by Wanda Sabir
On the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, Wednesday, April 4, we need to stop and reflect on the many landmark movements which began 50 years ago … like hip-hop.
Though its articulation is grounded in African Diaspora linguistic performance body-politic, an embodied Black politic which is as holistic in its presentation as it is grounded in spirit, hip-hop like other African aesthetic traditions has imprinted itself on American and other youth cultures, especially style and attitude. The flavor that is Black culture, whether it is speech or how one tips her hat, is so embedded in a racialized cultural landscape that is antithetic Black life in all forms – Blackness is still BAD, to be avoided, yet Blackness is a commodity exported, carried in purses and found on most household shelves cold and room temperature.
If the Black Woman is God, then Black people are Gods too. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad said it first in “Student Enrollment No. 1”: “We are the maker, the owner, cream of the Planet Earth, God of the Universe.” Now in the “Student Enrollment” the role of God was referencing Black men exclusively; however, in 2018 it’s another story altogether. It was another story when, in Kemet, Black women ruled as pharaohs and queens. Patriarchy is a misstep Black people need to eliminate from our collective vocabulary because consciousness does not support such attitudes.
For the Oakland Museum of California to showcase this culture in an exhibit entitled “RESPECT: Hip Hop Style and Wisdom” now through August 2018 is to elevate this conversation and its creators to a level unprecedented. It is not as if hip-hop needed validation; however, for some, the 1 percent, such presentation means audience shift like Loma Prieta toppled bridges, redrew line, erased entire geographies.
With RESPECT elevated as an aim and lens through which the gaze is primed and aimed, Trumpites and Company are now interested. Media marketing has expanded its base. Perhaps attitudes will now shift in positive ways? In Martin King’s speech “Where Do We Go from Here,” he quotes theologian Theodore Parker: “The arc of moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
Literacy is never a waste and to become literate in hip-hop, is to become literate in the Black Arts and Black Power movements’ interlocking discourse. It is a retelling of the same story – the “forced migration” of millions of African people renamed “redlining,” “eminent domain” and “gentrification.” These descendants of other migrants moved en masse from another continent to this land, only to become trapped in urban enclaves or nouveau dungeons a.k.a. prisons.
Like “jazz” named by others to describe a creation which shifted the earth on its axis so that folks had to hold tight when gravity released its claim on earth – the same is true for hip-hop, a new name for the historic rumbling that is Black urban culture. It’s the same people driving the machine, each generation passing the torch forward and back – Sankofa is an attitude, a direction and value. It’s innovative Afrikan folk tradition branding – Ashay!
Though hip-hop resonates globally, especially as an expressive arts vehicle for disenfranchised communities – those people paved and storm-fenced and walled from view – it is a creation born out of bondage, Black bondage in Garvey’s Jamaica taking root in Queens, New York, traveling south and west where folks were diggin’ ancestral vibrations. Not monolithic, this creative expression expansive as were the four elements: rap a.k.a. MCing or rhyming, DJing and turntabling, graf or writing, b-boying, “which encompasses hip-hop dance, style and attitude, along with the sort of virile body language that philosopher Cornel West described as ‘postural semantics,’” and a fifth element, “knowledge” or wisdom, according to Africa Bambaataa, who in an interview said his success as the godfather of hip-hop is “all based on funk and spirituality. You treat people with greatness, and greatness will come back to you” (McCormack).
From the cypher – the African Village, the ubongi, where the town gathers to converse, solve disputes, develop solutions – to the turntable, where Morse code signals altered the universe permanently, to the graf or writing code, before coding became a thing, Black folks have always been transcendental in their assessment of reality. The style and the musical lyricism continued in the African folk tradition: blues, jazz – freestyling another name for Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Kwame Ture, Ella Baker, Sojourner Truth, Muhammad Ali, Dick Gregory, Marcus Garvey, President Thomas Sankara, Winnie Mandela, Queen Hatshepsut and so on.
