by Wanda Sabir
We remember George Duke, Margaret Marian McPartland and Cedar Walton, who joined the ancestors before many of us were ready to let them go. Our condolences to their families.
I also want to mention that at a wonderful concert featuring Damu Sudi Alii and First Edition at the 57th Street Gallery last month, M.B. Hanif was out and looked in excellent form! I hadn’t known he’d had a stroke and been out of commission most of the summer when I was traveling. It was great to see him!
I am beginning graduate school in October at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. It is a five-year program for the doctoral degree in depth psychology, community psychology, liberation psychology, ecopsychology. The program offers a matching yearly scholarship $12,500. Let me know if you’d like to sponsor me for the $12,500 this year or next year. All I need is five organizations – one per year – or a generous donor. Of course this program will better equip me in my work as a healer.
This year, I am short $4,000 tuition over the next three quarters. This does not include books or transportation to and from Santa Barbara each month over the next nine months or travel to Africa to complete my first project summer 2014. I took out a student loan that begins to accrue interest immediately once the funds are issued, which is why I hesitate to take out another loan that has a higher interest rate. Let me know if you know where I can find the money to pay for this (smile). See http://www.pacifica.edu/cle.aspx. It would be great to not have to work full time the entire five years.
On the 20th anniversary of the demise of my father, Fred Ali Batin Sr., the 18th anniversary of the Maafa Commemoration San Francisco Bay Area – the Ritual Sunday is Oct. 13, 2013; see http://maafasfbayarea.com/ – and approximately the 60th day of the hunger strike to end the inhuman conditions in California’s Security Housing Units or SHUs, I just want to pause and reflect. My dad lived a Jim Crow life in New Orleans up to the moment he left in 1961. The men starving for justice reflect an era past when slavery gave owners the right to treat their property, human beings, any way they please. Such is still the case 150 years later with regards to neoslave plantations in California operated by CDCR.
The tokens of progress are no longer viable currency as leaders continue to wage war at home on the most vulnerable and those leaders abroad who dare express any sense of national pride and solidarity.
What irony. To speak of war on a day one of this nation’s greatest humanitarians, Martin King, is honored invalidates everything said prior as if it were a charade.
Lee Daniel’s “The Butler,” is based on the true story of Eugene Allen, who served as a White House butler under eight different presidents. Called Cecil Gaines in the film, he comes to the White House from the racially-divided South. The story begins with a prologue depicting a traumatic event that scars young Cecil and marks him with regards to what type of father and husband he will be.
The beautifully shot film opens innocently with a young Cecil reflecting on how much he loves spending time with his father in the cotton field on the plantation where they live. He speaks about the star shape the ripe cotton boll opens to in one’s fingers, when his mother is snatched by the overseer and taken away to a barn against her will. Cecil looks at his father confused and asks him if he is going to do something, and when his look is greeted blankly, he asks why his father doesn’t save his mother, the child unaware of the collective impotence his father shares with other Black men at that time in America, post slavery.
I won’t spoil the story for those yet to see it; suffice it to say, there is no family reunion after his mother returns, mute and traumatized after the rape. Young Cecil graduates to the plantation house where he is taught to serve the rapist’s mother. Removed from the fields, one gathers from the monologue that the youngster hasn’t forgotten these early lessons and, as he puts it, he later decides to leave so that his father’s fate isn’t his own.
I am reminded of my father’s decision not to return to New Orleans once he is released from Angola. He first went to Texas, but Texas was too much like New Orleans, so he decided to move to California, where he lived until his death, only returning to New Orleans once, and that was to bury his mother, but the truck broke down before he reached his destination.
Daddy loved to play golf, one of many hobbies he indulged once North, something he could only dream of in the South, where the only Black men on the golf course were caddies.
I recall my mother saying how Daddy felt embarrassed when I asked to swing at Audubon Park on a day not reserved for Negroes. He probably felt the way Cecil Gaines’s father felt when his son looked at him with a question in his eyes. In this case, it was I who was looking.
We later meet the adult Cecil Gaines, portrayed by Forrest Whitaker, a family man, working in Washington, D.C., at a fancy hotel where he catches the eye of someone from the White House, who makes inquiries and hires Gaines. Gaines has a lovely wife, portrayed by Oprah Winfrey, owns his home and has two precocious sons. The elder of the two, interested in changing the country after learning about Emmett Till’s murder, is at odds with his dad who wants to forget the South – there is so much pain there.
