanda with English subtitles, Distributed by Film Movement.

It is an unlikely friendship between two Rwandans, one Tutsi, Munyurangabo, the other, Hutu, Sangwa. The youth, armed with a stolen machete set out for Ngabo’s home, with a brief deter at Sangwa’s village, which after three years, is poorer than he remembered. Restless, Ngabo wants to continue his journey—he is looking for justice for the murder of his father, which he witnessed, and his mother’s demise shortly thereafter. He is young, and has only his friend, Sangwa in his life. The film is beautifully shot, set in a post-genocide Rwanda; the only atrocities seen are those in Ngabo’s mind.  The landscape is lush, the people relatively happy, even if poor. The story hinges on the bitterness which drives Ngabo and the prejudice which still exists in the minds of Hutus towards Tutsis: Sangwa’s father and mother towards their son’s friend.  The parents whisper to their son and try to separate the boys.

There is a lovely poem which captures the country’s shadowy history clouded by atrocious circumstances. On the eve of Liberation Day, the poet Ngabo meets at the store opens a space in the young man’s heart when he finally confronts the man he thinks is his father’s murderer.

His welcome home is very different from Sangwa’s. There is no one on his family land. No one greets him. It is a ghost town, the place he called home. At the end of the film, one wonders what will happen to this youth and hopes after all he has suffered, he finds love and home. I could certainly see Ngomo’s story multiplied many times when one thinks about how many Rwandan children were orphaned by the 100 Days of Genocide.


Who Does She Think She Is?
 
A new film from the creative team who produced “Born into Brothels,” “Who Does She Think She Is,” explores the concept—unique concept that women can be both mothers and working artists. Who Does She Think She Is?  opens at Red Vic Movie House in San Francisco, June 10-11, 1727 Haight St., San Francisco, 415/668-8999, http://www.redvicmoviehouse.com  Show times are Wed: 2:00, ?7:15, 9:15; Thurs: 7:15, 9:15. Regular admission is $9.00. Seniors (62 and over) and children (12 and under) is $6.00 at all times. Director Pamela Tanner Boll will be in attendance for Q&A following the screenings Wednesday at 2:00, 7:15 and Thursday 7:15.

Who Does She Think She Is –a review
 I remember reading Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, a book which explored the intersection between motherhood and art. It was an acknowledgement of a woman’s creativity and permission—I felt, to be both creative without guilt and a mother without hang-ups. It was possible to have a life and have children. I recall her reflections on mothers who made their best work while the children were awake and running around. I thought about my best creative moments and realized that my best work, some of my best work, was possible when my children and I were together. I learned to hold onto thoughts while I resolved issues, keep ideas tucked in the back of my throat until I could examine them. Then later on, when the children were older, I could ask them to hold their thoughts while Mommy wrote one last line. I kept paper handy, just in case the words were too slippery to hang on to much longer.

The women one meets in Pamela Tanner Boll’s new film “Who Does She Think She Is?” examine the sometimes conflicting roles of mother and artist.  It also looks importantly at the way western culture denies women artists entrance into the artistic realm. Women artists are invisible, even though women make up the larger population in art schools and produce more art, especially if one counts all mediums explored in Tanner Boll’s film, visual and performance.

Pamela Tanner Boll, co-executive producer of the Academy award-winning film, “Born into Brothels: The Kid’s of Calcutta’s Red Light District” and editor/co-director Nancy C. Kennedy, also editor of the Sundance Grand Jury winner, “Why We Fight (2005),” have produced a nuanced film which looks at women who both have supportive spouses and those who don’t.  Nonetheless, these women all find a way to feed or nurture their passion, which is their art.

Art is transformed from hobby or work into life as each of the five women profiled share the centrality of art to life. One artist, Maye Torres spoke of how when she stopped making art, she almost died. Other artists like Camille Musser and Angela Williams, come to art later on in life. I found it interesting how Musser’s family’s initial response to her reclamation of her Caribbean culture via her painting at 40, was supportive and then kind of shocked that this, what they saw as a “hobby,” was not to be confined to the home. For Musser, her painting was a way to reconnect to a dormant self she hadn’t realized she missed all her years abroad, first as a student and then as a wife and mother. 

Williams was also a late bloomer, who was happy being a wife and mother until an experience rattled her cage and she woke to her true life’s work, acting.  Once again, I found it amusing when she said her husband told her that he didn’t think that she was realizing all her human potential as his wife and co-founder of their church, yet, when he had to support her in her goal to sing on stage and act ten years later, there was a noticeable tension in the relationship between the two—but I think they resolved it. Interviews with the artist’s mother provided an insightful aspect to Williams’s drive and strength.

