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Wanda’s Picks for March

March 3, 2009

by Wanda Sabir

Editor’s note: This column appears in the March issue of the Bay View newspaper – in print.

Madame C.J. Walker Business and Community Recognition Awards Luncheon

The National Coalition of 100 Black Women Inc., Oakland Bay Area Chapter, will host its 11th Annual Madam C.J. Walker Business and Community Recognition Awards Luncheon on Friday, March 20, at the San Francisco Marriott Hotel, located at 55 Fourth St. The event will begin with a VIP reception, exhibits and book signing at 10:30 a.m., followed by a luncheon and awards program at 12 noon. This year is expected to be another sellout so get your tickets early.

The annual awards luncheon, in honor of the first African American female self-made millionaire and business leader, Madam C.J. Walker, is designed to celebrate the rich tradition of hard work and entrepreneurial spirit that is deeply rooted in the African-American culture. Dr. Brenda Wade, psychologist, television host, author and producer, will serve as this year’s mistress of ceremonies and A’Lelia Bundles, the great great granddaughter of Madam C.J. Walker will join us again and host a book signing.

In the tradition of Madam C.J. Walker, we will honor four outstanding women from our community: The Corporate Award goes to Melanie Tervalon, M.D., M.P.H., director for the National Diversity Institute for Culturally Competent Care. The Advocacy Award goes to Regina Jackson, executive director of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC).

The Pioneer Award goes to Sharon Williams, M.D., the first African American female to be the chief resident and then elected as medical staff president of Children’s Hospital of Oakland. The Entrepreneur Award goes to the late C. Dianne Howell, Ph.D., publisher of the Black Business Listings and producer of the Oakland Black Expo.

The luncheon enables the Bay Area Chapter of NCBW to continue its outreach in “Sistahs Getting Real About HIV/Aids Initiative.” In addition, we are able to provide scholarships to deserving students and award grants to over 50 outstanding community based organizations. Our chapter will be presenting Tyler C. Jackson, winner of the Madam C.J. Walker Essay Contest and one of our Positive Step Girls, an exemplary role model who demonstrated leadership within the Positive Step program with an award during the luncheon. For information, visit www.onehundredblackwomen.com.

Marcus Shelby

“MLK and Jazz,” March 1-22, 7-9 p.m. at the Red Poppy Art House, 2698 Folsom St. at 23rd St., San Francisco, (415) 826-2402, is an interactive music and history workshop created by Marcus Shelby that explores the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement, and the history of jazz. This workshop is open to all ages and will include a comprehensive discussion about the civil rights movement, a survey of recordings of freedom songs, spirituals, blues and jazz, a review of speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., poetry, philosophy and live performances.

All classes will include analysis of select Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s recorded speeches and sermons, musical analysis, commentary on the poetry, philosophy and literature that influenced Dr. King and interactive class discussions. Suggested donation is $10-$20 or $60 for all five workshops. Visit http://www.marcusshelby.com or http://www.redpoppyarthouse.org/.

Civil Rights to Immigrants Rights: Lessons Learned

In “From the Civil Rights Movement to the Immigrants Rights Movement: Lessons Learned,” the Center for Political Education and long-time movement activists Betita Martinez, Phil Hutchings and Renee Saucedo discuss the civil rights movement, the struggles activists faced in organizing against oppression, and lessons learned for immigrant rights struggles today, Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m.. at City College Mission Campus, Room 106, 1125 Valencia St., between 22nd and 23rd, $5-$10 donation requested, no one turned away for lack of funds. For information, call (415) 431-1918.

On the fly

Check La Peña, Ashkenaz, San Francisco Performances, Cal Performances, SFJazz, which is saluting McCoy Tyner, the Mission Cultural Center, Dance Mission, the Oakland East Bay Symphony, Intersection for the Arts, which has a new play opening based on the Pultizer Prize winning novel by Junot Diaz, the Asian Film Festival, and of course Wanda’s Picks on-line for the latest, that and the radio show, which is archived for later retrieval.

