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Wanda’s Picks for February 2014

February 5, 2014

by Wanda Sabir

I am recovering from a huge blow – my computer was taken along with other personal irreplaceable items in Carpinteria, a bedroom suburb outside Santa Barbara. We stopped by Loon Point to visit the shore before driving back to the San Francisco Bay Area Jan. 30. It was early, we’d just finished our first session of the Winter Quarter. Rested and kind of pleased that we’d made it through the intense week at the Pacifica Graduate Institute, we left our luggage in view in our cohort’s car. In Oakland, we’d not have done that, but somehow the seashore, mountains and quiet terrain deceptively seduced us – so we returned from a short early morning walk to shattered glass on the pavement.

I understand the embarrassment of enslaved Africans when queried about slavery: “Well, didn’t you know better,” I could hear people say. So I didn’t tell anyone except a friend who told me not to worry, that we’d get our things back. I have been here too many times. I would gladly share what I have with anyone who asked. A gun is not necessary, nor is stealth. Just ask. I am not going to give anyone my car or personal belongings –what was taken had little monetary value.

I am just back from Brazil where I see a headline in a newspaper speaking to Black on Black crime. Youth are killing other youth.

Sisyphus Syndrome cast by Kamau, web
Amiri Baraka brought his play, “Sisyphus Syndrome,” to Oakland in 2008. This is the cast. – Photo: Kamau Amen-Ra
I think the Carpinteria situation is not even “merry” as in Robinhood. If we have luggage, obviously we are passing through. What is the liquidation value of the booty? Feeding from the bottom doesn’t lift one any higher. This quarter we are looking at colonialism and the colonized and the place each find themselves in – Frantz Fanon proposes revolution. He does not see the colonial giving up his bounty voluntarily.

I went to New York for Amiri Baraka’s funeral and homegoing celebration – it was a fitting salute to a magnificent human being. He was an artist whose body of work speaks to who Black people are in America. His politic and his art were a seamless unity which, like the man, evolved and expanded in scope and comprehension as life got both more simple and complex as the rock on the hill continued its forward momentum as long as he kept his hand on it. I wouldn’t say death crushed Baraka; rather when he could no longer keep the momentum going forward, others stepped up and held it steady while others began the trek upward.

It is mythical and mystical how Sisyphus is tireless in his work of balancing the now between what is past and what is to come. When Baba Baraka made his exit, a cold front hit the region that had snow piled up and thoughts frozen in midair – traveling shortcircuited in that instance. The planet bowed when Baraka stepped into a new phase. His hat and scarf were on the stage, sort of hanging out – his body in a white coffin between the podium where the two emcees sat and the pit where the musicians sat.

Baraka was there in the poets who paid him homage, in his friends who filled the auditorium and in his family, most specifically Ras Baraka, who spoke last about his father – the man, the legend, whose work continues in Ras’ bid for the mayoral seat in his father’s and his beloved Newark, New Jersey. We heard about Baraka the political organizer, as congressmen, council members, and other officials and community activists spoke about the institutions Baraka established in Newark and the careers he groomed and polished, even the power weddings he presided over.

Baraka was there in the poets who paid him homage, in his friends who filled the auditorium and in his family, most specifically Ras Baraka, who spoke last about his father – the man, the legend.

People spoke about naming their children names that reflected their African heritiage because Imamu Amiri Baraka did. Sister Souljah, who introduced Ras, said that Baraka and his family were her introduction to rich Black people – families where everyone was encouraged to think critically and differences of opinion were respected. She talked about not seeing a library in a house prior to her visit with the Barakas. She was surprised that everyone read, the family ate together, there were two parents in the home, and the husband respected his wife and she him.

I didn’t get a chance to meet James Baldwin or Langston Hughes, whose birthday is today, Feb. 1. But I got a chance to be in Baraka’s company. I didn’t always have anything to say, but I was fine with just listening. The last time he was here, he and Reggie Workman conversed. It was awesome! I was with Robert H. King and BJ, one of the founders of the The Malcolm X Commemoration Committee in New York. They were sponsors of an Angola 3 Film Festival.

Sisyphus Syndrome Amiri Baraka, David Murray, David Ewell, Sonia Whittle by Wanda, web
Amiri Baraka directs the cast in his play, “Sisyphus Syndrome,” performed in Oakland in 2008. – Photo: Wanda Sabir
The next day after the funeral, we went to a the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee and the 1199 SEIU Activists 18th Annual Dinner Tribute to the Families of our Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, honoring Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson, Saturday, Jan. 18, at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center. Family and friends of political prisoners and prisoners of war (PP and POWs) were honored as they honored dinner founders Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson. It was a very nice affair.

