by Wanda Sabir
Happy Father’s Day! Ramadan Mubarak to those fasting during this blessed month. Congratulations to all the graduates and their happy families, special congratulations to my eldest niece, Widya Batin, Lowell High School, San Francisco, Youth Leader Award, National Council of Negro Women Golden Gate Section 2016, Member, Design Task Force “New Buchanan Mall“ between Fulton and Eddy.
The Black Father Project
Join Dr. Khalid Akil White, director of “Black Fatherhood: Trials and Tribulations, Testimony and Triumph,” at Oakstop, 1721 Broadway in Oakland, Thursday, June 8, 6-9 p.m. (for men and boys) and at Bayview Opera House Ruth Williams Theatre (everyone welcome), 4705 Third St. in San Francisco, Sunday, June 25, 3 p.m., for a film screening and conversation about Black fathers. Ticket price includes a meal.
The Black Father Project was established to celebrate Black Fatherhood. The goal of this project is to rewrite the negative narrative about Black fathers. The current narrative is harmful to the Black family, Black men, the Black community and specifically young Black boys. False narratives and projections are damaging; words are damaging. It is our goal to rest on what we know: the facts. In December 2013, National Health Statistics Reports released its report on Father’s Involvement with Their Children: United States, 2006-2010. Per this report, Black/African American fathers are the most nurturing and present, regardless if their children live with them or not.
The Black Father Project was established to celebrate Black Fatherhood.
For men, fatherhood is one of the most challenging jobs in the world, and it becomes even tougher when one must combat harmful stereotypes. In his work, Khalid Akil White actively challenges the negative stereotype of the “Black Father.” The cast includes Stanley Cox (Mistah FAB), Marlin Brown, Kennedy Safo, Douglas Fort and Dr. Steven Millber. After the film, the men and boys in attendance will have a living room style conversation facilitated by Oscar C. Wright, Dr. Khalif Akil White, Malik Seneferu and Alamo Brown.
Saturday, June 10, The Father’s Day Celebration, a free event for Black fathers and Black male father figures and their families, will give space for a joyous Father’s Day event for the whole community. The Father’s Day Celebration will begin with family portraits, activities for the kids (Barbers, Books and Bridges), a live DJ spinning tunes perfect for the occasion and a keynote speaker, Adimu Madyun. Dining will be available.
Libations for the Ancestors
The 12th Annual International Libations for African Ancestors of the Middle Passage is Saturday, June 10, 8:30 a.m. We begin at 9 a.m. sharp, at Lake Merritt in Oakland, Lakeside at East 18th, by the fountain. Bring instruments, children, something to share such as poetry, song and reflections.
Omnira Institute’s 10th Annual Juneteenth: Ritual of Remembrance Celebrating the Roots of Freedom is also that day, at 11:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. by the Lake Merritt Boathouse Picnic Area, 562 Bellevue Ave. Visit maafasfbayarea.com and remembertheancestors.com. Unlike other Juneteenths that focus on parades and festivals, Omnira’s is a devotion to the ancestors who did not live to see freedom come. To do that, they do offerings in the form of a litany for the ancestors, known as OroEgun, prayers in the languages and traditions from before they were enslaved, a recitation of the Emancipation Proclamation, and some freedom songs.
This is free and open to the public, but especially for Black and Brown people because our pain is renewed over and over; this time especially hurtful are the acquittal of the police who murdered Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma and the failure to indict the police who killed Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.
Book Party for Ms. Susan Burton, founder of A New Way of Life
The long-anticipated story of Ms. Susan Burton’s life is finally out (May 2017) and she will be in Oakland to celebrate its release Monday, June 5, at the Laurel Bookstore, 1423 Broadway, Oakland, from 6-8 p.m. One of the founders of All of Us or None, Susan Burton is a CNN Hero, a Starbucks “Upstander,” a Soros Justice Fellow, a winner of Harvard’s Citizen Activist Award, founder of the internationally-recognized nonprofit A New Way of Life, and someone Michelle Alexander has compared to Harriet Tubman. She is also one of the millions of American women who have been incarcerated – in her case over 15 years – for nonviolent offenses.
In “Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women” (The New Press), Burton and writer Cari Lynn tell the story of Susan Burton’s life and use it as a lens through which to see the desperate need for criminal justice reform.
Born in the housing projects of 1950s Los Angeles, Burton’s world changed in an instant when her 5-year-old son was killed. Consumed by grief and without access to professional help, Burton self-medicated, becoming addicted first to cocaine, then crack. As a resident of South L.A., an impoverished Black community under siege by the War on Drugs, it was but a matter of time before she was arrested. Burton cycled in and out of prison; never was she offered therapy or addiction treatment. On her own, she eventually found a private drug rehabilitation facility.
