Wanda’s Picks for September 2014

by Wanda Sabir

Art for Change

Quilt-by-William-Rhodes-Dr.-Charles-Drew-Elementary-students, Wanda’s Picks for September 2014, Culture Currents
Through their art, William Rhodes helped his students at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School in Bayview Hunters Point connect with children in South Africa.

Congratulations to William Rhodes on a successful trip to South Africa, where he took a quilt created by his students at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School in San Francisco to honor the legacy of an international hero, President Nelson Mandela, and returned with art panels from workshops conducted with youth in various townships and regions from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Visit http://www.hatchfund.org/project/the_nelson_mandela_international_quilt.

Ebola . . .

I find irony in a medical epidemic in Liberia happening on the 100th anniversary of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, African Communities League (UNIA-ACL). It’s hard to believe that could be coincidental, especially considering the refusal of the United States and some members of the European Union to sign on to “The Decade for People of African Descent with the Durban Declaration and Program of Action: Overcoming Inequality and the Challenges Confronting African People in the 21st Century 2011-2022.” The African Union has already begun commemorating the Pan African Decade – I saw signs everywhere in Addis Ababa (AU headquarters). See http://mxgm.org/ for information on this stalemate.

Garvey’s Black Star Line was to transport Africans in the Diaspora to the Motherland. The land in Liberia is still there, so for the Ebola virus to claim Africans in that region, Africans who share with those of us in America a genetic lineage, is suspicious. The predictions are alarming and the introduction of yet another vaccination is also alarming. We know this American medical system is not to be trusted. Look at Tuskegee and its infamous syphilis experiment on Black men. More recently, look at the cholera contamination of Haiti.

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An advertisement for Garvey’s Black Star Line

I am just saying. At a time when Black people are financially well off to travel to Africa, disease is cutting that intimacy off. I find it strange that two white victims were able to take the experimental treatment and get well, yet an African victim (same treatment) dies. Is it the same story of AZT and its toxic effect on Black HIV positive patients? The white body then did not prove a good model for Black wellness. We needed a culturally competent response to the virus that took our unique physicality under consideration.

Perhaps the same is true for the Ebola virus and prevention, education strategies. From what I have heard, some villages sound like graveyards – and what is happening to the orphaned children who are feared because of the potential exposure? I learned Memorial Day weekend that the virus is now in Senegal?! So why are America and other nations which benefit from Africa’s exploitation sitting back watching the disease move from country to country uninhibited, like Pac Man?

We have the technologies to quarantine and stop the spread of disease, keep people safe – I don’t have such knowledge, but I am certainly in favor of this rich nation spending the kind of resources necessary to save lives, not predict more casualties. What is the point of that? I am thinking that the UNIA’s Black Cross needs to kick into gear. We have a sophisticated populace. I am sure with all the HBCUs – specifically those with medical schools – we can pull together a team of first responders to isolate the infectious areas and prevent the disease’ continued spread. Chemical warfare is the worst kind of attack; complete annihilation of Black people the world over seems the plan. We need to think defense, not offence, foe not friend.

Maafa Commemoration Mental Health Events

Sept. 7: “Don’t Call Me Crazy” is an evening of short plays and dialogue that features five short plays written by five Bay Area writers who give a glimpse into the world of those suffering with mental disability, hosted at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St. in Oakland, on Sept. 7, 3-6 p.m. In addition to the performances, there will be a post-performance dialogue where guests will gain information on how to identify symptoms and signs of crisis, where to access behavioral health resources, knowledge on medications and their side effects, and busting myths and stereotypes. It will also serve as an opportunity for the public, behavioral health specialist and consumers to share experiences and recovery practices, discuss ways to create and maintain positive life conditions, and an opportunity to remember those individuals who have lost their lives to mental illness. Visit http://www.eachmindmatters.org/event/dont-call-crazy-glimpse-world-mental-illness/.

Oct. 9-10: The theme of the 2014 Northern California Mental Health and Spirituality Conference, Oct. 9-10 at the Allen Temple Family Life Center, 8501 International Blvd., Oakland, isThe Spirituality Factor: Weaving Behavioral Health and Spirituality, Using Evidence and Practice.” For information and $25 registration, contact Gigi Crowder at 510-292-8318 or GCrowder@acbhcs.org. This is a really great website: http://www.eachmindmatters.org/event/spirituality-factor-weaving-behavioral-health-spirituality-using-evidence-practice/.

I will be presenting at this conference. I submitted three potential paper topics: “The Construction of an African Self vs. the Construction of an American Self”; “August Wilson’s character Troy Maxon’s Casting and Being Haunted by Shadow (in “Fences”); “Where is ‘Home’ for the Pan African as Exemplified through the Baseball metaphor, Jackie Robinson and Home Plate?”

