by Wanda Sabir
I want to give a special shout out to an unsung hero, my kid brother, Fred Ali Batin Jr., a man who lost his dad at age 59, much too soon for both of us. Fred also lost his first son, Carlton, to violence much too young. Carlton is still on the San Francisco unsolved murder list. When Fred got married 15-16 years ago, he took his vows seriously, when Imam Abu Qadir Al Amin, Muslim Community Center of San Francisco, told him that he was to provide for his family, a family of now four. Fred has worked two, sometimes three jobs since he got married.
He works so hard the only time he stops is when he is hospitalized. How many men take their vacation time and volunteer as a parent chaperone for their child’s week-long nature retreat? Fred’s work shifts coincide with his children’s school schedule. Sometimes he doesn’t sleep at all, so he can attend school programs and participate in parent teacher school activities, as well as citywide academic leadership activities.
He has no personal life. His life is 100 percent his family’s: wife and children. Just this week, he sent his younger daughter, the one who was honored by the City and County of San Francisco as a young scholar, to Indonesia, to visit family. Last year he sent her older sister. He has arranged for his wife to stay in touch with her family, by hosting her parents or sending her to visit and taking the entire family to visit over the years. Fred has let so many of his personal dreams go to be the kind of husband and parent he signed onto when the children started arriving 13 years ago: He is dedicated and present.
As I watched African American Shakespeare Company’s production of Lorraine Hansberry’s “Raisin in the Sun,” directed so well by company Artistic Director L. Peter Callendar, a father as well, I thought about my brother, Fred Ali Batin Jr. In the story, the Youngers, now a family of five, wait anxiously for the insurance check from Walter Lee Sr. to arrive – all their plans connected to the blood money the patriarch’s death stands for.
Walter Jr. sees the money as a way to finally be the man he dreams he can be. His sister, Beneatha, sees it as a way to complete her schooling, while Mama sees it as a legacy – a way to buy security for generations to come, and Ruth, Ruth has no designs on the money. She just wants the man she married back, so that she and Travis, their son, and the baby she is carrying will be happy.
My brother’s dreams and career goals were not to be a security guard and a warehouse attendant, but over the years, he felt if he took off work to do what he really wanted to do, that would mean bills wouldn’t get paid while he was studying to be a teacher or an engineer or some other career he found fascinating. One year he scored the highest possible on the Muni exam yet couldn’t take the position because the training was two weeks he would be without pay. Yet, in the long run, he would not have had to work as hard he does now.
I remember the young Fred always taking things apart and putting them back together better, whether that was a V-8 engine or an aircraft at John O’Connor Vocational High School, where he graduated before he went on to City College of San Francisco, where he graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Studies. He liked martial arts and was proficient in many styles, among them, Aikido and Judo.
He was hit by a car when a little boy and has suffered pain ever since, one leg shorter than the other, but that hasn’t stopped him, just as deferred dreams haven’t stopped him yet. If, as Langston Hughes writes in the poem Lorraine Hansberry uses as the inspiration for her play, “Raisin in the Sun,” that it’s not good to defer dreams, because they have a way of “exploding” when unrealized, what happens to parents like my brother who has to work two to three jobs because the health coverage from one job is insufficient for his family’s needs?
When we were kids growing up in the Sunnydale projects, trudging up to John McLaren School, where I dropped Fred off in the lower yard while I went to the upper yard where the second graders were, I couldn’t imagine we’d end up where we are, nor do I think we are stuck or immobile. You have choices, Fred. I think Mr. Younger did too.
Such are the tradeoffs parents often make for their families. Are they necessary? Do our families want blood sacrifice? My brother listed me as a beneficiary for his insurance policy and often joked that he was worth more dead than alive. I did not find it humorous.
I just want my brother to know this Father’s Day, Sunday, June 17, 2012, that I see him and his sacrifices and I applaud his efforts and that I hope he lets me take him to the opera sometimes, the museum and to lunch; that during the next 50 years he takes a little time off for himself and that his family makes it possible for him to do so without a guilty conscience. Mental, spiritual and physical health is all we have, that and time. Both are irreplaceable gifts none of us can take for granted.