Once clean – and against all odds – Burton was able to buy a small house, and ever since has dedicated her life to supporting women facing similar struggles.
Part memoir, part political awakening, and part criminal justice reform manifesto – which Bryan Stevenson has called “a must-read” – Susan Burton’s story brings vividly to life the human cost of mass incarceration.
Exhibition: ‘Art Makes My Life Matter’ at the African American Center, San Francisco Main Library June 17 through Aug. 10
Curator Kheven LaGrone wondered what the Black Lives Matter movement means in the San Francisco Bay Area and asked several local Black artists to depict how they use their art to make their lives matter. An artist talk and discussion is at 1:30 p.m. on June 17 in the African American Center, Third Level, 100 Larkin St., San Francisco.
Juneteenth in Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco, Richmond … California
Join the Friends of the Negro Spirituals’ Juneteenth at the West Oakland Branch Library, 1801 Adeline St., June 17, 1-4 p.m., in the West Auditorium. More Juneteenths around the Bay:
- Juneteenth San Francisco is also June 17: http://www.sfjuneteenth.com/
- Juneteenth Richmond, June 17: http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/427/Festivals
- Juneteenth Allensworth, June 10: http://friendsofallensworthsandiego.com/calendar.htm
- Juneteenth San Jose: https://www.everfest.com/e/juneteenth-in-the-park-san-jose-ca
- Juneteenth Santa Cruz: https://www.everfest.com/e/santa-cruz-juneteenth-santa-cruz-ca
- Juneteenth Berkeley, June 18: http://www.berkeleyjuneteenth.org/
- 29th Annual Juneteenth Vallejo, June 17: http://www.vallejojuneteenth.com/
For the Everfest listing of Juneteenths USA, visit https://www.everfest.com/seasonal/juneteenth-festivals.
Dance: Soul to Soul with ‘Between Me and the World,’ ODC’s The Walking Distance Dance Festival, June 3 and 10
Curated by Laura Elaine Ellis, artistic director of the African American Performing Arts Coalition, “Between Me and the World” is performed in thematic collaboration with and on the same ODC program with Joanna Haigood’s remounting of excerpts from her 2013 performance installation “Between Me and the Other World,” which explores the relevance of W.E.B. Dubois’s concept of “double consciousness” to the experience of people of color in the United States today. Ellis’s work, which follows Haigood’s, continues the discussion with two seminal texts in conversation: Ellis’s work titled “Soul to Soul: An Artistic Response to Baldwin and Coates,” draws on the writings of James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates to illuminate contemporary issues related to race and social justice.
Both choreographers’ work sits in the collaborative process. Haigood’s project includes composer Anthony Brown, video artist David Szlasa and scenic designer Sean Riley, while Ellis collaborates with Gregory Dawson and Marc Bamuthi Joseph and includes musicians and poets, dancers and other creative stakeholders. This free event will have two showings each day on June 3 and June 10 beginning at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Joe Goode Annex, 499 Alabama St. in San Francisco as part of ODC’s annual summer festival, the Walking Distance Dance Festival. Visit odc.dance/wddf or call 415-863-9834. Listen to an interview with Laura Elaine Ellis: http://tobtr.com/s/100040455.
Oakland Ballet presents two: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Thursday-Saturday, June 1-3, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, June 3, at 2:30 p.m., and East Bay DANCES ‘17, Sunday, June 4, 4 p.m. Both programs are at the Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland.
Now in its 53rd season, Oakland Ballet offers two matinee performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to K-12 schoolchildren from Oakland Unified School District on Friday, June 2, at the Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center at Laney College. Tickets are free for Title I schools and $5 for students and teachers from non-Title I schools. Tickets may be arranged at www.OaklandBallet.org or by calling 510-893-3132. Listen to an interview with Graham Lustig, artistic director: http://tobtr.com/s/100040455.
San Francisco Silent Film Festival
San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents: “Body and Soul,” directed by Oscar Micheaux (USA, 1925, 93 minutes) and starring Paul Robeson in his film debut. There’s a new score by Paul D. Miller, DJ Spooky, whose recent project, “Pioneers of African American Cinema,” covers work from 1915-1946. Race films feature Micheaux, who was quintessentially a race man, his canon unparalleled and unflinchingly focused on stories about the Black experience in America. Of the filmmaker’s 22 silent feature films, only three survive, scholar Charles Musser writes in the film notes which accompany the five CD box set.
The prolific director’s “Body and Soul” is both controversial and provocative. With a majority Black cast, the question to Micheaux was why he’d make a film with Black villains – a preacher who rapes, lies and steals. Musser’s explains that Micheaux often used cinema as conversation and in “Body and Soul,” his Rev. Isiaah T. Jenkins “is a Southern version of [Eugene O’Neill’s] Brutus Jones – an escaped convict and dangerous sociopath who uses his authority as a preacher to extract money and sex from parishioners” (19). Other films Micheaux samples are another O’Neill work, also starring Paul Robeson, “All God’s Chillin Got Wings” (1924) and Charlie Chaplin’s “The Pilgrim” (1923).
