by Wanda Sabir
Maafa 2009 was chillier than usual, but our hearts were certainly no less warmed by the ancestors’ tight embrace as supplicants made their way through the Middle Passage to the Wolosodon rhythms, the slave march through the Doors of No Return to the beach where each person held a piece of string – symbolic of a connection … a philosophical connection to the homeland, family and history.
It was really beautiful as we sang the Mbongi song from the Kikongo tradition, Wolosodon from the Bambara or Mali Kingdom, then prayed in Yoruba and Shona with an English translation. As we stood turned in the four scared directions, spirit grabbed Mama Geri and Mama Ayanna. We had service that morning on the beach as winds whipped our faces, tears dried before they left our eyes.
There were many new faces and the feeling was certainly reverent and celebratory. We were all thankful to the ancestors for the day and the life and the company and the spirit. Visit www.maafasfbayarea.com to see photos and reflections as they become available.
‘Sparkle’ and ‘Misery Luvs Company’ at the Black Rep
The venerable Black Repertory Group Theatre is featuring two new plays in November. “Sparkle,” directed by Sean Vaughn Scott, runs Nov. 13 through Dec. 5 at the Black Rep, 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays.
This is the first staged production of the classic movie, “Sparkle,” that starred Irene Cara, Lonette McKee and Dwan Smith, about three sisters in Harlem who become a hit singing group – the story is inspired by the Supremes – and the drug problems and heartaches they encounter in their rise to fame.
The Nov. 28 Saturday matinee is a fundraiser for the SF Bay View newspaper. Mention the Bay View when you buy your tickets and get a discount. For tickets and more information, call (510) 652-2120 or (925) 812-2787 or visit www.blackrepertorygroup.com.
Back for two days is the wonderful comedy, DL Simon’s “Misery Luvs Company,” voted best gospel play of 2009, Nov. 7 at 3 and 8 p.m. and Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. Visit www.dlsimon.org.
Performing Diaspora with Opal Palmer Adisa and Colette Eloi
I have been waiting for this event! CounterPULSE commissioned each of these artists to create a work addressing the topic of Diaspora. Each week is a different performance, so if you can’t make them all, be in the house for our sisters, Opal Palmer Adisa and Colette Eloi, Nov. 12-15. The performances are Thursdays-Sundays, Nov. 5-22, 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$25 online in advance, $18-$25 at the door, at CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St. at Ninth in San Francisco.
John Handy receives the SFJAZZ Beacon Award
Congratulations to my friend and a Bay Area treasure John Handy who will receive the SFJAZZ Beacon Award, Sunday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m., at the Herbst Theatre, Van Ness at McAllister Street in San Francisco. Visit www.sfjazz.org or call (866) 920-5299.
Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet
Sunday is the close of the home season premiere of the Jason Moran commission and “The Moroccan Project,” which opened the company’s 20th season. The audience was full, many patrons there to witness the jazz musicians’ foray into familiar yet formerly unexplored territory. In a conversation with the choreographer afterwards, Jason spoke of how he met King’s work and then both told of the composition’s creation – the dance and the song. King said he told Jason he wanted something “timeless,” and Jason sent him samples of music which King then pieced together like a puzzle – communicating with Jason via phone and email what he liked and could use and giving more feedback on changes.
The musicians and the choreographer and company came together in a rehearsal the week of the performance and, as he spoke of his experience, Jason called the dancers by name, spoke of his tendency to procrastinate and how the knowledge that King needed the music to integrate it into the overall scheme kept him focused and on task even if it took a little prodding to get the first compositions out. Jason said he appreciated King’s knowledge of physicality of the playing which showed up in his choreography, the way a dancer moved his or her feet, hands, the form and the gestures sharing a common musical language.
It was lovely to hear and watch. That and the costumes and lighting design were marvelous. I’d been waiting for this work to premiere for months and when I saw Jason in the film, “Icons of Jazz,” a part of the Mill Valley Film Festival this year, I knew I only had weeks instead of months left to witness the magic I was certain he would manifest with master Maji King on the set.