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over –
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Geminis in the House of Stars
Did you see the solar eclipse? Pretty magnificent! We went to Mt. Shasta which was the best place to view the ring of fire. Also last month, Cal Performances gave California Coalition for Women Prisoners 20 tickets for Sweet Honey in the Rock. We were celebrating Wanda Brown’s release, and the release of other women through the California Habeas Project. We got to go backstage and mingle with the celebrities, like Alice Walker and of course the Sweet Sisters.
I was in the company of women who’d been shackled to hospital beds when giving birth. Kim was present at the concert with her little boy, born in captivity.
Another woman released after 27 years behind bars was learning to use her cell phone camera. This was her first outing since her release less than a month ago.
Still another woman joined us who’d hijacked an airplane for the revolution. She is now working in the SF Sheriff’s Department.
I was with women who create new worlds with their hands, telling stories with energy – kinetic enlivening, healing massage. I was with domestic violence survivors who now sing their peace and share their stories with others.
The songs Sweet Honey sang sounded like they knew we were in the audience – songs about putting down the loads we’ve been carrying around, the baggage we tote without toll. At least we could be getting paid (smile). The all-women a cappella group sang songs about the human condition and our need for each other if we are to get clear and stay free.
I am listening to Sweet Honey’s “25th Anniversary” album getting so inspired.
A Sweet Sunday in Berkeley
by Wanda Sabir
Chowchilla Women (prisoners)
Break, Rise, Fly
Orange tinted lens blind
(on a) Neo-Slavery sunrise
Shout out to all the June Geminis like Sister Nida Ali, Raymond Nat Turner, Kash Killion, Michael White, Ted Pointeflet, Kim McMillon and June Cancers – much love on this solar return. We remember Gemini sistahs Andrea Lewis and Vivienne Crawford, Sister Saadaqa, Sister Ummus Salaama and Sister Louise – all Geminis. We’d go by the old Housewives Market and get Sister Saadaqa a duck, which she would cook for our special Gemini Birthday Dinner. Duck and carrot juice (smile). Sister Saadaqa lived at the Sojourner Truth Apartments on MLK Jr. Way in Oakland, across from the old Merritt College campus. Sister Ummus Salaama was buried on my 50th birthday. I remember going to my granddaughter’s kindergarten graduation in Berkeley, and then to the funeral at Chapel of the Chimes in Fremont and then to my birthday dinner in Old Oakland. That evening we went to see Keb’Mo and Taj Mahal in concert on a double bill. Later that night Sandina was spinning a Wanda Mix in West Oakland at Marcel’s old place, The New Black World Social Aid and Pleasure Club.
Harry Belafonte’s “My Song” is a must read for all those who want the back story on Martin King and JFK; Sékou Touré and Miriam Makeba and Kwame Ture; Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and “We Are the World”; Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and ANC President OliverTambo; Bishop Desmond Tutu and Coca Cola; Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra; Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby; Belafonte in films: “Buck and the Preacher,” “Uptown Saturday Night,” “Kansas City,” TransAfrica and Randall Robinson, incarcerated youth, Barack Obama Sr. and Airlift Africa, an education program from emerging African nations, Peace Corps Goodwill Ambassador.
In Belafonte’s “My Song,” he is frank and open about everything, his admiration for Paul Robeson, the man he patterned his life after, to his trysts with women because of unresolved issues with his mother, his father’s brutality and his guilt over his absence in his children’s lives. He eventually works out the kinks in his psyche over the course of the book or 50 years. His third marriage helps a lot – love is a great antidote for pain. At the end of the day, at the end of the book, one greatly admires this living legend – Belafonte is certainly one of America’s unsung heroes. What irony – with training as an actor, he says he fooled us into thinking he could sing (smile).
Walter Mosley is the consummate writer; the man is just a genius. His characters are fascinating, whether that is Socrates, the former murderer, now philosopher, who creates a dare or mbongi, a community gathering where all are welcome to bring their issues or just to listen. He calls it The Thinkers Club. My favorite of the Socrates Fortlow series is “The Right Mistake.” Another book of Mosley’s I have just finished teaching in a Critical Thinking class is “The Tempest Tales.” This book was one of three, plus a textbook, which looked at justice and morality and how what is just is not always right or fair.
