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Wanda's Picks January 2015
Written by Wanda Sabir   
Thursday, 01 January 2015

Happy New Year! Happy Birthday to my granddaughter, Brianna, niece, Wilda and friend, Fred T.

—I am still smiling about America’s new relationship with Cuba and the freed Cuban 5. If you are in New Orleans (NOLA) don’t miss “Prospect 3: Notes for Now” –the biennial there throughout the City through January 25, http://www.prospectneworleans.org/   

Lower Bottom Playaz @ The Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland, CA through Jan. 3

The Lower Bottom Playaz end Season 14: Aluta Continua with the production of “Jitney,” the eight installment in The American Century Cycle by August Wilson. Please purchase tickets now to join us at our brand new venue in uptown Oakland. We offer a limited amount of Chef's Tables that seat you on stage, grant guests early seating, and complimentary wine & cheese platters. Reserve For ticket prices and show dates please visit www.lowerbottomplayaz.com \ Tickets are $15 general admission. Shows are 7 pm Fri/Sat show or 2 pm matinee on Sat/Sun. The Box office opens at 6:40-Bring confirmation of purchase. Reservations strongly suggested. Call 510-332-1319 leave message or email This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it to make a reservation.

And Still I Rise: A Tribute to Maya Angelou, 1-4 p.m., Saturday, February 7, 2015


The West Oakland Branch of the Oakland Public Library’s Annual African American Celebration Through Poetry is celebrating 25 years of continuous poetic performance, ritual, dance, and singing expressive of Oakland'’s African American community, especially West Oakland's rich poetic tradition. We are proud to dedicate our 25th Anniversary Celebration to renowned poet Maya Angelou and to Arnold White, West Oakland artist. Both made their transitions in 2014.
          Ms. Angelou was an American author, poet, dancer, and singer. She published 7 autobiographies, 3 essay collections, and several books of poetry. She was also credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.  May 28, 2015 marks the first anniversary of her death. We are proud to dedicate our 25th Anniversary Celebration to Ms. Angelou.
          Arnold White shared his lovely mixed media work with us for over ten years. Among his many pieces were “Freedom Tree 1 and 2,” and “Saxman Uptown.”  His work was on banners along San Pablo Avenue announcing the Golden Gate Library Summer Jazz Series for many years. One of his pieces – “Piano Man,” was in Spike Lee’s film “Crooklyn.” His Galleria in North Oakland on Shattuck Ave. was the site of the yearly Poetry Celebration after party where we’d relax with his art, eat, and talk. One never grew tired of his stories of home, his parents, the Negro League Baseball games on Sundays, stories of the first black doctor, McClymond’s High School (his alma mater) and people down and out. The retired postman and artist was a great supporter of the antiapartheid movement and contributed his work to numerous fundraisers.  I remember when he started writing poetry to share with the work he brought each year—“Bag Lady” was the name of his first piece.
          This event is organized annually by local author and professor Wanda Sabir, who will also be reading her work. For those poets interested in participating in the celebrations as featured writers, please call 510-238-7352, This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it or come by 1801 Adeline Street. There will be a rehearsal Saturday, January 31, 10 AM -12 Noon.  The OPL is not doing a mailing any longer. If anyone is interested in doing funds for such, helping with getting the word out – there will be fliers. Let us know.

Black People Matter: Free Marissa Alexander


There is a caravan headed for Florida to show Marissa Alexander support at the opening of her new trial. Visit
http://www.freemarissanow.org/ or call 510 543 5280

Theatre
“Tree” at SF Playhouse Jan. 20-March 7


The notion of home and roots has a thematic edge in America given the psychic unrooted or uprootedness of its historic landscape. Here the ground does speak, the sky holder of vast memories drunken legacies omit on purpose. Julie Hébert’s “Tree” is another such exploration. In this case the playwright mines a personal tale to explore a thread hidden in letters inherited from a father. Who was this mystery woman who made Didi Marcantel’s father so happy? In tales with southern roots one just follows the melanin which is what this Caucasian Professor of Gender Studies at LSU in Baton Rouge does. The road takes her to one of the homes of the blues, Chicago where she meets her “brother” Leo who has moved in with his mother to take care of her.  In their search for the truth, these siblings must navigate the fragmented memories of Leo’s aged mother, Mrs. Jessalyn Price, retired school principal, to discover where their roots intersect.

Winner of the Pen Award for Drama and Backstage Garland Award, Tree is the story of three generations divided by race, culture, and time. The play has contemporary resonance, posing questions about family and what it means to “be related.” “I set out to write a play about race and ended up writing a play about family,” said playwright Julie Hébert about Tree.

I had a lovely conversation with Julie Hébert and actors: Carl Lumbly and Susi Damilano, Producing Director and co-founder of San Francisco Playhouse. I believe this will be the first time the two actors have been on stage together in their roles as siblings. Jon Tracy directs “Tree,” after completing a successful production locally at the Aurora theatre in Berkeley. The riveting work, playwright Fraser Grace’s “Breakfast with Mugabe” starred  L. Peter Callender as “Mugabe” and Leontyne Mbele-Mbong as “Grace Mugabe,” Adrian Roberts as the president’s bodyguard “Gabriel” and Dan Hiatt as Andrew Peric, the white Zimbabwean psychiatrist. With such a recent success locally, fans will probably follow him to his new gig across the Bay.

