Wanda’s Picks for November 2015

by Wanda Sabir

Tauheedah-Wren-Emeryville’s-2015-Teacher-of-the-Year-by-Wanda-web, Wanda’s Picks for November 2015, Culture Currents
Mrs. Tauheedah Wren, Emeryville’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, accepts her award at the ceremony in Castro Valley. She was the only African American honoree and the only Muslim. She is also my children’s step-mother, whom I have known for over 40 years. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Congratulations to Mrs. Tauheedah Wren, 2015 Teacher of the Year for the Emeryville Unified School District.

Congratulations to Papa Zak and Mama Naomi Diouf on the 40th anniversary of Diamano Coura West African Dance Company. Join the Dioufs, company members, friends and fans at a reception Nov. 21 at Betti Ono Gallery, 1427 Broadway in Oakland. The following weekend, there are performances Saturday, Nov. 28, at 8 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 29, at 3 p.m. at the Odell Johnson Theatre at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. For the reception and performance combined, tickets are $55. For information, contact 510-504-3444, brownpapertickets and http://www.diamanocoura.org/upcoming-events.html.

California Coalition for Women Prisoners’ 20th Anniversary Gala

“Twenty Years of Speaking Truth to Power” is the theme for CCWP’s 20th anniversary gala, on Saturday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m., at the Women’s Building 3543 18th St., San Francisco. For information, call 415-255-7036, ext. 4, and if you’d like to volunteer at the event, visit womenprisoners.org.

Featured guests include Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; Jayda Rasberry, organizer with Dignity and Power Now; Thao Nguyen, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down; and the Heiwa Taiko Drummers. A 20th anniversary quilt donated by Linda Evans will be raffled.

A major highlight of the event will be the presence of many formerly incarcerated women and trans people who have been leaders and members of CCWP over the years. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/events/575704199238835/.

Theatre: August Wilson play, set in 1968

The final performances of “Two Trains Running” by August Wilson, directed by Terrence Tyrie Ivory, are Nov. 1, 6 and 7 at the historic BDES Hall, 140 West J, Benicia, 707-746-1269. Visit http://www.beniciaoldtowntheatregroup.com/.

Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ set in 1970s

“Romeo and Juliet” will be performed by the African American Shakespeare Company on Saturday and Sunday through Nov. 8 at the Burial Clay Theater, 762 Fulton St. in San Francisco. What is special about this production is that the lead roles feature San Francisco Bay Area youth. Visit africanamericanshakes.org to listen to an interview with the cast and co-director Sherri Young; visit: http://tobtr.com/7984419.

Palestinian dancers

Wishah Popular Dance Troupe, based in Palestine, has performed in several countries, including Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Spain. Established in 2003 by a group of Palestinian students who believe in the arts as an effective communication tool, the dance troupe presents shows based on the artistic inheritance of our music and songs stemming from Arab and Palestinian heritage.

The event is Nov. 14, 7 p.m., at the Nourse Theater City Arts and Lectures, 275 Hayes St., San Francisco. All proceeds will benefit local organizing for Palestine and relief work in Gaza. To purchase low-income or student tickets, contact AROC at info@araborganizing.org.

Maafa Film Festival

Maafa Commemoration Film Festival 2015 features Adimu Madyun’s “In Search of the Sacred Coconut Tree” and Eliciana Nascimento’s “The Summer of Gods.”

The films screen at the Burial Clay Theatre in the African American Art and Culture Complex, Friday, Nov. 20, 7 p.m., 762 Fulton St. at Webster, San Francisco. The festival is co-hosted by African American Art and Culture Complex resident artist Malik Seneferu, who will give a preshow tour of his exhibition at 6 p.m. The film screening is free of charge. Donations are welcome.

Black women’s stories in film

The Omi Gallery at Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway, Oakland, presents Women’s Film Forum, Vol. 2, featuring:

  • 4: “A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone,” directed by Marlene “Mo” Morris;
  • 5: “BadDDD Sonia Sanchez,” directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon with a pre-film performance by YGB: The Black Sheros; and
  • 6: “Treasure – From Tragedy to Trans Justice: Mapping a Detroit Story,” directed by Dream Hampton with pre-filmTransJustice” workshop with Emani Love of the Ruth Ellis Center.

