by Wanda Sabir
It is amazing how time flies whether one is moving or standing still. One looks up and sees, suddenly it seems, friends celebrating 70 and 75 or 80 or even 90-plus milestones. Wow! What a blessing that is. And while we also see the fullness of time’s passage in the lives of those who have decided to move on, too often we are caught by surprise, our mouths hung open, the words we could have said … deeds left undone.
For all the politics around Thanksgiving, a dubious holiday for the victors, a sad memorial for its Indigenous victims, perhaps we should all do as my colleague told her students: Think gratitude going forward – gratitude as a way to pay it forward, gratitude in our abundance, gratitude that we have excess and can share of our personal good fortune.
We are after all Americans. Everybody wants what they imagine we have – democracy and freedom at the top of the list. And even at the lowest point on the righteousness scale as we witness a pretty man in heels wheel his cart topped by a mattress down Grand Avenue early evening so his concrete bed is a bit softer, he is representative of too many displaced in Oakland and Alameda and San Francisco by mean-spirited policies. We are still better off than so many others, because in America we have a system in place – flawed though it is – which enables “the people” to name and then fight injustice.
So we watch, protest and wait, for justice, an active noun like so many other principles which make our nation what we choose to make it. The only victims are those who choose to remain inactive, those who keep silent, those who run scared. Those who can, stand, like the Black Friday 14 did a year ago. One year later, race is the factor that keeps the charges in place. We have not forgotten and keep rattling Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s door until the chains fall off and the blindfold on justice slips enough so she can see and do the right thing.
Growing up Black in San Francisco
When one thinks about the shrinking African American populations in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and other urban enclaves at such a rapid pace, an exhibit like the one curated by Kheven LaGrone, “I Am San Francisco: (Re)Collecting the Home of Native Black San Franciscans,” prompted by an essay his nephew, 28-year-old Jarrel Phillips, published in the recent issue of Race, Poverty and the Environment, the National Journal for Social and Environmental Justice (Vol. 20-2), 2015, is timely, to say the least.
The exhibition, at San Francisco Main Library, Third Floor African American Center, 100 Larkin St., is a collaboration between visual artists and writers. My essay is interpreted by Tomye. The artist reception and talk is on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, from 2-4 p.m. in the African American Center. Visit http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=1019936901.
Theatre: ‘Snakes’ at Skyline High
“Snakes,” a play by Chris Webb, directed by Awele with choreography by Rashidi Omari, Destiny Arts, is presented by Skyline High School drama students, Wednesday, Dec. 9, through Saturday, Dec. 12, with performances at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday as well. The Saturday performance will include a Community Engagement Dialogue.
The play, according to the director, asks questions about justice and restorative practices within community and oneself: “How can I be ‘the change’ I want to see in my school?” “How do you repair harm to make things right?” “How do we unlearn and replace bias association?”
Tickets are $5 for students with ID and $8 for students without. Tickets are $8 in advance for adults, $10 at the door. Skyline High School is located at 12250 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. For tickets, call the Box Office: 510-482-7109, ext. 250 or 204.
‘Chi-Raq’: Spike Lee’s film depicts war at home
Power couple Demetrius “Chi-Raq” Dupree (Nick Cannon) and Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) have all any young couple could want – fame and power, the kind of power won, maybe even earned through fear. With money, fame and notoriety which come from the rap artist and Spartan leader Chi-Raq’s prowess on the bandstand and battlefield, the couple stride fearlessly on Chi-town or Chicago’s Southside streets. The Spartan nor rival gangsters, Trojans, headed by the one-eyed Cyclops (Wesley Snipes), know what defeat looks like until a girl-child, 11, is killed.
This senseless death shakes Lysistrata from her perch, her flight setting in motion a series of events Greek playwright Aristophanes couldn’t have imagined nor her lover and other misguided Black men, infected with a disease which promotes self-destruction and annihilation rather than self-determination and progress. Fed up, the politicized Lysistrata calls for a sex strike: “No Peace, No Piece!”