“Tree” goes up January 20th to March 7th, opens January 24, 2015. Tues, Wed, Thurs 7pm / Fri, Sat 8pm / Sat 3pm, Sun 2pm  For tickets ($20-$120) or more information, the public may contact San Francisco Playhouse box office at 415-677-9596, or www.sfplayhouse.org.

Annie, the movie

With a black child in its starring role Annie which was on Broadway and remade a couple of times into a movie stars this little girl with an Afro, freckles and spunk—yes even before Quvenzhané Wallis in the current starring role. Wallis’s “Annie Bennett” who lives in Harlem with a drunken guardian Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), and other unlucky foster care sisters, has spunk and smarts. She sees some boys chasing a stray dog and she chases the boys away and rescues the dog. On her way back she almost gets hit by a truck, except for Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) presence of mind who grabs her out of its path.  He tells her to be careful and the two go their separate ways.

Someone films this act of kindness and it goes viral. Will Stacks’s people look for Annie as an angle to boost the cell phone tycoon’s campaign for mayoral office. Of course it develops into a lot more. Stack’s secretary Grace Farrell (Rose Byrne) finds the ten year old Annie who is looking for the other piece of the heart necklace she arrives with at her foster placement; it’s a clue. Her other clue is that her parents loved to eat at an Italian restaurant.  So she visits this restaurant weekly to see if they have returned for her. Broken hearts as metaphor take on new meaning here, as do the multiple love stories – primary of course is Annie’s and all the foster girls who want a family, parents to love them. The other love stories look at how deep down inside love connects us all, even cross racial lines—okay okay, this is a movie and interracial sells. Ask Henry Louis Gates Jr. (smile).  So we have big bucks Will with Grace along with Colleen and the Lou (David Zayas) a bodega owner who befriends Annie and sends flowers with her to her foster mother.

There is a bad guy who teams up with Colleen, Guy (Bobby Cannavale) who is Will Stacks’s media campaign manager. Guy takes evil to another level.

All the songs from the Broadway musical are back with a new choreography and visual enhancement.  “It’s a Hard Knock Life” is one of them—there are overtones of Stomp! in this rendition with brooms and buckets. Another showstopper is the opening and closing tune “Maybe” and Wallis’s solo “Opportunity.”  "You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile" is a nice anthem. "Little Girls" is a creative masterpiece. I seem to be the only one who thinks director Will Gluck and Zach Woodlee, choreographer do a marvelous job with the story.

It is a lovely film. One older couple gave it an unsolicited “10” when Bree and I were in line for tickets the first day of Kwanzaa—Umoja (unity).  For those who enjoyed Wallis in “Beasts of a Southern Wild,” you will love the older child in this role—she sings and dances too (smile). There is a kidnap, a chase, a rescue and a commentary on “literacy”– all this with spoons and spoons full of sugar. Perhaps what makes this tale so apt as the updated Daddy Warbucks character, cell phone tycoon, Stacks, who grew up in Queens also orphaned early in life when his dad died while he was younger.  Both Stacks’s and Bennett’s characters show that children need adults as much as adults often need children. It is a two way street.  Work and money and material success cannot hide a malfunctioning heart.  As in the cartoon 1924 comic strip “Little Orphan Annie” by Harold Gray updated for screen here, Stacks and Bennett both win. This might be the only favorable review – NYT and Vanity Fair gave it a thumbs down while both articles agree that Wallis and Foxx are great (smile). Produced by the power team: Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and others.  
 
In Memorial

If you live long enough the goodbyes come frequently. I said farewell to many beloved last year, Cousin Suzy, Uncle Gerard, Arnold White, Alonzo Fields, Fred Ho, Yuri Kochiyama, Dr. Chinosole, Karl Rogers, Imamu Amiri Baraka. . . .


Dr. Chinosole sort of slipped by quietly, so if you missed her . . . you were not alone. I remember her Schooling the Generations in the Politics of Prison (1996) collection of powerful writing. I always felt the weight of her brilliance. I also loved her book, African Diaspora and Autobiographics: Skeins of Self and Skin (2001) on the African American narrative tradition, our gift to American letters. It is a genre we perfected with the slave narratives to the classics Narrative in the Life of a Slave by Frederick Douglass and Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington, not to mention Harriett Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.  She is remembered by her colleagues at San Francisco State University where she taught after chairing the Women’s Studies Dept. before her retirement as “a groundbreaking scholar-activist of the African Diaspora with an emphasis on Black feminist theory and literature and autobiography, and the prison industrial complex. A supporter of the SF State strike of 1968, shortly thereafter she became one of the first Black Studies professors at SFSU and in 1970 she served as the first acting director of what is now the College of Ethnic Studies. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon in 1986.  In 2011-12, she was a visiting research fellow at the University of Victoria, where – after studying autobiography for much of her career – she was at work on her own autobiography.” (I hope someone has her notes).  

