Wanda’s Picks for November 2017

by Wanda Sabir

Fats-Domino-300x169, Wanda’s Picks for November 2017, Culture Currents
Fats Domino

We pour libations for Fats Domino, New Orleans musical legend, who died Oct. 24. He was 89. The Architect of Rock n’ Roll was the child of Haitian Kreyòl plantation workers and the grandson of an enslaved African. And we also pour libations for Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), who made his transition Oct. 30. He was 80.

Congratulations to Drs. Vera and Wade Nobles on their 50th wedding anniversary this month.

Support National Campaign to Have UN Investigate Human Rights Abuses of Political Prisoners

Comrade Jalil Mutaquim (Anthony Bottom) has launched a national campaign to have the UN International Jurists investigate the human rights abuses of American political prisoners. Support this campaign by endorsing it. Read “Jalil Muntaqim: The making of a movement” at sfbayview.com and in this paper, also at Blog #47 and International Campaign for Human Rights of U.S. Political Prisoners.

Orisa Urban World Festival: Protection Shields Nov. 2-Dec. 2

Find workshops, public performances, ritual grave sweeping, theatre, dance, lectures and more information at http://www.orisaurbanworldfestival.com/schedule.php.

Movement-Trails-Within-and-Beyond-Diaspora’-Wanda’s-mapping-project-at-SOMarts-couple-1114-by-TaSin-300x200, Wanda’s Picks for November 2017, Culture Currents
A young couple map their ancestry at the San Francisco exhibit of Wanda and TaSin Sabir’s “Mapping Diaspora.” 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

‘Mapping Diaspora’ installation by Wanda Sabir at Mygration Art Exhibit

Conceptualize your geography, share oral histories, make up new ones. This exhibit evolves from the one in San Francisco not long ago that fascinated visitors, who participate by mapping their ancestry with strings – red for African blood spilled along the route – and pins. This exhibit is called “Mygration,” and it’s up Nov. 3-25 at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland (12th Street BART). The opening reception is Friday, Nov. 3, 6-9 p.m.; poetry reading Saturday, Nov. 4, 3:30-5:30 p.m.; artist talk, Saturday, Nov. 11, 1-4 p.m.

Doctors Without Borders presents ‘Forced from Home: An Interactive Exhibition Designed to Expose the Realities of the Global Refugee Crisis’ – ends Nov. 5

Just across from Lake Merritt in Oakland, the 10th Street parking lot of the historic Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center which houses the Calvin Simmons’s Theatre, neighbor to the Oakland Museum of California and Laney College, sits a refugee camp. “Forced from Home” is a 10,000 square-foot outdoor exhibition hosted by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the international humanitarian aid organization that delivers emergency medical care around the world.

MSF, which is privately funded so that its reputation as nonpartisan remains intact, is in Oakland through Nov. 5, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. MSF staff, not all doctors or nurses, lead free tours which offer visitors a glimpse into the lives of the unprecedented 65.6 million people who are internally displaced, refugees in a foreign land, or in limbo – stateless.

When one joins a tour which takes minimally an hour to complete – longer if you stop to watch other virtual stories from Mexico, Afghanistan, Southern Sudan or Iraq, write postcards to workers abroad for the holidays, times when family is missed most, or postcards to legislators to support policies that promote peace – you are given a card which tells you the country of origin and whether or not you are a refugee or an internally displaced person or other categories of persons who wind up in MSF camps.

My card said I was from the Republic of South Sudan, a new country. I had an ID number with a stamp: Internally Displaced Person over my photo. There was a line for my gender and DOB, date of issue of the card and expiration date: 13/May/2027. I know Dinkas from Southern Sudan who now live in Santa Clara County and in Oakland, so I felt comfortable in my identity; however, I did not know what I was going to encounter next.

Forced-from-Home’-10000-sq-ft-exhibit-Doctors-Without-Borders-guide-Elvis-by-Wanda-1017-web-300x225, Wanda’s Picks for November 2017, Culture Currents
At the dramatic 10,000 square foot “Forced from Home” exhibit, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) lets you learn what being literally forced from home feels like. The guides – like Elvis, who led Wanda’s tour – are MSF staff with profound understanding to impart.

