Wanda’s Picks for March 20

by Wanda Sabir

Happy Spring!

Wanda’s Picks Radio for March 20

tovi-scruggs, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Friday morning on Wanda’s Picks Radio, at http://www.wandaspicks.asmnetwork.org, we had on the air Tovi Scruggs, M.Ed., and Sharon Morrison Parker, directors of ASA Academy, who talked about their independent Black school in West Oakland and an exciting conference next week: “MAN UP! First Annual Black Boys Conference: Extending the Arm of Brotherhood to Achieve Manhood” on Saturday, March 28, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., (510) 645-5917, www.asacsc.org. They’re holding an Open House on March 21, 10-11 a.m. at the school, which is located at 2811 Adeline St.

opal-palmer-adisa, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Opal Palmer Adisa, poet, writer and educator, has a reading tonight from her latest collection, “I Name Me Name,” at Oakland Public Conservatory, 1616 Franklin St. in Oakland, 5:30-8:30 p.m. Youth will be interpreting sections of her book in song and movement while guests eat home-cooked Jamaican cuisine. Included in the admission price is dinner and an autographed copy of the book.

Renata Gray, artist, whose work is at Stoneridge Gallery and Joyce Gordon Gallery, both in Oakland, for a few more weeks, comes on at 9 a.m., followed by Angela Wellman, co-founder and director of the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, who will share new, exciting programs.

Don’t forget, Ernest Gaines is a part of a video conference via live satellite Saturday, March 21, 1-3 p.m., at the Cal State University East Bay Oakland Center. Visit www.theoaklandcenter.com. This is the final program in the Big Read 2009 in Oakland celebrating Gaines’ “Lesson Before Dying.” For information, call (510) 208-7001.

The Parkway Speakeasy Theatre RIP. Richard Masato Aoki is dead. If bad news travels in threes …

Richard Masato Aoki, 1938-2009

rich-bato-shaka, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents The wonderful revolutionary hero, soldier for the people, Richard Aoki, made his transition due to complications from longstanding medical problems, March 15. Born on Nov. 20, 1938, Richard dedicated his life to his beliefs and the struggle for human rights. He was a field marshal in the Black Panther Party, a founding member of the Asian American Political Alliance, a leader in the Third World Liberation Front Strike at UC Berkeley, co-coordinator for the first Asian American Studies program at UC Berkeley, an advisor for Asians for Job Opportunities, a counselor, instructor and administrator at Merritt and Alameda Colleges. I last saw Richard at the Huey P. Newton Birthday Party last month and just before that at the screening of the film about Merritt College as home of the Black Panther Party and revolutionary activism, which resulted in the first Black Studies Department at a college in this country.

Fearless leader and servant of the people, Richard was always strategizing and could be found wherever social justice was an issue. I’ll have to look for an interview we had many years ago and reprint. He said: “Based on my experience, I’ve seen where unity amongst the races has yielded positive results. I don’t see any other way for people to gain freedom, justice and equality here except by being internationalist.”

Memorial arrangements are pending and information will be available at a later date. Contact RAMemorial@gmail.com. The service will be held on April 18 and 19. A memorial meeting, film showing and reception will be held on April 18. A motorcade will begin at Bobby Hutton Memorial Park to the cemetery on April 19. After a building is secured, the plans will be confirmed.

Sixth anniversary of the Iraq War

Do something for peace on the sixth anniversary weekend of the Iraq War. Not that we need an excuse for peace …

‘Shutdown: The Rise and Fall of Direct Action to Stop the War’

A screening of the film “Shutdown: The Rise and Fall of Direct Action to Stop the War” will be held at the AK Press Warehouse, 674-A 23rd St., Oakland, on Friday, March 20, 7 p.m. It’s free.

The day after the war started, San Francisco was brought to a grinding halt by thousands of activists who occupied the streets to oppose the war. It was a mass uprising that forced the police to declare the financial district “shut down.” The planning and outreach, coordinated by Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW), filled downtown San Francisco with approximately 15,000 people clogging traffic, stopping business as usual, communicating with passersby and creating a pandemonium that lasted for several days.

But neither DASW nor the mass resistance outlasted Iraq’s occupation. Created by organizers involved with the action, “Shutdown” is an action-packed documentary chronicling how DASW successfully organized to shut down a major U.S. city and how they failed to effectively maintain the organization to fight the war machine and end the occupation of Iraq. It is a must-see film for those engaged in the continuous struggle toward social justice. For more information, visit http://www.akpress.org/2008/items/shutdownakpress. See the trailer at http://www.revolutionbythebook.akpress.org/trailer-the-rise-and-fall-of-direct-action-to-stop-the-war/.

