Wanda’s Picks for October 2014

by Wanda Sabir

Blood Moon

On Wednesday, Oct. 8, between 1:17 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., view the eclipse of the moon. Called the blood moon because of its red hue, it should be pretty spectacular and, weather permitting, you can see it all from Oakland: http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/usa/oakland. There will be a partial solar eclipse Oct. 23 also visible from Oakland.

Maafa-2014-web, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents

Maafa Commemoration 2014

This is just a reminder that Sunday, Oct. 12, marks our 19th Annual Maafa Commemoration. This is a time when we gather to remember our African ancestors, especially those who endured the transatlantic slave trade or the Middle Passage, the Black Holocaust. It is a time for Pan Africans to gather and celebrate life and recommit ourselves to the work of liberation: spiritual, psychological, economic and political.

We have our 501(c)(3) now, so if anyone wants to make an endowment or give us property like a building or car or van, you can write it off (smile). The ritual is as always here in the Bay at Ocean Beach, Fulton at the Great Highway. It starts before sunrise, about 5:30 or so. Wear white, dress warmly – so if your warm clothes are not white, wear them (smile) – bring your kids, instruments, breakfast items to share, flowers for the ancestors (white and red for the Ritual of Forgiveness), blankets to sit on or chairs.

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Maafa 2013 – Photo: Anyika Nkululeko

We can always use more chairs and tables for the food. If you’d like to carpool, especially if you can pick up people who are traveling from as far away as Vallejo, Sacramento, maybe Los Angeles, Oakland, Hayward, Alameda, let us know. We can use donations to pay Urban Shield (security) and to rent the port-a-potty. A few people are carrying all the costs. If you’d like to help, especially with 2015, drop me a line: maafasfbayarea.com@gmail.com. We still need a rehearsal space for the Ritual. Visit http://maafasfbayarea.com or call 641-715-3900, ext. 36800#.

‘Be Still Retreat’

The “Be Still Retreat,” a place for Black people specifically to learn about self-care and stress reduction, is Saturday, Oct. 4, 10-4; at 9 a.m. there is a mindfulness walk. Sponsored by Black Women’s Media Project, it’s in a new location: Mills College in the Graduate School of Business (GSB) building. 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. To attend, call 510-834-5990. It is a free event.

Day of Prayer for Mental Health

Alameda County Mental Health Awareness Annual Day of Prayer is Tuesday, Oct. 7, 8-9 a.m., at 1221 Oak St. There will be representation by diverse faiths, observance of Japanese crane, a proclamation by the Board of Supervisors, and refreshments. The goal will be to lift up those in need of mental wellness support, prayer and love, especially African American males.

The Spirituality Factor Conference

The following week is the Spirituality Factor Conference: Weaving Spirituality and Behavior Health Using Evidence on Oct. 9 and 10 in Oakland at Allen Temple Family Life Center, 8501 International Blvd. Go to www.mhspirit.org to learn more and get registered to attend.

The title of my presentation is: “Where Is Home for the Pan African as Exemplified through the Baseball Metaphor Jackie Robinson and Home Plate.”

‘Traveling While Black’

After a rockin’ debut in March of 2013, Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe’s “Adventures of a Black Girl: Traveling While Black” returns to the Brava Studio, 2781 24th St., San Francisco, for a full run, Oct. 3-26. With direction and design by Jose Maria Francos, “TWB” is part travelogue, part history lesson, part stand-up comedy and based on a lifetime of travel as a touring artist. Based on treks through Europe, the Americas and Africa, “TWB” is part travelogue and part history lesson and seeks to exploit the tensions between tourism and colonialism as it interrogates boundaries and reveals cultural connects and disconnects.

Inspired by Langston Hughes’ “I Wonder As I Wander,” “TWB” examines the post-slavery condition of Black travel, both fanciful and forced. “TWB” is part of a trilogy of plays by Cooper-Anifowoshe. The first production of the trilogy, “Adventures of a Black Girl in Search of Academic Clarity and Inclusion,” has been published in the anthology “solo/black/woman” by Northwestern University Press. For information, visit brava.org or call 415-641-7657.