There is so much to see and watch and listen to and experience at the OMCA’s “RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom” – all I can say is visit often. There are talks and other family friendly activities planned from yoga to chess to the barbershop talks.
There is a stand with books – “wisdom” – where a mic invites dialogue. The exhibit space opens with the Dojo – recorded interviews, films and more unchartered space where if anyone is inspired to “break” – he or she can. There is a chess game set up, plus lots of cushioned benches are spread throughout the connected galleries so patrons can comfortably watch the extended videos which are a signature aspect of curator Rene Guzman’s style. He likes open and accessible.
If anyone recalls the Black Panther exhibition just last year, “RESPECT” continues the story. Adisa Banjoko, a.k.a. The Bishop and Susan Barrett connect the visual, material and spiritual culture cross genres across generations. These are the Panthers and their Panther cubs.
Hip hop certainly owes much of its context and relevance to the work started by revolutionaries who waged counterinsurgencies, domestic battles, which cost many their lives and freedom to date. Those legacies continue today on the 50th anniversary of Lil Bobby Hutton’s assassination two days after Martin King’s. Don’t miss the program April 7, 1-5 p.m., at Bobby Hutton Park, a.k.a. deFremery Park, 18th and Adeline Streets in Oakland, 916-455-0908, ItsAboutTime/BPP Facebook. Hip-hop resonates with other dominant nations because the oppressive stench of racism and white supremacy leaks into their kitchens from beneath sinks where pipes are shot full of holes like NAFTA and other trade(r) agreements.
Some of my favorite aspects of the exhibit are reflected in the largess of the work: Even the gowns are supersized – it is as if giants wore them. The films and testimony, music and art give patrons a grounding in the work. There are so many wonderful photographs by renowned artists and new artists too. The collages are great too. I just wish the photographers had been able to also have videos or a code connected to the work so patrons could dial in to hear the backstories. I will have to give a more in depth review once I have read everything and watched all the films and spoken to the consulting curators: Adisa and Barrett. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I have interviewed two exhibitors: Traci Bartlow, choreographer, dance historian, entrepreneur, in this exhibit photographer who has two collages, and Amanda Sade whose large poster sized portraits and other work speak to the colors and vibrancy of hip-hop style, its artists and people. Listen to a conversation with both artists on Wanda’s Picks Radio show March 28 and Eric Arnold, journalist, historian, documentarian, activist, who created the “Hip-Hop Atlas of the Bay” (45 spots) on the same show. He closes it out.
As I walked around during the press opening I would eavesdrop on conversations between artists and others who had relationships with people pictured in the framed work. I love the inclusion of Nijel Binns’s marquette or statuettes of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, Minister Malcolm X and Tupac Amaru Shakur – it is just one place among many others where hip-hop forefathers are connected to this artistic child of the Revolution. Listen to an interview with the sculptor on Wanda’s Picks Radio Show March 14.
It has been years since I taught classes on Tupac Shakur Legacy: Nature or Nurture, Choice or Destiny; Women in Hip Hop; and the History of Hip Hop. I am rusty (smile). I heard many people who know a lot more about hip-hop culture than I do speak about what is absent or left out. I don’t know how anyone saw everything in one afternoon and I was there for four hours. There are also several places where patrons can add their stories to the archives. It will take multiple journeys through the material to completely grasp the magnitude of “RESPECT: Hip Hop Style and Wisdom.” A few events from museumca.org/events, all at OMCA:
- Flow: Hip-Hop Yoga – Mindful Movement on First Fridays: April 6, May 4, June 1, July 6, Aug. 4
- Chop It Up – Barbershop Community Conversations: April 28 (Hip-Hop and Entrepreneurship), May 26, June 30, July 28
- Cypher Sunday – Rap, Dance, Beatboxing: April 1 and 15, May 6 and 20, June 3 and 17, July 1 and 15, Aug. 12
- Hip-Hop Trivia – Test Your Knowledge: April 20, May 18, June 15, July 20
- Mic Check/Checkmate – Chess Games: April 11, May 9, June 13, July 11
- Plug ‘n’ Play – Live DJ Sets: Every Friday, April 6-Aug. 10
- Queens: Women, Chess, Hip-Hop: Friday, April 6, 7-8:30 p.m., in the Great Hall, Level 2. The conversation and interactive chess event inside the exhibition “RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom,” features Rochelle Ballantyne and Jennifer Shahade with Adisa Banjoko, Hip-Hop Chess Federation founder and writer of “Bobby, Bruce and the Bronx.” A rising star, Stanford graduate Ballantyne is the Black female closest to achieving chess title of “Master.”
