Happy Birthday Daddy!
Today, my father Fred Ali Batin Sr. would have been 75 years old. He made his transition at 59, his 60th year. Renal failure and diabetes might have been the presenting ailments, but America’s response to Black skin and a male body – the structural violence inherent in this bigoted and racist system – is what sent him prematurely on his journey home. We miss him today and my brother Fred and I pour libations in his memory. Ashay!
I want to offer condolences to C Kelly Wright, Helena-Joyce Wright and Scottie-Ray Wright on the loss of their father, Mr. Paul Wright, Thursday, Oct. 17, at 3:45 p.m. C Kelly is a wonderful actress who has appeared in so many plays, the last I saw her in at Bay Area Playwrights Festival this summer. She is one of the principal actresses in the TheatreWorks production opening of August Wilson’s final installation in his 10-play, 100-year cycle or reflection on Black history, “Radio Golf,” through Nov. 2. See www.theatreworks.org/. Helena is the former artistic director of the Oakland Ensemble Theatre and a fine actress.
Services are Wednesday, Oct. 29, 11 a.m., at Beth Eden Baptist Church, 1183 10th St., Oakland. For information, call (510) 444-1625 or (510) 444-7405. Dr. Gillette O. James, pastor, will be officiating. Baker-Williams Mortuary is in charge at 980 Eighth St., Oakland, (510) 836-3436.
Wanda’s Picks Radio: Interview with Troy Davis’ sister
I’ve had a radio show now for almost two months. A program of the African Sisters Media Network www.asmnetwork.net/, Wanda’s Picks Radio, at www.WandasPicks.ASMNetwork.org, is an extension of the website http://wandaspicks.com and the San Francisco Bay View column. Check out the show on Wednesdays, 6-7 a.m., and Fridays, 8-10 a.m.
Today we had an exclusive interview with Troy Anthony Davis’ sister Martina Correia, who has been standing for justice for her brother for 19 long years. Troy Davis is scheduled once again for execution Monday, Oct. 27, by the state of Georgia if a stay is not granted. Davis turned 40 Oct. 9, and though witnesses who have recanted and the absence of DNA prove his innocence, the 8th Amendment of the Georgia State Constitution states it’s okay to kill an innocent person as long as the court feels he has received a fair trial. Mr. Davis is from an upper middle class Black family, his dad retired military and a police officer who later left the force to start a construction business – Martina said the force was too racist.
Troy graduated with honors from high school a year after he was scheduled to graduate because he was the caregiver for his sister who has MS and is paralyzed from the waist down. Since his incarceration, his dad has died – diabetic coma, the stress of a son on death row too much for him to take.
Martina Correia, diagnosed with cancer in March 2001, has been on chemotherapy for all these years after her doctors initially dismissed her symptoms – medical apartheid. It’s a good thing she is a registered nurse and knew what tests to run and where to get a second opinion once her suspicions were confirmed. Even now, Martina stated on the air that it’s crazy that she has to take poison to stay alive, while her brother is about to be given poison to kill him. The irony is a physician administers both, with contradictory intentions and preferred outcomes.
Since the beginning of the case, there has been a miscarriage of justice: from denying Troy access to legal representation at his sentencing hearing held in a prison, to refusing to let his family in to visit with him or attend this “mock trial,” to not letting Troy grant interviews to the press and stating that if he does the courts will ban his family from visiting. This barring of his family is extended to refusal on stated execution dates to allow his family in the death chamber.
When, at 19, Troy Davis went to help a homeless man getting pistol whipped, then turned himself in after an all-points-bulletin issued by the police said “shoot to kill,” he assumed he wouldn’t be arrested as he was not there when the officer was shot, he didn’t have a gun and his fingerprints are not on the weapon found at the scene. He was mistaken. However, 19 years later, his family is still fighting for justice and asks us to increase the pressure on this government in Troy’s acquittal and in other cases such as that of Mumia Abu Jamal, the Jena 6, Angola 3 and the San Francisco 8, to name a few.
