Happy birthday, TaSin Yasmin (Suzanna’s god-mom), Rick and Suzanna Marie (father and daughter), Makeda (aunt), Sister Tauheedah (TaSin’s other mother)! Happy autumn, all!
Black August 2009 was a time to remember our ancestors too. While one doesn’t need an event to remind one how important it is, dates and formal events like these are especially significant: UNESCO’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Its Abolition, Aug. 23, Hurricane Katrina Memorials and Oscar Grant strategy organizing around BART police oversight and an arrest to the continued police killings of Oakland citizens.
As I stumbled around Saturday, Aug. 29, the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, also the one year anniversary of my radio show, Michael Jackson’s 51st birthday had he lived, and that of my cousin and friend, Jeffery in New Orleans and Karla here in Oakland, I decided to attend Suzanna Prada’s one year birthday party in West Oakland.
I hadn’t realized when I heard about the police chase and car crash, where both the driver of the vehicle being pursued was killed and the driver in the car hit – the baby (passenger) in critical condition – that it occurred just across the street. Lafayette Elementary School and Marston Campbell Park sit on the corners of West and 17th Street. When Lily ran into her house to tell her grandmother about the crash, the thoughts running through adult minds were how close she was to such a serious crash and why police would have a high speed chase in a residential community. “It happens all the time,” the child’s grandmother said. Police chases in Black neighborhoods need to cease.
Oakland Public Library Bookmobile RIP?
Probably note given the many citizens now left without services like those in convalescent and nursing homes and others who live too far away from a branch to easily access reading materials. I believe I heard or read somewhere that our president is encouraging Americans to read, yet with budget cuts what goes first are library services such as this, not to mention cut hours and many lost jobs.
The vehicle has been sitting idle since June 30 – the plan is to use it for “outreach,” while admitting that considering the library’s mere 3 percent drain on the City of Oakland’s General Purpose Fund Budget, the cuts this fiscal cycle were some of the worse in years. I certainly agree: All the branches are closed on Mondays, open on Saturdays, with the Main Branch open seven days. Whose great idea was that and is there really a cost savings other than the firing of part time staff that filled in for permanent fulltime staff when the branches were open six days a week? How many readers are we losing? What is the fiscal cost of this tragedy – more kids arrested and imprisoned? Isn’t the cost greater for our society in the long run? Look at the numbers – Oakland has had one of the highest illiteracy rate for decades and it’s not getting better.
I heard “Second Start,” the literacy program, was kicked out of West Oakland Branch back downtown where it was before moving the site to a much more easily accessible location. The budget cuts sound a lot like a social genocide. A community cut off from literature is a community left to die. Yes, I’m passionate. My ancestors lost eyes and hands, tongues and their lives so as to read, and with the blessing of a free library system we purposely limit the access of those most vulnerable? What does this say about our compassion for the less fortunate?
In these dire times, the best place to be is between the covers of a book – safe, free from the boundaries set by others – a place where one can imagine and create and be what one wills him or herself to be. Sometimes the best thing to do when troubles are on one’s mind is to get lost – what better place than between the pages of a book. The cessation of the mobile library services means idle minds will not have such an opportunity any longer.
My query to Library Director Carmen Martinez about how concerned citizens could restore the services went unanswered directly, but the cost for staff – two and vehicle maintenance, insurance, would cost $300,000. Ms. Martinez mentioned the use of bookmobiles or mobile library services in rural communities. There are many analogies which can be drawn between West Oakland, especially “The Bottoms,” East Oakland, especially the area around Arroyo Viejo Park and back near San Leandro Street on the other side of 98th and over by 104 and 105th Street that takes one back to the days when the areas mentioned were farmland.
The Bookmobile, now sitting in a City vehicle graveyard off Edgewater Drive near the Oakland airport, was serving many social service centers, rehabilitation clinics, senior centers etc., the director stated in an email response to my questions. She says the library “stopped covering vast areas of West Oakland when we got our three-year ‘bus’ grant from the MTA, which brings hundreds of kids to the branch every week.”
This “budget solution” ignores the plight of the elders who need books in their lives perhaps even more than the children, who by the way have access to much more intellectual stimuli. The trip via bus to the library is not necessarily the only highlight of their day. The Bookmobile scheduled days were important for many of our elders and disabled patrons in Oakland. Plus, reading is proven to deter the onset of dementia and senility. Everyone cannot afford to buy books and many seniors and disabled Oaklanders rely on public transportation, which is the topic of another conversation – where have the buses gone?