This conference is designed for consumers, family members, spiritual communities and their leaders and mental health providers. It is part of a statewide effort to increase the awareness of spirituality as a potential resource in mental distress prevention, early intervention and recovery. The conference is also a way to encourage collaboration among consumers, family members, spiritual communities and mental health service providers in combating stigma and reducing disparities in access to services for diverse populations.

The conference will share the culturally responsive practices put in place that highlight the advancements made in the last decade being implemented across the state to bridge gaps between behavioral health and spirituality. It will also explore what is needed to include spiritual and faith practices to achieve the goal to have an inclusive and integrated behavioral health system of care that honors all and embraces holistic approaches. In addition to our general sessions, the workshops will provide helpful resources to support wellness and recovery and promote dialogue among spiritual communities and their leaders, consumers, family members and mental health service providers.

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Deep contemplation is characteristic of the annual Maafa commemoration at Ocean Beach, this one last October. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

The six themes are as follows: Social Justice Issues; Spirituality and Treatment Issues; Spirituality and Mental Health in the Family; Spirituality in Wellness and Recovery; Honoring Spirituality, Religion and Cultural Diversity; and Mental Health, Spirituality and Faith. Hope to see you there.

Annual Maafa Commemoration Ritual

The Annual Maafa Commemoration Ritual is that weekend as well, Sunday, Oct. 12. Visit http://maafasfbayarea.com. If anyone is interested in the Diaspora Citizenship Appreciative Inquiry, either participating or hosting such, let me know: maafasfbayarea.com@gmail.com or P.O. Box 30756, Oakland, CA 94604

Retrospective Photography by David Johnson

Don’t miss the wonderful exhibition at Harvey Milk Photography Center in San Francisco, Sept. 6-Oct. 19, or the recently released book, “A Dream So Long Ago: The Story of David Johnson, Ansel Adams’ First African American Student,” by Jacqueline Annette Sue (2012). Besides the lovely photographs of icons in the African Diaspora community – W.E.B Dubois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson – we meet a pragmatic artist named David Johnson who takes a job at the postal service to support his family, while shooting photographs during his spare time.

David-Johnson-0914-web, Wanda’s Picks for September 2014, Culture Currents His memoir is a page turner. Johnson’s life from infancy is one of tragedy to triumph, his Black and white journey a metaphor for his artistic and literal life. Told with crisp language, as sharp as the edges of his subjects, “A Dream Begun So Long Ago” resonates a passion for life and love, and the artist’s recognition of the healing necessary to release the hurt suffered as a child so he could move on. He is given away at birth, learns at 4 that his mother is not his mother. He loses both mother and father at the same time, not to death, rather to imprisonment. His last name, Johnson, is not the name on his birth certificate. It is his by choice.

Chain gangs, exploited farm labor, Black, not Brown at that time in Florida, point to an early history many seem to forget. Johnson’s life is an illustrated history lesson covering important epochs in Black history – from being the only literate person at 7 or 8 in a household of two aunts, his mother and uncle to WW2 military draft interrupting his high school completion.

Taking a leave of absence, Johnson returns to the California School of Fine Arts days where he studies photography with Ansel Adams, creating a body of work depicting San Francisco’s landscape and people, yet also giving Johnson space to explore visually an internal landscape which up to this point remained inarticulate or inaccessible.

“A Dream” continues with Johnson’s marriage to Lucy Mae Ellis and the establishment of his studio. A contract with the Sun Reporter during the Civil Rights Movement follows, “Early Retirement,” an episode followed by “Travel” and his “Renaissance” where we see archival photos of Black entertainers like Eartha Kitt, Nate King Cole, Ruth Brown and others.

Perhaps what makes Johnson’s work sing is once again the Black and white of it. His subjects are all stars, whether they are children playing jump rope in Hunters Point or young people dancing in a studio or club. The intimacy his lens brings to the image, the way he paints the story with light and shadow, a thin stream of effervescence in darkness, gives each moment – hope. See http://davidsjohnsonphotography.com/About_David_Johnson.html. Don’t miss the opening reception for his “Retrospective,” Sept. 6, at the Harvey Milk Photography Center, 50 Scott St., San Francisco, 415-554-9523.

Will Power’s ‘Fetch Clay, Make Man’ closes Sept. 7

When one thinks about Stepin Fetchit, what probably comes to mind is the worst in the blaxploitation genre in that it precedes the naming of the phenomena. The actor wasn’t Sambo or Superfly, the first a figment of Hollywood’s imagining, but then Step certainly wasn’t representative of true Black genius either – or was he?

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry gave audiences what they wanted – benign blackness, but at what cost? Perry and his Stepin Fetchit were contemporaries of Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, son of former enslaved Africans. What did this say about the legacy Lincoln Perry left behind? See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5245089.