There are actions planned throughout the country and the world on Execution Day, Monday, Oct. 27. Tuesday, Oct. 22, is the day the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded in Oakland, Calif., by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The BBP was founded to address the huge incidence of police brutality and violence in the Black community. Not much has changed 43 years later. Tuesday is also the day in cities and neighborhoods throughout the country that names of victims of police brutality are being called and we are asked to wear black in solidarity with those killed by public servants charged with the job of protecting and serving.
Updates on Troy Anthony Davis’ case can be found at troyanthonydavis.org, ALUSA.org, and GFADP.org. Contact the governor of Georgia, the Dr. Musso who is charged with carrying out the murder. And listen to the entire interview at www.WandasPicks.ASMNetwork.org.
The Living Word Festival
The Living Word Project is in the second week of its Eighth Annual Festival celebrating literacy and the power of the word to change society. The theme this year is “Race is Fiction.” I attended the big concert and art in the park last Saturday, Oct. 18, in Oakland at Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park, a.k.a. deFremery Park, at 18th and Adeline Streets. There was a green economy theme present as the artists painted on canvases their notion of the term “life.”
I saw bikes paraded and a new playground where kids participated in ‘Hood Games. Besides the art going up and all the family barbecues spread throughout the park, I loved hearing Mos Def singing my favorite song, “Katrina Clap.” I wish I could play it on the air, but I don’t have a radio version (hint hint). If you do, you could send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I loved it … wall to wall folks, warm sun smiling on all present, all ages grooving to the mellow sounds spinning on multiple turntables. Goapele, who performed the day before at Yerba Buena Gardens, was on stage that afternoon as well, followed by great DJing by Living Word co-director Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
The Living Word Festival continues through Saturday, Oct. 25, at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., in San Francisco. Call (510) 863-9834. If you mention the code Race is Fiction, you can get two adult tickets for the price of one. Tickets are $5 for students 5-18 and the same for those over 18 with a student ID and $20 general.
Chanaka will be appearing in the piece “War Peace: The One Drop Rule,” preceded by Regie Cabico in “Unbuckled, Uncensored.” Friday the opening work is Jacinta Vlach Liberation Dance Theater presenting “Animal Farm,” and Saturday, besides “War Peace,” is an excerpt from Delina Brooks’ “Beauty, the Beast,” plus Regie Cabico in “Unbuckled, Uncensored” and Guillermo Gomez-Pena’s “La Pocha Nostra in Mapa/Corpo3: Interactive Rituals for the New Millennium.”
Adult tickets for Saturday’s show are $5 more, $25. Find a friend and do the two for one adult. The Living Word Festival is a part of Youth Speaks, an organization that holds poetry workshops with the voices we need to hear that are often most ignored. Visit www.youthspeaks.org or call (415) 255-9035.
Dia de Los Muertos
The annual Days of the Dead is open at the Oakland Museum through Dec. 7. Visit http://museumca.org.
Maafa Commemoration at Laney College Dia de Los Muertos
The annual exhibition at the Laney College Art Gallery in the Tower Building, 900 Fallon St., Oakland, opens Monday, Oct. 27. There will be a reception Nov. 4, I believe. TaSin Sabir has two paintings in the exhibit, with an altar assembled by Neter Aameri.
‘Choice of Weapons’
For the better part of a year, a crew of five young filmmakers have spent afternoons and weekends making a film about redevelopment in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood and its impact on their lives. The 75-minute film, “A Choice of Weapons,” was researched, written, cast and filmed entirely by the young filmmakers. It will premiere on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at a screening and reception at San Francisco’s Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Independent Lens: ‘Chicago 10′
Blending modern animation with archival footage, “Chicago 10″ explores the anti-war protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the events leading up to it and the chaotic Chicago Conspiracy Trial that followed. Watch the Independent Lens season premiere of “Chicago 10″ broadcast initially on Oct. 22 at 10 p.m. on PBS, Channel 9 or PBS.org. Get rebroadcast listings at www.pbs.org/independentlens/chicago10.
