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Wanda’s Picks for May

May 1, 2009

by Wanda Sabir

Happy Mother’s Day May 10!

Sojourner Truth honored

Michelle Obama applauds during the unveiling April 28 of the bust of Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. "I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America," Obama said. "Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them." - Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP
Michelle Obama applauds during the unveiling April 28 of the bust of Sojourner Truth in Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. "I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves, serving as the first lady of the United States of America," Obama said. "Now many young boys and girls, like my own daughters, will come to Emancipation Hall and see the face of a woman who looks like them." - Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP
Shout out to First Lady Michelle Obama, who presented the bust of Queen Mother Sojourner Truth, a woman who experienced first hand the hardships of slavery, yet emerged strong, so strong she had to remind America she too was a woman, a woman deserving all the respect and honor reserved for privileged white women.

Truth conferred with Presidents Abraham Lincoln (1864) and Ulysses S. Grant (1870), championed the abolition of slavery, suffrage and women’s rights and prison reform and preached to the Michigan Legislature against capital punishment.

Her speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” presented in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention, is one I’ve taught and reenacted in my academic career on Constitution Day and at other times. I couldn’t imagine a more fitting woman’s image to enshrine in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, named in honor of the enslaved Africans who built the Capitol, where up to now no other Black women are so honored.

The question in a society where Black people are still seen as unequal and Black women reduced to female dogs continues to be, “Ain’t I a woman?” So Truth’s presence in a hallowed place where another great Black woman, Michelle Obama, shadows her footsteps, mindful of how far we’ve come and how far we have to go, makes her symbolic presence all that more remarkably wonderful.

For coverage of the event Tuesday, April 28, visit http://www.s2smagazine.com/node/767 and
http://livesteez.com/news/read/First-Lady-Unveils-Sojourner-Truth-Statue-in-Capitol-Building/1881.html.

Editor’s note: The Bay View would like to acknowledge the leading role of then-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in the campaign to place the bust of Sojourner Truth in the Capitol.

Birthdays

Happy Birthday to comrade, revolutionary and friend Yuri Kochiyama, my niece Widya Batin, director Jean-Marie Teno, friend Robert Hillary King and all Tauruses and Geminis.

Second Annual Contest: Youth In Motion

Auditions begin at 9 a.m. May 2 at DeFremery Park, 1651 Adeline St., Oakland. Call (510) 238-4720.

Festival in Sacramento

The First Annual Unity and Diversity Music Festival in Sacramento is Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Southside Park, 2107 Sixth St. This event to encourage unity features Butterscotch, a finalist on America’s Got Talent, Mystic Roots, a talented reggae band from Chico, Ras D, Mr. Majestic, The Soulcialites, Orquesta Bakan, Soulifted, Umoja West African Dancers, Ascension Praise Dancers and Ralph Gordon Jazz – plus food, kid’s jumpers and face painting. Tickets are $6-$20, free for children under 10. Visit www.SacramentoUnityFest.com.

Art for Social Change

“Stories Behind the Songs,” an exhibition and performance honoring the legacy of the protest song, is next Sunday, May 9, 2 p.m., at the Oakland Museum of California in the James Moore Theatre, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Local musicians Harriet and Alex Bagwell, Brwn Bflo, Barbara Dane, Melanie DeMore, Jon Fromer, Faith Petric, Keith Sanchez, Irwin Silber, Tru Boo, Andrea Turner and Pat Wynne, who have contributed to these movements, will perform along with visual art, spoken word and music by youth from Community Works’ Roots program at Balboa High School, El Cerrito High School and Visitation Valley Middle School.

The African Presence in Mexico: From Yanga to the Present

Gaspar Yanga, the 16th century enslaved African prince who rebelled against the Spanish, with his people, called the Yangans, established Yanga in Veracruz, the first free town in the Americas, where this monument stands.
Gaspar Yanga, the 16th century enslaved African prince who rebelled against the Spanish, with his people, called the Yangans, established Yanga in Veracruz, the first free town in the Americas, where this monument stands.
This exhibit at the Oakland Museum May 9 through Aug. 23 explores the overlooked history of African contributions to Mexican culture. If California, a province of Mexico prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe, named after an African queen, Califia, its last governor a Black man, President Pío de Jesus Pico; if a Black general, Gaspar Yanga, called Yanga or Nyanga, established the first independent African territory in the Western Hemisphere as early as 1523; if Africans navigated all or most of the ships led by European settlers and conquerors; if one sees the signs in Mexico indicating an African presence – a pyramid and the Olmec sculptures – not to mention the customs, songs, celebrations, language, skin tone and African features visible in many faces … then certainly all evidence points to the connection between the African and Mexican heritages.

