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Wanda’s Picks for June 2015

June 2, 2015

by Wanda Sabir

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads, especially those dads who stayed the course, when walking away would have been so much easier, even expected. Congratulations to all the fathers who didn’t pretend to know what was best and had the courage to find out how to be a better parent. Happy Father’s Day to the OGs who have grown more responsible with age. It is never too late to do better, even if you missed a generation – grace is that second chance.

Wanda’s niece and nephew, Wilda and Wilfred, are pictured at Wilfred’s graduation. Wilda is in Puerto Rico now on a service learning trip with her school.

Wanda’s niece and nephew, Wilda and Wilfred, are pictured at Wilfred’s graduation. Wilda is in Puerto Rico now on a service learning trip with her school.

Congrats to all the May-June graduates, especially my niece and nephew Wilda Batin and Wilfred Batin. Wilda is graduating from San Francisco Day School with highest honors. As I write this, she is in Puerto Rico on a service learning trip with her school. Good luck, Wilda, in high school (smile). Wilfred graduated from Rosa Parks Elementary School and the Rosa Parks Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program – with honors as well. Good luck, Wilfred, in middle school.

Congrats also to Abdullah Sabir, my daughters’ younger brother, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications from Benedictine College in Kansas. Abdullah’s college is the only Catholic College in the United States to boast of an alumna who is a Nobel Peace Laureate. The late Dr. Wangari Maathai graduated from Atchison’s Mount St. Scholastica College, now Benedictine College, with a degree in biological science in 1964. She is the first African woman to be awarded any Nobel Prize (2004) for her work in sustainable development, democracy and peace. She is also the first African woman to earn a doctoral degree.

Abdullah has plans to continue his education at the graduate level. The Berkeley High School alumnus was an all-star football player at Benedictine as well as a sports writer. He’d like to be a coach. Right now, he is working with kids at a YMCA-affiliate program in the Fillmore.

New York in the spring – Ark of Return

While I was in New York in April, I was able to visit Ark of Return at the United Nations. A recent monument commemorating the end of slavery, it was designed by architect Rodney Leon and his team. His firm is the same one which designed the monument commemorating the African Burial Ground in Wall Street. Made from marble, the Ark of Return sits near the East River, so one can imagine easily the Ark sailing away across the waters home. As with the other monument, triangular sides and a sky view define the structure. One walks into the Ark – up a ramp, into a chamber where an ancestor lies in state. Youthful, it could be Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown. He has on all white; the shroud covering his head looks a little like a hoodie.

The marble for the Ark of Return is from many places throughout the world. All of sculptor Rodney Leon’s monuments to our ancestors are in marble. At the African Burial Site, the marble is not all white like this is. A lot of it is a rich black. The Ark of Return feels more ceremonial, perhaps because there is a body incorporated within the work. At the African Burial Ground at Wall Street, the ancestors are buried in plots just off to the side of the monument. The bodies are there. He has a fountain there as well, for libations.

The marble for the Ark of Return is from many places throughout the world. All of sculptor Rodney Leon’s monuments to our ancestors are in marble. At the African Burial Site, the marble is not all white like this is. A lot of it is a rich black. The Ark of Return feels more ceremonial, perhaps because there is a body incorporated within the work. At the African Burial Ground at Wall Street, the ancestors are buried in plots just off to the side of the monument. The bodies are there. He has a fountain there as well, for libations.

It was a cold day, alternating between rainy and windy. I noticed how visitors were shocked, even startled, by the body inside. It was certainly unexpected, but then people approached without reverence, without understanding the significance of the Ark. Teens crowded the edifice noisily jousting each other about. When it got outrageous, the guard nearby had to remind them that the Ark was a memorial marking a tragedy and internationally sanctioned travesty of justice.

When things quieted down, I reentered the chamber and placed in the space beneath his head a rose quartz stone and Gye Nyame carving (the Akan Adinkra symbol meaning God-Eternal). It was carved from copper. I also left a few coins.

The Ark is a tomb. It recalls the ancient ones of Kemet – the body youthful, a huge number of youth were taken from home never to see family or friends again. Inside the tomb there is a global map of the trade in African flesh. On the marble floor, and throughout the sculpted work, the triangular landscape recalls the triangular routes used in this still profitable exchange.

The message inscribed on the Ark, “Lest We Forget,” is our reminder to acknowledge the tragedy and consider the legacy. On the sides of the ramps are the names of the places Africans were transported from. Situated right on the East River and shaped like a ship, there is a certain movement also inherent within the work. It looks like it could fly away, the sides also ship-like. From the side, the Ark looks like the Sankofa bird (smile).

The message inscribed on the Ark, “Lest We Forget,” is our reminder to acknowledge the tragedy and consider the legacy. On the sides of the ramps are the names of the places Africans were transported from. Situated right on the East River and shaped like a ship, there is a certain movement also inherent within the work. It looks like it could fly away, the sides also ship-like. From the side, the Ark looks like the Sankofa bird (smile).

