Wanda’s Picks for February

by Wanda Sabir

Ave Montague – Photo: SF ChronicleWe want to call the names of those who made their transition in January and offer condolences to their loved ones who have yet to cross that bridge: Dorsey Nunn’s wife, Sheila Hackett-Nunn, Ronald Colthirst’s mother, Lanier Pruitt, my cousin Della Brumfield, only 42, who just died from a heart attack she suffered two weeks ago, and Ave Montague, founder of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, who passed Saturday, Jan. 24, also of cardiovascular disease. She was 64.

I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that Ave’s gone. The Chronicle quoted veteran TV journalist Belva Davis’ tribute to Ave: “She worked seven days a week. She was very creative and determined. Ave played a very important part in bringing Black projects and nonprofits to the attention of the public. She was extremely important to young filmmakers. She was a wonderful friend. There’s not another like her.” Peter Fitzsimmons, director of the Jazz Heritage Center, was also quoted: “Ave was a mentor to many. She was a class act who was a major contributor to the cultural identity of the African American community.” The Black Film Festival board plans to continue Ave’s work and put the festival on in June as planned.

Reflections on our Black president

“Mend our brokenness … God of our tears and weary years” – Barack Hussein Obama, first Black president

Inauguration Day at the College of Alameda – Photo: Wanda SabirI am so excited! Although I would have liked to be in Washington, D.C., on Inauguration Day, I am not disappointed to witness this historic moment at the College of Alameda. This event is a defining moment for our college and our nation and for each American citizen, especially African Americans.

When he mentioned founding fathers, I had to laugh at the mention of those men, who except for John Adams, didn’t claim Africans as citizens or equals in a nation whose creed declared life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. But he is a politician and some aspects of his speech are prepackaged like the closing God Bless America.

I don’t think it is any less sincere that he remembers the Founding White Fathers of this nation who have now stepped aside so that those whose ancestors literally built this nation, the White House and most if not all the monuments in the nation’s capital, can have their turn to rule.

This is a historic turning point: The 44th presidency is in the hands of a Black man, a man with roots in both America and Africa, Indonesia and Hawaii, Chicago and now Washington, D.C.

This inauguration is the day after Martin King Day, the first Black man to have a national holiday – it is the year he would have been 80 years old. This year the national holiday falls on the birthday of Muhammad Ali, another man known for standing on his convictions.

I love Elizabeth Alexander’s poem. Her “Praise Song for the Day” was a liturgy for those who came before and those who stood before her in that moment and those like us many miles away in American cities and elsewhere.

Her words echoed those of President Obama, who also called on his ancestors and those ghosts walking the halls, both European and African. I wonder if white Americans think about the end of their visible access to power now that a Black man is in the driver’s seat. I wonder how they feel. I wonder if the policeman who shot and killed Oscar Grant III and the other police who killed Adolph Grimes III in New Orleans, both in the early hours of New Year’s Day, think about this exchange of power, this changing of the guard?

President Obama savors Rev. Joseph Lawery’s inaugural benediction. – Photo: Alex Wong, Getty ImagesI loved Rev. Joseph E. Lowery’s benediction, which combined humor and a nod to the historic precedence and another to James Weldon Johnson, the poet, with a few salient quotes from the Black national anthem. He said that with Obama, perhaps the cliche “if you’re Black get back” is now a thing of the past, and Brown can stick around.

I am just so happy! I am going to be flying for the next four years and then for four more. I too, am America now, for real. I’m sure Langston Hughes and Jimmy Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and others are smiling on us. If image is everything in a campaign or a movement, then Obama’s image can do a lot for urban youth who feel disenfranchised, ignored and full of despair. It is time to get engaged and stay involved. The work has just begun; it’s just that now we have a leader who is working with us, not against us.