Mill Valley Film Festival

Timbuktu, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents

The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival is Oct. 2-12, http://www.mvff.com/. Films of African Diaspora interest include: “Timbuktu,” dir. Abderrahmane Sissako (“Bamako”). This new film takes place during the Jihadist takeover in 2012, recounting events influenced by a public stoning of an unmarried couple. Selected to compete for the Palm d‘Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, it won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Francois Chalais Prize. Screens Sunday, Oct. 5, at 1:45 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center; Monday, Oct. 6, at 3 p.m. at Sequoia. “The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375,” dir. Omar el Zohairy. This short film from Egypt follows the aftermath of a single sneeze, which takes on Kafkaesque proportions for a government official. Screens as part of 5@5 Round and Round on Monday, Oct. 6, at 1:30 p.m. at Sequoia; Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 9:15 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center.

Black and White,” dir. Mike Binder. After the deaths of his wife and daughter, an attorney (Kevin Costner) becomes entangled in a custody battle with his biracial granddaughter’s paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer). This hopeful film explores a volatile discussion in American life and aims straight for the heart. Screens Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center. “Finding the Gold Within,” dir. Karina Epperlein. Bay Area filmmaker Karina Epperlein follows six African American college freshmen, alumni of the unique Ohio mentoring program Alchemy, Inc., and well-equipped with self-confidence and critical-thinking skills, as they leave home for the first time. Cast: Kwame Scruggs, Jerry Kwame Williams, Darius Simpson, Brandyn Costa, Stacee Starr, Shawntrail Smith. Screens Friday, Oct. 3, at 8 p.m. at Lark theater; Saturday, Oct. 4, at 8p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center.

“F R E E,” dirs. Suzanne LaFetra and David Collier. A feature length documentary following five teens through a year in an Oakland dance program. Their journey in the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company reveals how collaborative art can be a foundation for personal discovery, turning the courage, determination and stamina demanded of their lives into a contagious joy. Screens Saturday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m. at 142 Throckmorton; Sunday, Oct. 12, at 2:30 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center. “Gardeners of Eden,” dir. Austin Peck. Even in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, elephants aren’t safe from poachers. The surging price of ivory has given rise to organized gangs that hunt and kill these majestic creatures for their tusks, usually leaving orphans in their wake. Continuously on the lookout and always ready to come to the rescue, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has a well-established protocol for transporting and caring for the traumatized baby elephants and, just as crucially, a remarkable record of successfully reintroducing them to the wild. Screens Saturday, Oct. 4, at 2 p.m. at Sequoia; Sunday, Oct. 5, at 4:45 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center; Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 11:45 a.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center.

How I Got Over,” dir. Nicole Boxer. This documentary follows a group of women, all residents of the Washington, D.C., recovery community, N Street Village, as they prepare to turn their harrowing life stories into a theater piece that will be performed at the Kennedy Center. Screens Sunday, Oct. 5, at 7:45 p.m. at Sequoia; Thursday, Oct. 9, at 2:45 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center; Saturday, Oct. 11, at 8:30 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center. “Imperial Dreams,” dir. Malik Vitthal. In its electrifying debut, “Imperial Dreams,” winner of The Best of Next award at Sundance, aspiring novelist Bambi returns to his Watts neighborhood after two years in prison to extricate himself and his young son from their criminally compromised family. Screens Saturday, Oct. 4, at 5:30 p.m. at Lark theater; Sunday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center. Wednesday, Oct. 8, at 11:30 a.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center. “Soleils,” dir. Oliver Delahaye. Part road trip through time, part heroine’s journey through memory, “Soleils” is a beautifully rendered meditation on the wisdom of Africa, as a young woman is initiated into the roots and legacy of her heritage. Screens Saturday, Oct. 11, at 5 p.m. at Sequoia; Sunday, Oct. 12, at 5:15 p.m. at Smith Rafael Film Center.