People speak of slavery continuing, but sexual trafficking and other types of bondage like debt bondage in India and elsewhere are not legal and there is a global outcry, whereas while Africans were being sold, traded on the literal stock market, this human rights travesty was met with silence for hundreds of years. No one cried out.

New Afrikan resistance was continuous, but the beneficiaries of this chattel system did not lift their voices until coffers were full, the wealth generated and the slaves’ use all but spun out. It is the same with the prison system – it is growing by leaps and bounds, because this form of legal slavery is profitable, especially when the population inside is young. When they get older, that is another chapter of the same story. Notice how many men and women are being released at 60, 70, even 80 years old. This is what happened on the other plantations too.

While it is great to draw parallels, we need to not muddy or cloud historic facts in analogous reasoning that is at best inaccurate. Let the fact that Africans were taken from the continent unwillingly for centuries and suffered the most heinous indignities for profit, stand without comparison, because there is nothing imaginable equal to what our ancestors suffered.

The offspring of these strong people remain the scourge of humanity still in the West where these ancestors left indelible creative footsteps and legacies still marching on. The irony remains, despite the façade of equality and justice.

Libations for the Ancestors

The International Libations for the Ancestors is June 13 this year. For those in the Pacific Time Zone, we pour at 9 a.m. We will assemble this ninth year at Lake Merritt about 8:30-8:45. We’ll be across from the Merritt Bakery where the fountain is, on East 14th Street at Lakeshore Drive. If you can’t get to the lake, no worries. Pour libations for the ancestors where you are. Visit http://maafasfbayarea.com. For information, call 641-715-3900, ext. 36800#.

Conference on Trauma and Healing

Stanford University is sponsoring the free Soul Wounds Conference June 4-6, https://traumaandhealing.stanford.edu/soulwounds. Friday, June 5, 3-4:30 p.m., Panel XI: Religion, Spirituality and Soul will be chaired by Wanda Sabir, graduate student in depth psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute and co-founder of the Maafa Commemoration San Francisco Bay Area, in Building 200, Room 030.

Juneteenth in California 2015

2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, commemorating the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation finally reached slaves in Texas. For a partial listing of events around the state, visit http://www.juneteenth.us/events/locate.php?mnustate=CA.

Juneteenth drawing

San Francisco Juneteenth: Saturday, June 13, http://www.sfjuneteenth.com/ – during the San Francisco Black Film Festival June 11-14.

Friends of Negro Spirituals Juneteenth: Third Annual Juneteenth Celebration is Saturday, June 6, 1-3 p.m., at the West Oakland Public Library, 1801 Adeline St., Oakland. Visit https://www.facebook.com/fns.spirituals.

Berkeley Juneteenth: Sunday, June 21, 11-7, in South Berkeley’s five-block Alcatraz-Adeline row. Visit http://www.berkeleyjuneteenth.org/.

Tracy Juneteenth: From Our Roots Come Greatness! is June 6, with entertainment, vendors etc. Call 209-229-6443 or visit http://heyevent.com/event/w4zade53xmjjma/2015-taaa-juneteenth-tracy-ca.

Stockton Juneteenth: Stockton Juneteenth History Project, Thursday, June 19, 6:30-9:30 p.m., downtown Stockton waterfront. Read their proclamation, which looks at documenting slavery in California, the role of slavery in the Gold Rush and the agricultural legacy here as well: http://www.stocktonjuneteenth.org/flyer.

Richmond Juneteenth: Saturday, June 20, sponsored by the National Brotherhood Alliance and the City of Richmond. For more information, call 510-620-6515 and visit http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=427.

Allensworth State Park Juneteenth: Saturday, June 13, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Join us. There’s plenty of sunshine for those who love warm weather. There’s great entertainment, great speakers, and a fabulous tour of the historic buildings in this historic Black town given free by the Friends of Allensworth volunteers. Lots of great food and beverages as well. See http://friendsofallensworthsandiego.com/calendar.htm.

Sacramento Juneteenth: Friday-Sunday, June 19-21. Call the chair, Gary Simon, 916-541-2582, and visit http://sacramentojuneteenthinc.org/contact/.

Vallejo Juneteenth: Saturday, June 20, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., City Park. This is their 27th annual celebration. Visit http://www.vallejojuneteenth.com/.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

The opening celebration for “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art,” the first comprehensive survey of performance art by Black visual artists from the United States and the Caribbean, is Saturday, June 13, $5 admission. Beginning at 12:30 p.m., audiences will have the chance to see many of them perform live! It all takes place in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Downstairs Galleries, 701 Mission St., San Francisco, 415-978-2787 or ybca.org/radical-presence-opening.