Doors open at 6:30; the films are from 7-9:30 p.m. There will be a Q&A and panel discussion each evening. Tickets are $10/$8. Visit https://oakland.impacthub.net/event/womens-film-forum-vol-2-2/.

Oakland Museum of California

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but every Friday evening at the Oakland Museum of California, the doors are open until 9 p.m. and programs are featured which appeal to the entire family, kids, youth and adults.

Charles-Valorosa-artist-Oakland-Museum-Dia-de-los-Muertos-by-Wanda, Wanda’s Picks for November 2015, Culture Currents
Charles Valorosa, artist, at the Oakland Museum’s Dia de los Muertos exhibit – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Presently there are a few exhibitions which are worth checking out before they leave: Dia de los Muertos and the Pan Pacific World Exhibition, which is amazing – oh my goodness. When you step into the galley, you are surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on both sides and hear the waves and the music and see the people. As you walk forward, there are so many directions your feet and eyes want to take you, as the huge boats and nets, costumes and faces of people that look like you and me – Black.

The bark work, fishing equipment, spears and then there are the stories of colonization, of queens and kings and resistance. There are ritual items and sacred garments. It is awesome; don’t miss it. The exhibit, up through Jan. 3, 2016, is presented as a ritual space and invites meditation. Visit http://museumca.org/exhibit/pacific-worlds.

The Oakland Museum Dia de los Muertos exhibit is always wonderful. I didn’t realize that the 21st annual exhibition will be going to a biannual schedule, so the next exhibition will be 2017. Bryan Keith Thomas’ new work, “I’ll Fly Away,” honors African ancestors who certainly had travel options. We see the images of two Black men, eyes open and shut, medicine bags filled with necessities for travel or staying put. Quite magnificent is the feather, huge feather; I think one is from a rooster.

“I’ll Fly Away” uses vocabulary we know as Thomas – found objects, heirloom cotton, weathered and worn fabric and church fans. Our condolences to the artist on the loss of his father this year. May his journey home be without incident. Other artists I interviewed were Charles Valoroso, whose work celebrates his Filipino and Hawaiian cultural heritage with an altar, hanging mango seeds and paintings on the ground – as above and so below – and Nancy Hom, who has created a 6-foot mandala which incorporates photos of people who have transitioned, famous and personal and communal. The curator then paints a labyrinth which invites a walk both entering and exiting the centered work.

Oakland-Museum-Dia-de-los-Muertos-story-tree-high-school-youth-recall-their-ancestors-1015-by-Wanda, Wanda’s Picks for November 2015, Culture Currents
In this view of the Oakland Museum gallery featuring the Dia de los Muertos exhibit, the story tree in the back right corner has recorded stories by high school youth recalling their ancestors and talking about their ancestry, along with headphones for visitors to listen. “I listened to all their stories,” Wanda says. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Though they were not present, I really liked the stories in the exhibit by MetWest High School where the youth spoke about their ancestry and whose blood runs through their veins. It is a fine exhibition, using both traditional Mexican ancestor totems like the marigolds and paper flowers, skulls, papel picado banners or folded cut paper or prayers – and then there are creative discursions like those mentioned and other artists’ work.

SOMARTs 16th Annual Dia de los Muertos, “Today is the Shadow of Tomorrow,” closes Nov. 7. Visit http://www.somarts.org/exhibitions/day-of-the-dead/. The gallery is located at 934 Brannan St., between Eighth  Ninth. Admission is free.

MoAD San Francisco Reopens

After being closed for a month, the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) reopens with new exhibits, including an emerging artist series featuring digital graphic arts designer Tim Roseborough’s “Four Themes.” Other new exhibits opening this month are Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle’s “Who Among Us” and Alison Saar’s “Bearing.” Alison Saar is in conversation with Camille Dungy Nov. 11, 6:30-8 p.m. Cost is $10 general admission, $5 for students and seniors and free for MoAD members. The museum is located at 685 Mission St. at Third, San Francisco. Visit http://www.moadsf.org/ for a complete listing of exhibits and programs.