I had a great conversation with Dayna Stephens, who is headlining the Cal State University Scholarship Concert, Tuesday, March 3, 8 and 10 p.m., at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square, Oakland. Visit www.yoshis.com. Ruthie Foster is at Mondavi in Davis on Wednesday, March 4. Her latest album, “The Truth According to Ruthie Foster,” is outstanding! Visit http://www.mondaviarts.org/.

Mills College is having a week long series of events on Women and War beginning the week of March 2. It’s in collaboration with the Global Fund for Women in San Francisco. KQED has some great films this month. Check local listing and ITVS.org.

I was walking by Laney College June Steingart Gallery, 900 Fallon St., in Oakland, on my way to James Brooks’ Celestial Celebration and saw in the window Martin Puryear. You missed the artist reception but the exhibit is still up.

Ailvin Ailey Dance Theatre is at Cal Performances through next week. Sweet Honey and the Rock are performing live Tuesday-Wednesday, March 3-4. Visit http://www.calperfs.berkeley.edu/presents/season/2008/calendar_current.php.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Grammy Award winning South African ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo is coming to town March 12 at UC Berkeley, March 14 at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, (707) 546-3600, and at UC Davis’s Mondavi Arts Center on March 16. See http://www.mambazo.com/tourdates.html. Chick Corea will be at UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances March 21. Stanford Lively Arts has a great line up. Visit http://livelyarts.stanford.edu/month_list.php. Paula West is at the RRAZZ until March 22. Visit www.therrazzroom.com.

‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’

A lovely story, “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein is at Boxcar Theatre, 505 Natoma St., in San Francisco through March 10. Visit www.boxcartheatre.org or call (415) 776-1747.

‘The Black Rock’

“The Black Rock” opens at the Red Vic Movie House, San Francisco, Friday, Feb. 27, 9:15 p.m., and runs through March 5. Directed by Kevin Epps, “The Black Rock” chronicles the role of African-Americans at Alcatraz, the first super-maximum security prison, and examines the lives of a few African-American prisoners who were important figures in the history of “The Rock” from the 1930s to the 1960s. The film highlights the truth about the perseverance, sufferings and resilience of the African-Americans who experienced Alcatraz during this time of racial prejudice and discrimination. Visit http://www.redvicmoviehouse.com/.

Tavis Smiley: Making America as Good as Its Promise

Tavis Smiley is in Oakland Tuesday, March 10, 6:30, at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. at 27th Street. Tickets are $12. Visit www.kpfa.org/events or call (510) 848-6767, ext. 609. Tickets are $15 at the door. He will be interviewed by Andrea Lewis. Visit www.kpfa.org.

Haiti: Five Years After the Coup

“Haiti: Five Years After the Coup” is Sunday, March 1, 7 p.m., at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley. Speakers include Haiti Action Committee co-founder Pierre Labossiere and a report back from Haiti by Nia Imara. Poet-musician Phavia Kujichagulia will perform, and music will be provided by The Troublemakers Union. Special guests Nadeen Elshorafa of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center will speak on the situation in Gaza, and Black Panther Party veteran Richard Brown will give an update on the San Francisco 8. For more information, contact Haiti Action Committee at http://www.haitiaction.net/.

Transnational Feminist Studies Project: Militarism and Gender at Mills College

Mills College and the Global Fund for Women are sponsoring the Transnational Feminist Studies Project to stimulate public interest and debates in feminist theory and practice related to militarism, peace and security, politics and democratization, sexual politics and reproductive rights, and women’s movements internationally. The project will be launched March 3-5, with a focus on militarism and gender. International scholars, activists and filmmakers from Africa, Asia and the U.S. will address the challenges posed by the dominance of militarism in the world today through a series of roundtable discussions, panels, film screenings and working meetings. The week will culminate in a public film screening of the award-winning film about the Liberian women’s struggle for peace, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,” followed by a panel discussion with the film’s producer and key activists from Africa’s conflict zones.