At 8:30 p.m. is Shaun Leonardo’s “The Eulogy,” a new performance, commissioned for the San Francisco presentation of Radical Presence, takes Ralph Ellison’s 1947 novel, “Invisible Man,” as its starting point. As Leonardo performs the speech given by the novel’s narrator at Brother Clifton’s funeral, a local brass marching band performs a routine that mimics the impact of the speech, interweaving the artist’s words with choreographed moments of confusion and disorder. These words serve as a memorial, a rejection, a challenge and call to action, all at once. Appropriate funeral attire is encouraged.

Here is the full “Radical Presence” lineup: Benjamin Patterson, “Penny for Your Thoughts,” 12:30 p.m., Grand Lobby; Tameka Norris, “Untitled,” 1:30 p.m., Downstairs Galleries; Senga Nengudi, “R.S.V.P.,” 2:30 p.m., Downstairs Galleries; Benjamin Patterson, “Pond,” 4:30 p.m., Downstairs Galleries; Maren Hassinger, “Women’s Work,” 5:30 p.m., Grand Lobby; Pope.L’s “Costume Made of Nothing,” 6:30 p.m., Downstairs Galleries; and Shaun Leonardo, “The Eulogy,” 8:30 p.m., Sculpture Court. “Radical Presence” runs through Oct. 11. Visit http://www.ybca.org/radical-presence-opening.

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Garden Music and Performance Series for June features “The View From Bernal Hill,” Thursday, June 4, 12:30-1:30 p.m.; “Timon! – The Musical,” Friday, June 5, and Saturday, June 6, 7-8 p.m. and Sunday, June 7, 1-2 p.m.; Poetic Tuesdays with Litquake, Tuesday, June 9, 12:30-1:30 p.m.; Dafnis Prieto Sextet, Saturday, June 13, 1-2:30 p.m.; Jenny Lind Concert, Thursday, June 18, 12:30-1:30 p.m.; Let’s Go Salsa@Jessie: Azucar con Aché, Thursday, June 18, 6-7:30 p.m.; Bixiga 70, Saturday, June 20, 1-3 p.m.; Artists Guild Exhibit, Sunday, June 21, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Native Contemporary Arts Festival, Sunday, June 21, noon-3:30 p.m.; Ila Cantor, Thursday, June 25, 12:30-1:30 p.m.; Circus Bella, Friday, June 26, noon-1 p.m., Saturday, June 27, noon-1 p.m. and 2:15-3:15 p.m. Visit ybgfestival.org.

San Francisco International Arts Festival

The San Francisco International Arts Festival presents “Classic Black” with devorah major and Brian Freeman with the Destiny Muhammad Trio, a world premiere, Thursday, June 4, 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 6, 7 p.m.; and Sunday, June 7, 5:30 p.m., at the Southside Theatre at Fort Mason Center. Tickets are $20-$25. Visit http://www.sfiaf.org/. Listen to devorah major talk about this work, which resurrects the voices of African American ancestors in California: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2015/01/14/wandas-picks-radio-show-african-film-festival-bampfa.

Shakespeare at San Quentin

Imagine Shakespeare in a prison. Shakespeare at San Quentin is collaboration between the correctional institution and Marin Shakespeare Company. The work Lesley Currier and Suraya Keaton produce with their resident thespians is remarkable. I was transported. Even the light sensitive stamp which enabled me to leave after the performance didn’t shake the experience. Three plays in two weeks: “Julius Caesar,” “A Veteran’s Play” and “Macbeth.” The program is so popular that there is now a Wednesday group in addition to the Friday sessions, which go back to 2000.

It is Nythell “Nate” Collins’ acting – as Macduff – and not his “CDCR prisoner”-branded pants that the audience focuses on in this scene from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at San Quentin State Prison. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

It is Nythell “Nate” Collins’ acting – as Macduff – and not his “CDCR prisoner”-branded pants that the audience focuses on in this scene from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” at San Quentin State Prison. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Andress Yancey plays the Soothsayer and Tony Passer is Cicero in the San Quentin production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Andress Yancey plays the Soothsayer and Tony Passer is Cicero in the San Quentin production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” – Photo: Wanda Sabir

“Julius Caesar” looks at betrayal, while “Macbeth” is what happens when ambition is allowed to proceed uncensored. The fight scenes were spectacular and since the cast is so talented, often the productions are augmented with original songs and or raps. The staging uses all of the chapel for entrances and exits. Quite popular, the men play to sold out audiences (smile).

What I enjoy most is the conversation after the performance. Out of costume, the men answer questions about process, characters and how this company helps them transform their lives. It is easy to see how. Acting allows the actors to try on a persona or perspective they perhaps hadn’t considered. Suraya Keating speaks of the shadows lurking in the wings of each of our lives – bound, yet yearning for freedom.

