Wanda’s Picks for August 2017

by Wanda Sabir

‘Black-Butterfly’-cast-by-Wanda-web-300x225, Wanda’s Picks for August 2017, Culture Currents
“Black Butterfly” cast – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Don’t forget the legacy of the Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey (Aug. 17, 1887-June 10, 1940) this Black August. There is an annual program at Marcus Books in Oakland, Sunday, Aug. 20, 12:30-3:30 p.m. Happy Birthday to Karla Brundage (8/29), Cousin Jeffery Lewis (8/29), Gene Howell Jr. and to all the ancestors lost in the Great Storm – Katrina (8/29/2005), and to those still swimming home on rafts and other flotilla. Follow the light.

Solar Eclipse Aug. 21

There is a solar eclipse Aug. 21. The best place to view the eclipse in the Western Hemisphere is in Salem, Oregon. If you can’t get away, locally, the event will be livestreamed. This article has a list of events in the Bay Area: http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/article/How-to-watch-next-month-s-eclipse-if-you-aren-t-11401240.php

James Forman Jr. at Marcus Books

James Forman Jr., attorney, educator, will be reading from his new book, “Locking Up Our Own; Crime and Punishment in Black America,” at Marcus Books, 3900 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, in Oakland, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2-4 p.m.

AfroSolo Concert at Yerba Buena Gardens

This year the annual AfroSolo concert features Dr. David Hardiman Sr. Quintet and Charles Hamilton Quintet. The free concert is Saturday, Aug. 5, 1-3 p.m., at The Esplanade, Yerba Buena Gardens. For information, call 415-543-1718.

Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March at the nation’s capital Aug. 19

Saturday Aug. 19, 11:30am-12:00 p.m. is the March; 12:00pm- 5:00 p.m. is the Rally at the White House (Lafayette Park), Pennsylvania Avenue N.W. and 16th Street N.W., Washington, DC 20001. Visit http://www.iamweubuntu.com/millions-for-prisoners-human-rights.html. Look for information about solidarity marches throughout the country. In the SF Bay, one is being planned in San Jose.

Destiny Muhammad presents Alice Coltrane’s ‘In Celebration of a Sonic Legacy’

The celebration of Alice Coltrane’s work is Sunday, Aug. 13, two shows, 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., at The Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. For tickets, visit http://destinymuhammadproject.com/.

Oakland Youth Art Explosion Festival, Sunday, Aug. 6

Admission is free and donations are accepted at the Oakland Youth Art Explosion, 1 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. The Youth Arts Festival will feature hip hop and jazz bands performances, urban youth farmers market, live painting mural projects, OYAE youth cinema, dance group performances, spoken word and open mic, painting workshop with professional artists, youth art exhibits. For sponsorship, donations or info on Joyce Gordon Foundation for the Arts, contact info@joycegordongallery.com or 510-465-8928.

African American Townhall

Barbara Lee hosts an African American Townhall, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 6-7:30 p.m., at the Phillip Reeder Performing Arts Center at Castlemont High School, 8601 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Speakers are Congresswoman Barbara Lee, National Urban League President Marc Morial and members of our community.

Meadows Livingstone School fundraiser

Meadows Livingstone School fundraiser, “A Night of Music and Culture,” is Saturday, Aug. 6, 7-9 p.m., at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St. in Berkeley. Hosted by Reyna Amaya, the event features Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, Jennifer Johns, Afia Walking Tree and Yele. For information, call 415-695-7735. Tickets are $40 in advance and $44 at the door.

For over 30 years, the Meadows-Livingstone School has specialized in educating African-American children to reach their full academic, social, emotional and creative potential. The school solves Black parents’ dilemma: finding an academically challenging school that also cultivates their children’s self-respect. The school builds students’ strength through a holistic approach – teaching the whole child. It is a small school, fewer than 30 students, where teachers, students, parents and families are valued members of a caring community. Visit meadowslivingstoneschool.com.

Azucar con Ache Farewell Show

The show is Sunday, Aug. 27, at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 7 p.m., Tickets are $20 in advance, $24 at the door. freightandsalvage.org or 510-644-2020.

