Wanda’s Picks for December 2014

by Wanda Sabir

As we move into the next solar return, there is much to look forward to despite the stasis that seems to infect this nation with the disease of white supremacy or racial domination. OK OK, perhaps the silver lining is a bit too buried to find Osumare’s twinkle beyond any pots of gold you’ve stumbled upon recently. Especially with a House and Senate dominated by Republicans and a domestic police force that is killing Black boys with impunity, one could perhaps just roll over and play dead. After all, where is the hope? The knowledge that no matter how it looks, the Creator is in charge and the bad guys just look like they are always winning is what sustains us.

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A work conceptualized by Wanda Sabir and created by TaSin Sabir, “Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale,” looks at mapping one’s ancestry to visualize where one belongs. Where is home? – Photo: TaSin Sabir

The Maafa is certainly real, but then so is the reality that Black peoplehood has always been contingent in this Western paradigm on the presence of African deities who not only jumped across oceans to accompany us into this caldron, they stuck around. I don’t have the answer, but perhaps when Black people begin to value their own lives and cease to be duped by the propaganda that undermines all our ancestors suffered – the physical incarceration of their bodies but not their souls – then the war within will cease along with the distractions thrown our way by the enemy.

We are in crisis here and abroad. Africa is being stolen right before our eyes if we’d just look. As the wars rage in central and western, southern and northern and eastern Africa, countries like China are buying African land and resources for a song. Look at the film “Plot for Peace,” directed by Carlos Agulló. At the end, you will see how Jean-Yves Ollivier, alias “Monsieur Jacques,” installed Nelson Mandela in office so that whites could maintain their sovereignty.

A young Mr. Jacques never forgot getting kicked out of Algeria when its native people won the war and sent the colonizers packing. Back home, he learned of France’s role in Africa and after a stint in prison for political activism, he began to fine tune his role as the mediator and strategist. Though pictured as a benevolent guy, whose role was one of peace, the fact that he still has his hands in the economies of continental Africa and elsewhere – moving goods and people as a middleman nations still travel through – make his altruism suspect.

Ollivier says in the film he didn’t want what happened in Algeria to the white tribe there to happen in South Africa – it didn’t. Mandela was a pawn in a cleverly structured game of Solitaire. In fact, Mandela didn’t even know the man responsible for his release until told much later. Similar to the way Karl Rove was the silent hand behind George W. Bush while he was in office, Ollivier was the silent hand behind the end of the wars in South Africa, the settlement with the movers and shakers – many ANC alumni officials paid off while the masses were then left to struggle. The South African majority are still struggling with poverty and unresolved internalized trauma and tribalism, major distractions, while they are being robbed blind.

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“In the exhibit we trace our movement from home to other places. Some people left the land of their birth fleeing death, while others were sold or kidnapped from home, never to return until generations later. The thread represents people’s mapping their journeys. I had them start with their place of birth and then locate their ancestors,” Wanda says. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

The protagonist says post-Algerian independence that the white tribe in South Africa would not survive if it did not give Black Southern Africans something in exchange for an opportunity to stay put. As stated, the Namibian peace agreement was the gesture that brought together the major players, including Cuban President Castro, who agreed to work toward peace. FW de Klerk negotiated Mandela’s release once Botha was out of the picture. The strategy worked and the white tribe was not evicted, but the disease of white supremacy – let’s call it an economic smallpox blanket – has bled cross borders.

Ebola is not accidental. Where imprisonment doesn’t work, we see pestilence and disease introduced. Violence and drugs are also a pestilence available in the Black communities in America and elsewhere.

‘Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale’

In an exhibit, “Place/Displaced,” curated by Melorra Green at SOMarts through Dec. 13, artists look at the idea of what it means to belong, where one fits in, what happens when this security is upended or one is unsettled. Visit http://www.somarts.org/placedisplacedopens. On Friday, Dec. 5, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the gallery, 934 Brannan St., between Eighth and Ninth, there is a free event, “Wake up the Walls.” RSVP requested http://www.somarts.org/wakeupthewalls/.

In a work conceptualized by Wanda Sabir and created by TaSin Sabir, “Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale,” we look at mapping one’s ancestry to visualize where one belongs. Where is home? we ask our audience. Opening night, Nov. 20, we were quite the hit. We had 100 tacks and used 99, with threads crossing oceans traversing geographic planes multiple times as people thought about identity and ancestral wishful thinking as their journeys were part uncertainty, part hopefulness with equal parts adventure.

