Wanda’s Picks for August 2019

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Dianne Reeves, performing with her band at the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival on Sunday, Aug. 11, sang a Brazilian song in a duet with Romero Lubambo, guitarist, discussing the merits of building bridges instead of walls. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

by Wanda Sabir

‘Ubugqirha: A Healing Beyond the Western Gaze’

Dr. Zethu Cakata, visiting scholar from South Africa, is giving a workshop and talk on “Ubugqirha: A Healing Beyond the Western Gaze,” Friday afternoon, Aug. 2, 4-6 p.m., hosted by Dr. Tony Jackson, Association of Black Psychologists Bay Area Chapter chair, at the Prana Mind Center, 459 West MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. Dr. Cakata looks at reclamation of indigenous culture through renaming and reclamation of African spiritual and linguistic healing practices.

“My medicine is my indigenous language,” she says. “Human functioning, that is, psychology specific to its people’s behavior, is something that grows from those communities.” For the Western theorists to think they can take their infested or contaminated blanket and wave it across African Diaspora culture is both arrogant and costly to the multiple generations affected and infected by this psycho-social practice. To hear the conversation on Wanda’s Picks radio show with Dr. Zethu Cakata, Dr. Patricia Nunley and Dr. Wade Nobles (who joined briefly), visit http://tobtr.com/s/11446947.

Jazz at Yerba Buena Gardens plus Youth Art Explosion in Oakland

AfroSolo has a free concert at Yerba Buena Gardens, Saturday, Aug. 3, 1-4 p.m., and on Friday, Aug. 2, at Joyce Gordon Gallery there is a reception for the youth art exhibit. Tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 3, 11-6, is OYAE! Oakland Youth Arts Explosion at 14th and Harrison in Downtown Oakland, sponsored by JGG Foundation. There are several art exhibits that are closing Aug. 2-4, such as the exhibits at MoAD and SF Main Library, “How We Play.”

“Kill Move Paradise” at Shotgun Theatre is extended through Aug. 11. It is an emotional journey that I am not certain Black people are the right audience for. But certainly those who participate in the dominant narrative are. Send those folks on (smile). The playwright James Ijames’s work is always a discourse laden with minefields. Cluster bombs are many; however, the work is also a libation to those Black people who left here, like the characters we meet, before memories were completely whole.

400 Years: Remembering August 1619-August 2019

UC Berkeley Haas School is hosting a symposium this month on the 400 Year Marker of the Jamestown landing of African people. Register here: https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/400-years-african-american-history-symposium.

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin’s life reflects the history commemorated this year nationally by the 400 Years of African-American History Commission, established by Congress on Jan. 8, 2018, to develop and carry out programs and activities throughout the United States to recognize and highlight 400 years of African-American contributions. The bill, which had bipartisan support and included sponsors from 23 states and the District of Columbia, was signed by President Trump Jan. 8, 2019.

“In the latter end of August, a Dutch man of war … arrived at Point Comfort,” wrote Virginia Colony Secretary John Rolfe in 1619. Rolfe further noted that the White Lion commander delivered “20 and odd negroes” who were traded for provisions and other supplies. They would become either servants or slaves. Originally from Angola, they may have been captured from the Kingdom of Ndongo during the 1618-20 Portuguese war against African kingdoms. These natives of west central Africa are believed to have been traded for food and supplies. They were the first Africans to be brought to English North America. The site of the ship’s arrival is the present site of Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia.

“Fort Monroe was the arrival site of the first recorded Africans. On the same site, the first move toward emancipation occurred when Frank Baker, James Townsend and Shepard Mallory sought sanctuary during the Civil War. At Hampton University, the education of newly emancipated individuals began in 1868 and 150 years later is going strong.

“It is the legacy of the human computers like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn who helped to set the national course to the stars through their work at NASA Langley, and that of so many more individuals who helped to shape our nation,” said Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck. “While we do not celebrate the reason the first Africans arrived on our shores, we marvel at how far we have come during this 400-year journey and maintain hope for a future of unity and equality.”

Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, “American Evolution,” in partnership with Fort Monroe Authority, Fort Monroe National Monument and the City of Hampton, will host the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing on Aug. 23-25, 2019, in Hampton, Va. On Sunday, Aug. 25, 3 p.m. ET, people throughout the nation are encouraged to ring a bell four times, one ring per 100 years for the African Ancestors arrival here 400 years ago.

