Wanda’s Picks for May 2013

by Wanda Sabir

Wilfred-Batin-Honor-Roll-Tribute-Grace-Cathedral-0213-SF-by-Wanda, Wanda’s Picks for May 2013, Culture Currents We remember Richie Havens, folk singer and activist who made his transition last month. We want to say Happy Birthday to Yuri Kochiyama and to El Hajj Malik El Shabazz. Congratulations to my nephew Wilfred Batin, 9 years old, who was one of two honor roll students from Rosa Parks Elementary School honored this year at City Hall. Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who deserve more than a day to honor them. Congratulations to all the college graduates!

Tour de Cure this weekend in the Gold Country

Support me in making my $1,000 goal! I am a Red Rider, which means I am personally affected by diabetes. Read my story at http://main.diabetes.org/goto/wandasabir. If anyone wants to join me in the 62-mile bike ride, I’d love company (smile).

‘The Expulsion of Malcolm X’

“The Expulsion of Malcolm X,” Larry Americ Allen’s epic play, is closing its successful run this weekend, May 3, 4 and 5 at the Southside Theatre in Fort Mason Center, Building D, 3rd Floor, in San Francisco. Written more than 20 years ago, “Expulsion” tells a story many theatres were afraid to touch, but not COVE or Colors of Vision Entertainment, where DeJuan Conner is executive producer and CEO. He is also portraying El Hajj Malik so well, I thought it was he on stage.

COVE also produced “A Soldiers Play,” which had a very successful run in this same theatre. Abbie Rhone, who directed “A Soldier’s Play,” is cast as Elijah Muhammad in “Expulsion.” Yes, he is the weasel who kicks his biggest fan out of the Nation (smile). Seriously though, Rhone portrays the elder leader with finesse, his Elijah a man who rules with an iron hand, yet is upset by petty rivalry and jealousy directed towards MX.

Under Lange’s direction, Conner’s MX is a family man who loves his wife Betty, portrayed well by Kreshenda Jenkins, and his kid brother, Reginald, portrayed by Terry Stanley. Reginald, who introduced MX to Islam, ends up leaving the fold, though not of his own choice. It is here that MX’s love for the Messenger is tested.

Conner’s MX is obedient, yet thoughtful. Blinded initially by values he assumes all in leadership uphold, he cannot believe his teacher, father, mentor would betray the laity as he has. And even when his eyes are fully open, he does not curse his teacher; he bids him peace, his very posture one of respect, yet he can no longer participate in a ministry that is hypocritical.

In Conner’s able hands, America’s MX is principled and kind. This is a lesson for youth today who talk about elders earning their respect. Even when MX was expelled from a community he loved, he did not curse his savior.

“The Expulsion of Malcolm X” is epic in length and quite comprehensive in its breadth, as over 14 scenes, two acts, we get to traverse the terrain that was Jim Crow and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement. MX questions the Nation of Islam’s “do-nothing” policy when he sees Martin King putting his and other people’s lives on the line to combat racial injustice. He asks Muhammad about this and is told, the NOI is a religious organization, not a political one. I thought about today and how Islamic organizations still lag behind other religious groups when it comes to fighting injustice and providing sanctuary for those in need, whether that is battered women, single parents, AIDS victims, the homeless or any number of social ills.

I am a product of the Nation of Islam in San Francisco, was a vanguard, a junior lieutenant, graduated from Muhammad University at 15 years old, top of my class and valedictorian, met my husband there, and was present when the Hon. Elijah Muhammad died and the community went in multiple directions. I remember sitting in what is now the Fillmore Auditorium listening to the Messenger each month on fourth Sundays. Sometimes he was too sick to speak long, so his late son, Wallace Muhammad, later Warith Din Muhammad, or Min. Farrakhan would speak. This happened in the play too. Suffering from asthma, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad left the speaking to Minister Malcolm while he recuperated. The scenes where the two men are juxtaposed – their words overlapping one another – are quite powerful. For tickets or information on “Expulsion,” call (510) 213-0401 or visit brownpapertickets.com.

