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Wanda’s Picks September 2018

September 24, 2018

by Wanda Sabir

Aretha Franklin sings “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” – not the “bombs bursting in air” that led Colin Kaepernick to question the origin and meaning of the official “national anthem” – at the first Obama inauguration in January 2009. – Photo: BBC News

We lost Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Aug. 16 (March 25, 1942-Aug. 16, 2018). We also lost Kofi Annan (April 8, 1938, to Aug. 18, 2018), the seventh United Nations Secretary General and the first from Sub-Saharan African to lead the International organization. When we think about Black women and their navigation of public spaces, we remember the recent deaths of Nia Wilson, 18, and Jessica St. Louis, 26, who were not safe when they should have been #safehername.

World Peace Day with One Life

Alice Walker and Desert Rose will speak at First Congregational Church of Oakland, Friday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m., 2501 Harrison St., Oakland.

Happy 70th Birthday, Linda Tillery

Ms. Tillery is celebrating 70 with a new CD, “A Mighty World,” at Freight and Salvage, Sept. 7, 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 8, 8 p.m. She is joined by a few of her favorite artists: Eric Bibb, Ruth Davies, Brett “Jailbait” Brandstatt, Venezuelan Music Project, Kugelplex and/or Hills to Hollers. Each night is a different line-up and MC. Rhodessa Jones on Saturday, Diane Amos on Friday. The Freight is located at 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-644-2020. Visit https://www.thefreight.org/.

Bay Area Now: YBCA at 25

The opening night party for “Bay Area Now 8” is Friday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m., $12 in advance. “Bay Area Now 8,” Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s signature triennial, is the only survey exhibition of its kind in Northern California. Featuring 25 artists, architects and designers, the exhibition showcases a broad range of creative practices, including painting, photography, ceramics, textiles, video installation and digital media.

For the first time in its history, “Bay Area Now” also includes architects and designers working at the leading edge of environmental, landscape and housing design. YBCA is located at 701 Mission St. in San Francisco. For information, call 415-978-2700 or visit ybca.org.

Featured artists include Andre Wilson, Darell W. Fields, Woody D. Othello and NEMESTUDIO.

2018 Black-Eyed Pea Festival

The Black-Eyed Pea Festival is returning Saturday, Sept. 15, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., at Oakland Technical High School, 4351 Broadway, Oakland. It’s FREE! This year’s festival features Awon Ohun Omnira (of course) and Harpist from the ‘Hood Destiny Muhammad, The Jamming Nachos and Fua Dia Congo. Dimensions Dance Theatre and veterans MJs Brass Boppers are returning, plus the headliner, the fabulous Miss Faye Carol.

Theatre: ‘For Colored Girls’

Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” will be performed by the African American Shakespeare Company at the Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, Saturdays and Sundays Sept. 15-29. There are two shows on Saturday. Visit https://coloredgirls.brownpapertickets.com/.

9-1-1 What’s Your Emergency?’ world premiere

La Peña Cultural Center is proud to present the world premiere of “9-1-1 What’s Your Emergency?” on Saturday, Sept. 8, at 7:00-8:30 p.m. Written and directed by Bay Area playwright Jovelyn Richards and starring a cast of local actors, the play is an artistic response to gentrification and stereotypes, systemic racism and the personal narratives of humanity. La Peña is located at 3105 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.

“9-1-1 What’s Your Emergency?” is a groundbreaking and timely work that examines white fragility, as a result of the intersection of white supremacy and personal psychological narratives propelling the calls. The 9-1-1 call is rooted in micro-aggression, yet can have irreparable consequences to communities of color. Poetic justice will be served in this court drama based on real life 911 calls. The show is for adults 18 years and up.

Stick around after the play for a community discussion with the actors and organizations fighting for racial justice, especially as it pertains to the 9-1-1 calls that have run rampant throughout the country. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door, which opens at 6:30 p.m.

