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Wanda’s picks for July

July 2, 2009

by Wanda Sabir

Congratulations, graduate!

Congratulations, Shawn Lyles, on your graduation from Ex’pression College for Digital Arts with a bachelor’s degree in sound engineering! Shawn, 25, is the first person in his family to graduate with a college degree. Contact him at solmastrmnd@yahoo.com if you have some work for him. He needs the business to pay off the loans. Ex’pressions is an expensive institution (smile).

Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July

Required reading for Americans pre-fireworks and festivities should be an important speech given by abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass, who, in “What to the American Slave is Your Fourth of July?” questions this holiday which took place while citizens were denied their right to justice, freedom and equality.

Crispus Attucks, a person of African descent, was the first person to die for this country’s liberty; yet, his fellow countrymen languished in chains for nearly a hundred years after the decisive battle and the victory – Congress’ adoption of the Declaration of Independence – on July 4, 1776. Visit http://www.nps.gov/archive/frdo/freddoug.html and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927t.html.

To mark this historic moment, the Oakland Public Conservatory, 1616 Franklin St., in downtown Oakland, is hosting an alternative observance, this year, Friday, July 3. Food will be served at 6 p.m.; show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 for the show and a $5 donation is requested for the food. Special guests are Michael Lange and Cesar A. Cruz.

Actor-director Michael Lange (“The Meeting,” “The Ballot or the Bullet”) joined by youth wordsmiths Ayinde Webb, the drummer in the Frederick Douglass Youth Ensemble, and Jamani Williams will read excerpts from Frederick Douglass’ historic 1852 speech to the Rochester Women’s Anti-Slavery Society, “What to the Slave Is Your Fourth of July?” On that day Douglass delivered what is considered to be one of the 19th century’s greatest orations illuminating the contradiction between American slavery and American freedom.

Opening for UpSurge on Friday, July 3, is a project that UpSurge! founder Raymond Nat Turner has been busy helping cook up. UpSurge and the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music are thrilled to announce the recently formed Frederick Douglass Youth Ensemble (FDYE) under the musical direction of young saxophonist and teacher Steven Turner. Founding director of OPC and UpSurge band mate, trombonist and vocalist Angela Wellman is providing the leadership for the birth and development of this new youth ensemble and OPC faculty and violinist, Sandra Poindexter, is mentoring the string section. FDYE will be performing a couple of Upsurge! standards in addition to their own work. To learn more, call (510) 836-4649, email events@opcmusic.org or visit www.opcmusic.org.

25th Annual Fillmore Jazz Festival

The Fillmore Jazz Festival showcases the Bay’s best talent from up-and-coming jazz fusion and Latin-flavored acts to seasoned crooners belting out jazz standards. Eat, drink and shop while you stroll, dance and groove to your favorites Saturday and Sunday, July 4-5, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days on Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy, San Francisco. Visit www.fillmorejazzfestival.com or call (800) 310-6563 for more event information. There is an after party Saturday, July 4, 6:30-9 p.m. at Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St. Admission is free. It features Marcus Shelby and Friends.

Film: ‘Lion’s Den’

“Lion’s Den” (Argentina 2008), Pablo Trapero’s strongly sympathetic story of an imprisoned young mother struggling to keep custody of her newborn son and free them both, opens Friday, July 31, on SFFS Screen at the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas. The film stars Martina Gusman as Julia, the pregnant inmate charged with murder, a murder she can’t recall. Argentine writer-director Trapero, a three-time veteran of the San Francisco International Film Festival (“Crane World,” 1999; “Rolling Family,” 2004; “Born and Bred,” 2006) shoots much of the film in maximum security prisons, utilizing staff and inmates in supporting roles. Watch a trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVxj1-a5jbQ. The film opens at Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco.

Oakland Celebrates Independence Day

Jack London Square, Broadway and Water Streets, Oakland, will celebrate our country’s Independence Day on July 4 with a fireworks display, live music and entertainment for the entire family. This free event will feature live musical performances on two stages beginning at 7 p.m. The big band sounds of the Ben Oni Orchestra will be heard on Jack London Square’s West Lawn, and the Pavilion stage at the foot of Broadway will play host to local favorite, The BluesBurners.