A map using a dot matrix with the Global South highlighted, the water is filled with images from Maafa 2014. The idea of the movement of spirit across the waters linked the Diaspora. There were also images of children, two with their backs to us … representing what is ahead. The red string represented the blood often spilled in such journeys to other lands, especially when this travel is under duress – for the Black people dispersed, no one asked us if we wanted to go.

“Incantations and Rites” features Daughters of Yam, Opal Palmer Adisa and devorah major with the “Harpist from the Hood” Destiny Muhammad looking at the killing of our young through police brutality, as well as by each other’s hands through their own misdirected rage. We look, we cry, we scream out in outrage and then we seek ways to build again, this time giving our young the protection they need and deserve. We sing, we chant we give praise and we heal in preparation for the work ahead.

GÇÿMovement-Trails-Within-and-Beyond-DiasporaGÇÖ-WandaGÇÖs-mapping-project-at-SOMarts-couple-1114-by-TaSin-300x200, Wanda’s Picks for December 2014, Culture Currents
Wanda notes, “Everyone I spoke to agreed that Black people’s humanity’s survival was because of our spiritual grounding – those African gods who jumped on ships with us kept us sane and human.” – Photo: TaSin Sabir

Love, a celebration of life, and joining together as community are also a part of this performance, which is crafted to make us all remember or discover our own power and then direct it in ways which create lasting and positive change. Please come and enjoy the show and then stay for an after show Q&A and discussion.

It’s Saturday, Dec. 6, 8 p.m., Eastside Arts Center, 2277 International Blvd, Oakland. Admission is $10 but sliding sale for those who really cannot pay full price.

Dance: ‘Explosión Cubana’

“Explosión Cubana: Una Noche Tropical” is coming Dec. 5-6 to Dance Mission Theatre, 3316 24th St., San Francisco, www.dancemission.com, 415-826-4441. Tickets are $60 in advance, $65 at the door and include a full meal, and $25 for youth 12 years old and younger both dates. The smoking hot music and sultry moves of Havana’s famed Tropicana nightclub come north, complete with a dance spectacular, live band and a dinner featuring Cuban favorites.

CubaCaribe and Dance Mission Theater have put together this sizzling spectacular, a trip through the island’s entertainment history, all the way from traditional folk to the modern moves of today’s top performers. Ramon Ramos’ Alayo Dance Company stars, with guests including dancers from Cuba’s Danza del Caribe.

Dimensions Dance Theater’s Rites of Passage celebrates 20 years

Dimensions Dance Theater, the Bay Area’s preeminent African-American dance company for more than four decades, has a holiday showcase of student performances in celebration of the 20th anniversary of its Rites of Passage youth program for ages 8-18 under the direction of Deborah Vaughan and Latanya d. Tigner. The program serves 850 youth each year.

Sunday, Dec. 7, 3 p.m., at the Phillip Reeder Auditorium at Castlemont High School, 8601 MacArthur Blvd., the company will honor the achievements of Rites of Passage students, faculty and alumni with a program of performances titled “It Takes A Village,” celebrating the Bay Area’s diversity. Performers will include not only current participants in Rites of Passage but the Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble and alumni and members of Dimensions Dance Theater as well. The dancers in Dimensions Extensions range from 12 to 18 and are selected by audition only. The ensemble has toured to Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York and Guinea, West Africa.

Additional youth groups at the concert include Chhandam Youth Dance Company, the pre-professional training and performance troupe of Chitresh Das Dance Company, and Oaktown Jazz Workshops, an Oakland-based group dedicated to passing on the tradition of jazz music to young people through music instruction and educational presentation.

Tickets are $15-$25. To purchase tickets online, visit brownpapertickets.com/event/879397 or call 800-838-3006. Group discounts are available at dimensionsdance.org.