The film’s screening this summer was part of a program that featured Angela Davis’ speech on Vietnam reenacted at Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park, a.k.a. deFermery Park. The film debuts on PBS on the 43rd anniversary of the Black Panther Party. In the film, Bobby Seale is extradited from Oakland and taken forcibly to Chicago where he was not allowed to represent himself. In fact, he was hogtied in the Chicago courtroom and gagged on the judge’s orders for trying to defend himself. It is unbelievable! Well, maybe not.
Community Cinema Bay Area presents ‘Lioness’
How did five female Army support soldiers – mechanics, supply clerks and engineers – end up fighting alongside the Marines in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the Iraq War? Directors Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers give an intimate look at war through the eyes of the first women in U.S. history sent into direct ground combat, despite a policy that bans them from being there. Through harrowing personal stories, these women candidly share their experiences in Iraq and from their lives back home to form a portrait of the emotional and psychological effects of war.
“Lioness” screens Tuesday, Oct. 28, 6-8 p.m., at the San Francisco Main Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin St., one block from Civic Center BART. The version of “Lioness” shown at this screening has been modified from its original feature length by the filmmakers to allow more time for audience discussion. There will be a discussion with local VA clinicians and female veterans. The screening is free and open to the public.
‘Do Tell’ digital storytelling screening
On Veterans Day, Tuesday, Nov. 11, 7 p.m., at Eastside Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd, Oakland, hear the untold stories of women of color, lesbian and transgender veterans at the first screening of the “Do Tell” digital stories, followed by a Q&A discussion with some of the participants. The event is sponsored by the Women of Color Resource Center. For more information, visit www.coloredgirls.org or call (510) 444-2700, ext. 305.
My granddaughter and I caught the BART and T-Third Street light rail from China Basin to Bayview Hunters Point for the fifth annual Trolley Dances. Ever pushing it, we arrived at the public library at Fourth and Berry just in time for the last tour. Scott Wells & Dance performed first just across the street on the pier. The dancers utilized the entire space, running up the ramp, doing summersaults, rolling across the pavement, walking along precipices – one dancer was seated with those on the ground next to us, another was on a bench, still others were a ways away. The music was also specific to the site … birds and other sea creatures.
After we saw the first piece, “2nd Nature,” we boarded the T-line and rode up to our next destination, the nearly refurbished Bayview Opera House, for Joanna Haigood’s “rEvolution,” choreographed to a “Last Poets” soundtrack and the Seastrunk Brothers.
The men, dressed in red – with Temptation steps and OJay numbers, were smooth, down to the carefully stylized choreography – yes they were hot! I loved the way they rocked all my favorite songs. It’s seldom I know the lyrics to songs today. They were a welcome treat.
Trolley Dances was a way for many people to see areas of their city never explored before. Most if not all the people on the tour with me had never been inside the Bayview Opera House, if they were aware of its existence.
The dovetailing themes in the multi-layered performance at the Opera House, from singers to dancers to martial artists, seemed to be ones of legacy or inheritance – remembering one’s legacy. Because when one is cognizant of one’s history and ancestry and is familiar with the true story – one of greatness – the stupid stuff, the propaganda, the ideas that undermine one’s ability to do what one is innately capable of, can’t touch you.
It is often thought since our ancestors labored without pay to build wealth for others, their children and children’s children are poor, but we aren’t. They left us an inheritance too.
This was the only site specific work where children were involved as well as elders. We were greeted by Ms. Mary Booker, the woman in charge at the Opera House, and the perfect conclusion was the performance by Capoeira Roda de Angola with Mastre Terry Baruti with dancers whose ages range from under 12 to adult.
It is often thought since our ancestors labored without pay to build wealth for others, their children and children’s children are poor, but we aren’t. They left us an inheritance too.
The last dance work really incorporated the site into the performance well. It was fitting that the two women responsible for Trolley Dances would close the tour together. I liked the way in her work entitled “Open Minds” Jean Isaacs’ company met us at the UCSF Mission Bay where she explained that her work moved and we’d know what to do, that is, when to run along to catch up with the dancers who were restless scholars. One moment they were seated on benches reading, the next they were dancing through the grove with their audience hot on their heels. The music was being pulled in a red wagon. It was getting chilly so the opportunity to run and jump and bounce around kept the audience engaged, especially the little ones – my little one who was ready to go. We were into the second hour and she was hungry.