Also Friday, April 6: The Women’s Music Festival – A Night at the Oakland Museum, 6-10 p.m., which includes a panel on Women in Hip-hop at 8 p.m.
As part of the 2018 Women in Music Festival, this special ticketed event includes access to “RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom” and WIM’s first-ever panel discussion on women in hip-hop. Tickets are $20, including admission, and are available for purchase through the Women in Music Festival website: Get tickets.
Later in April, Kevin Powell: The Education of Us Tour, Friday, April 20, 7-8:30 p.m.
Weekend Tours of ‘RESPECT: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom’
San Francisco Bay View fundraiser
“Solitary Man: A Visit to Pelican Bay State Prison” performed by Charlie Hinton and Fred Johnson is Saturday, April 21, 3 p.m., at the Black Repertory Group Theatre, 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley, near Ashby BART. Following the performance, there is a panel featuring torture survivors, attorneys and allies. Donation is $10-$20. Visit sfbayview.com, Facebook and Brown Paper Tickets.
African Film Festival
The Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive’s African Film Festival 2018 continues this month with “Green White Green” directed by Abba Makama (Nigeria 2016), Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m. The festival has two May screenings, Wednesday, May 2, 7 p.m. “Africa and the Diaspora: Short Films,” featuring the work of four directors, with director, Carlos Javier Ortiz, “We All We Got” and “A Thousand Midnights” (USA), in person that evening.
Listen to an interview on Wanda’s Picks Radio (March 2, 2018) with Senegalese director, Mamadou Dia, whose work Samedi Cinema (2016), celebrates the passion two boys have for film and what it takes to raise the funds to see a show. Other films that evening were shot in Burkina Faso and Jamaica by Cedric Ido, director of “Twaaga” (2015) and Lebert Bethune, director of “Jojolo” (1966). For tickets and information, visit https://bampfa.org/program/african-film-festival-2018. BAMPFA is located at 2155 Center St., Berkeley, 510-642-0808.
America ReFramed, in its new series, looks at Incarceration and Recidivism
For three consecutive Thursday evenings at 8 p.m. beginning April 3 with “Milwaukee 53206,” director Keith McQuirter’s film “Beyond the Wall,” director Jenny Phillips and Bestor Cram’s on April 10 and in Annelise Wunderlich and Richard O’Connell’s film “The Corridor,” airing April 17, the award-winning weekly documentary series, hosted by Natasha Del Toro, America ReFramed looks at mass incarceration, recidivism and trauma.
After the screenings on The World Channel, the films are then made available to audiences on the website: worldchannel.org. America ReFramed is about access, engagement and action. Christopher Hastings, executive producer, says that each series is chosen for its relevance to communities perhaps silenced by such inequities as those visited here – social justice inequities within the judicial and criminal corrections systems. “The Corridor” is about 5 Keys School housed at the county jail in San Francisco. Education is a proven pathway to freedom.
Audiences will witness how within the system of corrections, rehabilitation is not supported in a concrete way, whether this is Milwaukee, where the zip code 53206 is a ticket to a life behind bars, or we are looking at men returning to Lowell and Lawrence, Massachusetts. We witness young men, one underage without housing, addicted to drugs – men who have fallen between the cracks in a system too inflexible to respond to immediate often urgent needs.