Lincoln-Perry-as-Stepin-Fetchit, Wanda’s Picks for September 2014, Culture Currents
Lincoln Perry as Stepin Fetchit

Will Power’s play, “Fetch Clay, Make Man,” where he writes in the subtitle: “One snuck in the back door, so the other could walk in the front,” is complicated as are all stories like this; however, the young Muhammad Ali, about to fight Sonny Liston a second time, wants to speak to Perry about Jack Johnson, whom he heard was Perry’s friend. Perry (actor Roscoe Orman), excited to meet Ali, shows up and what unfolds over the course of the story is a young man confident in his skills as a fighter, yet uncertain about his skills as a husband, a Muslim and a man.

The Ali (actor Eddie Ray Jackson) we meet here is young and naïve, but not so naïve as to ignore the hovering vultures that are waiting for his fall. He’d just married Sonji Clay (actress Katherine Renee Turner), who is not Muslim, but the two love each other. We meet Rashid (actor Jefferson A. Russell), who serves as doorman and bodyguard.

Everyone wants something from Ali; at one point he asks Perry if he can just be his friend. Ali has heard that Johnson had this magical knockout punch and he wants Perry to teach it to him. Perry denies knowing what Ali wants and refuses – the punch is not something one has to learn. It is a part of our African American legacy.

In Will Power’s play, which looks at the relationship Perry had with Ali, we learn that judgment belongs to the creator, not to creation. “Fetch Clay” is a libation to Step, the first Black Hollywood actor whose career remains unrecognized by those who fail to see the man behind the mask.

The play is up at the Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, (415) 388-5208 or www.marintheatre.org, through Sept. 7. Listen to an interview with cast members Katherine Renee Turner, Eddie Ray Jackson and Roscoe Orman, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/08/29/wandas-picks-radio-show.

World Premiere of Barry ‘Shabaka’ Henley’s ‘Mingus Remixed’ Sept. 5-6

“Mingus Remixed” is a musical exploration of the life and myth of composer and jazz bassist Charles Mingus, telling the unknown story of one of America’s greatest musicians. It is also a tribute presented in cabaret style, featuring his music and original compositions and telling the unknown story of one of America’s greatest composers. The setting is Mingus’ deathbed, Jan. 4, 1979, which exists in the parallel universe of the Cosmic Note Jazz Club. We find Charles in a wheelchair, age 56, taking his last 10 breaths before dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). In his crossing over, he must come to terms with life, death, art, and the blessing and burden of blackness in our white-dominated society.

When Shabaka originally approached Lorraine Hansberry Theater Artistic Director Steven Anthony Jones with his idea for “Mingus Remixed,” he wanted to present it here in San Francisco, because this is where he grew up and first fell in love with acting. He shared the stage with Steven back in the ‘80s in two one-acts, Athol Fugard’s “The Island” and “Every Moment” by OyamO, at the Eureka Theatre. Long-time Bay Area theatre aficionados fondly remember Shabaka as the titular protagonist in the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 1981 hit musical, “Factwino meets the Moral Majority.” He was also a member of Nora Vaughn’s Berkeley Black Repertory Theatre.

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Shabaka Henley

In the years since leaving The City for Hollywood, he’s found great success in both films and television. In a part that perhaps foreshadowed his role as Charles Mingus, he played a sensitive jazz musician living on borrowed time opposite Tom Cruise in “Collateral.” He also played Muhammad Ali’s manager, Jabir Herbert Muhammad, in Michael Mann’s biopic, “Ali,” starring Will Smith.

When he decided to return to live performance with “Mingus Remixed,” his first thoughts were that he simply had to come back home to San Francisco for the world premiere and, given his history with Steven Anthony Jones, he knew that the historic Lorraine Hansberry Theatre was just the right fit.

“Mingus Remixed” by Barry “Shabaka” Henley, directed by Delroy Lindo, is at the Creativity Theatre at the Children’s Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum), 221 Fourth St. at Howard, San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 6, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 – $50

Listen to Shabaka, a wonderful interviewee, on Wanda’s Picks Radio, at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/09/05/wandas-picks-radio-show-fred-ho-tribute-shabakas-mingus-remixed.

‘Struggle for a New World: Fred Ho Memorial Tribute’ Sept. 7

Fred Ho was a wonderful human being whose work as an artist changed lives. His work on Russell Maroon Shoats’ defense, the “Scientific Soul Sessions,” plus his numerous compositions – Ho awesome on baritone sax – is legendary, as was his exit from this realm after a long bout with cancer. Fred Ho’s artistic collaborators, ranging from composers, musicians, poets, singers, storytellers and activists, have come together to pay homage to this great baritone saxophone-composer, cultural activist, teacher, author, pioneer and legend. The event, on Sept. 7, 2-4:30 p.m., at Oakland Asian Cultural Center, 388 Ninth St., Suite 290, Oakland, is open and free to the public with a suggested donation of $10 or more to help defray the cost of the event.

