Wanda’s Picks for October 2013

by Wanda Sabir

Maafa Ritual

Maafa-2011-web, Wanda’s Picks for October 2013, Culture Currents The 18th Annual Maafa Commemoration Ritual is Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, predawn. We meet at Ocean Beach, Fulton at the Great Highway. The ritual is for people of African Descent (Black people from throughout the globe). Visit http://maafasfbayaea.com.

‘Stand Our Ground’ Anthology

There are so many great events this month, but not enough space to list them all. I have to give a shout out though to Ewuare X. Osayande, editor of the phenomenal collection of poetry: “Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander.” This collection features work from around the world and the author’s heroes: Amiri Baraka and Haki R. Madhubuti, and mine: Sonia Sanchez and Marvin X.

What is wonderful about this collection is that the money raised – $5,000 so far – goes entirely to the families of each victim. Recently on the birthday of Ms. Alexander, Sept. 15, 2013, the Florida mother serving 20 years for shooting a gun in the air to stop her boyfriend from hitting her, Osayande released a poem entitled “Love’s Resilience,” which tells her to hold on, “We’re coming for you.” To watch the video and listen to the author’s recitation, visit http://standourgroundbook.com/.

The Stand Your Ground statute, which protected the murderer of Trayvon Martin, did not save this young mother who didn’t kill anyone, let alone wound her assailant. She sits in prison while Trayvon Martin’s killer walks free. The collection covers a range of styles from haiku to free verse – angry and fierce words, clipped tongues and brandished swords.

Marissa-Alexander-family-photo, Wanda’s Picks for October 2013, Culture Currents Ewuare X. Osayande’s contributes two of my favorites, “Wife-Beater,” which compares the physical violence many women endure to a t-shirt and “They Will Kill You,” which looks at the unforgiving nature of America towards its Black citizens. He writes: “they will kill you/ and say I am sorry/ and expect your mother and father/ to forgive and forget/ that you ever existed/ that you ever existed. … they will douse your memory in the gas of gossip/ and burn your body/ in the effigy of lies and race hate. … they will tie you to blog posts/ and whip your image/ til it’s twisted and distorted/ unrecognizable to the ones who loved you first. … they will kill you/ and expect us/ to forgive and/ forget.”

But we won’t.

To listen to a recent interview with the author visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/09/20/wandas-picks-radio-show.

‘Buried Child’: Does what’s buried ever emerge and take on a life of its own?

I had the opportunity to see Sam Shepard’s “Buried Child” at The Magic Theatre in Ft. Mason Center in San Francisco. I didn’t know what to expect, but I didn’t expect a surreal take two on Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.” Does what’s buried ever stay submerged or is this just an act of desperation which eventually has to see light?

At the end of the story we aren’t quite sure if the character, Vince, is alive, as in flesh and blood, as issues of sanity swing close to the edges of no return. A sick man (Rod Gnapp’s “Dodge”) lies on his sofa as his wife, Haile (Denise Balthrop), leaves him in the care of their crazy son, Tilden (James Wagner), with talk of another son Bradley (Patrick Kelly Jones), who welds electric clippers. The only paragon of virtue – still another son – is deceased, a war veteran.

In the meantime it is storming outside, Dodge on the sofa is coughing and sneaking draughts of some spirit, while Haile carries on a conversation almost alone with grunts and occasional comments from the supine form covered in a comforter on the coach, TV on without sound.

Exit mom, enter a young man, Patrick Alparone’s “Vince,” with girlfriend Shelly (Elaina Garrity). Vince calls Dodge “grandfather” and Tilden “dad.” Shelly is along for the ride, an extremely bumpy one in a vehicle without doors or handles. Yet one has to give it to Shelley; she is feisty and fearless, especially when Vince leaves her with three men, all crazed whom she doesn’t know: an old drunk with a cough, a man who seems innocent but weird (Tilden) and Bradley, the paraplegic jerk who threatens her with a knife, sticks his fingers in her mouth and extracts something mystical that unravels everything.

The story is full of analogies to fertility and harvest and perhaps even the end of the world as the family knows it. There is blood and corn in a field formerly fallow. No one knows where the abundance comes from or even who Vince is except his grandmother who recognizes him immediately.