A treat was seeing Lynne Stewart, attorney, recently released, who was so happy to be free, but sad to have left so many behind. The hostess shared greetings from political prisoners such as Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Herman Bell, Sundiata Acoli, Sekou M. Abdullah Odinga, Abdullah Majid, Kamau Sadiki (Freddie Hilton), Mumia Abu Jamal, Jalil Mutaquim (Jalil Bottom), whose cases were highlighted in the program and who sent letters and greetings to the Fergusons.

The fundraiser after costs uses the money raised to put credit on the books for these men and women, many who are not allowed to work, as they are in solitary confinement, and others who have no family outside the community of activists. Teresa Shoats and her siblings were there as well and spoke along with many others about the wonderful work the Ferguson team – husband and wife – have contributed to the lives of so many comrades over the years. The room was full.

It was so nice staying in Harlem on West 122nd and Malcolm X and then around the corner was Marcus Garvey Park, where Malcolm X Boulevard and Martin Luther King Jr. Way intersect. As we walked to the subway station, we passed the Apollo Theatre, where Amiri Baraka’s name with a message was on the marquee. This week he is being honored at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

A treat was seeing Lynne Stewart, attorney, recently released, who was so happy to be free, but sad to have left so many behind.

Before King and I left for the airport, Yasmine took me on a cultural tour of Queens, where El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’ house is and the other New York Mosque Annex he founded on the Corona side. It is still being used as a mosque and a school. We took photos in front of his house where he and his family lived before he was killed.

We also went by the waterfront where the hurricane hit and knocked the boardwalk loose and saw where it hit and knocked out the houses in its path. One can imagine Africa on the other side of the vast sea. There is photography exhibit that opened while I was there which looks at the Hurricane Sandy devastation.

Ground Zero, where the A-Train let us off and we had to walk from the end of the train line to another train for Newark, is a really big open space with tall new buildings going up. The 9/11 museum was around the corner from where we were walking. I don’t recall reading about what happened to the people trapped in the subway station beneath the World Trade Center.

We passed by Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Plaza in Harlem where there is a statue with the congressman’s lifesize likeness. The work shows him in perpetual motion, as on the edifice one reads all the legislative bills he was responsible for. There is a large building on the site where the statue sits. It is one of many monuments I noticed in my brief visit to the city (smile).

Black Arts Conference in the Central Valley

Feb. 28-March 2, 2014, the University of California, Merced, is hosting a conference to explore the Black Arts Movement and legacies. Many of those who honored Amiri Baraka will be present at the conference. I didn’t see Sonia Sanchez’ name mentioned, who shared a poem from Maya Angelou before launching into her wonderful piece, which included poetry. At the conference, which Marvin X announced at the funeral, special tribute is planned for Imamu Amiri Baraka. Expected guests include Askia Toure, Ishmael Reed, Marvin X, Eugene Redmond, Umar Bin Hassan, Nathan Hare, Emory Douglas, Judy Juanita, Avotcja and other key writers, musicians and artists from the Black Arts and Black Power movements who will discuss their work and perform at the conference.

There will be scholarly panels, poetry, art, theatre presentations and workshops on a wide variety of topics from the state of Black Studies in America to the impact of the Black Arts Movement past and present on the agenda. The cost is free for UC Merced students and $40 for others. For information visit http://ucmercedbamconference2014.com/. To register contact Kim McMillon at kmcmillon@ucmerced.edu. “The Black Arts Movement and this UC Merced Conference comprise one whopping piece long missing from the jigsaw puzzle of cultural America,” said Al Young, California’s poet laureate emeritus.

Film: ‘Summer of Gods’

“Summer of Gods” will be screened this Sunday, Feb. 2, 12-2 p.m. at the New Parkway Theater, 242 24th St., Oakland, between Broadway and Telegraph. Eliciana Nascimento’s “Summer of Gods” is a short film about a troubled girl named Lili who unites with her Afro-Brazilian religious ancestry on a summer visit with family to their ancestral village in rural Brazil. Soon after her arrival, she encounters Orishas (African gods) who join with her grandmother to help her find peace with a gift that has previously vexed her. The film is set in the Northeast of Brazil where Afro-Brazilian religious traditions remain strong. Lili’s grandma is a well revered local priestess who honors the Orishas. Lili is blessed by the goddesses as well. To preserve tradition, they lead her on a mystical adventure through a nearby forest which symbolizes her initiation into the tradition.