We remember the Freeman brothers

Freeman-Brothers-Funeral-Emory-Douglas-Archbishop-Franzo-King-in-LA-by-JR-BR-web-225x300, Wanda’s Picks for December 2014, Culture Currents
Black Panther Party artist Emory Douglas and Archbishop Franzo King of the Coltrane Church give their last salute to Roland Freeman’s casket as it’s loaded into the hearse at the Los Angeles funeral for the Freeman brothers. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report

While at the cemetery on Black Friday in Mississippi, I saw the name Freeman on a tombstone. Were my Freeman ancestors related to Elder Freeman’s? That would be nice (smile). The homecoming Nov. 23 at the Masonic Hall in Oakland was fitting for two beloved men who certainly gave their lives for the people and suffered for it. It is their example, as well as the example of their brotherly love, which I am sure sustains their families and close comrades now that they are making their ascension probably arm and arm.

Dr. Tolbert Smalls sang of the Dead Black Spartans who “dazzle the world in [their] brief moment/ Exploding with vigor, sharp and jubilant/ Sledging the ramparts with fiery revolution” … those stalwart poets who risked all for the Republic, while Buffalo shared insights only the philosophically attuned could decipher. Arthur League shared his friend’s last stand; he heard him calling for help while on the phone with Bruce Richards in New York: “Put the phone down and help me up,” Elder cried. He still had work to do. He was in New York to attend Yuri Kochiyama’s memorial because he’d missed it in Oakland; he also had plans to attend the Black Panther Party Film Festival.

Arthur smiled as he recalled these final words. Elder couldn’t get up, his body was weak, but mentally he went out upright. Gordon Bradley spoke of Elder’s courage. Elder said to him, “I will walk out of this life, rather than on my back.” Steve Jacobson spoke of visiting Elder in the hospital when he was in a coma, 10-15 tubes in his body. He’d suffered two heart attacks, his former chess buddy said.

Arthur, also a member of the Los Angeles Black Panther Party, said after he was arrested, he saw Elder again while at San Quentin. “They got you too,” he said to him in recognition. It was only a matter of time before most of the comrades were either dead or serving time. Later on those at the memorial saw many of these same men and women’s names on a list of political prisoners and prisoners of war printed in Black Panther Party newspapers. Many are out, some have died, and some like Romaine “ChipFitzgerald are still behind bars. See https://sfbayview.com/2013/09/political-prisoner-romaine-chip-fitzgerald-writes-to-assembly-public-safety-chair-tom-ammiano/.

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Sam Brooks owns one of the biggest Black Panther memorabilia collections known in the nation, rivaled only by It’s About Time and Stanford University. He recently showed some of his collection at the Freeman brothers’ memorial service in Oakland. – Photo: JR Valrey, Block Report

The fact that Albert Woodfox has been found suitable for release by the three judge panel who agree with the former court’s decision, what, two-three-four years ago, was a bright ray of sunlight. I learned at the Freeman Brothers’ memorial that Sundiata Acoli has been ordered released by an appeals court. We have good news and then we hear about Mumia Abu Jamal and Russell Maroon Shoats who are once again in danger. See the “Silence Mumia Law,” http://legiscan.com/PA/text/HB2533/2013, which targets the most articulate and outspoken political prisoners. It is, for us, a call for increased action and unity. See also http://www.scientificsoulsessions.com/.

Archbishop Franzo W. King of Saint John Will-I-Am Coltrane Orthodox Church, opened with prayer and gave the keynote address while we had a lovely repast. Even those who could not stay, like Tiyesha Meroe and Ericka Huggins, stopped by the commemoration to pay their respects. Supervisor Keith Carson, on behalf of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, issued a proclamation honoring Elder for his work in the community, past and present. This was shared by Dorsey Nunn and a young assistant who read the proclamation.

Archbishop King said that Elder Freeman was a liberator, as was his brother Deacon-elect Roland. Both filled the gulf between the church and the revolutionary movement of Marcus Garvey and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.

Emory Douglas was the master of ceremonies and his daughter, Meres-Sia Gabriel, recited a really lovely poem about girls who are exploited because they don’t realize their value. I am sure the Freeman brothers would have appreciated it, as they both have daughters and honor and respect women. Carmelita Taylor, Elder’s wife, shared moments, like the way they met – Elder was selling incense. I remember reading somewhere that smell is the last sense to leave when one is dying … so he lingers on the air.