Mary Yuri Kochiyama (May 19, 1921-June 1, 2014)

I was thinking about my dear sister, Yuri Kochiyama, when she made her ascension early Saturday, June 1 in the arms of her beloved daughter Audee. My friend Zakkiyah and I picked up a present for her and a card and went by the Berkeley convalescent home where Yuri spent her final years of her life.

I’d visited her before, found her asleep and left before she awakened, but this time, she woke up and we enjoyed watching her enjoy her meal when Shukuru, another family friend, came by. I think the glow from that morning lasted for weeks after. I was so sorry I missed getting by that last time, but I am happy that I do have the last memory, one of many of Yuri over the years.

At the wonderful conclusion of the Northern California on her birthday May 19 and spent a wonderful time with her daughter and family friend.

On a beautiful Sunday in Oakland family and friends of Yuri Kochiyama gathered to pay tribute to a life well lived. I knew when I woke up what I wanted to give to Audee, Yuri’s daughter, whom I have met over the years and admired for her wonderful loving care of her mother. As Yuri’s body gave in to the travails of time, Audee made reasonable adjustments to Yuri’s living arrangements, putting off the time when Mom might not be able to live independently.

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This photo of Yuri and her family was displayed at the memorial.

Yuri’s last years were spent in Berkeley at a lovely nursing home, Chaparral, which seemed to agree with Yuri, the staff loving, kind and attentive to her needs. Sunday afternoon Yuri pins flew off tables as we pinned the sepia tone buttons on jacket lapels. A little more than two hours, Yuri’s memorial brought together the old guard and the new: Hank Jones and Richard Brown (SF 8), Emory Douglass and Arnold Perkins and Mrs. Perkins, Terry Collins, Melvin Dixon and Yuri’s lovely family – son, daughter, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

High school sophomore Kai Kochiyama shared her impressions of grandmother, her superhero. She spoke of doing research on her grandmother and learning much the next time she saw her; she admitted being a bit nervous. I wonder if Yuri knew how high the bar was she was setting for the next generation.

Her younger cousins, Leilani, Mali and Kenji, shared a reading from their grandmother’s “My Creed,” written in 1939. In it, Yuri speaks about codes of conduct, one of which is to look inside first when there is something external troubling one’s soul. Some of the lessons reminded me of the Husnia or sayings from Kemet – Kemet the physical, moral and ethical code for mankind.

I knew what I wanted to give to Audee, Yuri’s daughter, when I awoke Sunday morning from a strange tale. It was a book mark with Maat’s image along with a quote and list of some of the virtues, key ones: truth, justice, righteousness, all qualities Yuri exemplified.

Just coming up for air after spending the weekend writing a paper for my Liberation Psychologies class on Brazilian educator and theoretician Paulo Freire in light of Yuri’s life and work, she really is a true revolutionary whose greatest gift to us is her clear-sightedness and love. Angela Y. Davis put it really succinctly when she said if Yuri were in the room, she would be deflecting praise and accolades.

The two women were invited to participate in a series of conversations. Davis chose Yuri, but Yuri waffled because she couldn’t understand why Davis would choose her. Davis said Yuri made the political personal. Yuri was known to jot down names and numbers and write prisoners daily. When I visited her on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland, the last place she was able to live alone, I saw stacks of envelopes and mail on the table and, on the walls, photos of Yuri with comrades throughout the world. Brother Hank Jones brought to the memorial a large painting of Yuri.

Not many of us can do what Yuri accomplished, reach out to those who have no one and hold on, but she did that for many, many comrades still behind Jericho walls. Even when she began to forget or lose site of the details – names, faces, context – Yuri would still maintain her solidarity with those behind bars.

The teach-ins this weekend were a perfect Yuri touch. Of course this is an opportunity to mobilize others to action, not a time to weep. So when family friend Karl Jagbandhansingh played a bit of a song Yuri liked, then spoke, his was the voice of the revolutionary Yuri – without a doubt. The same is true of her friend Nobuko Myamoto, who spoke of visiting Yuri and mentioning that Dr. Mutulu Shakur was getting out soon, said the words gave Yuri’s voice clarity as she, in that moment had both a past and a future. The New Yorkers were in the house – strong. Greg Morozumi, visual artist, said with Yuri’s passing he lost two of his best friends and heroes. Yuri was Greg’s mentor. I think she is responsible for his move from New York to California.

The New York contingent was present, family and friends, so we got to see Yuri’s breadth and reach across the country and globe as stories via film showed how the plight of the oppressed people looked the same because the enemy looked the same. I heard Yuri’s grandchildren and children and friends speak of how her ability to connect the struggles of Black Americans to Asian Americans and how Japanese and others, including gay, lesbian and transgender people too, were beneficiaries of the Civil Rights and subsequent movements, which left them with a debt that is ongoing.