Then, at 9:15 p.m., Oakland’s waterfront will be lit up with 20 minutes of non-stop lights, sound and entertainment with a complete fireworks display. A full-scale pyrotechnics display will be launched from a barge floating in the Oakland Estuary. Parking at Jack London Square may be scarce, so visitors are invited to take public transportation, whether by AC Transit, Transbay Ferry or BART. Jack London Square is easily accessible from all parts of the Bay Area. For information, call (866) 295-9853 or visit http://www.jacklondonsquare.com/newscenter/oakland-july-fireworks.html.

‘Material Witness’ at Berkeley Art Museum

“Material Witness,” featuring the work of one of my favorite photographers, mixed media artists – text and film – Carrie Mae Weems, runs July 22-Dec. 20. “Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet” also continues, through Sept. 27. Deborah Grant’s “Bacon, Egg, Toast in Lard Matrix 228” is up through Oct. 11 at the Berkeley Art Museum/ Pacific Film Archive, 2626 Bancroft Way, (510) 642-0808, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.

60 Fourth of July Events

http://sf.funcheap.com/2008/06/26/complete-list-of-50-fourth-of-july-2008-fireworks-events-in-sf-bay-area/

Craneway Pavilion Grand Opening at Ford Point, Richmond Waterfront

Friday, July 3, the Oakland East Bay Symphony is having a free outdoor concert at 7 p.m. followed by fireworks at 9 p.m. at the grand opening of the new Richmond, California, performing arts space, The Craneway. The theatre, if I understand the description correctly, is surrounded by a 20,000 square foot harborside patio overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The activities are all free.

The following day, Saturday, July 4, is a performance of “High School Musical on Tour!” the stage version of the Disney Channel phenomenon. The play is at the Craneway Pavilion’s expansive performance space. Show time is 7 p.m. and tickets, which range in price from $25 to $119, can be purchased through Ticketmaster, www.ticketmaster.com. Self-parking in the Craneway lot is $10 for this event, and valet parking will be offered for $20. There are free fireworks following the performance in the theatre, 9:15 to 10:30 p.m.

The weekend concludes with a Bike the Bay Trail, Sunday, July 5. This and related activities mark the official opening of the San Francisco Bay Trail onto the Craneway facility. When completed, the Bay Trail will encircle San Francisco and San Pablo Bays with an uninterrupted 500-mile network of bicycling and hiking trails, connecting the shoreline of all nine Bay Area counties. The day will be hosted by the National Bike Registry, the only true national database working with law enforcement to return stolen bikes to their rightful owners. They will be registering bikes on-site at the Craneway on July 5. Visit http://craneway.com/livestrong/ for information about the benefit and breakfast for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The Craneway is located at 1414 Harbour Way South in the Marina district of Richmond and can be accessed from the 580 freeway. See the Richmond Bay Trail map for alternative bicycle and walking routes at http://www.pointrichmond.com/baytrail/map.htm and visit http://www.craneway.com/.

Celebrating Peruvian Independence Day!

De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association was fabulous closing weekend at San Francisco’s Ethnic Dance Festival. The company’s revival of “El Diablo,” a dance celebrating the end of slavery and the varied “African Diaspora Heritage” was marvelous. The release of the double CD, “Diaspora Negra,” is an opportunity to trek through this rich cultural landscape. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door.

Sixth Annual San Francisco Theatre Festival

Shanique Scott, Donald Lacy, Colored Ink, Lower Bottoms Playas, Recovery Theatre and many others are featured at the Sixth Annual San Francisco Theatre Festival, Sunday, July 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., at beautiful Yerba Buena Gardens in downtown San Francisco and at Zeum, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Metreon. See 130 exciting theater groups and solo performers, including a great children’s program! Admission is free. Visit http://www.sftheaterfestival.org/.