The second premiere featured El Hamideen performing a lovely work taken from the folk music of North Africa. The salient featured drumming from the Gnawa traditional ceremonies, which I became familiar with when Randy Weston brought Gnawa musicians here for his 85 birthday celebration at SFJAZZ. Using oud and violin, the El Hamideen musicians and singers created a tapestry for the piece which played with literal motifs – lines mixed with metaphors and story and humor.
Again the lighting and costumes were marvelous and I noticed a few new faces in the company and many old familiar ones. King’s company as it enters its 20th season is sharp, witty and still full of surprises – the kind of thoughtful and creative genius which makes Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet a premiere company we are so happy to claim.
The Sunday, Nov. 1, performance is in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Novellus Theatre, 700 Howard St. at Third, San Francisco, at 5 p.m. The first weekend featured live music and the closing weekend the music is prerecorded. Visit www.linesballet.org or call (415) 978-2787.
Amiri Baraka: ‘We Are Already in the Future, Barack Obama Year 1’
With a monumental 75th birthday celebration behind him just a month ago, Prince Amiri Baraka, the title redundant since “Amiri” means “prince,” the San Francisco Bay Area is being graced once again by his presence. We are so blessed to have him returning. Poet, playwright, essayist and political activist and commentator, Amiri Baraka delivers a historic speech on our first African-American president, Barack Obama.
Baraka on Barack, the blessed “baraka” speaks to us about being blessed “barack.” What poetic irony!
One of the true giants of international poetry, Amiri Baraka is a towering presence in the history of the United States and throughout the Americas. A transitional figure in both the Beat Generation and Civil Rights Era, Amiri Baraka is also known as the father of the Black Arts Movement.
Marvin X shared a program with me, and the book Baraka received as a present from all his literary friends including Marvin who wrote a critique of Baraka’s play, “The Toilet,” while others such as Sonia Sanchez contributed poetry to the wonderful volume of work. He was completely surprised, Marvin stated, just back from New Jersey, Baraka’s home, when I saw him at the “Women in the Black Panther Party and Beyond” program last month.
In 2008, during the primary and general election cycles, Amiri Baraka continued to surprise, delight and provoke his friends and enemies with a series of rigorous, inventive and powerfully deciphering essays on then candidate Barack Obama. His “Sisyphus Syndrome” with music by David Murray, choreography by Traci Bartlow, was a meditation on America and the Black people’s place or absence of place in a paradigm where the rock and the hill and gravity seem to conspire again us.
Baraka is also featured in the POV documentary, “Revolution ‘67,” directed by Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno and Jerome Bongiorno, which looks at what happened in New Jersey when civil rebellion took on unprecedented brutality. He spoke of traveling to the hot spots to document police violence and brutality in the Black community, much of it without provocation. What happened in New Jersey was the first of the civil rebellions, the urban or guerilla battles in America’s ghettos like Watts. Visit http://www.pbs.org/pov/film-files/pov_revolution67_action_discussion_file_0.pdf.
Amiri Baraka will revisit essays written at the time of Obama’s ascension and bring his keen, always original interpretation of the Obama presidency in its first year. The talk will be immediately followed by a discussion with Justin Desmangles and continue with a question and answer period with the audience.
The event, which takes place, Sunday, Nov. 8, 1 p.m., in the Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St., is free and open to the public. There is a birthday celebration on this weekend also at East Side Cultural Center, 2277 International Boulevard in Oakland, on Saturday, Nov. 7. Visit www.eastsideartsalliance.com.
Ghanaian-American singer-songwriter Akosua weaves a West African and Latin influenced fusion of folk and jazz. Her soaring vocals and poignant lyrics have been compared to those of Ani Di Franco and India Arie. She appears Wednesday, Nov. 8, at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 general admission and $10 for students with ID. Visit www.akosuamusic.com.
North Bay Black Roots
Ever wonder about the Black presence in California, a state supposedly without slaves? Well, historian Sharon McGriff-Payne’s book, “John Grider’s Century: African Americans in Solano, Napa and Sonoma Counties from 1845 to 1925,” shares rare information about early Black California history. The launch party for her new book is Sunday, Nov. 8, 2 p.m., at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, 734 Marin St., Vallejo. Visit http://www.northbayblackroots.com/.