‘Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners’

April was a busy month with quite a few cinematic highlights, among them Shola Lynch’s wonderful film, “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners” (2013). Sister Lynch knows how to tell a story right. If folks know her “Shirley Chisholm: Unbought, Unbossed” (2004), then one can certainly say that in this director’s capable hands Black history, especially stories untold, get their day on the screen from a perspective that is profound, as is this latest work about a woman who is still going strong, Dr. Angela Y. Davis. I hadn’t realized prior to seeing the film that the campaign to free Davis was a global one, nor had I known the details of her relationship with Comrade George Jackson, how he inspired her and helped her survive captivity, which before her arrest was theoretical.

Defense-atty-Leo-Branton-Jr.-Angela-Davis-confer-San-Jose-trial-1972-by-AP, Wanda’s Picks for May 2013, Culture Currents Lynch uses historic footage, juxtaposed with interviews with Davis, her attorneys and family, like her sister, Fania Davis, and her mother. This interactive narrative gives the film depth and helps its audience make an easy interpretative leap, which is not hard to fathom given the fact that not much if anything has changed in America’s judicial system.

A young, fiery Davis is shown articulate, brave and fierce at 28 when she is arrested and accused of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1970 death of a state judge who was shot with one of several weapons she had bought. After 18 months in prison, she was acquitted by an all white jury in Santa Clara County. Some of my favorite parts of the film are when she is on the lamb, her brother, Reginald Davis, taking her from one safe house to another, one motel or hotel to another as the two evaded the FBI manhunt. What is interesting is the conversation the director has with one of the FBI agents, who reflects on this time, as footage of Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover speak about the threat the Black Panther Party and the movement for Black liberation are to national security and why all such mobilization needs to be stopped immediately.

Davis speaks about why she didn’t leave the country like Assata Shakur and her defense strategy. Presiding Judge Richard E. Arnosan, who ruled in her case to grant bail and the young farmer who put up his farm as collateral when Aretha Franklin was out of the country at the time the decision was reached let her stand trial as a free woman.

California’s timely decision to suspend the death penalty – a crucial moment – was a key reason why Davis was able to get released on bail. The charges brought against her were a capital crime and, had the death penalty been an option – by lethal gas – she could have been sentenced to death.

The film is shot with serendipitous moments like this. The prosecution plays up the fact that Davis’ guns were used in the courthouse siege and the fact that Davis ran when charged. Branton asked the jurors to close their eyes and visualize what is means to be Black in America, so they could empathize with Davis when she refuses to turn herself over to the FBI. He has them walk backward into United States history to enslavement of his and Angela’s people, then forward through Jim Crow all the way to the present, where Black life was pretty worthless on the Stock Exchange – even peace warriors like Dr. Martin King.

I love it when Fania Davis, Esq., is in Paris speaking at a rally in French. Then later on when Angela Davis wins her case and she travels the world thanking her supporters, the span and reach is once again breathtaking. Reminds me of when Mandela walked out of Robben Island into the world’s hearts. The woman’s impact is HUGE! Critical Resistance didn’t wear an organizational hat yet, but certainly it was conceived in these moments of her life. Davis was living it as were her supporters against a mighty nation, and she won.

The drama of the courtroom is also big in “Free.” The decision to have her case tried separately from the case of Ruchell Cinque Magee, one of the only shootout survivors, is addressed, along with Davis’ membership in the Black wing of the Communist Party and then Gov. Reagan and the UC Regents’ vote to dismiss Davis from her position at UCLA. See http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/08/home/davis-campaign.html.

The legal defense team shares on screen in recent interviews why Davis had a Black legal team and why the team, which included women legal experts too, decided to let Davis make her own opening remarks – which were not about her trial, rather the sexist remarks lead prosecutor Albert Harris Jr. made in his opening statement – placing Davis’ alleged participation in the Marin Courthouse shooting on the fact that she was in love with Jonathan Jackson’s brother George.

One doesn’t get to see the icon, Angela Davis, within a cultural context, a milieu which includes family who are just as devoted to justice and freedom as their more publically recognized daughter, sister and aunt. What I love the most about the film is its title: “Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners.” The call, “Free them all,” is an affirmation as much as it is the title of a thought provoking wake-up call.