Día do los Muertos

The “Visions at Twilight: Día de los Muertos 2014” group exhibition runs Saturday, Oct. 11 through Saturday, Nov. 8 at SomArts, 934 Brannan St. between Eighth and Ninth, San Francisco. The opening event is Friday, Oct. 10, 6-9 p.m., $12-$15 sliding scale admission. The exhibition unveiling features live music by Rupa, interactive installations and a Día de los Muertos inspired artist market. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday 12-7 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.–3 p.m. Cost: Free admission during gallery hours. Information: http://www.somarts.org/visionsattwilight/.

To listen to an interview with artist Candi Farlice about her piece this year which looks at the politics of the Black male body, go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/09/26/wandas-picks-radio-show-dia-de-los-muertos. See “Candi Farlice: Musings from an Artist’s Life,” currently at the Main Library, 100 Larkin, San Francisco, African American Center, Third Floor, through Oct. 16. Visit http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=1017575901.

The-Tempest, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents

African American Shakespeare Company presents ‘The Tempest’

The time is 2020, the place is a trash island in the middle of the ocean. Prospero, the former CEO of SYCORAX, a multi-product industrial conglomerate based in Milan, charged with polluting the environment, lands here when his ship capsizes. Directed by Nancy Carlin and starring Michael Gene Sullivan as Prospero, “The Tempest” inaugurates the 20th anniversary season – 2014-‘15 – of the award-winning African American Shakespeare Company. The last time we saw “The Tempest” was in 2001, a full 13 years ago.

With his daughter Miranda in tow, along with the single inhabitant of the island, Caliban, and an application/personal assistant called Ariel that he builds from reclaimed circuitry and other detritus, Prospero begins his campaign of holographic manifestations and manipulation of weather patterns to help settle the score.

The staging of the play also touches on topical environmental themes. “We set this production on an island of garbage in the middle of the ocean,” says Callender, “because there is such a place, several of them actually, these massive structures floating in our oceans. What if they are creating their own life forms? Could a Caliban be a result? We were interested in stretching our imaginations and the imaginations of our audiences, young and old.”

The play runs Oct. 18-Nov. 9, Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday matinee at 3 p.m., at the Buriel Clay Theatre, African-American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$34: http://www.african-americanshakes.org/productions/the-tempest/.

To listen to an interview with Mr. Callender, director Nancy Carlin, and actress Ponder Goddard, who portrays Ariel, go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/09/26/wandas-picks-radio-show-dia-de-los-muertos.

Michael Gene Sullivan’s play, Recipe at Central Works Oct. 16-Nov. 23

Michael Gene Sullivan serves up the laughs in this delicious take on a circle of sweet old grandmotherly bakers, who just happen to be dedicated to the armed overthrow of the United States government. But baking pies and cakes isn’t enough to satisfy these four intrepid refugees from the ‘60s and their burning desire to “Up the Revolution!”

It’s one thing to say, “The government is probably listening to my calls,” but what do you do when you find out it’s true? If it seems that the government that you call “a fascist, surveillance state” has specifically targeted you, is specifically watching YOU (it’s not paranoia if they really are after you!), then what? How do you live your life knowing that all your fears may actually be true?

Performances are at the historic Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., Berkeley, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m. with post-show talk-backs on Oct. 19 and Nov. 9. Ticket prices: $28 online at centralworks.org, $28-$15 sliding scale at the door. Pay what you can at previews and every Thursday at the door as available. For reservations and information, call 510-558-1381 or visit centralworks.org.

‘The Morrie Movement: The Influence of “Wee Pals” Cartoonist Morrie Turner’

“The Morrie Movement: The Influence of ‘Wee Pals’ Cartoonist Morrie Turner” will follow Candi Farlice’s solo show this month at the African American Center of the San Francisco Main Library from Nov. 8, 2014, to Jan. 29, 2015, at 100 Larkin St. in San Francisco. The exhibit opening, with a panel discussion, will take place on Nov. 16, 1-3 p.m., in the Koret Auditorium. The exhibit is created and curated by Kheven LaGrone.

The Egungun: Elder Herman Ferguson

Herman-Ferguson, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents
Baba Herman Ferguson

Many trees have fallen in the forest this year, more recently Elder Herman Ferguson (Dec. 31, 1920-Sept. 25, 2014), whose comrade and age-mate, Yuri Kochiyama, passed a bit before, preceded by the much younger, yet fierce revolutionary composer, musician, designer and host of the Scientific Soul Sessions, Fred Ho (Aug. 10, 1957-April 12, 2014).