There will be a Brownbag lunch Community Discussion with Participant Scholar-Activists, along with “Fashioning Resistance: A Cultural Show,” a roundtable: “Challenging Militarism: Transnational Feminist Activism and Scholarship,” and a film screening. For more information, go to http://www.mills.edu/calendarexpress, then click on Ethnic Studies or contact Michelle Morales kosconsultant@gmail.com.

Cinequest 2009 Maverick Spirit Awardee: Lou Gossett Jr.

Lou Gossett Jr.
Lou Gossett Jr.
I have never attended this festival, call it commuter prejudice – I need to get to the South Bay. Tabia Theatre gets me out and so does San Jose Rep and the San Jose Jazz Festival. Monterey Jazz Festival does also, but look how many years had to pass before I finally made it for the 50th Anniversary Season! Yes, I know … I missed Oscar Peterson, Carmen McCray, Sarah Vaughn.

But this year, after saluting Danny Glover last year, Cinequest salutes Lou Gossett Jr. Yes, two powerful Black men in cinema two years in a row. Now, there aren’t a lot of films with Black directors in this festival; the few I could locate I listed here, plus a short filmed in San Francisco on Third Street. Other films mentioned are ones I’ve seen in film festivals, like 3rd-I South Asian Film Festival 2008 www.thirdi.org. “Ramchand Pakistani” is about a child who is imprisoned with his father in Pakistan and the mother/wife who doesn’t lose hope. The director was on my radio show last year. Check out the archives for November 2008.

There are quite a few films that look at prison as a theme – most documentaries – and I think one feature: An employer bets his employee that he can withstand the pressures of prison for a sum of money – the sentence 15 years. If the employee loses the bet he will be imprisoned for life. What some people would do for money!

The Johnny Cash film and concert looks really good. So I think you are going to bump into me on Tuesday and perhaps at the “Birth of a Nation” screening Feb. 27, followed by Griffin’s response to criticism of his racist treatise, “Intolerance,” March 6, http://www.cinequest.org/event_view.php?eid=559. There will be live musical accompaniment. Visit http://www.cinequest.org/event_view.php?eid=568. The awards event is Tuesday, March 3, 7 p.m., $10.

Already I have a problem, I’d planned to attend the Cal State East Bay benefit concert, its 10th anniversary the same evening at Yoshi’s in Oakland, and I’m in Oakland too. How easy can it get? But I am seriously thinking about getting to San Jose – heck, I travel to Palo Alto for music and plays. I think San Jose is closer.

“The Least Among You” will screen followed by an extraordinary evening with the legendary Louis Gossett Jr. The event takes place at the California Theatre. With a commanding height of 6-four-4 and a flair for projecting quiet authority, Louis Gossett Jr. ranks as one of the most respected African-American actors of stage, screen and television. Known for choosing diverse and challenging roles, his effortless brilliance translates immediately, whether as a landlord, an officer or even as an alien.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Louis Gossett Jr. was a basketball player in high school – who later played briefly with the New York Knicks – until a leg injury benched him and his interest turned toward acting. The aspiring actor caught a break at his first Broadway audition for “Take a Giant Step” (1953), where, beating out 400 other candidates, the then 16-year-old landed the lead and ended up with a Donaldson Award for the year’s best newcomer.

His acting career soon flourished and his work in the stage and film versions of the groundbreaking drama about African-American family life in Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (1961) proved a watershed. This led to numerous appearances on network series in the 1960s and 70s culminating in 1977, when he picked up an Emmy for his eloquent portrayal of Fiddler in the landmark ABC miniseries “Roots.”

Meanwhile, his big screen reputation grew with critically acclaimed work in such comedies as The Landlord (1970), The Skin Game (1971), Travels with My Aunt (1972) and the film adaptation of the Tony Award-winning drama The River Niger (1975). A riveting performance as a drug-dealing cutthroat stalking Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep (1977) catapulted him to wider popularity, but the tough by-the-book drill sergeant in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982) won him a Best Supporting Oscar that solidified his place in the Hollywood hierarchy.