Daphne Muse, writer, poet and social commentator, was present at the trial and writes on her blog about Leo Branton: “He was one of the first to hire consultants to develop psychological profiles of jurors and demand fairer diversity of juries. Psychologist Dr. Tom Hilliard, Anne Ashmore (Poussaint-Hudson) and psychiatrist Price Cobb Jr. were part of the team who contributed their expertise to voir dire potential jurors. As secretaries for the defense team, Marlene Cassel and I came to witness his brilliance, legal acumen and forthrightness every day of that trial.

“Branton always swooped through the office in suits that bespoke the unbridled and astute confidence and experience he possessed. He turned litigation into well crafted performance art; after all, it was his desire to be an actor that paved the way for him to become a lawyer. He was exemplary in his ability to cross examine witnesses and during the trial, he put eye witness testimony in a tailspin and, as a result, a witness pointed out Kendra Alexander as the woman he saw in the Marin Courtroom and not Angela.

“He was so masterful in the courtroom that his legal charisma mesmerized the presiding judge, Richard E. Arnosan, the bailiffs, jurors, spectators and many members of the press; it also totally flummoxed prosecutor Albert Harris Jr. and his team. Harris looked as though he’d been bricked with a brief, the day of the verdict. I often wonder if the jurors knew that Leo was Black. He had that kind of racial ambiguity, for some, where he could represent either or.

Wanda-Theresa-Shoatz-Annie-Paradise-at-Maroon-the-Implacable-CIIS-0413-by-Wanda, Wanda’s Picks for May 2013, Culture Currents “With 36 spectator seats available, entry into Courtroom No. 1 of the Santa Clara County Courthouse in San Jose, California, were at a premium and hundreds of people jostled for positions each day to get in on a first come, first-served basis. On the one occasion Howard was able to get me in, I witnessed firsthand the jaw dropping performance Branton brought into the hallowed halls of that courtroom filled with an historical tension quite like none ever witnessed before in the United States.

“With so many precedents set in litigating the Angela Davis trial, it really was indeed one of the major trials of the century. I’m sure John Jay, first chief justice of the Supreme Court; Clarence Darrow, attorney for the legendary, early 20th century Scopes Trial; and Charlotte E. Ray, first known African American woman lawyer, are all a-turning in afterlife awe. The power of his closing argument still resonates beyond that chamber into curricula in law schools throughout the United States. The trial transcript of the closing argument, May 30 to June 1, 1972, is available at the Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley, and the Angela Davis Papers and in the Howard Moore Jr. Papers, Woodruff Library, Manuscripts and Rare Books, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.

Ms. Muse says that she invited the attorney to a holiday party December last year where he spoke of Davis’ trial and its “significant milestones and precedents.” Though many people know the Davis story, not many, Muse reflected, know Branton. She continues, “His presence and words brought a serious dimension of reality to that history. With a worldwide movement mobilized and upon her acquittal, Branton told Angela that she was the most powerful woman in the world” (http://daphnemuse.blogspot.com/). You can listen to Branton speak at the party thanks to videographer Mateenah Floyd-Okanlawon.

Executive produced by, among others, Jay-Z, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, “Free Angela” is the product of cooperative economics or Ujima (smile).

The film is having a special screening Tuesday, May 7, 7-9:21 p.m. at Landmark Piedmont Theatre, $12 general admission. This screening is being presented by Sankofa Events in solidarity with the Mayor’s Office of the City of Oakland, Critical Resistance, KPFA and the San Francisco State University Women and Gender Studies Department. For tickets, visit http://www.tugg.com/events/3958#.UXr9BZOOV0E.email.

‘Virgin Soul’

We celebrate with author Judy Juanita the publication of her first novel, “Virgin Soul.” The novel is a tour de force featuring Geneice Hightower, who takes us on a journey through the Black Arts and revolutionary movements of the ‘60s, most notably the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Up close and personal, this old soul in a young body, smart and cute and hip when she needs to be, innocent and fierce, yet always honest, is a for real foot soldier, movement woman, who attends Oakland City College, hosts Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) at her flat, which becomes a Safe House, learns to clean and assemble guns, dodges police bullets, graduates from SF State, feeds kids breakfast, tutors in Bayview Hunters Point, recites poetry, gets laid and ultimately finds herself (smile). Yes, it’s that exciting.