Movements Making Media

Join Reimagine! organizers, writers, dancers and artists to celebrate the release of the new issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment magazine, Thursday Nov. 19, 6-9 p.m., at Oakstop, 1721 Broadway, Oakland, 510-698-9370, http://reimaginerpe.org/node/7467. Magazine section topics include

  • Black Lives Matter: Allies in Change
  • Strategies for Healing: Urban Gardens, Urban Peace Movement
  • I AM SAN FRANCISCO: (Re)Collecting the Home of Native Black San Franciscans, with Kheven LaGrone and Wanda Sabir
  • Planning for the People: from Homelessness to Housing
  • Hotspot: Riders, Renters and Workers in Silicon Valley
Lilli-Lanier’s-portrait-made-from-folded-paper-of-her-grandmother-Cali-artist-Ruth-Asawa-by-Wanda, Wanda’s Picks for November 2015, Culture Currents
This is a close-up of Lilli Lanier’s portrait made from folded paper of her grandmother, California artist Ruth Asawa, in the Oakland Museum’s Dia de los Muertos exhibit. Her grandmother taught her to fold paper as a child. What you cannot see are the folded paper cranes, which symbolize peace, and other folded work which makes up the mosaic composition of the stunning altar. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Performers include members of Capoeira Ijexa, Jiridon and AudioPharmacy. Speakers and panelists include Kheven LaGrone, Wanda Sabir, Jarrel Phillips, 3.9 Collective, Nicole Lee of the Urban Peace Movement, Kelly Curry of Planting Justice, Karina Muniz of Mujeres Unidas y Activas and members of Asians4Black Lives. Please rsvp@reimaginerpe.org.

Watch the auditions for the 2016 SF Ethnic Dance Festival

The San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Nov. 7-8 and 14-15, is the liveliest and most diverse celebration of dance this season! Viewers can watch as more than 100 of the Bay Area’s finest companies present dancers from around the globe, hoping for a place in the June 2016 festival. Dancers are from Algeria, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Congo, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Okinawa, Peru, the Philippines, Senegal, South Africa and Tajikistan. Come for an hour, or stay all day – it’s up to you. You can even step out for lunch and come back for more, space permitting.

It all takes place at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, 3301 Lyon St., San Francisco, for a $10 admission at the door (cash only) and free for children age 12 and under. Volunteer ushers and lobby volunteers are needed for the auditions! Visit http://worldartswest.org/main/schedule.asp.

Two at the African American Museum and Library, Oakland

“The Sentence Unseen: Celebrating Resilience” opens with a reception on Thursday Nov. 5, 5:30-7:30 p.m. The exhibit looks at the impact of imprisonment on children and families through individual stories. Listen to an interview with Zoe Willmott, program manager and alumnus of Project WHAT! and Tailani Crawford, Project WHAT! youth advocate and an artist featured in this exhibit at http://tobtr.com/7914933.

“The Sentence Unseen” looks at the high price we pay when our loved ones are entangled in a punitive justice system that often leads to incarceration. It bears witness to the impacts of the U.S. criminal justice system when family members are taken away from our community. The exhibit sheds light on the collateral consequences of arrest and incarceration on children, youth, families and communities while celebrating the heart and resiliency of those impacted.

Bryan-Keith-Thomas’-‘I’ll-Fly-Away’-honors-African-ancestors-at-Oakland-Museum-1015-by-Wanda, Wanda’s Picks for November 2015, Culture Currents
Bryan Keith Thomas’ new work, “I’ll Fly Away,” honors African ancestors. It’s in the Oakland Museum’s Dia de los Muertos exhibit. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The opening reception will feature jazz musician and activist Marcus Shelby presenting “Beyond the Blues: Ending the Prison Industrial Complex” and other special performers. The Marcus Shelby Trio will feature songs, instrumental compositions and interactive dialogue about the history of prisons in the U.S., the history of prison blues songs, mass incarceration, the school to prison pipeline and alternative criminal justice practices such as restorative justice, ending the death penalty and prison abolition. Visit http://communityworkswest.org/exhibits-publications/thesentenceunseen/. The museum is at 659 14th St., Oakland, 510-637-0200.

The Annual Festival of Black Dolls

The American Black Beauty Doll Artists Festival of Black Dolls each year is a wonderful opportunity to see Black history and Black life exemplified in these toys, which are collected and enjoyed nationally and internationally. This year’s festival is Saturday Nov. 14, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dolls hold spirit and, for a Black child, this is an important part of their development – Black dolls have not always been the big commercial hit they are today. At one time, the Black dolls Black children played with were all made by hand. To have all these artisans or craftswomen under one roof each year makes shopping so easy.

