Wanda’s Picks for March 2019

by Wanda Sabir

Happy Inte­­­­rnational Women’s History Month!

Black Choreographers Here and Now, Week 3

The Resident Audience Workshop (RAW) featured two chorographers in very different works, mentored by two veteran choreographers, Raissa Simpson for Natalya Shoaf and Robert Henry Johnson for Frankie Lee Peterson III. Natalya Shoaf in collaboration with Jane Selna, also the performer in the work, “fourth study,” was a solo piece that was an exploration in space, body and movement.

Defined by controlled and staccato phrases on a body that utilized the entire room, audience marking perimeters It would have been nice to know what the creators were thinking, what the performer was thinking as she moved throughout the space, prone, upright, running – which was a really cool move. Selna started running from lying on the floor to standing. It was an amazing “Get Out” moment, if readers remember the older couple at dusk (smile).

Perhaps you are more familiar with the Museum of the African Diaspora’s 50th Anniversary of the Studio Museum of New York multimedia work (second level) that has Black people running – always running.

Dressed in a nylon slip, hair in one braid traveling down her back, the lines were clean and sharp and each gesture measured and precise. The artist’s body rested, each lift an opportunity to contemplate the present moment as faded into the next. Even her falls and the noisy shifts in body weigh added to the work, which was performed without music or sound except that of feet traction on the floor or from the dancer herself.

Frankie Lee Peterson III’s “Reflect, Reflex,” which followed, had us move our chairs back to the more pedestrian theatre look, so that those of us who were short could not see really well. Nonetheless, this work, which was autobiographical, had much to recommend it. Familiar with the choreographer and his collaborators from last season or the one before that – Peterson’s poetry and visual art added much to a work that both affirmed his humanity as it did that of his audience as lessons he learned were held in a literal self-reflection as we gazed at ourselves and each other in the large mirrors dancers carried into the audience.

Choreography was rigorous, containing backflips as well as hip-hop, modern dance – I even saw a bit of an African warrior-style emerge in Peterson’s final solo. I loved the scene on the bus or BART – transit where Peterson’s character was thrown into another confined space – closets, empty cars, bathroom stalls – haunting spaces where Peterson asked the audience to witness the turmoil, the bullying and the abuse. Topics of incest, molestation and neglect tumble into fatherloss and its impact on a young boy, seven initially, and how this trail of tears followed him through elementary and middle school, cross country, after-high school.

Seated between two large figurative paintings of dancers, vulnerability etched in Peterson’s still life, we watch other characters emerge and the paintings disappear – in its place four mirrors, the shadowy presence of an alter-ego. Each of the characters is a facet of the one soul. From the moment Peterson sits down until he reaches for himself in the reflected image – the work moves with the support and participation of dancers James Bowen, Jessica Reninos and Linda Steele II.

If you missed Shawn Hawkins (Week 2) and Robert Henry Johnson (Weekend 1), they have encores in Week 4, March 9 and 10, 7:30 p.m., at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Visit https://www.bcfhereandnow.com/.

Black Women Sleeping

From “House/Full of Black Women”

“House/Full of Black Women” is in progress. Episode 13 is “Black Womxn Dreaming: Divine the Darkness” in association with Ashara Ekundayo Gallery, 480 23rd St., Oakland. For details, whisper with Black women and Black girls. You will find us; we are looking for you, March 24-April 14. Visit http://housefullofblackwomen.com/.

Public events:

  • March 24-April 14, 2019, “Diving the Darkness” Installation, created by Alexa Burell, Shelly Davis Roberts, Stephanie Johnson
  • March 24, 5-7 p.m., Opening Ceremony: “Blessing of the Beds,” opening invocation Tobe Melora Correal and Yvette Aldama; Sound Healing by Gina Breedlove; Decolonizing our Dreams by Amber McZeal
  • March 27. 6:30-8:30 p.m., Artist Conversation: “Divine the Darkness and the Neuromelanin Wall”
  • April 4, 6-8 p.m.. Dream Writing Workshop with A-lan Holt
  • April 14, 6-8 p.m., Closing Ceremony: Twilight Procession

Women’s History Month at Alameda Island Poets

Alameda Island Poets’ Women’s Month Reading is Wednesday, March 6, 7 p.m., at the Frank Bette Center, 1601 Paru St., Alameda. Featured poets are Susan Cohen, Sharon Coleman and Angela Chung and the reading is hosted by Nanette Deetz and Alameda Poet Laureate Cathy Dana. Following features are refreshments and AIP’s famously-friendly open mic. If any poets would like to donate work to the Poets of Paradise, AIP is still accepting donations. AIP’s March special guest is Berkeley Poet Laureate Rafael Jesus Gonzalez. The FREE AIPoets Workshop is March 14, 7 p.m. The theme is: Political Poetry and Activism.

