by Wanda Sabir
Black Augustwww.freethesf8.org for messages to phone or fax to Attorney General Jerry Brown, urging him to drop the charges. Cisco’s hearing is Aug. 10 if the charges aren’t dropped. This month also marks the fourth anniversary of the Great Flood of New Orleans. Stay tuned for report backs Aug. 29 and continuing fundraisers for survivors here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
On Friday, Aug. 7, 10:00 to 10:30 a.m., I will be speaking to Janine Africa and Ramona Africa. This is the day before the anniversary of the 1978 police raid on MOVE and the incarceration of Janine Africa and eight other members of the MOVE family. She will be calling in from SCI Cambridge Springs, Pa., to talk about that day and the recent parole hearings.
Kiilu Nyasha will also be on this show at the top of the hour, speaking about George Jackson, Black August, COINTELPRO and the Black Panther Party. Visit http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org or call the listener line: (347) 237-4610. The show will start half an hour later: 8:30 a.m. instead of the usual 8:00 a.m. We’ll be hosting a tribute to Michael Jackson on his 51st birthday, Aug. 29. Confirmed guests are Robert King of the Angola 3, www.kingsfreelines.com, and Kelda Muzik aka “Diva,” www.keldamuzik.net. We will also have an update on the Gulf Coast post-Hurricane Katrina and her sisters and brothers in the wind. Tune into the show on Wednesdays and Fridays, 6-8 a.m. PST and 8-10 PST.
This year is the 30th anniversary of Black August, commemorating the murder of George Jackson on Aug. 21, 1971. Unfortunately, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there will not be a big program, according to Shaka At-Thinnin of the Black August Organizing Committee. The emphasis this year is to push for a Congressional investigation into the prison system, especially here in California where OGs are disappearing. Shaka named many elders who’d been ill, like Brother Hodari in Pelican Bay, moved to Vacaville – his whereabouts unknown now. Brother Rafiki at Solano is now MIA. He also mentioned a recent attack on Chip Fitzgerald in Southern California, who walks with a cane. “I guess they thought he was an easy target,” Shaka said. Chip is OK.
In August each year Africans are targeted on GP by prison officials who confiscate mail and books if the initials BA for Black August are found. It’s considered evidence of “gang activity.” Many are on lockdown now. And at home, Shaka says he is regularly targeted by the prison guards union. Presently the house he rents has a foreclosure sign posted.
Men and women lose their visits and can’t use the canteen when they’re locked down. Shaka said for the first time there is also a war with Northern Mexicans, the more conscious of the Latinos, whom Africans hadn’t had any problems with in the past.
On Friday, Aug. 21, beginning at 3 p.m., people are invited to bring stationary and stamps to send to those behind bars, from Shaka’s home office, 639 54th St., in Oakland, at Shattuck Avenue. It is also a potluck. The object is to build support for Congresswoman Barbara Lee’s petition to Congress for this investigation into American’s prison system. It will also be a time to recall and remember the men and women, many of whom are behind bars because of their political beliefs and stand for justice. It is also an opportunity for all present to reassert ourselves and strengthen our efforts to free ‘em all!
We want to remember Chairman Fred Hampton. “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can’t kill the revolution,” he said. Born Aug. 30, 1948, founder of the Chicago Chapter of the Black Panther Party, he was brutally shot and killed by police – along with Mark Clark – as he lay in a drug induced sleep Dec. 4, 1969, with his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson, eight months pregnant with their son, Fred Hampton Jr. Visit http://www.blackcommentator.com/67/67_hampton.html for a good history lesson.
Go to www.blockreportradio.com and www.sfbayview.com for information on the tour led by Prisoners of Conscience Committee Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. honoring his father’s legacy and the 40th anniversary of his assassination. One of his first stops is this Friday, July 31, 6:30 p.m., at Station 40, 3030B 16th St. off Mission in San Francisco. The MC is yours truly, the film “The Assassination of Chairman Fred” will be shown and you’ll hear reports on resistance movements around the world. This event is a much needed fundraiser for the SF Bay View newspaper.
“The Black August tradition was established during the 1970s in the California prison system by men and women of the Black/New Afrikan Liberation Movement as a means of acknowledging and studying the legacy of Afrikan resistance in the Americas and honoring fallen freedom fighters like George and Jonathan Jackson, Khatari Gaulden, James McClain, Williams Christmas and Fred Hampton.” Visit http://www.prisonactivist.org/archive/blackaugust/index.shtml and http://www.dragonspeaks.org/baoc%20website/home.htm.