The story is full of analogies to fertility and harvest and perhaps even the end of the world as the family knows it.

Who is this kid, Vince, who has such vivid memories of the place and its people that none but he can recall? What is his relationship to the secret that Tilden shares with Shelley? Who is Shelley and why is there an impotent minister with an armful of yellow roses present? Is the abundance of alcohol a collective libation? For whom? Why is Tilden in trouble and why does he dig up the corn, shuck it and then return with carrots and give those to Shelley who peels and chops them. What is his attachment to the earth? What is he looking for? Is the family making soup? Is the family making sense?

Nope. I still have questions and what was buried in the story unearthed some of my own buried trauma and memories of a time when I was one and someone I never got to know became a secret.

What I like about the story is the way one is left with multiple interpretations and conversation can enlarge the breadth of the canvas or help images come into sharper focus or maybe not (smile). “Buried Child” is extended through Oct. 13. For tickets, visit www.magictheatre.org or call the box office, (415) 441-8822.

‘On Holy Ground: Commitment and Devotion to Sacred Lands’

I just completed a book by two local authors, Luisah Teish and Leilani Birely, titled “On Holy Ground: Commitment and Devotion to Sacred Lands.” In the book these two traditional healers, one African American, the other Hawaiian, share with a general audience the importance of honoring place and the importance of ritual etiquette. I think about the stories the two women share as I reflect on the Shepard play, “Buried Child.”.

Burials are sacred times in a community – the entrance and exit of a life or a shift in its form impacts its journey. In “Buried” one gets the impression early on that though the family was sworn to secrecy and the child buried, it really haunts each of them still so that the prosperity they once enjoyed is buried too. Dodge tells Vince of the way the land once looked, fields of corn. This is why Tilden’s harvest of corn is met with doubt. How can he find corn when the fields are barren?

Teish and Birely speak of how important it is to honor the spirit that inhabits the landscape; to ignore such is to bring harm on oneself, as these spirits have life. The book is a collection of stories, while it is also a workbook with instructions and activities. Certainly for the novice who wants a Ritual 101 guide, this is it (smile). It is not simplistic and requires multiple readings, which are satisfying. One can see the young Leilani visiting her kinfolk on vacations, finally free to be all of herself without censure, while in Yeye Teish, one sees her too running in the woods in New Orleans’s Westbank when there were trees to run through and the shock it was when the land and trees were captured and she was barred from visiting her friends ever again.

In the book these two traditional healers, one African American, the other Hawaiian, share with a general audience the importance of honoring place and the importance of ritual etiquette.

Teish uses the term “conquistadors on tour” when referencing the “marauding criminals who rape and pillage in the name of their flag, their supposed superiority of their god. Their methods include demonizing the indigenous deities, outlawing native languages, destroying family and kinship structures and subjecting human beings into servitude and slavery. . . .Their attitudes and actions lead to the desacralization of land, culture and peoples for hundreds of years (1400s-1900s)” (27).

This section also speaks of the sacrilege of burial rites and how what is buried is uncovered and exploited. This “desacralization is a danger to Life on Earth that is recognized by Primal Life People everywhere” (Teish 27).

So what does this say about this mysterious buried child, a life no one can talk about, yet everyone thinks about him and what happened to him and how unfair it was to the child? It is almost as if Shepard, now in his 70th year, was contemplating similar notions when he wrote the play which had its world premiere in 1978 at a theatre he founded, The Magic Theatre. Hmm.

For information on workshops and sacred places tours, visit http://www.luisahteish.com/ and http://www.daughtersofthegoddess.com/. I met Leilani at the “Blessings for the Waters of the World” at Sophia University in Palo Alto in February this year. Her hula was enchanting. Both she and Yeye Teish teach there. Here is a recent interview on Wanda’s Picks Radio show with the authors: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/09/25/wandas-picks-radio-show.

‘One Night with Janis Joplin’

Another play I saw recently at San Jose Rep is “One Night with Janis Joplin,” which continues through Oct. 6, 2013. When I interviewed Tiffany Mann, who portrays Blues Woman and other characters in the story of a woman who passionately pursued her first love, music, she didn’t tell me she was co-star (smile).