Timing is everything and it is no coincidence that Lee Daniel’s “The Butler” opens just weeks before this historic moment, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I was not surprised to see Forrest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey speak Aug. 28; many speakers honored those architects of such a grand moment in history 50 years ago that day. The tolling of the bell just before the president spoke symbolized the violent legacy of this movement for freedom post-Civil War to date, in the shadows of the four little girls killed Sept.15, 1963, at the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, and their kinsman in tragedy, Trayvon Martin, whose parents were also present Aug. 28 day on stage.
The eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina rolled by without a murmur nationally the following day. My usual radio special was silent this year as interest wanes and news from the frontline gets harder and harder to have access to in the Diaspora. Karla Brundage is now teaching for the next two years in Côte d’Ivoire. Her birthday falls on the same day, and she would help me organize the report back each year. Good luck and happy birthday, Karla!
I wore white for the ancestors Thursday and had a moment of silence in my first class that day.
Equal Justice Society gala, ‘Everyday People: The Heroes and Heroines Who Powered the Civil Rights Movement’
Wednesday at the Oakland Museum of California, the Equal Justice Society hosted a kickoff fundraiser for a three year campaign to highlight the 50th anniversaries of seminal national legislation beginning with the 50th anniversary that evening, Aug. 28, of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (July 2, 2014), the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Aug. 10, 1965), and the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Oct. 3, 2015).
I found the fact that Congressman John Lewis, then 23, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, had to censor his speech, which was too fiery for the clergyman who was to deliver the benediction. Instead of “Negro,” he used the term “Black” to define his nation and spoke to the restlessness of the youth for change.
Jan. 1, 2013, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, was not celebrated with as much fanfare as this moment, Aug. 28, 2013. Perhaps the legacy of slavery, its stigma still hangs its shadow over much of this country’s policies. In the national silence, two films were released at this time, “Django” and “Lincoln.” Both eloquently spoke into this silence the inequities then and now facing Black people – the brutality of war, the brutality of slavery, the wages of both on the souls of its participants and bystanders vivid and horrifying.
Dr. Clarence B. Jones
I attended a wonderful event at the University of San Francisco the week before. Honored was Dr. Clarence B. Jones, who was a part of Dr. King’s legal team, and it was his notes to Dr. King which surprisingly ended up as the first seven paragraphs of the “I Have a Dream Speech.” He spoke to me just hours before the program on the phone about his work in the Civil Rights Movement. He’s best known as the person who smuggled King’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out of the jail (smile).
More importantly, he spoke of how his parents, both domestic workers, had no place to house him, so they had to board him with relatives and then in a foster care facility until he was old enough to live at the boarding school where he excelled and received a scholarship to Columbia. His education was interrupted by service in the military; however, he completed his education there and then went on to law school.
At a time when California government is in the spotlight for its handling of the hunger strike, I was interested in his reflections on the Attica Prison Strike in 1971, where he was an observer at the request of the inmates. His recommendation for a peaceful surrender was ignored by then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, who killed 42 men, most inmates, during an “armed retaking of the prison” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/clarence-b-jones/attica-prison_b_955703.html).
I was happy to see him interviewed in a special film, “The March,” narrated by Denzel Washington, on PBS the evening before Aug. 28. The film looked at the architects of this great day like Bayard Rustin, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom this year. There was an altar for him along with other martyrs and veterans of the Civil Rights Movement that evening at the Equal Justice Society Gala at the Oakland Museum of California Gardens.
A web series, also on PBS, called “TheMarch@50,” launched Aug. 26 and continues each Wednesday in September hosted by filmmaker Shukree Tilghman. His first episode is “Jobs,” which you can watch on-line at https://plus.google.com/events/caq6fv2klg6oqbppf7ep414n47k. Tilghman is known for his film, “More than a Month,” which looks at the history of the February designee.
I have been back from a summer in Africa for just under a month and in my short sojourn back in Babylon, I have noticed an increase in violence on the streets of Oakland, one of Dr. Jones’s pleas that evening, to stop the violence. He stated this in his speech following his receipt of the Hero Award from the San Francisco Human Rights Commission.
As my friend and I left the gathering and walked across the campus to Fulton, where we were parked, we reflected on easy access to guns in the most depressed communities, communities which do not manufacture the guns or artillery used in their self-destruction. One could say the same for the rifles and other means of mass destruction found in African countries like Congo, where not one gun is manufactured, yet neither side of the conflict is unarmed.