But for many years this connection has been denied. Why? I’m told that the exclusion of the African presence was intentional, the usual racist or pejorative notion that “black” was a negative and acknowledgement of one’s African heritage a negative admission – grease on the pole along the tacit social hierarchy.

It’s so strange now to see Mexicans kept out of America, banned from speaking their language, ostracized and victimized here in a land that was once one with theirs. It is equally sad to see the divisions arise between Mexicans and African descendents when we are related; we are for all intents and purposes the same, as many of us share a common ancestry.

The exhibit opens May 9, 12-4 p.m., with performances by Cascada de Flores and Diamano Coura. Other related programs take place through August: Conversations about identity as seen in art, a lecture Sunday, May 17, 2-4 p.m., and a curator led tour takes place Saturday, May 23, 2-5. Visit www.museumca.org. The museum is located at 1000 Oak St., walking distance from Lake Merritt BART and Laney College.

On the fly

First Fridays at the Oakland Museum beginning at 5 p.m., Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival May 31, San Francisco International Film Festival, ITVS.org and POV.org on public broadcasting Channel 9. For continental African Happenings in the San Francisco Bay, visit www.priorityafrica.org. Tuesday night Shashamane, the latest hot spot on the poetry and music scene in Oakland, 2507 Broadway on Auto Row. Check out the spot May 17, 7 p.m. maybe? Give them a call, (510) 868-4318. It is a restaurant too. California Academy of Sciences’ new exhibit, “From Earth to the Universe: A Visible Journey through the Wonders of the Universe,” open through September 2009, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, (415) 379-8000, www.calacademy.org.

The Santa Cruz Film Festival, May 9-17, www.santacruzfilmfestival.com; San Francisco International Film Festival through May 7, www.sfiff.org. Lloyd Gregory Quintet featuring Kenny Washington May 8 at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way, Downtown Berkeley, (510) 841-5299, www.AnnasJazzIsland.com. For a listing of free events, go to www.bayareandw.org/free_events.html.

Don’t forget www.sfjazz.com. There is a James Brown Tribute at the Ashby Flea Market Sunday, May 3, 12-6 p.m., hosted by Funkyman of KPFA 94.1. I heard the People’s Park Event was great last week and this week in the same place, Saturday, May 3, is the 12th annual Hip Hop in the Park, free and open to the public at People’s Park in Berkeley, 2556 Haste St. from 12-6 p.m. Visit http://www.hiphopcongress.com/2008/04/12th-annual-hip-hop-in-the-park-berkeley/. I really like this site too: http://www.oaklandish.com/EVENTS/events.html.

Check www.wandaspicks.com to see my review of Ben Jealous’ talk last week at the Oakland Museum about his tenure as president of the NAACP. I actually thought about becoming a colored person (smile). I also wanted to give a report back on the great celebration of Rev. Daima Clark’s life. Oh, and this doesn’t nearly exhaust the events – like Paris is in town this weekend with an all-star Bay Area showcase featuring Conscious Daughters, T-Kash and others. Another cool website for the hip folks: http://trueskoolsf.ning.com/events.

Music at Slim’s

Zion I, Trackademics and The Honor Roll, Kev Choice Ensemble, May 1, 9 p.m. to midnight, at Slim’s, 333 11th St., San Francisco, $19/$23, (415) 255-0333.

‘I Shoot People’ Opening Reception for photographer Trevor Traynor

D-Structure San Francisco presents “I Shoot People,” photographs by Trevor Traynor, May 1, 8-11 p.m., open bar with DJ Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist spinning and a performance by Richie Cunning and Melina Jones at D-Structures, 520 Haight St. at Fillmore, San Francisco.

Salsa Near the Lake

The yearly Oaklandish Salsa by the Lake will kick off the lovely summer season with the amazing Salsa band Rumbache Sunday, May 31, 1-6 p.m. – free salsa dance lessons and great music! Last year the event was unfortunately canceled at the last minute due to construction by the pergola at Lake Merritt. Well, guess what’s happening by the lake this year and until 2010? Construction! So, we’ve decided to make it Salsa Near the Lake, at Splash Pad Park, the location of the Grand Lake Farmers’ Market on Grand Avenue. Don’t sleep on it! Summer is here!