Spike Lee’s film, “Chi-Raq,” with co-writer Kevin Willmott, is a discussion those who care about Black lives need to address. Teyonah Parris as Lysistrata and Nick Cannon as Chi-Raq hold the space, an urgent and necessary space for this kind of dialogue. No one is born a killer; killers are man-made.
In a recent interview in San Francisco with Nick Cannon, the actor said he’d attended a funeral a week earlier for a child killed in the same Southside Chicago neighborhood where the film was shot. Cannon talks about such unnecessary violence as misguided manhood rites, rites of passage emptied of crucial and necessary values which come from knowing one’s history.
Nick Cannon: Tyshawn Lee was executed. Intentionally shot 7 times. A 9 year old. It was hard to look at the [child] in the casket. This is where we’re at. This is where we’ve come as a people? This is a heinous act. Demonic. There is no reason that this should ever occur. We have lost the code.
I understand being a warrior, being a soldier, wanting to be that as a man, [but] when you take the code out of that, take the true principles of protection out of that – then what are you? I hear the young brothers and their music [glorifying] being killers and savages, beasts. We’re not that. We’re kings and queens, not savages. Our ancestors did way too much for us [to come to this].
Wanda Sabir: How does Chi-Raq wrap his mind around ending a war, putting down the gun, and having a conversation with Cyclops, the fierce Trojan leader portrayed by Wesley Snipes?
NC: Wesley is a caricature. I think he purposely did that. He didn’t want to glorify the negativity – what a gang leader could be. He plays him in a comedic way. I actually had to come from the opposite end of the spectrum and stay true to foundation and the dark side of what this life actually can bring and the journey my character, Chi-Raq, [takes].
[Chi-Raq] is stubborn, bull headed, egotistical. [He] has this idea of what [he] thinks manhood is, because [he] didn’t have a man in [his] life to show [him] the proper way to be a man. Ultimately, [Chi-Raq] gets to stand up and be held accountable for what [he], the character, puts himself through, puts others through.
WS: Historically, the violence was not something we did to each other; it was something we experienced as a people. We held onto our values as human beings. Dr. Wade Nobles speaks of African personhood often and notes that when we kill someone who looks like us, it is suicide, because we are killing ourselves.
NC: Genocide, that’s what it is. Violence begets violence. Hurt people hurt people.
WS: Right, so the healing needs to happen.
NC: Yeah. [These violent acts are] a cry from pain; that’s why we need to recondition our minds. We have to recondition our souls. It only takes one person. That’s the beauty of this film. It was one sister who stood up and started a movement. When you look at the poster, you say, that’s a strong Black woman that represents a tale that is over 2,000 years old. For my daughter to see that poster and say, “That’s Lysistrata.” It’s a beautiful thing. It’s how we begin to recondition our minds. It is going to take time, but we all want it, we all yearn for it. We want people to focus in on it, to demand respect for life.
With long time musical collaborator Terrence Blanchard at the helm here, who knows? There might be a few lessons we can hum on our way from the theatre. “Chi-Raq” is rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, nudity, language, some violence and drug use. With the war on Black people raging unabated across the nation, the urgency cannot be stressed enough.
“Chi-Raq” presents an option. This film which opens in Bay Area theatres, Dec. 4, can start a much needed conversation. Check it out at the Metreon in San Francisco; the Elmwood in Berkeley; and Camera 12, AMC Cupertino 16 and Eastridge Mall 15.
Oakland’s Lower Bottom Playaz celebrate the chronological completion of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle
With the production of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf,” Oakland’s Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc., becomes the first theater company to ever accomplish this mammoth feat. With themes of Black removal or gentrification in Wilson’s Hill District in Pittsburgh, Penn., the two cities, Pittsburgh and Oakland 2015 have a lot in common.
“Radio Golf” opens Dec. 18, 2015, at the Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 2:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are on sale on the web at www.lowerbottomplayaz.com. The Flight Deck is easy to reach by BART and bus and is completely accessible. On-street parking is available and the area has a number of lots within walking distance of the theater. Book now and be a part of theater history! Shows are predicted to sell out early. For tickets, call the box office, 510-332-1319.