After being assigned a country, we then face certain situations which cause us to lose our homes. Exhibition themes include “Push Factors”: War, religious conflict, food shortage, safety can make people flee. “On the Move” – How do people, once displaced navigate their journeys. Then there is “Legal Status”: What rights does the fleeing person retain as she crosses borders? “Basic needs”: How do families find food, shelter, maintain basic hygiene and access technology as they move from place to place? “Health Care” is of course an important issue. Many ailments are caused by poor sanitation and poor nutrition. Then, of course, “Shelter” is primary and hardest to secure for multiple reasons. Visit forcedfromhome.com.

We enter a tent where we watch a virtual 360 video – the people on the screen are life-size and talking right next to you as you turn to watch all the stories. The people are from Lebanon, Mexico, Tanzania and South Sudan regions where the largest populations of displaced persons currently reside. We listen to an Iraqi father with his wife and daughter share how he lost his home and now all he has is a wood-burning stove. The video and others like it, plus the large photos of hospital trauma centers, people on the run – smoke from explosives visible in the background – emphasize how dire and urgent the needs are for so many people.

It is crazy to think that 84 percent of refugees are hosted by developing regions. The top six refugee countries are Turkey, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Uganda and Ethiopia. The six wealthiest countries, including the U.S., host fewer than 9 percent of the world’s refugees, according to UNHCR and Oxfam.

MSF builds hospitals like one in Afghanistan, highlighted in a large photo. The hospital is rubble. It was bombed, aid workers and patients killed. I can see the sadness in Elvis’s eyes as he looks at the photo of a place he helped build, now gone. He tells me how it is his job to make sure the MSF staff are safe. Sometimes he has to have staff pack up – all except perhaps one doctor.

Elvis, Kenyan, gave me a private tour – with MSF since 2003, he is the person who goes into the region first with a doctor and a logistics-mechanic person to do an initial survey and set up. He told me how the tents pre-set-up are labeled for the kind of care needed in a particular area. The medical tent we visited was for cholera. It had special beds made from canvas, easy to clean with a hole for the bucket to catch the diarrhea. He said that there would be someone at the entrance and exit of the tent to spray the person with antibacterial and to keep the germs from spreading.

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When you’re forced from home, how do you stay alive? Water is essential; how do you find it? You’ll learn to use a lot less than you did at home.

On the other side of the ward was another section with beds covered in mosquito netting. Presented with different scenarios as Dinka from Southern Sudan, I had to think about what I might take with me in the five minutes I had before I had to leave – I chose bottled water, a blanket, my keys, a cell phone and a motorcycle. Elvis told me that people would probably take the motorcycle from me or try to jump on it, so more often people walked.

At the next stop, I had to pay the person to get through. He wanted my shoes, so I had to leave them. We passed by buses, canoes or boats and walking or climbing through mountains. Boats built for 20-40 people were carrying hundreds. The fake life jackets were lined with cardboard and the floors were often filled with excess fuel which burned the skin of the women and children seated in the bottom of the boats. These treacherous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea were often unsuccessful. I decided to keep walking rather than take a bus. I couldn’t imagine my body squeezed in between many others headed to safety.

Sometimes an escaping family would make it to a border and the police would not let all the family members cross. This happened to me. I could not leave, but my cute daughter was allowed to cross. Without access to media or international attention, people trapped at the borders often die. The government does not supply food, water or any kind of humanitarian aid. I worried about my daughter who was allowed to cross. I hoped she would not be kidnapped, trapped and sexually trafficked.

By the time I get to the end of the journey, I don’t have much left to barter with. I notice that some of the other refugees or IDPs nearby have their passports. I didn’t grab mine when I left. Perhaps I should have instead of keys. I thought about grabbing photos, but my photos are saved in Dropbox and Google Drive so I can access them from a cloud.

When I get to a camp, the first thing I see is a store. Elvis says, no matter where he is in the world and no matter how bad it is, someone sets up a store where refugees barter for goods. The cell phone charging station uses solar power. I see a toy car too. All I have left is a blanket and water bottles. I wonder what I have to barter with. Perhaps I can offer a service like letter writing or babysitting.

The first station Elvis’s team sets up is for clean drinking water, hand washing and a toilet. Americans use a lot of water daily, while the average refugee uses about two gallons. He asked me if I wanted to try squatting in the stall – I remember all too well the toilets in Africa where one squats to do her business.