Maye Torres is somewhat the centerpiece of the film, her life one which resonated with that of the director, Tanner Boll who also has three sons and at the point she meets Torres is at a crossroads.  After her escape into the business world and then mothering, a passion she has no regrets, the director takes stock of her life at that journey’s terminus—sons grown. She sees how motherhood released the artist within her, an aspect of her life she’d feared entering given she says because of “the solitary, suicide-prone lives of women artists.” Tanner Boll says Torres’ ability to balance parenting and art, opened her eyes to other women who had not sacrificed their art for their new roles. She calls these women  “contemporary heroines.” I agree, they are, especially one artist, sculptor Janis Wunderlich, a Mormon, and mother of five children.  This artist produces work so fast and then sells it or sends it away. Her body of work massive, huge, so large she says at one point that she doesn’t remember all that she’s created, yet she can’t slow down or keep the fragile creations around, because one of her kids might accidentally break it.

I heard a certain wistfulness in her comment— to risk this seemed like risking the life of one of her flesh and blood children.  She said she was content to stay at home and take care of her kids while her husband worked.

Many of these mother-artists do their work when the household is quiet—early mornings or between a child’s nap. Snatching these moments or planning biological clocks to coincide with such moments is an interesting dance to watch.

Most of the women have bi-cultural or bi-racial marriages, with the same outcomes as those mono-cultural relationships—which mean the absence of women artists in the cultural conversation is one not tied to such circumstances.

In this film, the woman artist emerges as a strong personality who often meets conflict when her identify contradicts societal norms. This is illustrated powerfully in the life and work of artist/activist Mayumi Oda.

“Who Does She Think She Is” interviews include scholars: Maura Reilly, Tiffany Shulain, Leonard Shlain, Riane Eisler, Courtney Martin, Shawn McNiff, and Layne Redmond, the only woman drummer listed by Drummer Magazine in February 2000 as one of the 53 top drummers. The list included: Tony Williams, Roy Haynes, Zakir Hussain, Elvin Jones, and Micky Hart. Her interview centers on her use of the drum as healing and honoring the sacred feminine. This is not to say, as the director, Pamela Tanner Boll, does say on the film website that Redmond is the only drummer on the list whose work is dedicated to healing and spirituality. See http://www.whodoesshethinksheis.net/

In interviews I conducted with Zakir Hussain, Roy Haynes, Cindy Black and the late Elvin Jones, not to mention Billy Higgins, all the men spoke of the healing aspects of their instrument and the sacred charge they were given when the instrument chose them for its use.

One cannot detach the sacred from this instrument which is ceremonial even when no one on the dance floor is aware of this fact.  I also noticed the absence of African people in the scholarly conversation on art and healing, art and spirituality. It is here the discourse falls down. For African people there has never been a separation between art and life. The artist lives and works in the community—no one is expected to do one or the other because everyone dances, everyone sings, everyone draws, paints, sculpts, writes. As one young woman says when Camille Musser founds an art school and program on her native St. Vincent, that African people were separated from their aesthetic during the European slave trade. Linguistic access to culture was just one of the many tragedies we experienced when separated physically from home (Africa). This severing from land, home and kinship rendered us mute. But Musser’s story, as well as, Angela Williams’s story, shows how the right environment can untie the most comfortably bound tongue.

This film opens at the Red Vic Movie House in San Francisco June 10-11.


Don Reed’s E-14th

The story is a young man's coming of age story in the most unlikely household. Blended families have nothing on Don Reed, whose stepfather's conversion to Jehovah Witness means no more Christmas, while biological dad's belief in a good time means initially that the boy-child has a bit more freedom than he knows what to do with, when he decides he is tired of the authoritarian rule in his Mother and Step-father's home.

What East 14th shows, however, is the space between stereotype and reality, the fact that a kid could have a father who the world sees as an outlaw--his occupation outside of the law, yet get trophies in debate competitions, go off to UCLA...have a successful career in screenwriting, film and acting, including a Broadway run of East 14th.

A Pimp? Yes Donnie's dad was a pimp. I wish the actor's mother hadn't disappeared so quickly after the play--almost two hours without intermission.

The set is deceptively simple, a white hat, and a sign post with the infamous street name, E-14th Street, now "International Blvd." until one gets to San Leandro where the name shifts back to E-14th.

Energetic and engaging, Reed's characters, two brothers, mother, father(s), school friends, dad's girlfriends, his own and the wonderful musical interludes which are used as segues in adolescent angst and conquest and peril--make the theatrical experience memorable.

By the end of the play, Donnie's dad is a hero, a hero because he let his son believe he had a free reign, when actually Donnie's moves were planned, choreographed, his dance and the music on the radio prerecorded.

Other stars in the huge cast, all performed by Reed were his brothers, who morphed into Frankenstein's monster or flaming queens who could kick butt, at the drop of a kid brother's hat.