Black August Connection continues

This 400-year acknowledgement of the crucial role Africans have played in the establishment of this nation adds a global dimension to Black August principles. Black August, a time to commemorate our fallen comrades, is also a time of resistance.

Libations to those born this month on both sides of the realm – from Gen. Harriet Tubman Ross to Janie Porter Barrett, educator, reformer, social worker and founder of the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs; to Marcus Garvey, leader, founder of the UNIA-ACL; to James Baldwin, writer, civil rights activist; to Congresswoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; to George Jackson, father of the Prison Liberation Movement; to Barack Hussein Obama, first African-American president; to Benjamin Mays, mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King; Alex Haley, author of “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”; Ralph Bunche, political scientist, academic and diplomat, first person of color to receive a Nobel Peace Prize; Matthew Henson, explorer who was the first man to reach the North Pole; Anna J. Cooper, author and educator, one of the most important Black American scholars in United States history; Charles Bolden, astronaut, first Black American head to NASA on a permanent basis; Isaac Hayes, Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter whose score for the 1971 film “Shaft” earned Hayes an Academy Award for Best Original Song (the first Academy Award received by an African-American in a non-acting category) and two Grammy Awards; Michael Jackson; Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther Party leader and author of “Soul on Ice.” Visit http://www.Blackintime.info/Black-birthday-monthly.html.

For more information about the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Va., please visit firstafricanlanding.com.

The multi-day event, Aug. 22-25, serves to recognize the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in 1619. It will feature a commemorative ceremony, a preview of the new Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center, Black cultural tours, living history demonstrations, storytelling, and youth and musical performances. The event will also feature cultural group displays from Project 1619, the Contraband Historical Society, and the U.S. Colored Troops, and exhibitions from Virginia institutions and museums, including the National Park Service, American Evolution, Hampton History Museum, Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Casemate Museum and more.

“The First African Landing Commemorative Weekend will be a pilgrimage for African Americans and all Americans who are interested in learning about the heritage, struggles and triumphs of the first Africans who were brought to the shores of Point Comfort,” said Terry Brown, first African American superintendent at Fort Monroe National Monument. “African American history is complicated, but it’s important for us as Americans to examine the events of the past and understand the stories of slavery, resistance and emancipation and the impact on our nation.”

Commemorating 400 years in the Bay Area

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area the Commemoration of 400 Years of African American History and Life and its impact on this nation continues with:

Aug. 2, “52 Letters” opens at Ubuntu Theatre Project in Oakland and continues through Aug. 25. Conjure-woman Regina Evans’s award-winning work looks at child sex-trafficking. The state of California is a huge market and Oakland is its national epicenter.

UC Berkeley Haas School is hosting a symposium this month on the 400 Years of African American History since the Fort Comfort landing of African people, to kick off a year-long series of events. Register here: https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/400-years-african-american-history-symposium.

This day-long symposium will kick off a year of events at UC Berkeley to mark the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in North America. The events are being co-organized by the Haas Institute, the African American studies and history departments, the African American Student Development Center, and the Black Staff and Faculty Organization.

The symposium will include remarks by Haas Institute Director and African American Studies Professor John A. Powell, plus several panels and performances. The event is Aug. 30, 2019, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. at the International House Auditorium, 2299 Piedmont Ave, Berkeley. This event is wheelchair accessible.

The Equal Justice Society presents “Remembering 1619,” marking the 400th anniversary of arrival of enslaved Africans at Jamestown, Virginia. (It’s sold out, but a wait list is available.) The special presentation that evening, a play and concert, will be presented by The Marcus Shelby Quintet, Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theatre, actor Steven Anthony Jones, The Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, pianist Joe Warner, directorial consultant and dramaturg Kim Euell, set designer Wayne Campbell, filmmakers Cheo Tyehimba Taylor and David Goldberg, and executive producer Eva Paterson.

This stirring work about 400 years of struggle, triumph, grief, excellence and resilience experienced by people of African descent here in the United States will be presented in four acts: Act I: Arrival (1619 to 1644); Act II: Chattel Slavery (1645 to 1865); Act III: Reconstruction and Jim Crow (1865 to 1879 to 1956); and Act IV: The Modern Era (1957 to Present).