San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents: “Body and Soul,” directed by Oscar Micheaux (USA, 1925, 93 minutes) and starring Paul Robeson in his film debut.
Almost a psychological thriller, we see Robeson playing two roles, that of Rev. Jenkins and his twin brother Sylvester whom Isabelle loves, to her mother’s chagrin. The antagonist externalizes the split self W.E.B. Dubois articulates so carefully in “The Souls of Black Folk.” The preacher is sly, cunning and a master at deception while his quiet alter ego is his complete opposite. The mother is victim to her pastor’s charm, even when she knows better. We see her polishing his shoes and giving him her hard-earned money. The score propels the movement as it supports the narrative structure.
Almost a caricature, the wily preacher is a character Michaeux returns to, without Robeson, who at 27 so excels in this questionable role, he later distances himself from it. The film is surprisingly current and its reception recalls the film version of “The Color Purple.” The film, with live accompaniment by DJ Spooky, screens Friday, June 2, 7 p.m., at Castro Theatre in San Francisco. Visit silentflm.org.
On the fly
The 13th Annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival 2017 is Friday, June 9-11, at Brava Theatre, 2781 24th St., San Francisco. Visit qwocmap.org for info on the 20th Annual United States of Asian American Festival – apiculturalcenter.org. Berkeley World Music Festival is June 9-11 at various locations. Bay Area Book Festival is June 2-3 in Berkeley; listen to an interview with Cherylin Parsons, founder and executive director. San Francisco International Art Festival: Hear a Wanda’s Picks interview with Andrew Wood, director of SFIAF. Check out Frameline41 June 15-25, queer cinema at its finest in five venues, including one week of programming in the East Bay, screening films from 19 countries.
The 16th Annual SF Docufest is May 31-June 15 at the Roxie, Vogue and Alamo Drafthouse. African Diaspora interest: “Bangaologi, the Science of Style” by Coréon Dú, Angola, Portugal and USA, 83 minutes, at the Roxie on June 10, 5 p.m., and Wednesday, June 14, 7:15 p.m.; “Bight of the Twin,” by Hazel Hill McCarthy III, USA, 63 minutes, at the Vogue on Saturday, June 10, 4:45 p.m., and the Roxie on Monday, June 12, 9:30 p.m.; “City of Joy” by Madeline Gavin, USA, 74 minutes, at the Roxie on Saturday, June 3, 9:30 p.m.; “Double Digits: The Story of a Neighborhood Movie” by Justin Johnson, USA, 76 minutes, at the Roxie on Tuesday, June 6, 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 11, 2:45 p.m.; “Gip” by Patrick Sheehan, USA, 74 minutes, at the Roxie on Sunday, June 11, 5 p.m.; “Nat Bates for Mayor” by Bradley Berman and Eric Weiss, USA, 75 minutes, at the Roxie on Saturday, June 10, 2:45 p.m., and Thursday, June 15, 9:30 p.m.; “Shelter” by Brent Renaud and Craig Renaud, USA, 76 minutes at the Roxie on Saturday, June 3, 2:45 p.m., and Thursday, June 8, 7:15 p.m.; “Street Fighting Men” by Andrew James, USA, 110 minutes, at the Roxie on Sunday, June 4, 5 p.m., and Tuesday, June 6, 7:15 p.m.; “True Conviction” by Jamie Meltzer, USA, 84 minutes, at the Roxie on Saturday, June 3, 7:15 p.m.; “Uhuru” by Tom Gentle, U.K. and Tanzania, 60 minutes, at the Vogue on Sunday, June 11, 4:45 p.m., and at the Roxie on Wednesday, June 14, 9:30 p.m.; “Unseen” by Laura Paglin, USA, 78 minutes, at the Roxie on Thursday, June 8, 9:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 11, 7:15 p.m.; “The Work,” a Centerpiece film by Jarius McLeary and Gethin Aldous, USA, 87 minutes, at the Roxie on Friday, June 9, 7:15 p.m.; “Resistance is Life” by Apo W. Bazidi, USA, 73 minutes, at the Roxie on Sunday, June 11, 9:30 p.m., and Monday, June 12, 7:15 p.m.; “Working in Protest” by Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley, USA, 74 minutes, at the Roxie on Saturday, June 10, 9:30 p.m.