Community Town Hall with ‘Cisco Torres, Poetas Pobres and More
Sunday, Aug. 9, 4-6 p.m., at EastSide Arts Alliance, 2277 International Blvd., Oakland. This event precedes the rally before Cisco’s hearing at 850 Bryant St., San Francisco, on Aug. 10.
Opening of Antonio Guerrero’s Art with Alice Walker at La Peña
See original paintings by Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban 5 political prisoners held in the U.S. Alice Walker, novelist and poet, author of the prologue to “Letter of Love and Hope; the Story of the Cuban Five,” gives the keynote with remarks by Gayle McLaughlin, mayor of Richmond, California. There will be music and an excerpt from the video “Against the Silence,” Thursday Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Donations at the door are $10-$20 sliding scale. The event is organized by the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five. For more information, visit www.thecuban5.org or http://www.lapena.org. Alicia Jrapko, U.S. Coordinator for the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, will be on Wanda’s Picks Radio, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 7:00 a.m., to talk about the case, Antonio who along with his other four brothers is serving a life sentence in Florence, Colorado. Tune in at http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org or call the listener line: (347) 237-4610.
Diáspora Negra – The African Legacy in Latin America
The concert and symposium, Diáspora Negra: The African Legacy in Latin America, is Friday Aug. 14, $18 in advance, $20 at the door. The symposium is at 6:45 p.m., performance at 8:30 p.m. Join us for a cultural and historical program that highlights the importance of the African Diaspora through music and dance in Latin America. Performances are preceded by a symposium led by master musicians and dancers. Visit http://www.lapena.org.
Oakland Summer Theatre at Studio One presents ‘Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp’
This multi-generational musical production directed by Gerald Wright opens Friday, July 31, 8 p.m., and continues through Saturday, Aug. 1, at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 2, at 3 p.m. The shows are at the Malonga Casquelord Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St. in Oakland. Tickets are $10. To reserve tickets, call (510) 597-5045. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Judith Offer’s ‘Compared to What: A Reading of a Play’
Set in West Oakland in 1926, this play introduces two Pullman porters torn over a decision. The free reading is Saturday, Aug. 15, 2-4 p.m., at the Oakland Public Library, Main Branch, West Auditorium, 125-14th St., Oakland. Visit www.oaklandlibrary.org.
Woodminster Summer Musicals presents ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
As Oakland concludes its celebration of National Parks Month, Woodminster Summer Musicals continue with “Singin’ in the Rain” Aug. 7, 9, 13, 14 and 16 at Joaquin Miller Road. Visit www.woodminster.com or call (510) 531-9597. Shows are at 8 p.m. Also visit http://www.oaklandnet.com/Parks/ for summer programming at all the Oakland Parks and Rec sites.
Oakland Feather River Camp
We remember E. Lynn Harris
Author E. Lynn Harris died July 24 at the age of 54. Harris’ debut novel, “Invisible Life,” was perhaps my first venture into the fictive life of middle class Black gay men. I have a lot of gay friends, Black men who love Black men, who rarely spoke about any difficulties arising from their sexual preferences, the larger issue that of being Black and male taking precedence. All were out, Black and proud and if their families didn’t accept them, as was the case in some instances, not all, they’d found solace in intentional communities with supportive friends and loved ones.
The world Harris’ novels opened for me in his early books was one where men were not out, lived dual lives and juggled fidelity, sometimes health status. His characters were educated and wealthy or well off enough. In other words, the men had options. A few lived in the South and themes arose around tolerance, especially in traditional families where the church was central in the homestead. There was usually an athlete involved, often a corporate executive, and a college campus somewhere in the setting.
I’d never thought about Southern Black gay issues before Harris’ novels and was immediately drawn into the world this former IBM executive created. His self publishing success after being turned down by commercial publishers – he sold out of his trunk – sounds like Too Short’s story. I wonder if he knew it?
