by Wanda Sabir
Well, with graduation and finals completed, I am off to East Africa for the summer, which means my regular Wanda’s Picks broadcasts will be suspended for the summer, June 5-Aug. 9. I’ll be back on the air Aug. 12. If anything changes, those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook will get a heads-up (smile).
I am happy to report that our beloved Elder Ronald Freeman, veteran L.A. Chapter Black Panther Party founding member and deacon in the African Orthodox Church, is doing a lot better. Keep praying for him, ‘cause he wants to go home and get to Cuba. Send him cards. He needs to rest up and grow stronger. Those weeks on the respirator took a lot out of him. You can send cards to him at All of Us or None, c/o LSPC, 1540 Market St., Suite 490, San Francisco, CA 94102, http://www.prisonerswithchildren.org/our-projects/allofus-or-none/.
Libations for the Ancestors
June 8 is the annual global Libations for the Ancestors, which is an international recognition, prayer and honoring of those Africans 500 years ago and the Africans who are still felled today. In the San Francisco Bay Area, we pour at 9 a.m. at the fountain at Lake Merritt perpendicular to Merritt Bakery, across the street from the tennis courts. Bring musical instruments to share, prayers and thoughts, poetry. Wear white. If you cannot join us at Lake Merritt, stop and pour where you are at 9 a.m. sharp PST or at that time in your time zone. Umoja (unity) is the goal.
The Libation for the Ancestors is a prayer for our present, a recognition of those relatives and comrades who lived so we can continue the battle until victory is won and stand sentinel after that. We can never relax. Someone must always guard our freedoms.
Recent events show how quickly one can be re-enslaved – I am not speaking just literally. The easiest enslavement is the physical bondage. Look at all the free men and women and children who have lost their mobility.
No, the true liberation is spiritual and intellectual and economic. If we had economic freedom, many of our people behind bars would not be there. Not all, but many, because the criminal system is criminal and penalizes the poor and disenfranchised the hardest. Look at all the free crooks, starting with our last few presidents.
President Obama is in a snake pit. Whether or not he has developed immunity to the venom remains to be seen. I know I would not want to be in the pit with those slippery reptiles he has surrounded himself with. We are not speaking of Damballah, a sacred diety, rather the whisperers of evil who withdraw after the whisper. When one thinks about what one would give up, what one would trade for life, there are certain values I could not part with. I would choose death with integrity. I would just hope my choice wouldn’t put innocent friends or family in the line of fire.
‘Remember Them: Champions for Humanity’
When one thinks about young Malcolm Shabazz, who was killed horribly in Mexico last month, one sees a young man who despite missteps and a violent legacy, decided to do good in the world. He was a public figure and so invited the type of tragedy that took his life, but he is remembered with love.
His aunt, Ambassador Attallah Shabazz, eldest daughter of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, who witnessed her father’s killing, spoke at the dedication of “Remember Them: Champions for Humanity,” a monument celebrating the lives of 25 humanitarians, Friday, May 31, 2013. This was just a week after her nephew was laid to rest.
“Remember Them” features the bronze larger-than-life sculptures of both local – as in San Francisco Bay Area and California – heroes and heroines, as well as international and national humanitarians, social justice pioneers and civil rights icons like El Hajj Malik, Mother Mary Ann Wright, Cesar Chavez, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Henry J. Kaiser, Harvey Milk, Frederick Douglass, Maya Angelou, Thich Nhat Hanh, Oskar Schindler, Elie Wiesel, Nelson Mandela, Helen Keller, Ruby Bridges, Coretta Scott King, Ansel Hall, Carmen Flores, Royal Towns, Dr. Marcus Foster, Ina Coolbrith, Josie de la Cruz, Ralph Abernathy.
A huge monument in three parts graces the Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park at 19th and Rashidah Muhammad Streets in the center of downtown Oakland. The day was scorching, but people stood and sat in the sun to recognize the presence of such greatness.
Towering images of icons surrounded us, as speaker after speaker presented their remarks. I looked at Mother Teresa and Malcolm X behind them and the other champions just in front or across from them. The champions seemed to be having their own cross conversations. Many of them, like Martin King and Malcolm X, had not had the opportunity to connect in any significant way prior to their lives ending so abruptly via assassins’ bullets, but here the artist Mario Chiodo, an Oakland-based fine artist, has made visible this possibility for us to engage in, a dialogue across the various quadrants that seemingly divide us.
Whether this is physical or systemic, imagined or real, these barriers keep us from addressing the true enemy of us all – greed. White supremacy was spurred by such inclinations, that and perhaps poor self-esteem. Instead of accepting the offer of friendship from elder world nations, the Europeans decimated and annihilated.
