by Wanda Sabir
Texas tenor Prince Lasha passes
William B. Lawsha, better known as Prince Lasha, born Sept. 10, 1929, in Wellington, Texas, passed away on Dec. 12, 2008. Prince Lasha was well known by fellow musicians and fans for his creative and innovative works in jazz music for over six decades. Prince Lasha wrote, performed – as saxophonist, flutist and clarinetist – and recorded his music all over the globe. He was engaged in a revival of his past works when he passed.
Prince Lasha, son of Amy Juanita and W.B. Lawsha, leaves behind five sons and four daughters. Memorial services are noon on Saturday, Dec. 20, at the Mountain View Cemetery, 5000 Piedmont Ave., Oakland.
Any charitable donations should be directed to the California Jazz Foundation or the Jazz Foundation of America in memory of Prince Lasha: California Jazz Foundation, 1158 26th St., Suite 273, Santa Monica, CA 90403, Attn: Director Sue Townsley; Jazz Foundation of America, http://www.jazzfoundation.org/, 322 West 48th St., 6th Floor, New York, NY 10036, (212) 245-3999, ext. 29.
Former Raelet and Motown’s First Lady Mable John & Family in Marin Saturday, Dec. 20
She began her career as Motown’s first female singer in 1959, later performed with the Supremes when they were the Primettes, and then recorded and wrote for Ray Charles. Her first gig was opening for Billie Holiday and she speaks of Ruth Brown as her guardian angel, who she says gave her clothes to wear for performances and blessed her in the role she portrays in John Sayles’ film, “Honeydripper” (2007), a film they were to co-star in together.
Mable is the eldest of 10 children; one of her brothers is Little Willie John, whose tune “Fever” became a pop hit for Peggy Lee. She recorded on Stax Records and Motown, and the recent release of previously unreleased recordings, “Mable John: Stay out of the Kitchen,” features 25 tracks. She left the stage over 30 years ago to persue a doctoral degree in divinity and in 1986 founded Joy in Jesus Ministry, and began the program Joy Community Outreach, a Los Angeles-based homeless ministry.
She has three novels written in collaboration with David Ritz, the titles taken from her songs: “Sanctified Blues,” “Stay out of the Kitchen” and, just rereleased this year, “Love Tornado.” One of her siblings died last week, but she was committed to honoring the concert date Saturday, Dec. 20, so she will be at 142 Throckmorton Theater, in Mill Valley. Call (415) 383-9600 or visit www.142throckmortontheatre.com for information. Tickets are $30. For 10 or more guests, the group rate is $25 each.
The show will open with the Sweet Nectars, the backup trio for blues legend Jimmy McCracklin. Her grandson will do a bit of clean stand-up comedy and I have it on good authority that there will be a special big name artist performing with Dr. John.
‘Cinderella’ at African American Shakespeare
I didn’t want you to miss another season favorite, “Cinderella,” as only the African American Shakespeare can put it on! It continues through next week, Sunday, Dec. 28. Shows are Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Zeum, 221 Fourth St., at Howard near the Carousel, in San Francisco. If you take BART, get off at Powell and walk down Fourth Street, it’s the same street as the Metreon. Visit www.african-americanshakes.org or call (800) 838-3006.
Intersection for the Arts Hybrid Project
This is the second weekend for the Intersection of the Arts Hybrid Project. I loved the various snippets of full productions later in the season last week and look forward to a different cast of directors and actors, dancers and musicians. Last week we got a sneak preview of Chanaka Hodge’s play about a white girl born into a Black family. How does this physical pigment displace or make this child feel as if she doesn’t belong in a family where no one shares her features? It’s a great reflection on race, perhaps a continuation of the Living Word Project Chanaka performed in concert with others called “Race Peace.” There were three other pieces, directed by Sean San Jose and Marc Bamuthi Joseph.
I loved a work by Denizen Kane, whose character was the surviving brother of a musician who was killed, the second, maybe third tragedy in a series of vignettes where he recreates or tells the story while stepping into it as his deceased brother, other characters and himself, the “narrator.”
