January 30, 2017
Britney Frazier is stunning as Hedda Gabler in Cutting Ball Theatre’s current production of 19th-century Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s classic. Hedda is a spoiled girl who settles on husband Jorgen Tesman because he demands, she says, the least emotionally from her. Francisco Arcila’s Tesman, a scholar, remains preoccupied with his work, yet delights in his wife’s choice of him. The story is deceptively simple, but then so is much of life.
January 28, 2017
Ayodele Nzinga’s “Mama at Twilight: Death by Love” is a haunting look at a family crippled by circumstances. How does a man prepare for adult responsibilities when his father is nowhere around? When a young Marie-Rose meets Mario Jefferson at 15 doing community service at her father’s church, she knows he is the man she wants to spend her life with. Three grown children later, Mama still loves the man she fell in love with and has no regrets over its costly price or the raised eyebrows and whispers that sought to sanction her.
January 13, 2017
Coming of age in the ‘60s was a trying time for young African American men whose taste of power made it hard to relinquish their dreams of equality and true democracy shortly thereafter in the ‘70s during the Reagan years with the war on Black people, disguised as a war on drugs. Nonetheless Glen Upshaw did not let fear mitigate or guide his behavior. A peacemaker or violence interrupter, his job is to de-escalate situations before they happen or restore peace and safety in situations where violence has taken place.
January 12, 2017
Scientists Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, profiled in “Hidden Figures” (2016), exemplify what writer Margot Lee Shetterly calls “everyday courage,” a kind of imaginative power that filled these women – Black women, white women, invisible women – with a sense of pride and purpose even when deserved recognition went unstated. Director Theodore Melfi’s film is all the buzz.
January 2, 2017
2017 marks the centennial of the nation’s bloodiest race riot in the 20th century in East St. Louis, Illinois. Migrant Black people were hired to work as miners to replace striking white workers at the Aluminum Ore Co. The white workers stormed City Hall demanding redress from the mayor. Shortly thereafter, news of an attempted robbery of a white man by an armed Black man set off the reign of terror in downtown East St. Louis in which unarmed Black men, women and children were pulled from trollies and street cars and beaten and shot down in the street.
December 29, 2016
The Auset Movement: Loving Humanity into Wholeness reluctantly celebrated its one year anniversary today, Sunday, Dec. 25. The group, made up of concerned citizens, have been serving hot meals once a month since Christmas last year. If there is a holiday, we show up that day with hot breakfast, today, the menu was Wanda Ravernell’s homefries, Jovelyn’s delight – fresh greens, Tobaji’s beans and rice, Kwalin’s sausage and pumpkin spice bread.
December 1, 2016
Death came to the old revolutionary – put out what was left of his cigar – leaving him his military cap – so they would not place laurels – that would bother him. It is no little thing to confront the empire – & survive its rage of a mad dog – from which a bone is taken. Oh Cuba of the bitter history, – of palms, dances, songs, – of the drums of Alegba and Yamayá, – of the cane made sweet by blood and sweat – mourn and remember, sing, dance, work – for justice and never return to slavery. © Rafael Jesús González 2016
November 17, 2016
Thursday, Nov. 10, Nate Parker visited historic McClymonds High School for a screening of his film, “Birth of a Nation” (2016). His visit and the screening were a part of Supervisor Keith Carsen’s Community Empowerment Forums which, hosted that evening by Elaine Brown, former Black Panther Party chair, are to create spaces for public discourse and problem solving. In this case, the topic was the importance of knowing one’s history.
November 11, 2016
City leaders announced the “New Oakland” as if to say it was no longer a “Black city.” As Oakland became more attractive to outsiders, housing costs rose and more African Americans were displaced. Oakland was voted one of the country’s “coolest cities,” but today, Oakland’s homeless people have been displaced into visible encampments located throughout the gentrified areas. They are mainly African Americans displaced by the city’s gentrification.