Just back from the LA Book Festival, she has other tour dates and special events like the one this Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m., at the 57th Street Gallery, where the author will be joined by veteran Panthers in a panel discussion about this important history. You can also catch her at Moe’s Books in Berkeley May 1 at 7:30 p.m.; at Book Passage in San Francisco at the Ferry Bldg. at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 2; Saturday, June 2, she’ll be at the Peralta Hacienda Historical Park at 2 p.m. If you get to this event, my younger daughter, TaSin, and I are a part of an exhibit, “Telling Stories.” Give us a listen and let me know what you think (smile). Listen to an interview with Judy a couple of weeks ago on the air: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/04/19/wandas-picks-radio-show.

SFIFF at 56

The San Francisco International Film Festival continues with quite a few Pan African and other films of note, among them two riveting films, “The Pirogue,” directed by Moussa Touré, “God Loves Uganda,” directed by Roger Ross Williams, and “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” directed by Jeremy Teicher. These three films look at the systematic economic disenfranchisement of Africa, whether that is the global impact of trade on families who have to send their sons and daughters on perilous journeys across the Atlantic ocean on boats ill-equipped for the hazards to the implementation of an educational system that undermines community values as it seeks to strengthen its nation’s ability to compete and survive.

When one thinks about the enslavement of African people, which is how many in the Diaspora landed in their present locations, and the subsequent colonialism, religion is the major culprit, then and now. African American director Roger Ross Williams, in his film, “God Loves Uganda,” takes an unprecedented look at a major church whose mission is to evangelize Africa, with a special focus on Uganda, what Lou Engle, International House of Prayer, calls “The Pearl of Africa.”

Mary-Watkins-Victoria-Theodore-mother-at-Music-SHE-Wrote-concert-OPC-042613-by-Wanda2, Wanda’s Picks for May 2013, Culture Currents How a country can go from self-determination and autonomy to a nation of zealots who have allowed white America to come in toting Bibles and preaching their version of Jesus’ gospel, a version that is intolerant of difference, especially sexual difference, is uncanny.

I remember when Uganda was granted aid money during George W. Bush’s tenure, with the stipulation that abstinence would be the only prevention method allowed, so a country which had been the model for other nations regarding HIV/AIDS prevention saw its numbers increase at an alarming rate. Then a bill was introduced which would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death. A list of gay activists and their supporters, such as Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, was published and David Kato was beaten to death in January 2011. The vehement atmosphere engendered by such legislation fueled by American evangelist Scott Lively, whose 2009 call to “Kill the Gays” was the culmination of a high profile campaign begun in 2002 in Uganda.

Last year, I interviewed the directors, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, and Longjones, one of the subjects in “Call Me Kuchu,” a film that tells David Kato’s story and that of others who continue his dangerous work to preserve the rights of this sexual minority in Kampala, Uganda: http://www.trbimg.com/img-5179eaf9/turbine/la-la-me-0425-branton-obit2-jpg-20130425/600.

The director writes: “I thought about following the activists – brave and admirable men and women – who were fighting against these policies. But I was more curious about the people who, in effect, wanted to kill me. (According to the provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, I could be put to death or imprisoned.) Notably, almost every evangelical I met – American or Ugandan – was polite, agreeable, even charming. Yet I knew that if the bill passed, there would be blood on the streets of Kampala.

“What explains that contradiction? What explains the murderous rage and ecstatic transcendence? In the well-known trope about Africa, a white man journeys into the heart of darkness and finds the mystery of Africa and its unknowable otherness. I, a Black man, made that journey and found – America (http://www.godlovesuganda.com/film/directors-statement/).”

“God Loves Uganda” screens at the 56th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival, Monday, May 6, 8:15 p.m., Tuesday, May 7, 3:30 p.m., and Thursday, May 9, 8 p.m., at the Kabuki Theatre in San Francisco. Visit sffs.org.