What makes MSF so successful is its integration of services with community members who are hired to work alongside international aid workers. From Kenya, where he worked in HIV services, treatment and diagnosis, to his work internationally, Elvis says that he could not have the kind of job he has now at home. His loyalties would be split, so he does not work at home where presently there is unrest over the election results. Dadaab in Kenya is the largest refugee camp in the world, home to majority Somali refugees.

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Can’t imagine yourself, your child perhaps, climbing into a little boat to cross the Mediterranean? Neither could the thousands who did it anyway and lost their lives.

The other larger camp seemed to be in Southern Sudan where for a long time, the environment was stable. However, Elvis told me of a bombing there which killed a lot of people. MSF built these more permanent shelters in Sudan and has been a presence there for years. MSF has a similar yet longer presence in Congo, where it still provides aid. Elvis said they, MSF, treat everyone – the aggressor and the victim. MSF also advocates for the displaced persons, refugees and migrants who are not able to find safety. They ask larger governments to step up and provide sanctuary for displaced persons.

The irony of Oakland’s own burgeoning homeless or “Internally Displaced” population is not lost on me. I think about the poor to no response by the current municipality to the needs of citizens who do not have adequate housing or sanitation. The sanctioned camp on Peralta and 35th Street, recipients during the 2016-17 winter of compassionate care, must have exhausted the civic supply given the poor maintenance or removal of port-a-potties, handwashing facilities and regular trash and garbage pickup.

Cold weather is coming in now and with it winter storms and illness for those exposed to the elements. San Francisco started inoculating homeless residents against hepatitis C, caused by inadequate sanitation. Alameda County has not been proactive on this potential public health emergency. Our homeless populations are also “Forced from Home”; however, unlike those refugees escaping violence and persecution, these are American citizens who have certain rights, among them the right to shelter and food and safety.

The problem is bigger than one city, but if the cities in the Bay Area collaborate and plan, suffering can be mitigated and long-term solutions put into immediate action.

Put Your Ideals into Practice

For those interested in working for MSF, there is a recruitment information session Wednesday, Nov. 8, 6-7:30 p.m., at Berkeley Public Library, North Branch, Community Meeting Room, 1170 The Alameda, Berkeley. Visit http://bit.ly/MSFBerkeley.

Free community film screening of ‘Whose Streets’ at The Ruth in San Francisco

Maafa Commemoration San Francisco Bay Area presents a FREE community screening Friday, Nov. 10, 3 p.m., of “Whose Streets” (2017), directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis at The Ruth (Bayview Opera House Ruth Memorial Theatre), 4705 Third St., San Francisco, 415-824-0386. There will be preshow art activities and a panel discussion following the screening. Panelists include poet-activist Tongo Eisen-Martin and Jack Bryson, host of Restorative Justice Barbershop Talks. Invited are representatives from the Idriss Stelley Foundation. For program information and to RSVP, call 510-255-5579 and visit Facebook.com/maafabayarea.

Whose-Streets-Ferguson-film-protester-marching-031415-by-Jim-Young-Reuters-300x182, Wanda’s Picks for November 2017, Culture Currents
“Whose Streets,” the film about the amazing youth who kept coming night after night until the whole country woke up to the truth about police brutality, is coming to Bayview Hunters Point on Friday, Nov. 10, 3 p.m., at the Bayview Opera House. – Photo: Jim Young, Reuters

Robert O’Hara’s ‘Barbecue’ at SF Playhouse

San Francisco Playhouse continues with its production of Robert O’Hara’s “Barbecue,” directed by Margo Hall, through Nov. 11. Two families, one story – in O’Hara’s work, reality TV meets its match. Sometimes truth is too hard to digest, let alone sell to a prejudicial public. Often stories are recast to keep the façade appropriately masked.

Sometimes race is a parallel universe and nowhere is it better depicted than in the comedic work, “Barbecue,” where one Lillie Anne decides to bring her siblings together to create an intervention for their sister, Barbara, who is an addict. Barbecue is her favorite activity, so the family throws the party at their sister’s favorite park. The play opens with the white family, then switches to the Black family. The two families pick up where the other leaves off, the transitions perfect, the movement seamless.