Following his Oscar, he made numerous big screen and television appearances, being singled out for his work as Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in “Sadat” (1983), the sci-fi adventure “Enemy Mine” (1985), where his lizard-like makeup won kudos, and in the action adventure series “Iron Eagle” (1985-1995), which introduced him to a whole new generation of moviegoers.

Continuing to captivate audiences with an instinctive approach to character, Louis Gossett Jr. superbly portrayed a down-and-out boxer in “Diggstown” (1991) and a heroic headmaster in “Toy Soldiers” (1991) and gave well thought out and nuanced performances in such socially themed projects as “To Dance with Olivia” (1997) and the critically acclaimed “Jasper, Texas” (2003).

Ave Maria Montague: An Angel Among Us

A memorial to Ave Montague at her funeral - Photo: Wanda Sabir
A memorial to Ave Montague at her funeral - Photo: Wanda Sabir
At the memorial for Ave Montague, when the time came for community comments, and I was fifth in line, the time was cut from a minute to 30 seconds, so the words which I had so carefully crafted just an hour earlier were rendered useless. I couldn’t figure out where or how to cut them, so I gave them to one of Ave’s family members who is collecting the recollections in a book.

I winged it and called on the spirit of Nina Simone, whose life I’d been studying for a radio segment that same day, what would have been the consummate artist’s 76th birthday.

Nina Simone was an appropriate angel to call on when remembering and celebrating the life of our sister, Ave Maria Montague, who passed from our earthly presence Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009. Like Dr. Simone she was a prodigy, supported by family and encouraged by in her dreams in fashion design.

Dr. Simone, raised in Tryon, N.C., was supported in her dream of becoming a Black classical concert pianist. She studied briefly at Juilliard in New York to prepare for the entrance exam to Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She received a letter of rejection. They were not ready for a Black woman and the young Nina was crushed, but not for long.

I can imagine the same must have been true of a young Ave, who was among few women graduates from the Fashion Institute of Technology and later Macy’s executive training program. But unlike Dr. Simone, Ave was admitted and what she learned in these environments shaped her into the woman we knew as friend, entrepreneur, philanthropist: the executive director and founder of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, Ave Montague.

Ave gave journalists the feeling that you were her one and only choice for the story. She made me feel special and I didn’t want to disappoint her because, of all the publicists I knew, she seemed to really value my skills as a journalist and recognize my ability to bring a certain constituency to her events.

She knew everyone and if she didn’t, she soon would. I wasn’t one of the “beautiful people,” but I didn’t feel like Cinderella either. She was Ave, an institution within herself and, like many others in the field, she was taking on too much. But if she hadn’t, then much of what we love about this area, its rich African American culture, would not have happened on the grand scale that it did.

Ave was like air, invisible but necessary. I need a respirator now and haven’t been sleeping well since she fell into her final sleep at the computer. I think about other super Black women I know, myself among them, traveling without sleep, food, the tank a finger snap away from empty.

To listen to the tribute to Nina Simone and El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, who was assassinated 44 years ago, Feb. 21, visit http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org (2/21/2009).

Celebrate International Women’s Day and help Marilyn Buck build a nest egg for her release

It’s called “Bed, Bath and Beyond Prison Brunch” on Sunday, March 8, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 2050 Delaware St. at Shattuck in Berkeley. International Women’s Day celebrates women’s history, women’s strength and women’s struggles. What better way to recognize this day than to support long-time political prisoner Marilyn Buck as she prepares for her projected release date, August 2010?

In a year and a half, Marilyn hopes to walk out of the federal prison at Dublin, Calif., after spending close to 30 years in prison. It’s breathtakingly exciting, but also daunting to pick up your life when your peers are moving toward retirement. Please join us as we help her with this transition.

Guests are invited to bring a memento, poem, picture, whatever, that represents International Women’s Day to you (no pressure). We’ll also be asking friends and supporters to commit to a regular monthly donation until she’s free. Even $10 a month from each of us will add up to a comforting nest egg.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website and blog at www.wandaspicks.com for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her photos and her radio show on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network, http://www.WandasPicks.ASMNetwork.org, Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays 8-10 a.m.

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