The controversy surrounding his life when he refused to answer questions about his own sexuality also piqued my interest. Was he gay? It was a topic some of my friends discussed as they denounced his hesitance in outting himself. I don’t know if he ever told and, if so, what he said. I immediately thought AIDS when I saw the announcement in my email box. Goodness, first Michael Jackson dies at 50 from an overdose of a potent analgesic and now E. Lynn Harris from “a serious health setback”? What in the heck is that?
I read his next couple of novels and then picked up his latest novel, “Basketball Jones,” about a closeted athlete who marries and keeps his lover on the side. I didn’t finish it. I got sick of the “kept” lover and his seemingly endless patience for overt and subtle disrespect.
I do plan to read Harris’ 2003 memoir, which I somehow missed, “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” also a couple other titles which came out this year, one, “Best African American Fiction,” edited by Harris. I read that Harris tells all here and admits to loving men, a question I hadn’t known the answer to, not that it mattered. What I liked about the Flint, Michigan, native was a glimpse into Southern life … an authentic life Harris lived as a boy in Arkansas and later as an adult in Atlanta. His voice will be missed.
Note: I went to the Oakland Public Library, Main Branch, and saw a lovely display of E. Lynn Harris’ books. I checked out six of them: “What Becomes of a Broken Heart,” his memoir, “Any Way the Wind Blows,” ”I Say a Little Prayer,” “A Love of My Own” and “Abide With Me” and “African American Fiction” with Gerald Early the series editor (a “Hot Pick” to be returned in seven days).
More summer reading
Speaking of great summer reading, I just completed Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani’s “I Do Not Come to You by Chance,” a terrific first novel by a Nigerian author who takes the plunge and uses for her theme the “419ers,” the scam artists who send out those letters via email which often lead to the illegal exchange of large sums of money. In “I Do Not Come,” Nwaubani’s protagonist, Kings, a university graduate with parents who are also educated but poor, finds himself in a bind when tragedy strikes his family and help arrives from an unexpected source – well, let’s say his soul searching leaves his pockets strangely empty.
I have also read quite a few of Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant’s books: “What Doesn’t Kill You,” “Far from the Tree,” “Better than I Know Myself,” “Gotta Keep on Tryin’” and “Tryin’ to Sleep in the Bed You Made.” I have also been catching up on John Grisham and read “The Summons” and now am reading “The Last Juror,” set in the same county as “Time to Kill.” Grisham also brings into the story characters I met in “The Summons.” A New Orleans native, I loved reading about places I knew and incidents I’d heard about like Hurricane Camille. The last book I am going to try to complete before school starts is “From a Crooked Rib” by Nuruddin Farah.
On the fly
I am on the fly as usual, but not for the usual reasons … I had a bicycle accident July 7 as I was riding along San Leandro Boulevard in Oakland, returning from the Bay Trail at Zone Way and 66th Avenue. I was doing fine until I hit an uneven stretch of pavement. It’s all uneven along the Oakland side of San Leandro Boulevard (or Street in San Leandro). There is something to say about the City of Oakland and the state of its streets in the ghetto. I rode on the sidewalk because it’s get hit by a truck or puncture one’s tires with the multiple piles of glass littering the stretch of 18-wheel diesel highway.
I am really careful trying to avoid the cracked pavement, the huge concrete boxes blocking the sidewalk, the utility poles and, when I am almost home, I hit a slight indentation on the pavement and before I know it I am prone – head hits the pavement and my entire right side, my bike on top of me. I look around for help. I’d just passed three police back at the Coliseum BART Station. The police car passes me after I am up and trying to ride my bike home. That wasn’t possible, the pain was too great. I can’t say too much for my helmet. The impact felt like I hit cotton, the helmet performed so well. Later my head hurt in a few places, but the main problem is my hand, so the Picks are short because a week later I am still unable to make a fist or handle fine motor activity.
I see people riding the street all the time, most without helmets, and I wonder how many accidents go unreported. People live along San Leandro Boulevard in their mobile homes, and I noticed bike lanes being drawn along Fifth Avenue crossing San Leandro Boulevard. I almost ride into poles along 66th Avenue as I pedal towards the Bay Trail. The bike path doesn’t begin until one is past the Coliseum.
East Oakland is not as bike friendly as my former West Oakland neighborhood. I could ride any and everywhere, but I hope that changes soon, which my councilperson Desley Brooks says it will. The City of Oakland is sending out a RFP within the next few weeks, she stated in an email to me, so once the contractor is selected and an agreement signed, work will begin. I hope Black contractors will apply.
