by Wanda Sabir
Monday, April 4, 2011, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s killing, is also the conclusion of what many activists call “The Season of Peace.” This season begins at the anniversary of Mahatma Ghandi’s death and concludes on the anniversary of Martin King’s killing; assassination is such a sanitary word and there is nothing clean or sanitary about murder or death by one’s enemies – in this case, the United States government.
Even if one missed the season, peace is something that is always current and applicable. I can’t think of any time in history where it hasn’t been. Can anyone recall a time recently or past where there really was “peace on earth”?
When Martin King was killed as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel (Motel) in Memphis, he was about to join the sanitation workers in their protest for a union and more decent wages. The movement for civil rights was taking hold in the North and America didn’t like it – so off with King’s head.
Forty-three years later the fight continues as we look at King’s example and that of others now gone who dedicated their lives to liberty – that clarion call, “Give me liberty or give me death,” still resonates as a motto in these United States of America. I recall watching a wonderful film, “King” (MGM 1978), with Paul Winfield and Cicely Tyson that tells the story of this man up to his untimely passing. I remember reading or hearing about the lax security around King’s stay in Memphis and the reassignment of Black police officers who wanted to protect their leader and hero that auspicious morning. There are two new documentaries, “The Struggle” and “The Civil Rights Movement,” featuring Ossie Davis and Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer.
Composer, musician and Memphis, Tennessee, native Marcus Shelby, who premiered “Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King” last year, is releasing four videos in honor of King’s life and legacy. Be inspired. Be moved. Be energized: http://www.marcusshelby.com/video.htm.
The Civil Rights Movement inspired and encouraged many other people to stand up and demand their rights and Martin King’s presence on the scene historically is reason so many other people can now measure their progress in ascertaining these civil and human rights, but with such strides we still have a long way to go.
This past weekend at Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company’s closing performances at Laney College of “FREE: Voices from the Curbside,” the youth, ranging in age from elementary to high school, looked at themes of stereotyping, gender bashing or sexism, environmental pollution, sexual abuse, violence, education, self-esteem and empowerment.
The youth were so on it, with testimony and fun scenes looking at the issues framed in perhaps a game show format or therapy session, followed by a dance number incorporating music that again spoke to the issue highlighted. If one didn’t get it, there was opportunity to get it – if you know what I mean.
The topics were hard to fathom, especially the first half, which was so heavy, the audience was invited to a Destiny Push It Out, where we stood right foot forward, left back and hands with palms out, one forward the other back (in line with feet), and yelled, “No!” to whatever we wanted to end and then, switching feet – left forward and arms and palms also switched – yelled, “Yes!” to something we wanted to affirm, like of course Destiny Arts.
I loved the program, but I always do. The creativity of the young people, coupled with the outstanding talent, kids above our heads in aerial dance numbers, the tiny kids showing us how to defend ourselves from attack – Destiny also trains youth in violence prevention, which includes martial arts. With each year, the older youth leave for college and the younger kids step up. I am sure some of the youth I enjoyed this year are moving on – I want to wish them good luck.
Destiny has a building capital fund happening now. After 22 years, Destiny wants its own real estate. Visit www.destinyarts.org. Destiny is also participating in FLASH MOB! at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, May 14, 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m. Rehearsals are Thursdays, 5:30-7 p.m., at Destiny Arts Center, 1000 42nd St., Oakland, beginning Thursday, April 14, and Friday, May 13, 5:30-7 p.m., at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, at Third and Mission. To participate, one has to attend two Thursday rehearsals and the one on Friday, May 13. Call (510) 597-1619 and check the website. I plan on being there (smile).
We are talking about steps forward as we reflect on the places along the path that still need illumination – and that would have to be sexual violence against women.
Just recently, as in a week ago, this past Sunday, I was assaulted as I rode my bike. I kind of shook it off and didn’t realize until I started falling at home and hurting myself that perhaps the incident shook me up a bit more than I thought at the time.
At work, colleagues and students didn’t take it seriously. In fact, one of my colleagues asked me what I was wearing. A student knew what the man said to me as he passed by on his bike and what he did when he reached me after following me across traffic until I stopped. The police called it attempted rape and when I heard their name for it – the impact of what I had just experienced set in and I got nervous. I am still nervous – sore from my fall and though I’d like to ride my bike, I haven’t ridden since.