It is not at all confusing, the transitions, props like his character’s brother’s hats, the table and guitar, the suitcase and the often single light above the musician. I loved his songs, accompanied on guitar. Several times, Denizen lights a candle for his brother and then steps out of the story, the lights come up and we are introduced to another performer. The first is Mayda del Valle who tells a story which crosses generations and oceans. I don’t know if any of this is autobiographical, but it all feels like it is, especially de Valle’s.
In the story, the narrator loves to dance. The teenager tells the story of her grandmother, who tricked her into leaving her beloved Puerto Rico. She ends up in New York, hates it and becomes mother to children she loves as much as she can. She gives them things, if not herself.
The story is told in both English and Spanish. I enjoy del Valle’s shift between time and space and her ability, like Denizen, to don multiple faces. Her character expresses herself through dance; I guess the metaphor is when trapped one escapes one way or another – alive or dead. I believe her grandmother, after suffering beatings, leaves the father, but I was confused on that point. Oh, and then Denizen comes back for another chapter in the saga. He is followed by Lauren Whitehead, whose lyrical poem performed by dancers Nicole Klaymoon, Soul Nubian and Amara Tabora Smith was outstanding.
The question asked is why Black women are supposed to be hard …expected to eat nails for dessert and love a good argument? She entangled the musings with songs … blues melodies – her voice lovely as she wanders between the shadowy images on the dancers occupying spaces, often dark, she was unable to occupy. I wanted to read the lyrics, play them in my car on the way home, eat them for dessert – well, maybe dinner. It was the same with Denizen’s melodies. They’re deep and depressing, but still captivating. It was raining and the theatre surprisingly had seats on the pay-what-you-can Thursdays. Friday and Saturday tickets are $15-$25.
I am so looking forward to this weekend’s new performances by Jason Mateo and Jose Vadi, featuring Freddy Gutierrez and Mario Yedidia with a special “Raising the Curtain” Series, including a selection from Campo Santo’s next play “Fuku Americanus,” created from Junot Diaz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” I am so happy this is just a preview, a work in progress so I can look forward to seeing them produced in Intersection’s 2009-10 season. The venue is located at 446 Valencia St. at 15th in San Francisco. Take BART and get off on 16th Street and walk up one block and south. Visit www.theintersection.org or call (415) 626-3311.
The Caribbean All-Stars
The Caribbean All-Stars perform at Ashkenaz in Berkeley, San Pablo Avenue at Gilman, Friday, Dec. 19, at 9:30 p.m. All ages are welcome
New Year’s Eve with Caribbean All-Stars
The Caribbean All-Stars will also perform at Eastside Cultural Center’s New Year’s Eve, Wednesday, Dec. 31, at 9 p.m. ESCC is located at 2277 International Boulevard at 23rd Avenue. Visit http://www.caribbeanallstars.com/.
Holiday Fair for Kids
The Seventh Annual Holiday Fair for Kids at the African American Art and Cultural Center includes a free toy give-away with proof of residence in the city, Saturday, Dec. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The AAACC is located at 762 Fulton St. at Webster, San Francisco.
Film: ‘The Barefoot Doctors of Rural China’
“The Barefoot Doctors of Rural China,” an award-winning 1975 short film (53 minutes) documents the unprecedented “barefoot doctor” movement in Mao’s China. By putting priority on the needs of the people, and relying on them, a new system of healthcare was created, combining peasant paramedics with trained doctors, integrating Western and indigenous medicine, with a focus on preventive care and education. Basic health care was provided to millions of poor people in China for the first time in history. Discussion of the film will follow. The free screening is Tuesday, Dec. 23, 7 p.m., at 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley. For information, call (510) 848-1196.
Jingle the Bells & Sound the Ngomas
This is a special holiday workshop with master Congolese dancer and instructor Regine Ndounda in support of the “DRUM 4 Change” initiative. The workshop is at the Malonga Center, Monday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m. As participants dance, drum and sing in support of the DRUM 4 Change, an initiative launched by the VivaARTS network to uplift one of our community’s beloved master artists and instructors, Abdoulaye Diakite, it’s also an opportunity to help usher Abdoulaye back to good health and show him that he belongs to a community that cares.