‘Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back’

Congratulations, Diana Block, board member of California Coalition for Women Prisoners, on your new book! The book launch and party for “Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back” is Sunday, March 22, 3-5 p.m., at the Women’s Building in theAudre Lorde Room, 3543 18th St., San Francisco. This is a free event.

In June 1985, Diana Block, her 2-week-old son and five companions fled Los Angeles after finding a surveillance device in their car. Facing the possibility of arrest because of her militant activities in the struggle for Puerto Rican independence, Diana spent the next decade living underground: on the run from the FBI, raising two children, and juggling security, solidarity and motherhood.

In a perfect demonstration that the personal is political, Diana’s memoir offers insights into efforts to build homegrown clandestine resistance to U.S. imperialism. It also traces Diana’s political development on either side of her period underground, offering a history of the culture and politics of the 1960s and 1970s – especially the decisions that led many to take up arms against the U.S. government – and an analysis of the political terrain of the 1990s, when she resurfaced and tried to reintegrate into a very different world. For more information, visit http://www.akpress.org/2009/items/armthespiritakpress. And check out this recent interview with Diana at http://www.revolutionbythebook.akpress.org/arm-the-spirit-an-interview-with-diana-block/.

‘Spell Albuquerque: Memoirs of a “Difficult” Student’

tennessee-reed-thelma-reed-ishmael-reed-092708, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Congratulations, Tennessee Reed, on your latest book! The book launch and reading is Sunday, March 22, 2:30 p.m., at Bird & Beckett Books, 653 Chenery St. in Glen Park, San Francisco. It’s free.

The daughter of writer-choreographer Carla Blank and novelist Ishmael Reed, Tennessee was diagnosed at an early age with several language-based learning disorders. The bottom line, the experts agreed, was that she would never read or write. Within a few years, however, she published her first book of poetry. By the time she was a teenager, she was writing the text for Meredith Monk performances and traveling the world to read her poems. “Spell Albuquerque” is an inspiring memoir of one woman’s struggle to overcome racism and institutional authority and to achieve what everyone said was impossible. For more information, visit http://www.akpress.org/2009/items/spellalbuquerqueakpress.

Ruth K. Franklin Symposium on the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas

The fourth Ruth K. Franklin Symposium on the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas will take place on Saturday, March 21, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. in Annenberg Auditorium, Nathan Cummings Art Building, located off Palm Drive at Museum Way on the Stanford University campus, Palo Alto. This year’s symposium is titled Contemporary Art from Africa.

Barbara Thompson, Phyllis Wattis Curator of the Arts of Africa and the Americas, Cantor Arts Center, opens the symposium at 10 a.m. with a talk on the topics “How Did We Get Here? Are We There Yet?” and “Between the Modern and the Contemporary?”

Elizabeth Harney, associate professor in the Department of Humanities and Graduate Department of Art, University of Toronto, speaks on “Swimming Against the Current or Falling Off the Cliff? Ugandan Artists and their Fragile Connections to a Transcultured and Transitory Art World.” Sidney Littlefield Kasfir, professor of African Art History in the Art History Department of Emory University will also speak.

From 2 to 5 p.m., “What is Africa?” is the topic of a talk by Simon Njami, independent curator, and “Short Notes: Intimacy, Pleasure, Play … Contemporary African Art” will be discussed by Thembinkosi A. Goniwe, artist and Ph.D. candidate, History of Art Department, Cornell University.

The Stanford University campus is located near the Palo Alto Caltrain Depot. Parking is free on campus after 4 p.m. and on the weekends. For further information on public transportation options and parking maps and directions, see http://museum.stanford.edu/participate/FranklinSymposium.html. Cantor Arts Center is open Wednesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday until 8 pm. Admission is free. The center is located on the Stanford campus. Information is available at (650) 723-4177 or museum.stanford.edu.

‘Timbuktu to Cape Town’

An important exhibit at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, “Timbuktu to Cape Town,” closes March 22. See above for location and contact information for the center. This exhibition celebrates the complexity and variety of African art from across the continent, with an array of the most important African works acquired by the center over the past 10 years.

“The works are grouped loosely around three categories: objects that adorn the human body, objects related to the home and those created for ritual use, although, in fact, their meanings and utility overlap and converge. A gown worn for state functions is embellished with protective religious symbols; a decorated door imbues the home with spiritual meaning. Traditional arts evolve as contemporary artists combine the old with the new, creating work that speaks in today’s voice to today’s global audiences,” explained Cantor Arts Center Director Thomas K. Seligman, who served as the curator of the exhibition. “We designed this to expand visitors’ concepts and understandings of art in Africa, and these works reveal media and subject matter well beyond the figurative wooden sculpture and masks that often typify displays of African art.”