These fearsome characters are Ronell “Rauch” Draper as Spirit 2, Antwan Williams as Spirit 1 and Donald Walker as Spirit 3. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

These fearsome characters are Ronell “Rauch” Draper as Spirit 2, Antwan Williams as Spirit 1 and Donald Walker as Spirit 3. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

In the San Quentin production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” John Owen Neblett plays the first murderer, Reese Reed the second murderer and Julian “Luke” Padgett plays Macbeth. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

In the San Quentin production of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” John Owen Neblett plays the first murderer, Reese Reed the second murderer and Julian “Luke” Padgett plays Macbeth. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

“Macbeth” is a play about honor, integrity and statehood. As he descends along with his wife, Lady Macbeth, the soldier is visited twice by witches who predict his future. The ancestors also haunt his waking moments. On multiple occasions, Macbeth can make better decisions, but slowly his justifications for the slaughter of women and children – innocent people – gets easier and easier. His conscience, muted, cripples him further as we watch his descent – he and his wife’s descent into the depths of darkness.

Julius Caesar trusts the wrong people, the flatterers, while his best friend, Brutus, is deceived. He does not give his friend, the king, the benefit of the doubt. He believes the worst. The successful campaign reminds me of Edgar Hoover’s FBI counterintelligence program which destroyed so many Black organizations like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the Nation of Islam, SNCC, SCLC and so many others.

Maurice ‘Reese’ Reed as Cassius and Carlos Flores as Brutus confer in this scene from San Quentin’s “Julius Caesar.” – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Maurice ‘Reese’ Reed as Cassius and Carlos Flores as Brutus confer in this scene from San Quentin’s “Julius Caesar.” – Photo: Wanda Sabir

In San Quetin’s “Julius Caesar,” LeMar “Maverick” Harrison appears as Marc Antony, John Windham as Octavius, Maurice “Reese” Reed as Cassius and Carlos Flores as Brutus. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

In San Quetin’s “Julius Caesar,” LeMar “Maverick” Harrison appears as Marc Antony, John Windham as Octavius, Maurice “Reese” Reed as Cassius and Carlos Flores as Brutus. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Anyone interested in seeing the next play, which is an original play the men write using themes from the Shakespearean work, should email Suraya Keaton, suraya@yahoo.com. To see performances, visit the Marin Shakespeare Company website: www.marinshakespeare.org. To attend a performance or a Shakespeare for Social Justice Instructor Training, email suraya@yahoo.com or lesley@marinshakespeare.org. The parallel play is Oct. 23 at 10 a.m.; the training workshop is Oct. 16-18. To listen to a recent interview with Suraya Keating, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2015/05/27/wandas-picks-radio-show.

After their powerful performances, the actors take seats on stage to answer questions from the audience. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

This fall also, in October, there will be a TEDex talk at San Quentin, and in June there will be an Arts in Corrections Conference at SQ.

Lifting up BB King and Michael Lange: Reflections on lives well-lived

The thrill isn’t gone, but certainly without BB King (Sept. 16, 1925-May 14, 2015) singing it, living it, being an example of it, well – the world without him and his faithful Lucille will not be quite the same any longer. Good times? Well, they are on “pause” presently.

James Brooks and Michael Lange perform a staged reading of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July” on July 3, 2007. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

James Brooks and Michael Lange perform a staged reading of Frederick Douglass’ “What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July” on July 3, 2007. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Jerri and Michael Lange stand in front of Jerri’s portrait in the renowned Alice Street Mural in downtown Oakland. Journalist Jerri Lange, 90, mother of thespians Michael and Ted Lange, was one of the Bay Area’s first African-American women radio and TV personalities and also a professor at San Francisco State University.

Jerri and Michael Lange stand in front of Jerri’s portrait in the renowned Alice Street Mural in downtown Oakland. Journalist Jerri Lange, 90, mother of thespians Michael and Ted Lange, was one of the Bay Area’s first African-American women radio and TV personalities and also a professor at San Francisco State University.

And then there is Michael Lange, our Malcolm X. Michael made his transition May 20, the day after what would have been Malcolm X’s 90th birthday. Michael (born Jan. 2, 1949) was 66. His mother, Jerri Lange (born Jan. 3, 1925), made 90 this year. She and El Hajj Malik El Shabazz were age mates.

On the day of Michael’s Memorial Celebration at St. Columba Catholic Church in Emeryville, Saturday, May 30, at 12 noon, it seemed fitting that it would also be the day that the streets were shut down for a block party. Both within and beyond temporal doors, we were invited to take a pause and remember the life of Michael “Finley” Lange. The church was full, an altar with Michael’s photo and flowers where perhaps his body might have stood.

Michael Lange’s sister Jana, brother Ted and mother Jerri Lange reflect at his funeral May 30 in St. Columba Catholic Church, Emeryville. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Michael Lange’s sister Jana, brother Ted and mother Jerri Lange reflect at his funeral May 30 in St. Columba Catholic Church, Emeryville. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

When the family walked in, Jerri Lange’s composure, warmth and dignity, as well as that that of her family, sons and daughter, grandchildren and other relatives, set the tone for the afternoon. Indeed this was a celebration. Father Jay Matthews officiated the proceedings with the warmth he always exudes, despite the fact that he too missed Michael, having grown up with Ms. Jerri’s children. At Ms. Jerri’s home, the evening Michael made his transition, I saw a photo of Father Matthews with his mother and other mothers as a baby, when Ted was also a baby. The day was a busy one for St. Columba Church; immediately following Michael’s ceremony, there was another funeral.

