by Wanda Sabir
Love fuels liberation
Congratulations to Mary and Willie Ratcliff and Muhammad al-Kareem for the People’s Liberation Movement as manifested for 40 years in the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. Congratulations to the collective voices which have graced its pages over this history, especially ancestors such as Kevin Weston, and, to JR Valrey, much respect for envisioning such a wonderful tribute program on Feb. 21.
At a wonderful panel discussion closing weekend at “Invisibility: African American Male Artists on Art” at Warehouse 416, exhibition artists spoke about disappearing ink and how art makes what is hidden available to those who can see. Minister Farrakhan stated at the 20th Anniversary of the Million Man March “Justice or Else” rally about a need to explore our interior regions, that we are more than labels.
He called 10,000 Black men and 10,000 Black women to step to the challenge of helping our people articulate who they are so that we can all be free. Black artists stand at the pentacle of this movement for self-determination. What better tool than the arts – visual or performance art – to awaken what is dormant or dead. Black people, African people believe in life after life, that there is no terminus to this breath which is always circulating and creating more life.
Orisha Urban World Conference in Oakland!
WolfHawkJaguar’s “Prosperity Movement” is using the vehicle of hip hop inspired by Orisha to bring African healing to those who hurt most, Black people, March 10-11. These Black deities – powerful living forces – teach those who know how to walk with certainty and live with integrity as they realize Martin King’s vision for a “beloved community.” Visit Orisaurbanworldfestival.com.
“Oro Lati Enu Awon Agba: When the Elders Speak” opens the conference. Featured that evening are elders and artists, poets and musicians, who will share stories of our ancestors who crossed the waters and those who remained at home.
Both Diaspora Africans and continental Africans are affected by the disease of white supremacy and racial dominance. Among the Ifa elders on the panel Friday evening, March 11, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Oakstop, 1721 Broadway, Suite 201, in Oakland, are Dr. Wade Nobles, Chief Luisah Teish, Yeye Nedra T. Williams, Dr. Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá, Baba Obafemi and Iyabeji Cathy L. Royal, Ph.D. The first evening also includes food, libations, acoustic sounds of Zion Trinity (from New Orleans), Charlotte Hill O’Neal (from Kansas City and Tanzania) and Awon Ohun Omnira. There will be an African Marketplace, the company of uplifted beautiful people and DJ Kobie Quashie.
Evening two, Saturday, March 12, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m., is the party at The Uptown, 1928 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland. The Orisha Urban World Festival, paying tribute to the artistic beauty and wisdom of the Orisa manifested through art in the Urban World community, culminates in a concert that includes Bobi Cespedes, Zion Trinity, WolfHawkJaguar and many more: http://www.uptownnightclub.com. Tune into Wanda’s Picks Radio for exclusive interviews with performers and elders featured at this historic event beginning Wednesday, Feb. 24, http://tobtr.com/8298763, and Monday, Feb. 29, http://tobtr.com/s/8339455.
Women’s History at West Oakland Senior Center
Tuesday, March 15, “Women’s History Month at the West Oakland Senior Center,” 1724 Adeline at 18th St., 1-4 p.m., features Ms. Carol Henry, West Oakland resident, African missionary and Black Panther Party alumna, and Ken Greene’s Black Panther Photography Archives, Part 2. These photos are from the Free Huey Rally at Defermery Park in 1968. Pictures from this exhibit were in the PBS documentary “Panther.”
It’s the first showing in Oakland and will eventually travel to the Oakland Museum of California. Curator Fred Smith says, “Getting this exhibit here first is comparable to Fillmore District getting the King Tut exhibit prior to the Palace of Fine Arts.” As we reflect on the legacy of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in its 50th anniversary year, it too was a movement driven by a sincere “love for the people.” There will also be an African-American Fashion Show from Darlene’s Uneak Creations, plus other entertainment and food. Tickets at the door ate $15. For information, call 510-238-7016.
Write Your Story
The “Write Your Story” workshop, in the Brad Walter Community Room at the Oakland Main library, led by national best-selling author Denise Harris, combines lecture and writing exercises drawing from your personal experiences. Bring your journals and come prepared to write. Bring your questions and get your creative juices flowing. For information, call 510-238-3841.
Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane Company present ‘Analogy/Dora: Tramontane’
MacArthur Genius and legendary choreographer Bill T. Jones and the Bill T. Jones-Arnie Zane Company, return to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St. in San Francisco, to present the West Coast premiere of “Analogy/Dora: Tramontane,” Thursday-Sunday, March 10-13. This new performance is a meditation on persistence, resourcefulness and resilience. The work is based on an oral history Jones conducted with 95-year old Dora Amelan, a French Jewish nurse and social worker and survivor of World War II.
Dora’s harrowing story is broken into short episodes that become the basis for choreography, narrative and music. These episodes chronicle her early family life, her mother’s death as the Germans were marching into Belgium, her journey onwards to France, and the loss of further family members during the war. “Analogy/Dora: Tramontane” is an incredible portrait of perseverance and survival.
Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door and for students, seniors and teachers, $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Visit ybca.org/analogy.
Oakland Social Enterprise Boutique hosts Frederick Douglass’ great great great grandson for speech on human trafficking
Regina’s Door Vintage Boutique will host a speaking engagement for Kenneth B. Morris Jr., the great great great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great great grandson of Booker T. Washington, on Wednesday, March 16, 6:30 p.m., at 352 17th St. in Oakland. Mr. Morris will speak on slavery and his work as a modern day abolitionist as the founder and president of the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives (http://www.fdfi.org).