International Women’s History Month Reflections
International Women’s History Month 2011, celebrated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, March 8, all month long. I brought the month to a close with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and the Empress Tour featuring Queen Makeda, Sister Beauty and Irie Divine at Ashkanez Music and Dance Center, but throughout the month there were certainly highlights like Mama Charlotte O’Neal’s visit as a part of the promoting peace tour which is coming back for the Oakland International Film Festival, April 7-15. Mama C will be here for the April14 screening of Ni Wakati “It’s Time,” directed by Michael Wanguru.
The “Women of Calypso” concert, sponsored by Cultural Odyssey, was wonderful from the individual women’s singing to the transformative journey the ensemble took us on – an exploration of what it means to be an Afro-Trini. Multigenerational from grandmother Singing Sandra, who has recorded many albums and is the only singer who has, to the youngster of the group – also an award winning singer – Kizzie and the fine, as in beautiful and a great writer Shereen Cesar. The band was composed of majority Trinidadian artists as well – the afternoon took one places literally. Add to the ambiance West Indian food and, well, the audience was quite at home.
A few of our special comrades turned 60 this month and had a birthday splash in Sacramento, the same weekend as the big Women’s History Month poetry reading at Joyce Gordon Gallery and the second training for “A New Way Forward: Healing What’s Hurting Black America.” I was at the training and then after two days of intense sharing and bonding and healing, I jumped in my friend’s car and we headed for the party. I missed Gail’s carnival dance performance. Dressed in red feathers and sequins, skimpy jumper barely covering all hot spots – I didn’t know her for a second.
The women were showing out – Mama C at the mic grooving with the Caribbean All-Stars, who rocked the party all night long. The next day the family went to see Jihan Sabir, my niece, in “Hairspray: The Musical” at the Sierra Rep in Sonora, a couple of hours from Sacramento. It snows there (smile). The musical was great, especially the music and the ensemble, who could sing and dance well. Set in the ‘60s, “Hairspray” is the story of a chubby teenager who wants her friends to be able to dance together. It’s Baltimore, but even in the North, segregation existed, but not for long in this show.
On the fly
SFJAZZ continues this month: http://www.sfjazz.org/concerts/2011/spring/index.ph. The play “Ruined” closes at Berkeley Rep this Sunday, April 10. The International Women’s Film Festival kicks off April 6-10 in San Francisco at the Roxie Theatre on 16th Street near Mission, http://www.womensfilminstitute.com/sfiwff-2011-films-and-schedule/.
The Oakland International Film Festival also kicks off this week, April 7-15, http://www.oiff.org/films.html, with screenings in Oakland at the Grand Lake Theatre and Laney College Theatre and panels at the Claremont Hotel. Other screenings are at the Art Deco Auditorium in Alameda. April is National Poetry Month and within the month is National Library Week, not to mention Jazz Heritage Month with a National Dance Week. Yes, April is busy.
Allen Temple Baptist Church Streets Disciples present: The First East Oakland Summit on Human Trafficking at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland, Saturday, April 9, 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Dimensions Dance Theater and the Mo’Rockin Project present “Catalyst: One by One,” a collaboration featuring choreography by Dimensions Dance Theater director Deborah Vaughan and live music by the Mo’Rockin Project, directed by composer-musicians Khalil Shaheed and Yassir Chadly, Saturday, April 16, 7 p.m., at Cal State Monterey Bay and Sunday, April 17, 3 p.m., at the Malonga Casquelourde Center, 1428 Alice St. at 14th Street, Oakland, $20, ticketweb.com, Malonga Center, Dimensions Dance Theater office, third floor, M-F, 4-7 p.m., (510) 465-3363 or dimensionsdance.org.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF/SF) invites you to “Ending the War in Afghanistan: An Evening with Malalai Joya,” Saturday April, 6-7 p.m., reception with light refreshments 7-9 p.m., at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist, corner of 15th and Julian, between Mission and Valencia in San Francisco, with music by Kaylah Marin. Donations are requested of $10-$25, but no one will be turned away. The venue is wheelchair accessible at the entrance on 15th Street. Malalai Joya has been called the “bravest woman in Afghanistan.” She was the youngest member elected to the Afghan Parliament but was suspended for denouncing the warlords and the U.S./NATO war and occupation. She continues to speak out despite death threats and assassination attempts. Join her as she talks about the situation in Afghanistan and why it’s essential that U.S./NATO troops leave immediately. Her book, “A Woman Among Warlords,” with a new afterword about the war under Obama, is now in paperback and will be available for purchase.