The writing is superb as is the story of a young white woman who, inspired by Black women artists, used their work as a foundation for her blues-infused rock melodies. In getting to know Joplin, one gets to hear the melodies playing her soul. More often than not historically, such artists were hardly mentioned at all; however, Randy Johnson’s “Joplin” not only mentions them; these Black women are on stage with her and sometimes without, as Joplin stands in the wings and watches.

The cast is outstanding, especially Tiffany Man and Cari Hutson as Joplin (alternate), Shinnerrie Jackson and Tricky Jones as Joplinaires and the live musicians who were also characters. The set is stunning along with the lighting, a visual montage of color. A raised catwalk allows Joplin and other characters to appear literally out of nowhere adding depth to the physical structure. Costumes are snazzy throwbacks to the 1960s in the Haight. My favorite parts of the story were when Joplin shared stories of her mother, who sang, and siblings – then stories from the road and how it felt to be on stage. Images of Joplin’s paintings illustrate such moments.

The writing is superb as is the story of a young white woman who, inspired by Black women artists, used their work as a foundation for her blues-infused rock melodies.

There were plenty of opportunities to sing along and by the time the show ended, audience participation was on the bill (smile). Tiffany Mann’s Aretha Franklin scene is striking: Dressed in a red dress with matching shoes, the backup singers in silver two-piece skirts and jackets and Janis not matching at all, but in tune. The music had everyone grooving in their theatre seats.

This was a polite group. I am certain all audiences don’t sit still when the spirit hits them. Call (408) 367-7255 or visit www.sjrep.com. San Jose Rep is located at 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose. Tickets are half price for fulltime students with IDs.

‘My Heroes Have Always Killed Colonizers’

Back by popular demand! It’s the second annual: “My HEROES Have Always Killed Colonizers: Stories of Global Indigenous REZistance,” Monday, Oct. 14, at 6 p.m., 518 Valencia St. (at 16th, one block from 16th Street BART), San Francisco. This space is wheelchair accessible. The event is alcohol free and donations are accepted at the door from those who are able to assist with covering the space and electricity. To view last year’s invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/106941452790620.

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LCPC) 35th Anniversary Gala, Oct. 19

Jason-Bell-Project-Rebound-director-web, Wanda’s Picks for October 2013, Culture Currents The director of Project Rebound, Jason Bell, who, along with Vonya Quarles, will receive Legal Services for Prisoners with Children’s John K. Irwin Award at this year’s 35th Annual Gala, Oct. 19, spoke to me on my radio show about some of the barriers to successful reentry. Professor Bell’s research in the field of sociology for his master’s degree, looked at “active trauma” – not post – and the unrecognized stresses associated with this malady as the formerly incarcerated and those at risk for incarceration flounder under expectations they cannot handle.

I’d never thought about the active trauma many youth experience; yet, this is what the Maafa speaks to, reoccurring traumas or disorders and how one handles this. Built into Project Rebound are several safety nets, among them collaborative relationships with constituents who have access to housing, food and mental health services.

Mr. Bell, whose work at San Francisco State includes teaching along with running a program that saved his life, says he was not interested in education as a youth. Raised in Dublin, his parents left Oakland to keep their kids safe, yet he ended up in trouble despite a secure and stable home. After nine and a half years in the California prison system, Mr. Bell was ready to try something new. However, our conversation didn’t reveal how he came to know Professor John K. Irwin and what exactly got him to change directions, but perhaps in a follow-up interview I can ask.

Twenty-one years in the field now and an expert on rehabilitation, his voice conveys the compassion and commitment Mr. Bell has for his work and the pride he has in his colleagues and former students who continue to surpass his highest expectations. For information on the LSPC Gala, Oct. 19, 6-9 p.m., at The Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market St., in San Francisco, visit http://www.prisonerswithchildren.org/. Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander are delivering the keynote addresses that evening.