In a talkback the evening I attended, the cast said in answer to a question, that the playwright did not want the two casts to act at all like one another; however, the Adleans – Edris Cooper-Anifowshe and Jennie Brick – said they both adopted certain character traits without seeing the other perform beforehand. Kehinde Koyejo and Teri Whipple’s two “Maries” are over the top outrageous. The entire family, especially brother “James T” played by Adrian Roberts and Clive Worsley are also too funny. I love the Taser scene. No one is clean in this play, except perhaps Lillie Anne and she has her issues too.

Sometimes race is a parallel universe and nowhere is it better depicted than in the comedic work, “Barbecue,” where one Lillie Anne decides to bring her siblings together to create an intervention for their sister, Barbara, who is an addict.

As we watch this family address addiction to prescription drugs, alcohol and other substances, some illegal, wearing first one ethnicity and then another, how does this play out for the audience? Does the stereotypical formula of Black family + crack addict seem more plausible than white family + crack? What story sells better? What is the dominant narrative on addiction audiences are more comfortable witnessing? What is the drug of choice? Who gets to get addicted to what?

Given the current uproar over opioids now that white America is the face of addiction, does it matter the drug of choice? Yes. Look at all the Black people rotting in prison from lengthier crack cocaine sentences. Drug addiction, which is an illness, is a crime when the victim is Black.

Set in Middle America, these are not hip Bay Area folks who get around. It seems that the most fun they have are family barbecues, the late night shopping network and Reality TV shows where families plan successful interventions for drug addict sisters.

As we watch the play and wonder, will Barbara go into rehab in Alaska – she has to leave her surroundings, according to the network blueprint Lillie Anne is following.

Big sister Lillie Anne (Halili Knox and Anne Darragh) has bought Barbara a ticket and rehearses the siblings. The family has to tie Barbara to a tree and gag her to get her to listen. Susi Damilano and Margo Hall’s Barbara is insane enough to be believable, especially when Hall’s “Director” comes on the scene.

Given the current uproar over opioids now that white America is the face of addiction, does it matter the drug of choice? Yes. Look at all the Black people rotting in prison from lengthier crack cocaine sentences. Drug addiction, which is an illness, is a crime when the victim is Black.

The Director literally upsets the applecart – rips out the canvas and has the cast rewind the story from the start. Things are not quite what they seem at all during the second act. What just happened?! Who’s telling the truth? This is where the playwright, O’Hara, is his most challenging and creative. At the end of the play our heads are spinning, not quite like “The Exorcist,” but well …

Located at 450 Post St. in San Francisco, visit https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/2017-2018-season/barbecue/ for tickets.

‘Nina Simone Story’ in Berkeley

Ms. Faye Carol as Nina Simone in “The Nina Simone Story,” written by Dr. Mona Vaughn Scott, at Black Rep, 3201 Adeline St., near Ashby in Berkeley, Friday-Sunday, Nov. 10-12. Friday at 8, Saturday at 3 and 8, Sunday at 5. For tickets, visit Brown Paper Tickets. For information, call 510-652-2120.

‘The Farm’ at TheatreFIRST in Berkeley

TheatreFIRST presents “The Farm” by Jon Tracy, directed by Michael Torres and Elena Wright at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, opens Oct. 15 with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. through Nov. 11. Each performance will be followed by a community discussion moderated by artists and activists from around the Bay Area to continue the conversation presented by the story. Tickets are $25 general, $20 student and senior Visit www.theatrefirst.com.

Independent Lens

Independent Lens’s season opens Monday, Nov. 6, with “Chasing Trane,” John Scheinfeld’s portrait of jazz great John Coltrane, which features Denzel Washington speaking the words of Coltrane. Other highlights of the fall 2017-Winter 2018 lineup include Raoul Peck’s Academy Award-nominated “I Am Not Your Negro”; “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” the latest film from Stanley Nelson (“The Black Panthers”) and Marco Williams; Jennifer M. Kroot’s “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” a fascinating look at the life and times of the groundbreaking creator of “Tales of the City”; Peter Nicks’ “The Force,” an inside look at Oakland’s troubled police department; and Peter Bratt’s “Dolores,” a moving portrait of pioneering labor and women’s rights activist Dolores Huerta. Check local broadcast times (KQED Channel 9) for scheduling. Nov. 7 the film will begin streaming online. Visit http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/tv-schedule/.