Don’t miss the African American Shakespeare Company’s wonderfully produced “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare’s most musical of plays. Marcus Shelby composed original music and, at opening night April 1, performed it live. Directed by L. Peter Callendar, the cast is remarkable – “Twelfth Night” is certainly an ensemble work, where the Elizabethan humor is tossed like one of many famous chef’s salads served at Fishermen’s Wharf, a lovely scenic presence in the work, set in San Francisco. The jokes and asides were so contemporary – Virginia Slims was wrong; we haven’t nearly come far enough – but Shakespeare’s women are astute and prepared and don’t let the loose tongues go unchecked. New talent and old favorite cast members liven the set and make the evening one to be talked about long after the curtain closes at the Buriel Clay Theatre in the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St. in San Francisco. The play is up through May 1, Saturdays and Sundays. Visit www.africanamericanshakes.org. And visit www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks to listen to Renee Wilson, L. Peter Callendar and Marcus Shelby talk about the production (April 1, 2011, archives).
Bay Area Religious Campaign Against Torture: Isolation Units Within U.S. Prisons
On Tuesday, April 5, 6:30-8:00 p.m., panelists Zahra Billoo, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for the San Francisco Bay Area; Terry Kupers, MD, professor at The Wright Institute; Keramet Reiter, JD, PhD candidate at Berkeley Law; Nahal Zamani, education associate at the Center for Constitutional Rights; Eddy Zheng, prisoner rights advocate, moderated by Sara Norman, attorney with the Prison Law Office, will discuss isolation units – CMUs, SHUs and the like – inside prisons. The event takes place at the Women’s Building in the Audre Lorde Room, 3543 18th St., No. 8, San Francisco.
San Francisco International Arts Festival presents, direct from Cuba, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas – SECOND SHOW ADDED BY POPULAR DEMAND
The sold out show Monday evening was fantastic! I am so happy I attended. Afterwards, at the Mission Cultural Center, artists and guests mingled at a reception in Los Muñequitos de Matanzas’s honor. Tuesday evening there is to be a rumba party, so take your dancing shoes. The after party was $10, except for those who paid $50 for orchestra seats. All one could see during intermission and afterwards were smiles. Take your kids. It is a wonderful opportunity to see Africa in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, Havana Style Rumba Cabaret, performs Tuesday April 5, 7 p.m., at Mission Language and Vocational School, 2929 19th St., in San Francisco. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for seniors and full time students. Call the box office, (800) 838-3006 or www.sfiaf.org. For information, call (415) 399-9554.
On Tuesday evening April 5, the company will perform at an authentic Havana Style Rumba Party in the main hall of Mission Language and Vocational School. Members of Los Muñequitos will cut it up alongside some of the Bay Area’s best rumberos in a head-to-head performance of Afro-Cuban virtuosity. Dress in your best and join us for a memorable once-in-lifetime evening of rumba dancing, live music, great food and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.
Hailed as the “reigning regents of rumba” by the San Francisco Chronicle, “the essence of Cuba’s musical soul” by the San Diego Union Tribune and “truly keepers of a sacred flame” by Latin Beat, Los Muñequitos de Matanzas are among the highest regarded percussionists in the world and masters of Afro-Cuban ritual and rumba music and dance. Founded in 1952, the group currently spans three generations of an extended family of musicians, singers and dancers.
Concert: The African Connection between Mexico and Peru
On Saturday, April 9, 8 p.m., and Sunday, April 10, 10 p.m., for $10 in advance or $12 at the door, The African Connection presents Afro-Peruvian master percussionist Pedro Rosales and the De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association, Son Jarocho’s most acclaimed master requintero Noe Gonzales from Los Cojolites and a top Afro-Mexican percussionist jaranero Alfredo “Godo “ Herrera from Pasumecha and Son De Madera, as well as Afro-Cuban master percussionist and singer Mijail “La maquinaria” Labrada from La Habana Vieja, Cuba.
These experienced musicians will come together to form a fusion of their musical styles to create a sound never heard before! The location is La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.
‘Fire and Ice’: Stagebridge Senior Theatre Company
On Sunday, April 10, 3:30 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, for $10 in advance or $12 at the door, Stagebridge Senior Theater Company presents an afternoon of “Fire and Ice: Stories of the Power, Majesty and Magic of our Earth.” Come and hear how our wondrous and mysterious earth has changed lives forever. Visit http://www.stagebridge.org/.