Art show: Karen Seneferu’s ‘Heir Done Pulled’

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Karen Seneferu’s first solo show, “Heir Done Pulled,” opens, 6-9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, at the Sargent Johnson Gallery in the African American Art and Culture Complex (AAACC), 762 Fulton St., San Francisco. It’s up through November 2019. Don’t miss the God Party on Oct. 31, 6-9 p.m. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Friday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

Cherie Hill’s ‘Détente,’ Oakland premiere

Cherie Hill IrieDance presents “Détente,” an Oakland premiere, choreographed and performed by Cherie Hill with dancers Andreina Maldonado and Rose Rothfeder, video by Imani Karpowich, Thursday, Aug. 22, and Saturday, Aug. 24, 8 p.m., at the Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$20 sliding scale; no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Visit https://detente-oakland.brownpapertickets.com/.

“Détente” investigates displacement, the word’s meaning and impact. Through dance, video and story, performers experiment with the act or process of displacing, and what it means to be removed from the usual or proper place; specifically: to expel or force to flee from home or homeland. The work is inspired by choreographer Cherie Hill’s personal experience with gentrification in Oakland and is titled after an email her landlord sent months after she battled to save her home.

The Oakland premiere includes a special film screening of the documentary “Alice Street” and a post-show discussion on gentrification and housing rights with organization Causa Justa: Just Cause. For more information, contact Cherie Hill, cherie.iriedance@gmail.com, 909-346 5299, iriedance.com, https://detente-oakland.brownpapertickets.com/.

‘House of Joy’

California Shakespeare Theater’s “House of Joy” by Madhuri Shekar, running Aug. 17 through Sept. 1, is directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian with Vidhu Singh, dramaturg. It was workshopped at Bay Area Playwrights Festival 2018. Listen to an interview with Shekar on Wanda’s Picks Radio Show, July 27, 2018: http://tobtr.com/s/10899245.

In an imperial harem, in a place like India, in a time like 1666, Hamida, a bodyguard, wakes to the oppression in her midst and decides to do something about it. Seduction, skullduggery and swordplay follow in a mythic, swashbuckling action-romance for the ages featuring Rotimi Agbabiaka (Salima), Raji Ahsan (Thermometer), Rinabeth Apostol (Miryam), Lipica Shah (Noorah), Nandita Shenoy (Gulal), Sango Tajima (Roshni), Emma Van Lare (Hamida).

Aug. 14, 8 p.m., is pay-what-you-can; the play runs Aug. 17-Sept. 1 at the 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. Complimentary shuttle from Orinda BART begins two hours before curtain. Complimentary parking onsite. For tickets, call 510-548-9666, online at www.calshakes.org, or at the Bruns box office on the day of the performance, pending availability.

Daydreaming and I am Thinking of You, Ancestors

“And on the eighth day, God said, ‘Let there be Jazz.’ And God called forth his sons and daughters to take jazz into the world. There were dozens, but God had his favorites. Lester with his porkpie, Miles with all that attitude, Brubeck, yeah, ‘Take Five,’ Trane with a ‘Love Supreme,’ Mary Lou, Dizzy and Bird be boppin, Louis, Billie, Nina, Blakey, Gets, Yusef, Rahsaan and many more. And for good measure, just because God can do it, a Duke, an Earl, and a Count leading the band. God’s abundance. God’s gift.” From Jazz Calendar 2020 by Ramsess.

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Ramsess, fine artist, stands in front of his embroidered textiles displayed at the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival. On the wall is his stained glass work, and more of his art is on cards and calendars with pictures of jazz saints and apostles. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

I have been recovering from teaching two online classes this summer. The evening of the last day, July 26, I went to a reading the final weekend at Bay Area Playwright Festival of “American Son” by Christopher Oscar Peña, directed by Ken Savage with dramaturgy by the incomparable Lisa Ramirez (Down Here Below@ Ubuntu Theatre Project).

BAPF is an opportunity for selected playwrights to have their raw plays workshopped and presented so that they can hear and see the work with an audience who is invited to give feedback and ask questions, which the playwright does not have to respond to. I went to every staged reading that final weekend.