I have a flat tire now also and I have to take my bike to get a tune up after the collision to make sure everything is okay. This is really messing up my camping plans in Pulmas National Forest July 27-30, African Dance Week. I can’t drive, so I can’t go. Instead I’ll be headed up to the Women’s Prison on Thursday, July 30, with Sister-to-Sister, California Coalition for Women Prisoners. Listen to Wanda’s Picks July 29 for a special on Feather River Camp: http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org.
On the fly continued
The next meteor shower is the Perseids on Aug. 12. The shower peaks early afternoon on the 12th, so the morning of the 12th, midnight to dawn, and late evening are the best times to watch from the U.S. Visit http://stardate.org/nightsky/meteors/. Read about others – Capricornids peaking July 28-29 and Delta Aquarids peaking July 29-30 – at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/07/23/SPKU18STNU.DTL.
Gregory Isaacs with Native Elements opens at The Independent Aug. 30. Also at the Independent, earlier in the month, is Sekouba Bambino Diabate, “The Golden Voice of Guinea,” Aug. 14. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” continues at SF Playhouse in San Francisco, the Jewish Film Festival, July 23-Aug. 10, http://fest.sfjff.org/. More than a few films stand out in the SFJFF: “Desert Brides” (8/2, 4), “Lady Kul El-Arab” (8/1, 5), “Rachel” (8/4), “Refugees” (8/6).
Stern Grove Festival continues; visit http://www.sterngrove.org/. The San Jose Jazz Festival is Aug. 7-9; visit http://www.sanjosejazz.org/. The 52nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival is Sept. 18-20; visit http://www.montereyjazzfestival.org/2009/index.php. The film “Lion’s Den” opens at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas in San Francisco July 31. It is a great film, set in Argentina, which looks at incarceration and mothers and children and how motherhood is a transforming experience, perhaps even more so than imprisonment.
I read that Alice Walker will be doing a benefit for the Cuban 5 at La Peña Cultural Center. The film “Sabar” is having a South Bay screening by invitation. Outside Lands Music and Art Festival is Aug. 28-30; visit http://www.sfoutsidelands.com/ and http://www.sabarthemovie.com/. Check back for the details. Avotcja’s Birthday Bash is Sunday, Aug. 2, at La Peña, 3105 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley. Visit http://www.avotcja.com/. Tickets are $10-$15 sliding scale, 7 p.m.
The W. Kamau Bell Curve is Saturday Aug. 1. Tickets are $20 general admission. The show starts at 8 p.m. Kamau’s brand of humor is race, the racier the better. For a discount on ticket prices, bring a person of a different race for two-for-one. This show concludes a weekend run beginning July 30-31. Leela James and Bilal are at the Regency Ballroom Aug. 8; visit http://www.goldenvoice.com/. Rock the Bells is also coming up too; visit http://www.lapena.org/.http://breakallchains.blogspot.com/2009/07/black-august-2009-schedule-of-events.html. There are Black August events throughout the country in Atlanta, Detroit, New York and elsewhere. If you are hosting an event, send us the information so we can post it. The 26th Annual National Night Out is Tuesday, Aug. 4; visit http://www.nationaltownwatch.org/nno/.
Be Still Meditation
“Be Still Meditation: a Day of Health and Well-Being for Black Folks” is 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Aug. 15, at Jack London Aquatic Center in Oakland, 115 Embarcadero East. RSVP at (510) 549-5990. This is a wonderful event sponsored by the Black Women Media Project and supported financially by Alameda County Health Care Services. It’s a free event but it fills up quickly. I had such a great time earlier this year. When I arrived I joined in the love feast with Melvin Atkins’ Soul Chi. Later on, I got a massage, feet and full body, meditated, learned about starting an organic herb garden, was treated to a healthy lunch and discovered the Aquatic Center, where one can take evening boat trips on the Bay.