Ms. Jerri shared memories of her son, following the reading of the obituary. Her reflection was short, yet powerful as she said she named her son after the archangel and that he was from his first breath. She said he never gave her any trouble, that he was a good son and eventually a great man, all of his life. Perhaps what was so lovely about the service for “Michael Lange: A Soldier of Righteousness” were the witnesses to this in the shared memories of James Brooks, Dr. Pettis “Pete” Perry, Dr. Charles Whitcomb and Winston Young, not to mention Michael’s good friend, Osagie Enabulele and others like Arabella Grayson, who met Michael in high school, where he was her advisor.

The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity performed its Omega Ceremony for Michael Lange at his funeral in St. Columba Catholic Church. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity performed its Omega Ceremony for Michael Lange at his funeral in St. Columba Catholic Church. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

A couple shared how Michael introduced them to each other 30 years ago, and DeJuan Conner, who portrayed Malcolm X in “The Expulsion” by Larry Americ Allen, which Michael directed, shared how Michael challenged him to start his own production company, which he did. After the service, Americ told me how Michael did a reading of his latest play just a couple of months ago. In this play, the protagonist can cure illnesses. But to do this he has to cut off a piece of his flesh and the person has to eat it.

Arif Khatib spoke about the last play Michael directed, Richard Torrence’s “Lord Why Can’t I Do Right?” at Black Rep that afternoon for one final show, before leaving on an extended Southern states tour June-July. I attended the play the evening before and it is excellent! I see why Michael was so excited about the work when he met Torrence last year and worked with him on the production which debuted Jan. 16, 2015. The Black Rep production was a reprise (smile). The Alpha Phi Alpha members performed the Omega Ceremony for their brother just before Father Jay offered closing words and Kathryn Hill, mezzo soprano, sang “The Lord’s Prayer.”

As Michael’s voice sang “How Wonderful You Are” earlier in the ceremony as photos captured just a hint of his life, we thought about this soul gone home, like the butterfly on the cake at the repast, where people danced and laughed and enjoyed one another as Michael would have certainly wanted.

Michael’s brother, Ted Lange, star of the long-running TV series “Love Boat,” takes a picture at the festive repast. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

James Cowan takes a picture at the festive repast. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Michael is survived by his mother, Jerri Lange, brother, Theodore (Ted) Lange III; brother, James Cowan; sister, Jana Lange; niece, Aleshia Lange; nephews, Ted Lange IV and Turner Lange; cousins, Stanley Boissiere, Paul and Wayne Wilson, and Ms. Fauna Simon; and cousins, Luana, Michelle and Leslie Striplin. He also leaves many devoted friends who will forever salute his life.

He was preceded in death by his father, Theodore Lange Jr., a brother, Gregory Lange; grandparents, Theodore and Deola Lange; grandparents, Turner and Laura Wilson; aunt, Lorraine Boissiere; uncle, Stan Wilson; aunt, Phyllis Anderson; cousins, Frank, Carl, Gene and Louis Boissiere; cousins, Ms. Randy Wilson, and Lawrence and Stephen Striplin.

Michael was a guest on my radio show often. Here are a couple of episodes: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/05/16/wandas-picks-radio-show-the-expulsion-of-mxpenmanshipsfgreenfilmfest and http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2012/10/10/wandas-picks-radio-show, in which Michael speaks of his role in Charles Fuller’s “A Soldier’s Play,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1982.

Studio 1508

Situated down the street from Liberty Hall is an artist studio. In, but not necessarily of the ‘hood, Studio 1508, located at 1508 Eighth St. in Oakland, is delineated by Henry Street, my paternal grandfather’s name. My mother doesn’t know her father’s name, a source of pain for most of her adult life. Society doesn’t pay attention to the impact fathers have on their daughters.

I am happy now that I see the difference in outcomes between myself and my sister (different father). My mother left me and my brother with our dad in San Francisco when she left. Perhaps the cultivation of the male energy my dad embodied often proved detrimental to any hope for longevity in relationships, but being branded by his energies certainly proved helpful when I found myself a single parent at 29 years old.

Granted it was hard without a mother. We suffered. All children need both parents, but I don’t think women and men are made with just one parent, just one model, because a human being is more than the physicality or chance of nature. We carry the energies of both genders, so these early and later models we live with, we work with, we play, dress up and socialize with help each of us create the unique form we choose as ours once we are adult.