Maafa Awareness Month 2018

Maafa Commemoration San Francisco Bay Area is Sunday, Oct. 7, at Ocean Beach, Fulton at the Great Highway. This 23rd year in September and October we will interrogate violence against Black women and Black female safety in public places. Certain policies make it easy for Black women to be targets for racial and gender violence, like releasing women from Santa Rita at 1:30 a.m. when BART has stopped and there are no buses.

How do we protect her? There will be a teach-in Sept. 23, 4-6 p.m. Location TBA. Simultaneous poetry readings in October and a Rosa Parks-style BART strike on Black Friday in November. Stay tuned. If you want to help, call Wanda Sabir at 510-255-5579 and leave a message. We need help organizing the various events Bay Area-wide. We are also interested in connecting and supporting community activities in October which promote Black well-ness and Black well-being. Get in touch so we can create a calendar.

Black politics: It would be great to host a forum in October to discuss the November state and local ballots as well as candidates. Let me know if anything is happening so we can let people know.

‘The Black Woman is God: Assembly of Gods’

This is a sample of the wonders to behold at “The Black Woman Is God.”

In its third iteration, “The Black Woman is God” (BWIG), co-curated by Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green, now includes a visual conversation with Black men. The conversation also includes this year, galleries and programs in the East Bay. It opens Thursday, Aug. 30, 7 p.m., and continues through Tuesday, Oct. 2, 12:00 a.m., at SOMarts, 934 Brannan St. in San Francisco.

There are too many activities and events to list, but one should not miss the opening or closing at SOMArts, the artist talk Sept. 15, 1-4 p.m., at SOMarts; the BWIG in Oakland at the People of Color Sangha at the East Bay Meditation Center, Sept. 27. Also in Oakland, the BWIG meets South Carolina at the Thelma Harris Gallery, Queen Afua is in town Sept. 1-2 in Oakland. Visit http://www.theblackwomanisgod.com/ and plot it out (smile).

“The Black Woman is God” is not only an exhibition, but a movement-building platform that explores the intersections of race and gender, dismantling racist and patriarchal notions that devalue Black women’s contributions to society. Visit Wanda’s Picks Radio Show and listen to a recent conversation with co-curator Karen Seneferu, Idris Hassan and Ayana.

Freight and Salvage at 50

Mavis Staples headlines the 50th Anniversary Gala for Freight and Salvage, Wednesday, Sept. 12. Later this month, The Freight hosts its first ever Music Festival, Sept. 22, 11-6 p.m. There will be stages on Shattuck, Milvia at the Berkeley Rep across the street and inside the venue itself at 2020 Addison St. in Berkeley. It’s the Freight’s gift to the Berkeley community. Imagine, it all started “in a used furniture store at 1827 San Pablo Ave. It opened as a 87-seat coffee house in June 1968. The Freight’s motto is “Music builds community.” Visit thefreight.org/.

On the fly

The SF Green Festival on Sept. 6-14 is free for students with ID, joins the Global Climate Action Summit, Sept. 12-14. An extra day was added, Sept. 14, 3-8 p.m., at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Visit https://www.greenfilmfest.org/Crime + Punishment,” directed by Stephen Maing.

“Executive Produced” by Laura Poitras is at the Roxie, Aug. 31. It is also available online at Hulu.com. The film follows the story of the NYPD12, 12 Black and Latino officers who filed a class action suit against the department for unfairly profiling certain citizens based on race. Officers had to fill quotas with certain populations or their performance records and opportunities for advancement were affected.

“Science Fair,” which premiered at Sundance, is co-directed by MoAD. Pan African Festival, Sunday, Sept. 2, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., at Mosswood Park, Broadway at MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland. Visit panafricanfest.com; Festac Oakland Preservation-Arts-Culture-History Festival in Old Oakland kicks off Friday, Aug. 31, 7-10 p.m., at the Washington Inn, 495 10th St. and continues Saturdau, Sept. 1, 12 noon to 10 p.m. Visit www.theoaklandcannery.com. Movies to see: “Blindspotting,” “Blackkklansman” and “Sorry to Bother You.”