We also see how race limits or denies men and women who have proven they have changed an opportunity to fully participate in society. Ninety percent of those locked up come home, yet barriers to employment, housing and other supportive government services keep parents estranged from their kids and estranged from full access as citizens to their democratic rights. For information about the program, visit http://worldchannel.org/programs/america-reframed/.
San Francisco International Film Festival: April 4-17
“The Rescue List,” directed by Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink, screens April 6, 11 and 12. April 11 there will be a panel discussion afterward facilitated by Human Rights Watch.
Lake Volta in Ghana is the largest man-made lake in the world; it is also notorious as a locale for forced child labor. Bay Area filmmakers Zachary Fink and Alyssa Fedele’s beautifully shot documentary charts the courageous efforts of a local safe house to rescue the kids, give them schooling and therapy, and prepare them for reintegration into their families. Though it contains many intimate and moving moments with the children, the star of the film is real life hero Kwame, who initiates several dramatic rescues.
Visit SIFF Festival Highlights: https://www.sffilm.org/2018-sffilm-festival/spotlights/festival-spotlights.
Also don’t miss “Tre, Maison and Dasan,” three boys who all share something in common: One of their parents is in jail. Denali Tiller, director, doesn’t just document the tale of so many children – 1 in 14 – she allows the children to participate as lead storytellers in a story they want to share with the world.
What is powerful about these kids is how they continue to hold onto their dads and mom, despite the turmoil such love wrecks on their lives. These kids choose to visit their parents, who in some cases were in prison when they were born, which means the children never knew their parent as a free person. One father asks his son if there are victims on both sides of the equation. The boys wear the microphones while visiting with their fathers and mother. When one hears that prison disrupts everyone’s life, “Tre, Maison and Dasan“ illustrate how this is true. The film is screening April 8, 10, 13.
Judge Kholoud Al-Faqih became the first female appointed to any of the Middle East’s Shari’a courts in 2009, challenging longstanding traditions and customs of women’s roles in society. Constantly battling controversy over her position, Al-Faqih offers guidance, mentorship and support both in and outside the courts. In this intimate portrait, director Erika Cohn captures the determined and compassionate judge as she strives to achieve justice in a system that so often does not favor women.
On the fly
The seven-week South African film series at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) begins April 18 with “Mama Africa,” a documentary on Miriam Makeba. All programs begin at 6:30. See https://www.moadsf.org/blog/born-free-film-looks-at-post-apartheid-south-africa-april-18-may-31/. Meklit Hadero is at SFJAZZ April 6. Joining Forces Against Policing and Jails in San Francisco: A Half Day Summit against the Prison Industrial Complex is Saturday, April 7, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., at City College, Mission Campus, 1125 Valencia St., San Francisco. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 510-444-0484 or visit nonewsfjail.wordpress.com. No to US Wars at Home and Abroad, Oakland, Sunday, April 15, Spring Action: March and Rally, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Assemble and rally at Lake Merritt Ampitheatre, 12th and 4th Avenue on Lake Merritt Blvd. At 12:30 p.m., march to Oscar Grant Plaza near 14th and Broadway. For more information, visit Facebook.com/endwarsspring2018.
16th Annual Oakland International Film Festival
The 16th Annual Oakland International Film Festival runs April 3-7. Visit http://www.oiff.org/. The film “Making a Killing: Guns, Greed, and the NRA” screens Saturday, April 14, 1:30-3:30 p.m., at the Alameda City Council Chambers. It is a free screening, not suitable for small children. Watch the trailer on bravenewfilms.org/makingakilling.
SFWAR Walk Against Rape April 8
The goal of Walk Against Rape is to empower survivors, their friends, families and supporters, to break that silence by walking together on the streets against rape and declare that San Francisco will not tolerate sexual violence. As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Walk Against Rape will be held on Saturday, April 8, 12:30 p.m., beginning and ending at the Women’s Building, 3543 18th St., San Francisco. All proceeds will benefit San Francisco Women Against Rape, SFWAR, San Francisco’s only community based rape crisis center.