Kim Epifano, Epiphany Productions, dressed in Grecian robe, also spoke and thanks Jean Isaacs for inviting her to San Diego where they also have Trolley Dances, which is where Kim got the idea for her season.
I loved Epiphany’s work, “And the Stars Above.” As we followed her, she hit a small bell or gong, dancers posed like living statues on the grass and various raised surfaces. Soon they had passed us and run up the high dais or pantheon which had various levels where musicians played horns and lute, while at the very top a dancer sat and then slowly began to move along the wall, eventually doing aerial dance.
It was theater and dance. A small ensemble sang across from the seated audience. The themes raised were site appropriate – we were on a medical campus where scientific research was conducted. I wished I could read the lyrics later; it was so much to take in. I felt the same at the Opera House. The lyrics to the Last Poet song in “rEvolution” was central to understanding the intent of the movement, but I forget now what those lyrics were. Visit www.ephiphanydance.org.
Arab Film Festival: ‘Slingshot Hip Hop’
The Arab Film Festival is in its second week also with great films to recommend it. “Slingshot Hip Hop,” directed by Jackie Salloum (Palestine, 2008, 89 min.), screens twice at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley: Oct. 24 and 25 at 7 p.m. Visit www.sff.org.
“Slingshot” looks at hip hop culture, especially its music and writing, and how this aesthetic tool is one that gives voice to youth rendered homeless by police set up to erase their presence in the region, to strip them of their humanity and render them hopeless and helpless or so full of rage they self-destruct. The mix of hip hop culture and Islam is a natural. Islam means peace, a theme the artists express often in their music. This peace as a value is a source of peace and one of tension at a time many equate to holy war – 1948-2008: exile in refugee camps, walls erected and rights, human rights, disrupted.
I was surprised at the crime and drug trafficking in Palestine, especially in Gaza where permission to leave travel to Israel and other places nearby is often denied. What is great about “Slingshot” is the film’s ability to connect the youth on opposite sides of the wall to one another. The artists in Israel are not aware that there is a hip hop scene in Gaza and that the artists are listening to them. The big concert featuring the artists from both sides of the wall is also a part of the film.
What is liked most about the film is the juxtaposition of the personal stories and the political reality and social consequences of protest, whether that is through art or physical violence like throwing a rock at a tank. One artist says, “Rap gives us oxygen.” One parent who was also arrested for protesting the government when he was younger said, “No art, no life.”
The harassment was intense. When one artist got on a bus, he spoke in Arabic and talked about the consequences of this choice, not to mention his backpack and his decision to sit in the back of the bus. One of the female singers was fired for speaking Arabic on the job and the rap artist on the bus was stopped and his backpack searched repeatedly as he composed lyrics for the film – walking down the street, answering the policeman.
He spoke about passing in the past by speaking Hebrew. The Dheisheh refugee camp, one the Middle Eastern Children’s Alliance supports, was also in the film – there the artists were conducting free workshops for the children because they want them to be safe and stay alive. The father who sang protest songs said art is the most powerful weapon.
Altars are also erected for martyred youth – in this case Kali. It reminded me of the altars erected in the inner-city when friends and family are gunned down. It was a case of Westbank Bayview, Westbank Dogtown, Westbank Lower Bottoms.
The San Francisco Jazz Festival Fall 2008 is almost over and I have only attended one concert, Sweet Honey in the Rock. This week I have a similar dilemma: Archie Shepp is not only performing, he’s giving a pre-curtain talk at the Herbst Theatre, Van Ness at MacAllister in San Francisco. Visit www.sfjazz.org. The tenor and soprano saxophonist, poet and vocalist is amazing! I’ve only seen him live twice; the most memorable was at an Eddie Moore Jazz Festival.