November 4, 2016
The 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party Conference, Oct. 20-23, held at the Oakland Museum of California and in Bobby Hutton Grove at deFremery Park, was a huge success. To see the Vanguards of the Revolution saluted in such elegant surroundings at the banquet Saturday evening was certainly a fitting tribute to the legacy their lives concretely represent. Hats off to the committee that organized the conference.
October 14, 2016
Perhaps the reason why Nat Turner is almost completely buried within documented and oral histories is connected to the fear his rebellion caused in the Southampton and by extension the Southern antebellum community. Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation” visits this story as Donald Trump draws a white male constituency very much in keeping philosophically with the angry mob who tear the flesh from the iconic Prophet Nat Turner’s body.
October 10, 2016
This Maafa Commemoration Month we continue to lift “A Love Supreme” as we organize a defense against state violence. Congratulations to Professor Aaliyah Dunn-Salahuddin, whose community vigil and program honored the lives of the Bayview Hunters Point revolutionaries killed 50 years ago when the community rose up after SFPD killed Matthew “Peanut” Johnson and more recently when the community turned out after SFPD killed Mario Woods.
September 23, 2016
William Shakespeare’s “Othello” rings with contemporary accuracy in the Marin Shakespeare Company’s production. Damieon Brown, who performed in Marin Shakespeare Company’s 2015 “Shakespeare at Solano” theater arts program at Solano State Prison, studied, pursued, auditioned and won the role of Othello, one of Shakespeare’s most complicated and enthralling characters. The show closes Sept. 25.
September 3, 2016
Black people are genetic experts at dislocation and assimilation; what with centuries of practice, we come to this place with authority and grief. However, Saturday, July 30, at the fifth OG or Original Good Community Barbecue, children, youth and adults had a chance to mingle, eat and enjoy the chance to introduce Gen X to those elders who made this city situated between Silicon Valley giants – Palo Alto and Menlo Park – what it was, if not what it is now.
September 2, 2016
Actor Dameion Brown, playing the title role in the Marin Shakespeare Company’s production of “Othello,” is getting standing ovations since the production started. Still in previews, Brown has with this role seen a dream come true. Since the MSC production of “Othello” opened Aug. 26 for previews, we learn that Brown is a formerly incarcerated or convicted person (FICP), just released after serving 23 years of a life sentence.
August 22, 2016
In “Southside with You” (2016), which opens nationally Aug. 26, 2016, Richard Tanne makes his feature film directorial debut. “Southside” is the story of youthful love, first love for Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, 25, a sheltered Chi-town daughter who is working hard – pressing against glass ceilings from a philosophical basement at a prestigious law firm, as she supervises the charming, cute intern, 27-year-old Barack Obama.
July 31, 2016
The new “Black Woman Is God” exhibit, curated by Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green, features the work of over 50 Black women artists in a variety of genres: film, mixed media installation, sculpture, paintings, photography – in a range of sizes covering entire walls to intimate corners. We travel below ground into spaces where lives are born and secret formulas are calculated … brews stirred.
July 15, 2016
We lost many loved ones this past month, from photographer extraordinaire Kamau Amen Ra to community organizer, prolific writer and longshoreman Brother Cleophus Williams to my dear Sister Monica Pree, not to mention Muhammad Ali. We reflect on Independence Day, a day marked by the blood of African Ancestors of the Middle Passage – the first to die a Black man, Crispus Attucks, on March 3, 1770, in what became known as the Boston Massacre.
July 13, 2016
I was in Ghana when I received news that Kamau Amen Ra made his transition, and it was at an exhibit at the British Museum in London walking through the chambers of Ausar that I reflected on his well-lived life and thought about the human treasures undiscovered who walk among us, like Kamau. I think he called this place Babylon, a place where treasures remain unearthed or hidden except for those with keen eyes or vision, both of which Kamau possessed.
June 18, 2016
Prosperity Movement, an Oakland-based group of artists and activists, is using its platform to promote peace and prosperity in a changing Oakland landscape. The group’s founder and front man, Adimu Madyun, makes it his mission to use art as a way of educating local youth and adults, who he says are bearing the brunt of gentrification in their native city.