Make some noise! Let the council members and Mayor Dellums know the Bookmobile is missed. Do not let it fade into the landscape with the other scrap metal and debris already stored there, without some kind of ruckus – make noise for those who cannot shake the foundations of government on their own. Think about how delicious the pages of a new book feels and make noise for that shared experience, which no one should be denied.
Remember, it’s our money. Since when do servants have more right to decide what to do with our resources, our tax dollars, than The People – their masters? The problem with civil servants is many of them are not in touch with the people they serve. The operative here is “service.” When was the last time you saw your council person at your branch library checking out a book? How many even have library cards?
Bradley C. Walters
On another note, we also want to remember a tireless soldier in the information literacy march, Bradley C. Walters, who worked at the Main Branch of the Oakland Public Library for 19 years. His was the first and the last face you saw when entering and exiting. Beloved father, brother and community leader Bradley C. Walters passed away at 71 in his Oakland home on Aug. 15 of lung cancer. Brad touched the lives of so many friends and colleagues and all are welcome at his Memorial Celebration at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, at St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church, 2024 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley. Contributions may be made to the Friends of the Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St., Oakland CA 94612, attention Winifred.
Visit www.missionculturalcenter.org for program information and for an interview with Casper’s friends prior to the reception, Saturday, Aug. 29, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Wandas-Picks/2009/08/28/Wandas-Picks.
Events at the San Francisco Presidio
Summer at the Presidio means concerts Sept.10 and 11, 7:30 p.m., at the Golden Gate Club; Sing-a-long Grease with clown performance at 5:30 p.m. and at 7 p.m., a film on the lawn at the Main Post Office, 99 Moraga Ave. Bring blankets or a low lawn chair. Free popcorn for all; free Shakespeare in the Park, “The Comedy of Errors,” through Sept. 20, Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. and Sept.7 at 2:30 p.m. Visit www.presidio.gov/calendar or call (415) 561-5418.
LINES Ballet Fall Home Season
I’d almost forgotten the season premiere of the San Francisco-based choreographer’s highly anticipated new work with Jason Moran, an extraordinary pianist/composer, this month, until his cousin, in town on business from Boston, introduced himself at the Oakland Public Conservatory benefit screening of “Fauberg Tremé: The True Story of Black New Orleans,” Aug. 29. The directors, Lolis Eric Elie and Dawn Logsdon, and producer, Lucie Faulknor, were there also, and it was to Lolis whom he knew that Alonzo’s cousin was speaking. It was then I recalled my postponed interview request. I often ask months in advance, when I receive the press release. I am put off until later. I forget to call again, and so the window closes. This happened with George Clinton and is happening with so many other artists, so those of you who like my work, tune into my radio show where sometimes I am able to salvage these lost print moments – unfortunately, not Leela James, George Clinton, Dr. Al Green, Beres Hammond and so on.
This highly anticipated new work will have its world premiere at the Novellus Theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco as part of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet’s Home Season, Oct. 23-Nov. 1. The work will feature Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet’s world-class dance troupe, with Moran performing live on the opening weekend. Both visionaries in their fields, King creates ballets that stretch and renew the traditions of Western dance and Moran creates avant-garde compositions, experimenting within the jazz idiom.
King’s work combines ballet with classical music, jazz, spoken word, modern compositions, kung fu arts and more. He is celebrated for his unique collaborations – often times with artists not associated with classical ballet. Previous collaborators include legendary jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, actor Danny Glover, Nubian oud master Hamza El Din, the BaAka Pygmies of the Central African Republic and the Shaolin Monks of China. He is also currently working on a new commission for Monaco’s Ballet Russe’s Centennial Festival in December 2009.
The World Premiere collaboration with jazz pianist Jason Moran is Oct. 23–Nov. 1 at the Novellus Theater at YBCA, 700 Howard St. at Third Street, San Francisco. Visit www.linesballet.org.
R&B legend Al Green performs Sept. 2 at 8 p.m. at The Warfield. Tickets are $56, $72, $85.
The Neville Brothers and Dr. John
This concert is going to be hot! I wish I was in town. Please tell me about it – better yet, send me a photo. Imagine New Orleans funk double teaming on the same bill – well, that’s what you have with The Neville Brothers and Dr. John, when they alight in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 4, at the Grand Ballroom at the Regency Center. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $48.50 in advance and $50 day of show. For both shows, Green and Neville with John, visit www.goldenvoice.com.