AXIS Dance Company
AXIS Dance Company’s 21st home season will include a world premiere by New York based choreographer David Dorfman with an original score by Albert Mathias and Michael Wall, the return of audience favorite “Terre Brune,” choreographed by Sonya Delwaide with live musical accompaniment by cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, “Air Mail Dances” by Remy Charlip, “Vessel” by Alex Ketley and works by AXIS Dance Company. Performances run from Nov. 6, 8 p.m., through Nov. 8, 2 p.m., $10-$22. For information, visit http://www.axisdance.org or call (510) 625-0110.
Marcus Books events
The 10th Annual Conversations with Black Authors: J. California Cooper, Brian Copeland and Cheo Tyehimba is Sunday, Nov. 8, 3-7 p.m., at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, 1188 12th St., Oakland. Tickets are available at Marcus Book Stores or (877) 878-4201.
San Francisco District Attorney and candidate for state attorney general Kamala Harris will sign and read from “Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer,” Saturday, Nov. 14, noon-1:30 p.m., at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco.
Jeffrey Haas, attorney and author of “The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther,” will appear in conversation with attorney John Burris, moderated by Dr. Raye Richardson, San Francisco State University professor emerita, activist and Marcus Books owner, at the Black Repertory Group Theatre, 3201 Adeline St., Berkeley, (510) 652-2120.
Fred Hampton’s namesake and son will be in town this month also on a speaking tour and fundraiser for the SF Bay View and Block Report Radio from Nov. 7 to 13. See Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. Speaking Tour: “You Can Kill a Revolutionary But You Can’t Kill the Revolution!” for the schedule. I don’t know if he plans to stop by Jeffrey Haas’ appearance, but the case outlined in this book is Haas’ personal account of how he pursued the assassins of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton Sr. with the help of his partners at the Peoples’ Law Center of Chicago.
They exposed FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s secret and deadly counterintelligence racket, COINTELPRO, a policy revived with Bush’s Patriot Acts 1 and 2. Hoover was exposed along with the complicit Chicago police, but to date no one has served any time or been charged with the actual death of the brilliant Chicago chapter founder, Chairman Fred.
Acclaimed poets Opal Palmer Adisa and devorah major are at the Oakland Marcus Book Store, 3900 MLK Jr., Way, Saturday, Nov. 21, 4-6 p.m.
Gregory Maqoma’s solo performance, ‘Beautiful Me’
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents one of South Africa’s leading choreographers, Gregory Maqoma, in his acclaimed solo performance, “Beautiful Me,” on Nov. 5-7. Paying tribute to three master choreographers who have inspired him – Akram Khan’s Contemporary Kathak, Faustin Linyekula’s visual dance-theater and Vincent Mantsoe’s Afro-Fusion – Maqoma builds a bridge to a living past by layering these diverse idioms with his own, creating an entirely new and unique dance experience. Performed with live music – violin, cello, sitar and percussion – “Beautiful Me” speaks honestly about the profound task of finding one’s authentic voice, redefining our notion of postmodern African choreography. The performance takes place in the Forum, 701 Mission St. at Third, San Francisco. There is a post-performance conversation Nov. 6. Visit http://www.ybca.org/.
Fannie Lou Hamer Opera, ‘Dark River’
Tickets are currently on sale for Oakland Metro’s production of “Dark River,” a world premiere about Fannie Lou Hamer and the Voting Rights Movement in Mississippi. Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu will sing the roles of teen Fannie, Dorothy, Fannie Lou Hamer’s oldest daughter, and an NAACP representative. She says, “The opera is very moving and extremely accurate. Some of the language is not appropriate for young children and the opera does have graphic scenes. Nevertheless, the opera can be very educational for children, but they need to be prepped first.”
This is a world premiere opera right here in Oakland. It will be a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable show, playing for two weekends only: Nov. 12 through 22. The Oakland Metro Opera House is at 630 Third St. in Oakland’s Embarcadero District. For information, call (510) 763-1146. Visit http://www.oaklandmetro.org/Tickets.htm.
The Art of Richard Mayhew
Though I haven’t been to the museum in quite a while, I would certainly not miss the current exhibition, “The Art of Richard Mayhew, A Retrospective in Three Parts,” at MoAD, which opened Oct. 10 and continues through Jan. 10, 2010. Visit http://www.moadsf.org. There is a gala planned for Nov. 13. The artist will be present. The Museum of the African Diaspora is located on Mission at Third Street in San Francisco.