‘Colored Girls’ San Francisco Bay View fundraiser

Yasmine Nefertiti Love plays the Lady in Yellow in “Colored Girls.” She trained with the American Conservatory Theatre and recently acted in “Much Ado About Nothing” with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival.The world renowned choreopoem by Ntozake Shange, “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf,” co-directed by Sean Vaughn Scott and Cassandra Henderson with choreography by Alvin Ailey Dance Alumni, is the Black Repertory Theatre’s Black History Month production. The play runs Feb. 6-28, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. with a Saturday matinee at 2:30. The theatre is located at 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley, across from Ashby BART. Contact (510) 652-2120, keepersoftheculture@yahoo.com or www.blackrepertorygroup.com.

The Black Rep generously partners with local groups they deem worthy of support by giving back half the proceeds from a performance. The “Colored Girls” Saturday matinee on Feb. 7 is a fundraiser for Minister of Information JR’s Block Report Radio and his legal defense fund – he was targeted by Oakland police while covering the Oakland Rebellion Jan. 7 and charged with a felony. The San Francisco Bay View newspaper fundraiser is on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 2:30. Tickets are $7 for children and seniors, $10 for students and $20 general admission.

19th Annual African American Celebration through Poetry

Saturday, Feb. 7, 1-4 p.m., is the 19th Annual African American Celebration through Poetry, the longest consecutive community program in the Oakland Public Library system, at the West Oakland Branch, 1801 Adeline St., (510) 238-7352, www.oaklandlibrary.org. It’s free and open to the public. This year our theme is “Change and Transformation,” and poets are encouraged to respond to the theme, although all themes are welcome. There will be an open mic following.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children celebrate 30 years

Thursday, Feb. 19, at the Rotunda Building in Oakland, 300 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children celebrates and honors its long standing and precedent setting legacy. Tickets are $75 per person. Call (510) 839-3100 or email 30years@prisonerswithchildren.org. There are sponsorship opportunities also and the program will feature an auction, dinner, entertainment and an awards presentation.

‘My Children! My Africa!’ extended at the Marin Theatre Company

Athol Fugard’s play about an unlikely friendship, that of two teenagers, one Black, the other white, in apartheid South Africa, is set against the backdrop of an educational system in crisis. Currently on stage at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, (415) 388-5208, www.marintheatrecompany.org, Fugard’s play has been extended another week, closing now Feb. 15.

One of my favorite actors is in the play, L. Peter Callendar, as “Mr. M,” the African teacher who struggles to lift his students above the strife and violence that is boiling in their Black township. A good friend told me last week that the play was “outstanding!”

‘Between Barack and a Hard Place’

Eva Paterson and Tim Wise are in conversation. “Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama” takes place Thursday, Feb. 19, 7 p.m., at the First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. Contact Speak Out at (510) 601-0182 or events@speakoutnow.org.

Black Choreographers Here and Now

The Fifth Annual Black Choreographers Festival is Feb. 6-8 at Oakland’s Laney College Theatre and Feb. 13-15 and 20-21 at San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., featuring concerts, master classes and workshops highlighting traditional dance, ballet, modern, jazz and hip hop. This year choreographers and dancers include Raissa Simpson, Tania Santiago, Stephanie Powell (LA), Dahrio Hutton (LA), Delina Brooks, Rashad Pridgen, Luis Napoles, Isaura Olivera, Jaime Wright, Antoine Hunter and others.

The family matinee, at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, will feature youth companies Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble, Destiny Arts, On Demand, Oak SOTA and SF SOTA. Visit www.bcfhereandnow.com.

Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars

Wednesday, Feb. 25, Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars will be at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall, on Bancroft Way near Telegraph on the UC Berkeley campus. Visit www.calperformances.org or call (510) 642-9988.

‘Nothing But a Man’

The ANSWER Coalition presents the landmark independent film, “Nothing But a Man,” Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m., at ATA Theater, 992 Valencia St. at 21st, San Francisco. A $6 donation is requested but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Contact answer@answersf.org or (510) 435-0844.

Suppressed after its initial release, the film portrays the struggles for the basic necessities of dignity and respect and the hardships of Black life in 1960s America and remains relevant today. It stars Ivan Dixon and jazz great Abbey Lincoln. Music is by Mary Wells, Martha and the Vandellas, the Miracles, the Marvellettes, Stevie Wonder and others.