So who is to blame for the bloodshed domestically and internationally? What are the options available to the youth who take up arms if, as director Shukree Tilghman cites in his first episode, “The March@50:Jobs,” Black unemployment is always higher than the national average and the demand for federal guarantees for jobs 50 years ago was never met and the private sector never provided a viable alternative to this deficit, which only widens.
I went to see “Fruitvale Station” when I got back in town from Zimbabwe. Surprisingly, though, I did not like it. I thought Oscar Grant, the character, was more antagonist than protagonist – character assassination from the scenes in prison to those at his job – which he lost because he was always late – to his arrest while on the train, where he was in an altercation which was foreshadowed in the prison waiting room, where he disrespected his mother who stated she was not visiting him anymore. The only redeeming scene – which was hard to watch – was when handcuffed he was shot and allowed to almost bleed to death on the platform before being taken to Highland General Hospital. The film then just ends – Grant dies, film over. The archival footage and newsreels used in place of filmmaking just look lazy. Why didn’t the director finish the film?
The film spends no time on BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, who is shown shooting Grant in cold blood. This is the case which made Oscar Grant III a hero to the victims of police brutality and their families. In this film, Grant is little more than a young thug who is killed. He loves his daughter, lies to his girlfriend and family about his job, blames everyone for his life, rather than taking responsibility and manning up, which might have been the better story to tell than the one we see on screen here. I don’t know why the family agreed to this rendition of his story.
“Crimes of Police,” directed by Zar the Dip, a documentary shown at the Oakland International Film Festival this year, was a much better produced doc in a short line of other much better rendered stories about Grant, like “Operation Small Axe,” directed by Adimu Madyun, which also looks at this epidemic of police violence in the Black community.
If Ryan Coogler, director of “Fruitvale,” were to use creative license, which is the case with most films, even docs, which “Fruitvale Station” isn’t, one might have to suspend belief unless the director is Shola Lynch (“Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners”) or Stanley Nelson Jr. (“The Murder of Emmett Till”). However, I left the theatre not knowing what to believe about Grant except he was shot while restrained on the Fruitvale BART platform. In the film, Grant’s killing is almost justified, as Grant is not calming or diffusing the tension while restrained; rather, he is adding to the confusion by upsetting the female officer just before Mehserle shoots him silent.
‘Life, Love, Soul’ director Noel Calloway
On a brighter note, the film “Life, Love, Soul” (2012), directed by Noel Calloway, tackles the problem facing many children today, absent fathers, in a thoughtful, intelligent manner. In his film, this problem, facing one in three children, skirts all typical stereotypes when we meet Roosevelt Jackson (Robbie Tate-Brickle), an honor roll student who knows nothing of his dad until tragedy, the death of the 17-year-old’s mother, Renee Jackson (Tami Roman), bring the two together.
There is romance when Roosevelt meets Kyna Tate (Mia Michelle), a fast girl from Oakland, who is also an honor student. The two children, new in school, both living with parents they don’t really know – Kyna with her mother, Tiffany (Terri J. Vaughn), find solace in each other as they navigate senior year with the help of Mr. Roundtree (Jamie Hector), their homeroom teacher and adviser, along with the high school counselor, Dr. Tunney (Valerie Simpson), step-parents, other parents, family friends and common sense.
Winner of the Urban Film Award, “Life, Love, Soul” is available for purchase now. Visit http://www.noelcallowayfilms.com/.
Other events honoring the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington
50 Years Later: Commemorating the Birmingham Bombing is a benefit for the Northeastern University School of Law’s Civil Rights and Restorative Justice project, http://www.northeastern.edu/civilrights/. Featuring Dr. Angela Y. Davis and Professor Margaret Burnham, admission is $25 admission at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland, Sunday, Sept. 15, 5-7 p.m.
Dreaming On: Third Annual Critical Diversity Fall Forum at the University of San Francisco is Friday, Sept. 27, 1-4:30 p.m., at the University of San Francisco McLaren Complex, 2130 Fulton St. “Dreaming On” will feature speakers Jose Antonia Vargas and Sandra R. Hernandez, performances by Awele Makeba and the USF Gospel Choir. It is a free event.