African American Celebration through Poetry

The 23rd Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Our Poetry is Saturday, Feb. 8, 12 noon to 3 p.m., at the West Oakland Library, 1801 Adeline St. in Oakland. The event is free and all are welcome. Although we welcome all themes, this year we encourage writers and artists to consider our overall theme, a tribute to the South African leader Nelson Mandela: “Let’s Honor His Voice for Freedom.” This year many voices have joined the heavenly choir – Amiri Baraka, Upesi Mtambuzi, Mary Rudge, Yusuf Al Waajid and Samual Fredericks.

For information, call (510) 238-7352. We need volunteers that day, so if anyone has time, please come by a bit earlier to help with refreshments, registration for those who want to read during the open mic and with logistics and clean-up. We also need a microphone for that day, so if you have one you can let us use, let the library staff know – thanks!

‘Dancing in the Streets’?! Meet Martha Reeves

Martha Reeves
Martha Reeves
Martha Reeves, a woman whose voice recorded the soundtrack of 1964 – “Dancing in the Streets,” a song with gave voice to the mood of a country which was tired of war and consumption and an ethic that didn’t serve the good of the majority of nations here and elsewhere. Muhammad Ali took his stand that year, as did many others across the land – the “music” Reeves sings about invited everyone to “dance in the streets.”

Ms. Reeves is at the African American Museum and Library, 14th Street at MLK Jr. Way in Oakland, Thursday, Feb. 5, 7:30 p.m., to talk about the song and the year when American youth specifically saw possibility and why the song is even more apropos now – the war then was Vietnam, now Iraq and Afghanistan. Listen to an interview with Henry Delton Williams, whose name is a part of the Seventh Street Hall of Fame Walk of the Stars that Ronnie Stewart has been working on for the past 23 years. Talk about perseverance. Mr. Williams, who is known for his wonderful costumes he has made of the stars of Motown, is one of the first 70 or so inductees. He was on my radio show Friday, Jan. 31, at the top of the second hour: www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks. Call for tickets and information: (510) 637-0200.

The Fabric of our Culture: A Group Quilt Show

“The Fabric of our Culture: A Group Quilt Show” will be at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland, Feb. 1 through March 2. An artist talk is scheduled for First Friday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., and a Black History Celebration Event and Lecture on Friday, Feb. 21, 7-9 p.m., hosted by Barbara Howard. Participating artists are Alice Beasley, Marion Coleman, Khristel Johnson, Jackie Bryant Smith and Katie Wishom. For information, visit www.joycegordongallery.com or call (510) 465-8928.

Poetry by Avotcja

Avotcja’s “La Palabra Musical, Music of the Word” will be performed at Cafe Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave., near Delaware, Sundays, Feb. 2 and 16, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The reading is free and the food is delicious, almost as tasty as the poetry (smile). Note the new location. Visit www.Avotcja.org.

Charles Curtis Blackwell Art Exhibition

Bay Area artist Charles Curtis Blackwell exhibits paintings and drawings exploring themes of Africa and the jazz aesthetic at the Central Library from Feb. 10 through April 20. Blackwell will speak about his work and his personal journey as a legally blind artist during an artist talk on Sunday, Feb. 23, at 2 p.m. in the third floor Community Meeting Room of the Berkeley Central Library. The exhibition will be on display in the Catalog Lobby on the first floor and the Art and Music Department on the fifth floor of the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck, downtown Berkeley. Call (510) 981-6241 or visit the library’s website: www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org.

African Film Festival at Pacific Film Archive

For film lovers, this festival, curated by Mahen, at the African Film Festival in New York is always a delight and this festival doesn’t disappoint in the least. Even though you’ve missed some jewels, like “Mother of George” in the theatrical run last year, or “Le Président” and “Burn It Up Djassa,” you haven’t missed the really lovely “Zarafa,” which screens Sunday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m. The animated feature, directed by Rémi Bezançon and Jean-Christophe Lie (France/Belgium, 2012) and recommended for ages 7 and up, is a lovely tale of an African boy who escapes from slavery in North Africa and, through his friendship with a giraffe, travels the world as he teaches his friend and father about honesty, loyalty, truth.