Spirit, Sound & Silence
A Special Day of Healing and Renewal hosted by One Life Institute, Saturday, Aug. 1, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., 9:30 arrival and registration, at the Holy Redeemer Center, 8945 Golf Links Rd., Oakland. The retreat is facilitated by Rev. Liza Rankow and supported by the inspirational music of Destiny Muhammad, the Harpist from the Hood. Come enjoy a labyrinth walk, guided visioning process, healing meditation, opportunities for community sharing and times of deep silence. Please bring a journal, a potluck item for the shared lunch and anything needed to be comfortable for the day. One Life is especially committed to supporting the sustainability of activists, organizers, caregivers, educators, artists and others who work to lift up our communities. The retreats are offered on a sliding scale basis with full scholarships available, and no one is ever turned away for lack of funds! To RSVP or for more information, call (510) 595-5598 or email email@example.com.
Youssou N’dour: ‘I Bring What I Love’
This music-infused cinematic journey about the power of one man’s voice to inspire change opens July 31 at the United Artists Stonestown Twin. An audience sensation at film festivals worldwide, the film takes you behind the scenes and into the world of Africa’s most famous musician: Youssou N’Dour. One of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world and called “the rare rock star whose music matters,” Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour is beloved internationally and at home. In 2005, the Grammy-winning artist defied expectations and produced his most personal album, “Egypt,” presenting his Islamic faith as a peaceable and tolerant religion. While the record received international acclaim, it was denounced as blasphemy in his native Senegal. Director Chai Vasarhelyi follows N’Dour for over two years, filming in Africa, Europe and America to tell the story of how he faces these challenges and eventually wins over audiences both at home and abroad.
Yancie Taylor Jazztet
The Yancie Taylor Jazztet will perform at Anna’s Jazz Island Saturday, Aug. 1. Yancie Taylor, a genuine local treasure and acclaimed vibes player, has earned critical acclaim by bringing his special panache to the international jazz scene. Bold, subtle and versatile, he has earned his loyal following, people who greatly appreciate his ever changing performances. A musical event with Yancie is always an opportunity not to be missed. Influenced at an early age by the “straight” jazz piano style of Les McCann and Ramsey Lewis, Yancie was caught by the sweet tones of the vibraphone during the Latin “craze” of the 1960s. He attributes his deepest influence to the masters: Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson and Cal Tjader.
Frankye Kelly and her Quartet also perform at Anna’s this month, next week, Saturday, Aug. 8. Visit www.AnnasJazzIsland.com. The club opens at 5 p.m. Live music begins at 8 p.m. All ages are always welcome at 2120 Allston Way, downtown Berkeley, a half block from BART! Reservations are recommended. Call (510) 841-5299 after 5 p.m.
Tribute with the survivors of conflict in the Congo (DRC)
This event is an opportunity to learn about the history of the Congo, particularly of the Banyamulenge Tutsi. Panelists will share testimonies, along with a short video and dance performance. The Aug. 8 event is in preparation for the fifth anniversary of the Aug. 13th massacre. Banyamulenge Tutsi survivors and supporters will expand this growing memorial tradition to Oakland and invite Bay Area folks to stand united with the Banyamulenge Tutsi survivors for peace and justice. The free event is co-sponsored by Survivors International and the African Advocacy Network and takes place at the Oakland Main Library, West Auditorium, 125-14th St., Oakalnd, 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Ringling Bros. is coming to town Aug. 12-16 at ORACLE, 19-23 at HP Pavilion, with a handsome African American clown named Sean Davis. A Chicago native, Sean first began working with Ringling Bros. over a decade ago as a clown after graduating from Clown College in 1995. A proud father of 9-year-old Alexis and a former Marine who served in the first Gulf War, he briefly pursued a criminal justice degree in Chicago, but felt the pull of his inner clown pull him back to the stage, but he hasn’t stopped learning – he studies Russian and Portuguese in his spare time so he can better communicate with some of his fellow cast members.
STEPOLOGY presents the 2009 Bay Area Rhythm Exchangestepology.com.
Ted Pontiflet’s ‘The James Baldwin Series’
Ted Pontiflet’s work with Jimmy Baldwin at its center opens in the main gallery at Joyce Gordon Gallery Aug. 7 with a reception from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. with live jazz. There is an artist talk Aug. 23 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. Visit http://www.joycegordongallery.com/.
Ernestine Anderson with Eric Reed Trio
Check out the wonderful singer and one of my favorite pianists at Yoshis, Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 1-2, at Yoshi’s San Francisco. Visit www.yoshis.com.