Destiny Arts’ presents ‘Evolve’ April 6-15
This year, “EVOLVE” will take thousands of audience members on a journey into The Museum of Forgotten Truths. Along with the teenage members of the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company, their 9-12-year-old counterparts in the Destiny Junior Company, and a group of 16 grandmothers, the performance also features the work from an array of guest artists, including Suzanne Gallo of the internationally-acclaimed vertical dance company, BANDALOOP, performers from Molodi, a body percussion troupe from Las Vegas, Keith Terry, artistic director of Crosspulse and producer of the International Body Music Festival, Risa Jaroslow, artistic director of Risa Jaroslow and Dancers, and Samara Atkins and Jenay Anolin, artistic directors of Mix’d Ingrdnts. Shows are April 6, 7, 13, 14 at 7:30 p.m.; April 10 Field Trip Shows at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; April 14 at 2 p.m., first of two shows; April 15 at 5 p.m. Visit https://destinyarts.org/get-involved/events-calendar/.
Bay Area Book Festival April 28-29
The Future is Female at the fourth annual Bay Area Book Festival (BABF) as the popular, internationally recognized two-day celebration of writers, readers and the written word in downtown Berkeley expands its longstanding commitment to the power of women in print with special thematic programing and adds a pre-festival conversation. BABF has established a new membership group called Women Lit to support programs at the April 28-29 festival, including a special Women Lit members’ salon at the festival with leading women authors, present year-round public events and private salons, foster networking and community among Bay Area women, and engage the public around female authors and woman-focused issues and topics: www.baybookfest.org/women-lit-overview/ and www.baybookfest.org/women-lit-about/. The festival takes place at multiple locations in downtown Berkeley.
SF State’s Going Global Museum opens April 26
San Francisco State has a new venue to showcase its extensive collections of cultural items – including the mummies from the University’s Sutro Egyptian Collection. The Global Museum opens its debut exhibition “Going Global: From San Francisco to the World” on April 26. The admission-free show will remain on display through May 2019.
Three beautifully painted sarcophagus lids will greet visitors in the museum’s main gallery. In an accompanying room opening in the fall, visitors will be able to view the two intact mummies.
In the works since 2014, the Global Museum is 1,922 square feet – nearly double the size of SF State’s old museum. Permanent collections include several thousand items of art and material culture from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Egypt and Oceania, spanning the ancient world to the 20th century. Highlights include the mummy Nes-Per-N-Nub, once a high priest of the Temple of Karnak. His remains occupy a triple-nesting sarcophagus, one of only three in the U.S.
Adolph Sutro, San Francisco mayor in the 1890s, purchased the mummies and displayed them at the Sutro Baths until the mid-1960s. George K. Whitney Jr. donated them to SF State in 1964.
EastSide Arts Jazz Series April 2018
The series begins Friday, April 6, 7 p.m., with the incomparable Avotcja as she presents “On Their Shoulders We Stand No. 3”: poets and musicians pay homage to the artistic brilliance of our Ancestors, a benefit concert for the Eastside Cultural Center’s Youth Arts Programs featuring some of the Bay Area’s best: The Trouble Makers Union, Nancy Hom, Francisco Hererra, Bill Vartnaw, Bombalele, Duomuxa aka Marci and Ricardo Valdivieso, The Salt People with Kaylah Marin, Kevin North, Val Serrant and Henry Mobley, Maria Medina, The Word Weaver Rumbera and many more.
The following week’s headliner is Marshall Trammell and “Warrior Ethos,” Friday, April 13, 2018, 7 p.m. – “Warrior Ethos: Nommo,” “a secret, exclusive screening of a fantastic new film focusing on one of our favorite musicians” and discussion session after the film. On Saturday, April 14, 2018, 8 p.m., is Warrior Ethos: Listening Sessions – Mutual Aid Project reunion performance.