Comedy

“Amazonian Bold and Bad,” a Women’s History Month comedy hosted by Jackie Keliliaa and Dara M. Wilson, will be performed Thursday, March 14, 7 p.m. (doors 6:30 p.m.), at JGG, 406 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are at BitLy/Amazonians319.

Comedy at Ashkenaz! Women’s History Month Comedy, Thursday, March 14, 8 p.m., at 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, features a diverse line up of African American, Indian American, Caucasian, Jewish, disabled, LGBT, physician-by-day … comedians: Carla Clayy, Priyanka Wali, Jade Theriault, Lisa Geduldig. Visit http://www.ashkenaz.com/.

Theatre: ‘O Freedom! – Meet Mary Pleasant’

Mary Ellen Pleasant

Dr. Susheel Bibbs presents “O Freedom! – Meet Mary Pleasant,” a one-woman musical on Mary Ellen Pleasant, Mother of Civil Rights in California, in two shows, March 23 at 7 p.m. and March 24 at 4 p.m., at the Brickhouse Art Gallery Complex, 2837 36th St., in Sacramento. There will be a short introductory film on Pleasant, then Dr. Bibbs’ one-woman with Carlos Fuentes accompanist, historian Clarence Caesar as emcee. The last time Dr. Bibbs performed the work was in 2007. Saturday, March 24, 6 p.m., is a VIP reception with wine and more; there’s only room for 25, at $50. Tickets for the play are $25 general admission, $15 for students with ID. The Sunday, March 24, performance is at 4 p.m.

On the fly

10th Annual Powerful Women of the Bay Award Luncheon Celebrating Women’s History Month and the Contributions of Outstanding Women in the San Francisco Bay Area, Friday, March 8, 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Scott’s Seafood, 2 Broadway, Oakland. For tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/powerful-women-of-the-bay-10th-annual-awards-luncheon-tickets-47150094201. Lots of great shows at Freight and Salvage: Lady Smith Black Mambazo; Omar Sosa and Sekou Keita Transparent Water Trio. Visit https://www.thefreight.org/. Visit Brava, https://www.brava.org/upcoming, for great events this month: Cultural Odyssey’s 40th Anniversary: “We Still Live Here”; Annual International Women’s Day; Golden Thread’s “What Do the Women Say? Roots and Reflection.”

Black Fatherhood Conference, March 16, 8-5, at Merritt College, 12500 Campus Drive, Oakland. Featuring Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Jerry Tello, free lunch, free workshops. Register at https://alamedacountyfathers.org/. Empowering Womxn of Color Open Mic All Stars: Spring 2019, March 10, 6:30-9:15 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; performances begin at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation: $5-$10 sliding scale suggested, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. All proceeds will go towards covering the costs of hosting this series. Learn more at https://lapena.org/upcoming-events/,

Resistance, Resilience and Anticipation” is a fresh look at the Black Arts Movement in Oakland, March 1-23. The films and panel discussions are all free and take place at the Oakland Library, Brookfield Branch, 1081 81st Ave.. Visit https://www.swfcenter4sj.org/

Book signing and lecture by Nigerian author

Ifayemi Elebuibon, the Araba of Osogbo Land, Nigeria, has a new book: “Iwuri: The Healing Power of Prayer.” He will be giving a free lecture and booksigning, Sunday, March 24, 1:30-6 p.m., at the Greenlining Building, 360 14th St., Oakland.

Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center

Kathy Reyes and Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave. at Gilman in Berkeley, are proud to present BELLA, an amazing weekend that will launch the 2019 Women’s History Month celebration, Friday, March 8, 11:00 a.m.-2:30 a.m., and Saturday, March 9, 9:00 a.m.-2:30 a.m.

BELLA is a weekend-long, women-focused celebration of multi-cultural social dance, bringing to you professional and inspiring women instructors to offer workshops, showcase at the evening dance social and judge our Ladies Showdown Competition. This is a two-day event that will offer 15 hours of dance training, 24 workshops to choose from, performances, the Ladies Team Showdown competition and social dancing to Bachata, Salsa, Merengue and more. Visit https://www.belladanceweekender.com/schedule,

Enjoy Arenas Cuban Spring Gala with Susana Arenas and the Arenas Dance Company with DJ Antonio Chávez and Cuban vegan dishes catered by Prima’s Corner! at Ashkenaz on Saturday, March 16, 7:30-11:30 p.m.