National Dance Week

It’s National Dance Week from until May 3, so be sure to check out all the free dance classes going on all around the Bay Area. You can work on your moves to get ready for Salsa by the Lake! Visit www.bayareandw.org.

First Fridays

It’s First Friday again! Oakland Art Murmur is a coalition of art and cultural venues dedicated to increasing popular awareness of and participation in the arts in Oakland, with an emphasis on visual art. Visit http://www.oaklandartmurmur.com.

5×5 Pluralism and Casitas Voladoras

The opening reception for both shows is Saturday May 2, 7 p.m., at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts Galleries, 2868 Mission St., San Francisco, a half block from the 24th Street BART Station and wheelchair accessible.

A La Carte and Art

The Bay Area’s popular outdoor festival season officially kicks off May 16-17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Castro Street between Church Street and Evelyn Avenue in Mountain View, featuring live music, a juried arts and crafts show with 250 exhibitors, food and drink, health and wellness displays, an organic and green products showcase, home and garden exhibits, farmers’ market with fresh seasonal produce, kids’ amusements in the Tons of Fun Zone, the Ford Fiesta Movement Ride and Drive Tour, the Kashi Day of Change Tour with cooking demos, yoga instruction and product samples. You can even test ride light electric vehicles from Ultra Motor. Admission is free. Call (650) 964-3395 or email http://www.miramarevents.com/.

‘Heart of Fire’

Awet (Victory), forced to be a soldier, vows never to kill in the feature film from Eritrea, “Heart of Fire.”
Awet (Victory), forced to be a soldier, vows never to kill in the feature film from Eritrea, “Heart of Fire.”
“Heart of Fire,” directed by Luigi Falomi, is a feature film based on the story of a young Eritrean girl. It is in Tigrinya (Eritrean language) with English subtitles (94 min.) at the Cerrito Theater, 10070 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito. Visit www.cerritospeakeasy.com/index.php?v=cerrito_special_events.html or call (510) 665-7880. Tickets are $7.

After spending the first 10 years of her life in a Catholic orphanage, the young and fiery Awet (Victory) excitedly learns that she is soon to be reunited with her family. But her hopes for a normal life are dashed when her father places Awet directly into the military forces’ hands. At first willing to join the fight, she soon realizes that their enemies are just as human as she, and Awet makes a solemn vow never to kill. Labeled a traitor by the group’s commander, the young Awet nevertheless courageously stands by her convictions and fights the violence in the disarming way that only a child could.”

The Genesis Project: A Conversation

Photographer and humanitarian, Sebastião Salgado is going to be here in person, Saturday, May 9, 6:30-10 p.m., at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco. Students $22, general admission $25. Premium tickets are $100 for seating in the first three rows and admission to a small, private reception at 6:30. Students, bring ID. I saw this wonderful exhibit of children of war at the University Art Museum many years ago. It was amazing – the resilience of the orphaned children who’d experienced such horror yet could still smile. The photographs covered the globe: Africa, North and South America, Europe.

‘American Violet’

Nicole Beharie debuts as the star of “American Violet.”
Nicole Beharie debuts as the star of “American Violet.”
“American Violet,” a film based on the true story of a modern day heroine, Regina N. Kelly, opens May 1. Starring a superb cast, Alfre Woodard, Charles Dutton and newcomer to the major screen Nicole Beharie, “American Violet,” directed by Tim Disney, portrays the fictionalized character, Dee Roberts, based on Kelly’s life. It is a superb treatment of the role of race in America’s judicial system. In some ways, this case reminded me of Attorney Attorney Jerry Brown and the San Francisco 8. In “American Violet,” guilt is measured or allocated based on the color of one’s skin plus how much money one has in one’s bank account. In one scene the DA is said to have said he’d like to see the Arlington Projects blown up and with it all the N*ggers!

Visit www.americanviolet.com and click on the Get Involved link for more information about what Kelly calls the “New Slavery, Imprisonment.” I’d also recommend the California Coalition for Women Prisoners: http://www.womenprisoners.org/. Listen to a rebroadcast of an interview recorded with the director and Kelly at www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org May 1, 6-8 a.m. PST. Read the rest of Wanda’s review at www.sfbayview.com or www.wandaspicks.com.