We read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and “Yummy, the True Tale of a Southside Shorty.” In “Tempest Tales,” we meet Tempest (nickname) at roll call – he is in line to meet St. Peter who condemns him to hell. Tempest refuses to go and so begins a saga which includes his own accounting angel, a new body – not really new, we find out at the end of the story. Joshua Angel’s job is to convince Tempest to accept judgment and go to hell. We even meet Bezelbob or Satan who eventually wants nothing to do with a person who holds the balance of good and evil in his hands. Satan is actually a good guy.
Libations for the Ancestors Saturday, June 9
The annual Libations for the Ancestors on the second Saturday in June is June 9, 2012, at 9 a.m. PT. This libation is an international one, poured simultaneously. In our time zone, the time is 9 a.m. exactly. We meet in the East Bay at the fountain at Lake Merritt across from the Lake Merritt Restaurant and Bakery. Bring instruments, prayers, poetry and a good spirit to share. Visit www.maafasafbayarea.com.
Dick Gregory and Paul Mooney at the Black Rep
Paul Mooney and Dick Gregory are in concert at the Black Repertory Group this weekend, May 31-June 3, at 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley. Visit http://blackrepertorygroup.com/Main_Stage.html or call (510) 652-2120. Tickets start at $60.
Be Still Retreat, a day for learning about stress reduction and self-care
The Be Still Retreat will take place on Saturday, June 23, 2012, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at the old location, Jack London Aquatic Center, 115 Embarcadero, between Fifth Avenue and Oak Street, Oakland. The event is free of charge. An RSVP is required. Call (888) 779-1221.
Incantations y the Bahia, 1970s to Now, featuring Avotcja, Francisco Alarcon, Adrian Arias, Lorna Dee Cervantes, devorah major, Janice Mirikitani, Alejandro Murguia, Nina Serrano, Roberto Vargas and Daisy Zamora is at the Luggage Store Gallery, 1007 Market St. in San Francisco, Friday, June 1, 7:30 p.m.
Bayview Opera House Jams
Free Saturday concerts 1:30-4 p.m. at the Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St., San Francisco. On June 9, it’s Chelle! and Friends and June 30, The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol Quartet. Visit www.bvoh.org or call (415) 824-0386.
Carl Ray: ‘The Power of Forgiveness’
Saturday, June 9, at 5 p.m., Carl Ray performs “The Power of Forgiveness.” Tuskegee Airman Capt. Les Williams joins Ray for a discussion and book signing at Palma Ceia Baptist Church, 28605 Ruus Ave., Hayward.
East Bay AIDS Walk
Saturday, June 16, 8 a.m., is the Sixth Annual East Bay AIDS Walk: 8:00 registration, 10:00 5K walk, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. lunch and Health Village at Lake Merritt Gazebo, Oakland.
On the fly
The San Francisco Black Film Festival, June 15-17, opens in its 14th year at the historic Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in its new home 450 Post St. in Union Square in San Francisco. Along with the many films between opening and closing nights will be events such as a tribute to Emmy Award-winning director of animators and creator of Fat Albert caricature, Leo Sullivan. There will also be a “Focus on Fathers Family Day and Juneteenth Celebration” with films and a community panel discussion, a “Father’s Day Contest” and “Everybody is a Star Red Carpet VIP Party.” Visit http://www.sfbff.org/ or call (415) 400-4602.
The 14th annual Healdburg Jazz Festival runs June 1-10. Friday, June 1: Calvin Keys Organ Quintet; June 8: Michele Rosewoman Trio with Andy McKee and Billy Hart with Julian Priester; June 10: Jazz Roy-alty with Roy Haynes and Fountain of Youth Band; Sheila Jordan and Cameron Brown; Vijay Iyer Trio. Call (800) 838-3006 and visit http://www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org/.
The 31st annual Northern California Book Awards is Sunday, June 10, 1-2:30 p.m.: Awards ceremony with readings and remarks by this year’s award-winning authors 2:30-4 p.m.; book signing and reception with readings and remarks by this year’s award-winning authors at the San Francisco Main Library, Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin, enter on Grove, Civic Center, San Francisco; reception follows in the Latino/Hispanic Room.