“Timbuktu to Cape Town” offers more than 50 works on view in the Center’s Ruth Levison Halperin Gallery. The oldest is a 17th-century trumpet made of an elephant tusk from the Sherbro culture of Sierra Leone. The most recent, created in 2005, is a photograph by contemporary Moroccan artist Lalla Essaydi, entitled “Converging Territories #31.” The remaining works are from the 19th and 20th centuries, including vessels of clay and ivory, silver and leather jewelry, and elaborately ornamented textiles, as well as a few stellar sculptural objects. Video and photographs of people and places enrich the installation and provide further context for the works.

An annex to “Timbuktu to Cape Town” displays recently acquired figurative wooden sculptures, masks and a reliquary guardian. Other traditional works are on view in the Center’s African gallery on the first floor of the museum. At Stanford, African art has been collected since the founding family traveled to Egypt and brought back ancient material, including the ever-popular mummy. The Cantor Arts Center’s collection of art from diverse African cultures supports Stanford University’s expanded multi-disciplinary program in African Studies and the University’s commitment to global understanding. “Timbuktu to Cape Town” is made possible by the Halperin Exhibitions Fund and the Phyllis Wattis Program Fund.

Village Bottoms Farms

marcel-diallo-at-village-bottoms-farm-0309, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents This Saturday, March 21, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 10th and Pine Street in West Oakland, Marcel Diallo and David Roach invite volunteers to join them in bringing in the Equinox by working with the land on the farm in West Oakland. “We will be building planter boxes for our raised beds, worm bins for our red wigglers and compost bins for our food waste and carbon scraps,” they say. “Come through if you are in the mood for some neighborhood farming – village bottoms style.

“Also, bring something for the grill. We will have three separate barbeque grills fired up for fish, vegetarians and meat eaters as well as an ice chest full of drinks. Feel free to bring an instrument, because I’m sure there will be a drum circle or two going on at some point in the day.”

david-roach-mo-better-food-farmers-market-071208-by-ap, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Mo’ Better Food founder David Roach explains how his partnership with Marcel Diallo came about: “From my years of teaching at McClymonds and before that at Castlemont High School in East Oakland, my (our) agenda, has been to develop a program from the school that will reach those brothers on those corners who have very few opportunities within their own community.

“While prisons continue to be built awaiting their entrance, I strongly feel, besides myself, there is only one other person who can reach these brothers and keep them away from the cells that await them. His name is Marcel Diallo.

“Marcel is a visionary, who, like myself, puts his own money into his ‘program,’ because we don’t believe in programs; we believe in the survival of our people and will do, “by any means necessary,” anything to save our communities. Marcel has been training in urban farming with Will Allen, this year’s MacArther Genius Award winner, whose program, Growing Power, builds urban gardens in Milwaukee.

“Marcel’s program, Village Bottom Farms, is now officially joining the Mo’ Better Food Program. We will now bring together food grown by rural Black farmers with food grown by the Village Bottoms Farms. We are also planning another farmers’ market in the Village Bottoms to sell the very foods we are growing.

“We cannot keep putting our own resources into our movement and should not have to, when monies are out there, earmarked to support what we do. At the same time, we cannot afford to wait for grants to support our efforts. We need your assistance in strengthening our programs to strengthen our communities.

“Please visit mobetterfood.com and donate to our cause. No amount is too small. We need to raise $5 million to secure a staff (myself included) to market and distribute produce grown by our farmers here in California.” For more information, contact villagebottomsfarms@yahoo.com or (510) 451-4661.

Oakland East Bay Symphony’s ‘Passionate Celebration’

Oakland East Bay Symphony presents a concert entitled “Passionate Celebration” at 8 p.m., Friday, March 20, at the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway in Oakland. Sponsored by KPMG and Mueller Nicholls, the concert showcases renowned opera singers in Act I of Giuseppi Verdi’s great tragic opera from 1887, “Otello,” including tenor Richard Crawley as Otello and the renowned soprano Talise Trevigne as Desdemona, as well as the Oakland Symphony Chorus under the direction of Lynne Morrow. Also on the evening’s program are Sala’s “Symphonic Elegy for Orchestra,” a 2007 Magnum Opus commission which premiered at Marin Symphony by Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, and Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 49, “La Passione” (1768).

The opening of Verdi’s Otello is widely considered one of the most thrilling scenes for orchestra and chorus in all of opera, and the OEBS concert hall staging will lend a particular intensity and focus. William Shakespeare’s original play telling the tumultuous love story of the white Desdemona and the Moor Othello was a point of much interest, and some controversy, hundreds of years ago. The OEBS concert staging, in a twist typical of the adventurous, out-of-the box programming for which the orchestra is known, features a Caucasian Otello and an African American Desdemona. For tickets, call (800) 745-3000 or visit www.oebs.org.