Mama Africa: Sistahs of the Drum and Adwoa Kudoto and the DrumGhana and Dance Ensemble will perform Saturday, March 23, 8:00-10:30 p.m. Visit http://www.ashkenaz.com.

International Women’s Day Festival III

In honor of International Women’s Day, a globally recognized holiday that promotes a more inclusive, gender equal world, Sol Sisters, Inc. invites you to celebrate with us at our third annual International Women’s Day Fest on Saturday, March 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at Impact HUB Oakland, 2323 Broadway.

The day will consist of an expo-style feel in the main room with tables lined with local women vendors, accompanied by DJs, dancers, poets and musicians who will grace the stage to share their power through performance! We will also have a rotation of workshops facilitated by incredibly empowering women.

To ensure you get to fully participate in the day’s events, childcare will be provided for the entirety of the event. Age appropriate activities will be provided for children ages 3-11. Tickets required for children 12 and over. Ticket proceeds go towards providing low-income women and girls access to our events and services. Visit https://oakland.impacthub.net/things-to-do-in-oakland/.

 ‘Taking Back the Power’: International Women’s Day at the Impact Hub in Oakland

Celebrate International Women’s Day with us at the Impact Hub in Oakland. This will be a special evening as we launch the long anticipated Women’s Rights anthem, “Taking Back the Power: The New Women’s Rights Anthem,” Friday, March 8, 7-11:30 p.m., at Impact HUB, Oakland, 2323 Broadway, 510-858-2323.

“Taking Back the Power” is produced by YAP! and Big Picture Anthems. The premiere of “Taking Back the Power” will headline a night filled with artistic inspiration, valuable discussion and great music. The launch event will feature performances from some of the anthem’s featured artists: Iva Brito, spoken word poet and talented rapper and Dakota Lopes, both traveling from the East Coast (New Bedford, Mass.). There will be a panel discussion with topics including the role of the arts and how it can help enhance the women’s movement. Panelists include creators of the anthem and film, as well as activists on the front line. The event will be mc’ed by Angel Diaz. Doors open at 7 p.m. for music and networking and the program will get started with performances and panel at 7:30 p.m. The film will premiere at 9:00 p.m. and a discussion will ensue, followed by music by Dj Anghelli. Visit https://oakland.impacthub.net/things-to-do-in-oakland/.

‘Marie and Rosetta’ at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley

Michelle E. Jordan as Rosetta and Marissa Rudd as Marie in “Marie and Rosetta” – Photo: Kevin Bernel

TheatreWorks Silicon Valley presents the West Coast premiere of the roof-raising musical play, “Marie and Rosetta,” by Lucille Lortel, award-winner George Brant, directed by Robert Kelley and starring Michelle E. Jordan as Rosetta and Marissa Rudd as Marie. From stirring up churchgoers in the morning to rocking the Cotton Club at night, Sister Rosetta Tharpe inspired Elvis, Ray Charles and more on her way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Growing competition on the 1940s Gospel Circuit finds Rosetta auditioning a new partner with a voice made from heaven. Will they break, blend or find harmony at last? Previews begin March 6 with opening night: March 9. The play runs through March 31, Tuesdays-Sundays, at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto. Tickets are $40-$100; savings available for educators, seniors, active military and patrons 35 and under. For information or to order tickets, visit theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960.

Women of Color Changing the Narrative Entrepreneur Conference

ODOS will host the 2019 inaugural ODOS Women of Color (WOC) conference, Saturday, March 16, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., to highlight the need for economic development for African American women and other women of color who are solopreneurs or entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Many women experience barriers and financial challenges in creating a new business. The conference provides info to attendees who seek to create and work in their passion job, desire to create new business or need help with an existing small business, baby boomers, corporate drop-outs, retirees, women experiencing corporate lay-off, and college students or millennials seeking a side gig or options to the corporate life.

ODOS expert keynotes and panelists will share info on business development, funding options, wellness, business branding and social media. The tools and resources presented will help femaleprenuers in decision-making choices, creating an entrepreneur mindset, stimulate creative processes, and help female entrepreneur businesses LEVEL UP in 2019! The conference is at the Mexican Heritage Center, 1700 Alum Rock Ave., San Jose. Visit https://odos-woc-conference.eventbrite.com/.