‘Hobos to Street People’

The California Historical Society Museum, 678 Mission St., San Francisco, hosts “Hobos to Street People: Artists’ Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present,” featuring the works of more than 30 artists working over the last 75 years to document the tragedy of homelessness and the government’s role in the crisis. Through painting, printmaking, photography, and mixed media, Depression-era and contemporary artists offer glimpses of life on the street and show many similarities between the eras. The exhibition is open Feb. 19-Aug. 15. Contact (415) 357-1848 or www.californiahistoricalsociety.org.

‘Song for Coretta’

The West Coast premiere of “Song for Coretta” by Pearl Cleage, directed by Victoria Erville, runs Thursdays-Sundays through Feb. 7 at Brava Theatre, 2781 24th St., at York, San Francisco, (415) 647-2822, www.brava.org. Tickets are $10-30.

‘Nefasha Ayer’

“Nefasha Ayer,” loosely translated from Amharic as “the wind that travels,” joins together the talented song-writing capacity of Meklit Hadero with guitarist-composer-arranger Todd Brown, South Indian Carnatic jazz composer-saxophonist Prasant Radhakrishnan and Ethiopian-born hip-hop artist Gabriel Teodros, weaving together Ethiopian and South Indian melodies and rhythms against a varying backdrop of North American jazz. Shows are Friday and Saturday, Feb. 6-7, 8 p.m., at Brava Theatre, 2781 24th St., at York, San Francisco.

First Fridays @ 5

Hot roots music by Tom Rigney and Flambeau, photographer Jeff Jones and writer William C. Tweed talk about their new exhibition, “Future of Sequoias; a gallery talk by L.A. Paint artist Loren Holland,” and a panel discusses “Inside/Out: The Voices of Black Immigrants,” co-presented by BAJI: Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Friday, Feb. 6, 5-9 p.m., at the Oakland Museum of California, www.museumca.org.

Black History Month at the Oakland Museum

A free lecture by Dr. Amina Mama, Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women’s Leadership at Mills College, “Feminist Leadership: From Africa to America,” discussing her life as a feminist scholar and political activist, is Sunday, Feb. 8, at 2 p.m. Admission to the museum is also free.

“Family Explorations! African-American Rhythms: Oakland on the Bayou” comes to the Oakland Museum on Sunday, Feb. 15, 1-4 p.m., with Louisiana-style performances by Henry Clement and the Gumbo Band & Posse, beignet-making demonstration by Powderface Café and hands-on activities. Families can make carnival masks, headdresses and beads and then show them off in a Mardi Gras-style parade. Included with museum admission.

Sunday, March 15, 2-4 p.m., a panel discussion on “Allensworth: California’s African-American Town” includes historians Susan Anderson and Guy Washington and the authors of the new book, “Allensworth, the Freedom Colony,” Alice C. Royal, who was born in Allensworth in 1923; Mickey Ellinger; and Scott Braley. Included with museum admission.

Regular admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, $5 for students, and children under 6 are free. The museum is free to all on second Sundays. Visit www.museumca.org.

‘Gem of the Ocean’ at Sacramento Theatre Company

C. Kelly Wright, Donald Lacy and Hansford Prince star in August Wilson’s first play in the 100-year 10-cycle story of Black life in America, “Gem of the Ocean,” at Sacramento Theatre Company, 1419 H St. Shows are Wednesday-Sunday through Feb. 15. Visit www.augustwilsoncenturyproject.com.

‘Tough Titty’

“Tough Titty” at Magic Theatre“Tough Titty,” a new play by Oni Faida Lampley, directed by Robert O’Hara, runs at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Building D, Third Floor, San Francisco, through Feb. 22. Eat healthy, workout and think positive thoughts: When Angela’s routine cannot keep breast cancer at bay, she must learn to face the disease, her family and her community with equal doses of tenacity and humor. Richly emotional, “Tough Titty” is a boisterous exploration of one woman’s willful search for grace. Contact (415) 441-8822, boxoffice@magictheatre.org or www.magictheatre.org/season0809/tough.shtml.