In Studio 1508 Memorial Day weekend, Jimi Evins and Charles Blackwell performed a visual duet. As I walked up Eighth Street after I’d parked, I heard Charles’s voice reciting a poem – his form dancing in front of canvases depicting jazz artists, streets scenes, abstract concepts while across from him, Evins’ work reflected, then sent over a reply. Each painting a separate discourse, the room full of the chit chat and chatter of deep rivers, tall mountains and starry galaxies.

“The California Gothic” series caught my eye immediately as did the singular “Dudes Outside of Town” (2015). It was as if the city could not contain Blackness – its chaos and confusion dangerous to the idea of Blackness and Black lives and the sanctity of such – so to be whole, to be safe, to be relevant, the character in the canvas decides to live beyond this.

Another work is homage to the gravesite just beyond his doors … Black lives bleeding on street corners, splayed on sidewalks, splatted on doorsteps. In “Royal Procession (82nd and East 14th),” (2006) acrylic 32” x 24”, red strokes on a single canvas. The bullets flying in another work, “Michael Brown” (2015) 28” x 20”, signify the violent end of life.

Evins said that often he will choose a medium like pastels or watercolors and see where the journey takes him; however, his work always has a name. There were several series up, also Shona sculpture, masks, wire sculptures – a figure and a basket – then there were drawings on printed pages that looked like a dictionary or thesaurus. Near the doorway leading beyond the studio, there were mbira or Zimbabwean instruments. I recognized them, because I’d had one made for a friend when I was at the Artist Village in Harare a couple years ago. To listen to a recent conversation with artists Jimi Evins and Charles Blackwell visit http://tobtr.com/7570675.

Theatre: Echo Brown in ‘Black Virgins Aren’t for Hipsters’

After I left Studio 1508, I took BART to San Francisco to see “Black Virgins Aren’t for Hipsters,” when actually this Black girl (Echo Brown) found her soulmate just so – hip. Perhaps only hipsters can tote the pain Brown bears. I thought the story would be comedic when actually it is quite the opposite. There is humor, but when one sits with the material – molestation, low self-esteem, drug addiction, imprisonment – none of this is humorous when looked at in its entirety.

Brown assembles the pieces one subtle moment at a time. We dance, sing and laugh, yet through it all explore a young Black woman’s life representative of so many others. The Cleveland native attends an Ivy League college, lands a job where she investigates police misconduct, later parleying this into her present day job, Challenge Day, a national nonprofit that brings school children together to address issues like bullying and other antisocial behavior. She meets the hipster while living in New York via Craigslist (smile). He’s a photographer and she’s the investigator. Both come from working class families, his bigoted or racist, hers just anti-all men.

The sold out show opened with a wonderfully funny, well-written sketch by Sofiyyah Fredericks. In her work, we meet a different Oakland. She changes personas like silk stockings, carefully – and skillfully. There were no runs in the work, which, like Echo Brown’s, captures a bit of Black life with internal narrative. So often, we never know what the other person is thinking or feeling. In the theatre, we can at least pretend. Certainly no matter what the attitude of the audience, no one leaves unchanged.

“Black Virgins” is up at The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St., 415-641-0235, through July 25, Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8:30 p.m. in the smaller upstairs theatre. Downstairs, Don Reed’s new play, “Stereotypo” was performed. “Stereotypo” continues at The Marsh in Berkeley June 6-July 11, at 2120 Allston Way, 415-641-0235. He joined Echo Brown’s audience the evening I attended. Black Virgin’s TRT must have exceeded his that evening.

After the performance, we were treated to cake and dance lessons, a Soul Train line. It was lots of fun (smile). We danced during the show too and had to respond to questions which were not rhetorical. The theatre is small, so no one could escape the petite actress when she decided to call someone out. Visit http://themarsh.org/blackvirgins/echo-brown/. The stage demands a certain respect and, giving it, we submit to the ritual and allow it to work its juju, magic which is reciprocity unparalleled outside such a forum.

‘Mount Misery’ through June 7

The Cuttingball Theater world premiere of “Mount Misery” by Andrew Saito, directed by Rob Melrose, is witty as it is shockingly thought-provoking. In this play, Donald Rumsfeld (David Sinaiko) meets a young Frederick Douglass (Giovanni Adams) on a plantation where the youthful enslaved rebel spends a year. Edward Covey’s (Geoffrey Nolan) task is to break his spirit, but we know that this didn’t happen. Rumsfeld purchases the property and befriends the young ghost. Douglass is historic and Rumfeld is in the present – the juxtaposition of the two periods is uncannily familiar – has this nation changed so little in the hundreds of interceding years?

'Mount Misery' extended to June 21As the 18th and 21st Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld was responsible for the United States response after Sept. 11. He was the architect of the resulting wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the enhanced interrogation methods used to coach confessions from prisoners. He takes young Frederick under his wing and tries to help him survive Covey; however, Douglass is not Caliban, a man who swallowed without analysis or evaluation the intoxicating speech and favors his new master bears.