San Francisco Fringe Festival runs Sept. 6-21 http://www.sffringe.org/
“A Man, a Magic, a Music” opens Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at the Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., San Francisco: Movin’ Melvin Brown presents a journey through Black music history, ‘50’s through ‘90s, singing, dancing, tap dancing, clogging. comedy, mime, characters like “the Black preacher,” the “music box dancer” and more. For tickets, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/390087.
“52 Letters” opens Sept. 7, 4 p.m., at Exit Theatre: “52 Letters” is a one-woman poetic stage play designed to bring awareness to the horrific and brutalizing circumstances surrounding sex trafficking and its affects upon American youth and women. It’s written and performed by Regina Y. Evans, co-directed by Regina Y. Evans and Louel Senores, who is also acting stage manager. Listen to an interview with Ms. Evans at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/05/29/wandas-picks-radio-show-1. For tickets, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/390101.
Beyond Solidarity: Meeting the Standard for Joint Struggle as set by Prison Hunger Strikers, From Palestine to California to Guantanamo
A discussion of how to build our unity and the challenges and possibilities for doing so across movements against repression, policing, incarceration and militarization and for self-determination will be held Thursday, Sept. 12, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. at Eastside Arts Alliance, 2227 International Blvd., Oakland. The event is free and open to the public. The panel, which is moderated by Sara Kershner of IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) and Lara Kiswani of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, includes:
- Selma James, Global Women’s Strike and IJAN
- Nadia Barhoum, Palestinian Youth Movement
- Sanyika Bryant, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
- Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee
- Manuel LaFontaine, All of Us or None
- Misty Rojo, California Coalition for Women Prisoners
- Majeed Shihade, Birzeit University
- Representative of the Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project
- Representative of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration
‘16 Cowries: Voices of the Divine’
“16 Cowries: Voices of the Divine” is on exhibit at the Sargent Johnson Gallery, First Floor, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco, Thursday, Sept. 19, through Thursday, Jan. 23.
The artists exhibited – Eesuu Orundide, Joshua Whitaker and Mahader Tesfai – seem to tap into the divine through their respective creative processes. Their finished art works are visual records of their interaction with the divine using line, color, layers, form and texture to convey messages both apparent and subliminal. The viewer is compelled to travel through realms separate from our everyday experience to assume a new perspective of the subject matter at hand and sometimes the purely abstract. These works of art seem to deliver messages from a place deeper than a conscious state, like listening to the voices of the divine.
Sobonfu Some Ancestor Healing Retreat at Spirit Rock Sept. 21. Visit https://www.spiritrock.org/InstructorDetails?calendarinstructorid=85825.
San Jose Rep presents “One Night with Janis Joplin” Sept. 5-29, which features a star-studded cast headed for Broadway. I had the opportunity to interview Tiffany Mann, who portrays “Blues Women,” who inspired Joplin such as Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone and Ma Rainey to name a few. Visit http://www.sjrep.com/ or call (408) 367-7255. We had a nice conversation on Wednesday, Aug. 28, by phone. To listen, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/08/30/wandas-picks-radio-show.
Presently, at the Marin Theatre Company, is David Lindsay-Abaire’s “Good People,” a different take, a quite original one, on the “local boy makes good” story. A doctor runs into an old girlfriend from the neighborhood with a hard luck story: out of work, single mother with a retarded daughter – the twist is, the local boy is white, his wife, Black, the old girlfriend also white. The playwright really plays with our sensibilities as the story unfolds unpredictably for a refreshing change. The run is Aug. 22-Sept. 15.
Rebuild Haiti NOW! Support Training for Haiti’s Next Generation of Doctors and Nurses
Rebuild Haiti Now! a fund-raiser for Haiti’s University of Aristide Foundation will be held by the Haiti Action Committee on Sunday, Sept. 15, 6-9 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. The University of Aristide Foundation, established in 2001 by Haiti’s former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his wife Mildred, provides medical training to Haiti’s future health professionals who are even more urgently needed since the 2010 earthquake. Speakers include Pierre Labossiere, Haiti Action Committee; Walter Turner, Global Exchange; Walter Riley, National Lawyers Guild’s 2013 Champion of Justice; Richard Boswell, professor of law, U.C. Hastings; and Leslie Fleming, UNIFA. The Vukani Mawethu Choir will join others offering music and dance. All are invited to this important event. PHOTO:
On the fly
Tune into Wanda’s Picks Radio Wednesday and Friday mornings for upcoming events like the Wisdom Arc opening at the Exploratorium Sept. 21. Currently on display is Question Bridge: Black Males April 2013-April 2014. If you missed your opportunity to immerse yourself into the exhibit when it was at the Oakland Museum, providence has granted you another opportunity to experience this wonderful interactive conversation between Black men of differing generations. Conceived by Chris Johnson with Bayeté Ross Smith and Kamal Sinclair, this collection of questions and answers from over 150 Black men in 11 cities across the nation, resulting in a video project containing over 1,500 exchanges, is a window into Black manhood one rarely peeps. Wisdom Arc is the next step in a continuing conversation, only this time, audience members get to send a message to his or her younger self. Visit http://www.exploratorium.edu/ and for a recent interview with Chris Johnson and Eric Doversberger who took Chris’s idea and actualized it, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/08/30/wandas-picks-radio-show.