Dr. Chinosole’s memorial service is January 4, 2015, 1 p.m. at 550 24th Street in Oakland. The following is taken from http://wgsdept.sfsu.edu/chinosole-emerita

In the Name of Love: MLK Tribute 2015, Sunday, January 18, 2015 • 7pm t the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland, CA 94612


This year is a Celebration of Outstanding Achievements of Bay Area African American Female Artists, which includes: Ms. Faye Carol, Linda Tillery, Gina Breedlove, Melanie DeMore with Tammy Hall, piano; Kofy Brown, bass; Ruthie Price, drums, plus, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir with Terrance Kelly, Director; Oakland Children’s Community Choir with Melanie DeMore, Director. The event is hosted by Dana King. For information visit http://mlktribute.com/

Blood at the Root: Selma (2014) and Selma Lord Selma (1999)


I borrowed the film “Selma, Lord Selma” (1999) to get in the mood for “Selma,” coming out in time for Martin King’s birthday. Yolanda King (Miss Bright) is in this film as seven year old Shyanne Webb’s (Jurnee Diana Smollett-Bell), teacher.  Smollett-Bell fans will love meeting her as a youngster in this work. I hadn’t known before watching the film that the characters portrayed were real people, some like Mrs. Webb and Mrs. Rachel West (actress, Stephanie Zandra Peyton), her best friend and next door neighbor, still live and working for freedom and justice in Alabama.  Others like youth organizer Jimmie Lee Jackson (actor Zach Rogers) and Jonathan Daniels (actor Mackenzie Astin), a young seminary student who traveled to Alabama to register people to vote, highlight how ordinary black people and whites were drawn to the movement for freedom for black Americans. It also shows how dangerous it was for black families and how much courage it took to stand up rather than tolerate the abuse.  For Shyanne, freedom was worth the ultimate sacrifice. She reflects on this time 50 years ago in taped interview after the film. She recalls meeting King at a planning meeting for adults where she is invited up to meet him and told “freedom” was what they were after.
 
An excited Shyanne joins the movement and gives it priority over school, over everything. Even after the failed attempt to cross the Edmond Pettus Bridge, eyes burning from tear gas, she does not waver.  And when she can see again, the little girl writes her obituary (just in case), then goes by the church to see if she can help. Her stirring song, black America’s Battle Cry for the Republic— “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” soon has everyone who can stand on his and her feet. (Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBQu1BWdpiY).  

What an amazing girl!  

In the film, John Webb (actor, Afemo Omilami), Shy’s father tells the story of losing his eldest to the movement. She had had to leave town or risk losing her life. Now here was her younger sister doing to the same thing (smile). The events of Selma were not much different from the events of today—domestic terrorism on black people. “What do we want?” King asks the girls in the film: “Freedom” they shout even after the young girl loses two dear friends, Jimmie Lee and Jonathan, to violence.

Based on a book co-authored by the two women, the film is directed by Charles Burnett. I wonder how David Oyelowo will hold up against so many fine performances of Dr. King, like Clifton Powell’s in this historic retelling and Adrian Robert’s performance in Katori Hall’s “Mountaintop” at Theatre Works. Directed by the very capable, Ava DeVernay, I am sure he will be stellar (smile). He was in her “Middle of Nowhere,” the wonderful film about the effects of prison on those outside its walls. His role as Louis Gaines in “Lee Daniel’s The Butler” was stunning. If you recall the film, he was the rebellious questioning son, who challenges his father’s acceptance of racism.  Certainly it pays to know the director, look a bit like the principle character, in this case, Dr. King, and have strong acting skills (smile). DeVernay doesn’t play, the ensemble is stellar. What I found amazing is that since the director could not get permissions from a 2009 King estate license of his speeches to DreamWorks and Warner Bros. for an untitled project to be produced by Steven Spielberg she rewrote them paying attention to the stylistic nuances that make King a master orator. I hope to get to talk to her about this and the Paul Webb story (2008, screenwriter) which seemed to garner interest from its inception in 2008 through multiple production hands including Lee Daniels (2010) to current producer Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt (Plan B Entertainment (2013) who hired DeVernay along with Pathe (also in 2013).

Jason Moran composed the soundtrack, his first time for film. John Legend and Common (who portrays James Bevel) released “Glory” (for Ferguson) in December.  

Art
Drapetomania showcases artistic works by the Grupo Antillano, the name given to an outstanding group of artists in the 1970s and 80s. The exhibition offers a revisionist understanding of the “new art of Cuba” and focuses on the work of artists who celebrated the importance and significance of Africa and its influence on Cuban culture and national identity. The exhibit is at the Museum of the African Diaspora, through Jan. 4. For information call: (415) 358-7200 or visit moadsf.org

Also at MoAD is Lava Thomas’s Beyond Dec 03, 2014-Apr 12, 2015. January 16-April 5, The Art of Elizabeth Catlett opens.  

Annual African Film Festival 2015 at UC Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive
 

Kathy Geritz, Film Curator states about PFA’s African Film Festival, “Liberation movements in Africa—both today and in the past—are a focus of this year's edition of our annual African Film Festival. The prodemocracy protests in Egypt's Tahrir Square and the aftermath of civil unrest in Kenya are brought to life in two nuanced narrative films, Winter of Discontent by Ibrahim El Batout and Something Necessary by Judy Kibinge. The struggles for independence decades earlier in Angola, Guinea, and Cape Verde are urgently told in Sarah Maldoror's little-known politically committed films from the late sixties and early seventies, presented as part of our special two-evening tribute to one of the first women to make films in Africa. Maldoror believes that "to make a film means to take a position." For Sambizanga, which she made after working on Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, Maldoror involved nonprofessional actors who were active in anticolonial movements. In Cassa Cassa!, Elodie Lefebvre explores African history through dance. She documents an inspiring cultural exchange between choreographers, dancers, and musicians from throughout Africa and its diaspora who gather to share their own practice as well as illuminate its links to traditional dances.
 
“This year's festival richly represents women filmmakers, including three short narratives by a new generation. Join us for this tour of Africa and the African diaspora and discover both new and historical voices. Also of interest is our Afterimage series with French filmmaker Mati Diop who works in both France and Senegal.”
 