Dr. David Blackwell Hall at UC Berkeley

Dr. David Blackwell, 1919-2010

At a historic time when monuments dedicated to the legacy of criminals are being toppled, it is refreshing that UC Berkeley is honoring Dr. David Blackwell, the first tenured African American faculty (1954-1988). The new structure, a dorm at Bancroft Way and Dana St., opened this fall in time to “ease the housing crunch of [752] undergraduates. The building has commercial space on its first floor and also houses Stiles Hall, a community center for students [of color]” (Kane).

The dedication is Sept. 11, 12-3 p.m., at 2401 Durant Ave. The opening of the new building at a time when Black student enrollment is down, while Black faculty hiring is up, is an ironic twist (Goldman).

Dr. Blackwell’s friend and age mate Dr. Albert H. Bowker, who would eventually become chancellor at Berkeley in 1971, says in his introduction to Blackwell’s oral history at the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, conducted by Nadine Wilmot in 2002-2003: “David’s remarkable career was established at a time when prejudice ruled in academia. We salute him for his persistence and human courage as well as for his great scholarly achievements,” which are many (4).

“He has done fundamental work in game theory, Bayesian inference and information theory. He was a principal developer of Bellman’s dynamic programming ideas. He founded the theory of comparison of experiments, later developed by his colleague Lucien Le Cam to become one of the central tenets of mathematical statistics. With Arrow and Girshick he developed the backward induction method of solving sequential decision problems to solve the problem of determining Bayes solutions to such problems. He is the author of the classic book, ‘Theory of Games and Statistical Decisions,’ along with some 80 papers in professional journals.”

Blackwell’s academic achievement began in a small railroad town of Centralia, Illinois, where his parents and teachers cultivated his genius and sent him to the University of Illinois at Urbana at 16, where he excelled, graduating with his Ph.D. at 22. The graduate knew he wanted to begin a career in education and so he applied to all the historic Black colleges and universities, assuming no white institutions would hire him. This assumption would prove correct for a number of years.

Dr. Blackwell had a passion for mathematics and for teaching. “He never introduced himself as a professor; he always called himself a teacher,” says his son, Hugo Blackwell.

While teaching at Howard University, Blackwell traveled to the West Coast as a visiting lecturer at UC Berkeley, also Stanford where Dr. Bowker taught. Blackwell was recruited by UC in 1941; however, he didn’t get the position. Ten years later, Berkeley courted him again, the time then a bit more politically ready for an African American scholar who chaired the newly created statistics department 1957-1961. He would be a part of the institution for 50 years.

Blackwell loved his graduate and undergraduate students and was effective in multiple guises: advocate, as dean in the College of Arts and Letters, as doctoral advisor and as classroom instructor. The mathematician was able to make complex statistical theories and theorems accessible to his students over his teaching career.

“He was a distinguished researcher who independently invented dynamic programming, a statistical method still used today in finance and areas like genome analysis. That invention, and his development of a fundamental theorem still underpinning modern statistics, helped propel Blackwell, in 1965, to be the first African American inducted into the National Academy of Sciences and later in 1968 he was the first to be elected to the Academy of Sciences (Kane and Bowker).

Arif Khatib, founder and president emeritus of the African American Sports Hall of Fame, recalls the building’s groundbreaking tribute a few years ago. “The statisticians spoke highly of him; 75-100 people were in attendance. They were all white.

“Then and now, there were not a lot of people who can match him. He stood alone; he stood out. I used to visit with him regularly on campus, where he had an office even after he retired. He would tell me, ‘Stop by. I like talking to you.’ I’d reply: ‘I like talking to you too.’ We had good times together. His wife was a principal of a school. They were two educational giants.”

Blackwell Hall

How many buildings are dedicated to Black intellectuals on the UC Berkeley campus?

“It’s a beautiful building on Durant,” Mr. Khatib stated. “The other end fronts Bancroft – the David Blackwell Building of Science and Math. I am so proud to be an African American who knew this man. Can you hear students say, ‘I am staying in the David Blackwell Building’? I want to see a photo of Dr. Blackwell in the hall – it doesn’t have to be a statue – so when students walk into the building, they see the image of this powerful Black man.”

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. Read the rest of Wanda’s Picks at sfbayview.com.

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