Faith Ringgold, CA women prisoners & Maafa: Wanda’s picks for January 2023

Hamdiya-Cooks-Abdullah-Hafsa-Al-Amin-and-Wanda-Sabir-Colossus-Freedom-readings-102922-1400x1050, <strong>Faith Ringgold, CA women prisoners & Maafa: Wanda’s picks for January 2023</strong>, Culture Currents
The Sister-to-Sister Visiting Team for CCWP: Hamdiya Cooks-Abdullah (Legal Services for Prisoners with Children), Hafsa Al-Amin (California Coalition for Women Prisoners) and Wanda Sabir visiting CCWF in Chowchilla doing legal advocacy.

by Wanda Sabir

There are a few books from 2022 that come highly recommended. One is Avotcja’s expanded collection, “With Every Step I Take 2” (2022). Congratulations! Sister Lola Hanif’s “What Mama Used to Say: Handbook of Ole Sayings” (2022) is another.

What-Mama-Used-to-Say-by-Lola-Hanif, <strong>Faith Ringgold, CA women prisoners & Maafa: Wanda’s picks for January 2023</strong>, Culture Currents
“What Mama Used to Say,” by Lola Hanif.

Write Now! SF Bay “Uncommon Ground: BIPOC Journeys to Creative Activism” (2022), edited by Shizwe Segal, is an invaluable third gift. Twenty-two Bay Area activists, or artivists, share their creative births and processes. The featured who’s who are Avotcja, Tureeda Mikell, Karla Brundage, Wanda Sabir, Faith Adiele, Lorraine Bonner, Kim Shuck, Mark Harris, Charles Dixon, Adrian Arias, Josué Rojas, André Le Mont Wilson and other artists.

Write-Now-SF-Bay-Uncommon-Ground-BIPOC-Journeys-to-Creative-Activism-by-Shizwe-Segal, <strong>Faith Ringgold, CA women prisoners & Maafa: Wanda’s picks for January 2023</strong>, Culture Currents
“Write Now! SF Bay Uncommon Ground: BIPOC Journeys to Creative Activism,” by Shizwe Segal.

If ever there were a bound-case for the power of art to transform and save lives, “Uncommon Ground” is the text that needs citing. None of us gets a pass on difficulty; however, if we live what story our lives tell, we walk in truth. 

In “Uncommon Ground,” artists tell it in words, tell it in illustration or paint, tell it in song, wear it on their heads, wrap it around their bodies, walk it, dance it – Spirit lives on in our work. It is the only tangible legacy that survives us once flesh dissolves.

Faith Ringgold

Hope you saw the lovely Faith Ringgold: American People retrospective at the deYoung Museum, July 16-Nov. 27. She is an “uncommon” woman artist.” Ringgold’s work, her most well-known, story quilts, share a singular polarity that reflects a larger consciousness. The artist’s journey is so encouraging. She was making art when there were no models. 

A children’s book about Ringgold sits by my bedside. My mother rescued it from a discard bin at her local library. Robyn Montana Turner’s biography is a part of a series of portraits of women artists (1993).

What I loved most in the deYoung exhibit, of which I so enjoyed, were the stories Ringgold told of sewing with her mom, traveling to Europe with mom, her daughters and granddaughters. I also like the magical realm she explores via tales of woe – the Maafa tales which her protagonists might not always waltz through, but they fly over and win.

For Black people, our presence in the world is something we can never take for granted.

They win.

Her Black Super Heroes series featuring Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Malcolm X, Martin King tell stories of victory. Watch this video about Faith Ringgold’s work.

We win.

Ringgold is an organizer. She finds other Black artists and curates opportunities for group shows and support. She protests with her art, which is storytelling, drama, theater. Her art is Black people: we easel, we pigment, we canvas.

It is beauty. It is dignity. It gives Black life context and meaning.

With-Every-Step-I-Take-2-Avotcja, <strong>Faith Ringgold, CA women prisoners & Maafa: Wanda’s picks for January 2023</strong>, Culture Currents
“With Every Step I Take 2,” by Avotcja.

R. Montana Turner opens with Ringgold’s statement: “After I decided to be an artist, the first thing that I had to believe was that I, a Black woman, could be on the art scene without sacrificing one iota of my Blackness, or my femaleness, or my humanity.”