Wo’se Community of the Sacred African Way turns 35!
Thirty-five years as a beacon of Pan African love and light in the Bay Area, the Wo’se Community of the Sacred African Way is turning 35 and Northern California will be making joyful noise in celebration; see http://wosecommunity.org/. The anniversary activities include speakers, drum calls and yes, even bowling, Friday, Dec. 4 through Sunday, Dec. 6. Most but not all events take place at the Wo’se Community Spiritual Center.
On Friday, Dec. 4, 7-9 p.m., at Wo’se Community, 8924 Holly St., Oakland, Wo’se hosts a Bembe (gathering) for like-minded communities, featuring a dazzling array of drummers from throughout the Diaspora and movement instruction of Baba Nimley Napla. There will be fun for the whole family and a Karamu directly thereafter.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, 10:30-1:30 and 1-4 p.m., Wo’se hosts an educational symposium, “Maat: Ancient Wisdom and Contemporary Strategy.” The topic will be presented by Wo’se Community’s own beloved brother, Prof. Manu Ampim and Brother Sekhem Heka Maat Ra of KRST Unity Center in Los Angeles. This free event will be at the Golden Gate Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5606 San Pablo Ave.
Saturday afternoon, 1-4 p.m. the activities continue with the Ile Omode Bowl-a-Thon at AMF Southshore Lanes in Alameda, 300 Park St. at Shoreline Drive. Proceeds benefit this wonderful independent Black school.
Sunday, Dec. 6, 10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m., culminates the formal 35th Anniversary Celebration at Wo’se Community, 8924 Holly St., Oakland. The program starts with a traditional drum call at 10:30 a.m. and will be followed by communal dancing, creative offerings from our youth, songs of praise and a keynote address from the legendary scholar, activist and cultural warrior Dr. Wade Nobles.
Gregory Pardlo, 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry recipient, reads at SF State
Gregory Pardlo, who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his second collection, “Digest,” is the special guest at San Francisco State University, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 12:30-2 p.m., Room 587, Humanities Building, 1600 Holloway Ave., at 19th Avenue, San Francisco. Admission is free. To listen to a recent interview, visit http://tobtr.com/8044805.
Two at MoAD
Thursday evening, Dec. 17 at 6:30 p.m., I will be moderating a conversation with two authors, LaShondra Katrice Barnett, whose novel, “Jam on the Vine,” is about a woman in the Jim Crow Midwest launching a Black newspaper, and Sonja Williams, whose “Word Warrior: Richard Durham, Radio and Freedom” is about a pioneering Black journalist and writer. It should be fun. The Museum of the African Diaspora is located at 685 Mission St. at Third Street in San Francisco. Visit http://www.moadsf.org/.
New book in the ‘Midnight’ series
Sistah Souljah is in town at a number of independent booksellers, from Marcus Books in Oakland to Alexander Book Company in San Francisco, beginning Dec. 4. Visit http://www.sistersouljah.com/.
Black Panther historian speaks
Billy X Jennings, former Black Panther Party member, now historian, will speak at Laney about his “Underground Newspapers of the 1960s and ‘70s” exhibit. The exhibit opened Nov. 2 and will be in the Laney College Library until Dec. 18. Billy X was a student at Laney when he joined the Panthers in 1968. He will speak Thursday, Dec. 3, at 12 noon in the library, 900 Fallon St., Oakland.
Heal the Community performance featuring Rhodessa Jones
Rhodessa Jones performs in “Fully Awake, Facing 70, Heaven Betta Be Honky-Tonk: A Ritual of Memory/Time/Place/Music” on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 8 p.m. at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco, on the Third Floor in the Hall of Culture. The event features Rhodessa Jones with Idris Ackamoor, alto and tenor sax; Heshima Mark Williams, bass; David Molina, guitar and percussion; Bob Marshall, drums. Reservations are advised. Call 415-292-1850.