The film takes place in Harmony, Texas, a small sleepy town where most people get by on minimum wage jobs, the African American population regularly harassed by a police force with nothing better to do than create elaborate schemes complete with props to scare the living daylights out of a young child, Dee’s eldest daughter, who is trapped when the SWAT Team converges on the apartment complex and starts kicking in doors and chasing down those residents who dare run away.

It’s not about guilt … I am with Disney (great-grandson of Walt Disney) when he states in his notes that it looked like something from the another era, not the year 2000, the 21st century. There is a strange familiarity between the rural South and present day Africa in films like director Jean Marie Teno’s “Sacred Places,” a documentary set in Burkina Faso, just outside the capital city where the 40th annual African Film Festival, FESPACO, is taking place. It is in these sleepy little towns the world has forgotten that the true worth or value of the country reside.

Beharie as Dee, a 23-year-old mother of four, who thinks when she is arrested at her job, she is being picked up for outstanding tickets. Nothing could be further from the truth, which she learns at her court date when the judge asks her if she knows why she was arrested. The shock is palatable, the taste bitter when her court appointed attorney tries to scare her into accepting the prosecutor’s offer of a plea bargain, despite her protest that she didn’t sell drugs to anyone. That the judicial system is corrupt becomes even more clear as the layers are unpeeled and Dee continues to maintain her innocence despite the tapes, a witness and the bullying presence of these powerful white men who have her life in their hands.

“I always say the film is about 75 percent accurate,” Kelly says at a recent screening in San Francisco to a sparse yet enthusiastic audience. But the scene in the jail was not sanitized; if anything it was worse. Not only did the four women share a cell for two, Dee and the other newer inmate bunking on the cold concrete floor; the toilet was next to the bars where anyone walking by could see the women using the bathroom and when the guard tells Dee when she asks for a sanitary napkin to use balled up tissue like everyone else – “What do you think, you’re too good for that?” It is true.

The film is shot in New Orleans, a place with the highest incarceration rate in the country; they lock ‘em up fast and keep them too – read Robert Hillary King’s “From the Bottom of the Heap: The Story of Black Panther RHK,” for a poignant tale of an interrupted life. Dee spends 21 days behind bars, not 31 years like King, but the time there changes this young mother into a firecracker ready to explode – thanks to the racist, unjust system, where innocence is just one of many considerations when locking people up.

There is suspense and multiple layers to the key stories: The attorney who joins the ACLU team joins Dee in her fight to quiet his demons, while the African American counsel on the team gives them their needed break. Other stars are the witness who is mentally ill, frightened and brutalized. One wonders when weighing his actions against his words what it must have been like during chattel slavery for weak men and women who were at the mercy of their white masters.

Dee is strong. She is a fighter and she cares about the fate of the litigants who were a part of the class action filed in her name against the powerful DA. God must have been on her side because there is no way this could have happened without divine intervention. It was obviously time to stop this overt trampling of justice by the white powers that be. Instead of a boy with a slingshot, this time it was a woman with four daughters and a pretty smile.

This story is only nine years old. It is repeated in “Tulia, TX,” a new documentary that aired this year, and over and over again in other cases portrayed in multiple documentaries, like “Race for Justice,” the first film to look at the intersection between race and the sentencing laws, plus on TV network shows like 60 Minutes.

Disney adds context to the story by integrating footage from the election Bush stole from Gore, as the events spin almost out of control in Melody. When asked about the title: “American Violet,” Disney said it was a play on American Violence. Someone in the audience said it reminded her of the symbol in Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun.” The mother nurses her plant, even when other family members don’t see its worth.

It is the same with Dee. When the film opens, she is getting her daughters ready for school and she waters the violet in the window. She is not aware that she is going to be away for 21 days, so when she returns – time compressed so what could have been months feels like weeks, hours minutes – the plants are dry and she tosses them out, all but the violet. She sprays its shriveled leaves and puts it back in the window.

I guess there is reason to hope even when “truth won’t set you free.”

Conversations about Art

Bill T. Jones will discuss his work on a new production marking the Lincoln bicentennial, “Fondly Do We Hope … Fervently Do We Pray,” to be seen at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in October 2009, Saturday, May 9, 2 p.m. This is a free Community Conversation at 701 Mission St., San Francisco, YBCA Forum.