Waitlisted for a few, I got in for them all with work this year ranging from Jeesun Choi’s “The Seekers,” which centered around a Somalian mother and teenage daughter in St. Paul tackling immigration and father-loss in a surreal way, the girl in communication with a boy who is on life support – an out of body spirit connection. I hope in post-show discussions to come, there is more talk about Somalians and what is happening in East Africa that would cause such an exodus.

Jonathan Spector’s “Siesta Key” was quite the adventure. What happens to the survivors of war – the warmongers and torturers. How far would you go for a cause? Could you throw your grandmother off a balcony terrace? “Siesta Key” humanizes villains who are hosted on a television talk show where survivors and punishers share a traditional meal and talk. Foodie meets Terrorist equals Maalox moment? Right? Laura Espino (as Alia, Edna) is amazing juxtaposed with actor Dan Hiatt (as Dentist, Kayden).

Loved Tori Keenan-Zelt’s “How the Baby Died.” It was a perfect conclusion to the heavy themed Saturday afternoon which included a delightful panel hosted by Amy Mueller, BAPF artistic director for 19 years who is retiring this month. Good luck Amy!

The panel featured great women theatre-makers – Claudia Alick (dramaturg, “FLEX”), Vidhu Singh (dramaturg, “House of Joy” at Cal Shakes Aug. 14-Sept. 1), Duca Knezevic (dramaturg, “The Seekers”) and Nakissa Etemand (dramaturg “The House of Negro Insane”) – who all spoke about more inclusive “Best Practices for Inclusive Programming,” whether this meant East Asian, African Diasporan or Lesbian playwrights. Veterans in the field, these panelists are pioneers in bringing the voices of marginalized playwrights to stages typically absent of such content.

It was Sunday, however, which many had been looking forward to, the second round of readings for African American playwrights: Terence Anthony, “The House of Negro Insane,” and Candrice Jones’s “FLEX” about a woman’s high school basketball team in the American South. Playwright Candice Jones, a former basketball player and coach herself, says that when she played in school her senior year all the girls got pregnant except her and one other player.

“FLEX” looks at pregnancy, game, faith and spirit. It was an awesome high impact reading with dance, balls, baptism – directed by the phenomenal Delicia Turner Sonneberg.

Okay, so we take a break for an Artists of the African Diaspora Mixer which is hosted by Iven Webster, BAPF associate producer, who has everyone share their names and the name of an ancestor. It was a beautiful storytelling ritual. We then got ready for “House of Negro Insane,” where in Terence Anthony’s hands we see how art is sanctuary, a place one can hold inside despite outward chaos. It is a lesson Attius (Khary L. Moye) shares with sweet one-eyed child, Madeline (Paige Mayes).

Moye’s Attius or Grimes, as he is called, builds coffins in the woodshop; he works under the supervision of a criminal, Henry (Scott Coopwood). One afternoon, Effie (Santoya Fields) sneaks into the woodshop and meets Grimes. She then brings young Madeline to protect her from the butchers in the asylum who commit surgical and chemical genocide on people assigned to their care. Effie is there because she refused to marry someone. He committed her. Madeline’s aunt got tired of her seizures, said she was possessed by the devil, and Attitus is said to have raped a white woman. He is beaten, castrated and sent to the asylum instead of prison. The work is chilling, yet beautifully written and read that evening.

To listen to an interview with playwrights Terence Anthony and Candrice Jones with their directors and dramaturgs visit: https://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2019/07/17/wandas-picks-radio-show.

Binging on plays

Yes, I have been binging on plays and theatre – went to see many thought-provoking works this past month, from Cal Shakes’ “Good Woman of Setzuan” to “Kill Move Paradise” at Shotgun Players in collaboration with Lorraine Hansberry Theatre.

On the same stage, as a part of Shotgun Players’ Champagne Reading Series, I witnessed “Citizen: An American Lyric,” Claudia Rankin’s award-winning collection of poetry marvelously directed by Elizabeth Carter. It tackles microaggressions and toxic fallout from the random explosive moments African Americans navigate in their sleep. There is no shutoff button. We cannot choose to not allow access. It is a dilemma that is a given. Adapted for stage by Stephen Sachs, the cast are also dynamic in a work which can be emotionally exhausting since “Citizen” is your life.

