Wanda’s Picks for May 2021

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A stunning radio play adaptation of the 50-year-old debut novel by Toni Morrison, “The Bluest Eye,” is epitomized in this painting. Protagonist Pecola Breedlove “is obsessed with Shirley Temple and a desire to have blue eyes,” according to the Aurora Theatre Company. The play explores “the emotional depths of Black girlhood, the poisonous effects of racism, and the heartbreak of shame.” 

by Bay View Arts and Culture Editor Wanda Sabir

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and motherkind who nurture and take care of our future citizens! As the pandemic continues to rage through our communities, we hope everyone stays safe and for those who have transcended this world: Aṣe, Aṣe, Aṣe-o. FYI: Libations for Prayers for African Ancestors of the Middle Passage is June 12, 9 a.m. PT, on Facebook @maafabayarea.

We also want to share Wombfulness Gatherings, a place for Black Wom(b)en to nurture each other into wellness by tapping into ancestral wom(b)ways that still work. Register to attend at follow us on Facebook @wombfulnest.

Our condolences to Jerri Lange’s family. Jerri was a phenomenal woman, one of the first African American journalists and television talk show hosts in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was an advocate, mother and mentor. She lived her truth unconditionally. It is to our benefit that she documented her work in her best seller “Jerri Lange: A Black Woman in the Media.” 

Jerri is survived by her two sons, James Cowan, a print media businessman, and Ted Lange, an actor best known for his stellar performance as Isaac on the hit television series “The Love Boat” along with Ted’s two sons, Jerri’s grandsons, Ted IV and Turner. 

Jerri joins her son, the late Michael Lange, former playwright, actor and professor, in heaven. There will be a memorial for Sister Jerri late this year, maybe October, her son Ted told me via email. The family does not want to risk a super spreader COVID-19 event.

April was the 20th anniversary of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). Here is the National Hotline 800-656-HOPE (4673) https://www.rainn.org/resources.

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Resources for sexual violence awareness and help can be found at https://www.rainn.org/resources.

Reflecting on motherhood

When I was about to turn 60, I asked friends who were already on the other side of this abyss, bridge, path, river … I like river – “I’ve known rivers,” Hughes says – what to expect. Friends who’d already crossed over were asked for patterns and cloth, threaded garments – stories to wear on this continuum – a passage into yet another … storied time.

I asked … blew into these spaces what awaited me on the other shore. Beached or marooned, yet not too worried, I remembered other sandy junctures … Once again, there were no lifeguards, just the occasional moonlit street.

Now that I am closer to retirement age than the guppy I was at the first crossing, I want to share with others who are still looking at the water but have no desire to get in how it feels to be alive with the fishes and crustaceans and sea anemones.

Put your hand on the rock. Touch something that can hold your weight and lean into it. Let go of the gravity that keeps us stuck in circumstances, when the unknown would be so much more liberating.

No one told me about the potential anxiety and depression that accompanies estrogen loss or that one’s equipment might cease to work or that no one would look at you with lust ever again. The scent is gone.

Lust is good, girls, especially now that everyone sees you as a saint. Try on “Saint” for a title – forgive me, St. Wanda, for I have sinned. Sin is where the fun is. Finally, no kids to worry about and, well STDs – wear a condom and check medical reports and take some penicillin – and then the equipment lining turns to tissue paper?!

The thrill is going fast. Who likes pain? I learned about a noninvasive treatment called The Mona Lisa. No, it is not a painting, rather a laser treatment that rebuilds the collagen in the vagina. Bone broth doesn’t seem to reach this part of the body.

Back to lust for the soul. This coupling fantasy is all before COVID-19 though. Now, intimacy is a cerebral affair until you are exclusive and even then, the flesh keeps calling even without estrogen, even without penetration – hugs are still nice and the ideas that float behind the intense gaze of a beloved, even flirtation and, well, at 60, you don’t need to pretend and settle and hope for someone to rescue you. 

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Register for the Virtual Wellness Retreat at bit.ly/WellnessRetreatNCBW.

At 60 you own the boat and have enough for gas – hell, you are a valued member of AAA; AARP has your back. You know how to change the oil and transmission fluid, check tire pressure and replace fuses. You own a cell phone and again you keep your roadside service current. This goddess is never stranded.

Any merman needs to have his act together or the encounter will be one short conversation. Mami Wata don’t play. She is where she is because she knows a few things, but back to lessons learned. The biggest lesson I have learned at 62-3 is to not throw away people. Live in your body, feel and honor all your emotional intelligence – speak your mind and be honest with yourself. 

I get angry a lot because the fairytale is not real. Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” is true. There are monsters everywhere: closet, under the bed and even in the bed sometimes.

Do not give away your life to another at a time when you are finally free.

My cervix is not only shut, it is bolted, skin surfaces so smooth, one wonders how two healthy children were conceived. I often wonder too at the miracle that is life—I didn’t say yes to all of it, but somehow I thought if I could leave, get away from my father’s house, I might find sanctuary, no, peace. I found more suffering, but the girls brought me joy and then I had to once again escape because I did not want the seeds of discontent to sow such in their hearts.