‘Through Future Eyes: Young Artists At Work’

Saturday, May 16, 12-2 p.m., is a talk with the curators of the marvelous exhibit, “Artists InSight: Through Future Eyes – Young Artists At Work” at 701 Mission St., San Francisco, YBCA Gallery and YAAW Lounge. It’s free with gallery admission, $7 regular; $5 students, teachers, seniors; free YBCA members. RSVP is required for all programs at www.ybcafree.org. For information, call (415) 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org.

‘Ask Not’ film

As wars rage in the Middle East, the U.S. military is eager for more recruits – unless you happen to be openly gay. “Ask Not” explores the tangled political battles that led to the infamous “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and reveals the personal stories of gay Americans who serve in combat under a veil of secrecy. Post-screening panel discussion will include filmmaker Johnny Symons. It’s at the San Francisco Public Library, Hands on Bay Area and Access San Francisco, Tuesday, May 19, screening at 6 p.m., at the San Francisco Main Public Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco. Screening is free and open to the public. Email sara_smith@itvs.org.

Free Guided Walking Tours of Downtown Oakland

Local residents and visitors have the opportunity to learn about Oakland’s past and present during the Oakland Tours Program’s free 90-minute walking tours of downtown Oakland every Wednesday and Saturday from May through October. Each of the eight tours, led by a volunteer guide, begins at 10 a.m. from various starting locations depending on the itinerary. Reservations are suggested. Call the Oakland Tours 24-hour hotline at (510) 238-3234, www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours.

Take Tour 8, New Era/New Politics, through downtown and discover the places where Oakland African American leaders have made their mark. The tour meets on the front steps of the African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St., Oakland. Tour 8 dates are May 27, June 20, July 22, Aug. 15, Sept. 16 and Oct. 17.

May Day Launch for National Bike Month

Ashkenaz launches “I Like My Bike Night” series on May Day, a bicycle culture celebration and unbridled dance fest on the first Friday of every month! Friday, May 1, Sunset Cruise departs UC Berkeley Sproul Plaza at 8 p.m. Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center is located at 1317 San Pablo Ave.@ Gilman Berkeley, CA 94702. Visit http://www.ashkenaz.com or www.postpeakoilrock.com/events.html; contact antioquia.band@gmail.com. Tickets are $8 with bicycle, $13 without, $25 VIP available through www.ticketweb.com. All ages are always welcome! So leave your car in the driveway and arrive at the venue by bicycle instead.

Inside/Out: The Voices of Black Immigrant Workers

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) in coordination with MoAD and the UC Berkeley Labor Center invites you to join us Saturday, May 2, 2-4 p.m., at MoAD Salon, 685 Mission St. at Third Street, San Francisco, for a lively afternoon of culture, politics and community as we host a panel discussion featuring the voices of local residents of the Bay Area who have migrated to the U.S from various places in the African Diaspora.

Join them as they share their experiences as Black immigrant workers and their perceptions of being embraced by African Americans and non-African peoples in the workplace and community. The event will feature the music of St. Kitts Caribbean Jazz artist Nigel “Bokei” Jeffers. Light refreshments will be served. Visit www.moadsf.org.

Global Youth Media and Arts Festival 2009

World Savvy presents the Global Youth Media and Arts Festival 2009 Visual and Performing Arts Showcase with over 500 Bay Area Youth who participated in the program this year and have focused their global and creative lenses on the timely theme, Immigration and Identity. The free event takes place on Saturday, May 9, 6-9 p.m., performances begin at 7 p.m., at Zeum: San Francisco’s Children’s Museum, 221 Fourth St., San Francisco, CA 94103. Visit www.zeum.org and http://worldsavvy.org/san-francisco/.

The Santa Cruz Film Festival : The SC[green]ing Party

The Santa Cruz Film Festival (SCFF) May 7-15, a celebration of independent-minded filmmakers, announces its program on line http://santacruz.bside.com/2009. This year’s festival will showcase 120 films from 29 countries and will present nine days of music and art events, parties and educational panels. Tickets are on sale now: $9 general, $7 seniors and students, excluding opening and closing night and special events. Visit www.sfbayview.com or www.wandaspicks.com for Wanda’s picks among the films.

The opening night film is “Gospel Hill,” Thursday, May 7, at the Del Mar Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $18 for seniors and students. An opening night gala reception begins immediately following the screening of “Gospel Hill” at the Museum of Art and History, 705 Front St., 9:30 p.m. to midnight. Guests must present a film festival pass or ticket stub for entry.