Located just outside the town of Masvingo, situtated in the southeastern hills of Zimbabwe near Lake Mutirikwe, close to the Chimanimani Mountains and the Chipinge District, Great Zim was the capital of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe during the country’s Iron Age. It was also the seat of power for the monarch.
It is almost a still life.
One also sees echoes of the artistry of Great Zim in the modern buildings in the capital, Harare, whether that is at the airport or an office building, the “National Heroes Acre,” which honors the freedom fighters or even in the flag, which has pictured the sacred bird which was found in Great Zim, several also stolen. The flag also has stripes, which one could interpret as bricks, the kind used to build the great walls of the enclosure.
I have never been to a country before with such close connections to its past. I didn’t meet anyone, whether he or she was a public servant or passenger in a local cab called a combe, who did not know his history and feel proud to be Zimbabwean.
The stones are not cemented or mortared. They are placed one on top of the other fitted just so to create these massive structures, castles, buildings, walls and enclosures taking up miles and miles. The Europeans systematically destroyed all evidence of domestic life purposely in the areas where one could have seen how the king’s servants lived. They also destroyed much of the outer wall for a golf course, yet, despite its absence, there is enough present to give one a sense of the majesty of the place. There is also a museum where one can see what the structures looked liked from models. One can also measure the various archeological and historic periods here as well.
My guide, the lead archeologist for Great Zim – I just lucked up the morning I visited (smile) – Munyaradzi Elton Sagiya, told me that the government closed entrances to caves which they felt precarious to prevent injury. However, he told me stories of people who live here who would come here for rituals and go deep into the caves. It is still a sacred site where rituals are practiced. We saw evidence of this in a smaller open cave along our incline. There were earthen bowls and pestles and other materials suggesting an offering. Entering the cave, Sagiya clapped his hands as he said a prayer.
Great Zimbabwe is certainly a mathematical and design wonder of the world. Cecil Rhodes, the former colonizer of this nation, tried unsuccessfully to create a fiction which credited its creation to Europeans.
Standing on the king’s balcony overlooking his kingdom, which was militarily and spiritually fortified, was one of the highlights of the journey and certainly worth the climb up the often narrow stairs and over the huge rocks to the top (smile).
‘Bicycling Across Africa: Cairo to Cape Town’
On Thursday, Sept. 26, Phil Mumford will take us on a fascinating four-month, 7,500-mile trip by bicycle through Africa – from the deserts of Egypt and Sudan, among the mountains of Ethiopia and the game parks of Kenya and Tanzania, along Lake Malawi and through Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, ending in South Africa. He rode his bicycle for 100 days and took a three-day safari to the Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater. Phil, a retired teacher living in Livermore, has made several extremely long bicycle trips, including across the U.S. coast to coast twice, Canada to Mexico, trans-Europe north- to-south as well as east-to-west, and also across some of the vast open spaces of Australia.
The event begins with no-host cocktails and social hour at 6 p.m., dinner at 7:00 and the program at 8:00 at the Berkeley Yacht Club on the Berkeley Marina, one block north of the west end of University Avenue. Ample free park¬ing is available in the Marina parking lots. Cost of the dinner and program is $27, including tax and tip. For a reservation, please send your check, payable to Sierra Club, with your name, your telephone number and the names of your guests, to Jane Barrett, 170 Vicente Road, Berkeley, CA 94705, (510) 845-8055. Attendance is limited to the first 115 reservations received. Reservation deadline is Friday, Sept. 20. There is no admittance for program only. See http://theyodeler.org/?p=7726.
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.