‘Black Butterflies,’ a Collaborative Youth Arts Project

Darren Canady’s play, directed by Lauren Spencer, is presented by ACT’s Education and Community Programs and Young Conservatory and Destiny Arts Center in Oakland. The play, which opened for a week run in San Francisco, continues in the East Bay, Thursday-Friday, Aug. 4-5, at Destiny Arts Center, 970 Grace Ave., Oakland. Visit destinyarts.org, 510-597-1619. It features a cast of youth from schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

The story is of the often forgotten girls, in this case Aisha, Mercedes and Dani, caught in the web of juvenile detention and what happens to them there. The youngest girl is 12, the oldest 18. There is no pretense, warehousing, not education is happening there, until the girls meet Ms. Constance, the new teacher, who opens the girls’ eyes to their power through literature, what she calls her Brown Warriors: characters like Shug, Esperanza and Winter, authors Alice Walker, Sandra Cisneros and Sistah Soldier.

‘Black-Butterfly’-director-and-playwright-Lauren-Spencer-and-Darren-Canady-by-Wanda-web-225x300, Wanda’s Picks for August 2017, Culture Currents
“Black Butterfly” director and playwright Lauren Spencer and Darren Canady – Photo: Wanda Sabir

Listen to an interview with the director and playwright rebroadcast July 28 at Wanda’s Picks Radio. Canady says he takes much of his inspiration for the stories of the three girls from Monique Morris’s “Push Out: the Criminalization of Black Girls in School.” Opening night was awesome! Present were the many supporters such as teachers Elizabeth Carter, author Monique Morris, poets Black Achilles, Madeline Clifford, Young Women’s Freedom Center, Youth Speaks, Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco, and Each One Reach One.

California Shakespeare Theater presents ‘Black Odyssey’ by Marcus Gardley, directed by Eric Ting, Aug. 9-Sept. 3

Many of us have been waiting a long time to see Marcus Gardley’s masterpiece, “Black Odyssey,” in full production after the staged reading hosted by Lorraine Hansberry Theatre four years ago. I wish my friend Hubert Collins were still alive. I remember his tears at the performance as he shared how moved he was by Ulysses’s journey.

Margo Hall and Aldo Billingslea are the only two members of that cast in the present production and at least Aldo character is different. Joining Margo and Aldo are J. Alphonse Nicholson, Omozé Idehenre, Dawn L., Safiya Fredericks, Lamont Thompson, Michael Gene Sullivan and Michael Curry to tell this remarkable story.

Based loosely on Greek playwright Homer’s “Odyssey,” this journey was one most in the audience recognized, yet perhaps had not articulated it so masterfully prior to this production. We know the trail of bones, whether it is Black Mary Wilkes following Aunt Ester Tyler: a former slave and a “soul-cleanser’s” instructions so that Citizen Bartlow can get right with himself in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” or Great Aunt Tina (Athena) pleading with her dad, Great Grand Daddy Deus (Zeus) to talk to Great Grand Paw Sidin (Percedian) to save her kin from drowning.

It is interesting that like Wilson’s Citizen, Gardley’s Ulysses Lincoln, a Gulf War veteran who has blinded Polyphemus, a one eyed cyclops, Great Grand Paw Sidin’s or Poseidon’s son, which is why Sidin is trying to drown him, also has to go to the City of Bones. He needs to find his story or learn his history so he can get home.

As Ulysses Lincoln travels, he meets friends and foes – even family. Maps are etched in hands and he finds paths or trails similar to his own. These familiar markings make the journey, if not less harrowing, certainly more satisfying for Ulysses, who has been lost so long his memories are legends he shares with his new friend, Nella Pell. She saves his life.

Stranded people with limited rations are not the most sympathetic rescuers, but the child Nella Pell convinces her dad not to shoot him and her mom to let him stay.

Monique-Morris-author-of-‘Push-Out’-and-Darren-Canady-playwright-by-Wanda-web-300x225, Wanda’s Picks for August 2017, Culture Currents
Monique Morris, author of “Push Out,” and Darren Canady, playwright

There is a lot of water imagery, floods and heavy rains. Is it New Orleans after the levees break or some other water odyssey? Ulysses is at first confused, until he realizes that he is in the future, the journey a memory past, one previously inaccessible, thus the forced journey. He will not get a pass home until he knows where he comes from, not physically, which, when asked, he’d say New York City, but a deeper look at home as in who are his people? How many generations can he name? What ancestors’ stories does he carry in his bones?