‘Moses: The Life of Harriet Tubman’

I heard this play, directed by Ellis Berry, was a huge success last year and I am so happy it is back and I am in town! It stars Yehmanja Houff as Moses and features Paula Parker and Sunrise – as in the voice of the ancestors at Ocean Beach, “Calling all angels, calling all healers,” from the annual Maafa ritual. The run is a brief Friday-Saturday, Feb. 13-14, 8 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 15, 3 p.m., at the Malonga Casquelourd Theater, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door.

The Art of Living Black

TAOLB 13th Annual Exhibition opens Saturday, Feb. 7, 3-5 p.m., at the Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave., Richmond, (510) 620-6772, www.therac.org. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. It’s free to the public.

“Barbershop: Good Hair v. Bad Hair Smack Down,” an interactive multimedia installation, celebrates the social and cultural significance of two Black institutions, the barbershop and the beauty shop. This exhibit is also at the Richmond Art Center and runs concurrently through March 14.

A free satellite show of The Art of Living Black at JanRae Community Art Gallery, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, features the vibrant oil pastel work of Hilda Robinson and the serene chalk pastel work of Minnie Grimes and runs Feb. 13-March 12. The reception, also free, is Friday, Feb. 13, 7-9 p.m., with music by Destiny, Sound Sculptress and Harpist from the Hood. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Contact (510) 601-4040, ext. 111, margo@wcrc.org or www.wcrc.org/gallery.htm.

Ben Hazard’s ‘Sweet Dreams’

Ben Hazard, former art commissioner for the City of Oakland and head of the Art Department at Laney College, responsible for the Art Building, the only one in a Bay Area community college with studios, is displaying his new work, charcoal on paper, through March 1 at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. Hours are Wednesday-Friday, 12-7 p.m., and Saturday-Sunday, 1-4 p.m. Contact (510) 465-8928 or jvbgg@sbcglobal.net.

Black History Month at Berkeley City College

Berkeley City College’s month-long celebration of African-American history, art, music, story and song features Bobby Seale, Black Panther Party chairman and one of the original “Chicago 8,” on Feb. 2, 12:30 p.m., in the BCC Auditorium. He will speak about the ‘60s Black Power Movement and the election of President Barack Obama. Nandi SoJourn Asantewaa Crosby, who has won more than 50 awards for her spoken word performances and teaches at California State University, Chico, will speak Feb. 5, 5-7 p.m., in the BCC Auditorium, 2050 Center St., Berkeley. All the events are free. For a list of all the programs, call (510) 981-2800 or visit www.berkeleycitycollege.edu.

Frederick Harris: Blastin’ Barriers, from Beethoven through Bebop and Beyond

San Francisco Bay Area pianist and composer Frederick Harris presents a recital Feb. 24, 8 p.m., at the Century Club Building, 1355 Franklin St., at Sutter, San Francisco. Tickets are $10-$35. Visit http://fhperformances.org/ticketsales.html. Harris will feature works by Liszt, Beethoven, Chopin, Monk, Freeman and a new work, “India Blue Variations” by the artist, based on “India Blue” by legendary jazz saxophonist Earl “Chico” Freeman. The concert encapsulates over 300 years of musical and pianistic revolution and evolution, demonstrating the many elements that fuse the classical and jazz genres.

14th Annual Love Fest

This alternative Valentine’s celebration features Aya de Leon’s new spoken word ensemble and Poetry for the People! The show at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley, 8 p.m., is $12 in advance and $14 at the door. You can marry yourself before the show at 6:30 p.m. for $5 and Fight Prop. 8 and support same sex marriages. Visit www.lapena.org.

Women Drummers International’s ‘Born to Drum’

On Saturday, Feb. 28, in two shows, 6:30 and 8:45 p.m., Linda Tillery, Carolyn Brandy and the ensemble Ojala with Michaelle Goerlitz perform in concert, a benefit for the Born to Drum Women’s Drum Camp 2009, at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door.