Pacific Film Archive Theater is located at 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley. For information: 510-642-1124
Tickets: 510-642-5249 Visit http://bampfa.berkeley.edu  facebook.com/bampfa General admission: $9.50 for one program, $13.50 for double bills. BAM/PFA members, children; UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff: $5.50/9.50. Other students, young people (13-17), seniors, and disabled persons $6.50/10.50.

Prospect New Orleans

I was in New Orleans for the related conference, “Flash of the Spirit,” honoring the 30th Anniversary publication of Robert Farris Thompson’s book by the same title. Dr. Thompson wasn’t able to join us at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in person; he was recovering from a triple bypass surgery. He did join us by skype for a short lecture on Papa Legba. Scholars were at the two day conference from throughout the county and world discussing topics ranging from boxing to ritual in cinema to the why we eat black eyed peas – the gods we evoke gastronomically (a literal reading or should I say taste for “soul” food.)  It was great to see Pan African people and others illustrate how much of our African heritage we still embody. New Orleans, the most African city in the country—or so it is said, was the perfect venue for this discussion (smile).

The day after the conference, I did a bit of museum hopping, first by The George & Leah McKenna Museum of African American Art to see Carrie Mae Weems multimedia installation Lincoln, Lonnie, and Me—A Story in 5 Parts (2012), “featured individuals from the past and the present appear as holograms in a re-creation of “Pepper’s ghost”, a nineteenth-century illusion. As jazz music drifts through space, ghostly figures emerge from red curtains drawn across a stage, telling stories of race, class, and gender. Characteristic of Weems’s practice, the manifestations do not intend to be representative of the black body, the female body, or any other narrowly defined stereotype, but aim instead to articulate subjectivity. The characters address the viewers directly, transposing them from passive onlookers into active subjects. The piece embodies the underlying premise of Weems’s entire oeuvre—inspiring viewers to continue asking themselves where they came from, who they are and aspire to be, and whom they love” (P3). On the floor below is a collection of Weems’s photography – she is posed in front of NOLA architecture, a factory, an antebellum house. . . . Other photos were from “Missing Link Sheep, 2003.” The artist had on tuxes with animal or fowl heads.  

Before I leave, I meet Cherise Harrison whose family has a museum honoring the Mardi Gras Indian tradition, named for her father Donald Harrison Sr. She tells me about the exhibit featuring women chiefs in their regalia. I ask her about her red and black dress and she tells me about Papa Legba and the jazz funeral she attended that morning. People traditionally wear red and black or all white. I take a photo of her with Big Chief Darryl Montana.

I then drive up the street to Ashé Cultural Arts Center to see Kerry James Marshall’s site specific “image bank” of art history. Marshall’s site-specific window installation for P.3 directly addresses this “’image bank, framing, magnifying, and multiplying the African art collection of Ashé Cultural Arts Center with gold-mirrored Plexiglas. The effect is the visually glamorized and Afro-Futurized (re)integration of the surrounding historically black neighborhood with these signifiers of African Diaspora tradition: to paraphrase Dr. King, the moral arc of the universe is long and it unites the community with its heirs and keepers” (P3).

That Saturday afternoon, Ashé was hosting a holiday fair with a fashion show. From there I drove to a special performance in the Ninth Ward. It was a part of “ Home Court Crawl,” artist Lisa Sigal’s work across four distinct neighborhoods in NOLA. “Though each of these houses has its own story, urban blight remains a mute emblem of the social politics plaguing many of our historic cities. Sigal’s installation of texts from playwright Suzan-Lori Parks’s “365 Days/365 Plays” (2002–3), returns voice to abandoned architecture and urges neighbors to re-see and remember the mnemonic, and emotional, and social value that that still lingers, unseen, among the broken structures. This backdrop was the genesis for creative interpretation and interaction between the artists and the viewers” (P3).

I knew Frederick “Hollywood” Delahoussaye (poet) from post-Katrina fundraiser report backs—nine-ten years ago (2005-2015). He teaches youth at Ashé Cultural Center now. It was really cool seeing him perform with dancer, Kesha McKay. At one home, there were no walls under the staircase. A black woman stood near who has been living under the house for a year now. Stephanie McKee of Junebugg Productions spoke about the need for art that sparks conversations like this one before the walk began and at its conclusion. TBC, youthful brass band led the walk and provided a contextualized backdrop for the very real disappearance of a people (in real time). The second line honored the loss to the community these empty homes represented.  

The crawl ended in an empty lot where people were encouraged to stay, have barbecue from “Back of the Truck” eatery (smile) and talk about the social political interruption these lots and boarded up homes represent to New Orleans specifically and to all of us philosophically.  I wasn’t able to hang out and talk for log, as I left there for City Park to visit the New Orleans Museum of Art where there were more pieces from Prospect 3, the “Reparations” group show, which features 20-30 artists using small frames (2X5) I wanted to see.  

What I really liked though was  “America,” artist, Will Ryman’s log cabin (as in Abe Lincoln). Unlike the former president’s humble abode, Ryman’s walk-in wooden edifice (built on site) is coated in gold resin. The artist packed the cabin with among other things: bullets, arrowheads, cotton bolls, chains, sparkplugs, iPhones, lumps of coal. These items have an essence a vitality which needs no interpretation—let’s say they are occupants. The visit is a trip down American history lane. You don’t even need to read, the actual items (in multiple numbers—shining brightly, almost blinding in their brilliance and distaste says more than any billboard how much Western European’s “Manifest Destiny” cost in human life. Gold was their religion—the fever continued in the West when Mexico lost California – over half its territory in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago in 1848 (500,000 sq. mi. of valuable territory). It put Mexico in a permanent state of underdevelopment and disenfranchisement. Citizenship rights and individual rights to property (promises in the treaty) were all ignored. It was with this acquisition that the United States sealed its superpower status  (http://www.pbs.org/kera/usmexicanwar/war/wars_end_guadalupe.html).