Robert Henry Johnson in Bay Area Playwrights Festival

Robert Henry Johnson
Robert Henry Johnson
The Bay Area Playwrights Festival runs July 17-26. Finally Robert Henry Johnson’s “Othello Papers” will be performed. In earlier drafts it was an exploration of the Black characters in William Shakespeare’s canon. I believe Caliban throws a cocktail party and the Darker Brothers and their Sisters drop by his penthouse for conversation and spirits. This latest draft will have its staged reading July 18, 12 noon, and July 26, 4 p.m. It should be interesting to see what it looks like after seeing different versions at Black Choreographers Here and Now and at the African American Shakespeare Company. All the readings take place at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco’s Ft. Mason Center, Building D. Visit http://www.playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=45.

Black Cowboys!

The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is coming to Hayward this month also, July 11 and 12, 2:30, at Rowell Ranch Rodeo Grounds, 9711 Dublin Canyon Road, Hayward. Children pay $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Adults are $18 in advance, $21 at the door. Box seats are $22. Call (510) 864-2747 or visit http://www.billpickettrodeo.com/schedule.html.

2009 Interdisciplinary Intergenerational Writers Lab Online Anthology

Contributors to the anthology include IWL students Starbright Elizabeth Bilyck, Drea Brown, Richard Kevin Cartwright, Mai Doan, Victoria Gannon, Betty Johnson, Carolyn Kameya, Kenji Liu, Carrie Leilam Love, Karim Scarlata and Vidhu Singh and instructors Jewelle Gomez and Truong Tran.

The reading is Wednesday, July 8, 7-9 p.m., at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia St., between 15th and 16th Street, Mission District, San Francisco. Admission is $10-$20 sliding scale. For more information, call (415) 626-2787, ext. 108, www.theintersection.org.

Squaw Valley Community of Writers Benefit Poetry Reading

On Friday, July 17, at 7:30 p.m., Cornelius Eady, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds and Evie Shockley will read their poetry in The Nave at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., San Francisco. This benefit reading will raise money for the Poetry Scholarship Fund at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Books donated by the poets and their publishers will be available for purchase before and after the reading, and the poets will be available to sign books after the reading.

This will mark the 18th year for this annual benefit event, and every year it is a standing-room-only success. All proceeds will benefit the Poetry Workshop Scholarship Fund, enabling talented writers to attend the week-long poetry writing workshop held each year in Squaw Valley, California. It is the goal of this program to support both established and emerging writers of talent who would benefit from working with their peers at the Poetry Week at Squaw Valley. Doors will open at 6:30 p,m. and seating is general admission. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Generations Preserving Negro Spirituals Together

Taiwo Kujichagulia Seitu, shown here with her Berkeley City College Choir, will be honored by Friends of Negro Spirituals as a preserver of the heritage.
Taiwo Kujichagulia Seitu, shown here with her Berkeley City College Choir, will be honored by Friends of Negro Spirituals as a preserver of the heritage.
The Friends of Negro Spirituals’ sponsored Sixth Annual Negro Spirituals Heritage Day, Saturday, July 18 – the theme: Generations Preserving Negro Spirituals Together – highlights preservers of different ages keeping the music and its history alive. The free event is from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the wheel chair accessible West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St., Oakland.

This year, two younger and two long term preservers will be honored for preserving the irreplaceable song and related history. The art form itself will be saluted by the audience, who will sing old favorites such as “Down by the Riverside” and “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In.” Renowned jazz guitarist Calvin Keys will give a special musical tribute to the spiritual known as “Hold On,” sometimes called “Keep Your Hand on the Plow.”

Linda Tillery, an Oakland historian and artistic director of the Cultural Heritage Choir, and businessman Sylvester Brooks will be acknowledged in the category of long term preservers of the heritage. Angela Dean-Baham, an internationally recognized soprano, actress and playwright, and Oakland educator, entrepreneur and artist Taiwo Kujichagulia Seitu will be honored in the category of the younger preservers.

Each preserver will be awarded Friends of Negro Spirituals’ highest honor, The Negro Spirituals Heritage Keepers Award; each will present a mini program, showcasing an aspect of his or her spirituals preservation work. Donations are appreciated and tax deductible.