So anyway, I have been playing hooky. Not only have I been enjoying dancing my weekend dance – I attended two jazz festivals consecutively: first the Concord Jazz Festival’s 50th Anniversary Festival and then after I dropped off the sisters at BART, I tuned into Doug Edwards BAJABA on KPFA. The Doug of Edwards is an ancestor now, but BAJABA continues at 11 p.m. on KPFA 94.1 FM. Safi wa Nairobi was hosting that evening and she had the founder of the San Jose Jazz Festival on the air.

This interview followed a wonderful interview with Monty Alexander who was one of the featured artists at the 30th Annual San Jose Summer Jazz Festival Aug. 9-11. The festival actually began with a conference, which I learned about too late to attend, but I did get to attend two days of the festival, which was eclectic and fun with free music and dance as well as headliners on stages in the parks and theatres and clubs in downtown San Jose.

As I was walking from Brother Tyrone and The Mindbenders on the Blues Stage back to the main stage near the San Jose Museum of Art, I saw all these beautiful cards with jazz artists and inside the booth there were quilts and stained glass art and just a wonderland. I knew the artist Ramsess’s work. However, I was not expecting to see him in the booth – amazed to finally meet him.

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Brother Tyrone and The Mindbenders at the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival pass out Mardi Gras beads and shirts and other goodies. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

He was really gracious. I saw cards with Gregory Porter’s likeness, Dianne Reeves and so many others. Some looked like pen and ink while others were a tapestry of embroidered colors and designs, where one could still see the likeness – John Handy, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sojourner Truth, Angela Davis, Maxine Waters; Alice Coltrane was black and white, and Michelle Obama and the president had several. I like the layered one of the First Lady against the American flag. Ramsess should have been commissioned to do the portraits for the First Family. The weather was warm, perfect summer days and nights which featured after hours jams and deejay sets.

I got a chance to catch China Moses on Saturday afternoon at the Hammer Theatre and then dashed back to the Sobrato Organization Main Stage to see Gregory Porter – from there I caught the end of the Kim Nalley Band with James Carter. Pink Martini concluded the evening after we got lost looking for the Jackie Gage Tribute to Nancy Wilson. We could see her through the glass, but there was too much noise to hear her adequately. After standing all day, it was great to just sit down for 40 minutes.

Saturday, though I could not be in all spaces simultaneously, I did wish so not to have missed Richard Howell Plays A Love Supreme, Sons of Kemet from the UK, West Coast Blues Caravan of All-Stars and Aneesa Strings. Sunday I missed the Jazz Mass and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. There was music on major corners too.

I had a great conversation with China after her performance. Look for that transcription later this month or next month.

I got over to Alcatraz for “Future IDs” exhibit last month too, which is up through Oct. 19, 2019. The work is inspired by the prison identification people are issued; once branded, the person often ceases to exist. “Future IDs” uses art to illustrate agency. All the work in the exhibition is a part of the prison, which now functions as a seabird sanctuary – so there were no amplified sounds or loud noises allowed, which meant we had to listen well.

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The “Future IDs” exhibit at Alcatraz is reclaiming the personhood that is stolen and replaced with a number with the person is booked into prison. It’s up through Oct. 19 and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit is free with a ticket to Alcatraz. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

One of the exercises I enjoyed most outside of listening to the artists or friends and family – where the artist was not available because he or she is still locked up – share their or the artist’s artistic processes, was Circle of Engagement with Future IDs artists and family member representatives led by Jihan McDonald and Amutabi Haines. The artists made a circle and then everyone stood behind them so that there were concentric circles.

Another activity I enjoyed was the Actors’ Gang Workshop. Each actor spoke about how the characters they embodied allowed them to experience an emotion outside of anger or fear. Actors Gang gives team members a space to practice being silly and open and vulnerable. It was great experiencing even in a tertiary fashion this highly physical and emotional style of improvisational theatre led by prison alumni with company members, including Chris Bingley, Major Bunton, Kathryn Carner, Hannah Chodos, John Dich, Montrell Harrell, Mo Piquette Haynes, Jason Hoyos, Jeremie Loncka, Rich Loya and Terri Lynn Scrape.