Veteran actor Nini Wacera in 'Nairobi Half Life'
Veteran Kenyan actor Nini Wacera stars in “Nairobi Half Life.”
Other films: Tuesday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m., “Fidaï,” the story of a grandfather who was a freedom fighter during the Algerian War of Independence against France – who would have known, right; Wednesday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m., “Tey” with poet Saul Williams as a man who contemplates life the last day of his life; Wednesday, Feb. 12, 7 p.m., “Between Cultures: Recent African Shorts” and Wednesday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m. “Nairobi Half Life.” I saw this film in the Bongo film category at the Zanzibar International Film Festival last summer. It was great.

On the fly

The Bryant Bolling Quintet in “Love Will Find a Way,” an evening of creative Jazz mixed with spoken word poetry, performs Saturday, Feb. 8, 8:30-11 p.m. at the 57th Street Gallery, 5701 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, www.57thstreetgallery.com. Celebrating the African-American experience of love, culture and family that evening will be Bryant Bolling,  vocals; Alexander Smith, bass; Larry Douglas, trumpet/mallet kat; Michael Spencer, drums; and Zakiyyah G.G. Capehart Bolling, poet/storyteller who will be warming up at the 23rd Annual African American Poets and their Poetry Celebration earlier at the West Oakland Library (smile). Admission is $15. Also at the 57th Street Gallery this month is Rhonda Benin, wonderful singer, Saturday, Feb. 22, 8:30-11 p.m.; doors open at 6 p.m. Admission is $15.

Sweet 16 SF Indie Fest, Feb. 6-20, will be at a variety of venues. Visit www.sfindie.com. Films: “Grigris,” directed by Mahat-Saleh Haroun (Chad/France) is an awesome film about love. A paraplegic dancer falls in love with a hooker and together they get a chance to start over; however, the renewal is not without its harrowing moments (smile). The cinematography is stunning and the dance scenes are pretty phenomenal as well. It screens often beginning Saturday, Feb. 8, 12:15 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 9, 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Feb. 18, 9:15 p.m. Twenty-five-year old Grisgris represents (smile). Raised by his mom and a step-dad, his father supportive somewhat financially, Grisgris is loved by the neighborhood, who like his creative talent and his gumption, has a dilemma when his stepfather gets sick and needs money for medicine. Annual Pat Parker Benefit Sunday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Visit www.lapena.org.

Warehouse 416’s Fourth Annual Black History Month Exhibition, ‘In Search of Sheba’

A multimedia art exhibition featuring the work of 12 talented Bay Area Black women artists dedicated to the legendary Queen of Sheba, an African queen from ancient times, runs from Feb. 1 through March 22. The gallery is located at 416 26th St., Oakland, www.warehouse416.com. They are open every Saturday, 1-5 p.m., or by appointment; email gallery@warehouse416.com. First Friday receptions are Feb. 7 and March 7, 6-10 p.m.; artist talk Saturday, March 15, 1-4 p.m.; closing reception Saturday, March 22, 1-5 p.m.

‘Creations of the Creators: Healthwise Inventions by African Americans’

“Creations of the Creators: Healthwise Inventions by African Americans” at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St., at 14th Street, near downtown Oakland, presents an engaging exhibit of many African Americans’ patented inventions. Twelve creators among this group, who changed human health for the better, are the inspiration for this artistic exhibit of 3D items that have reference to the text about their creations. The exhibit is planned for public viewing within the Annex portion of the historic Beaux Arts Performance Center, Thursday, Feb. 6, through Wednesday, Feb. 26, Monday-Thursday 9-12:30; please call to arrange weekend visits. There is a scheduled Late Night First Friday on Feb. 7, 5-9. Contact Ms. Neal-Madison for further details and to arrange your visit, at (510) 238-2786.

‘The House that will not Stand’ world premiere

“The House that will not Stand” makes its world premiere at Berkeley Rep, Jan. 31-March 16. Award-winning poet-playwright – and Oakland native – Marcus Gardley debuts the new play with acclaimed director Patricia McGregor. This humorous and gripping historical drama from award-winning poet-playwright and Oakland native Marcus Gardley is sensuous, witty, heartbreaking and uplifting. “The House that will not Stand” unearths a story about free women of color in 1836 New Orleans, where Black Creole women entered into common-law marriages with affluent white men.