Closing out the series on April 20-21, 8 p.m., is the legendary David Murray, one of the very best jazz musicians playing, who makes a rare Bay Area appearance – coming to EastSide for two nights. Get advance tickets. This event will sell out! All events are held at EastSide Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd, Oakland. For more info, go to www.eastsideartsalliance.org.
Save the Date: May 19, 2018, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., the 18th annual Malcolm X JazzArts Festival. As we all gather together at this annual festival to regroup, to build, to feed our souls, and to acquire knowledge, we embrace the theme for this year’s festival: A cultural reconstruction for third world self-determination.
John Santos presents Puerto Rico Del Alma! (Puerto Rico Soul!)
John Santos’ “Puerto Rico Del Alma!” collaboration takes place over three workshops, community gatherings at La Pena Cultural Center, April 21, culminating with a concert at SFJAZZ, April 22.
The Plena workshop with Taller de Plena con los Maestros: Tito Matos, Juan Gutierrez and Jerry Medina will highlight the richness of this popular music form rooted in the history, politics and activism shaped by the daily lives of Puerto Rican working class people, Saturday, April 21, 4:30-6:00, La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, $25. Please bring panderetas and güícharos if you can. There will be a limited number to share.
Its main instruments are the pandereta, an Islamic-derived frame drum held in one hand and played with the other, and the güícharo, a gourd scraper of indigenous Taino origin. Three visiting master musicians will conduct this workshop: Juango Gutierrez is the founder and director of the landmark, Grammy-nominated Pleneros de la 21 (NY 1983) that claims the longest history of presenting traditional Puerto Rican music in the U.S. among active groups. Hector “Tito” Matos is a force of nature as a virtuoso panderetero, founder and director of the powerhouse, Grammy-nominated Viento de Agua (NY/PR 1997), as well as a leader of the movement that has researched and resuscitated the plena among Puerto Rican youth in recent decades. Also participating will be legendary Puerto Rican band leader and vocalist extraordinaire, Jerry Medina, who was a founding member of the iconic group, Batacumbele in 1980.
Saturday evening, April 21, is a Puerto Rico Report (Reportaje de la isla), co-presented by Tito Matos and Defend Puerto Rico, 7-9 p.m., also at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley. Cost: $15-$50. It is also a fundraiser for Tito’s reconstruction work and uplifting of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria that caused widespread destruction in September of 2017. The other beneficiary is Defend Puerto Rico that is conducting considerable relief work on the island. Tito will give us up-to-the-minute information about the state of the island and the spirit and amazing efforts of the island’s inhabitants, friends and family to survive, resist and rebuild. The Bay Area’s own Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi and Frankie Ramos are intimately connected to this bi-coastal organization. An update on their urgent work will also be presented.
Closing out the weekend is Rhythms of Resistance with The John Santos Sextet, with special guests, Sunday, April 22, 2 p.m., at SFJAZZ, 201 Franklin St, San Francisco, 866-920-5299.
Robert Moses’ Kin presents ‘Draft’
Robert Moses hosts an annual project of solo performances of collaborative artists created with brief encounters with the choreographer. This year the program is April 13-14 at 8 p.m. and April 15 at 5 p.m. at Dance Mission, 3316 24th St., San Francisco. On this same program, Moses will perform his classic solo work, “Blue Guerilla” (1995). I can’t remember the last time I saw Moses dance. This is a rare treat, especially after witnessing the extraordinary work in his 23rd Annual Season featuring “Bootstrap Tales,” a work that looked at foster care youth who age out of the system and often end up on the streets of San Francisco and elsewhere. Tickets are $25. To purchase, visit Brown Paper Tickets or call 800-838-3006 or visit www.RobertMosesKin.org and watch https://vimeo.com/groups/contemporarydance/videos/55455443.
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.