In the conversation in the film clip shared “Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama directed by C.A. Griffin and H.L.T. Quan, Yuri speaks of Chairman Mao sheltering Robert F. Williams when the United States was no longer safe for him; she also speaks about the laws against Japanese citizens and Ho Chi Man’s Vietnam.

Musicians Charlie Chin played “Song for Aichi” by Chris Iijima; Arisika Razak performed a piece for the first time in a kimono for Yuri, whose photo was prominent on stage – presente! Other musical tributes included “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” from the Nina Simone songbook, sung by Kim Nalley with Akira Tana (drums), Bob Kenmotsu (sax), Mark Isu (bass), Tammy Lynn Hall (keyboards). The ensemble performed a piece composed by Akira Tana – “Forever Yuri Blues” with Kenmotsu and Izu, Tana joined by Keny Endo on taiko. The dueling drums were a fitting way for the ceremony to end – for now, as the tribute continues in Los Angeles later in August and in New York in September.

I hadn’t known Yuri and her husband Bill’s son Billy (who died young) participated in Freedom Summer. In a clip from the film, “My America … or Honk If You Love Buddha,” directed by Renee Tajima-Pena, we see the Kochiyamas visit the women whose home sheltered their son. The woman spoke of the 10 youth from the North and how they would go to a local segregated restaurant daily and try to sit at the counter. Yuri then shared a letter she wrote to James Cheney, the 19-year-old Black man who was killed with Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. It was raining that afternoon and as Yuri read the letter she wrote over Cheney’s grave, her husband held an umbrella over his wife so she wouldn’t get wet.

There were many Yuri moments shared both on screen and off, which made the day one that gave a picture of Yuri that showed her thoughtfulness, tenacity and love for the people, a love which never flagged, dipped or ever stopped – even when her memory worried her. I remember her asking me to write my name and address in her tablet so that she would remember I had visited her later on when I left. For a clip of the film which looks at the Kochiyamas’ visit to Mississippi and the Davis home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApSa2_SW9rw.

Eddie Kochiyama, her son, said that when Malcolm X would visit their home, his mother sent the younger kids to the movies, so big sister Audee was the only one who got to meet him (smile). One never knows the impact her life will have on her children, but Yuri knew. She lived long enough to see this legacy of change and caring and hope across the generations that are her family – the notion of family larger than those who share her blood. Yet this aspect of her legacy, the children she bore and those they bore is also one which made her proud.

It was evident in the hall and throughout the weekend, which included various stops along the “Black August Passin’ It On” tour with stops in Oakland and San Jose, with Dhoruba bin Wahad, former field secretary of the New York Black Panther Party, co-founder of the Black Liberation Army, former political prisoner and prisoner of war, author of “Still Black, Still Strong” (1993), subject of the documentary film, “Passin’ It On” (2001), and the book, “The Savage City: Race, Murder, and a Generation on the Edge” (2011), by T.J. English and Ernesto Vigil, former vice chairman of the Crusade for Justice under Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales, author of “The Crusade For Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government’s War on Dissent” (1999), featured in the documentaries: “Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement” (1996) and “Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle” (2014).

Here is the memorial information for Los Angeles, where Yuri grew up, and New York, where she honed her revolutionary skills (smile):

  • Sunday, Aug. 31, 2-4:30 p.m., at the Aratani Japan America Theatre, 244 South San Pedro St., between Second and Third Streets, Los Angeles
  • Saturday, Sept. 27, 5-7:30 p.m., First Corinthian Baptist Church, 1912 Adam C. Powell Blvd, New York

23nd Annual San Francisco Fringe Festival, Sept. 5-20

The 23nd Annual San Francisco Fringe Festival provides stunning, surprising indie theater: 150 performances, 35 shows, 14 days. Check outBlues for Charles,” “Damaged: the Musical” and “Campo Maldito.” Tickets for the 14-day festival are $10 or less at the door (cash only) and $12.99 or less online. The 10-show Frequent Fringer pass is $75, and a five-show pass is $45. The Exit Theatreplex is within walking distance of Union Square and the Powell Street BART station. For complete listings of venues, shows and times, go to www.sffringe.org or call 415-673-3847.

Berkeley world musicians converge on Telegraph Avenue

A dazzling array of music – from Balkan harmonies, South American rhythms and Japanese flute to African marimba, Klezmer and Zydeco – bring joyful sounds to Telegraph when Bay Area’s international musicians return to Telegraph Avenue for the FREE Berkeley World Music Festival. Now in its 11th year, the festival launches its first autumn celebration on both Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 20-21, starting at noon.

Saturday features a wonderful mix of café music, from noon to 9 p.m., as well as the acclaimed People’s Park Concert, 1-6 p.m., sponsored by Amoeba Music. On Sunday, the festival turns into a street fair carnival from noon to 6 p.m., between Dwight Way and Durant Avenue, for the season finale of “Sundays on Telegraph” and features a main stage concert and gatherings of music, circus entertainment and a benefit beer garden. Pick up a program guide at the information booth on Telegraph at Haste Street, near UC Berkeley.