The Future IDs at Alcatraz Release Party was co-hosted by Gregory Sale and the “Future IDs” core project collaborators Dr. Luis Garcia, Kirn Kim, Sarina Reid and Jessica Tully and the Art in the Parks program of the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

This project is reclaiming the person of the men and women and children thus marked or identified. At the opening reception July 20, there were panels with family members and those formerly incarcerated, panels with service providers and those in corrections like the warden of Avenal State Prison, the curator, Gregory Sale, Terri Lynn Scrape of the Actors’ Gang Prison Project and Angela Wilson of the Medea Project

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Jonte Campbell stands beside his work on exhibit at Alcatraz in the show “Future IDs.” Some of the works are by artists who are still locked up. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

The exhibition, which is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is a partnership with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy through the Art in the Parks program. For information on volunteering or participating in a program, visit parkconservancy.org/FutureIDs or email FutureIDs@parksconservancy.org. Entry is free with the purchase of an Alcatraz ticket. Reserve tickets at AlcatrazCruises.com.

Reparations now?

The talk this year is Reparations, not just for what African Ancestors suffered but for the continued maltreatment of African Descendants in the West, whether that is the United States, Western Europe or the Middle East. With the 1619 narrative history marker, the lives of African Ancestors are minimized juxtaposed to that of the European invasion. There was no United States. There was no America. However, there was an African presence in this New World. Spain, France, England and other countries traded in Black bodies as they also used African labor as navigators and as agribusiness experts as these persons looked to make this land their new home.

I always looked at the 15th century as the start of this travesty; however, with the wholesale season open on Black bodies, Brown bodies … nostalgic reflection on white racism and the insanity that continues to rock this nation, self-preservation demands our attention now. Being unmindful could cost us our lives.

Large family gatherings like the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, Sunday shopping chores along the El Paso, Texas, border towns at Wal-Mart – the epitome of global inequities is now one of the latest graveyards. Dayton, Ohio’s Black community, El Paso, Texas, Latino. These shooters are white, male and young. Yes, let’s be careful around all men who fit this description. I found it interesting that some killers are homegrown like the Gilroy suspect, others like the latest shooter traveled to his designated killing field.

Civility is such a farce. These lawmakers and political leaders need to turn their backs on Trump whose callous insensitivity and feigned ignorance (which is just masked disinterest) is enough to bar all entrances. Secession might be a good idea. California is wealthy enough to be its own nation state, but what are the politics of the people who live here? I wonder how many shootings have happened while Trump has been in office and if there are any records being set. It certainly feels like it.

At Shotgun Players just a week ago, July 29-30, was a staged reading of Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric,” a wonderful collection of poetry that looks at the difficulty Black people face, whether famous or ordinary, none of us is immune to microaggressions within a contextualized system where such is normalized. Racism is a fact of life. Directed by Elizabeth Carter in an ensemble piece shook the audience I met to its collective core as white guests reflected on how blind they were to this phenomenon.

Three mass shootings in one weekend. Watch Spike Lee’s “Black KKKlansman” and read Ron Stallworth’s book, “Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime.” If the FBI does not investigate ideology, it investigates violence, is what an agent said in the aftermath of the recent shootings or domestic terrorists’ acts, then it should take a leaf from former rookie detective Ron Stallworth’s book. He successfully began an investigation to stem the rise of violence against Black and other nonwhite people and neutralized it before it was set off.

Given this country’s origins, the FBI needs to have in place a unit with proactive oversight.

Why was Stallworth’s work stymied and shut down prematurely? Why wasn’t the model he started used throughout the nation? The police departments historically were and perhaps still have staff with racist and bigoted attitudes, which means the Black community needs to set up alternative community safety patrols, while others need to go undercover in these government agencies so we can do what we can to neutralize the bombs before they detonate.

It is August, folks, and the big news in July was the acquittal of the killer of Eric Gardner.

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For their encore at the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival, the O’Jays sang a song that addressed mass shootings. – Photo: Wanda Sabir

So back to Shotgun Players in collaboration with the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, we have James Ijames, “Kill Move Paradise,” a play that takes place in a space between life and death – what is after that. These three Black men and a youth find themselves stuck with memories of the moments before death. As they are startled –literally caught unaware, their lives stolen, the debt without consequence. Martin King spoke about these outstanding credit charges.

For their encore, the O’Jays sang a song that addressed mass shootings. Similarly, Dianne Reeves sang a Brazilian song in a duet with Romero Lubambo guitarist discussing the merits of building bridges instead of walls.

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 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.