“’Log cabins are an iconic symbol of America, but I didn’t just want a symbol,’ Ryman said in an interview with Chris Waddington of The Times-Picayune. ‘To me it’s important that my cabin is made from real logs and that everything inside it is also real. It’s an appropriated object, a conceptual sculpture, but it’s also a showcase for objects that have a lot of meaning when you gather them in abundance and put them together. I didn’t need to change a thing: the arrowheads and the bullets are sculpted objects, too: forms made for a purpose. ’Ryman coated everything but the coal in the same gold resin, transforming the cabin’s single room into a glittering mosaic sanctum – a space that’s stunningly different from the rustic wood forms of the exterior. For him, the golden cabin is an emblem of the ruling passions of a capitalist society, from the first arrival of Europeans to the advent of the iPhones that frame to cabin’s fireplace.” (http://www.nola.com/arts/index.ssf/2013/10/star_sculptor_will_ryman_sets.html

P3 end
In my prior visit to NOLA I got by the Ogden for “Basquiat and the Bayou” and to the Contemporary Art Center New Orleans for P3 which is simply fabulous—three floors of work by artists from around the world including Cuba. There were a couple of outdoor exhibits best seen after hours in Jackson Square (“You Belong Here”) and LUNA Fête or Light Up NOLA Arts in Lafayette Square– Ogden on Camp Street is in an art center hub. Everything is walking distance – even the famous River Walk stores, Harrah’s Casino and French Quarter. The Civil War Museum is around the corner and lots of galleries. The black galleries and museums are in the neighborhoods, which means you need to get on a street car or bus (smile).

Visit http://www.prospectneworleans.org/   Prospect 3 NOLA is up through January 25. 
 
Wanda's Picks December 2014
Written by Wanda Sabir   
Sunday, 30 November 2014
Wake Up! Rub the phlegm from your eyes . . .

As we move into the next solar return there is much to look forward to despite the stasis that seems to infect this nation with the disease of white supremacy or racial domination.  Okay okay, perhaps the silver lining is a bit too buried to find Oṣumare’s twinkle beyond any pots of gold you’ve stumbled upon recently, especially with a House and Senate dominated by Republicans and a domestic police force that is killing black boys with impunity, one could perhaps just roll over and play dead. After all, where is the hope? The knowledge that no matter how it looks, the Creator is in charge and the bad guys just look like they are always winning is what sustains us.

As we move into the next solar return or opportunity for grip a nation renewal there is much to look forward to despite the stasis that seems to infected with the disease of white supremacy or racial domination. With a House and Senate dominated by Republicans and a domestic police force that is killing black boys with impunity, one could perhaps just roll over and play dead. After all, where is the hope? The knowledge that no matter how it looks, the Creator is in charge and the bad guys just look like they are always winning is what sustains us.

The Maafa is certainly real, but then so is the reality that black Peoplehood has always been contingent in this western paradigm on the presence of African deities who not only jumped across oceans to accompany us into this caldron, they stuck around. I don’t have the answer, but perhaps when black people begin to value their own lives and cease to be duped by the propaganda that undermines all our ancestors suffered— the physical incarceration of their bodies but not their souls, then the war within will cease along with the distractions thrown our way by the enemy. We are in crisis here and abroad. Africa is being stolen right before our eyes if we’d just look. As the wars rage in central and western, southern and northern and eastern Africa, countries like China are buying African land and resources for a song. Look at the film Plot for Peace, dir. by Carlos Agulló. At the end, you will see how Jean-Yves Ollivier, alias “Monsieur Jacques,” installed Nelson Mandela in office so that whites could maintain their sovereignty. A young Mr. Jacques never forgot getting kicked out of Algeria when its native people won the war and sent the colonizers packing. Back home, he learned of France’s role in Africa and after a stint in prison for political activism, he began to fine tune his role as the mediator and strategist. Though pictured as a benevolent guy, whose role was one of peace, the fact that he still has his hands in the economies of continental Africa and elsewhere—moving goods and people as a middleman nations still travel through, make his altruism suspect.

Ollivier says in the film, he didn’t want what happened in Algeria to the white tribe there to happen in South Africa— it didn’t. Mandela was a pawn in a cleverly structured game of Solitaire. In fact, Mandela didn’t even know the man responsible for his release until told much later. Similar to the way Carl Rowe was the silent hand behind George W. Bush, while he was in office, Ollivier was the silent hand behind the end of the wars in South Africa, the settlement with the movers and shakers –many ANC alumni officials paid off while the masses were then left to struggle. The South African majority are still struggling with poverty and unresolved internalized trauma and tribalism, major distractions while they are being robbed blind.

The protagonist says post-Algerian independence that the white tribe in South Africa would not survive if it did not give black Southern Africans something in exchange for an opportunity to stay put.  As stated, the Namibian peace agreement was the gesture that brought the major players including Cuban President Castro, who agreed to work toward peace. FW de Klerk negotiated Mandela’s release once Botha was out of the picture. The strategy worked and the white tribe was not evicted, but the disease of white supremacy, let’s call it an economic smallpox blanket has bled cross borders.