Berkeley World Music Festival showcases the Bay Area’s rich world music scene. People’s Park Concert headliners begin with the exciting opening act La Misa Negra playing vintage Columbian dance hall music packed with a cabaret of horns, vocals and punk rock energy. Then West Coast favorite SambaDá arrives with their carnival of Brazilian Afro-Samba Funk dance music, capped by the acclaimed Marcus James and the Wassonrai offering hypnotic sounds in which Delta Blues meets West Africa. People’s Park festivities, from noon to 6 p.m., include a colorful Crafts Bazaar and exhibition performances by both UCA Capoeira and All Nations Singers and Dancers.

For Sunday’s featured street fair concert Sadza Marimba opens with joyful Zimbabwean dance music. Then, Moroccan singer Bouchaib Abdelhadi and Friends present Middle Eastern riffs accented by a performing troupe from DanceVersity. The festival closes with Baraka Moon’s ecstatic Sufi Trance dance music, featuring charismatic singer Sukhawat Ali Khan and KPFA host Stephen Kent, premiere exponent of the didgeridoo.

Throughout the weekend visitors will also be treated to an intimate world music tour featuring renowned innovators in their respective fields. The Ulysses Trio,with alluring chanteuse Melanie O’Reilly, sax player George Brooks and keyboardist-arranger Frank Martin, blend Gaelic music with Jazz, making their Northern California debut at BWMF. Virtuoso ambassador Karl Young playing Shakuhachi flute journeys through Japan’s folk and Buddhist traditions.

Cultural Chicano icon Dr. Loco cuts loose with Tex-Mex. True Life Trio, who first met as members of Kitka, weaves vocal harmonies from the Balkans and beyond. Quijeremá, with award winning Chilean-born film score composer QuiQue Cruz, infuse their signature music with ancient roots (Latin American Folk and Jazz). Street artist treasure Michael Masley plays celestial music on his invented “Kalimbalom” and “Eggdawn Autoharp.”

With Back40 (Americana Roots), Cypress Grooves (Cajun and Zydeco), Keenan Webster Duo (West African Kora), Reinhardt Swing (Gypsy Jazz), Simcha (Klezmer), plus a noon-6 p.m. crafts fair, Kids Zone and visitor activities, there’s something for everyone. For more information, visit www.berkeleyworldmusic.org.

Strong Girls Rule Film Series

Berkeley Public Library presents a free three-part film discussion series called “Strong Girls Rule,” celebrating women in sport and highlighting some of our exceptional local athletes. Each session will include a film screening followed by discussion and Q&A with a range of special guests, including local filmmaker Robert “Fleetwood” Bowden, members of the McClymonds High School Lady Warriors basketball team, and Commodore Stephanie Evans of Berkeley’s Cal Sailing Club. Teens are especially encouraged to attend.

The second part of the series takes place on Saturday, Sept. 6, at 3 p.m. at the South Branch, 1901 Russell St., with a screening of the short documentary, “I Just Wanna Ball” (30 min.) followed by conversation and Q&A with the film’s director, Robert Bowden, and members of the McClymonds High School Lady Warriors basketball team. Attendees will be moved and empowered by the determination and focus of these positive and powerful young women.

The series concludes on Saturday, Sept. 13,at 3 p.m. in the third floor Community Meeting Room of the Central Library, 2090 Kittredge St., with a screening of the newly released documentary “Derby Crazy Love” (68 min.) directed by Canadian filmmakers Maya Gallus and Justine Pimlott. This exciting documentary provides an in-depth look at the history of women’s roller derby and a portrait of the Montréal derby team The New Skids on the Block. Please note that this film contains strong language and adult themes which may not be suitable for children. The screening will be followed by discussion and Q&A with representatives of Berkeley’s Cruz Skate Shop and the Bay Area Derby Girls (schedules permitting).

This free program is sponsored by the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library (www.berkeleylibraryfriends.org). For questions regarding this program, call 510-981-6241 or visit the library’s website: www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org.

‘Deaf Louder’: The second Bay Area Deaf Dance Festival proudly celebrates deaf culture

Everyone was so excited. It’s not every day that the deaf and hearing impaired are the majority both on and off stage, but Aug. 8-10 they were. Appropriately entitled “Deaf Louder,” it really was louder. Speakers faced the audience and stage so the dancers could feel the vibrations and so could the audience. When a performer was exceptional, people stomped their feet on the floor as they waved their hands in the air. Hm, I wonder if the hip hop gesture is a cultural blend between the hearing and deaf?