There are many exhibits closing in the next month you won’t want to miss or will want to see one more time: “Question Bridge” at the Oakland Museum of California closes July 8; “AeroSoul 3: Urban Hieroglyphics” opens June 21, and “Black Flight: Our Sojourn. Our Connections. Our Stories.” closes June 17 at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St. in San Francisco. Visit www.aerosoulart.com. Also closing is Mark Bradford’s retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.www.dancemission.com, (415) 826-4441. Tickets are general $20-$25, youth $15; no one turned away for lack of funds at the door; box office: www.brownpapertickets.com.
Junius Courtney Big Band with Denise Perrier
The Junius Courtney Big Band with Denise Perrier celebrates their 50th anniversary season with a tribute to Ray Charles at Yoshi’s Oakland. Concerts are scheduled for Tuesday, June 26, with two shows at 8 and 10 p.m. in Jack London Square at 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland. The band pays homage to Ray Charles and his epic 1961 album “Genius Plus Soul Equals Jazz” in a special show titled “Junius + Soul = Jazz.” Headlined by the tremendous world-class vocalist Denise Perrier, who celebrates her own 10 years with the band, the Junius Courtney Big Band personnel will put their own spin on Brother Ray’s best. There will also be plenty of the band’s own arrangements, originals and surprises in the mix, including an updated edition of the “Ray-ettes.”
Berkeley World Music Festival
The FREE Annual Berkeley World Music Festival offers continuous music performances by Bay Area’s finest artists noon-9 p.m. outdoors and in Telegraph Avenue cafes, plus a featured concert in People’s Park with headliners six-time Grammy nominee Maria Muldaur and Fito Reinoso. With Fely Tchaco’s Afro-Pop, Zimbabwe dance music, Moroccan, Gypsy jazz, Hawaiian, tango, klezmer, Asian jazz and more, there’s something for everyone! Start at the info booth on Telegraph at Haste Street, www.berkeleyworldmusic.org.
34th Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival
For the 34th Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, “The World United Through Dance,” Festival Artistic Directors Carlos Carvajal and CK Ladzekpo have curated a thrilling lineup featuring 30 veteran Bay Area dance companies performing both ancient and contemporary dances, including ground breaking cross-cultural collaborations and encore performances of some favorite dance pieces from past seasons. The festival, taking place June 2 through July 1, continues to bring dance to an ever widening audience throughout San Francisco as it opens at Fort Mason Center, moves to prominent San Francisco museums and once again returns to Yerba Buena’s Novellus Theater for three exhilarating weekends. Family matinees on Saturday afternoons offer 50 percent discounts to children age 12 and under, and group discounts are also available. For complete ticketing information and performance details, visit www.sfethnicdancefestival.org or call (415) 474-3914.
Dads and Jazz at Dunsmuir in Oakland
City of Oakland’s Office of Parks and Recreation’s Father’s Day concert honors fathers in a live concert on Saturday, June 17, from 2-6 p.m., at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate, located at 2960 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland. Tickets are available by visiting www.dunsmuir-hellman.com or calling (510) 615-5555.
Frameline36: the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival runs June 14-24, with San Francisco screenings at the historic Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St.; Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St.; and Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St., and in Berkeley at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, 2966 College Ave.www.frameline.org.
Juneteenth San Francisco Bay Area and Beyond
Tracy, Calif.: On Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., the Tracy African American Association hosts the Juneteenth Family Reunion at Lincoln Park in Tracy. There will be great food, music, entertainment, vendors, karaoke and fun activities for the entire family.
San Jose, Calif.: The African American Community Service Agency presents San Jose Juneteenth in the Park Festival June 16-17. Visit http://www.bayareajuneteenth.org/.
Pre-Juneteenth Event in San Jose with Dr. Joy DeGruy: Dr. DeGruy, author of “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome,” will appear Friday, June 15, at a special event at the Rotunda City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara St., San Jose. Admission and parking are free. The reception is at 5 p.m. and the presentation from Dr. DeGruy is at 7 p.m.
Vallejo, Calif.: Juneteenth comes to downtown Vallejo Saturday, June 16, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Martin Luther King Jr. Park behind the JFK Library and City Hall, adjacent to Marina Vista Memorial Park south end on Georgia Street between Santa Clara Street and Mare Island Way. Visit http://www.vallejojuneteenth.com/.
Berkeley, Calif.: Berkeley Juneteenth is Sunday, June 24, 10-6, http://www.berkeleyjuneteenth.org/.