'The House that will not Stand' by Marcus Gardley at Berkeley Rep 0214 by Cheshire Issacs
The three daughters in “The House that will not Stand” are played by Janiece Abbott-Pratt, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart and Flor deLiz Perez. – Photo: Cheshire Issacs

When her wealthy lover mysteriously dies, Beatrice Albans’ foundation of wealth hangs precariously by a thread. She is left to fend for her three unwed daughters in a world where freedom must be carefully negotiated. Told in a rich and lyrical river of words, this new play was developed through The Ground Floor, Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. It’s helmed by Patricia McGregor, whose many credits include the celebrated production of “Spunk” at California Shakespeare Theater. “The House That Will Not Stand” begins previews on Berkeley Rep’s intimate Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St. at Shattuck, on Friday, Jan. 31, opens on Wednesday, Feb. 5, and runs through Sunday, March 16. For tickets and information, call (510) 647-2949 or visit berkeleyrep.org.

Tenth Annual Black Choreographers Festival Here and Now

Listen to a conversation with co-founders Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbro-Barnes, with Gregory Dawson returning guest chorographer this year, at www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks for Friday, Jan. 31, 8-9 a.m., first hour. For this 10th anniversary, there is a new book, written by Kimara Dixon, a photography exhibition featuring his work, a new film, four venues, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Dance Mission, Laney College and ODC Theatre. The festival opens Feb. 9 and continues through March 8. Visit www.bchereandnow.com so you do not miss anything. Special guests this year include Nora Chipaumire, Gregory Dawson, Joanna Haigood, Portsha Jefferson and Robert Moses.

Aguas Dance Company presents ‘Movendo com Capoeira’

An evening of dance and live music will explore the rich Afro-Brazilian culture on Feb. 14-16, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $23 in advance, $27 at the door. Visit http://odcdance.org or call (415) 863-9834.

Tania Santiago’s “Movendo com Capoeira” intertwines Capoeira, one of Brazil’s most enduring cultural symbols, rooted in the historical and political struggles of the African Diaspora, with the spiritual family of the African Diaspora in Brazil, the Orixas, to tell a deeper story of these cultural gifts that have been curated by her community in Brazil for almost two centuries. Weaving together Afro-Brazilian folk dance, pure Capoeira and live drumming, the work creates a full portrait of these amazing, physical art forms.

“Movendo com Capoeira” also vivifies more recent emblems of Bahian culture with a tribute to Bob Marley and the reggae music he made famous around the world. Reggae has rooted itself in Salvador, Bahia, over the years, as it has been a voice for the oppressed and represents freedom, happiness and community to the people of Bahia. Excerpts of the new evening length work premiered in the Black Choreographers Festival Here and Now and Cuba Caribe.

A Valentine’s Day Celebration of ‘The Color Purple’ with Oscar nominee Margaret Avery live in-person

This Valentine’s Day, purple is the warmest color in San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre as Marc Huestis presents “A Valentine’s Day Celebration of ‘The Color Purple’ with Oscar nominee Margaret Avery (Shug Avery).” His gala event features an interview with the star, a performance by Bebe Sweetbriar, an excerpt from the award-winning new documentary, “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth,” introduced by director Pratibha Parmar, and a rare theatrical screening of Steven Spielberg’s beloved classic, “The Color Purple.” Tickets are also available for just the film for $11 and are available at the Castro Box Office Feb. 14 starting at 6 p.m. Visit http://www.castrotheatre.com.

Gala tickets are available at www.ticketfly.com http://www.ticketfly.com/event/447751-valentines-day-celebration-san-francisco/ for $25 general (orchestra side and balcony); $35 VIP (orchestra center reserved), including pre-event signing with Ms. Avery at 6:30 p.m. For information, call (415) 863-0611 and visit http://marchuestispresents.com/. The Valentine’s Day Gala, on Friday, Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m., includes performances, documentary excerpt, interview, screening of “The Color Purple” at 8:45 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St. at Market, San Francisco.

Nominated for 11 Academy Awards in 1985, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Whoopi Goldberg) and Best Supporting Actress (Margaret Avery and Oprah Winfrey), this film about love, honor, empowerment, reinvention and redemption is perfect for both Valentine’s Day and African American Heritage Month. It was the debut feature film for both Goldberg (as Celie) and Winfrey (as Sophia), shooting both toward stardom. Margaret Avery as Shug is the emotional center of the piece, in a performance that is both substantial and transcendent.

Pratibha Parmar’s “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” also screens on PBS’ American Masters on Friday, Feb. 7.

Is Orange the New Black?

Justice Now and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP) proudly present a community event to discuss California women’s prisons with Piper Kerman, activist and author of “Orange Is the New Black.”

Piper will be joined by an esteemed panel of activists and organizers in the fight against imprisonment in California, including Misty Rojo of Justice Now and CCWP, Theresa Martinez of Justice Now, Janetta Johnson of Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) and Samantha Rogers of CCWP.