Glimpses in Time

Joyce Gordon Gallery presents the winners of the 2009 Glimpses in Time International Juried Photography Exhibition. Master photographers working in all styles and mediums have been selected at the international juried photography exhibition. Sixty-one photographs were selected from a group 154 images by René de Guzman, senior art curator, Oakland Museum of California, the sole juror.

The photographers come from all over the world – United States, France, Germany, Japan, Argentina and Mexico. The opening for the exhibit, at 406 14th St. in Oakland, will be on Friday, July 3, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. The show is up July 3 to July 31. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12 to 7 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m. For information, call (510) 465-8928 or email jvbgg@sbcglobal.net.

Labor Fest July 2-31

“The Ballad of Polly Ann” by Flyaway Productions, featured in Labor Fest beginning July 14, celebrates the women who’ve worked on Bay Area bridges – one of them pile driver Audrey Hudson, shown here working on the Bay Bridge in 2009. – Photo: Joseph A. Blum
“The Ballad of Polly Ann” by Flyaway Productions, featured in Labor Fest beginning July 14, celebrates the women who’ve worked on Bay Area bridges – one of them pile driver Audrey Hudson, shown here working on the Bay Bridge in 2009. – Photo: Joseph A. Blum
There are films, book readings, poetry and other literary events, art exhibits, boat and walking tours, educational forums and theatre. Visit http://www.laborfest.net/.

“The Ballad of Polly Ann” by Flyaway Productions, which opens Tuesday, July 14, is an evening of dance celebrating the women who contributed to the design and construction of Bay Area bridges. This performance shows their experience with physical work, tools, heights and machinery as well as their cultural experience working in a male dominated labor force and how that affects their sense of self, femininity, family and self worth.

Flyaway Productions has built an international reputation of bringing the lives and struggle of working people to performance theater. One of their works on the Copra Crane in San Francisco helped move the community to defend this relic of labor history for today’s generation. In this work using the oral interviews by labor historian Harvey Schwartz of women bridge workers, we get the real life experiences of construction women on the job. The artistic portrayal of the lives of working people is a critical element in helping to transform our understanding of reality. Shows are July 14-18 and 21-25.

Choreography is by Jo Kreiter in collaboration with the company, music by Pamela Z. Dancers are Mary Ann Brooks, Melissa Caywood, Jennifer Chien, Britt Karhoff, Kelly Kemp, Raissa Simpson and Alayna Stroud. Tickets can be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/61076 or 1.800.838.3006. For more info, visit www.flyawayproductions.com.

First Fridays After Five! at the Oakland Museum

This month there is live music with Rene Escovedo y Grupo Festejo in the cafe all evening on Friday, July 3, 5 to 9 p.m. At 7, see films exploring the topic of the African presence in Mexico: “The Forgotten Root” (“La Raiz Olvidada”) by Rafael Rebollar; “Corona” (Spanish with English subtitles); “The Third Root” by Reed Rickert and Camilo Nu; film clips of singer Toña la Negra with commentary by Chuy Varela. Members of Cascada de Flores perform.

At 6:30, Aazura Nour teaches a crash course in belly dancing. This is really fun! At 7:30, Opera Piccola presents “The Play’s the Thing,” a staged reading of new short plays by Oakland writers. There is a full cash bar. The museum store and café are open. It’s a great chance to meet old friends and make new ones. All ages are welcome and all events are included with museum admission. The Oakland Museum is located at 1000 Oak, across the street from the Lake Merritt BART Station. Visit www.museumca.org.

More Oakland Museum: Artists in Action Art and Music Jam

For Artists in Action: Art and Music Jam event, 12 to 4 p.m., Sunday, July 19, join artist Favianna Rodriguez’ Visual Element from the East Side Arts Alliance and Dr. Loco’s Rockin’ Jalapeno Band as they create art and music around the themes of African American and Latino unity. It’s included with Oakland Museum admission. Be sure to see the related exhibit: “African Presence in Mexico.”