Suffering must be my birthright and so this legacy, this unbidden inheritance gets passed on and passed on and passed on– I sit in the middle thinking about this a lot. Anyone know a good spell? Send me a link.

Locked shut, this retired cervix, a retired general, a retired company wom(b)an who was told at a recent ultrasound exam, there is an egg still in her ovaries – “estrogen,” the magic potion that enables the journey through the rabbit hole– gone.

We are bleeding again … what is it?

At 60, we no longer settle; we see the good as we imagine loneliness and well, stop expecting perfection and give the guy an opportunity to live into his potential as we continue to grow into our own. If he needs a mama, well, suggest transcendental meditation and step back. Do not give away your life to another at a time when you are finally free. There are parasites who look to jump on bones, into bodies who are not fully occupied or contained.

62-3 does not mean we are finished with evolution. Nope, the pools connect and once we reach the shore, we get to catch our breaths and look yonder at bigger horizons as we prepare to cross another body of water and, with a running leap, jump in.

Right in front of me is surgery – unknown territory. Also in front of me is a new grandson. Lastly, in front of me is graduate school admission to USF. It will be my second time there, first time for a Masters in Writing (‘97), this time for a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry (‘24). I start in the fall with no money. I accept gifts. Right now I need $700 this month to hold my space in the class.

Toni Morrison’s ‘The Bluest Eye’ in an all-Black radio production

Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” is being produced as a radio play at Aurora Theatre, adapted by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Dawn Monique Williams with an all-Black cast and creative team. In the tale of two moms, we meet Mrs. Breedlove and Mama. Cathleen Riddley occupies both personas, but then perhaps we all have the potential to take either path, given the structural policies, historic mapping we live with in this Western paradigm.

What does a Black geography look like? 

Mrs. Breedlove sees herself as beautiful until she believes the lie. Her melanin is too much for a world without color. She frightens her neighbors, other Black people who are trying to get along, and so she stifles her fire, covers her flame until it is little more than a spark, just enough to throw her legs over the side of the bed, put feet into wore yet comfortably familiar shoes, until the weight of her Blackness settles like a cloud upon her once proud shoulders. And so, into this world Pecola is born – a beautiful brown baby girl.

Mrs. Breedlove was so looking forward to this new life. Her marriage to Cholly, a sweet love story – Cholly an orphan, rescued from a garbage heap. The newlyweds head north, leaving behind loved ones, a community a reminder to the newlyweds that they mattered, this sense of self-worth absent in the bare northern region Lorain, Ohio.

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Visit https://www.baybookfest.org/ for more info on this year’s Bay Area Book Festival!

All Pecola wants is for the people in her life – Mrs. Breedlove, her mom and Cholly, her dad, is to love her. Constantly wishing to disappear from the violence and unhappiness furnishing all the rooms in her life, the child notices how in the absenced body – her eyes are always left. Her nafs, or soul, refuses to shut its eyes. Perhaps the windows remain open as witness. Pecola wants to be gone completely; She does not want to take anything forward into this life, a fairytale captured in films with blonde, blue-eyed heroines or the pretty “light-skinned” girls at school who get all the attention.

Mama, on the other hand, is Frieda and Darlene’s mother, two girls who are Pecola’s friends. After a fire, Pecola stays with the girls’ family while their home is being repaired. Pecola has an opportunity to see and perhaps imagine another version of her story. Frieda and Claudia’s mother and father are so different from her own. The story takes place over a season beginning in autumn.

Dawn Monique Williams, director, says the Aurora production is for all the Black girls and women who couldn’t find a space to be free – beauty and liberation synonymous. “The Bluest Eye” is an adult story, even if the narrator is a child. There is rape, physical violence and death. It is what one might call a tragedy, so take care of yourself and listen with loved ones.

You will want to talk with others afterward. One can feel the love shared among the cast, director and creative production team. The sound design is marvelous and you will probably never forget this story. We need to be gentle with each other. We literally do not know who is on the other side of the mask, but we can still hold each other in love and light as we recognize their humanity as we look in their eyes as we pass.

As I spoke to cast members over a week in a series of radio conversation, my suggestion is to listen to all the perspectives. Each is singularly enlightening. We speak on the air with director, Dawn Monique Williams and Michael J. Asberry (Daddy, Cholly, Soaphead) on Friday, April 9; Cathleen Riddley (Mama/Mrs. Breedlove) with Sam Jackson (Frieda/Darlene) on Wednesday, April 14; concluding with Jasmine Milan Williams (Pecola/Maureen) on Friday, April 16.

The director has the cast playing characters who are antagonists to one another. It is pretty amazing to watch the actors slip in and out so seamlessly. between personas. There is also laughter and lightness within this story as in life. In its 29th Season, it is to its credit that Aurora Theatre allowed Williams, Associate Director, to take it on a creative journey unlike any before. We hope such excursions continue. Toni Morrison’s work, “The Bluest Eye,” is among the classics in the Western canon.