Gardley writes of blood memories, trapped energy, clotted or stuck souls unable to get home. Ulysses meets a family floating on a roof – there is a flood and Artez and Alsendra Sabine wait as the water rises for the “government” to save them. Ulysses, a bit less optimistic, tries to get them to notice the water rising and abandon the hope of something outside themselves saving the couple and their daughter, Nella Pell.

What is blood but water? First blue and then when air hits it the color changes? The human body is 90 percent water and if the planet is a metaphor for our vehicles and all the Used cars we buy for this journey, then what does this memory-blood-water connection mean? See https://sfbayview.com/2013/05/wandas-picks-for-may-2013/.

Discounted ticket previews are Aug. 9, 10, 11 at 8 p.m. with the press opening Aug. 12 at 8 p.m. The show runs Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., and weekends, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. Cal Shakes is located in the beautiful Bruns Amphitheater, 100 California Shakespeare Theater Way, Orinda, just off Highway 24 at the California Shakespeare Theater Way-Wilder Road exit, one mile east of the Caldecott Tunnel. There is a complimentary shuttle from Orinda BART beginning two hours before curtain. There is also complimentary parking onsite and the facility is wheelchair accessible and that counts with the Best Parking Software.

Tickets start at $20 and there are many discounts, ranging from student, senior, group rates and the $20 preshow rush throughout the season. Call Cal Shakes’ Box Office at 510-548-9666 between noon and 2 p.m. to purchase. Get tickets and information online at www.calshakes.org or at the Bruns box office on the day of the performance, pending availability.

Ubuntu Theater Project explores revolutionary themes at its fundraiser

For those who almost missed the provocative workshop production at Ubuntu Theatre, Tori Sampson’s “This Land Was Made,” directed by Williams Hodgson, there is a special fundraising performance, Sunday, Aug. 6, 2 p.m., at the Brooklyn Preserve, 1433 12th Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $15-$45 online and pay what you can at the door. Scheduled for Friday, Aug. 4, at 7:15 p.m., spoken word artists Bobbi Kindred, Leo Lyons, Jerrie Johnson and Nekela share selections and discuss their work at this pre-show panel hosted by Ubuntu company member Michael French. On Sunday, Aug. 6, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., following this special fundraising performance, join Ubuntu Theatre Project for a community panel with artist Randolph Belle, gallery owner Kelly Paschal-Hunter and Oakland Voices’ Tony Daquipa.

Terrance-White-Troy-and-Willian-Hartfield-Huey-P.-Newton-‘This-Land-Was-Made’-Ubuntu-Theater-Project-0717-by-Wanda-web-225x300, Wanda’s Picks for August 2017, Culture Currents
Terrance White (Troy) and Willian Hartfield (Huey P. Newton) after the show Sunday night. Congrats to Terrance on his MFA in Theatre from UC San Diego. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The 2017 season looks at the themes of polarization, poverty and state sanctioned violence, whether this is sexual violence against undocumented women in Lisa Ramirez’s “To the Bone” or police brutality in Sampson’s story set in Oakland in 1967, at a time when police terror in Black communities gave rise to the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The village listens as the djali or griot tells us the story of Troy, UC Berkeley student, who wants to be a judge, Sassy, his girlfriend who is also a journalist, her mother, Miss Trish, who is from Louisiana like Huey P. Newton, who visits the restaurant Miss Trish owns, a restaurant-bar serving Southern cuisine. Sassy also runs a barbershop there. Other characters are Mr. Far, who owns an auto garage, Gail, Sassy’s friend and the girlfriend of her brother and Trish’s son, a Vietnam War casualty. There is also Drew, armchair revolutionary, who challenges Troy’s decision to stay within the system whenever he can.

The drama hinges on Troy’s desire to believe in justice when he experiences racially motivated violence. Well-programmed, he recites his constitutional rights like a catechism, yet the trauma he experiences after a beating almost breaks him. The setting is a beautiful circle where audience can sit just outside the window that is Miss Trish’s restaurant, bottles filled with colored liquid sit on shelves, tables and chairs fill the space with room for dancing. The cast joins the audience from time to time, as roles are shed and taken on.

William Hartfield’s Huey P. Newton asks Troy questions he cannot answer as he places Black Americans’ current situation into historic context. Newton gives Troy examples of people similarly oppressed and how they fought and won their liberation against the power structures threatening them. This political education and analysis causes Terrance White’s Troy to change despite himself. It is the incoherent fear that makes Troy act, almost without thought of the consequences that scares him the most.