Lending love and limb toward this effort is master Congolese dancer and instructor Regine Ndounda, who will make her triumphant return to the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts for a special holiday workshop. She will give us all a dose of the fiery and funky style we’ve all been missing. Come dance and do some good for a very special person in this season of giving.
For updates on Abdoulaye’s progress and a complete list of support efforts, visit http://www.abdoulayeupdate.com. For information on how to further support the DRUM 4 Change initiative, contact the VivaARTS network at www.vivaARTS.NET, vivaARTS1@yahoo.com or (510) 464-3025.
Sistas-Wit-Style 7th Annual Cultural and Holiday Show, Sunday, Dec. 21
Sistas-Wit-Style host for the seventh consecutive year a holiday dinner and performance showcase. The salute, entitled “Back in de Dey” is a Caribbean holiday celebration featuring a Holiday Banquet and Cultural Show, Sunday, Dec. 21, 4 p.m.; doors open at 3 p.m. Traditional Caribbean dances are performed or choreographed by Sistas-Wit-Style Caribbean Folk Performing Company: Merissa, Kianna, Valencia, accompanied by Willis on Pan, along with their original drummers Val, Zwadie, Tumani, Tomi and Tacuma. Begun when the girls were in fifth grade, now college students, the young women are teaching free dance classes in many East Bay middle, elementary and high schools. This year, their special guest artists include Tacuma’s Sdouae drummers, East Oakland School of the Arts and Santa Fe Elementary and ASHA MillsMount Academy School.
This is a special treat for children and adults: live drums, dance, songs, music, Caribbean food, drinks (non-alcoholic), dessert and lots more. The celebration kicks off at the Lakeside Gardens, 666 Bellevue Ave., in Oakland, off Grand Avenue, across the street from Children’s Fairyland. This event is free for children 17 and under. The donations are $20 in advance and include Caribbean and ethnic dinner. They are also accepting toy donations. The event is co-sponsored by Youth Grant for Youth Action, Jumbie Productions and Adonal Foyle. Proceeds go to Sistas-Wit-Style Dance Company. Contact them at (510) 952 -6287, (510) 387-7771 or www.sistas-wit-style.com.
‘Black Nativity’ at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Thursdays-Sundays, through Dec. 28
There is something about “Black Nativity” that makes the season of thanksgiving and good will and faith in redemptive possibilities inherent in the human soul not just possible, but probable. With more and more people worried about shelter and employment – the food lines and holiday grocery giveaways longer than usual, so long Glide Memorial Church had to turn away people for the first time in its history. I wasn’t born when the stock market crashed but photos I’ve seen and the despair I’ve seen etched in children’s and parents’ faces looks like those faces one sees today.
Just listening to the lyrics in Arvis Strickling-Jones’ “There is Hope” or Tramaine Hawkins’ “I Never Lost My Praise,” sung so convincingly by Sherral Strickling-McCall, somehow makes the worries dissipate, the problems somehow ease if they’re not solved. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s “Black Nativity” message is we’re not in this alone.
Art is like that. The worse one feels the more one should get out to see something like Langston Hughes’ gospel play or a concert like the one I went to last week, “Let Us Break Bread Together,” at the Oakland East Bay Symphony, where Maestro Michael Morgan filled every available space physically and philosophically with the spirit of the season. People will have to tuck in their stomachs and squeeze a little tighter next year though to make space for Kwanzaa songs and songs of the Eid Al Adha, as their were songs from the Judea Christian traditions.
The show features 27 songs and a cast of 18 and a live band. On my radio show this morning, Stanley Williams, artistic director of the play, said that the cast ranged from high school students to adults. I recognized many faces and missed a few who are not a part of this 10th anniversary season.