Don’t miss closing activities at the Oakland Museum, for The African Presence in Mexico. The Oakland Museum, located at 1000 Oak St., is closing for renovations after its final exhibit, Yanga, closes Aug. 23. There is a Yanga Celebration with Son de la Terra, Sunday, Aug. 2, 12-4 p.m. Visit www.museumca.org. Saturday, Aug. 1, 7 p.m., is “The African Presence in Mexico through Music” with Son de la Terra and guests in collaboration with East Bay Center for Performing Arts. I heard Baby Face was going to be in concert later this month there.
Also at the Oakland Museum: Family Explorations! Be Creative!
Join the museum and the Oakland Public Library, Sunday, Aug. 9, 12:30–4:30 p.m., in celebrating the end of the Library’s Summer Reading Program. Check out magic with Timothy James, art activities, cartooning with author Oliver Chin, dancing on the outdoor stage, scavenger hunt, story times, science activities with folks from Lawrence Hall of Science, and free frozen treats from Dreyer’s at the end of the day (as long as supplies last). A ceremony honors all the kids who completed the Summer Reading Program. Visit www.museumca.org/cal-public/calendar.cgi.
Lakefest the new Festival at the Lake?
Have you been by Lake Merritt lately? If not, go and take a camera. It is already unrecognizable … but wait until the second phase kicks in and even more trees are felled or moved. I don’t know what the birds and bees are thinking. I don’t know what government, which used to by and for the people is thinking when this project marches on and the Oakland Public Library Book Mobile sits in West Oakland derailed in June because of cuts to the budget. How many elders no longer have access to reading materials now? But on a brighter note, it is good to have music again in Oakland near Lake Merritt, free music.
Lakefest ‘09: The Heart of Oakland Shows its Heart is Aug. 1 and 2, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is a free, all-ages street festival featuring Arts and Crafts booths, live music stage, skate park, Gourmet Food Booths, Lakeshore Merchant Sidewalk Sale, kid’s fun zone, art, street performers, Green Living Expo and Farmers Market at Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, Grand Ave exit off I-580, http://oaklandlakefest.com/.
Art and Soul
It’s Aug. 15-16, 12 noon to 6 p.m. Visit http://www.artandsouloakland.com/.
AfroSolo Arts Festival
San Francisco’s award-winning AfroSolo Theatre Company presents the 16th annual AfroSolo Arts Festival, celebrating African American artists giving voice to the Black experience. Paying homage to and exploring the rich legacy of African Americans and people of African descent, festival events, Aug. 1-Oct. 15, featuring live music, visual art and new works for the stage, will take place in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens, the Main San Francisco Public Library, the African American Art and Culture Complex and the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center.
The line-up for AfroSolo 16 is as follows: Outdoor Jazz Concert in Yerba Buena Gardens, Saturday, Aug. 1, 1-4 p.m., Yerba Buena Gardens, on Mission Street between Third and Fourth, San Francisco. The event is free and open to the public.
In collaboration with the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival and the Jazz Heritage Center, AfroSolo presents its eighth free concert in the gardens. This year’s offering features vocalist Nicolas Bearde, legendary pianist Frank Jackson, and Bay Area singer Raja Rahim. Jackson will be presented with AfroSolo’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award at this event.
A Staged Reading: “Waiting for Giovanni” by Jewelle Gomez in collaboration with Harry Waters Jr., is Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, 3 p.m., African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. The event is open to the public. The cost is by donation; pay what you can.
Based on a split second of indecision in the life of author James Baldwin, “Waiting for Giovanni” explores a writer’s dilemma about publishing a controversial book that will have a profound impact on his life, the lives of his friends, his family and on the Civil Rights Movement. “Waiting for Giovanni” questions what it really means to be an artist and activist and how we live that out in our everyday lives. Playwright and actor Brian Freeman directs.
Visual Arts Exhibit: “Morrie Turner, Cartoonist: A 45-Year Retrospective,” is Saturday, Aug. 15–Oct. 15. The artist reception is Saturday, Aug. 15, 2–4 p.m., Main San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St. at Grove. It’s free and open to the public.
AfroSolo honors cartoonist Morrie Turner’s artistic achievements with a retrospective of his work, curated by Kheven LaGrone. Additionally, artwork by students from the Oakland School of the Arts who participated in workshops Turner held this past fall will also be included in the exhibit. AfroSolo will present Turner its Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award at the artist reception.