Both Iya Yuri and Brother Ferguson were 93. Baba Ferguson’s memoir, “An Unlikely Warrior, Herman Ferguson: Evolution of a Black Nationalist Revolutionary,” written with his wife Iyaluua Ferguson, a woman with over a half century of activism in the struggle for human rights and the liberation of Black people under her own belt, gives context to the marvelous history Baba Ferguson has lived, beginning with his early years in the then rural Southern town, Fayetteville, North Carolina, reared by a mother and father who valued education and, more importantly, taught their children to stand tall for their rights.

In between Mrs. Ferguson’s narration we have the voice of Elder Ferguson speaking about seeing Malcolm X the first time. Brother Malcolm was walking to a dais where he was to speak. Ferguson had heard him before, but never seen him live. The two men, he says, nodded to each other. Later Ferguson would head the education wing of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, this after much community organizing and work as assistant principal at PS 40 in Jamaica Queens, New York.

The educator speaks about a leadership training the OAAU hosted which graduated 10 students in its first class, Yuri Kochiyama one of those who received a certificate signed by Brother Malcolm, who was killed before the OAAU could host its next session. In the book, which is a quick yet satisfying read, we learn of the formation of the Republic of New Africa, what it means to stand trial when not only are your peers absent from the stand, so are your people. Truly prisoners of war, “Unlikely Warrior” speaks to this inconsistency.

Brother Herman says of this time when he decides after 19 years to return to New York from Guyana, “(He and his co-defendant, Arthur Harris) had been convicted in Queens of a 1967 plot to assassinate then NAACP head Roy Wilkins and Urban League Chairman Whitney Young, among other things. (They) were also accused in court on the morning after Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles of having a hit list that included his name! (Ferguson asks rhetorically), ‘What can I say? It was a no-win situation before an all-white, all-male jury. Lynch law was in full effect’” (230).

After retiring from his work as “architect of the Guyanese education system, founder of the country’s youth training service (the Guyana National Service, equivalent to the U.S. Job Corps), lieutenant colonel in the Guyana Defense Force (GDF),” he says, “There was no one to sit around with and talk about old times. There was no life for me” (234-235). At 68, he was in good shape, a fact the FBI agents who arrested him once his plane landed in New York, commented on. At his arraigning the day after his arrival and arrest, the courtroom was filled with comrades, fists raised, among them Yuri Kochiyama, two of his sons and others.

Brother Herman also says of his return that “when you believe in something, you stand and fight for it.” This is something Brother Malcolm told him when Ferguson asked him why he returned and kept returning when he knew it wasn’t safe.

“I had no illusions,” the activist, founder of Black Brotherhood Improvement Association (BBIA), an organization ideologically linked to Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X’s work of Black liberation, stated on his return. He knew “what was going to happen to me and what I would be able to accomplish if I came back. I was not going to be the Black knight on the black horse returning to save the day. But I would run no longer” (236).

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Herman and Iyaluua Ferguson

Herman Ferguson says he was fighting for economic justice and human rights. This was the call when he organized the Jamaica Rifle and Pistol Club Inc. so that the BBIA could protect itself from police violence. This was the motivation earlier when he successfully organized the Rochdale community to oppose a development project that did not offer jobs to residents nor plan to allow any of them to live there either.

I could just imagine seeing the shock on the faces of construction foremen arriving at work Sept. 5, 1963, to the sight of four men and a woman chained to cranes dangling precariously high above ground. If the workers started the machines the protestors could have fallen to their death (112-113). If the FBI hadn’t known the assistant principal’s name, they certainly knew it now (smile).

The men were arrested and when they went to court, Judge Bernard Dubin called them “‘patriots’ for their bold action and dismissed the charges” (112). The ancestors guided Brother Ferguson’s feet and he listened. There were so many times, he writes, where had he been present, let’s say in Attica, when the police shot all the leaders point blank, he would have been in that number. Even the way comrades escorted him back to this country, allowing media to put a hidden microphone on him so that they could monitor what happened to him if they were separated, all contributed to his safety.