“Remember Them” looks at a different strategy, one that is life affirming. Each one of those imagined by Chiodo in this sculpture agrees in principle, even if their strategies were uniquely individual, that the primacy of life is central – all life: human, plant and animal. One sees agreement here. One sees harmony here. One sees a truth here.
The conversation is, how can we all live together in a world that fosters peace?
The philosophical and physical design of Chiodo’s work, which is 25 feet high, 52 feet long and, at 40,000 pounds, covers more than 1,000 square feet, is the largest bronze monument in the West. It is designed on a spiraling axis emulating “the helix of the common DNA of all humans.” Visit www.remember-them.org.
For 12 years, Chiodo labored with his team long and hard to realize this dream, one inspired by the horror of Sept. 11, 2001. He wanted to create a work that inspired people to think of other ways to resolve differences, to inspire peace and to show how one person is capable of moving mountains. I interviewed the artist prior to the unveiling. Visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/05/24/wandas-picks-radio-show.
So don’t forget to pour libations for the ancestors, Saturday, June 8, at 9 a.m. PST. I will be pouring in Ethiopia, Addis Ababa time (smile), which is 10 hours ahead of the San Francisco Bay, at 7 p.m. Remember them, because certainly our ancestors are remembering us. Ashay.
We lost a giant among musicians last month: Mulgrew Miller, pianist, born in 1955 in Greenwood, Mississippi. Quiet powerful energy, his catalog certainly exemplified a man who upheld the tradition. His departure leaves William Paterson without a director of its highly respected jazz studies program. His career spanned over three decades. Early influences included Oscar Peterson, who gave Miller the sense of a sound he wanted to explore. Though he led his own bands, he contributed to hundreds of recordings with Ron Carter, Tony Williams, the Mercer Ellington Big Band and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. He is survived by his wife and two children.
Thursday evening, May 30, Oakland’s beautiful people were out to toast their own at the Oakland Indies Awards. As I looked around the Kaiser Theatre, every other person seemed to be a nominee. The roof garden had a First Friday vibe, except more pleasant as bands played, King Theo and Foga na Ropa danced us into Samba Frenzy, and art dotted the grassy hillsides. There was free food to taste, drinks to buy. One could even get one’s hair hot curled. There was poetry, raw vegan fare, clothing, jewelry, books and networking for the entrepreneur on the go, experienced and virgin. PieTisserie offered pasties which were elegant to look at and delicious to eat. All In One 2013 at 6 p.m. at the Fox Theatre is another such opportunity to network. It is also a fundraiser for local entrepreneurs. Who benefits is not clear. Visit http://innercityadvisors.org/allin/.
The sponsor, One Pacific Coast Bank, is an independent community and environmental bank out of Tampa, Florida, with a branch in downtown Oakland. I cornered the pretty sister who presented the awards that night and hugged the winners. I figured correctly that she could tell me who the presenters were and where the money raised through the $10 ticket admission for the party went. I was correct. She said if there is anything left over, the money goes back into programming for the next year.
Wardrobe for Opportunity is a job readiness organization. They help people achieve economic success. Presentation often bridges the economic precipice. Wardrobe for Opportunity (WFO) works in partnership with the community to assist low-income individuals in their efforts to “Find a Job, Keep a Job, and Build a Career.” Visit www.wardrobe.org.
Soul of Oakland
My daughter, TaSin Sabir, was nominated for the Soul of Oakland Award which represents the soul, essence and spirit of Oakland, recognizing businesses and artists who appreciate diversity and creativity, are confident in their individuality and humbly support their brothers and sisters. She didn’t get it this year, but to find out more, visit tasinsabir.com. Congrats to Jazz Hudson for her Social Changemaker Award.
Ise Lyfe was mingling; Soul of Oakland winner last year, he has a major conceptual art exhibition up June 21-23, 4-9 p.m., and June 28-30, 4-9 p.m., at 2509 77th Ave., Oakland. “Brighter than Blight” is a multi-media public art project in one of Oakland’s housing projects. This work invites audiences to see an aspect of the American experience and lives affected by race and class and how economic ghettoization of communities keeps the idea of home a distant reality.
Colman Domingo’s ‘Wild with Happy’
Colman Domingo is back in the Bay at TheatreWorks in the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts June 5-30, with another wonderful tale, “Wild with Happy.” I’d hoped to talk to him about his latest saga, which looks fun, but there were too many layers between the request and it slipped between the pillows (smile). In this West Coast premiere, Colman’s mom has passed away – now where to put her? In this hilarious, touching comedy, her actor son finds peace for all in the happiest place on earth. The play contains occasional mature language. Visit http://www.theatreworks.org/shows/1213-season/.