Richmond, Calif.: West Contra Costa County celebrates Juneteenth with a Family Day Parade and Festival in Richmond on Saturday, June 16, 10 a.m.-6p.m. The Juneteenth Parade begins at 10 a.m. on Cutting Boulevard and Marina Way and ends at Nicholl Park on 33rd and Macdonald. This year’s grand marshal is Clarence Van Hook and the parade features the Wells Fargo historic stage coach. The Juneteenth Festival, hosted by Eddrick Osborne, is 11:30 a.m. to 6:00pm at Nicholl Park on 33rd and Macdonald. Visit http://www.richmondcajuneteenth.org/.
San Francisco, Calif.: Saturday, June 16, marks the beginning of the 62nd Annual San Francisco Juneteenth Festival, the gathering of African-Americans in Northern California. The two-day celebration starts with a parade beginning at the African American Art and Culture Complex at 11a.m. on June 16. The Juneteenth festival takes place on June 16 and 17 on Fillmore Street between Geary and McAllister and brings out as many as 25,000 people. Both days include a classic car and motorcycle show, fashion show, petting zoo, pony rides, 3 on 3 basketball, a health fair, a Soul Train line and of course live entertainment, food vendors, arts and crafts and community information booths. Visit http://www.sfjuneteenth.org/. There’s a kick off on Friday, June 1, 3-7, at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco.
Stern Grove Festival, free music in the park, is 75 years old!
June 24, 2 p.m., is the first Stern Grove concert of the season and features headliner Anita Baker, the Family Stone with original members Cynthia Robinson, Jerry Martini and Greg Errico and Glide Memorial Choir. There is a fundraiser, “The Big Picnic,” a catered lunch in the West Meadow benefiting the festival at 11:30 a.m.; however, the party is still free. Early arrival is advised for this and the rest of the season, which brings back the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Week 2, July 1. Meshell Ndegeocello, the E Family and the San Francisco Ballet and others round out July. Visit http://www.sterngrove.org/home/celebrate75/june24/. Stern Grove is located at 19th and Sloat Boulevard in San Francisco, near SF State University, Ocean Beach and the Zoo.
‘A New Color,’ a documentary film by Mo Morris
The film “A New Color” is about Edythe Boone, muralist, educator and artist, who happens to be TaSin’s former preschool teacher. Edy is family, and certainly when one thinks about how so many Black women wear skirts and trousers, it is friends like Edy who make it possible for us to come through the fire intact, sane and our children minimally scarred (smile). Watch the trailer and donate to the project before June 13, 2012, so Morris can complete it: http://kck.st/KWUZhm.
Summer of Peace
The Shift Network will present “Voices for Peace.” the opening festival for Summer of Peace 2012 on June 22-23 at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland, 1547 Lakeside Drive. Summer of Peace 2012 is a three-month global celebration of and call to action for inner and outer peace, featuring weekly online tele-summits, calendar of international events, youth outreach and multi-cultural dialogue.
The concert will feature Maria Muldaur and Friends, the Vukani Mawethu Choir, Emmit Powell and the Gospel Elites, Earth Amplified, with additional performers to be announced.
The festival’s focus on creating a culture of peace will continue on Saturday, June 23, from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. with the “Voices for Peace” Conference. This all-day event will feature lively panel discussions, interactive breakout sessions and dynamic keynote speakers, including Marianne Williamson, Barbara Marx Hubbard, James O’Dea and peaceleaders from Oakland and the Bay Area.
The “Voices for Peace” Conference will address diverse and interconnected pathways to peace that transcend national, ethnic, racial, religious, age or gender differences – and will cover the spectrum of peace, from the inner to the international. Participants will hear from experts in the fields of conflict resolution and community building to explore different ways to implement peace-building skills. The conference will address themes such as Inner Peace, Forgiveness, Communicating Peace, Education, Urban Peace, Justice, Military, Politics and Healing Cultural Wounds.
Included in the purchase price for the conference, you will receive one copy each of Barbara Marx Hubbard’s book “Birth 2012 and Beyond” and James O’Dea’s book “Cultivating Peace.” You may pick up your copies at the event venue.
Youth under age 21 can attend the conference for FREE!
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to 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., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.