The last time I saw Brother Herman was at the annual Dinner Tribute to the families of political prisoners in Harlem, the same day Brother Baraka was laid to rest in Newark. The salute to the wonderful couple was quite moving. Lynne Stewart was there with her husband. It was her first public appearance after her release. Pam Africa and her husband were also in attendance, as were Russell Maroon Shoat’s daughters and son. Robert H. King was there and so many others, like the couple’s great granddaughter who spoke about her great grandmother and being raised in the Black Liberation Movement and what that meant and how normal it was to know what she knew about nationhood and the state’s injunction against her people, and her right to self-defense.

Among his other legacies, Baba Ferguson formed the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee, was the administrator of the New Afrika Liberation Front, founding member along with Safiyah Bukari and Jalil Muntaqim of the National Jericho Movement, publisher of “Nation Time” and co-chair of the Queens chapter of National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA). He is the father of four, step-father of two, grandfather of 10, great-grandfather of 14. great-great-grandfather of two. Ashay.

Mr. Herman B. Ferguson’s memorial service is 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 4, at the Funeral Home, 1515 New Bern Ave., Raleigh, N.C. Moments of visitation with the family, 1-1:30 prior to the service: http://www.stevenlyonsfuneralhome.com/new_view.php?id=5343526.

Brother Syed Malik Al Khatib

I’m thankin’

I’m thankin’ each droplet of uninterrupted water

Washing, cleansing purifying me

Each ray of sun choosing me as the one

Beating upon my pores

Healin’ all my sores

Koren-with-her-father-Brother-Syed-Al-Khatib, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents
Koren with her father, Brother Syed Al Khatib

I’m thanking revelations conversations

With you on my side

Blessin’ this holy ride

Fillin’ illusions optical conclusions

Leavin’ me alone with you again

I’m thankin’ the sin

The scrapes and the falls

Allowin’ me to hear your calls

Givin’ me your holy name

Usin’ me the same way you usin’ creation

Humblin’ elevation

Dancing to the rhythm of your song

My life, our life, his life – a prayer in your palm

by Koren Clark

When I learned of Brother Syed Al Khatib’s transition, I was surprised. There is never time to prepare for such, especially when one is not close to the recently departed. So I hadn’t known of his illness over the past year(s); otherwise I would have certainly visited him. Alas, another ancestor whom I get to know more intimately once I have opportunity to read an obituary – I think about the conversations we could have had, that we will now have from alternative dimensions.

As African people, we know he is not gone and nothing is lost (smile). His family and friends who remain will serve as conduits to a wonderful man whose work in Black psychology, theology and philosophy is unparalleled. When one thinks about the scholarship that institutionalized Black psychology as a discipline, perhaps Dr. Al Khatib’s name does not ring a bell, but it should. He is the father of the discipline, his theoretical children – Dr. Wade Nobles one of the more popular or visible, yet Baba Wade certainly had company as the young Black scholars met then Dr. Cedric Clark at Stanford University, where his work looked at corporate media and its construction of Black image(s).

Dr.-Syed-Khatib, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents
Dr. Syed Khatib

Dr. Al Khatib’s journey was long, but perhaps not long enough for daughter Koren and his three grandchildren, ex-wives, brothers, sister and friends, yet, as a scholar, his work is well documented; all that needs to happen is to perhaps pull the essays together into a Syed Al Khatib Reader. Perhaps a graduate student at his alma mater, Michigan State University or where his work touched so many lives – Stanford University, San Francisco State University, Princeton etc., will take his voluminous work on as a graduate thesis? We’d all be more than grateful. After he left Stanford, he spent the same number of years at San Francisco State, and the same again at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Dr. Khatib challenged Dr. William Shockley, Stanford University, Noble Prize winning physicist, on his theory of Black genetic inferiority and the money he offered often poor Black people to voluntarily sterilize themselves. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, MD, in Ebony Magazine July 1974, says that Shockley admitted he had no medical background on which to base any of these claims. He also stated that environment had nothing to do with cognitive development, which we know is false.