Rhonda Benin’s 7th annual ‘Just Like a Woman’

Rhonda Benin

Rhonda Benin’s 7th annual “Just Like a Woman” features the iconic Grammy nominated singer Maria Muldaur, jazz and blues vocalist Kim Nalley, producer-singer Rhonda Benin, Brazilian influenced jazz singer Sandy Cressman, blues singer Lady Sunrise, West Coast Female Blues Vocalist of the Year Tia Carroll, rhythm and blues singer Niecey Robinson, and the 2019 Youth Artist drummer Jayla Hernandez – all backed by music director Tammy Lynn Hall and The Lillian Armstrong Tribute Band: Ruthie Price, Kristen Strom and the return of Ruth Davies. Oakland radio personality Flo Wiley returns as the MC.

“Just Like a Woman” is Saturday, March 30, 8 p.m., Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison, Berkeley, 510-644-2020, www.thefreight.org. Tickets are $25 in advance and $27 at the door. Visit www.tinyurl/JLAW2019.

Benin has designed a unique concert format for “Just Like a Woman”: Each artist performs twice, once with a cover of a song written by or the success of which is largely attributed to a woman, then each artist performs again with an original composition. This format is part of what’s kept audiences returning year after year. Not only do you get to hear familiar music in a new way, you get to hear new music from established and emerging artists.

Also an education professional, Rhonda Benin knows how important it is to present opportunities for new experiences. For 2019 she is launching a direct appeal to Bay Area women’s groups, asking them to say yes to provide the opportunity for 100 girls and their escorts to have this unique concert experience.

Crowded Fire presents West Coast premiere of Lucy Thurber’s ‘Transfers’

A review by Wanda Sabir

Victor D. Ragsdale (as Clarence Matthews) and Caleb Cabrera (as Cristofer Rodriguez) suit up for battle (or college interviews) in the West Coast premiere of Lucy Thurber’s “Transfers,” running Feb. 28-March 23, 2019. – Photo: Adam Tolbert

Everyone probably knows a college applicant waiting for that letter in the mail indicating admission – who knows, that person might be you (smile). Lucy Thurber’s “Transfers” is that story. Directed by Ken Savage at Crowded Fire Theater in San Francisco at the Potrero Stage, 1695 18th St., Thursday-Sunday through March 23, the work examines the lives of two young men who are about to perform at “the interview.” Without intermission, the 90 minute story ploughs through multiple layers of historic trauma and too much inherited sorrow and pain, sorrow active detachment can often alleviate; separation from harmful sites can remedy – cold antidote to its efficacy, or so the applicants, Cris and Clarence and their sponsor, David DeSantos (David Everett Moore) think.

The ensemble is stunning in this charged story of chances – not quite roulette but just as deadly as these 20-year-olds put all their hopes in a basket held by tenuous straw loops. David, the recruiter for the fellowship or scholarship students, sees education as a ticket to the promising future his was, while the crass presentation Cristofer leads with is just insecurity he has learned since he’s been floating along without his oar or anchor. Caleb Cabrea’s Cris is more than what comes from his mouth. Cris is trying to find his place too in a world that has become frightening.

Victor D. Ragsdales’s Charence Matthews wants to be seen. Invisible, he is observant and sees all. He chooses when and how he wants to participate. This doesn’t lessen his vulnerability and his longing for acceptance. His transfer application’s acceptance establishes that place for him. He speaks about the beauty of New England, how much he loves the ivy and brick and mortar structures on campus … how he wants to lose himself in letters, books and writing.

His and Cris’s stories are so important to what the institution lacks. Cris doesn’t see Clarence, but Clarence sees Cris, just as David’s girlfriend doesn’t see him. Coach McNulty (Allison Whismore), David’s peer and friend, tells him, his girlfriend does not deserve him, that he is a good man. “Transfers” is about honoring each other, because sometimes we do not honor ourselves.

David fights for his transfer students’ admission with Michael Wayne Rice’s Professor Geoffrey Dean who is a deciding committee vote. All the actors are excellent; however, Rice’s Dean is played with alacrity and grace in contrast to David’s impassioned staccato. Similarly, Clarence’s control never cracks in contrast to Cris’s volatile range. Whismore’s Rosie McNulty, herself a transfer scholarship student, understands quotas and exclusion. She moves with authority, a woman who knows her value and doesn’t mind collecting a few white male scalps for her belt. She doesn’t suffer fools like David does.

“Transfers” is dynamic in its storytelling range – everyone has a story and Lucy Thurber finds a way to weave them all into a larger American story of academic access, who gets in and who does not. There are only so many slots. The work will make those with the keys to admission perhaps think about the selection process and keys into that process.

As Cristofer says to Clarence with pride, what differentiates the legacy students from them is they own their names. Cris and Clarence participate in the conjuring of spirit.