There is a Spotlight Screening on “Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love,” Saturday, May 9, at the Regal Riverfront Twin, 6:45 p.m. Tickets are $9 general, $7 for seniors and students. The festival vibe continues with an after-party following the screening that features a performance by West African Mali musician Salif Malimakone at the Felix Kulpa Gallery and Sculpture Garden, 107 Elm St. at Pacific Ave., next to Streetlight Records. Guests must present a ticket stub from the film for entry.

The closing night film is “Automorphosis,” on Friday, May 15, at Veterans Memorial Hall, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for seniors and students. The festival awards ceremony and celebration follows the screening, featuring eco-activist and actor Ed Begley Jr. and special guests.

A general festival pass is $175, senior festival pass $150, student festival pass $100.

Junius Courtney Big Band performs ‘The Billy Strayhorn Session’ in tribute to musical genius and political courage

The 19-piece Junius Courtney Big Band, featuring Denise Perrier, presents their original dramatic staged reading and jazz concert, “The Billy Strayhorn Session,” in a free performance Saturday, May 16, 3 p.m, at the Main Library’s Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin St. at Grove, San Francisco, (415) 557-4400. The event celebrates the life and imagination of Billy Strayhorn who, usually credited as Duke Ellington’s arranger and collaborator, was a music master in his own right, a courageous Black gay man, and an active civil rights supporter. Strayhorn’s life is portrayed in speaking roles by Denise Perrier as Lena Horne, bandleader Nat Courtney as Duke Ellington and musical director George “Jazzbeaux” Spencer as Billy Strayhorn. The full band performs Strayhorn’s original compositions that illustrate his emotional and musical depth while swinging down the house.

The San Francisco Public Library’s Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center and African American Center are bringing the life and work of Billy Strayhorn into sharper focus through the lens of music and history. The library’s collaboration with the Junius Courtney Big Band is designed to support dialog and progress on issues germane to the community in our current moment of renewal and hope. All ages are welcome. For more information, contact the San Francisco Public Library at (415) 557-4400. The event is wheelchair accessible.

Push Dance Company presents ‘Mixed Messages’

Raissa Simpson, artistic director of Push Dance Company, was last seen as Mr. Jones in Jacinta Vlach’s very successful work, “Animal Farm,” on its way to Jacob’s Pillow. Some of you might have caught the excerpt as a part of the Living Word Project last year, which I loved. Story was the focus in the 2008 preview, where now, with the more developed characters and dance pieces – solos and company numbers set against a lovely musical score and a changing visual landscape, light and dark images projected on a blank wall – the work has shifted from literal to abstract.

Taken as a completely separate work, withholding the inclination to compare one to the other, this “Animal Farm” aesthetically succeeds, attributable to a fine cast, among them, Michael Velez, as Old Major, Rashad Pridgen as Napoleon, Jacinta Vlach as Snowball, Lynda Gutierrez as Sqealer, Jetta Martin as Boxer and Takeo Wong as Clover and, of course, Raissa Simpson as Mr. Jones.

I enjoyed Simpson’s portrayal of the ousted farmer in the Orwellian tale, where animals take over a farm. In the first solo in the work, marvelously choreographed and produced, Simpson’s excellent performance set the tone for the high level of dance/theatre to come.

Push Dance Company’s annual home season opens with “Mixed Messages,” May 2-3, 8 p.m., a lush evening length work on multiracial America. “Mixed Messages” explores messages of race, power and identity through dance, video art and atmospheric sound. Collaborators include video artist Marlon Sagana Ingram, Third Street Youth Center and Clinic, soundscape artist Kyle Canfield and pianist Joo Wan Kim.

The program is at ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell St., San Francisco. Tickets are $18 general, $15seniors, students and children 12 and under. Tickets are available online and by calling (415) 863-9834.

‘East 14th, True Tales of a Reluctant Player’

The Marsh San Francisco presents Don Reed’s one-man play, “East 14th, True Tales of a Reluctant Player,” May 8-June 14, at 1062 Valencia St., near 22nd Street in the Mission District of San Francisco. Tickets are at Brown Paper Tickets, at (800) 838-3006 or www.themarsh.org. All seating for this performance is first come, first served. Visit www.east14th.com or www.themarsh.org.

Pocket Opera

“Alcina” by Handel (in Italian) will be performed May 3 at the Legion of Honor, and “The Barber of Seville” by Rossini (in English, translation by Donald Pippin) is there June 6-21.Visit www.pocketopera.org.