The event is Sunday, Feb. 23, 3-5 p.m., at the Humanist Hall Oakland, 390 27th St. in Oakland, between Telegraph and Broadway. Tickets are on a sliding scale from $20-$100. No one turned away for lack of funds.

Childcare is available, provided by the Bay Area Child Care Collective; please email pipereventCA2014@gmail.com to confirm a space. The Humanist Hall is wheelchair accessible from 28th Street. If there are any questions or offers of support, please email pipereventCA2014@gmail.com or call CCWP on 415-255-7036, ext. 4. For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/events/205481079654211/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar.

The tourniquet is economic: a review of ‘Hemorrhage’

I went to opening night of Dance Brigade’s “Hemorrhage: An Abolition of Hope and Despair, A Dance Installation at the Intersection of the New San Francisco and World Politics,” which is onstage through Feb. 8, Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. at Dance Mission, 3316 24th St., San Francisco. When I walked into the theatre I was faced with debris – a solid waste landfill in the middle of an urban municipality. At closer inspection, we noticed that there were people living in this landscape of despair – women who had begun to take on the colors of the emotionally and psychologically crushing environment. Obviously, these women were not garbage, but if one looks at their misuse by socially sanctioned institutions then there was a synergy inherent in the abundance of potential lying wasted in front of us.

Krissy Keefer's Dance Brigade performs 'Hemmorhage' 012414 by Wanda, web
Krissy Keefer’s Dance Brigade performs “Hemmorhage.” – Photo: Wanda Sabir
Krissy Keefer, artistic director of Dance Brigade, the company’s name in itself a call to action and a not so subtle hint that Dance Brigade’s art is not for the faint of heart, plays many roles – one a woman in a bathtub, a crazy woman who is wise to a fault which perhaps drives her a bit mad as she sees what is evident ignored by those with power and influence: city and other government officials. It was cheering to see Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco’s sheriff, with his wife in the audience that evening. Perhaps other City officials will attend or have attended on other dates.

Certainly “Hemorrhage” is an urgent call for help while the life force still pumps through the veins and arteries of our institutions, not to mention the life force itself – the uterus. It would be a tragedy if the potential for change, for rebirth was ignored or tied off or excised.

We meet women here in the desolate landscape of “Hemorrhage” who were abused as children, thrown away as adults, who sometimes doubt themselves with good reason. We meet women who were great providers for their families before they lost their employment. We meet mothers and girlfriends, powerful women even still or without the trappings of outward success.

“Hemorrhage” is not sad, more so sobering as these women rise and keep getting up. Drumming, a force like one’s heartbeat, as is the really fierce dancing, is a mainstay here as the women bleed and bleed along a trajectory which is not a part of a natural life cycle.

We’d call it menses if it gave birth or menopause – a moment of rest – but to hemorrhage is to bleed uncontrollably; it is the kind of bleeding that saps one’s energies. It takes one’s attention from her creative work. It means that one cannot arrest the source of one’s despair. It indicates an absence of control.

To hemorrhage is urgent as in call 911 or ZERO. It is the action and the spill.

Dance Brigade’s “Hemorrhage” is a wake-up call. People are hemorrhaging out of San Francisco; they are bleeding into the Bay and beyond – places where, unwanted, they are swallowed whole by apathy and/or disenfranchisement.

People are hemorrhaging out of San Francisco; they are bleeding into the Bay and beyond – places where, unwanted, they are swallowed whole by apathy and/or disenfranchisement.

This work like other work in the Dance Brigade catalog is thought-provoking but more so a call to action. Who are these folks who decide who can live in San Francisco, who send eviction notices to everyone at Midtown Apartments, a subsidized complex owned by the city on O’Farrell and Geary. They were to be out Jan. 31. These same government officials are letting City College of San Francisco struggle and flounder, its continued operation no thanks to civil apathy. I don’t understand how San Francisco government can let its only community college close.

But we at the San Francisco Bay View know this machine and its implicit and explicit role in the overall hemorrhaging of the citizens. It is manmade, so man and woman, the people, can put their hands together and stop the bleeding. (Our blood banks are low on blood too, by the way.)

Dance Brigade presents “Hemorrhage: An Abolition of Hope and Despair, A Dance Installation at the Intersection of the New San Francisco and World Politics” Jan. 24-Feb. 8, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Dance Mission, 3316 24th St., San Francisco, 415-826-4441 or dancemission.com for information and for tickets, 800-838-3006 or brownpapertickets.com.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. 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.

 

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