In veteran Senegalese Moussa Touré’s film, “The Pirogue,” a fishing vessel turns into a chariot to heaven, and the keepers of The Pearly Gates speak Castilian Spanish. Opening with a wrestling match where once again the protagonist’s fighter loses, he is convinced that perhaps he should leave home for heaven, though from what we can see, he seems to be doing okay – son is healthy, his wife is happy, his spoiled brother loses his job yet can still buy electronic devices. But everyone is leaving the country, including his kid brother to pursue a music career.

Fishing is becoming a less viable livelihood, ditto cattle herding, and as African men find themselves at a loss with how to support their families and villages in an ever increasing global community where foreign investors can undercut a formerly regional economy, they make the treacherous and dangerous trek across the water. If they make it, their worries supposedly are over and they can send money to their impoverished families or communities.

So our fisherman is convinced to navigate the pirogue. He receives his money up front and leaves it with his wife. There are 30 men aboard and as he checks his GPS – yes, GPS – the immediacy of this problem hits the audience, which has its collective memories of “boat people.” I think of little Cuban national Elián Gonzalez and how the uncle of Haitian-born American writer Edwidge Danticat, Rev. Joseph Dantica, was allowed to die in the Krome detention center in Florida.

Western nations are perceived as sanctuary or preferred destinations for refugees escaping the consequences of industrialized greed and conquest, yet why would an African expect their former masters to treat them fairly? Reminds me of a character in playwright Matthew Lopez’s “The Whipping Man,” Simon, who expects his master to return after the war and pay him a sum of money – a personal 40 acres deal. The man’s back is scarred and his memories of enslavement are horrific, yet he holds out for a measure of humanity despite all he has experienced which show inhumanity and untrustworthiness.

The titular boat men from a variety of nations, with distinct languages and cultures, remind us of another journey hundreds of years or so before in the opposite direction. This time the living cargo isn’t sure of its welcome. Black bodies are no longer trading high on Western markets.

Tossing on the high seas, fearing for their lives, some men regret their decision to leave home. Perhaps there were other choices, a bit safer, ones that didn’t mean splintering families. Africa has been fleeced, but it doesn’t need to remain bare if nations refuse to be exploited any longer.

“The Pirogue” screens one last time, Thursday, May 2, 6:45, at New People Cinema in San Francisco.

The director promotes films by African filmmakers in Rufisque, Senegal, and since 2011, he has been the director of documentary filmmaking at FESPACO. To read more about him, see the https://www.festivalscope.com/director/tour-moussa.

Lorraine Hansberry Theatre presents Marcus Gardley’s ‘Black Odyssey, a Reflection’

Marcus Gardley is brilliant, and at almost 30 his light is shining so brightly, at the end of the two-act play, not only was I blinded, I was speechless – so full of emotions was I. And I was not alone; men and women were wiping away tears as Ulysses Lincoln made it home.

Based loosely on Greek playwright Homer’s “Odyssey,” this journey was one most in the audience recognized, yet perhaps had not articulated it so masterfully prior to this production. We know the trail of bones, whether it is Black Mary Wilkes following Aunt Ester Tyler: a former slave and a “soul-cleanser’s” instructions so that Citizen Bartlow can get right with himself in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” or Great Aunt Tina (Athena) pleading with her dad, Great Grand Daddy Deus (Zeus) to talk to Great Grand Paw Sidin (Percedian) to save her kin from drowning.

It is interesting that like Wilson’s “Citizen,” Gardley’s “Ulysses Lincoln,” a Gulf War veteran who has blinded Polyphemus, a one eyed cyclops, Great Grand Paw Sidin’s or Poseidon’s son, which is why Sidin is trying to drown him, also has to go to the City of Bones. He needs to find his story or learn his history so he can get home.

As Ulysses Lincoln travels, he meets friends and foes – even family. Maps are etched in hands and he finds paths or trails similar to his own. These familiar markings make the journey, if not less harrowing, certainly more satisfying for Ulysses, who has been lost so long his memories are legends he shares with his new friend, Nella Pell. She saves his life.

Stranded people with limited rations are not the most sympathetic rescuers, but the child Nella Pell convinces her dad not to shoot him and her mom to let him stay.

