April 14, 2017
“Jitney,” August Wilson’s first play, set in 1977, takes place in the Hill District in Philadelphia, a place Wilson called home. “Jitney,” a part of Wilson’s 10-play canon that chronicles Black life from Jim Crow South to illusive Northern freedoms, speaks to the absence of permanent change for Black people despite legislative acts 1865 to now. It runs through April 16; visit www.african-americanshakes.org.
April 3, 2017
The Oakland International Film Festival is an opportunity for Oakland to shine – its artists the polish and vehicle. From its inception 15 years ago, when the City of Oakland was one of the only cities in the nation with a film office, sadly eliminated an administration ago, this festival has maintained its focus – on Oakland and its diversity of talent: directors, writers, actors, technicians – famous and up and coming. The festival is on April 4-8. To learn more and get tickets, visit http://www.oiff.org and https://oaklandroots40th.info/.
April 3, 2017
We continue our celebration of the fairer sex this month with Amara Tabor-Smith and Ellen Sebastian Chang’s House/Full of Black Women Project: Episode: Black Women Dreaming, a Ritual Rest, March 26-April 7. In this 10th episode of House/Full, perhaps its largest and longest episode, Black women are invited to sleep, stop during the middle of the day or evening and rest, dream. Black women rest least of all people across race, gender and class.
March 22, 2017
When one thinks of Black women photographers, Carrie Mae Weems comes to mind and, regarding silhouettes, Kara Walker. Though certainly a historic revisioning of beauty and portraiture, a form reserved for the aristocracy, Erica Deeman’s first major solo exhibition at Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive celebrates the form – the Black female form. The large-scale portraits, created over the course of nine months in 2013, is up through June 11, at the BAMPFA, 2120 Oxford St., Berkeley.
March 22, 2017
When a person dies, the living find it hard sometimes to carry on. The loss of a loved one is something one never gets over, and when the death is violent and the victim young, the bitterness is that much harder to swallow. In Patricia Milton’s new play, “Without Mercy,” closing this weekend, Thursday-Saturday, March 23 and 25, 8 p.m., at the Off Broadway West Theatre Company, we meet a grieving mother and daughter, Joanna Parks and Bethany Matthews.
March 15, 2017
Chatting with producer and playwright Dennis Rowe, he says that everyone in LA wants to be an actor, but this does not mean that they have talent. Rowe learned that his expertise was in production, not performance, early enough in his career to identify and perfect his knack for writing. Twenty-one years later, Rowe has a number of successful stage productions to brag about – but he doesn’t: This weekend, the successful NAACP Image Award nominee is in town with his “Port Chicago 50” at Black Rep, 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley, Friday, March 17, 8 p.m., Saturday, March 18, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 19, 4 p.m. For information, call 800-838-3006.
March 9, 2017
Though pioneering journalist Richard Durham (1917-1984) made Chicago his home, Professor Sonja D. Williams’s “Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio and Freedom” (2015) offers a portrait of a man who was not contained by geography – spatial or otherwise. Williams will be in town this weekend to share the Durham story at the African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St., Oakland, Saturday, March 11, 2-4 p.m.
March 3, 2017
At the Women’s March on Washington, Sen. Kamala Harris told constituents, she “had our backs,” and since she has been in office Sen. Harris has certainly been a vocal and active participant in standing up for the constitutional rights for her constituents in California against presidential legislation which undermines core human rights and values. Her track record in providing a safety net for the most vulnerable in our community is unparalleled.
February 17, 2017
In the film “Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race and America,” the activist quietly befriends the philosophical offspring of the white supremacists who made Dr. King’s job so hard from Bombingham to Selma. Daryl Davis, Black man, holds the unique distinction of being an expert on the Ku Klux Klan. We get to travel across the country with Davis as he introduces us to his people – white supremacists and racists. The question he poses, “How can you hate me when you don’t even know me?”
February 15, 2017
Though the story of incarceration is always hard, it is more sobering when those affected are children. What if those youth convicted had an opportunity to reimagine their lives and interrupt and rewind the script? What would the scenario look like? Who would star in the feature? Ben Lear’s “They Call Us Monsters” 82 mins. (2017) is an invitation into such a story. There we meet Jarad, arrested at 16, Juan, arrested at 16, and Antonio, arrested one month after his 14th birthday. All the young men are facing minimally 90 years to life, Jarad 200 years.
February 14, 2017
Shola Adisa-Farrar is coming home to debut her new CD, “Lost Myself,” on Wednesday and Thursday, Feb. 15-16, in Oakland and San Francisco. Perhaps you remember her from The Ultimate Hustler reality television show she starred in Oct. 4-Dec. 13, 2005, while she was in New York? Maybe you recall how much fun you had with Shola as guide in the Walking in the Spirit: Black Paris and Beyond tours while there? No?
February 10, 2017
Happy Black History Month. Knowledge is power, something Black people from Frederick Douglass to Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks to Kamala Harris have never taken for granted. If white people would kill a Black person for teaching someone to read, not to mention knowing how to read – enough said! The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s organization, has chosen the theme: “Crisis in Education” for 2017.
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.