Epiphany-Productions-Sonic-Dance-Theater’s-Antoine-Hunter-by-Afshin-Odabaee-web, Wanda’s Picks for September 2014, Culture Currents
Antoine Hunter – Photo: Afshin Odabaee

Lighting played a larger role in the performances as two rap artists performed together. Fred Beam closed the program – his ensemble featured male dancers and a female interpreter who moved and signed. There were films and dancers who performed in front of a filmed backdrop. I really liked the cinematography, juxtaposed with the dancer, both on and off the screen, in each of these performances, which were amazing. There was a lot of signing mixed in with the dance.

One couple who are hearing children born of deaf parents, CODA, performed a top 10 hits as the audience signed along and sang too. They were great. Another dancer, from England, performed Michael Jackson’s work – he had the moves down (smile). The dancer would alternately change his shirt or take it off; later returning, sometimes immediately, to perform a duet. He was really good in this form of dance as well.

When Michele Banks gave an excerpt from her play using American Sign Language without supertitles for the hearing audience, we who were basically clueless on what was going on could in that moment understand how deaf audiences feel most of the time. It would have been nice though had included us in the (lengthy) performance, since obviously the hearing audience was an ally. It was the same with chorographer Fred Beam, who used ASL to introduce each of his performances before they began. I couldn’t understand a word.

At the end of the concert, I just left after speaking to Joy Elan, who was selling her book in the lobby. She delivered two really powerful poems, one in ASL; the other poem won third prize in Oakland’s Got Talent. She used both her voice and ASL. In both cases she acknowledged her audiences’ communication skills, and we never felt ignored or excluded. All presenters can take a leaf from Ms. Elan’s book.

Antoine Hunter, the host and presenter of “Deaf Louder,” is also a great example of inclusion. No matter how hard he has had to work to participate in a hearing dominated society, he never takes it out on his audience. Rather he always leaves us with more tools, tools that draw the two communities, deaf and hearing, together. “Deaf Louder” was such an experience, despite the periods of wandering lost in space – silent space (smile). To help with next year’s performance, visit http://antoinehunter.blogspot.com/ and http://urbanjazzdance.com/site/.

The next day I was off to the country of New York (smile). Felt like Africa, muggy or humid weather, flash rain, lots of Black people – in Harlem near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Malcolm X Avenue. It was a perfect choice to finally read Maya Angelou’s “Heart of a Woman.” I remember when Talib told me about this book and that I should read it. I am really enjoying the history lesson. Angelou was a gutsy woman with a son and family that made existing on the edge both exciting and perilous. Whether that was politics or art, Angelou certainly had a way of being in the right place at the right time, yet the wisdom to know when to move on.

I just wondered how she could remember all these conversations with Billie Holiday, John Oliver Killens, Martin King, Bayard Rustin. If August Wilson’s 10-play cycle is testament to African Americans in this formative century in this country’s history, certainly Angelou lived this history. Her stories or life cycle on the literary and social front page bring the characters Wilson created into our homes once again. Wilson’s more memorable characters men – the women more iconic and supportive than stars, while Angelou and her sisters certainly reign supreme in her multiple text saga.

Wilson once told a woman who critiqued him harshly for his portrayal of the female characters – specifically at that time Rena in “Jitney” at a Lorraine Hansberry Theatre workshop production – to write those characters’ stories. His story was not hers, but that did not negate the importance of writing the breadth of the African American experience.

September at the Oakland Zoo: Grandparents Day

Come celebrate Grandparents Day, Sunday, Sept. 7, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at Oakland Zoo! All grandparents will receive a free ride on the Outback Express Adventure Train (limit: one ride per grandparent). What better way to spend time with your grandchildren than strolling through the zoo to see our amazing animals and learning at the same time? Have a picnic lunch, enjoy the Wayne and Gladys Valley Children’s Zoo and ride the Conservation Carousel in Adventure Landing. Make the day a memorable one at Oakland Zoo. Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland. For more information, go to www.oaklandzoo.org or call 510-632-9525.

Teddy Bear Tea Party with Friends

It’s tea time at Oakland Zoo on Sunday, Sept. 14, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m., and families are invited. Bring an adult and child, bring a stuffie and learn all about one of the zoo’s sun bears. Program activities include snacks, activities, books and play. Plus, participants will create and deliver an enrichment gift to the sun bears. When the fun is done, your child will receive a surprise-filled treat bag to take home. Program fee is $23 for current Oakland Zoo members and $26 for non-members. Pre-registration is required. For more info, contact Paula Booth at 510-623-9525, ext. 220 or educationreservations@oaklandzoo.org. Please park in the Lower Parking Lot and proceed up the ramp to Maddie’s Center for Science and Environmental Education, Classroom 4.

5th Annual Oakland Senior Summer Free Day

Oakland residents 65 and over receive free admission to the Oakland Zoo on Monday, Sept. 15, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Seniors must have valid identification and must be residents of Oakland. Oakland Zoo’s Senior Summer Free Days are in partnership with Oakland City Councilmember Larry Reid. Parking is free to Oakland seniors. All other guests must pay regular admission.