Ebola is not accidental. Where imprisonment doesn’t work, we see pestilence and disease introduced. Violence and drugs are also a pestilence available in the black communities in America and elsewhere.  

The Mark Lomax Trio with Edwin Bayard and Dean Hulett’s “Isis and Osiris”

         
Perhaps 2015 will be the Year of Ausar and Auset, perhaps one of the greatest love stories of all times. Auset/Isis never lost her head or heart when her beloved brother/husband Ausar/Osirius was tricked by a jealous brother /Set twice. The first time he was trapped in a box and drowned him in the Nile; the second time he was cut into over 70 pieces and scattered. She collected all but one, his phallus or staff. She made this part herself and bears their son— Pretty miraculous stuff, this heroine’s journey where like the Brave African Huntress in an Amos Tutuola’s saga, a female character saves the day. Ausar has no time for bitterness or revenge—her perfect example inspires the couple’s son, who challenges his uncle’s assent to the throne.  The elders give both a test, then decide that the people could do better than a murderer as a leader. Ausar was known for his wisdom, benevolence and mercy, Auset for her all abiding love and the length she went to “put the pieces back together.” The son proved a worthy heir and continued his father’s legacy.

The Mark Lomax Trio with Edwin Bayard and Dean Hulett’s “Isis and Osiris” is a beautifully crafted expression of this ancient resurrection story. The suite, which has six movements, with four interludes, features the three musicians, Lomax (drums), Bayard (tenor saxophone), Hulett (bass) takes the listener on a journey that traverses time and place as within one section we can travel to multiple places within the African Diaspora.

As a Diaspora Citizen and a member of a nation that is connected yet disconnected from its ancestral land, I certainly hope the metaphor of a spirituality inherent in a people will see us whole once again. Calling the names of ancestors keeps them alive— Remembering  is what holds us together when all is falling apart. Not forgetting is the antidote to dismemberment.
         
Reparations should be seen both literally and metaphysically. The idea that we have been dismembered and tossed yonder, the idea that for Diaspora black people we seem to fit nowhere, yet we see evidence of our presence everywhere, certainly makes one wonder how many pieces have yet to be retrieved before we look whole once more.

Flash of the Spirit


While in New Orleans over the holidays I was pleasantly surprised to be visiting once again during an international art festival. I enjoyed several exhibits for “Prospect 3:Notes for Now,” up Oct. 25, 2014 to Jan. 25, 2015. The contemporary art biennial has among its 58 artists selected by Artistic Director Franklin Sirmans in 18 venues, the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. There is also a free symposium, Dec. 11-12 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Robert Farris Thompson’s “Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy,” which Basquiat had in his art studio.  Dr. Farris Thompson will speak at the closing, and featured among the panelists and presenters are Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, New York University and Caribbean Cultural Center and Duane Deterville, Sankofa Cultural Center, re: the international impact of Flash . . . with a focus on the geographic areas discussed in the text, for example, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Mali, Nigeria, etc. Dr. Adebisi introduced me to Flash when I visited his Bookmart in Sproul Plaza in Berkeley near UC Berkeley. I was taking a cosmology class and needed to map my own worldview as a Diaspora Citizen. He told me to read “Flash” and “Muntu.” Those two books still serve as cornerstones in my philosophical development. Visit www.prospectneworleans.org

Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale


 In an exhibit, Place/Displaced curated by Melorra Green at SOMarts through Dec. 13, artists look at the idea of what it means to belong, where one fits in, what happens when this security if upended or one is unsettled. Visit: http://www.somarts.org/placedisplacedopens On Friday, Dec. 5, 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the gallery, 934 Brannan Street (between 8th and 9th) there is a free event, Wake up the Walls. RSVP requested http://www.somarts.org/wakeupthewalls/  

In a work conceptualized by Wanda Sabir and created by TaSin Sabir, Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale, we look at mapping one’s ancestry to visualize where one belongs. Where is home? We ask our audience. Opening night Nov. 20, we were quite the hit. We had 100 tacks and used 99, with threads crossing oceans traversing geographic plains multiple times as people thought about identity and ancestral wishful thinking as their journeys were part uncertainty part hopefulness with equal parts adventure. A map using a dot matrix with the global south highlighted, the water filled with images from Maafa 2014. The idea of the movement of spirit across the waters linked the Diaspora. There were also images of children, two with their backs to us . . . representing what is ahead. The red string represented the blood often spilled in such journeys to other lands, especially when this travel is under duress—for the black people dispersed, not one asked us if we wanted to go.
 
“Incantations and Rites” features Daughters of Yam, Opal Palmer Adisa and devorah major with the “Harpist from the Hood” Destiny Muhammad looking at the killing of our young through police brutality, as well as by each others' hands through their own misdirected rage. We look, we cry, we scream out in outrage and then we seek ways to build again, this time giving our young the protection they need and deserve. We sing, we chant we give praise and we heal in preparation for the work ahead.  Love, a celebration of life, and joining together as community are also a part of this performance which is crafted to make us all remember or discover our own power and then direct it in ways which create lasting and positive change. Please come and enjoy the show and then stay for an after show Q&A and discussion.


Saturday December 6, 8 p.m., Eastside Arts Center   2277 International Blvd, Oakland, California. Admission is $10.00 but sliding sale for those who really cannot pay full price.