The two actors – excellent performances by both Adams as Douglass and Sinaiko as Rumsfeld – play Scrabble. Words and the ideas associated with these ideas open Douglass to psychological territory previously unexplored. These letters, these words give him an edge previously unknown. Language is certainly an important aspect of our humanity. It is for this reason that Caliban (“Tempest”) is so abused when Prospero implies Caliban, whom he treated as a son, is suddenly not good enough to take the hand of his daughter, Miranda, in marriage. He conveniently forgets it is Caliban who saves his family’s lives when they capsize on his island.

It is clear, when Covey takes the wooden alphabets, why literacy was so feared. As each man uses the same letters to spell out different messages, one sees how symbols are so easily manipulated – that reading is just a matter of interpretation, an interpretation which is not necessarily a point of convergence or agreement. A hundred years later, white America is still afraid of a literate Black man. Richard Wright witnesses this in his seminal text, “Black Boy,” when he shares how he fooled the system of white racial dominance into letting him in. All he wanted to do is check out a few books from the public library. He devours the books in one swallow and returns them so quickly, the librarian raises an eyebrow in question: Are these books really for you, young man?

Rumsfeld leaves out signed documents explaining in great detail the use of torture during interrogation – in Frederick’s eyes, there is not much difference between Rumsfeld and Covey. There are scenes which are hard to watch – the whipping, the waterboarding, all the photos on the wall of men in various states of duress. Introduced here is also the role of white women in the seduction of Black and white men. Actress Lorri Holt gives an excellent portrayal of both innocence and deceit. Frederick is tempted to trade sides and then when offered a choice to trade places, he refuses. We don’t have to wonder why; he tells us.

Are one’s principles worth dying for? How complicit in our silence are we? Well, in “Mount Misery,” these questions are not rhetorical ones. Don’t miss the excellent sojourn home. The cast and production are excellent, especially the torture scenes and the multiple faces actors Geoffrey Nolan (Edward Covey) and Lorri Holt (Joyce Rumsfeld) don. Is culture one of artifice or integrity? Where do the ancestors go when their property lands on enemy walls? Let these questions and this production set the stage for Douglass’s famous speech, “What to the American (En)slaved is the 4th of July?”

“On July 5, 1852, Douglass gave a speech at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall. It was biting oratory, in which the speaker told his audience, ‘This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.’ And he asked them, ‘Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day?’” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h2927.html)

Cuttingball Theatre is located at 277 Taylor in San Francisco. Visit http://cuttingball.com/ or call 415-292-4700.

Sacramento Black Book Fair

The Second Annual Sacramento Black Book Fair is June 5-7 at the Historic Oak Park, 35th and Broadway. For information, call 916-484-3749 or email faye@bluenilepress.com. For a recent interview (8 a.m.) with author Terris McMahan Grimes, keynote speaker on Saturday, June 6 and committee members, go to http://tobtr.com/7570689.

‘Choir Boy’ opens

On that same Wanda’s Picks radio show, http://tobtr.com/7570689, at 9 a.m., we speak to director Kent Gash and Jelani Alladin (Pharus) about “Choir Boy” by Tarell Alvin McCraney (“Heads of Passes”), in its Bay Area premiere at the Marin Shakespeare Company June 4-28. Visit www.marintheatre.org or call 415-388-5208. The organization Some Brothers is hosting a theatre party on June 6 at a 25 percent discount. Enter promo code: SB25 (somebrothers@gmail.com).

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’

Central Works’ 25th season continues with the world premiere of an adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” adapted for the stage by Gary Graves and directed by Jan Zvaifler, through June 21 at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley.

On the fly

The 20th Anniversary of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival is May 28–June 1 at the Castro Theatre, San Francisco. Visit www.silentfilm.org. The fifth San Francisco Green Film Festival is May 28-June 3, www.greenfilmfest.org. On Friday, June 12, Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited bring Zimbabwe to Berkeley at Ashkenaz. Doors open at 9 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m., $25 or $20 in advance and for students. Wednesday, June 17, is Community Benefit Night, “One Giant Leap,” the music of 1969. Doors open at 8 p.m., show at 8:30 p.m., $15. Visit http://www.ashkenaz.com/.

The Berkeley World Music Festival is June 13, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Visit http://www.berkeleyworldmusic.org/. The 11th annual Queer Womyn of Color Film Festival (QWOCFF) is June 12-14 at Brava! for Women in the Arts, 2781 24th St. in San Francisco, the theme: Justice Heals: http://www.qwocmap.org/festival/. At Freight and Salvage Coffee House, 2080 Addison St., Berkeley, in June-early July: House Jacks, Saturday, June 6, a cappella Vocal Drumming; Regina Carter Quartet, June 28, 8 p.m.; Anais Motchell’s “Hadestown,” 1 p.m., June 28; The Moth StorySlam, July 1, 12:30 p.m. Visit freightandsalvage.org, 510-644-2020.