Gordon Bradley, Sundiata Tate, Linda Evans, Steve Jacobson, and Jitu Sadiki all shared reflections. Jalil Muntaqim sent a letter which Manuel La Fontaine read. I was at a table with luminaries Dr. Small, Sister Sheba, Sis. Majeedah and others who were joking with each other as they shared Panther alumni stories over the meal.

Arthur said if there was one regret, it was that Elder didn’t get to Cuba. It was sobering as he reflected on how before Roland’s untimely departure following his brother, he’d never believed in broken hearts. Roland’s wife Beverly sent greetings from Los Angeles and there were other prayers by Babaloa and George Galvis, First Nation. The Freemans were also Cherokee. It was just a beautiful yet sad opportunity to reflect on two wonderful men and raise the stick higher so that we can stretch into our full potential.

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After the Freeman Brothers Memorial at the Oakland Masonic Center on Nov. 23, some of the brothers’ “family” gathered for a group photo. – Photo: Scott Braley

It was great seeing Kiilu and Marina and BJ and Nayati and Zigi and Raymond and Richard Brown, Aaliyah, Hamdiyah and Hafsa and Iman Al Amin. The children are growing up; Tarika Lewis’ grandson João is such a handsome child (smile). His grandmother and Val Serrant performed excellently. Derethia’s grandson is also a big boy now. He has such a nice smile. I admit I got a bit distracted towards the end of the well-organized program and didn’t listen with undivided attention to the lovely soloist. There was a fabulous Black Panther Party Poster and Newspaper exhibit. There was a collection for Elder’s grandson, Michael, whose grandmother, Carmelita, is raising him. If you want to further Elder’s work, support the organization he helped found, All of Us or None and the Timers.

More than one person spoke of Elder’s refusal to allow the treatment for the cancer to kill him and said no. Arthur said Elder wasn’t eligible for hospice because he was supposed to sit still and die, not take charge of his life and decide to travel to Detroit and Los Angeles and New York (more than once). This is not prescribed (smile), but then Elder sang his own song.

“Ever onward, Black warrior, ever onward/ Heed not death knocking at your door/ Tis but an echo of tomorrow’s journey/ Spur thy great steed onward/ Across the dregs and over the mires/ Singing out in the shrillest sounds/ Venceremous Patria o Muerte” (“Homeland or death, we shall prevail”). ©2000 Tolbert J. Small.

A Love Supreme Global Peace Mass

The 50th anniversary of “A Love Supreme” will be celebrated with a mass for global peace, Monday, Dec. 8, at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., San Francisco. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the mass begins at 7 p.m. The event is free of charge. Bring a friend; all are welcome. For more information, call 415-763-7144 or go to the Saint John Coltrane website www.coltranechurch.org.

‘Superheroes’ at Cutting Ball Theater

Cutting Ball Theater opens its 16th season with the world premiere of “Superheroes,” written and directed by Sean San José and featuring Myers Clark, Juan Amador, Donald E. Lacy Jr., Britney Frazier, Ricky Saenz and Delina Patrice Brooks. “Superheroes” plays Nov. 21 through Dec. 21 – press opening is Dec. 2 – at the Cutting Ball Theater in residence at the Exit Theater, 277 Taylor St. in San Francisco. For tickets, $10-$50, and more information, visit cuttingball.com or call 415-525-1205.

Defiant, passionate and bursting with poetic energy, “Superheroes” tells the story of a journalist working to separate fact from fiction as she investigates the sordid history of the crack-cocaine epidemic. Partially inspired by Bay Area reporter Gary Webb’s groundbreaking investigative journalism into the relationship between the CIA and Nicaraguan émigré drug traffickers, this incendiary new play traces a lyrical labyrinth through churches, courthouses and street corners in pursuit of a shocking truth.

Brian Copeland’s ‘The Jewelry Box’

Just in time for Christmas, Brian Copeland (“Not a Genuine Black Man,” “The Waiting Period,” “The Scion”) opens the season Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 p.m., Nov. 28-Dec. 27, with a new, holiday play for the entire family, “The Jewelry Box,” at The Marsh San Francisco, 1062 Valencia St. For tickets, $30-$100, the public may visit www.themarsh.org or call 415-282-3055 between 1 and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. To listen to a recent interview, go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2014/11/21/wandas-picks-radio-show.