Dance


Explosión Cubana: Una Noche Tropical, December 5-6,  at Dance Mission Theatre, 3316 24th Street, San Francisco, CA www.dancemission.com   (415) 826-4441. $60 in advance/$65 at door (includes full meal); $25 youth 12 yrs. and younger, both dates

The smoking hot music and sultry moves of Havana's famed Tropicana nightclub come north, complete with a dance spectacular, live band and a dinner featuring Cuban favorites. CubaCaribe and Dance Mission Theater have put together this sizzling spectacular, a trip through the island's entertainment history, all the way from traditional folk to the modern moves of today's top performers. Ramon Ramos' Alayo Dance Company stars, with guests including dancers from Cuba's Danza del Caribe.


Dimensions Dance Theater’s Rites of Passage Celebrates 20 Years


Dimensions Dance Theater, the Bay Area’s preeminent African-American dance company for more than four decades, has a holiday showcase of student performances in celebration of its 20th anniversary of its youth (8-18) program, Rites of Passage, under the direction of Deborah Vaughan and Latanya d. Tigner.  The program serves 850 youth each year.

The event is Sunday, December 7, 3 p.m. at the Phillip Reeder Auditorium at Castlemont High Schoo, 8601 MacArthur Blvd.  The company will honor the achievements of Rites of Passage students, faculty and alumni with a program of performances titled It Takes A Village, celebrating the Bay Area’s diversity. Performers will include not only current participants in Rites of Passage but the Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble and alumni, and members of Dimensions Dance Theater, as well. The dancers in Dimensions Extensions range from 12 to 18, and are selected by audition only. The ensemble has toured to Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New York and Guinea, West Africa.

Additional youth groups at the concert include Chhandam Youth Dance Company, the pre-professional training and performance troupe of Chitresh Das Dance Company, and Oaktown Jazz Workshops, an Oakland-based group dedicated to passing on the tradition of jazz music to young people through music instruction and educational presentation. Tickets are $15 - $25. To purchase tickets online visit brownpapertickets.com/event/879397 or call 800-838-3006. Group discounts are available, dimensionsdance.org


We remember the Freeman Brothers


While at the cemetery on Black Friday in Mississippi; I saw the name Freeman on a tombstone. Were my Freeman ancestors related to Elder’s Freeman’s? That would be nice (smile). The homecoming at the Masonic Hall in Oakland was fitting for two beloved men who certainly gave their lives for the people and suffered for it. It is their example, as well as the example of their brotherly love which I am sure sustains their families and close comrades now that they are making their ascension probably arm and arm. Dr. Tolbert Smalls sang of the Dead Black Spartans who “dazzle the world in [their] brief moment/ Exploding with vigor, sharp and jubilant/ Sledging the ramparts with fiery revolution” . . .  those stalwart poets who risked all for the Republic, while Buffalo shared insights only the philosophically attuned could decipher— Arthur League shared his friend’s last stand which he heard him calling for help while on the phone with Bruce Richards in New York—“Put the phone down and help me up,” Elder cried. He still had work to do. He was in New York to attend Yuri Kochiyama’s Memorial because he’d missed it in Oakland; he also had plans to attend the Black Panther Party Film Festival.

Arthur smiled as he recalled these final words. Elder couldn’t get up, his body was weak, but mentally he went out upright. Gordon Bradley spoke of Elder’s courage. Elder said to him, “I will walk out of this life, rather than on my back.” Steve Jacobson spoke of visiting Elder in the hospital when he was in a coma, 10-15 tubes in his body. He’d suffered two heart attacks, his former chess buddy said.

Arthur, also a member of the Los Angeles Black Panther Party said after he was arrested, he saw Elder again while at San Quentin, “They got you too.” He said to him in recognition. It was only a matter of time before most of the comrades were either dead or serving time. Later on those at the memorial saw many of these same men and women’s names on a list of political prisoners and prisoners of war printed in Black Panther Party newspapers. Many are out, some have died, and some like Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald are still behind bars. See http://sfbayview.com/2013/09/political-prisoner-romaine-chip-fitzgerald-writes-to-assembly-public-safety-chair-tom-ammiano/

The fact that Albert Woodfox has been found suitable for release by the three judge panel who agree with the former court’s decision what 2-3-4 years ago, was a bright ray of sunlight. I learned at the Freeman Brothers’ memorial that Sundiata Tate was also going to be released the coming week. We have good news and then we hear about Mumia Abu Jamal and Russell Maroon Shoats who are in jeopardy once again in danger. See the “Silence Mumia Law “ (http://legiscan.com/PA/text/HB2533/2013) which targets the most articulate and outspoken political prisoners – is, for us, a call for increased action and unity. (See also http://www.scientificsoulsessions.com/)

Archbishop Franzo W. King of Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane Orthodox Church, opened with prayer and gave the keynote address while we had a lovely repass. Even those who could not stay like Tiyesha Meroe and Ericka Huggins stopped by the commemoration to pay their respects. Supervisor Keith Carson, on behalf of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors issues a proclamation honoring Elder for his work in the community, past and present. This was shared by Dorsey Nunn and a young assistant who read the proclamation.

Archbishop King said that Elder Freeman was a liberator, as was his brother Deacon-elect Roland. Both filled the gulf between the church and the revolutionary movement of Marcus Garvey’s and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Emory Douglas was the master of ceremonies and his daughter Meres-Sia Gabriel recited a really lovely poem about girls who are exploited because they don’t realize their value. I am sure the Freeman brothers who have appreciated it, as they both have daughters and honor and respect women. Carmelita Taylor, Elder’s wife, shared moments, like the way they met—Elder was selling incense. I remember reading somewhere that smell is the last sense to leave when one is dying . . . so he lingers on the air.