A Black Cinderella Story
“Cinderella,” directed by Shawn J. West at African American Shakespeare Company, runs Dec. 5-20. All shows are at Burial Clay Theater at the AAACC complex, 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. Visit http://www.african-americanshakes.org/productions/cinderella/.
Teranga Fundraiser for Mbongui Square Festival
The Teranga Fundraiser for the Mbongui Square Festival is Tuesday, Dec. 1, 5:30-10 p.m., at Bissap Baobap, 3372 19th St., at Mission Street, San Francisco. Bissap Baobab will donate 20 percent of all food proceeds, Tuesday, Dec. 1, to help the festival in its fourth year. For dinner reservation, call 415-643-3558 or book on http://www.opentable.com/bissap-and-little-baobab.
4th Annual Mbongui Square Festival
Mbongui Square Festival, Dec. 12-13, at Zaccho Studio, 1777 Yosemite Ave, San Francisco, 7 p.m., an annual community festival organized by Kiandanda Dance Theater, is a gathering of dancers, musicians, visual and spoken word artists of various styles from the Bay Area and around the world. As the Kikongo word “Mbongui” implies, the festival will be one of transformative connection and change for both performers and audience. For tickets, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/e/mbongui-square-2015-tickets-18126583098.
On Sunday Dec. 6, the Oakland Public Conservatory will be serving up delicious bites and some fresh, cutting-edge musical performances by Frederick Douglass Youth Ensemble alumni Victor McElhaney-drums, Jasim Perales-trombone, Amina Scott-bass and Ayinde Webb-drums with special guests Steve Turre, Grammy Award-winning shellist and trombonist with the Saturday Night Live Band, and Ronnie Daliyo, Zimbabwean master musician and dancer.
Rounding out the ensemble on piano will be the much loved and respected noted pianist and professor of music at the College of Alameda, Glen Pearson. The celebration of this Oakland institution takes place in the “On Broadway Room” at Impact Hub Oakland, 2323 Broadway in Oakland. There will be a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and drinks. The gala, hosted by Dana King, will also honor music education pioneers, among them Baba E.W. Wainwright, African Roots of Jazz. Tickets are $75-$100. For information visit opcmusic.org.
‘Soulful Christmas: A Gospel Holiday Concert’
Lorraine Hansberry Theatre’s legendary holiday show, “Soulful Christmas: A Gospel Holiday Concert,” returns to Ft. Mason Center’s Southside Theater. Conducted by renowned Musical Director Yvonne Cobbs, the LHT Gospel Choir is comprised of veteran Bay Area gospel singers and new members alike for the 2015 show. The concert includes over 20 traditional and new holiday favorites that include secular songs and inspirational gospel spirituals to lift your spirit and propel you into the joy of the season. There are only 12 shows: Thursday, Dec. 10, 8:00 p.m. (preview), Thursday, Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11 (opening), Saturday, Dec. 12, Friday, Dec. 18, Saturday, Dec. 19, Tuesday, Dec. 22 and Wednesday, Dec. 23.
We will miss Marc Pâquette, long-time Lorraine Hansberry Theater (LHT) audience development manager and webmaster, who made his transition Sept. 22. He was 58. With the theatre since 1994 in multiple capacities, Marc would call me when I missed emails, set up interviews and greet me warmly when I arrived at the theatre.
I spoke to him a few times this year when I found out he was ill, the last time in August just before I went to New Orleans. I asked him if he wanted me to bring him back anything. Always optimistic and positive, he told me he was spending time with friends and had everything he needed. In the 21 years I’d known Marc, he echoed for me the vision of LHT co-founders Quentin Easter and Stanley E. Williams, who both passed in 2010. He will be missed.
Lorraine Hansberrry Theatre at MoAD
As part of the “Bringing the Art to the Audience” (BATA) series at MoAD, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre presents a staged reading of “Welcome to the Sandbox” by LaToya Morgan, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2 p.m., at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), 685 Mission St., at Third Street, San Francisco. Visit www.MoADSF.org.