Oakland East Bay Symphony presents ‘Show Boat’

Oakland East Bay Symphony presents “Show Boat” in concert featuring soprano Julie Adams, tenor Ben Jones and mezzo soprano Debbie de Coudreaux Friday, May 15, 8 p.m., at the Paramount Theatre on Broadway at 20th in Oakland. Tickets are $25 to $70 at (800) 745-3000 or www.oebs.org. “Show Boat” is the first major Broadway musical to take on difficult social issues such as race and racism and was the first racially integrated musical on Broadway. When it premiered in 1927 it was notably progressive both for portraying an interracial marriage and introducing a new genre, the musical play, to the American stage. The score boasts the critically acclaimed songs “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man.”

OEBS presents a Forum on Race Relations in Art on Saturday, May 2, 2-4 p.m., at the Oakland Senior Center, 200 Grand Ave., focusing on ” Show Boat, and “Otello,” Verdi’s thrilling opera of passion, treachery and deceit, first performed in 1887 and based on William Shakespeare’s play, “Othello.” The forum explores the race relations themes of both of these great works with film clips and a panel of music, social and legal experts, tying the “Loving Law” into the current issue of same sex marriages. Admission is free. Call (510) 444-0801 or visit www.oebs.org.

‘How to Lock Up A Cop for the Murder of Oscar Grant’

This workshop, Sunday, May 17, 1-4 p.m., at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, between Broadway and Telegraph, will educate and empower our communities to wage a sophisticated legal and political campaign that turns the tragic murder of Oscar Grant into a historic opportunity – to finally put one police officer behind bars for the murder of one unarmed man. The teach-in phase on Sunday will cover specific steps the District Attorney must take in order to win the case of the People vs. Mehserle. The next phase will be the teach-out – to attend the preliminary hearing for Johannes Mehserle the next day, Monday, May 18, at the Alameda County Superior Court, 1225 Fallon St., Oakland. If by any chance the DA drops the charges against Mehserle, be prepared to protest as well. The event is sponsored by newyearsmovement@yahoo.com.

African author Nuruddin Farah

Renowned African author Nuruddin Farah, author of “Knots” and “From a Crooked Rib,” will discuss his work Sunday, May 10, 6:30 p.m., at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley, (510) 848-1196. He writes in his essay “In Praise of Exile”: “My novels are about states of exile; about women shivering in the cruel cold in a world ruled by men; about the commoner denied justice; about a torturer tortured by guilt, his own conscience; about a traitor betrayed.”

Conversations that Matter: Beyond Oscar Grant

“Discussion with Civil Rights attorney and retired Alameda Country Supreme Court Judge” brings prominent civil rights attorney John Burris and retired Alameda County Superior Court Judge Henry Ramsey to the Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St at Third, San Francisco, Saturday, May 2, 5 p.m., to discuss the ongoing Oscar Grant case and Burris’ hopes to use this case for institutional reform against police brutality.

The Freeze presents Super Awesome Rap Team

On Fridays and Saturdays, May 1-16, 10:30 p.m., at 533 Sutter St. in San Francisco, The Freeze, a group of musicians and verbally deft MCs who tackle the foibles of daily life on their way to becoming the Super Awesome Rap Team, present a completely improvised freestyle rap show that uses audience suggestions to inspire their songs!

Featuring Jelly Donut (Andrew Bancroft), Mr. Diggs (Daveed Diggs), Super K (Kyra Gordon), JSoul (James Monroe Iglehart), Junkyard (Olive Mitra), P.I.O.M. (Sanjay Pardanani), Gift of Godvien (Brian Rodvien), Agent Smith (Mike Smith), and Two Touch (Anthony Veneziale), the show is conceived by Anthony Veneziale of Freestyle Love Supreme and PBS’s The Electric Company.

Cinco de Mayo

Pete Escovedo plays JLC Theatre39 Saturday, May 9, 8 p.m., with a special 10-piece orchestra for a special Cinco de Mayo celebration. J’LaChic Theatre39 is at San Francisco’s Pier 39 above the Hard Rock Café. Tickets are $35. Call (800) 595-4849 or visit www.jlachic.tix.com. For information, call (866) 907-3777 or visit www.theatre39.com. The show includes an optional three-course dinner at Fog Harbor Fish House www.bayarea-events.com/dinnershowpkgs.html.