The 80th Annual Stern Grove Concerts, on Sundays June 25-Aug. 27, open with Kool and the Gang and Quinn DeVeaux, who blends New Orleans soul and early blues with contagious dance rhythms. Highlights this season of free music are Marvis Staples and Kev Choice on Aug. 27, Amadou and Miriam on Aug. 8, Negrito on July 2 and War on Aug. 13. The African American Shakespeare Company’s “The Winter’s Tale” by William Shakespeare, directed by L. Peter Callendar, is up June 10-18 with six performances at the Taube Atrium Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., Fourth Floor, San Francisco. Teacher’s Night Out is Thursday, June 9, 7:30 p.m. Visit Shakes.org/Education/Teachers-Night-Out. Opening is 3 p.m. June 10.
Ubuntu Theatre Project presents “Confirmation and Machinal” June 1-11 at Brooklyn Preserve, 1433 12th Ave., Oakland. Samm-Art Williams’s “HOME,” directed by Aldo Billingslea, is at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre through June 4 at the Burial Clay Theater in the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St. at Webster, San Francisco, on Friday-Saturday at 7 p.m., Saturday a 2 p.m. matinee, Sunday at 4 p.m. For tickets, call 415-474-8800. To listen to an interview with the director, visit Wanda’s Picks Radio, at http://tobtr.com/s/10012965.
Theatre Rhinoceros presents: “Pricilla: Queen of the Desert, the Musical,” directed by John Fisher, at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St. at Battery Street, May 27-July 1. Listen to a recent Wanda’s Picks interview with AeJay Mitchell, choreographer, and Charles Peoples III, Felicia and Adam at http://tobtr.com/10044411.
Cherie Hill, artistic director of IrieDance, talks about her new work, “Terrestrial Footprints, Part 2,” June 2 and 3 at Alena Museum, a West Oakland space for African Diaspora art, 2725 Magnolia St., 8 p.m. Listen to an interview on Wanda’s Picks: http://tobtr.com/10040455.
Theatre First’s production of ‘HeLa’
In Laura Gunderson and Geetha Reddy’s “HeLa,” the dead woman never leaves the stage. Actress Jeunee Simon’s Henrietta Lacks, opposite Desiree Roger’s Deborah, weave magic on stage. Mrs. Lacks is engaging and prescient as scientists and business men profit from her immortal cells. She orbits the planet with a Russian dog, peaks through a microscope as a scientist laments his inability to meet the woman responsible for his research. The play, which puts Henrietta Lacks and her daughter Deborah Lacks Pullum at its center, is a refreshing treatment of a topic which is very much in the news today, yet in this tale the only story that matters is the Lacks women.
Deborah asks astute questions of scientists who take her blood. She asks why people are always taking, taking, taking. When asked why they wanted the family’s blood, the clinician lies and says they are testing to make sure Henrietta’s children do not have cancer or the potential for contracting it. Much later the family learns that they were never at risk.
A large cell, porous and magnified, provides the backdrop for the story of a woman who died at 31, yet her cells are alive today. Deborah sets out to find her mother, once she learns Henrietta Lacks is alive somewhere. If her mother’s cells are so important to science, then why doesn’t anyone say her name, she asks throughout her search.
Why is her mom hidden in the cryptic term “HeLa,” Deborah asks over and over again, as scientists squirm, apologize and then think, perhaps for the first time, about the woman’s body these cells were a part of. An indigent Black woman patient in the Colored Ward in John Hopkins Hospital, Henrietta Lacks was vulnerable and at risk. She knew these white people were not to be trusted. We see her suffer needlessly as doctors’ care only about research and samples, not the woman dying.
Marketing would have been difficult if the public, especially other doctors whose research also looked at gene propagation, had known the woman whose cells were rapidly changing medical science forever was Black. In 1951, no one wanted to hear this, so they named the line HeLa and hid her identity for 25 years.
As Deborah unravels the remarkable and extraordinary story of her mom, Henrietta Lacks reaches across the spheres which separate flesh from the divine – it is her cells that create a bridge for her little girl to cross. “HeLa,” the play, makes immortality tangible.
Everything is left to the imagination except the cells sitting like a constellation all aglow. Bailey Hikawa’s scenic design and Stephanie Anne Johnson’s lighting allow the tangible yet nuanced subtleties of science to serves as backdrop to everything – HeLa cells are a mystery, a wonderful mystery that envelops the audience too as we sit enraptured by the story and, like Deborah, learn to believe in the unseen.
TheatreFirst’s production of “HeLa” is up through Saturday, June 17. The play runs Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m., and Sunday, 2 p.m., at Live Oak Theatre, 1301 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley. Call 510-981-8150 or visit theatrefirst.com.
There is a conversation with special guests following each performance. Saturday, June 10, Professor Wanda Sabir will participate in the discussion with hopefully come of her student scholars. The Freshman Comp class read Rebecca Skloot’s book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” spring semester.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at email@example.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.