East 14th is also a love story, that between a son and his father. It's a tribute to the folks no one gives credit for moral sense: drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and the kid who misses the glitter for the substance. Donnie doesn't see what law enforcement sees or what the social critics see either, at least while he is a child. E-14th is not a tale glorifying street life; it is a story which shows how roses grow from gardens created from nails and string, glass cylinders filled with Christmas ornaments.

It's not a Manchild in the Promised Land tragedy, because unlike the protagonist in that story, Claude Brown, Donnie has a father, who cares and gives him guidance. He also has a community that watches over him: the drug dealer who refuses to let him throw away his life when he has options—college.

Donnie's household, four men when he arrives, is one where everyone is free to be himself...no judgment, just love, and with such ingredients a child can't help but grow--although I'm not certain I'd recommend the combination--LOVE plus an aberrant lifestyle, but children are sturdy and are pretty smart too as Donnie shows as he matures and develops confidence--watch his great dance moves.


The story we don't see is his school attendance and excelling in academics. We don't see the family at meals. I think E-14th like Brian Copeland's Not a Genuine Black Man, also produced by the Marsh, would make a great memoir. I hope he writes it, but as a tribute to his fathers and brothers and community who raised him, it works even with unanswered questions.

The play is up at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia Street, in San Francisco, Fridays-Sundays, 8, 8:30 and 3 p.m., through June 16. It's not suitable for audiences under 17 years old. Visit www.themarsh.org or east14.com and 1-800-838-3006. The Marsh, by the way, is celebrating its 20th anniversary and produces 400 shows a year--that's one active and hardworking theatre!


Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs opens Saturday, June 27 (through September '09)  9:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. at Golden Gate Park: De Young Museum in  San Francisco, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., San Francisco, CA, 94118, (415) 863-3330. Visit
http://www.tutsanfrancisco.org/content/about-exhibition

This exhibit will feature more than 130 artifacts from the 18th Dynasty king's opulently appointed tomb and other ancient Egyptian sites. Every piece in the show is at least 3,300 years old. Many of them never traveled outside of Egypt before this tour. They document the life, times and postmortem enshrinement of the "boy king" who died, at age 18 or 19, in 1323 B.

More than 3,000 years after his reign, and 30 years after the original exhibition opened in San Francisco, Tutankhamun, ancient Egypt’s celebrated “boy king,” returns to the de Young Museum. In the summer of 2009 the de Young presents Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs, a glorious exhibition of over 130 outstanding works from the tomb of Tutankhamun, as well as those of his royal predecessors, his family, and court officials.  I’m sure Professor Manu Ampin will have a lot to say about this exhibit, so say posted and if he offers a tour, I’ll let you know.  Visit http://www.manuampim.com/index.html


Monday, June 1, 6:00 PM, Stagebridge presents: A Playwrights Showcase at Ashby Stage (corner of Ashby & MLK Jr. Way in Berkeley, sliding scale, $5-10 to cover costs

Program A

The Lamb that Stole the Show by Eloise Aitken, directed by Bill Liebman features: Roanne Butier, Cynthia Carrico, Maureen Coyne and Barbara Williams

Wishing on the Moon by Cynthia Carrico, directed by Josiah Polhemus features: Lily Balsen, Isabel Ferguson, Marilet Martinez, Josiah Polhemus, and Eryka Raines

Ta Da! by Eleanor Levine, directed by Frances Lee McCain, featuring Roanne Butier, Cynthia Carrico, Maureen Coyne, and Barbara Williams

Incident on the Maria Mitchell by Eva Konrad, directed by James Brooks, featuring Elizabeth Jones and Isabel Ferguson

Program B

Dale Arden on the Planet Mongo by Dana Chernak, directed by Josiah Polhemus, featuring Lily Ba Isen, Bruce Bierman, Dana Chernak and Josiah Polhemus

They're Baaack! by Emily Stoper, directed by Bill Liebman, featuring Maureen Coyne, Detriot Drummond, Franklin Hall and Marilet Martinez

Abssynian Nights by Franklin Hall, directed by James Brooks, featuring Detroit Drummond and Elizabeth Jones 

Beyond by Isabel Ferguson, directed by Josiah Polhemus, featuring Lily Balsen, Marilet Martinez, and Eryka Raines 


Intermission


Program C

Tonalities by Elizabeth Rosenberg, directed by Bruce Bierman, featuring Will Marchetti and Frances Lee McCain

Mona's Bar by Rhoda Curtis, directed by Will Marchetti, featuring Lily Balsen and Frances Lee McCain with Roanne Butier, Cynthis Carrico and Josiah Polhemus

Hidden in Plain View by Beverly Harris, directed by James Brooks, featuring Dorothy Carnegie, Detroit Drummond, Chokwadi Fletcher, Elizabeth Jones, Bill Liebman, Will Marchetti, Eryka Raines, Doward Washington, and Jimmy Guy

Last Updated ( Thursday, 02 July 2009 )
 
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