It is a volatile time for all. From scene to scene, we are not certain who will be the next casualty. Though Newton is the catalyst for Troy’s transformation, Nathalie Autumn Bennett’s Sassy has been holding space for Troy’s development; she builds him up when he is ready to return his Blackness to God for another skin. When filled with self-loathing, Troy shatters, and she reassembles his scattered pieces. However, even Sassy has her limits and at that point Troy realizes to keep her, he is going to have to be a man and take responsibility for his actions. For information, visit ubuntutheaterproject.com/this-land-was-made.

One City, One Book 2017

San Francisco Public Library’s 13th Annual One City One Book selection is “Black against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party” by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr.

“Black against Empire” is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party. “Black against Empire,” published by the University of California Press, is the winner of the American Book Award. The book has been banned by the California Department of Corrections and California inmates are currently forbidden to possess or read it.

Read “Black against Empire” this summer and join the San Francisco community this fall for the 13th Annual One City One Book program extravaganza.

Copies of “Black against Empire” will be featured in all San Francisco libraries and at bookstores around the city.

During September and October, look forward to book discussions, view themed exhibits, attend author talks and participate in many other events. One City One Book Exhibits and Events Guide is coming soon.

‘Detroit,’ the film, opens Aug. 4 nationwide

“Detroit,” the film, directed by Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, looks at structural racism and how that powder keg set off the Wayne County community 50 years ago. The reasons then are uncannily similar today as under Trump’s administration, Black life has fallen even lower on the Richter scale. Violence against Black and Brown people has not only escalated, it is encouraged. In a speech to law enforcement July 28 on Long Island, President Trump told police to treat suspects roughly. Referencing MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) an international criminal gang, he said: “Please don’t treat them too nice.” He told city government he was happy they were becoming more militarized and that combat weapons and armory tanks were literally flying off Pentagon shelves.

Then and now, if a person has Black skin, he or she is game for the hunt. The film does not spare its audience the gruesome details. We watch youngsters gunned down, beaten senseless, shot in the back and killed. “Detroit” focuses its attention on the incident at the Algiers Motel during the first two of five days of civil unrest, July 23-24, 1967, dubbed by some, “The 12th Street Riot.”

The 12th Street Riot starts after a late night, early morning police raid on an illegal afterhours club; 82 people were arrested. The party was to honor two Black soldiers returning home from war. As the police filled one wagon after another, those citizens watching were angry at the treatment of their friends. Fed up with the structural and systemic violence leveled at the community for no other reason than their Blackness, onlookers attempt to burn the city down over a period of five days, when the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Army National Guard are assigned to bring order.

At the Algiers Motel incident three Black teens were shot and killed by white policemen while nine others, two white women and seven Black men were beaten and humiliated by Detroit police. The Algiers Motel incident held as suspect Detroit police officers on duty at the time and a Black private security guard who was witness to almost all the events.

“In the five days and nights of violence, 33 Blacks and 10 whites were killed, 1,189 were injured and over 7,200 people were arrested. Approximately 2,500 stores were looted and the total property damage was estimated at about $32 million. Until the riots following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968, the Detroit Race Riot stood as the largest urban uprising of the 1960s” (blackpast.org).

The weekend the film opened was the 100th anniversary of the Silent March, the largest march against racial injustice in the United States. It was in protest against the East St. Louis Race Riots, where Black people – men, women and children – were indiscriminately attacked by white mobs. Its centennial, July 2, 1917, was honored the same weekend “Detroit” opened at select theatres (blackpast.org).

The film, starring John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie, is 143 minutes and has MPAA Rating R, for pervasive violence and strong language. Here is a short clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsANKUwfETs.

On the fly

Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center has great shows all the time, as does La Pena Cultural Center. SFJAZZ has a great lineup this fall season too. Also check out Oakland Public Conservatory, Cal Performances, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, AfroSolo 2017, Impact HUB Oakland, MoAD-SF, Fine Arts Museums, SOMarts Gallery’s “The Black Woman is God” through Aug. 20, Museum of Capitalism in Oakland, Art and Soul Festival in Oakland Aug. 19-20; Jazz on Sundays in August at Golden Gate Library in Oakland, 5606 San Pablo Ave., 3-6 p.m.

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.