Singing the role of Desdemona is a rising star of opera, soprano Talise Trevigne, who has “a major league voice and a star quality to match,” according to San Francisco Classical Voice. Trevigne will create the role of Pip in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s “Moby Dick” with the Dallas Opera in 2010 and San Diego Opera in 2012.

An accomplished singing actor and orchestral soloist, tenor Richard Crawley opened the 2008 Athens Summer Music Festival in Greece, performing the role of Don José in “Carmen” opposite Denyce Graves. His well-received 2004-2005 season debut with the San Francisco Opera singing Cavaradossi in “Tosca” opposite Carol Vaness led to later engagements in Onegin’s “Le Grand Macabre, Dr. Atomic and Norma.” Other recent performances have included the Verdi “Requiem” with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, Turiddu in “Cavalleria Rusticana” with the Toledo Opera, a debut with the Hawaii Opera Theatre as Cavaradossi in “Tosca,” his first Riccardo in “Un Ballo in Maschera” with Opera Santa Barbara, and a critically acclaimed Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly” with the Chautauqua Opera as well as the Dayton Opera.

Additional featured soloists in the OEBS performance of “Otello” include baritone Scott Bearden as Iago, first prize winner in the 2008 Irene Dalis Vocal Competition presented by Opera San José; tenor AJ Glueckert as Cassio; baritone Zachary Gordin as Montano; and tenor Trey Costerisan as Rodrigo.

All OEBS subscription concerts begin at 8 p.m. and are preceded by an on-stage talk at 7 p.m. with John Kendall Bailey, a Bay Area conductor, musician and educator. All performances are presented at Oakland’s historic Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway. Tickets range from $20 to $65 and are available at (800) 745-3000 or www.oebs.org.

The Symphony’s 20th season continues on April 17 with Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 1” with featured soloist Sarah Buechner and concludes with a special concert performance May 15 of Jerome Kern’s and Oscar Hammerstein’s groundbreaking musical, “Show Boat.”

On Saturday, May 2, at 2 p.m., OEBS presents a special forum on “Otello” and “Show Boat” on the subject of race, ethnicity and social relations as portrayed in music and as reflected in the contemporary cultural quilt of California. The keynote speaker is Judith Tick, musicologist and professor at Northeastern University in Boston. The forum will take place the Veteran’s Memorial Building at 200 Grand Ave. in Oakland. Admission is complimentary. For information, visit http://www.oebs.org/page/forum09.htm.

‘The Story’

tracey-scott-wilson, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Inspired by real-life events, an ambitious newspaper reporter in “The Story” goes against her editor to investigate a murder and finds the best story … but at what cost? Tracey Scott Wilson explores the elusive nature of truth as the boundaries between reality and fiction, morality and ambition become dangerously blurred.

Originated at the Public Theatre featuring Phylicia Rashad and directed by Loretta Greco, the New York Times called it “conscientious and absorbing.” “The Story” is inspired by the Janet Cooke scandal at the Washington Post in 1981 where Cooke won the Pulitzer Prize for writing about an inner city child, Jimmy, only to later admit the story was fraudulent.

margo-hall, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents “The Story” is directed by Margo Hall and features Afi Ayanna, Dwight Huntsman, Halili Knox, Awele Makeba, Craig Marker, Allison L. Payne, Ryan Peters, Rebecca Schweitzer and Kathryn Tkel. Previews continue at the SF Playhouse through Friday, March 20, the play opening March 21 and running through April 25. Shows are Tuesdays at 7 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., plus Saturdays at 3p.m. The SF Playhouse is located at 533 Sutter St., one block off Union Square, between Powell and Mason. For tickets – $30 previews, $40 regular admission – or more information, contact the box office at (415) 677-9596 or www.sfplayhouse.org.

Omar Sosa is back!

Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos Quartet, featuring percussionist John Santos and saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum, perform Sunday, March 29, at the Douglas Beach House, 311 Mirada Road, at the corner of Cortez, Half Moon Bay. Doors open at 3 p.m. Shows are at 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. with an intermission. Admission is $35. For tickets, email info@bachddsoc.org or call (650) 726-2020.

Toumani Diabaté

toumani-diabate1, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Musician and griot from Mali, Toumani Diabaté, will appear this weekend with banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck at Yoshi’s Jazz Club, Jack London Square in Oakland.

wanda-sabir-2009-color-very-pretty, Wanda’s Picks for March 20, Culture Currents Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com for an expanded version of Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m. and archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network, http://www.WandasPicks.ASMNetwork.org.