For those who haven’t been following the news, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is homeless and is in a temporary theatre space for the next two performances in its 2008-09 season, “Black Nativity: A Gospel Celebration of Christmas” and “Waitin’ 2 End Hell,” which opens Feb. 12-March 1, 2009. These shows are at the PG&E Auditorium, 77 Beale St. at Market in downtown San Francisco. The new space is not overwhelming though bigger than the comfy former theatre home on Sutter Street. The walk from BART is a lot less aerobic, and the route more scenic and pricey … the Tenderloin far removed from this high-end corporate neighborhood.
The set complements the wood paneling and décor in the auditorium, and the choreography as usual is quite moving, thanks to Arianna Bre Harris and Michael Montgomery. I missed the old “No Good Shepherd,” but the new kid in the pasture, Darius Johnson, had a lovely voice and was grooving with another shepherd, Rashad Jamari Leggitt, who was new to these pastures too. The medley was fresh, especially the Tina Turner remake of “Proud Mary,” and “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. Other cool ‘60s-’70s R&B tunes were sung with a gospel twist or straight.
Arvis Strickling-Jones nearly brought the house down many times, the first time, when she sang the lovely original “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” as the child lay in the manger, the lyrics like a news flash, it so reflected what is happening now in the world.
The dancing Mary and Joseph, Arianna Bre Harris and Michael Montgomery, were new also, Mary petite and certainly not pregnant looking – she needs some padding. But she can dance, as could her partner, whose lovely rendition of “No Room at the Inn” took many breaths away. At one point during the second part of the play, Michael, now usher and a church mother, began to do the electric slide – that was so funny.
I highly recommend the LHT’s production of “Black Nativity.” They will have shows Dec. 26-28 next week. Call (415) 474-8800 and visit www.lhtsf.org. Tickets are $20-$36 and on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 4 p.m., all tickets are $18 and afterwards there is an artist or cast reception with a free hot meal for everyone.
If you can get to Beth Eden Baptist Church’s “Black Nativity,” which follows more closely the play as written by Langston Hughes, it would be a great contrast to see how two different directors interpret this great story that some call the greatest ever told.
Miriam Makeba Musical Celebration at MoAD
On Saturday, Dec. 20, 2 to 4 p.m., join MoAD (Museum of the African Diaspora) in a celebration of the life Miriam Makeba, the famous South African singer, songwriter and civil rights activist who recently passed away. Her music was influential throughout the anti-apartheid movement and continues to inspire international audiences. The Vukani Mawethu Choir will be performing Miriam’s freedom songs about South Africa. Also attending is Jeanette Ndhlovu, the South African consul general from Los Angeles, who was an associate of Miriam’s as well as Boatamo Mosupyob, the director of the Pan African Studies Program at CSU. MoAD is located in the heart of San Francisco’s Arts District at Mission and Third, 685 Mission St., (415) 358-7200, firstname.lastname@example.org and www.moadsf.org.
Wanda’s Picks Radio Show: Where Art Meets Politics
The line-up for Friday, Dec. 19, is as follows: 8:00-8:25 a.m.: Ayanna Mashama, Chinese medicine doctor, herbalist, community healer and activist, mother and grandmother, and Mestre Temba Mashama, Capoiera N’Gola, licensed family therapist, talking about the Winter Solstice.
8:30-8:55 a.m.: Sistas Wit Style, a Caribbean Folk Performing Dance Company, Dance that Moves the World. The event is described above.
9:00-9:25 a.m.: Stanley E. Williams, co-founder and artistic director of the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, which is celebrating its 28th consecutive season as a leading center of African American theatre, and Arvis Strickling-Jones, musical director and principal artist of “Black Nativity: A Gospel Celebration of Christmas.” The play is described above.
9:30-9:55ish a.m.: Dr. Mable John, former Raelet and Motown’s First Lady. She is visiting Northern California for a special concert Saturday, Dec. 20, which is described above.