Gordon Bradley, Sundiata Tate, Linda Evans, Steve Jacobson, and Jitu Sadiki all shared reflections. Jalil Muntaqim sent a letter which Manuel La Fontaine read. I was at a table with lumniaries: Dr. Small, Sister Sheba, Sis. Majeedah and others whom were joking with each other as they shared Panther Alumni stories over the meal.

Arthur said if there was one regret, it was that Elder didn’t get to Cuba. It was sobering as he reflected on how before Roland’s untimely departure following his brother, he’d never believed in broken hearts. Roland’s wife Beverly sent greetings from Los Angeles and there were other prayers by Babaloa and George Galvis, First Nation. The Freemans were also Cherokee. It was just a beautiful yet sad opportunity to reflect on two wonderful men and raise the stick higher so that we can stretch into our full potential.

It was great seeing Kiilu and Marina and BJ and Nayati and Zigi and Raymond and Richard Brown, Aaliyah, Hamdiyah and Hafsa and Iman Al Amin. The children are growing up, Tarika Lewis’s grandson João is such a handsome child (smile). His grandmother and Val Serrant performed excellently. Derethia grandson is also a big boy now. He has such a nice smile. I admit I got a bit distracted towards the end of the well-organized program, and didn’t listen with undivided attention to the lovely soloist. There was a fabulous Black Panther Party Poster and Newspaper exhibit. There was a collection for Elder’s grandson, Michael, whose grandmother, Carmelita, is raising. If you want to further Elder’s work, support the organization he helped found, All of Us or None and the Timers.

More than one person spoke of Elder’s refusal to allow the treatment for the cancer to kill him and said no. Arthur said Elder wasn’t eligible for hospice because he was supposed to sit still and die, not take charge of his life and decide to travel to Detroit and Los Angeles and New York (more than once). This is not prescribed (smile), but then Elder sang his own song.

“Ever onward, black warrior, ever onward/ Heed not death knocking at your door/ Tis but an echo of tomorrow’s journey/ Spur thy great steed onward/ Across the dregs and over the mires/ Singing out in the shrillest sounds/ Venceremous Patria o Muerte” [“Homeland or Death, We shall prevail”] (©2000 Tolbert J. Small).

A Love Supreme Global Peace Mass


The 50th Anniversary of “A Love Supreme a Mass for Global Peace, Monday, December 8, 2014 at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St, San Francisco. Doors open 6:00 p.m. and  the Mass begins at 7:00 p.m. The event is free of charge, bring a friend all are welcome. For more information call 415.763.7144 or go to the Saint John Coltrane website www.coltranechurch.org

Superheroes at Cuttingball
Theatre

Cutting Ball Theater opens its 16th season with the World Premiere of SUPERHEROES, written and directed by Sean San José. Featuring Myers Clark, Juan Amador, Donald E. Lacy, Jr., Britney Frazier, Ricky Saenz, and Delina Patrice Brooks. SUPERHEROES plays November 21 through December 21 (Press opening: December 2) at the Cutting Ball Theater in residence at EXIT on Taylor (277 Taylor Street) in San Francisco. For tickets  ($10-50) and more information, the public may visit cuttingball.com or call 415-525-1205.

Defiant, passionate, and bursting with poetic energy, SUPERHEROES tells the story of a journalist working to separate fact from fiction as she investigates the sordid history of the crack-cocaine epidemic. Partially inspired by Bay Area reporter Gary Webb’s groundbreaking investigative journalism into the relationship between the CIA and Nicaraguan émigré-drug traffickers, this incendiary new play traces a lyrical labyrinth through churches, courthouses, and street corners in pursuit of a shocking truth.

Brian Copeland’s The Jewelry Box

Just in time for Christmas, Brian Copeland, (Not a Genuine Black Man, The Waiting Period, The Scion) opens the season Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m., Nov. 28-Dec. 27, with a new, holiday play for the entire family, The Jewelry Box at The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia Street.  For tickets ($30-$100) the public may visit www.themarsh.org or call 415-282-3055 between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. To listen to a recent interview: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/11/21/wandas-picks-radio-show

In this hilariously heartwarming story, a prequel to Copeland’s hit solo show Not a Genuine Black Man, a young Brian heads to the “mean streets” of Oakland to buy his mom a Christmas present.  When he finds the perfect gift – a jewelry box in the White Front store – six-year-old Brian sets out to earn the required $11.97 by Christmas Eve.  Rife with references to 1970s Oakland, the play follows Brian’s adventures as he scours the “help wanted” ads, applies for jobs, and collects bottles, inching his way toward the perfect Christmas gift. There is also a release of the novella during the run as well, a great holiday stocking stuffer (smile).

Carl Allen, drummer, at City College Diego Rivera Theater

The City College of San Francisco Music Department and Concert and Lecture Series present "The Fall Jazz Concert featuring the Advanced Jazz Band And The Jazz/Rock Improvisational Workshop directed by David Hardiman, Jr., Master of Ceremonies, David Hardiman Sr. with special guest artist on drums from New York, Carl Allen, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the Diego Rivera Theater, 50 Phelan Avenue, San Francisco. The concert is free.  There will also be a free Carl Allen Drum Clinic, in the Arts Building, A-133, from 2 to 3 p.m. earlier. Tuesday, Dec. 9.

 
Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 November 2014 )
 

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