I missed Marvis Staples last week. Her concert was the same evening as the art reception for “Breath of Our Ancestors: Joy Holland and Casper Banjo, introducing Keith Hopkins” at Prescott Joseph Center in West Oakland, 920 Peralta St. – not to mention Barack Obama’s last debate with McCain.
The problem Thursday, Oct. 23, is that August Wilson’s “Piano Lesson” opens at Laney College, 900 Fallon St. I’d like to attend this event and I should, since I am vice president of the Peralta Association of African American Affairs for College of Alameda. We give scholarships to Black students during the spring semester. If you can’t come, you can send a donation to PAAAA c/o Wanda Sabir, 555 Atlantic Ave., Alameda, CA 94501.
“The Piano Lesson” is the fourth play in the 10-play cycle. In it, a brother and sister fight over a piano left to them by their great grandfather which has images of departed relatives carved into it. The sister doesn’t play the piano any more and her brother sees it as a way to raise money to buy land so they can move away from the Hill District in Pittsburg. It is certainly a Maafa story and looks, as did the Trolley Dances at Bayview Opera House, to legacies and inheritance. General admission is $10 and $5 for students and staff, but at the opening night gala general admission is $20 and $5 for students and staff. For more information and tickets, call (510) 464-3543, email email@example.com or go to www.myspace.com/laneyfusiontheater.
Cecil Taylor performs Friday, Oct. 24. I really should have been in Los Angeles this weekend, to wish my little sister a happy birthday – it is, one could say, a significant one. Happy Birthday, Lavina Rose!
Maceo Parker performs Sunday, Oct. 26, with Peter Apfelbaum and the New York Hieroglyphics featuring Abdoulye Diabate next week, Wednesday, Oct. 29, at the Yerba Buena Forum, Third at Mission Street in San Francisco. Visit sfjazz.org or call (866) 920-JAZZ.
Did I mention that the UniverSoul circus is back this weekend for a couple of weeks? Tickets start at $10. For information, visit www.universoulcircus.com.
I wish they’d get rid of the animals. Black folks have no business caging anything after what our ancestors went through. But look at Israel: One would think, coming from the ravages of World War II circa 1948, those Jews who escaped the ovens and the pogroms would be the most peaceloving folks around. Instead they march into an occupied land and kick the residents out at gunpoint, and this nation and others support the travesty which continues 60 years later. It is the children of the Intifada that are the topic of the new film on Palestinian hip hop, “Slingshot.”
The African American Shakespeare Company presents “Cinderella” Dec. 13-28 at Zeum Theatre. Tickets are available now. All seats all dates are $10 if ordered before Oct. 25. Tickets are normally $22 general, $20 for students and seniors. It is a great holiday show. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.
‘A Raisin in the Sun’
The Bay Area Performing Art Collective presents “A Raisin in the Sun” Friday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 25, at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1426 Alice St., in Oakland. Achebe Hoskins, who plays a principal role in Baayan Bakari’s film “Equinox,” is the man-child in long trousers. In her award winning play, made into a TV film aired earlier this year and starring Felicia Rashad and P. Diddy, the playwright shows in Walter Lee how hard it is to be a man in a society where policies are erected like nooses, the rope in the hands of licensed butchers who stand in wait looking for opportunities to emasculate our men. Advance tickets can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets/event/41410 and by calling (510) 575-7112. You can also visit www.araisininthesunplay.com.
Third World Book Fair
East Side Cultural Center presents its Third World Book Fair Oct. 25-26, 12 noon to 5 p.m. There will be vendors and hourly readings by featured writers with a Books and BBQ with Bobby Seale on Sunday. ESCC is located at 2277 International Blvd., Oakland, (510) 533-6629. Visit eastsidealliance.org.
Oakland Community School Reunion
Students, parents, staff and supporters are invited to “Down Memory Lane Reunion” at the Oakland Community School, 6118 International Blvd., from 12-5 p.m. For information, call Lorraine at (510) 434-1824 or (510) 434-0331. This summer there was a reunion party at Lil’ Bobby Hutton Park, a.k.a. deFremery Park, July 19.