I forgot to ask the young women in Sistas-Wit-Style about instruments indigenous to Trinadad and Tabago. I wanted to ask Ms. Arvis to tell me about her work with the San Quentin Choir and to compare the choir to that of the historic choir at Angola State Prison in Louisiana. I was curious about when her family moved to San Francisco from New Orleans. I wondered if we were on the same Greyhound bus (smile). I wanted to ask Stanley about his decision to cast a woman as the pastor. It was a first for “Black Nativity” at LHT. I thought she was great, but I wanted to know his reasoning, if any. But when I run over for one guest, it pushes everything off. I don’t think my guests know they are running over. I also had my first guest call in from reading the preview I posted. It was exciting even though I couldn’t talk to her. I also forgot to ask Dr. John how she avoided the vice and other less savory aspects of the entertainment industry. And I really wanted her to tell me about Ms. Ruth Brown. Next time. I enjoyed the conversation with Ayanna and Temba; it was informative about the Winter Solstice and they both gave us practical and useful information.
“The Poetic Groove on the Move,” Saturday, Dec. 27, at 6:00 p.m. reconvenes since the House of Unity days to the Lewis Culture Center, 5719 Shattuck, Oakland. Everyone is asked to bring a food item or make a donation. For further details or questions, contact Cassandra at (415) 694-0231 or (415) 518-6173, INDIGO at (510) 827-6558 or Jim at (415) 517-3728.
SF 8 Benefit with Paul Mooney at Black Rep
Paul Mooney is making two of his shows a benefit for the San Francisco 8 and Freedom Archives: Sunday, Dec. 28, the 6 and 8 p.m. shows. He is kicking off his “Black Man … in the White House” national tour. Tickets are $25, $44 or $100 (VIP). For information, call (510) 652-2120, for the ticket hotline, (925) 812-2787. All 10 shows, from Dec. 26 through New Year’s Eve (details at www.sfbayview.com, click on Calendar of Events), are at the Black Repertory Group Theatre, 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley.
Paul Mooney is an American comedian, writer, television and film actor. Born in Louisiana, he grew up in Oakland. Mooney wrote some of Richard Pryor’s routines for his appearance on Saturday Night Live, co-wrote his material for the “Live on the Sunset Strip,” “Bicentennial Nigger and “Is It Something I Said” albums and Pryor’s film “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.” As the head writer for The Richard Pryor Show, he gave many young stand-up comics, such as Robin Williams, Sandra Bernhard, Marsha Warfield, John Witherspoon and Tim Reid their first break into show business. The event is co-sponsored by KPFA’s Hard Knock Radio in association with the Berkeley Black Repertory Group Inc.
Kwanzaa in the San Francisco Bay Area
San Francisco Kwanzaa celebrations, Dec. 26 through Jan. 1, are listed in the SF Bay View Calendar of Events.
The Bay Area Kwanzaa Committee presents the Public Houses of Kwanzaa 2008: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture by and for people of African Ancestry:
Kujichagulia (Self Determination), hosted by the Nairobi Kwanzaa Committee, is
Saturday, Dec. 27, 7 p.m., at the Tulip Jones Women’s Club, 1310 Bay Road, East Palo Alto, (650) 325-5532 or (650) 799-4828. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics), hosted by Pivotal Point Youth Services, is Monday, Dec. 29, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Lake Merritt Sail Boat House, 568 Bellevue Ave., Oakland, (510) 536-6604, ext. 201. Nia (Purpose), hosted by the Pan African Peoples Organization (PAPO), is Tuesday, Dec. 30, 7 p.m., at 959 33rd St. Oakland, (510) 465-2886 or (510) 917-5878.
The rest of the days are not confirmed yet. I will update this list once I have more information.
Other Kwanzaa celebrations here and elsewhere
Visit http://www.soulofamerica.com/kwanzaa-celebrations.phtml, http://www.baykidsmuseum.org/programs_events/festivals/kwanzaa/, http://www.phillyfunguide.com/event.php?id=25476, http://www.discoverymuseum.com/calendar.asp and http://www.nps.gov/afbg/parknews/afbg-kwanzaa-2008.htm.
An article about San Francisco Bay Area events is at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/11/BAKV14I5GL.DTL&type=printable.