Oakland on Two Wheels Bike Tour

Explore Oakland and its environs on Sunday, July 19, 10 a.m., with the Oakland Museum’s bike-tripping docents the third Sunday of the month as we leisurely wend our way through downtown, Fruitvale, the Port of Oakland, West Oakland, Brooklyn or Lake Merritt. Reservations are a good idea – email docentcenter@museumca.org or call (510) 238-3514 – but if you forget, come anyway. Bring your own bike, helmet and repair kit. Meet at the 10th Street entrance at 10 a.m. Free.

San Francisco Mime Troupe

Michael Gene Sullivan and Velina Brown in the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 2009 production, “Too Big to Fail.” – Photo: David Allen
Michael Gene Sullivan and Velina Brown in the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 2009 production, “Too Big to Fail.” – Photo: David Allen
San Francisco Mime Troupe opens this weekend, Saturday-Sunday, July 4-5, at Dolores Park, near 16th Street BART. The park is on 18th and Dolores in San Francisco. The latest work is “Too Big to Fail,” written by Michael Gene Sullivan. The man is amazing! Show times are 2 p.m. and the music starts a half hour earlier. Visit http://www.sfmt.org/index.php.

On the Fly

Fareed Haque and the Flat Earth Ensemble at Yoshi’s San Francisco, Wednesday, July 1. First Fridays After Five at the Oakland Museum. Free Thursdays, July 2, at Berkeley Art Museum and Saturday, July 4, another FREE ADMISSION Day.

Fireworks July 4? Visit http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1877891/2009_4th_of_july_fireworks_schedule.html and http://ezinearticles.com/?Fireworks-Shows-Around-California-On-4th-Of-July&id=607706, http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/topcalifornia/a/fourth-of-july.htm or http://sf.funcheap.com/2008/06/17/4th-of-july-fireworks-festival-jack-london-square-oakland/.

“Art and Power in the Central African Savanna” continues at the de Young Museum. King Tut just opened there. Visit www.famsf.org/deyoung. ASA Academy programs: “Man Up” on July 18, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and July 20-24; “Urban Flowers” Five-Day Retreat, July 27-31. Both are for children – girls in grades 6-10 and boys in grades 6-12. For adults, there’s the Bay Area Regional Conference on African Spirituality Aug. 1. The Stanford Jazz Festival continues with highlights: Wycliffe Gordon Quartet, July 11; Regina Carter Quintet, July 12; Donald Harrison 3D Experience, July 19; Blastin’ Barriers with Frederick Harris and Friends, July 21; and Simply Standards with Melecio Magdaluyo, July 25. Visit www.stanfordjazz.org.

The theme this year for the Alameda County Fair, July 1-19, is Come Out and Play. Located at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, 4501 Pleasanton Ave., Pleasanton, fair admission is $10 for adults 13-61, $8 for seniors 62 plus and $6 for children 6-12. Unlimited carnival rides on one day, Tuesday through Friday, are $25, on a Saturday or Sunday, $28. Parking is $8, VIP $20. Visit www.alamedacountyfair.com. In concert are the Bay Area Blues Society on July 4, En Vogue July 11, Solange Knowles July 17 and Con Funk Shun July 18.

Marin and Napa also have fairs opening this month, Marin’s this weekend. For information visit http://www.countyfairgrounds.net/california/california.php. The Marin County Fair features a film festival; one of the films is narrated by Peter Coyote. The Wailers is the opening night band, Friday, July 3, 7:30 p.m. Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs Sunday, July 5, 2 and 4 p.m., and Los Lobos closes the weekend, Sunday, July 5, 7:30 p.m. Visit http://www.marinfair.org/concert_sched.cfm.

Stern Grove Music Festivals in San Francisco continue each Sunday at 2 p.m. through August. Visit http://www.sterngrove.org/. Bongo Love is back at Ashkenaz, http://www.ashkenaz.com/, in Berkeley Thursday, July 2; Youssopha Sidibe performs on July 4, the Itals, the Mighty Diamonds, Baba Ken and Kotoja, and Sila and the AfroFunk Experience are just a few of the other bands performing this month. At Yoshi’s this month, highlights include Gerald Albright, July 2-5, Paula West, Ernestine Anderson with Eric Reed Trio, Kofy Brown, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bill Bell and the Jazz Connection, and Issa Bagayaogo. Visit www.yoshis.com.