Don Reed is back
Don Reed is back with a prequel autobiographical journey, “Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th” – the ‘60s and beyond – June 15 through Aug. 25 at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St. at 22nd Street in San Francisco. Visit www.themarsh.org or call (415) 282-3055. Previews: $15-$35 sliding scale.
The first installment in his hilarious coming-of-age story, “East 14th,” traced Reed’s irregular teen years through the ‘70s. His stepfather forced him to be in that religion that rhymes with “Tehovah’s Sitnesses” and his real father was a pimp! “East 14th” turned out to be one of the longest running Bay Area solo shows, and it also ran off-Broadway. The second installment, “The Kipling Hotel,” followed his collegiate years at UCLA through the ‘80s, struggling to supplement his partial scholarship – partial scholarship means not enough money! – by working as a live-in waiter at an unforgettable retirement hotel.
This next installment, “Can You Dig It? Back Down East 14th,” rewinds to the ‘60s – a prequel-plus – that goes back to young Reed’s formative “Stand By Me” years in Oakland grammar school when the family was “whole.” Before his father became a pimp, before his mother reluctantly became a Jehovah’s Witness – a lot of wild, wonderful, scary, amazing, unnecessary, cool, moving, unbelievably true stories unfolded. From the Beatles to the Black Panthers, James Brown to the Jerk, MLK to JFK to the KKK – come and see the ‘60s through the blinking eyes of an awkward kid who’s just trying to fit in. Whether you love the characters from East 14th or are just meeting them for the first time, these stories, all new, stand alone and will not only take you back but span forward through many misadventures leading up to the very present.
Miles Davis Art Exhibit
“A painting is music you can see, and music is a painting you can hear.” – Miles Davis
The “Miles Davis: The Art Of Cool” exhibition, presented by Napa Valley Museum in partnership with Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater, launches June 8 through July 28. At both the Napa Valley Museum and Lincoln Theater, the exhibition features 35 pieces of original artwork by Miles Davis, his sketches and oil paintings, and some personal items including one of his prized trumpets, a 1989 Grammy Award and a Miles Davis Yamaha Amplifier. There will be special events, programs and a film screening.
A VIP and members-only reception kicks off Friday, June 7, 5-8 p.m. Tickets are $15 for museum members and $30 for guests. Bruce Hopewell, a jazz lover, producer and good friend of Miles Davis, is working with the museum and theater to present a calendar of programs and performances during the exhibition:
- Saturdays, June 15 and July 20, at 11 a.m.: Guided tour of the exhibition (included in admission)
- Saturday, June 22, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Children of all ages are invited to an instrument petting zoo, where children can learn about different instruments, listen to jazz and create art based on the music they hear.
- Saturday, June 29, 7 p.m.: Film showing of “Round Midnight” with an introduction and Q&A with Maxine Gordon, Dexter Gordon’s widow, in the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater
- Thursday, July 25, 7 p.m.: “Evening with Miles” presented by Bruce Hopewell
- Saturday, July 27: Miles Davis Tribute Concert in the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater
The Napa Valley Museum and Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater are situated mid-valley in the historic town of Yountville, between St. Helena and Napa. Napa Valley Museum, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located at 55 Presidents Circle, is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The museum features changing art exhibitions in two galleries and a permanent exhibition about the history of Napa County. Visit www.NapaValleyMuseum.org.
The exhibition was inspired by “Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork,” a new book by Scott Gutterman with Miles Davis, foreword by Quincy Jones, afterword by Cheryl Davis and reflections by Vince Wilburn Jr. and Erin Davis. Scheduled for release on Oct. 10, 2013, the book is a comprehensive collection of the musician’s artwork. This long-overdue celebration of Davis’ visual art is a treasure for art lovers and music aficionados alike, who will appreciate this extraordinary window on the life of a creative genius. Learn more at www.insighteditions.com.
Push Dance, Ethnic Dance, Urban Dance
“UNLOCK,” a new work by Raissa Simpson in collaboration with “UNWOMAN and Benito Steen,” premieres in Push Dance Company’s first ever mixed repertory home season on June 7-9, at 1777 Yosemite Ave., Studio 330, in San Francisco. This evening-length concert will include audience favorites such as Shipyard Project, a special collaboration with 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic. Visit http://push.eventbrite.com/.