Black Doll Show and ‘Evolutionary Blues’ at AAMLO

The Annual Festival of Black Doll Show at the African American Museum and Library, Oakland, is Saturday Nov. 4, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. This free event, cohosted by the American Black Beauty Doll Artists and AAMLO, is always a holiday favorite for young and old. Food is served and guests have an opportunity to win a doll in a raffle and make dolls too.

Just in case you missed the big screening at Grand Lake, “Evolutionary Blues: West Oakland’s Music Legacy,” directed by Cheryl Fabio, is having a free screening at AAMLO, Saturday, Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m., 659 14th St. at MLK Jr. in Oakland. The film is fabulous; I just can’t figure out why Avotcja is not included. Inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, Avotcja is Oaktown Blues.

‘Clay & Earth’ art exhibit

“Clay & Earth: What We Stand On,” a new work by Vicki Gunter is on exhibit at the Oakopolis Gallery, 447 25th St., Oakland, from Oct. 6 through Nov. 18. The gallery is open for First Friday Art Murmurs on Oct. 6 and Nov. 3, 6-9 p.m., and every Saturday 1-5 p.m. Also at the gallery is “The Global Climate Change Music Project” by Rob Slaney, Australia – in the Listening Booth! Because climate change is a planetary problem, composers from every country on the planet contributed four bars of music to create one composition that speaks for the earth.

Rodney Ewing’s Open Studios

Rodney Ewing’s Open Studios 2017, Saturday, ​Nov. 11, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 12, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. A Preview Party is Friday, Nov. 10, 6-9 p.m., at the Pacific Felt Factory. 2830 20th St., between Bryant and York, San Francisco, 510-467-5946, http://www.pacificfeltfactory.com/.

During Open Studios, Ewing will be featuring recent work from two series. The first, “Untethered/Stories of Life from the Fillmore,” was a project that he collaborated on with painter Monica Lundy last year. The project is an examination of the history of displacement that occurred in the Fillmore-Western Addition and how it affected two cultures; Japanese Americans sent to internment camps during WWII and African Americans, who were displaced during the ‘60s because of urban renewal.

The second body of work, “Strange Fruit,” was commissioned for the annual Four Square exhibit at Arc Gallery. “Strange Fruit” is based on the facial angle studies of Petrus Camper, an 18th century Dutch physician, anatomist, physiologist, anthropologist, paleontologist and naturalist who stated that African features were the furthest away from the standards of “classical beauty.”

“For this project,” says Ewing, “I have appropriated his examples of African features as subjects to speak for the African American men, women and children who have perished at the hands of state sponsored violence. Each board represents a specific individual such as Tamir Rice, or Sandra Bland. The text on each board is taken from the language that is generated from Google image searches of each person. Many of the descriptions overlap and align with each other to create an unfortunate and ongoing narrative for a community that is often under siege.”

Singer-songwriter Somi introduces Oakland to African immigrant culture

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Somi, the “petite Afrique,” is often referred to as a modern-day Miriam Makeba. JazzTimes magazine describes her live performance as “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves,” while Billboard exclaims that she’s “all elegance and awe … utterly captivating.”

Somi: Petite Afrique Performance and Dialogue Series at Impact HUB Oakland was founded to give voice and visibility to America’s African immigrant community. At the Oakland event, she hosted Adoubou Traore, African Advocacy Network, and Effie Tesfahun, director of the Umoja Festival. The moderator was musician and activist Meklit Hadero.

Somi’s new work honors the legacy of African ancestors in her upper Manhattan neighborhood, “one of the Meccas of the African diaspora. In the village of Harlem, along West 116th Street from Malcolm X Boulevard to Frederick Douglass Boulevard, African immigrants build American lives. … Given the Francophone West African and Muslim community, this strip is called Little Africa.”

I think it unfortunate that those descendants of the Garveys and the Malcolm Xs and Langston Hughes and Schomburg can no longer afford to live in Harlem, Brooklyn, Bronx. Everyone is being pushed into New Jersey and elsewhere. Somi’s music queries the improvisational nature of African Disapora music. She sings “4 Women,” a Nina Simone classic, adding cultural nuances specific to her experience. Simone’s work is large enough to hold such innovation as it makes space for Somi’s creativity.

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.