52nd Annual Monterey Jazz Festival Sept. 18-20http://www.montereyjazzfestival.org/2009/.
College of Alameda Small Ensemble featuring vocalist Raja Rahim
Sunday, Sept. 13, at 4 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island in Berkeley, hear the College of Alameda Small Ensemble featuring vocalist Raja Rahim, under the direction of the host, Professor Herbert Mims Jr., who performs. Visit www.annajazzisland.com.
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library partners with Litquick, San Francisco Reads
The largest book sale on the West Coast will descend on Fort Mason Center this September! The 45th Annual Big Book Sale, presented by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, features over 300,000 books, DVDs, CDs, books on tape, vinyl and other forms of media. The Big Book Sale is held at Fort Mason’s Festival Pavilion Sept. 24–27 with a member preview on Wednesday, Sept. 23. All proceeds benefit the San Francisco Public library. The Big Book Sale is free and open to the public.
The five-day extravaganza kicks off with a Friend of the SFPL member reception and preview sale on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 4-8 p.m. Admission is free to the general public Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Books will range from $1-$5 and all books remaining on Sunday are $1 or less.
Social Media Conference
AdweekMedia’s inaugural Social Media Strategies Conference will take place on Sept. 22 at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. Social Media Strategies will honor the best in brand and media integration campaigns and is tailored for brand marketers, advertising, technology, database, search and media executives who are looking to grow and create their company’s presence using social media platforms. Multi-platinum artist MC Hammer will deliver the conference’s opening keynote address on how social media is influencing music and entertainment, and Deep Focus Founder and CEO Ian Schafer is also a keynote speaker. Visit www.brandweek.com/bw/sms/agenda.jsp.
Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’
Central Works presents Machiavelli’s “The Prince” through Sept. 19. This new play based on the infamous “Handbook for Tyrants” written and directed by Gary Graves. A Central Works Method Play developed in collaboration with Richard Frederick, Michael Navarra and Jan Zvaifler is Central Works at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley, (510) 558-1381. Visit http://www.centralworks.org/.
On the fly
Blind Boys of Alabama perform Thursday-Friday, Sept. 3-4, Eric Benet Saturday-Monday, Sept. 5-7, Hiroshima Nov. 13, Soulive with Fred Wesle – all at Yoshi’s in Oakland. In San Francisco: Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio Sept.16. Visit www.yoshis.com. Mike Clark’s Blueprints of Jazz with Donald Harrison on alto sax, Mike on drums, Rich Goods on bass at The Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society Beach House Sept. 27, 4:30 and 7 p.m. Visit http://www.bachddsoc.org/index.html.
“Pray the Devil Back to Hell” at Ft. Mason Center, Sept.10, 7 p.m., presented by the San Francisco Leadership Circle for Women for Women International. “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” chronicles the remarkable story of the courageous Liberian women who came together to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to their shattered country. Chitresh Das Dance Company presents “Sita Haran,” an excerpt from the ancient epic story, “The Ramayana,” told in the Kathak style of dynamic movement, drama, rhythm and music, performed by an all-female cast. Shows are Sept. 26 and 27, with pre-show discussions at the Cowell Theatre. Visit http://www.fortmason.org/ for both events listed in the calendar.
Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center favorites Baba Ken and the West African Highlife Band perform Sept. 5 and the Sixth Annual Dance-a-thon is Sept. 26. Visit http://www.ashkenaz.com. There is also a Dance-a-thon this month featuring Zulu Spear and other hot bands. Don’t forget the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s current work. I hear it’s a great story set in an African village. I’ll have to get Michael Eugene Sullivan, playwright, on my radio show to talk about it. Visit www.sfmime.org. By the way, Wanda’s Picks Radio made one year Aug. 29 – with a “Four Years After the Flood Special Broadcast.” Visit http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org.
Dr. Ivan Van Sertima Tribute at ASA Academy
Professor Manu Ampin hosts the free celebration of Ivan Van Sertima’s life, a man who said: “It became my dream in life to rescue my people – all people – from myths of the African race. This became my mission in life, to tell the true story of the African, to recover the essence of his early civilizations so that the tragedy of slavery, of colonization, of myths about his fundamental inferiority may be destroyed forever.” Hear more at ASA, Saturday, Sept. 12, 5:45-8 p.m. For more information, contact Prof. Manu Ampim or Bro. Malique Amenhotep at (415) 613-1911, (510) 213-4761 or Profmanu@acninc.net.