Dr. Al Khatib’s scholarship also looked at the notion of the “exceptional” Black in popular TV roles. These Black attorneys and teachers, property owners and police detectives did not mirror the reality on American streets. It just confused Black America, who sought this fiction in reality yet kept running into nooses and auction blocks where opportunity said slavery and discrimination were over?!

After driving around for quite a bit I found parking and headed over to Juma Prayer and the Janaaza Funeral Service for Dr. Al Khatib, Friday, Sept. 12. I’d never been to this particular masjid before. Built from the ground up, the Oakland Islamic Center, just down from Summit Medical Center, was enclosed in glass – lots of windows, so I could see the brothers inside. As I walked thought the parking lot, I was able to see the entrance for the women and where they sat, which was up a steep flight of stairs. The very full room reminded me of a similar tight space in Dar es Salaam last summer.

I removed my shoes, walked up the stairs, checked out the scene and then retreated to the cooler space at the entrance until I heard the Iqamah or call to prayer and went back upstairs to participate. The khutbah or sermon was in Arabic, which I do not understand, so I was surprised when the funeral prayer was preceded by a few instructions in English. The first part of the prayer is a series of Allahu Akbar (God is Great) followed by Al Fatihah, the opening chapter of the Qur’an, recited silently.

In between the silent utterances, one is to pray for the deceased person’s soul and ask that his sins be forgiven and that his ascension is swift. The body, which we could not see upstairs, was downstairs in a closed cardboard box. After the short prayer, when I came downstairs and put my shoes on and went outside, I saw Dr. Al Khatib’s body carried in a box on the shoulders of about six men and put into a hearse. The family was outside by then. I knew his daughter, Koren Fatimah Clark, and met visiting elder brother, Peyton Clark, and younger brother, David Clark, grandchildren and former wife and friends. Wade and Vera Nobles and members of their family, whom I also knew, were there as well.

I took photos of the group and asked if I could hitch a ride to the cemetery for the burial. I rode with Dr. Syed’s former wife, Carolyn Martin Shaw, her friend, Nubra Elaine Floyd, with her life partner at the wheel. Dr. Carolyn’s granddaughter Amasha Lyons-Clark kindly took the middle seat in the back between Nubra and me. I’d been given a short obit to read at the masjid and told that Sunday at the Nobles’ home there would be even more shared about Brother Khatib’s scholarship and life.

The drive to Livermore to 5 Pillars Farm Cemetery where Brother Khatib’s remains were laid to rest was without incident. We arrived after the prayer, but before his remains were covered. I’d been worried. The family took turns shoveling dirt into the grave – the physicality of this gesture one of both closure and embodiment. There is something about death that feels final to the human being. I don’t know how other living beings experience this, but for this woman, when I see the hole opened up, filled, then closed, there seems to be something irretrievable about this moment that feels like a loss, a missed opportunity, finality – even when I know intellectually that the person’s spirit or true essence is not in the hole. The carcass or the garment is, and I know I will miss seeing the person walking about in such finery.

Brother-Syed-Al-Khatib-Vera-Nobles-Carolyn-Martin-Shaw, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents
Brother Syed Al Khatib, Vera Nobles (seated), Carolyn Martin Shaw

Heaven or the idea of a hereafter is distant and more philosophical than real at that point, so the idea that such a moment could be rushed by people who do not understand “the African way” is sacrilegious. Grief cannot be rushed and the internment is important to those left behind perhaps more than to those who have moved on. In African villages among the Dagara people in Burkina Faso where traditional healer and scholar Malidoma Patrice Somé (Ph.D.) hails, there are wailing choirs (smile) whose job is to stir the heart, while other villagers’ jobs are to take care of the family who might want to go with the departed loved one. Granted, the deceased is present physically, seated in a chair dressed in his or her best clothes. Gifts are given to the family by close friends and relatives. The ceremony sounds so wonderful. It is said that if there is no ceremony, the deceased does not ascend. If there is no noise, no tears, no signs of grief, the deceased paces the earth, haunts the family and village, so to properly mourn is an important skillset modern society has lost.