There are usually doll making workshops, where adults and children can make a paper doll or pin or magnet to take with them. There are antique dolls, dolls made from ceramics. There is always an auction and dolls depicting famous women like Angela Y. Davis, Josephine Baker, Zora Neale Hurston. The women who create dolls, pins and other doll-like art for this show specifically make this show one we cannot miss.

As people shop, there is a youth jazz ensemble performing live music, sometimes with dancers. It is an amazing and fun day of art with prices for the serious collector and the person who wants something to remind her or him of #Blackdollsmatter (smile). Take advantage of the free parking for the Festival of Black Dolls at City Center Garage West, 1239 Jefferson St. It is risky to park on the street in Oakland. For information, contact 1(800) 579-5495 or weloveblackdolls@gmail.com.

Dawson Dance SF and Sidra Bell Dance New York

Two companies, Dawson Dance SF and Sidra Bell Dance of New York collaborate in this shared program at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., San Francisco, Nov. 20-21, 8 p.m., and Nov. 22 at 5 p.m. If you missed Dawson Dance SF’s performance of Part Three of a trilogy at Black Choreographers Here and Now’s bustin’ out of February or the Summer Showcase in August this year, well, no worries; you have an opportunity to see Drop Bend Dent at ODC. It is awesome. Visit http://tobtr.com/7858225.

Kim Nalley’s Blues People

If Kim Nalley is not a household name, it is certainly not because she has not done the kind of work which lends itself to such acclaim. An historian whose artistic work sings the sorrow songs and triumphs inherent in blues people narratives, especially blues women, Nalley is probably remembered for her celebrations of blues women each February at her club, Jazz at Pearls. The musical Lady Day and her canon features the music of Nina Simone (“I Put a Spell on You”).

Kim-Nalley, Wanda’s Picks for November 2015, Culture Currents
Kim Nalley

Her recent “Blues People” is hats off to Amiri Baraka’s genius combined with Nalley’s – what listeners agree is a winning combination. When I asked Nalley recently in an interview if Blues People was her dissertation, the doctoral candidate and lecturer at UC Berkeley told me her program was more traditional, so she was writing a book.

Blues People features Nalley in traditional tunes or standards from both gospel and blues, like “Summertime” and “Trouble the World”; however, the inclusion of original work which laments the loss too soon of young Black men and women, in “Ferguson Blues” and “Big Hooded Black Man,” make her “Blues People,” like all great art, relevant. With “Movin’ On Up,” we recall the Jeffersons sitcom (1975-1985) and how then and now Black people with means are anomalies, rather than actual fact.

Her “Trombone Song” (“Big Long Sliding Thing”) and “The Chair Son” (“If I Can’t Sell It”) both illustrate the craft and finesse involved in such writing (Thomas Kirkland and Hill/Razaf), a skill lost in recent pop music. Adults can play Nalley’s “Blues People” at home where children can hear and not worry about literal interpretations (smile).

She is joined by a fine ensemble, longtime friends and colleagues Tammy Hall on piano and organ, Greg Skaff on guitar, Michael Zisman on bass and Kent Bryson on drums, which creates an intimacy, so much so, we feel like Ms. Nalley is in the room. Each of the 14 tracks is a nuanced and fully embodied journey into a sojourn which depicts the sorrows and joys that makes a blues people who they are.

The CD release party is at Biscuits and Blues on Saturday, Nov. 21, 401 Mason St., San Francisco. Visit http://www.kimnalley.net/.

Boundaries Without Bars: Free for All, Freedom for Some

A diverse group of writing communities that write, publish, perform and share in a variety of settings make their homes in Oakland. Oakland Public Library looks forward to sponsoring a program to bring together and highlight the various groups engaged with poetry.

First rate poets will share the podium with first time poets and others at the library on the first Saturdays quarterly, beginning with “Boundaries Without Bars” on Nov. 7, 2-3:30 p.m., in the Brad Walters Community Room of the Main Library, 125 14th St., Oakland, 510-238-3138, www.oaklandlibrary.org. This first reading will feature a range of extraordinary wordsmiths. Bonnie Wai-Lee Kwong and Harrison Seuga will be joined by a group of formerly incarcerated poets, collectively known as Brothers in Pen: Charles Talib Brooks, Watani Stiner and Victor Mavedzenge.

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.