‘Discovering Robeson’ with Tayo Taluko

The wonderful actor and playwright Tayo Taluko is back with his tribute to Paul Robeson, “Discovering Robeson,” Sunday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m., this time at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Tayo is uncanny in his ability to invoke the spirit of Robeson in a tribute performance which shares seldom heard stories about Robeson. It is quite marvelous to witness.

Pat Parker All-Star Memorial Tribute

An all-star memorial tribute to Pat Parker is Sunday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m, $10-$15, at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, featuring poets Avoctja, Gerry Lim, Leslie Simon and Judy Grane; singers Linda Tillery, Blackberri, Mamacoatl, Melanie De More and Anna Maria Flechero; and pianist Mary Watkins. The proceeds go to Pat’s daughter, Anatasia Dunham-Parker.

Reginald Lockett Tribute Poetry Readings

Reginald LockettSan Francisco’s “Memorial Poetry Word Fest in honor of Reginald Lockett” is at Bird & Beckett Books, 653 Chenery at Diamond in San Francisco, one block north of Glen Park BART. The event is Sunday, Feb. 22, 7-8:30 p.m. All ages are welcome and the venue is wheelchair accessible. Contact (415) 586-3733 or www.bird-beckett.com.

“Backyard Boogie of the Spirits: A Poetic Musical Tribute for an Oaktown Treasure” at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, Friday, Feb. 27, 7-10 p.m., features a star-studded cast of poets and friends of the man unofficially known as the poet laureate of Oakland. Among those in the line-up are The Wordwind Chorus, former California Poet Laureate Al Young, Avotcja, Val Serrant, former San Francisco Poet Laureate devorah major, Opal Palmer Adisa, Julian Carroll, Jack and Adelle Foley, H.D. Moe, Phavia Kujichagulia, Kamau Seitu, Muziki Roberson, Anthony J. Smith and Eliza Shefler, Martha Cinader and Tony Mims, Lady Bianca, Wanda Sabir, Kim Shuck, Karla Brundage, Adam David Miller, Tureeda Mikell and Katherine Hastings. Visit www.avotcja.com.

Shows to look for

Musicians in town next month include Rokia Traore, Feb. 4, at Stanford University; Ledisi, Hank Jones, Randy Weston, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Scott, Richard Bona, Pete Escovedo and Rhonda Benin are at Yoshi’s. Coming to Ashkenaz are Kalbass Kreyol and Sambamora on Feb. 21; Sister-I-Live celebrating Bob Marley on his birthday, Feb. 6; the Mighty Diamonds Feb. 14 and the 94-year-old dancing star Frankie Manning on Feb. 13. Visit www.ashkenaz.com/index.htm. “Porgy and Bess” will be at the San Francisco Opera. Lorraine Hansberry has a new play based on a man’s perspective on the “Waiting to Exhale” phenomenon called “Waitin’ to End Hell” that runs Feb. 14-March 1. It is in San Francisco at the PG&E Building, 245 Market St., San Francisco, near the Embarcadero BART station. Nice venue. Visit www.lhtsf.org.

African Films at Pacific Film Archive

The African Film Festival runs through Feb. 22, at the UC Berkeley Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft Way, between Telegraph and Bowditch, Berkeley. I highly recommend “Shoot the Messenger,” a marvelous psychological thriller banned in the UK which opened the San Francisco Black Film Festival last season. It screens Feb. 1, 4:45 p.m.

Take children to see this film, which plays out the delicate balance between sanity and insanity, and what happens when one man’s sacrifice for his people drives him insane. The protagonist is successful in the corporate world, yet leaves it to help youth in Britain’s public schools, which don’t have a lot of Black male teachers. He is convinced all the Black kids need is a little discipline and a teacher who cares. The only problem is, the kids don’t agree and a battle erupts between the teacher and one Black boy who openly challenges him. Contact (510) 642-5249 or http://bampfa.berkeley.edu.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website and blog at www.wandaspicks.com for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her photos and her radio show on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network, www.WandasPicks.ASMNetwork.org, Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays 8-10 a.m.