Though not present physically, the ritual at the Nobles’ compound in Oakland was the true funeral or home going celebration of Dr. Syed Malik al Khatib. On more than one occasion, people attested to his presence, whether that was his daughter Koren’s testimony regarding what she wore and what of her father’s work she brought to share or Baba Wade’s recollection of his first time in Africa with his wife Vera, Dr. Cedric and Carolyn and his encounter with an elephant.

Present were colleagues who’d known him for a long time and those who knew of his work, like the Dean of Ethnic Studies from SFSU, who arrived at Stanford just after Dr. Al Khatib left. His treating physician was there, as was his nurse, grandchildren, former wife, daughter, siblings and extended community. When I arrived I heard a conch shell call from behind the house; however, when I got to the back, the assembly was moving indoors.

There was poetry and great lifting of spirits as loved ones shared sacred moments with the beloved Dr. Al Khatib, called brother or dad or grandfather or comrade or even Dr. Cedric X.

I’d know Dr. Cedric as a youth when he was director of Muhammad University of Islam No. 26 in San Francisco on Fillmore and Geary. Having graduated at 15 from the same institution, I was a young student teacher when he came on board. What I remember of Brother Khatib (Dr. Cedric is what we called him then), is how impressed I was to meet a Black man with a doctorate. He had swag and brought to the school other smart, lettered Black men, who talked to us, encouraged us and pushed us to excel.

He didn’t wear suits, yet his authority was present in his poise and carriage. Well, maybe he did; I just remember his white shirts and the rolled sleeves. I can still see his smiling face and sparkling eyes. He was really happy and always greeted me with a smile. I remember when Dr. Na’im Akbar was getting a tour of the school and I was introduced. Brother Sunni Ali Shabazz was the assistant director then, and I remember the talk swirling around me about attending UC Berkeley, where Brother Sunni went.

Then he was gone.

Khepera-Syed-Amasha-Koren-Ousseynou, Wanda’s Picks for October 2014, Culture Currents
Khepera, Syed, Amasha, Koren, Ousseynou

I never forgot Dr. Cedric and don’t know why his tenure as director of MUI was the brief whirlwind it was, yet when I saw him years later and learned he’d retired from Stanford, that he was that close all this time, I wished that we’d stayed in touch. It would have been nice to talk to him about higher education. It has been tough being the only one again and again.

He made being intelligent cool, not just for me, a young woman who didn’t know any Black people with undergraduate degrees, let alone doctorate degrees, but for all of us on Fillmore and Geary. Youth from families that were living just above the poverty line. I knew Dr. Cedric would not lie to me, so if he believed in me, I should believe in me too. I knew that I could achieve the same level of acumen I admired in him and his peers. I always felt capable in his eyes. I always felt I could do whatever I set my mind on, even if I had to work a bit harder than my peers. And I have, Al Hamdulilah (praise God).

Dr. Cedric was a true role model, subtle yet highly effective. He told me maybe a couple years ago that he was proud of me and what I had achieved. He was so tickled about an article I wrote about a statewide Black mental health initiative (published in the SFBV) that he sent me an email (smile).

What else could one ask for – praise from one’s role model? That he noticed was beyond phenomenal. I valued his opinion; a rock star, he not only gave me an autograph, he called my name (smile). Dr. Cedric or Syed Al Khatib (translated, means “mister teacher-clerk-scribe” – what a name!) Dr. C knew my trajectory, 40 years ago to now; may Allah bless this great man with immediate access to the highest levels of Jannah or paradise.

Professor in psychology and communications, executive editor at Ebonic Editing, his academic work at Michigan State University, where he graduated with Doctor of philosophy in communications and media studies (LinkedIn), he certainly has earned the preferential treatment.

After the salutes, people shared in a repast and read Dr. Khatib’s scrapbook, which included clips of news articles and records of debates, scholastic achievement and other publications, we then gathered on the patio next to the pool as the sun retreated on the horizon to participate in a Kikongo ceremony, where we put wishes and requests on tiny sheets of paper for the newly inducted ancestor and burned them in a roaring fire on the patio.

The Egun or ancestors need to be kept busy. I’ve heard on more than one occasion they’ve nothing but time (smile).

Dr. Cedric has a good head start. Ashay! (And so it is.)

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.