Dr. Ivan Van Sertima was born in January 1935 in Guyana, South America. In 1970, he immigrated to the United States and later began teaching at Rutgers University in the Department of Africana Studies. In 1976, Van Sertima published his celebrated classic, “They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient America.” In 1979, he founded the Journal of African Civilizations, one of the most influential publications in the last quarter of the 20th century. For 15 years through the journal, Dr. Van Sertima created a community of leading scholars and writers who collectively provided proof of African contributions to the world and successfully changed many of the mainstream myths about Black people. The journal also influenced the development of multicultural curricula throughout the U.S.
“A House in Bali: An Opera” by Evan Ziporyn is at Cal Performances, Saturday, Sept. 26, and Sunday, Sept. 27, at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Call (510) 642-9988 or order on line at www.calperformances.org.
Mark Morris Dance Group with the MMDG Music Ensemble are also at Cal Performances, Sept. 17 and 19, 8 p.m., and Sept. 20, 3 p.m. Again visit www.calperformances.org.
Sausalito Art Festival Labor Day Weekend is Sept. 5-7 at Marinship Park, Marinship Way, Sausalito, (866) 468-3555.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend in Healdsburg is also Labor Day Weekend. Visit www.sonomawincountryweekend.com or call (800) 939-7666.
“Lords of the Samurai” closes Sept.20 at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco, (415) 581-3500 or www.asianart.org.
I hope folks got out to see Ted Pontiflet’s James Baldwin exhibit. I drove by the gallery for one last peek and the window and walls were bare, on Monday, Aug. 31. Joyce doesn’t waste any time. I wonder what the new exhibit it this month. Anyway, a belated Happy Birthday to a man I consider – and I am not the only one – one of America’s greatest essayists, thinkers and writers. While I am expressing regrets, I also missed James P. Anderson’s exhibit at the Red Door Gallery & Collective, also in Oakland. I got the information late and, well, I’d planned to run around checking out art shows before the Katrina event and got stuck trying to make this deadline. Oh, and while I am repenting, a few lashes for missing George Clinton Sunday, Aug. 30. What can I say? I was wrapped up in ancestor remembrance after Katrina and couldn’t get away … next time.
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival
Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry Sept. 12, 1 p.m., Linda Tillery & the Cultural Heritage Choir perform Sept.26 at 1 p.m., Ná Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu at 1 p.m. Visit www.ybca.org. Next month, Saturday, Oct. 4, Francisco Aguabella, 12:30 p.m. All the events take place in the Yerba Buena Gardens between Third and Fourth Streets and Mission Street. Linda and the CHC were great at the OPC fundraiser Aug. 29.
Alvon Johnson at Biscuits and Blueswww.bwgrill.com or call (650) 343-9333.
The 18th Annual San Francisco Fringe Festival is Sept. 9-20 at the Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco, (415) 673-3847, www.sffringe.org. I think Judy Juanita has something in the festival being performed in Bayview.
I haven’t seen it, but the description sounds interesting. Set in South Africa, “Groundswell” might be worth the price of the ticket. I’ve never seen anything at San Jose Rep I haven’t enjoyed. Visit www.sjrep.com or (408) 367-7255. Oops! It opens next month, Oct. 16-Nov. 8.
John Legend with India Irie
The two will be at the Greek Theatre, Gayley Road and Hearst Avenue, U.C. Berkeley, (800) 745-3000, www.ticket.master.com.
Women Make Movies Film Festival is at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., San Francisco, (415)-863-1087! The film screening continues through Sept. 3. Visit http://www.roxie.com/. Catch 22 WMM films, including new releases and top favorites. This week-long festival kicked off with “Ella Es Matador” (“She is the Matador”), a fascinating profile of two female bullfighters, which premieres on POV Tuesday, Sept. 1. Check the listings at www.pov.org.
Other festival highlights include Tuesday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m. “Shooting Women,” 8:30 p.m. “Four Wives, One Man.” Director Nahid Persson’s film is about a man’s right to have four wives in Islam and the abuse of this principle by one man who is described by his mother as loving “pussy.” I think it is her character which makes the film somewhat bearable. These women say they loved their husband initially even if they also have come to hate their lives as each new marriage erodes or destroys the care and love they held for their mate. Lost is the romance, the time their husband spends with his mate and his children. He has no time, as the harem increases along with his fleet of children.