Rebirth Brass Band is at the Great American Music Hall July 24 and 25. Visit http://www.gamh.com/. Other venues to check are www.shattuckdownlow.com/, http://www.theindependentsf.com/july2009.htm where the Abyssinians are performing July 3. Also Sila’s annual Afro-Funk Festival July 17-18 features this year Vieux Farka Touré. It’s always a fun event. Luciano and Freddie McGregor also perform this month at the Independent.

At La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 849-2568, the line-up is impressive as usual. A few highlights include Women Drum Maestras: Born to Drum, Wednesday, July 1, 7 p.m., $20 in advance, $22 at the door; Bolokada Conde – Malinke Djembefola, Friday, July 17, 8 p.m., $20 general admission; Bobi Céspedes’ Night of Afro-Cuban music, July 18, 8 p.m., $18 in advance, $20 at the door; Vukani Mawethu Choir Reportback – help them celebrate their return from their South African tour – July 19, doors open at 6:30, show at 7 p.m., $10 general admission; , The W. Kamau Bell Curve’s political, outspoken comedy, July 30 and 31, 8 p.m., $15 general admission.

The Axis Dance Company performs this year at the Crucible’s Ninth Annual Fire Arts Festival July 15-18, 8 p.m. to 11:59 p.m., in Oakland. Visit http://axisdance.org/performance.php. New Orleans Commemorates the Ancestors this weekend as a part of the Essence Music Festival. Suggested website to check out: http://www.sfarts.org/#tab=SFArts%20Monthly.

Reflections

I have been listening to some great music, King Sunny Ade – what a treat. He was in town Friday, June 19, and I had an opportunity to talk to him for an hour while he was on the road on my birthday, June 20. Look for the broadcast later this month.

Pharoah Sanders’ Quartet with special guest Zakir Hussain was here last week in San Francisco also. The group, which features Hussain on tabla, William Henderson on piano, Nat Reed on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums was so phenomenal Sanders started dancing. He went all the way to the floor twice – no, three times – and started blowing into the bell of his golden tenor sax. Closing night, Coltrane wasn’t on the bill, but quite a few standards were, like “My Favorite Things.”

I saw Victor Little’s super band Monday night. His stage was so full when someone wasn’t playing they had to wait in the wings. The bassist had two drummers, two keyboardists – Mike Aaberg one of them – and at different times during the extended set, he’d have besides himself on bass, at least one other bassist plus two, three and sometimes four guitarists on stage. He had this really cool Palestinian vocalist Sukhawit Ali Khan, I mean DRAMATIC Palestinian singer, who sang in Arabic – I could catch a word here and there.

I wondered how Little knew such varied artists. He brought Haroun Serang on with Ali Khan for an encore and literally took the music up another notch, if that were possible. Little was clearly at home as he said hi to friends on the audience, many whom he was touched to see in the house for his release party. He spoke of being from Chicago and meeting Sandy Perez there. The congero was awesome. I think he’s married to a friend of mine, Laila. Anyway, the group which also featured a percussionist, Roberto Quintana and a drummer who could sing. Little even pulled a friend from the audience to sing something. It was dedicated to Michael Jackson. I don’t know how he’ll be able to pull this off when the band goes on the road…but Little has a winner here, so if you missed this date, visit www.victorlittlemusic.com.

My favorite musical experience though last month had to be while I was in Austin and Big Chief Victor Armstrong took the audience to New Orleans Carnival or Mardi Gras. You won’t believe this, but I still have never been to Mardi Gras. It was a hot week; when I arrived, the temperature peaked at 104ish and this was the hottest day of the year. The temperature hung out there in the low 100s until I left.

Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” with Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir - Photo: Wanda Sabir
Annette Gordon-Reed, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family,” with Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir - Photo: Wanda Sabir
Friday night was a reception for East Texas native Annette Gordon-Reed, whose “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family” received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. I was like too excited to meet a sister who’d won this coveted prize. The event, which was a kick-off for the annual African American Book Festival in Austin – East Austin, the historic Black part of town – at the Carver Museum, was lovely.