Apply the family discount code BluestCNC50 for half-price tickets. For tickets visit https://www.auroratheatre.org/thebluesteye

On the fly

Livable Planet Film Festival at SFIndie through May 2. The lineup is amazing, including a Black girl comic hero in “Becoming Ruby,” who is a mountain biker. The hero’s creator takes inspiration from her creation simulating life on Mars on Earth in “Red Heaven.” These lucky humans live together in the desert as if they were on a tight spaceship with others for a year. Will they drive each other crazy? 

There is something for everyone. Listen to the Wanda’s Picks interviewhttp://tobtr.com/11928673, with co-founder of Livable Chris Metzler.

Local films of interest are “Landfall” and “Red Heaven.” “Women Hold Up the Sky” shows you the power and resilience of Black women who don’t give up, despite land theft by refineries or developers from abroad supported by corrupt governments. Can you imagine some foreigner coming to your property and telling you to prove you own the land or they are taking it – and then taking it? 

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Women are killed, raped and run off while the government does nothing. The mothers have no means to support themselves or their families. However, they don’t give up, and slowly, in certain areas, we see the women getting their land back. In others, the government makes promises to build relocation villages with plumbing and electricity and schools for the children.

Other films from Africa include: “Stolen Fish, Tengefu: Church Forests of Ethiopia and The Burning Field.” I really liked the Church Forests which looked at the shrinking forests in the vast land. The churches are the only places with forests. There is one man, Dr. Tengefu, to turn this around before all the trees are gone.

Destiny Arts Center programs are May 19, 5-6:30 p.m., and May 23, 1-2 p.m. 

Theatre Radio Play: “Br’er Peach” at Alter Theater Fundraiser – donate before May 9 for all three segments. Listen to an interview with the playwright and members of the cast on Wanda’s Picks Radio, April 9, 2021.

The Bay Area Book Festival opens May 1.

Virtual Quest for Democracy Advocacy Day is Tuesday, May 4, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. To register: https://whova.com/portal/registration/quest1_202105.

May Day People’s Strike

May Day 2021 features a People’s Strike – a car caravan, Lake Merritt BART Station, 8th and Madison, 2:30-6 p.m.

2021 is the Year of the US Political Prisoner and we will continue efforts to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners fighting against the US empire.

On May Day 2021 in Oakland, we celebrate the fighters, the builders and everyone who found creative ways to stand together here on Turtle Island and in solidarity with oppressed people worldwide fighting US occupation and oppression.

Gather at 2:30 p.m. for a car caravan starting 3 p.m. at Lake Merritt BART station and ending with a rally at a to-be-disclosed location at 5 p.m. Bring your full heart, your tears, your rage and your joy. Come alone or come as a contingent. Rep your vision, your folks, your struggles and campaigns, as we celebrate International Workers Day 2021 in Oakland, Calif., and continue the fight for a world without borders, billionaires, police or prisons. Visit Facebook @Peoplesstrikebayarea.

Listen to an interview on Wanda’s Picks Radio, Friday, April 30, with Nell Myhand and Judy Greenspan.

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Join The Commonwealth Club at 5 p.m. PT for an in-depth dialogue about race relations and turning words into action.
Our panelists will explore changing the narratives about critical issues in the deeper layers of race relations. What does “stand together” mean and what are some of the roadblocks? How can communities preach beyond the choir and impact interactions in our daily lives? This timely deep-dive discussion promises to be thought provoking—don’t miss it.

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This is a free, online-only program; you must pre-register to receive a link to the live-stream event.
Presented in association with the APA Heritage Foundation.

Afro Roots Tuesdays presents: Kamau Kokayi, M.D. on “Pandemic, Immunity, and The Path Forward”

Tuesday, May 4th, 7:30-9 p.m. ET with special guest musicians (to be announced). Via Zoom. Register here.

Join Afro Roots Tuesdays on May 4th at 7:30pm for a special edition as we invite Dr Kamau Kokayi back to discuss: Pandemic, Immunity and The Path Forward.

There has been a rapid unfolding of events over the last two months that are drastically affecting our communities. The whole concept of immunity has been brought into question as some institutions seek to redefine it. All over the world, we are all now grappling with the question of what is immunity and what is the path forward.

How can we walk into a future where we have the best possible chance for a healthy and balanced existence, on an individual basis as well as for humanity itself, not because we are vaxxed repeatedly, but because we have a created a strong and dynamic immune system, in an ecosystem we are trying to restore. We need to create another narrative about the coronavirus, one consistent with science, but also consistent with the larger truth about our interdependence with all the life forms on this planet. We will need to be asking how do we “Get Right Within?”

Join Dr Kokayi has he takes another look at a functional, bio energetic immune system, to see what is possible and where we can have the most beneficial impact. Let’s take another look at the concept of herd immunity. The questions every person should be asking themselves, given this country’s agreement with certain unelected global public health officials to do a mass inoculation of millions of people with an experimental gene therapy is, “Can we do better than this?” and “How will our choices now impact our future?”

This is a special focus edition of Afro Roots Tuesdays to bring urgent information to the community. We invite you to bring your friends, family, and community to this event. This event will be free to join, however we ask that you kindly donate to the initiative to distribute Vitamin D3 and life-saving information to communities “Get Right Within.”

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Bay View Arts and Culture 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.