In this hilariously heartwarming story, a prequel to Copeland’s hit solo show “Not a Genuine Black Man,” a young Brian heads to the “mean streets” of Oakland to buy his mom a Christmas present. When he finds the perfect gift – a jewelry box in the White Front store – six-year-old Brian sets out to earn the required $11.97 by Christmas Eve. Rife with references to 1970s Oakland, the play follows Brian’s adventures as he scours the “help wanted” ads, applies for jobs, and collects bottles, inching his way toward the perfect Christmas gift. There is also a release of the novella during the run as well, a great holiday stocking stuffer (smile).

Carl Allen, drummer, at City College Diego Rivera Theater

The City College of San Francisco Music Department and Concert and Lecture Series present “The Fall Jazz Concert,” featuring the Advanced Jazz Band and the Jazz/Rock Improvisational Workshop, directed by David Hardiman Jr., master of ceremonies, David Hardiman Sr. with special guest artist on drums from New York, Carl Allen, Tuesday, Dec. 9, 8-10 p.m., in the Diego Rivera Theater, 50 Phelan Ave., San Francisco. The concert is free. There will also be a free Carl Allen Drum Clinic in the Arts Building, A-133, from 2 to 3 p.m. earlier on Tuesday, Dec. 9.

The Mark Lomax Trio with Edwin Bayard and Dean Hulett’s ‘Isis and Osiris’

Perhaps 2015 will be the Year of Ausar and Auset, perhaps one of the greatest love stories of all times. Auset/Isis never lost her head or heart when her beloved brother/husband Ausar/Osiris was tricked by a jealous brother twice. The first time he was trapped in a box and drowned in the Nile; the second time he was cut into over 70 pieces and scattered. She collected all but one, his phallus or staff. She made this part herself and bears their son – pretty miraculous stuff, this heroine’s journey where, like the brave African huntress in Amos Tutuola’s saga, a female character saves the day.

Ausar has no time for bitterness or revenge – her perfect example inspires the couple’s son, who challenges his uncle’s assent to the throne. The elders give both a test, then decide that the people could do better than a murderer as a leader. Ausar was known for his wisdom, benevolence and mercy, Auset for her all abiding love and the length she went to “put the pieces back together.” The son proved a worthy heir and continued his father’s legacy.

The Mark Lomax Trio with Edwin Bayard and Dean Hulett’s “Isis and Osiris” is a beautifully crafted expression of this ancient resurrection story. The suite, which has six movements, with four interludes, features the three musicians, Lomax (drums), Bayard (tenor saxophone), Hulett (bass), who take the listener on a journey that traverses time and place, as within one section we can travel to multiple places within the African Diaspora.

As a Diaspora citizen and a member of a nation that is connected yet disconnected from its ancestral land, I certainly hope the metaphor of a spirituality inherent in a people will see us whole once again. Calling the names of ancestors keeps them alive. Remembering is what holds us together when all is falling apart. Not forgetting is the antidote to dismemberment.

Reparations should be seen both literally and metaphysically. The idea that we have been dismembered and tossed yonder, the idea that for Diaspora Black people we seem to fit nowhere, yet we see evidence of our presence everywhere, certainly makes one wonder how many pieces have yet to be retrieved before we look whole once more.

Flash of the Spirit

While in New Orleans over the holidays I was pleasantly surprised to be visiting once again during an international art festival. I enjoyed several exhibits for “Prospect 3: Notes for Now,” up Oct. 25, 2014, to Jan. 25, 2015. The contemporary art biennial has among its 58 artists selected by Artistic Director Franklin Sirmans in 18 venues the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat. There is also a free symposium Dec. 11-12 at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art celebrating the 30th anniversary of Robert Farris Thompson’s “Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy,” which Basquiat had in his art studio.

Dr. Farris Thompson will speak at the closing, and featured among the panelists and presenters are Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, New York University and Caribbean Cultural Center, and Duane Deterville, Sankofa Cultural Center, re the international impact of “Flash” – with a focus on the geographic areas discussed in the text, for example, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Mali, Nigeria etc. Dr. Adebisi introduced me to “Flash” when I visited his Bookmart in Sproul Plaza in Berkeley near UC Berkeley. I was taking a cosmology class and needed to map my own worldview as a Diaspora citizen. He told me to read “Flash” and “Muntu.” Those two books still serve as cornerstones in my philosophical development. Visit www.prospectneworleans.org.

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.