Black Voices Performance Series: The performance series is Friday and Saturday, Aug. 21-22, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Aug. 23, 3 p.m., at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. Tickets are $25 general admission.
Thandiwe Thomas De Shazor (“Children of the Last Days”), Kai Hazelwood (“Trans”), Lance McGee (“Dancin’ Soulo”) and Lauren Whitehead (“Written in Blues”) perform original solo stage works as part of this year’s Black Voices Performance Series.
Health Fair: Artists, healthcare workers, and community will gather for the Health Fair on Saturday, Aug. 22, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., at the Ella Hill Hutch Community Center, 1050 McAllister St. at Webster, San Francisco. It’s free and open to the public.
In collaboration with Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, MoMagic, St. Mary’s Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center, AfroSolo hosts this free community health fair.
Tickets: Most events are free and open to the public, unless otherwise noted. For tickets and more information, the public may visit afrosolo.org or call (415) 771-AFRO (2376).
The NAACP Beverly Hills- Hollywood branch is celebrating the organization’s 100 year anniversary and is proud to announce this year’s host, NAACP award-winner Loretta Devine (Broadway’s “Dreamgirls”) for the 19th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards. Past awards shows have traditionally been held in June immediately following the BET Awards, but this year’s slogan, “A Salute to Black Theatre,” will ring true on Monday, Aug. 31, at 7 p.m. at the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Theatre located in Hollywood, California.
“This year’s Theatre Festival will feature workshops on acting, directing, play-writing, dancing and mounting the ‘One Person Show’. A special children’s workshop/play-shop has been added along with the ‘10-minute-play’,” states Executive Producer Tia Boyd. The 19th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards will be sponsored by Honda, Verizon and the Los Angeles 8th District Office of Bernard C. Parks. For ticket purchases or more information, visit www.bhwdnaacptheatreawards.com.
‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ a review
SF Playhouse’s production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the cast headlining Hansford Prince as Randell P. McMurphy, Michael Torres as Chief Bromden and Susi Damilano as Nurse Ratched, is oh my goodness such an important journey into the American mind via those who are quarantined in a psychiatric ward. They are mentally ill or sick, yet by the end of Dale Wasserman’s play, based on Ken Kesey’s novel, the audience questions the notion of sanity and who gets to decide, the Nurse Ratcheds or the McMurphys.
The acting is riveting as the story boils and bubbles like an upset stomach to its gut wrenching conclusion (pun intended). Because Hansford Prince is Black, one can’t help but reflect on the creation of the Negro from the African, the notion of his being “blind, deaf and dumb to the knowledge of himself,” as the Honorable Elijah Muhammad used to say. But on Nurse Ratched’s floor, the ward where the patients are curable, it is McMurphy who is able to rekindle the spark long extinguished or dimmed by the institution, which is a metaphor for society and its systems the populace has minimal control over, if any at all – like public education, local, state and national government, the military and the laws which govern our day to day interactions with one another. McMurphy is in the mental hospital because he is trying to escape “the Farm” or penitentiary.
Hansford Prince’s McMurphy proposes a wager to the men he meets that he can change the system, that he can beat Nurse Ratched, take away her absolute control, and the audience roots for him, as do the men who are not as brave as he. One learns that conformity is often a choice people make, because they do not realize their internal strength, like Michael Torres’ Chief Bromden.
McMurphy is the hero and Ratched is certainly the villain, Susi Damilano great in her portrayal of a woman who stops at nothing to keep the men in her hospital subdued, cowered, hopeless. It is McMurphy’s innate knowledge of human nature and love for humanity that is his downfall, similar to the demise of men like Martin King, Malcolm X, Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey. There are no systems in place to support such revolutionary movements, so eventually the leader meets the fate of McMurphy. But in the case of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Chief Bromden leaves us with hope that, as President Obama likes to say, “Change is possible.”
In his brief encounter with McMurphy, Bromden learns that he is strong and that the Nurse Ratcheds are not in control if he decides he doesn’t want them to be. McMurphy wants to give the men back their lives and, even though he seemingly loses, he is successful.
The play continues through Sept. 5. Thursday night is a talk-back. Visit www.sfplayhouse.org or call (415) 677-9596. The theatre is located at 533 Sutter St., one block off Union Square, between Powell and Mason.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.