There is a lot of water imagery, floods and heavy rains. Is it New Orleans after the levees break or some other water odyssey? Ulysses is at first confused, until he realizes that he is in the future, the journey a memory past, one previously inaccessible, thus the forced journey. He will not get a pass home until he knows where he comes from, not physically, which, when asked, he’d say New York City, but a deeper look at home as in who are his people? How many generations can he name? What ancestors’ stories does he carry in his bones?

Val-Serrant-center-leads-healing-chant-for-Jacque-Barnes-rt-owner-of-Casa-de-Cultura-Berkeley-042713-by-Wanda2, Wanda’s Picks for May 2013, Culture Currents Gardley writes of blood memories, trapped energy, clotted or stuck souls unable to get home. Ulysses meets a family floating on a roof – there is a flood and Artez and Alsendra Sabine wait as the water rises for the “government” to save them. Ulysses, a bit less optimistic, tries to get them to notice the water rising and abandon the hope of something outside themselves saving the couple and their daughter, Nella Pell.

What is blood but water? First blue and then when air hits it the color changes? The human body is 90 percent water and if the planet is a metaphor for our vehicles for this journey, then what does this memory-blood-water connection mean?

The sibling rivalry between Paw Sidin and big brother Daddy Deus is so amusing, as are the relationships between other characters, I guess too numerous to name, that the actors portray, yet are absent from the program.

The major characters are nine, yet many more fill out the story, like Malachi (Telemachus), Ulysses’ son, who is born while his dad is away and does not know him, and Ulysses’s wife, Benevolence Nausicca Sabine (Penelope).

In the world these characters inhabit, while gods technically can’t cross each other, Great Aunt Tina leaves home to go to stay with Ulysses while he is away. Hanging with human beings changes her. She loses her looks and the human container starts to give her pain and trouble. Magic ceases to work in this realm, or perhaps what she notices is how hard the life her Ulysses and others trapped in this realm manage.

Ancestors speak to Ulysses. He dreams and in this state he and his wife, Benevolence, speak.

There was much to recommend “Black Odyssey”: the staging, which was marvelous, especially the various songs and choreography and the cast, which was stellar. When Aldo Billinglea’s Ulysses makes it home to Benevolence (Britney Frazier), one sees tears rolling down his cheeks. And then there is the single mother, Benevolence. She wants to believe her husband is gone, but something makes her continue to hold on even after at 14 years she almost gives up.

Margo Hall as Great Aunt Tina, exemplifies how much our ancestors love us and how hard they work for Great Uncle Paw Siddin, portrayed by Darryl V. Jones, our salvation and happiness even if their advocacy doesn’t work out for the best. Aunt Tina begs her dad to stop Paw Siddin, but his hands are ethically tied.

“Black Odyssey” covers the period Ulysses has been lost, Black people from our earliest memory of enslavement to the present. Stranded on rooftops waiting for a savior, Ulysses sees the Four Little Girls from Birmingham, Emmett Till from Chicago, Martin King and others. Is this his fate, to be stranded?

If Ulysses represents post-Apocalypse or life after captivity, then how much longer must we wander as a people? When will our choices open the hinges which are rusted shut? True, like Ulysses, we’ve inherited trauma – mother dead before he was born, Ulysses is without family or at least he thinks he is an orphan until he starts traveling and realizes how much family there is waiting to claim him.

The memory is in the blood and perhaps one has to spill the blood to release the spirit trapped inside? Sounds like what happened with Jesus – the trapped divinity wasn’t released until crucifixion. That’s when the magic begins – water becomes buoyant whereby Jesus can walk on its surface. What does he learn while blue that he didn’t know when the water was red?

Paw Siddin admits to his stirring the waters, yet Ulysses does have choices. Paw Siddin reminds me of Olukun, the orisha who rules the deepest waters. Post traumatic slave syndrome, this genetic memory and our participation in its continued perpetuation that is our own enslavement is no skinny dip.

The cast is rounded out by Steven Anthony Jones, LHT artistic director, and the director of this production as he plays the role of Artex Sabine; Halili Knox is a number of characters, her primary one is Alsendra Sabine; Kehinde Koyejo as Nella Pell; Dimitri Woods as Malachi; Carl Lumbly as Great Grand Daddy Deus; Bert van Aslsburg as stage manager.