Synopsis: “Upon returning home from Operation: Iraqi Freedom, a female Army medic struggles to reconnect with her husband, daughter and civilian life, only to discover that coming back to the home front can be as difficult as surviving on the battlefield.”
Admission is free for MoAD members and LHT subscribers with an RSVP in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415-318-7140. For all others, the staged reading is FREE with general admission for full day entry to MoAD: $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.
Theatre: Word for Word
Word for Word’s “Holiday High Jinx Bums, Broads and Broadway: Stories by Damon Runyon, Joseph Mitchell, and E.B. White,” directed by Sheila Balter, plays Nov. 28 through Dec. 24 at Z Below, Z Space’s second venue, at 470 Florida St., in San Francisco. Performances run Tuesday-Sunday: Tuesday-Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. The final week, shows are Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 2 and 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 23, at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 24, at 2 p.m. Tickets, $35- $55, previews $20, are available by calling 866-811-4111 or going to www.zspace.org.
‘FlashPlays’ two nights only
Playwrights Foundation delivers lightning in a bottle with FlashPlays, a lively new format of 30-second to two-minute plays on Dec. 6 and 7. Over 40 playwrights will create roughly 80 short plays to drive this whirlwind event at the historic Brava Theater in San Francisco. These short works come together forming an artistic mosaic of the here and now, a depiction of the world around us in a fun and dynamic format. FlashPlays is ferociously fast theater with groundbreaking local playwrights, including Chris Chen, Aaron Loeb, Joan Holden, Lauren Gunderson, Prince Gomolvilas, Guggenheim Fellow Anthony Clarvoe and many more!
There are two performances only, on Sunday, Dec. 6, and Monday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. at Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St.in San Francisco. Parking is available in a paid lot on 24thStreet at Potrero, behind SF General Hospital, and on the street. General admission is $18 online in advance and $25 at the door. VIP tickets for $36 include reserved best seats and a drink of your choice. For tickets and information, visit www.playwrightsfoundation.org.
‘Go Tell It! A Harriet Tubman Christmas Story’
Lyric Performing Arts Academy presents the fourth annual musical drama “Go Tell It! – A Harriet Tubman Christmas Story” at City of Refuge United Church of Christ on Dec. 19 and 20. Written by Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu, “Go Tell It! – A Harriet Tubman Christmas Story” features original musical arrangements of classic Spirituals set to poignant portrayals of Harriet Tubman’s life.
“Go Tell It!” will be presented at City of Refuge United Church of Christ, 8400 Enterprise Way in Oakland, on Saturday, Dec. 19, at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 pre-sale, $25 at the door. Child and senior rates are $10. Reduced group rates are available. Tickets may be purchased online at www.gotellit.info.
Shortly before Christmas day in 1854, Harriet Tubman discovered that her brothers, enslaved in Maryland, were to be sold at auction on Dec. 26. With a steely determination, she went back to Maryland, to the plantation where she had once been enslaved, to lead her brothers to freedom in the North. On Dec. 29, she, her brothers and several others walked safely into William Still’s anti-slavery office in Philadelphia. Come hear their incredible story and how the coded messages in Spirituals helped guide the way.
Join the “Go Tell It! – A Harriet Tubman Christmas Story” cast on a magical journey through time, told through Spirituals and lyrical and traditional West African dance and drumming. Meet the people who had the courage and faith to trust Harriet Tubman to guide them safely to the Promised Land. Witness a story of unshakable faith, unwavering determination, and an uncompromising commitment to freedom. Leave feeling inspired and uplifted!
Lyric Performing Arts Academy is a faith based performing arts training ground guided by the three principles of inspiration, education and service. Believing in performing arts with a purpose, LPAA creates a safe and encouraging space for students to learn and create meaningful performance art. LPAA performances feature themes of mutual respect for others, self-determination, social justice, self-respect and faith. LPAA offers comprehensive performing arts curriculum for students ages 5 and up.
Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at email@example.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.