On the fly
At the University Art Museum at UC Berkeley there is an exhibit on Abu Ghraib through Feb. 7, 2010. Internationally acclaimed artist Fernando Botero offers a powerful critique of the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib in a series of paintings and drawings recently donated to the Berkeley Art Museum. Visit http://www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.
SFJAZZ continues with Marc Cary Sunday afternoon at 2 at the Koret Auditorium at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, the Carolina Chocolate Drops Nov. 6 at the Palace of Fine Arts, Trio 3: Lake, Workman, and Cyrille Nov. 4 at the Swedish American Hall, and Keb’Mo’ and Solomon Burke at the Paramount Theatre Nov. 21. Visit www.sfjazz.org.
La Pena Cultural Center is jumping this month too with its Seventh Hecho en Califas 06 Festival. Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir are at La Pena, Saturday, Nov. 18. Visit www.lapena.org.
Immortal Technique is at the Shattuck Downlow on Thursday, Nov. 5, and that Friday is a tribute to Michael Jackson with the Realistic Orchestra. They are hot! Visit http://www.shattuckdownlow.com/. DJ Spooky and Saul Williams are both appearing this month at the Independent. Visit http://www.independentsf.com/. Queen Latifah, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube are also representing this month. Visit www.goldenvoice.com.
Oh, Del the Funky Homosapien is at the Great American Music Hall Nov. 25. Visit http://www.gamh.com. ITVS Community Screenings continue with “Between the Folds: The Art of Origami” Nov. 17 in Oakland and Nov. 18 in San Francisco. Visit http://www.itvs.org/outreach/. San Jose Rep’s production of Ian Bruce’s “Groundswell” runs through Nov. 8 with David Huntsman as Thami, Scott Coopwood as Johan and Peter Van Norden as Smith. Visit www.sjrep.com.
Art from Brazil
The exhibit “When Lives Become Form: Contemporary Brazilian Art, 1960s to the Present,” Nov. 5 through Jan. 31, 2010, celebrates Brazil’s creative vitality through the works of artists, fashion designers and architects. The exhibition highlights artists and creators who were part of, or inspired by, Tropicália – an artistic movement which arose in Brazil during the 1960s around the “originality of the culture of people who live in the tropics.”
Opening night is Wednesday, Nov. 4, 8–11 pm. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door and free for Yerba Buena Center for the Arts members and a guest. The party features Brazilian music, Campari cocktails and the fabulous YBCA crowd. Entertainment includes the Marcos Silva Ensemble featuring Rio-born renowned pianist Marcos Silva in a musical fusion of Tropicália with contemporary Brazilian jazz, and Grupo Falso Baiano, an ensemble of musicians who blend joyous Brazilian choro – considered the first pop music of Brazil – with modern influences such as jazz and samba.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, 6-8 p.m., there is a free Curator’s Lecture on the exhibit, “When Lives Become Form: Alternative Modernism – Brazil and Japan.”
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre ‘Love’s Labours Lost’
Treat yourself to a night of Shakespeare. “Love’s Labors Lost” is playing Nov 4-7, at UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances. Visit http://www.calperfs.berkeley.edu/presents/.
Happy birthday, Destiny Muhammad!
“The Shortest Way Home: From Celtic to Coltrane.” Destiny’s Birthday Concert Celebration features special guests Khalil Shaheed, Oaktown Jazz Workshop, Nona Brown, Anthony Smith, Tarika Lewis, Vince Tolliver, Faly Seydi, Anthony, Carla Service and Jetaun Maxwell!
The show is at Sunday, Nov. 15, 3:30 p.m., at Malonga Casquelorde Center for the Arts Theatre, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased through brownpapertickets.com. A portion of the proceeds will be given to the California Jazz Foundation Health Fund, www.california jazzfoundation.org.
‘The Power of Voice: An Evening of Spoken Word Theatre featuring Live Jazz and Spoken Word’
“The Power of Voice” features both poetry and spoken word and instrumental music, usually combined. In a theatrical staging, the poets work as an ensemble, along with some solo spots, and they also give the band room to play on its own. The poets include Mark G., the Ghetto Prophet, Pooja Aresh, Karla Brundage and Danjuma. The musicians are saxophonist M.B. Hanif, steel pans virtuoso Val Serrant and bassist Mai.