The 35th Anniversary Ethnic Dance Festival, June 7-30, is saluting Diamano Coura Director Papa Zak Diouf with its Malonga Casquelourd Lifetime Achievement Award June 22, 8 p.m., at the Lam Center at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Howard at Third Streets in San Francisco. The company also performs that week. On the 10th anniversary of Malonga’s tragic death, there will be a retrospective honoring his legacy and work Weekend Three, June 22-23. Visit www.sfethnicdancefestival.org or call (800) 838-3006.
Urban Jazz Dance Company features Antoine Hunter, choreographer and company director, in a solo piece which uses American Sign Dance. With his beautifully athletic body, he will tie together the various discourses fluently using the language of jazz, African, hip hop, gospel and sign as a poetic gestured conversation that honors deafness as human experience. He and Colette Ewoi have a surprise for us Weekend Four, June 29-30. Colette’s El Wah Movement or, in Haitian Kreyol, Movement of the Spirit, will close out this 35th anniversary season with an adaptation of a prayer chant which calls people to right or positive action. This seems the perfect note to end on. Visit http://wandasabir.blogspot.com/2013/05/wandas-picks-radio-friday-may-31-2013.html.
Love Our Lake
Play in the car-free streets and parks surrounding Lake Merritt transformed by Measure DD Sunday, June 9, 11-4. At 2 p.m. is the dedication of the Lake Merritt Boulevard, formerly 12th Street. Visit oaklandnet.com.
Musician Marcus Shelby and visual artist Flo Oy Wong are collaborating on a performance presented by the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center, “Gwah Guy: Crossing the Street,” a part of Wong’s 75th birthday celebration, on June 7 and 8, at ODC, 351 Shotwell St. in San Francisco. Tickets and more information are available at www.odcdance.org/theater.php or via the ODC Theater office: Box office hours are Wednesday-Friday 12-3 p.m., phone (415) 863-9834, fax (415) 863-9833.
In collaboration with Marcus Shelby, “Gwah Guy: Crossing the Street” will musically explore poignant memories of Edward K. Wong, aka Baby Jack, Flo Oy Wong’s husband. Ed Wong lived in Augusta, Georgia, at the time of segregation when Chinese Americans were identified as “honorary whites.” The June 7 and 8 performances will also include memories of Flo Oy Wong’s childhood in Oakland’s Chinatown near West Oakland, the historical district where many African Americans resided. Marcus will compose original music inspired by Flo Oy Wong’s literary re-imagining of her husband’s Southern childhood experiences.
Anna Deavere Smith in conversation with Steven Anthony Jones
The Forum: Conversations at YBCA presents “An Evening With Anna Deavere Smith” in conversation with Steven Anthony Jones, artistic director of the Lorraine Hansbury Theatre, Saturday, June 8, 8 p.m., in the YBCA Forum. Tickets are $30 at the door. Discount tickets for $20 are available at https://tickets.ybca.org/single/SelectSeating.aspx?p=17049&promo=LHTSF20.
Popularly known for her many film and television roles (“Nurse Jackie,” “The West Wing”), Smith is a MacArthur Award-winning playwright and actor, having “created a new form of theater – a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” Her most recent work, “Let Me Down Easy,” deals with the subject of healthcare. It ran for six months at New York’s Second Stage Theater and then toured for nine months around the U.S.
There are some great Juneteenth programs planned. Lorraine Hansberry Theatre is participating in “Project One Voice” on Monday, June 17, 7 p.m., with a reading of “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, directed by LHT artistic director Steven Anthony Jones. The reading is at 450 Post St., San Francisco, at the SF Playhouse. Visit www.lht-sf.org. The proceeds benefit LHT.
Bill Doggett is doing a reading of “Slave Narratives” in a program honoring the legacy of enslaved Africans for Juneteenth 2013 entitled “Celebrating Juneteenth 2013 and the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation” on Tuesday, June 18, 5:30-7:30 p.m., at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St., Lower Level Latino Community Room A. Mr. Doggett will share slave narratives and talk about Juneteenth and the Emancipation Proclamation as well as show his film, “The Civil War at 150 Years: The Journey to Freedom.”
Mr. Doggett has been a guest on Wanda’s Picks Radio many times, more recently to talk about his wonderful exhibit at the San Francisco Bay View Opera House Jan. 1, 2013, on the Emancipation Proclamation.
Check the library website for related events that I found while searching for Bill’s: http://sfpl.org.