Also visit http://asi.sfsu.edu/asi/programs/proj_rebound/about.html. And to hear a recent interview with Mr. Bell, visit http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2013/09/27/wandas-picks-radio-show.

Reflecting the Light

AfroSolo Arts Festival 20 presents “Reflecting the Light: Works Inspired by Black Masters” by Michael Ross through Oct. 15 at the San Francisco Main Public Library, 100 Larkin St. at Grove. Admission is free and open to the public. The featured artists include Edythe Boone, Candi Farlice, Ron Saunders, April Martin Chartrand, Idris Hassan, Virginia Jourdan, Ramekon O’Arwisters, William Rhodes, Michael Ross, Karen Seneferu, Malik Seneferu and Wanda Whitaker.

Dimensions Dance Theater’s 40th Anniversary Celebration

Dimensions Dance Theater, the Bay Area’s preeminent African American dance company, celebrates its 40th anniversary at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 710 Mission St., San Francisco, Saturday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m., in the Center’s Forum. The evening will include a formal procession, a retrospective of the company’s four decades, and the world premiere of all four parts of “Rhythms of Life: Down the Congo Line,” a monumental work representing the legacy of traditional Congolese dance forms in the New World. Dance performances will be attended throughout by live music and ritual enactments. For tickets, call (415) 978-ARTS or visit ybca.org.

Film Honors Native American Day

In honor of California Native American Day, Friday, Sept. 27, the City of Richmond honors our collective indigenous history with a program of film and discussion with the youth. It is a free event. “The Rise of an Urban Rez” will be screened Friday, Oct. 4, 5:30-6:30 p.m., in the Whittlesey Room, next to the main Richmond Library, at 325 Civic Center Plaza. It is a free event. Light refreshments will be served.

Cultural Odyssey’s Community Orchestra

Music Is the Healing Force of the Universe Community Orchestra, co-directed by Idris Ackamoor and Kenneth Nash, performs Friday, Oct. 11, 8-10 p.m., at the African American Art and Culture Complex Hall of Culture, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco, and on Saturday, Oct. 19, 3-5 p.m., at Potrero Del Sol Park, Potrero and Cesar Chavez (formerly Army Street), San Francisco.

It is also Cultural Odyssey’s Inaugural 35th Anniversary Picnic. Come one and come all for food, music and fun! Saturday, Oct. 26, 3-5 p.m., at United Nations Plaza, Market and Hyde, Civic Center, San Francisco.

Yosvany Terry y Los Parranderos’s Noches de Parrandas

Acclaimed Cuban-born composer and saxophonist Yosvany Terry, syncretizes jazz and symphonic music to create Noches de Parrandas, a contemporary orchestral representation of the voices, characters, sounds and sights of Las Noches de Parrandas (The Nights of Festivities), one of Cuba’s oldest, grandest and most enduring cultural celebrations. Los Parranderos is comprised of noted New York and Bay Area musicians, including Alex Murzyn (tenor saxophone), Glen Schwartz and David Goldklang (french horns), Mike Rodriguez and Bill Ortiz (trumpets), Jose Davila (tuba), Mike Aaberg (keyboards), Osmany Paredes (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), Clarence Penn (drums), Sandy Perez (percussion) and Yosvany Terry (alto saxophone, chekere). Commissioned by Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. Visit http://www.yosvanyterry.com/.

Yosvany Terry will give a free talk, “Migrations of the Sacred Series,” at MoAD (Museum of the African Diaspora), Mission and Third Street in San Francisco, on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6 p.m..

Sins Invalid Crip Soiree and Speakeasy

Sins Invalid celebrates the power of embodiment and sexuality, stripping taboos off sexuality and disability to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities. At their Crip Soiree and Speakeasy, Friday-Saturday, Oct. 11-12, 7 p.m., guests can mingle, imbibe, flirt and nibble in their fabulousness while artists Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Nomy Lamm, Maria Palacios, seeley quest and Leroy F. Moore Jr. enjoin and entice with song and poetry

Following the teaser at 7:45 p.m. will be a preview screening of the Sins Invalid film. This revolutionary independent film promises to be a paradigm shifting experience as it reveals crip eroticism at its finest. Purchase tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/444189.

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.