Doors open at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15, at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave. at Gilman in Berkeley, (510) 525-5054. The show is 4-6 p.m., $15 donation for the “Bridge to Bridge Project,” rebuilding New Orleans. It is also a benefit for Maafa San Francisco Bay Area if you identify the organization when making the purchase. Visit http://www.maafasfbayarea.com. I interviewed Danjama on Wanda’s Picks Radio in February of this year. Listen to him in the archived shows.
Holiday Event: Arts and Craft Show
The 12th Annual Womyn of Color Arts and Craft Show presents women of color artists and craftswomen exhibitors selling their original hand crafted work. This year will feature paintings, clay sculptures, textile, jewelry and wearable art. Hours are 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 25-26, at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley.
The Spoken World with Marc Bamuthi Joseph
For one night only, one of this country’s leading contemporary artists, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, will be performing at the renowned Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Bamuthi uses theater, West African, tap and modern dance, spoken word poetry and live music to stretch the boundaries of traditional hip hop and create a new forum for expression. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWRD-4Ah2LQ.
This performance will feature excerpts from Bamuthi’s evening length works, “Word Becomes Flesh,” “Scourge” and the 2008 premiere “the break/s,” as well as debuting exciting new work. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see a national treasure in our own Bay Area backyard. To buy tickets – pre-sale is strongly recommended – go to http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/82617. For more information, call (510) 601-0182.
San Francisco Hip Hop Festival
The 11th Annual San Francisco Hip Hop Festival is Nov. 20-22 at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St. at Bay, San Francisco. For tickets, call the City Box Office at (415) 392-4400 and visit cityboxoffice.com. There is a Master Class Saturday, Nov. 21, 2-5 p.m., at Dance Mission , 3316 24th St. at Mission in San Francisco.
Sixth Annual San Francisco African Dance and Drum Festival
The African Dance and Drum Festival is Nov. 4-8 in San Francisco, with the Gala on Saturday, Nov. 7, 9 p.m., in honor of Marie Basse Wiles. Dances and performances are at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco.
The festival showcases a dynamic group of dancers and drummers from Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Liberia and Gambia. These artists lead a wide range of workshops in Sabar, Djembe, Kutiro and many more styles of drumming. There will be arts, entertainment, food, traditions and, most importantly, the spirit of Africa.
Tickets are $25 for seniors and students, $20 at the door, at Tix Bay Area or at www.globalwomenintact.org. All proceeds go to buying uniforms and school supplies needed for young girls in the 2009-2010 school year in the poverty-stricken countries Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
The dance classes are at two venues and on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 5:30-7 p.m., there is a free Guinea Dance Class with M’ Mah Toure. The San Francisco Bay Area African Dance and Drum Festival starts at Buchanan YMCA, located at 1530 Buchanan St., San Francisco, directly across the street from historic Japan Town. The beautiful facility is located between Webster and Laguna Streets at Geary Boulevard. Muni bus stops for routes 38, 22, 24 and 23 are within one or two blocks walking distance with lots of street parking.
On Friday, Nov. 6, Saturday, Nov. 7, and Sunday, Nov. 8, the festival series continues at the lovable and remarkable Booker T. Washington Community Service Center Gymnasium, located at 800 Presidio Ave., San Francisco. Visit http://www.celebrateclitoris.com/SFafricandance.html.
Seventh Annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival
3rd i Films is very pleased to present the premiere showcase for South Asian cinema in the Bay Area. The Seventh Annual San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival (SFISAFF) unspools Nov. 5-8. Opening night will be at the Roxie Theater on Thursday, Nov. 5, continuing there on Friday, Nov. 6, and then moving to the Castro Theater for the weekend, Nov. 7-8. For tickets or more information, contact (415) 835-4783 or www.thirdi.org. From art-house classics to documentary films to innovative and experimental visions to cutting-edge Bollywood, 3rd i is committed to promoting diverse images of South Asians through independent film. The 2009 festival includes films from South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora, including India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK and the USA.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.