‘Poetry Past and Present’ with Al Young, Avotcja and more
California Poet Laureate Emeritus Al Young, along with four other poets, will present “Poetry Past and Present” at the Berkeley Public Library, Central Branch, Sunday, June 23, 2 p.m. They will be reading original work and the work of celebrated poets of the past. There will also be an open mic session giving attendees an opportunity to read their original poems coupled with poems by their favorite poets.
“Poetry Past and Present” will also feature poets Rafael Jesús González , Avotcja Jiltonilro, Kirk Lumpkin and Ava Bird. The poets will read their original work as well as work by poets from across the centuries including Federico García Lorca, Gwendolyn Brooks, Denise Levertov, Rainier Maria Rilke, Nicolás Guillén, e.e. cummings, Jayne Cortez, Henry David Thoreau, Kabir, Robert Graves, Robinson Jeffers, Pat Parker, Hafiz, Diane di Prima and Rumi.
Audience members are invited to sign up for an open mic reading when they arrive at the event. Each person will be allowed up to 5 minutes to read one original poem and one poem written by a poet whose work they admire. Readers are reminded that this is a family event.
Al Young was California’s poet laureate in 2005. He was recently honored in Berkeley by the declaration of Al Young Day, Feb. 5, 2013. His most recent book is “Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons: Poems 2001-2006.” His poetry and prose have been translated into many languages.
Rafael Jesús González is professor emeritus and founder of Laney College’s Department of Mexican and Latin-American Studies. His most recent book of poetry is “La musa lunatic” (“The Lunatic Muse”). Avotcja Jiltonilro is a poet and also leads the award winning band, Modupue. She is a DJ at KPFA and KPOO radio stations. Her most recent book of poetry is “With Every Step I Take.” Kirk Lumpkin is a poet, performer, lyricist, environmentalist and cultural worker. Ava Bird is a poet and prose writer who in addition to her books has published articles, poetry, recipes, reviews and photographs in a wide variety of journals and publications.
The program will take place at the Berkeley Public Library, Central Branch, 2090 Kittredge St., Berkeley, on Sunday, June 23, 2 p.m., in the Third Floor Community Meeting Room.
The Central Library is open Monday, noon-8 p.m., Tuesday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday afternoons, 1-5 p.m. For questions and accessibility information, call (510) 981-6195, TTY (510) 548-1240, or visit http://www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org.
On the fly
“Fela,” the musical, is coming to town, Oakland to be exact, June 4-9 at the Paramount Theatre, Broadway at 20th Street. I spoke to Melanie Marshall, who is wonderful in her depiction of Funmilayo, Fela Kuti’s mother, on my radio show: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/05/24/wandas-picks-radio-show. Use the code “afros” when buying a ticket for a 10 percent discount and to support a Bay Area Theatre Company AfroSolo in its 20th year this July 28-Oct. 23. If you go to the Paramount Box Office to purchase your ticket, you will not have to pay the service fee.
Robert Henry Johnson’s 60 Million Plus Theater presents “The Commission Project,” a play reading series which features new and unproduced work of African American dramatists. Johnson’s “Sonders,” a three act play set in 1898, explores the themes of legacy, emancipation and the Black family structure. It is being performed at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin. Related events and exhibitions at other San Francisco branches are:
- David Johnson, “A Dream Begun So Long Ago,” Saturday, June 8, Western Addition Library
- “Bay Area Authors Speak Out,” Sunday, June 9, Main Library, Koret Auditorium
- “Golden Age of Soul Music, Volume 3,” Saturday, June 15, Western Addition Library
- Afro-Futurism Artist Discussion, Sunday, June 16, Main Library, Koret Auditorium
- Capoeira with Tammy, Thursday, June 27, Bernal Heights Library
Stern Grove Festival
The all-summer Stern Grove Festival is back; kicking off June 16, it’s every Sunday through Aug. 18. It’s always free and starts at 2 p.m. (though it’s best to be there at 1 p.m. to get a good spot) at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard in San Francisco. A map and more info are at http://www.sterngrove.org.
The 2013 lineup:
- June 16: The Big Picnic Starring Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs
- June 23: Ramsey Lewis and Dee Dee Bridgewater Quadron
- June 30: Deltron 3030, featuring Dan the Automator, Del the Funky Homosapien and Kid Koala
- July 7: San Francisco Symphony
- July 14: Kronos Quartet, Geographer with Magik*Magik Quartet, Real Vocal String Quartet
- July 21: Red Baraat and Fanfare Ciocărlia
- July 28: San Francisco Ballet, Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson
- Aug. 4: Shuggie Otis, The Relatives
- Aug. 11: Pink Martini, La Santa Cecilia
- Aug. 18: San Francisco Opera
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 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.