“We are here” is the theme here, whether that is Ringgold or the artists in “Uncommon Ground.” For Black people, our presence in the world is something we can never take for granted.

‘Colossus: Freedom’

The final book I’d like to highlight is “Colossus: Freedom,” co-edited by Sara Biel and Wanda Sabir. The third on the Colossus Press imprint is a collection which looks at the prison or carceral system and its impact on those behind bars and their families, not to mention those unaware of the disappeared.

The funds for the book benefit California Coalition for Women Prisoners. At a recent reading on Oct. 29, Sara Biel, co-editor and Colossus Press founder, and Wanda Sabir, CEO of Maafa SF Bay Area, gave Hafsa Al-Amin from CCWP a check from sales for $500.

The reading was at The Freedom and Movement Center and featured Oakland Poet Laureate Ayodele Nzinga, Ph.D., and contributing poets. It was the first such gathering I’d attended in several years. We were tested and masked and the third wall was open, so lots of fresh air came in.

Chowchilla-Madera-freeway-sign-by-Wanda-Sabir-1-1400x1050, <strong>Faith Ringgold, CA women prisoners & Maafa: Wanda’s picks for January 2023</strong>, Culture Currents
Six miles to Chowchilla, where one of California’s women’s prisons cages thousands of our sisters.

I shared one of my Sister-to-Sister missives (Jan. 9, 2009) from my blog. S2S was one of CCWP’s visiting teams I participated in for a number of years. The team no longer exists, but I really enjoyed being with other Black women dedicated to the liberation of other Black women. Many of the women visited have been released one way or the other. By that I mean death. 

It’s another door of no return. Some sisters returned. That swinging door that slaps us crazy. There are no winners, just survivors. How one survives is why CCWP support as well as spaces like the Freedom and Movement Center which houses CCWP and Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None are so important.

To purchase copies of the book visit All the proceeds go to CCWP.

MAAFA Commemoration 2022

MAAFA SF Bay Area hosted its 27th Annual Commemoration at Ocean Beach Oct. 9, 2022. It was well-attended. The theme was “We Are All Connected so We Must Treat Each Other Right.” These words from Richard Howell’s song echo into a new year.

We walk with grace. Over the past three years, many have moved beyond the veil. The line between here and there thin. Amos Tutuola’s protagonist in “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” turns away for just a second and is lost for what feels like an eternity.

What is the lesson from the Bardo? Grasping at things only prolongs suffering. Let go of attachment to attain freedom.

Enjoy the moment which will pass. Don’t try to hang on. You will only get dragged, then dropped.

Be gentle with yourself. Appreciate this flesh house. There is nothing like it and each day it returns to its mother, earth, what it owes.

Every day I awaken, I thank my arms, hands, legs, feet, stomach, intestines, liver, heart, lungs that wrap around my chest cavity, head, brain, ears, eyes, nose, mouth. None of these containers are filled by me. I inherited these riches. I must not squander them.

This house is a gift. I come home to this body which is a gift from the earth, my ancestors. Aṣe.

We are all connected, so we must treat each other right.

Aṣe to beloved friends and mentors, lights in perpetuated darkness: Fred T. Smith, Christine Saed, Sister Haneefah Muhammad, Barbara White, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, Albert “Shaka” Woodfox, Thich Nhat Hahn, Malidoma Some and Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor.

Aṣe to all of us. May we be well. May we be safe and free from harm. May we be happy.

One City, One Book

The final program co-hosted by MAAFA SF Bay Area for its 27th season was with longtime collaborator, the San Francisco Main Library, African American Center, which featured stories of illegally sterilized women in California prisons (CDCR). In an unprecedented move, the state has agreed to pay reparations to the surviving women 20+ years later. It has also agreed to fund public art to commemorate these lives, so we never forget and so it never happens again.

We had with us that afternoon superstars Kelli Dillion, lead litigant, now executive director of Back to the Basics, LA, and Cynthia Chandler, lead attorney, co-founder of Critical Resistance and Justice Now. Other survivors also joined in the discussion after we watched Erika Cohn, director of the award-winning film, “Belly of the Beast” (2020) which chronicles the story.

To watch the recorded program discussion, visit the San Francisco Public Library website. To watch Erika Cohn, visit

Bay View Arts and Culture Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at Visit her website at 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