Applications cover the walls on the set – real applications. The papers float behind all the scenes, an active limbo or instability that is the office of Professor Geoffrey Dean (Michael Wayne Rice), where the colors of the institution hang, or the hotel room or Coach Rosie McNulty’s (Alison Whismore) office at the university or a coffee shop where the two men meet up after the trials have ended.

David perhaps becomes too personally invested in seeing that his candidates impress gatekeepers and get into the Ivy League institution. He shares his own college freshman story with one of the boys, Clarence Matthews (Victor D. Ragsdale) whom he has an immediate rapport, not so with Caleb Cabrera’s Cristofer Rodriguez, who is youthful, bold and brash with a sprinkling of vulnerability.

Cristofer rushes into the room, too small for three men as he blows on his clasped hands trying to get feeling back in his fingers. In language laced with expletives, he immediately establishes his turf and makes a few assumptions about the men in the room, some true, others problematic. His cultural shock is in direct contrast to Clarence’s ease based on his peer’s research before arrival about the town, its people and the institution he’d like to be a part of. This ease is visibly disrupted when Clarence learns that his transfer interview is an audition.

Chilly. The cold yet beautiful landscape is indicative of a steep culture shift, almost a rupture we wonder who will be allowed to cross. Inadequate accommodations and an early fight with his girlfriend disturb what might have been an easier introduction to the candidates for David. However, the three rehearse or perform mock interviews with their coach and familiar David whose biases inhibit rather than help the candidates. At one point Cris storms from the room into the biting cold as Clarence tells David he was wrong to speak to Cris as he did –he does not know Cris before the fall.

Both applicants were chosen because of their leadership on campus. Both see this scholarship as opportunity to perhaps figure out what the next step is in lives they were not supposed to have. As Cristofer says to Clarence – he kept his eyes forward as he moved through their neighborhood. He did not look to the left or right because he might have gotten distracted and never made it to the gym or to school or back home. Back home, in the old neighborhood, the boys never had a conversation, but they knew what each was surviving: drugs, violence, poverty. Cristofer is an athlete, a wrestler, and Clarence is a literary student. Both are really smart; however, Cristofer has a really high SAT score. These youth are two competitors for five slots. There are six contestants.

Cristofer feels guilt. How did he get to this point in life when so many others did not? Was it because he had a grandmother who paid the heat bill and made sure he had enough to eat and could study and get to the gym from the age of 5 where his coach continued the lessons? In contrast, Clarence only had the streets. He didn’t have a grandmother at home; in fact, there was no home – no safety, no protection – not that the streets and gang life offered a better alternative. Both boys spoke of fear. And though Clarence didn’t have many options, he did manage to escape.

That hotel room becomes a reckoning with the past, an opportunity to grieve what has been lost. Cristofer had no opportunity to reflect once his anchor – his grandmother – was gone. Survival meant being tough and getting out. Survival, he states in his interview with Coach McNulty, meant stepping over bodies and not looking back.

Ultimately, “Transfers” is about honor and remembrance, honoring the people who sacrificed for the transfer students’ ability to show up that day willing to make the leap. “Transfers” is also a salute to youth and their advocates (David et al) who step up despite odds and challenge with their college applications the politics, policies and power dynamics of a dominate discourse or normative narrative rooted in their peoples’ exclusion.

For tickets, visit crowdedfire.org. Prices range from $10-$35. The box office phone number is 415-523-0034 ext. 1.

Operation Varsity Blues

A huge college admissions scandal broke last week, catching wealthy parents buying their unqualified children’s way into prestigious colleges. Operation Varsity Blues is a further dismantling of a preferential system, this time in education, that when called affirmative action is labeled biased and when called white privilege gets fielded in softer terms.

According to the Washington Post, “The 50 people charged Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in a far-reaching college admissions conspiracy include the man who coached members of former president Barack Obama’s family in tennis; an investor who founded a social impact fund with Bono; a bourbon distillery owner who is married to a former football player; and a former Harvard tennis player.”

These students whose parents bought their places on teams or on ACT and SAT scores were not qualified. What these parents did to get their unqualified children into Ivy League universities is unethical yet not necessarily illegal.

In “Transfers,” Lucy Thurber addresses the issue of what happens when there are more candidates than slots to fill. Just imagine how many youth were displaced who were qualified, yet cheated out of an opportunity to transform their lives and by extension our nation.

I had two conversations with cast members of “Transfers.” To listen, visit http://tobtr.com/s/11238443 (3/13/19) and http://tobtr.com/11191939 (3/8/19).

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.