Free Natural Medicine Clinic draws crowds!

The Second Sundays free acupuncture and massage clinic at Be Well Integral Healing Space has consistently drawn new and repeat clients as it makes exposure to and benefits of natural medicine accessible to all. The next Second Sunday will be May 10, 9 a.m.-12 noon at Be Well, 401 29th St., Suite 101, in Oakland’s “Pill Hill” neighborhood near Sutter Hospital. Visit http://www.bewellnatural.com/.

Benefit Concert for Chris Rodriguez

The Narada Michael Walden Foundation presents “Let the Sunshine In,” a concert featuring Sting, Bob Weir, Narada Michael Walden, The Supremes’ Mary Wilson, The Fifth Dimension’s Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. and others to benefit Oakland’s Christopher (Chris) Rodriguez, an 11-year-old innocent victim of gun violence, Monday, May 25, 7 p.m., at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave. at Grove Street, San Francisco. The concert will also support the scholarship fund of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and benefit the work of the Narada Michael Walden Foundation.

People of Color and Their Friends Sitting

Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Sala Steinbach and Tenshin Reb Anderson offer a day of sitting and walking and talking meditation in celebration of diversity at Green Gulch. To register call (415) 383-3134. Fee: $25, $22 members, $20 limited income. Sala and Reb will explore how this practice is about helping others and how helping others comes through seeing them as ourselves, bringing about an end to our suffering. First-time and experienced meditators are invited. Those who identify themselves as people of color and their allies are all invited to come. There will be two dharma talks and an opportunity for you to share your thoughts. The day will mostly be in silence. Lunch is offered in our dining room.

Cameroon Afro-pop singer Jean-Pierre Simons

Afro-pop singer-songwriter Jean-Pierre Simons celebrates the release of his new CD, “Sentimentally … to Africa,” Sunday, May 3, 8 p.m., at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, with Jojo Kuo on drums and Fredo Doumbe on bass, both also from Cameroon. “These two instruments are key to my music, to bring out more of the Cameroonian root,” says Simons. The line up will include other musicians from the Bay Area. Visit http://www.sighes.com/cd_release_show.html.

California’s Special Election: Where Are We Going?

The John George Democratic Club in collaboration with BWOPA Oakland-Berkeley Chapter invites you to an endorsement meeting to discuss the six propositions on the May 19 special election ballot, including Prop 1A: Establish state spending cap and Prop 1C:increase state budget reserve; Props 1D and 1E:Issue state bonds against future lottery profits; Divert funds from local services for children and for mental health to state General Fund. Also on the agenda: Local measures on the July 21 Oakland City Special Election. The event is Saturday, May 16, 2-3 p.m., at Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta Ave., Oakland. Call Laurie Soman at (510) 549-1861.

Oakland History Room presents ‘Filipinos in the East Bay’

The Oakland History Room of the Oakland Public Library welcomes the public to an illustrated lecture presented by Evangeline Canonizado Buell, Evelyn Luluquisen and Eleanor Luis, authors of “Filipinos in the East Bay,” to celebrate the East Bay’s rich and diverse history on Thursday, May 14, 6:30-7:45 p.m., in the West Auditorium at the Main Library, 125 14th St., Oakland, (510) 238-3222, www.oaklandlibrary.org.

Tiburon International Film Festival

The Tiburon Film Society will present “Bamako is a Miracle” (54 min. Switzerland) with Roswell Rudd, Toumani Diabaté and Verna Gillis, directed by Maurice Engler, at the Bay Model, 2100 Bridgeway in Sausalito, (415) 332-3871, on Tuesday, May 5, at 6 p.m.

The greatest modern jazz trombonist makes his home in Mali for a month. The New Yorker Roswell Rudd, a leader of uninhibited avant-gardism since the 60s, plays Thelonious Monk to griots in Bamako, in January 2001. In turn he is taught, note by note, their traditional tunes by Toumani Diabaté, the kora (African harp) genius.

A hybrid is adventured upon through the recording of a CD, an undertaking which will include an unavoidable conflict between the producer, Verna Gillis, who launched Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour and the African musicians, but will also reflect the magic of the two cultures brought together.

“Bamako is a Miracle” is an unparalleled documentary, not only because it shows how it can be behind the scenes, but because it shows just how “on the edge” musical creativity really can be. Enjoy the free movies every month!

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

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