According to the FDFI website, Mr. Morris’ “career and life path are driven by a mission to end human trafficking and all forms of servitude with a clear focus on his organization’s mission to advance freedom through knowledge and strategic action. He could not have predicted that one day he would so fully embrace and be defined by the characteristics that so closely defined his famous ancestors.” At 6:30 p.m. is a reception, at 7:00 p.m. he will speak and then the floor will open up for questions and comments. For more information, contact 510-423-8157 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘The Colored Museum’
African American Shakespeare Company’s production of George C. Wolfe’s “The Colored Museum” is superb. So many aspects of Black personality show up in Wolfe’s provocative characters, literally framed or fried, to hear Aunt Ethel (Clara McDaniel) or Miss Roj (Aejay Mitchell) tell it. There is a girl who lays an egg – yes, I know, narrow thinking is not allowed. But then Black history requires suspension of judgment. Miss Roj says it best when he shares why he “snaps.” A snap is an assertion of presence – it is “Kid” when “Man” tries to kill that part of himself that doesn’t fit the image he is trying to paint.
The ensemble is tight, as is the timing, live music and scenic design and costumes. The direction is shared across an artistic landscape peopled by four very distinct voices. From L. Peter Callender and Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe to Michael Gene Sullivan and Velina Brown, what’s visible in the storytelling, whether this is the hilarious “Hairpiece,” the pathos of a “La La at The Party,” the tragedy that is “man” in symbiosis, or Walter Lee in “The Last Mama on the Couch Play,” we see in its 30th anniversary year why Wolfe’s stinging satire rings so true. We laugh, yet recognize these characters, ‘cause some of them live some place a bit closer to home than we care to think. It is up through March 6 at the Buriel Clay Theatre, 762 Fulton St. in San Francisco. Visit http://www.african-americanshakes.org/.
‘Bridges, a New Musical’ at Berkeley Playhouse
Imagine the Edmund Pettus Bridge juxtaposed with the Golden Gate Bridge, two stories told simultaneously through characters whose lives straddle both periods both physically and philosophically. “Bridges, a New Musical” is set in 2008, a time Elizabeth McKoy, Berkeley Playhouse’s founding director, felt resonated politically like 1965. After watching the film, “Selma, Lord Selma,” she wanted to bring the story to life in the present and shared this idea with creative team Cheryl L. Davis (book and lyrics) and Douglas J. Cohen (music).
The result is “Bridges” with excellent direction by Karen Altree Piemme and a cast too huge to name them all – let’s just say the Selma team and the Bay Area team tell the story of racial injustice and how this soul power inspires youth 43 years later when once again intolerance fuels bigotry and prejudice. Nicolas Beard (as Rev. Robert Henderson) delivers an awesome performance, as do many of the cast. Beard’s Rev. Henderson learns through his relationship with his children, especially his daughter Franki (Nandi Drayton), that love means acceptance if not agreement.
There is the usual contention between mother-in-law Grandma Clara (Amanda King) and white Jewish daughter-in-law, Denise Henderson. Dana Lewenthal’s Denise Henderson, the mother of a Black boy (even though her presence is not as visible) has a perspective not at all common off or on stage. Her song, “I Don’t Count,” and “Mean Cookies” with her son Michael (Caleb Meyers) are show stoppers.
However, Grandma Clara is a true bridge between the worlds her grandson is reading about, her granddaughter is taking inspiration from and her son, Rev. Henderson, has forgotten the lessons learned from his mother’s sacrifice. When Michael asks his grandmother to tell him about the March on Selma, she tells him about Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965; Turnaround Tuesday, March 9; and the final successful march to Montgomery, March 21-25.
Phillip Percy Williams as “Paul” (“Selma”), a freedom summer leader and, as Louis, Rev. Henderson’s gay choir director in the Bay Area, gives a wonderful performance, as do actors Joshua Marx as Bobby Cohen and Janelle Lasalle as Francine Williams. The love story between these characters, Bobby and Francine, is a toxic mix in the segregated South as well as an unwelcome interruption between fieldworkers.
They are at war and Bobby is flirting. But Bobby is white and even though the Black organizers are the experts, we see Bobby get away with certain behavior because his whiteness gives him a pass, even in the trenches. Given that safety and success are tied to the white Southern response to the demand for racial equality, Cohen’s response puts them all in danger.
There is so much Cohen, a Northerner, does not know and takes for granted when he travels to the South to register Black people to vote. Francine’s mother does not know what to do when she sees her daughter attracted to Bobby, and Bobby’s father chooses to ignore what he knows is the truth when he meets Francine. Bobby is not used to the terrorism that Black people he meets live with daily. Francine tries to tell him and even resists, for a time, his pursuit, yet they are young and the sexual attraction is stronger.
Bobby wins the girl over in this tale of multiple crossings. Decisions made in 1965 return to haunt those who survived the battle 43 years later. Survival counter-narratives are not always the best defense when truth makes one uncomfortable or uneasy. The bridges crossed historically remain as monuments to battles won and battles to come.
Bridges are how we move from one moment to another. They are the links between lessons; inspiring, they are what holds us as we move between faith and substance. Bridges are ancestors’ songs. This inspiring story is up through March 6 at the Berkeley Playhouse, 2640 College Avenue in Berkeley. For tickets call 510-845-8542 x351 or visit www.berkeleyplayhouse.org.
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.