Film premiere: ‘The A Word’ presented by Exhale
Join Exhale for the Bay Area premiere of this moving film about a young woman’s rejection of the social stigma of her abortion and her experience opening up about it to her family, friends and people from both sides of the debate. It’s at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, on Wednesday, April 27, 7 p.m. The suggested donation is $10, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more info, visit http://theaword.tumblr.com/about.
“Sins Invalid” is a singular performance event and the nation’s only ongoing performance project dedicated to the themes of sexuality, embodiment and the disabled body. Each performance event has stripped taboos from the topic to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities. Conceived and led by Patricia (Patty) Berne and Leroy F. Moore Jr., “Sins Invalid” has developed and presented cutting-edge work by artists in all creative genres. Each unique work challenges the normative paradigms of “normal” and “sexy,” offering instead a transformative vision of beauty and sexuality.
Patty Berne observes, “The Fifth Annual ‘Sins Invalid’ delves into the violence and disregard for our sexuality. It starts from how we’ve been treated historically and looks forward to where everyone can be seen as whole.”
The fifth anniversary of “Sins Invalid” will premiere at Z Space (formerly Theater Artaud) April 8-10. The space is wheelchair accessible, and the Saturday performance will be audio described; sign language interpretation will be provided by Stage Hands.
In an effort to fully support its audience, “Sins Invalid” will have counselors from San Francisco Women Against Rape in-house during each show to help anybody who may be triggered by the explicit content of the program. And to accommodate people with multiple chemical sensitivities, “Sins Invalid” will have a fragrance-free section in the audience.
Performances are Friday-Saturday, April 8-9, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 10, at 7 p.m. Tickets, which are $16-$25, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds, are available at brownpapertickets.com and for cash at the door. For more information, visit sinsinvalid.org.
Solo hip hop theater piece: ‘Universal Filipino’
“Universal Filipino” is a new solo hip hop theater piece written and performed by Kilusan (Jeremy Bautista). It premiered on June 18 and 20, 2010, at the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, Bronx, N.Y. This play offers a creative and cutting edge presentation of the contemporary struggles for working class Filipino Americans in the diaspora and the interconnectedness of hip hop culture with indigenous, tribal Filipino cultural expressions. “Universal Filipino” is an artistic collaboration with DJ Soulcrates, a sound engineer and live DJ from Sacramento; Yuisa Davila, co-director from the Bronx; and Lia McPherson, movement director and choreographer from Detroit. The performance is Friday April 22, $15 in advance, $20 at the door, 8 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.
‘Ménage’ Parts 1, 2
The age-old tradition of belly dance has come down through the centuries and today we bring it to you in part one of “Mènage.” Part 1 is Saturday, April 23, and Part 2 is a week later, on Saturday, April 30. Both performances are at 8 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Exhibiting exhilarating technique and grace, Part 1 is full of classical cabaret belly dance, both in its traditional Middle Eastern form and with a 21st century twist. Witness sword dancing, cane dancing, flying veils and riveting cymbal and drum solos all with some of the best belly dancing technique you have ever seen. “Mènage” features Rebecca Vasile, former bellydance superstar and Level 3 certified dancer-instructor in Suhaila and Jamila Salimpour’s format, and Gina Bruno, the only Level 5 certified dancer-instructor in Suhaila’s format in the world, as well as other guest performers. Let us take you to the nightclubs of the Middle East and then stretch your imagination.
Part 2 covers the spectrum from the Ghawazee, Ouled Nail and other tribes of dancers throughout the Middle East to recreations of those by famed matriarch of American belly dance Jamila Salimpour to American Tribal Style (ATS) and then the ever popularized Tribal Fusion, tribal style belly dance has gone on an incredible journey that continues through today. Dark, mysterious and sensual, let us take you through an imaginative microcosm of that journey.
Using the same technique as Part 1, stylizations and creative choreographies take you through a unique tribal journey. Part 2 again features Rebecca Vasile and Gina Bruno, as well as other guest performers. Let us take you from the caravans of the Middle East to the tribal festivals of the United States.
We honor the memories of two revolutionary men who gave their lives for the people: scholar Manning Marable and U.S. criminal defense lawyer Leonard Weinglass, the legal representative of Antonio Guerrero, one of the five Cuban antiterrorists unjustly imprisoned in the U.S. He passed away on Wednesday, March 23, in New York.