Visit www.lhtsf.org or call (415) 474-8800 to find out about subscriptions and other free readings. The next one is May 4, 2 p.m., at MoAD, “We Are Proud to Present,” by Jackie Sibblies Drury.

The playwright’s work was a part of Bay Area Playwright’s Festival about two years ago. Listen to the interview: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2011/07/15/wandas-picks.

Another film which is was also shot in Senegal in a remote village where education has just been introduced within the past decade shows the changes this means for a community where girls were married off as child brides, literacy was not necessarily widespread and chiefs still were consulted on major decisions. In this setting we meet two girls, Coumba and her little sister Debo. The stories are based on the young people, whom the director Jeremy Teicher met when in the village just outside Mbour for a shoot as a college student.

Unfortunately the youth are not traveling with this film, which is having much success on the film festival circuit. I do not know why they are not here, since it is their story. Reminds me a bit of Kathryn Stockett’s “The Help.” She didn’t live the story, and her protagonist didn’t either, yet both the fictional and actual novelist got all the glory. “The Help” didn’t get to move to New York and start a writing career. The screenplay softens these edges quite a bit. In the novel it’s pure exploitation.

Nonetheless, I am giving Teicher the benefit of the doubt as the villagers liked the film and he employs Africans on both ends of the production. “Tall as the Baobab Tree,” directed by Jeremy Teicher, screens Sunday, May 5, 1:30, KAB; May 7, 6:00, New People; May 8, 1:00, New People. Here is an archival interview from a couple of weeks ago: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/04/24/wandas-picks-radio-show.

Other films to note: “Let the Fire Burn,” directed by Jason Osder, Sunday, May 5, 9 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, 6:15 p.m., Thursday, May 9, 6:30 p.m.; “A River Changes Course,” directed by Kalyanee Mam, Sunday, May 5, 1 p.m., at New People; “Salma,” directed by Kim Longinotto, Thursday, May 2, 6:15 p.m., Saturday, May 4, 2 p.m., “Fatal Assistance,” directed by Raul Peck, Monday, May 6, 6:30, BAM/PFA, May 7, 9:15, KAB, May 8, 6:45 KAB. Visit www.sffs.org.

On the fly

Ms. Ruth Beckford is having a luncheon at Geoffrey’s on 14th Street in Oakland this month to celebrate retirement and think out loud about “what’s next?” There is life after 70, 80 even 90 years old. Don’t miss an opportunity to listen to the elders speak. I am not intentionally leaving the date out; as of this writing, I do not know when the event is happening (smile). Ms. Beckford told me about it two-three months ago, and Mrs. Belva Davis told me she was on the panel when I spoke to her before her gala celebration. If I wrote it down, I have since lost the paper bearing the details, so if anyone knows, send me an email please. I’d like to attend.

Gina-Breedlove-‘Language-of-Light’-flier, Wanda’s Picks for May 2013, Culture Currents The 13th Annual Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival is May 18, 11-7, at San Antonio Park in Oakland. Visit www.eastsideartsalliance.org. Gina Breedlove’s CD release party is at Freight and Salvage Sunday, May 5, 8 p.m., in Berkeley. Listen to an interview at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/04/26/wandas-picks-radio-show. The Northern California Book Awards is Sunday, May 19, 1:00 p.m., San Francisco Main Library, Civic Center, 100 Larkin, enter on Grove, Koret Auditorium. Reception follows in the Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room.

In “For Every Mountain,” veteran Bay Area playwright Beverly Brown’s Totally Led Ministries brings her play to El Cerrito Theatre, 540 Ashbury Ave., El Cerrito, May 4-5. Tickets for the play are now available. General seating is $25 per person, with children age 15 and under $15 at the door only. Group rates for 10 or more persons are discounted to $22 per person. For ticket information, visit totallyled.org or contact Beverly Brown at (510) 677-7046, sistahbev@sbcglobal.net. View “For Every Mountain” promotional video at www.totallyled.org. The Third Annual San Francisco Green Festival is Thursday, May 30, through Wednesday, June 5. Visit sfgreenfilmfest.org.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wsab1@aol.com. 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 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.