The narrator notes that the custom is practiced more in the country or rural Iranian landscape than in the city; nonetheless, we see children betrothed at 5 and 6, the young groom telling his mother-in-law that he doesn’t want his wife to go to university. None of the women are happy, yet it doesn’t seem as if they have any way out of the relationship, even when the man they kind of love and kind of hate abuses them.
I am reminded of another film in this festival, “Divorce Iranian Style” by Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini. In the latter film, if a woman divorces, she has no right to anything except her person – not her children. These customs are indicators of how unfair practices bleed into the fabric of Islamic jurisprudence. Justice is not supposed to be based on gender nor is it to be based on any kind of innate superiority.
Above all Allah tells us in the Qur’an to be fair and just and kind. Men are not superior to women, yet in “Four Wives,” one wife says if her husband Heda dies, they all die because the family is dependent on him. I think it is this same wife who points across the way where her daughter lives behind a wall her husband has not let her out for the many years of her marriage. Her mother sees her grandchildren but not her husband. She says her child’s father wouldn’t let her marry for love.
It’s crazy. It seems as if the women would rather be in this sad situation than seek alternatives. Don’t they have any options? I wondered where the battered women shelters were when one wife spoke of her husband Heda pulling her braid so hard it came off –and she was pregnant. The man seems to have no shame on camera, but at least he doesn’t hit any of his wives on camera.
The situation here is very different from that in “Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter,” directed by Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater, screening Wednesday, Sept.2, at 7 p.m. with “The Sari Soldiers” directed by Julie Bridgham at 8:30 p.m. Perhaps it was their ages, but despite the fact that both families were Muslim, I found the relationship between the wives and their husbands very different. Malian, Mrs. Goundo, was betrothed to her husband when she was a child and once of age (16) her parents brought her to the United States and married her to him and then left.
There is a bond between the couple I don’t see with Heda. He seems willing to forfeit everything he has with his first, second and third wife for a fling. The only thing is, he marries his “fling,” tires and then tosses her away. Her feelings don’t matter and if they complain too loudly, he “thrashes them.” If there is a saving grace to the film, especially the depiction of Muslim men, it is the portrayal, however brief, of a kind neighbor who says he can barely handle one wife, why marry two, three or four. This is what is advised: “One is best, if you only knew” (Qu’ran).
The women are feisty, which I like. They have accepted their lot but even when the insurrections get beaten back, they continue to rise again and again and again.
“The Sari Soldiers” takes place in Nepal during a time of war and political unrest. What I found interesting is the way both sides, the Maoists and the Monarchs, justify murder of people they say they want to protect – innocent children are killed or disappeared. Supposedly working to better society for the disenfranchised, the Maoists are quick to torture and brutalize those who would speak against them. The Sari Soldiers are the women who fight on both sides … and those who don’t use weapons, those who believe in peace and resist using peaceful means, women who use their words and others who plan civil disobedient actions at their physical peril. One of my students from Nepal wrote a paper about this war. His mother was a Sari Soldier. She sought and received asylum here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mos Def California Tour
Sept. 3, Davies Symphony Hall, 8 p.m., Mos Def Presents: The Ecstatic Tour with Erykah Badu and Jay Electronica, San Francisco. Sept. 4, Paramount Theatre, 8 p.m., with Erykah Badu and Jay Electronica, Oakland. Sept. 5, The Palladium, 8 p.m., Mos Def Presents: The Ecstatic Tour with Erykah Badu and Jay Electronica, Los Angeles. Sept. 8, House of Blues, 8 p.m., with Talib Kweli and Jay Electronica, Boston.
11th Annual Power to the Peaceful
This event, “Power to the Peaceful,” Saturday, Sept. 12, hosted by Michael Franti and Spearhead is one of the most positive ways one can both hear good music and experience a world where peace is certainly a reality – if just for a moment. It’s held at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The after party is at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary at Fillmore in San Francisco, 8 p.m. The artists this year are, of course, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Alanis Morissette, Sly and Robbie, Vieux Farka Touré, Sellasie, Truth Universal, Aguas da Bahia and Tambores Julio Remelexo Drum and Dance Ensemble. Visit http://powertothepeaceful.org. On Sunday, Sept. 13, there will be all day yoga and Brazilian workshops, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., plus a Global Forum and Celebration, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the San Francisco War Memorial Building in the Herbst Theater and the Green Ballroom. Volunteers are needed: (415) 865-2170 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at email@example.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.