‘A Future for Cheetahs’

Oakland Zoo’s Conservation Speaker Series presents “A Future for Cheetahs,” Thursday, Sept. 18, 6:30-9 p.m.Cheetah populations have plummeted from 100,000 to 10,000 in Africa in the last century, and the world’s fastest land mammal is facing extinction. Please join Dr. Laurie Marker, founder of the Cheetah Conservation Fund, and renowned photographer, Suzi Eszterhas, for a special evening at Oakland Zoo. Dr. Marker has spent the last 20 years working to save Cheetahs and has written “A Future for Cheetahs,” with striking photography by Ms. Eszterhas. This engaging presentation will present the problems facing the cheetah and the hope for its future.

Come learn how humans and cheetahs can live in peace and how we can all be part of saving the cheetah from extinction. Location: Oakland Zoo’s Clorox Wildlife Theater (outdoor venue), free parking in the Zoo’s lower parking lot. Program fee: $12-$20 sliding scale. Tickets may be purchased at the door. Please dress accordingly for outdoor amphitheater. Appetizers and wine will be served. For more info, contact Conservation Director Amy Gotliffe at 510-632-9525, ext. 122 or amy@oaklandzoo.org. Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, www.oaklandzoo.org.

Arroyo Viejo Creek Crew Work Day

Spend the morning volunteering! Come to Arroyo Viejo Creek on Saturday, Sept. 20, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., and experience the local habitat while helping it thrive. Grab your gardening gloves and help clean up the creek. The work happens in rain or shine, so please come prepared. Volunteers should bring water, snacks and wear close-toed shoes that can get dirty. Gloves and tools will be provided, but other gardening tools are appreciated. One adult chaperone is required for every four youth volunteers 13 years of age and younger, as well as one adult chaperone for every eight youth volunteers between 14 and 18 years of age. Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland. The creek is located to the right of the main entrance. Meet at the Arroyo Viejo Creek sign. RSVPs are appreciated. Contact Katie Desmond at 510-632-9525, ext. 207, or kdesmond@oaklandzoo.org.

ZooKids: Dens, Domiciles and Dwellings

Oakland-Zoo-Camp-2013, Wanda’s Picks for September 2014, Culture Currents Does your little one love animals? ZooKids classes are a great way for children age 4-5 to have a fun and educational adventure at the zoo. Class description: Would you like to sleep in the trees? Maybe in a nice warm pond? Or how about in a hole underground? Explore all the different places that animals call home and help make a special enrichment item for some of the animals who make their homes at your zoo. Each program includes a mini zoo tour, craft, games, animal close-up and snack.

ZooKids classes are held on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., beginning Sept. 20. Each ZooKids class is offered twice per month to accommodate more participants. Each month has a different theme and classes are designed so that children can come to multiple classes without repeating the same activities. Pre-registration is required. Program fee is $26. For more information, go to www.oaklandzoo.org or call 510-632-9525.

Zoovie Night at Oakland Zoo

Put on your jammies and enjoy an evening of Zoovie magic with the whole family on Saturday, Sept. 26, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Bring your pillows, blankets and chairs and snuggle up in our auditorium for “Turbo.” Meet some of our nocturnal education animals brought to you by Roosevelt, Oakland Zoo’s costumed alligator mascot. Hot chocolate (with marshmallows, of course) and popcorn will be provided, but you are welcome to bring your own treats and traditional family movie fare. Let the show begin! $7 per adult and $7 per child to cover the costs of the Animal close-up program and snacks. If your group has 4 or more people, the price is $6 per adult and $6 per child. Note that the movies are a complimentary addition to the evening’s activities. Pre-registration is required. Email educationreservations@oaklandzoo.org or call (510) 632-9525, ext. 220. Oakland Zoo is located at 9777 Golf Links Road, Oakland, CA 94605. To learn more visit www.oaklandzoo.org or call (510) 632-9525.

San Quentin’s Brothers in Pen at YBCA and our Annual Public Reading Sept. 18 and Nov. 15

There are two events coming up for Brothers in Pen. First, the Prison Arts Project has been featured in the BAN7 show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the San Quentin Creative Writing class is participating in the event by having a reading on Sept. 18, 7-8 p.m. Some former members of the class who are no longer incarcerated will be there to read stories of those still inside, followed by time for Q&A at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St. at Third Street, San Francisco.

The Brothers in Pen Annual Public Reading is Saturday, Nov. 15, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at San Quentin. Each member of the class will read a five-minute piece, and there will be time for Q&A. These public readings are said to be “engaging, lively and unforgettable.” Please contact zoe@churchofthesojourners.org by Oct. 15 to give plenty of time for clearances.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wanda@wandaspicks.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 7 a.m. and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.