I met Judge Harriet Murphy, who, in 1973, was the first African American woman appointed to a regular judgeship in Texas. She was a judge for the City of Austin Municipal Court for 20 years and during that time she became the presiding judge. She is also the only African American woman to serve as a democratic presidential elector from the state of Texas. See http://www.utexas.edu/law/news/2005/080805_murphy.html.

At the Carver Museum is a permanent exhibit of Juneteenth and narratives of African Americans who’d been children June 19, 1865. The current exhibit profiled Texans who’d experienced Hurricane Katrina and relocated to Houston. This exhibit was both an oral history project and a photography exhibit. It was strange walking through the exhibit of 18 profiles, listening to the stories of loss and triumph, despair and hope. I’d just read Pearl Cleage’s latest book, “Seen It All, Done the Rest,” which has a character who has relocated to Georgia from New Orleans, post-Katrina, and these stories reminded me of his and of Robert King’s, who was with me at the museum.

Sarah “Sally” Hemings’ descendents Dr. John Q. Taylor King and his daughter, Marjon Alicia (King) Christopher – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Sarah “Sally” Hemings’ descendents Dr. John Q. Taylor King and his daughter, Marjon Alicia (King) Christopher – Photo: Wanda Sabir
All of the writers featured at the annual book festival were women and many of them hailed from East Texas, like Annette Gordon-Reed, or elsewhere in Texas. It was fitting that Gordon-Reed share her latest work at the Carver, as Hemings’ descendents live in Austin: Dr. John Q. Taylor King, his daughter, Marjon Alicia (King) Christopher, and son, Stuart Hines King, who introduced the author the next day. Dr. Taylor King was president of Huston-Tillotson College from 1965 to 1988 and an alumnus of Anderson High School, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary in a four-day event beginning July 2 at the Sheraton Austin Hotel. Over 1,000 former students are expected to attend. For information, call (512) 989-0912 or tljmadison@aol.com. A court mandate to desegregate the public schools in Austin closed the school in 1971.

Being in the South and meeting relatives of Sarah “Sally” Hemings put an entirely different spin on the notice of commemorating our formerly enslaved ancestors and the pale this American legacy casts on the day to day workings of both personal and civic lives, livelihood and governance. Gordon-Reed shows in her book how what happened in Sally’s life and President Jefferson’s life was not anomaly; rather it was part and parcel of the lesser known stories of enslaved Africans and their keepers whose lives were not as high profile.

She takes the glamor and nostalgia often associated with Hemings’ story and tells it like the horrific tragedy that it is. There is nothing pretty or noble about slavery. There is nothing to brag on being assigned to the house or to the field; both mean one is not free. Those of us on the outside of the system tend to pass judgment on the choices made or not made by the enslaved as if we can put ourselves in their shoes and do a better job of surviving and ensuring our children’s survival.

Gordon-Reed makes her audience work. This book not difficult to read but it fills one’s head with so many thoughts as she ties the past to the present, asks questions one wants to answer but cannot. She is co-author with Vernon Jordon of “Vernon Can Read: A Memoir” and author of a precursor to this latest book, “Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy.” An attorney and law professor at Rutgers University – how appropriate, right? Paul Robeson’s alma mater – she is also editor of “Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History.” She lives with her husband and two children in Manhattan.

Wanda Sabir went biking with Robert King of the Angola 3 in Austin last month. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Wanda Sabir went biking with Robert King of the Angola 3 in Austin last month. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
I got a chance to catch up with Eddie Abrams and his lovely wife Rose this weekend also. Baba Abrams had camera in hand filming the author events and capturing impressions on film for the archives. His sister-in-law and granddaughter were there at the African American Book Festival too.

James Farmer, founder of CORE, was born in Austin and raised on the East Side. His house is now a national landmark. One could stay in East Austin and never run out of Black history treasures. It’s too bad the Black folks are selling and moving away. It reminds me of West Oakland, close to downtown, the capital, the University of Austin, shopping, museums.

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, www.WandasPicks.ASMNetwork.org.

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3 thoughts on “Wanda’s picks for July

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