The film “1913: Seeds of Conflict” will screen Tuesday, June 30, 9-10 p.m. ET, on PBS. For local listings, visit pbs.org. The film explores how the seeds of today’s Middle Eastern conflict were sown in Palestine during the Ottoman Empire. “Rhythm Madness” with Linda Tillery, Barbara Price, Ramon Ramos Alayo, Jacqueline Rago, Carolyn Brandy and others is June 6, 10-6, $25, at the Montclair Women’s Club, 1650 Mountain Blvd., Oakland, 510-339-1832. Favianna Rodriguez Open Studios 2015 features new and experimental works on Saturday-Sunday, June 13-14, 11-6, at 2200 Adeline St., Suite 315, West Oakland. For information, contact Favianna@favianna.com.

37th Annual San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival June 5-28 at the Palace of Fine Arts

Featured companies this year for the first time are our friends Thamsanqa Hilatywaya’s company “Jikelele Dance Theater – South African Zulu and Xhosa Traditional” and Traci Bartlow’s “Starchild Dance – Harlem Jazz, Lindy and Hip-Hop.” Both perform, with many other companies, Weekend 1, June 6, 2 and 8 p.m., and June 7, 4 p.m.

Diamano Coura brings Africa to the Bay during opening week of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. These dancers are Antoinette Holland and Jessica Harden. – Photo: RJ Muna

Diamano Coura brings Africa to the Bay during opening week of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. These dancers are Antoinette Holland and Jessica Harden. – Photo: RJ Muna

A Special Event, Saturday, June 27 at 8 p.m., honors the work of two remarkable men with the Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award: Festival Artistic Directors since 2007 CK Ladzekpo and Carlos Carvajal. There will also be special performances by dance innovators Abhinaya Dance Company and Nā Lei Hulu I Ka Wēkiu, along with a showing of excerpts of a new documentary film about the festival.

The festival kicks off at San Francisco City Hall at 12 noon, Friday, June 5, with performances by Hālau o Keikialiʽi and Hālau ʻo Kuʻulei commemorating one of the first-ever mainland U.S. performances featuring the ʽukulele, which took place at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Tickets to the June San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival performances are $28-$48 and are available online at www.sfethnicdancefestival.org or by calling 415-392-4400. Matinees on Saturday afternoons offer 50 percent discounts to children age 12 and under, and group discounts are also available. The full festival performance schedule is available at www.sfethnicdancefestival.org.

Films on Cuba, June 13

The Richmond-Regla Friendship Committee, linking Richmond, Calif., with Regla, Cuba, presents a timely double feature of films by prize winning Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando, whose career spans over 35 years at the Cuban National Film Institute. Ms. Rolando also heads an independent filmmaking group, Imágenes del Caribe, based in Havana.

Gloria Rolando films screen Saturday, June 13, 6 p.m., at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, 339 11th St. at Macdonald Ave., Richmond. The event also includes a Cuba update by Walter Turner, host of Africa Today on KPFA. The two films offer two historical perspectives on the hope and tragedy of immigration and exile to Cuba: “Reembarque / Reshipment,” 2014, is Gloria Rolando’s latest film, the story of Haitian immigrants sent to Oriente, Cuba, in the early 20th century and their forced repatriation after the sugar market crashed. The film has English subtitles and runs 58 minutes; “Eyes of the Rainbow,” 1997, is the legendary film about Assata Shakur, the Black Panther and Black Liberation Army leader who took refuge in Cuba after years of struggles in the U.S. The film integrates AfroCuban culture, including the Orisha Oya, to show Assata’s context in Cuba, where she has lived for close to 20 years. The film is in English and runs 47 minutes. This is a rare chance to see this film, as it is no longer commercially available.

Suggested donation is $15, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Tickets will be available at the door or buy them now through www.brownpapertickets.com. For more information, call 510-620-6581 or 510-375-2590.

Jacob Lawrence exhibitions in New York and California

While in New York, I also got a chance to get by the Museum of Modern Art to see “One Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series” (60 pieces) – amazing, especially the companion pieces, literary work displayed and music. The journey north from the South was arduous and once in the new places, Black migrants often met situations similar to what they’d left. Ralph Ellison writes of this in his short story, “King of the Bingo Game” (1944).

In the various panels made of found materials, rough, often battered – the material Lawrence used to depict the journey, which, like much connected to Black life in America, reflects a troubled and harsh reality we have not quite, as a nation, moved through or beyond, despite massive shifts in populations: http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2015/onewayticket/ and for information: https://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1549.

At Stanford University’s Cantor Arts Center, there is a Jacob Lawrence exhibit, “The Promised Land” (56 pieces), up through Aug. 3. The CAC is open Wednesday-Monday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday until 8 p.m. Admission is free. The CAC is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free after 4 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends and major holidays. Information: 650-723-4177. Visit http://museum.stanford.edu/news_room/Jacob-Lawrence.html.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wanda@wandaspicks.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 7 a.m. and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.

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