Both their deaths coming all too soon, Marable just 60 (May 13, 1950 – April 1, 2011), when he passed just days before the release of his greatest work to date, one he labored on for over 10 long years, just before its release Monday, April 4: “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention.” I was reading a bulletin and learned that the illness that took Marable was the same that took Bernie Mack.
We’d been anxiously anticipating “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention,” which was to illuminate aspects of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’s life and work, unknown beforehand, including unpublished chapters from Alex Haley with Malcolm X, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” I remember hearing Marable speak, perhaps on Walter Turner’s show, “Africa Today,” on KPFA 94.1 FM, about the Malcolm X the public was denied access to, especially his stance on international relations and politics. He spoke about the legacy the family almost lost when Malcolm’s possessions were about to be auctioned off publicly. (I don’t recall the details of what happened with the items in the storage unit.)
And then to learn that Alex Haley’s publisher took three chapters out of the final draft of his book – Marable tells us what these chapters contained. He reveals unknown information about Malcolm’s killing, Malcolm’s plans to unite the Civil Rights and Black Nationalist Movements.
This past Monday, April 4, the 43rd anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, Amy Goodman had Michael Eric Dyson and Bill Fletcher on Democracy Now! to talk about Marable and his final work.
In the earlier interview I reference, Marable also spoke of his advice to Spike Lee, that the director’s film should focus more on Malcolm X’s international policy. I believe he said something to the effect that Lee, and by Lee he meant a Black director, might only get a single shot at making such a film, so he should think about these implications and his opportunity to present Malcolm as complete or multifaceted as possible.
Similar to playwright August Wilson’s 10-cycle series of plays which represented on stage 100 years of Black history from the early days just after emancipation or the dawning of freedom, “Gem of the Ocean,” to the new millennium with a Black president, “Radio Golf” – after the ink dries, Marable, like Wilson, dies. It seems as if Marable was similarly driven and once he completed his work, again like Wilson, he was able to let go of this world, especially its pain. To find one’s path and walk this road until it ends without regret must be one of the highest callings.
Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and the author of 17 books, says of Marable, his colleague, mentor and friend, in a lovely reflection April 1: “Marable was kind and sweet, a teddy bear of a patriarch who watched over his young charges with wise forbearance. And he proved, in the tender and enduring companionship that he forged with his life mate, the brilliant anthropologist Leith Mullings, that you can love and learn with a Black woman and drink in her beauty and brains in one sweet swig.
“Marable’s huge hunger to tell the truth about Black suffering could never be satisfied. In a relentless stream of articles, essays, newspaper columns and books, he detailed the burdens of race and class and how these forces – along with gender, age and sexual orientation – ganged up on Black folk and mugged us at every turn, robbing us of our dignity and our right to exist without being ambushed by inequality and injustice.
“Long before the term ‘public intellectual’ became the rage, again Marable showed us just what engaged academics worth their salt and degrees should be up to: offering sharp analysis of the social behaviors and political practices that shape or distort our democratic heritage while encouraging the powerless to take on the mighty with pen and protest. Marable could never get enough of such work, and he taught us all how to combine sophisticated critical scrutiny and compassionate regard for the lowly, never putting either goal in jeopardy by neglecting the work that must be done to be both smart and good.
“And now, even in death, Marable teaches us still. His magnum opus, his summum bonum – what all of his books on the urgent relevance of Black politics, the pitfalls and seductions of capitalism, the ironic opportunities and vices of history, the romance and ruin of culture, and the triumphs and travails of race have built up to – is his book on Malcolm X, due out on Monday, April 4. It is now, sadly, a posthumously published masterwork that rescues the legendary leader from the catacombs of history, separating him from the hagiography of adoring acolytes and prying him free from the hateful grip of dismissive critics.
“In death, Marable gives us a life’s work. He speaks to us, too, in another way: The disease from which he perished, sarcoidosis, affects Black folk in America far more than it does whites or other groups. Right down to his dying breath, Marable bore witness to the possibilities and pains, the privileges and limitations, of the Black identity that he so brilliantly and bravely embraced.
“I will sorely miss Marable as my very dear friend whom I love – my mentor, my colleague and big brother – and all of us will miss one of the greatest minds and one of the most forceful spirits this land and world have ever known.”
For information on Leonard Wineglass:
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 6-7:30 or 8 a.m. and Fridays at 8-10 a.m., can be heard by phone at (347) 237-4610 and are archived on the Afrikan Sistahs’ Media Network.