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August Wilson, playwright, was very much at home in the SF Bay. I will never forget his workshop production of “Jitney” at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, where he encouraged a woman who criticized the absence of substantive women characters in his plays to write her own. Wilson said his journey was personal, yet there was room on the stage for multiple voices and perspectives.
I have been thinking a lot recently about restorative justice practices and violence – physical, psychological and emotional violence and the harm to persons, immediate and long term, as well as the harm to their associate families and communities. Not much attention is paid to the survivors of violence unless the violence is by the state, yet every day people are making choices which harm innocent people. Why is the activist community silent when it comes to advocacy for these silenced survivors?
Happy Kwanzaa Season! Check with thevillageprojectsf.org for all the details. Happy Birthday, Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (Dec. 19, 1875 – April 3, 1950), father of Black History, founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Happy 60th Birthday to those born in 1958 (smile). ASALH’s 2019 theme Black Migrations emphasizes the movement of people of African descent to new destinations and subsequently to new social realities. While inclusive of earlier centuries, this theme focuses especially on the 20th century through today.
Congrats to new San Francisco Mayor London Breed! Congrats to TheatreFirst for “Participants,” the kind of collaborative theatre project which should be the norm, not the exception. Make sure you check out the finale for the TF 2017-18 season: “Between Us” and “Just One Day” beginning Feb. 18. Listen to two engaging conversations with playwrights and actors about “Participants”: Dezi Soléy and Cheri L. Miller, Skyler Cooper, Nick Nanna Mwaluko, Carl Lumbly.
“Jitney,” August Wilson’s first play, set in 1977, takes place in the Hill District in Philadelphia, a place Wilson called home. “Jitney,” a part of Wilson’s 10-play canon that chronicles Black life from Jim Crow South to illusive Northern freedoms, speaks to the absence of permanent change for Black people despite legislative acts 1865 to now. It runs through April 16; visit www.african-americanshakes.org.
Dr. Frances Cress Welsing (“Isis Papers”) made her transition Jan. 2, 2016. She was 80. The psychiatrist who challenged white supremacists on what she called “The Cress Theory of Color Confrontation and Racism (White Supremacy)” to look at their own melanin deficiency for what it is, “envy,” stirred and continues to stir the waters. She always stated theoretically that “Black lives matter,” way before the #blm movement.
August Wilson is considered one of America’s greatest playwrights, and the work that comprises The American Century Cycle, one of the outstanding achievements of the modern theater, is performed across the globe. But only Oakland’s premiere North American African theater company has performed the entire Cycle in chronological order. The Lower Bottom Playaz close the cycle with the timely production of the only play in the cycle that is told from the lens of developers. Wilson’s Hill District in Pittsburgh, Penn., and Oakland, Calif., 2015 hold a lot of common ground. “Radio Golf” continues through Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, 2 p.m., at the Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway, Oakland.
August Wilson is considered one of America’s greatest playwrights, and the work that comprises The American Century Cycle, one of the outstanding achievements of the modern theater, is performed across the globe. But only Oakland’s premiere North American African theater company has performed the entire cycle in chronological order. Don’t miss the final installment of The Lower Bottom Playaz’ American Century Cycle Project.
“Twenty Years of Speaking Truth to Power” is the theme for CCWP’s 20th anniversary gala, on Saturday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m., at the Women’s Building 3543 18th St., San Francisco. For information, call 415-255-7036, ext. 4, and if you’d like to volunteer at the event, visit womenprisoners.org. Featured guests include Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; Jayda Rasberry, organizer with Dignity and Power Now; Thao Nguyen, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down; and the Heiwa Taiko Drummers.
Happy New Year! Happy Birthday to my granddaughter Brianna, niece Wilda and friend Fred T. I am still smiling about America’s new relationship with Cuba and the freed Cuban 5. If you are in New Orleans (NOLA), don’t miss “Prospect 3: Notes for Now,” the biennial there being celebrated throughout the city through Jan. 25.
August Wilson’s largest message is to remember. He insists we remember our song, that we do our duty to life by remembering we were born free with dignity and everything. He is a Sankofa playwright capable of making the past come to life in the present. His methodology a metaphor for remembering you must look back to move forward successfully; if you drop the ball, you’ve got to go back to get it to be successful in the end zone.
Congratulations to William Rhodes on a successful trip to South Africa, where he took a quilt created by his students at Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School in San Francisco to honor the legacy of an international hero, President Nelson Mandela, and returned with art panels from workshops conducted with youth in various townships and regions from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
Congratulations to Gerald Lenoir for carrying the torch and blazing the way for so many social justice issues from HIV/AIDS awareness in the Black community to his recent work in just migration for Pan Africans. Much success on your new work! Farewell to Alona Clifton and much success in Atlanta. Congratulations also to Almaz Negash, founder and director of African Diaspora Network in Silicon Valley for her national recognition and award at the Continental African Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C.
The Glide Memorial Church family worked wonders at the celebration of San Francisco native Maya Angelou's life that she requested before she died. They juxtaposed carefully chosen visual moments with prerecorded Maya moments, which made her presence so palatable that the sanctuary lights came under the control of Spirit Maya and played with our collective vision – the room almost dark and the lights flickering off and on.
The Lower Bottom Playaz, in their 14th season, present “Two Trains Running,” the seventh play in the American Century Cycle by August Wilson, at The Flight Deck. The Lower Bottom Playaz take pride in paying actors and technical crew and need to raise $2,500 by July 31; please contribute all you can to this troupe that is the pride of the Black Bay Area and buy your tickets for performances Aug. 1, 2 and 3.
Amiri Baraka was a giant to those who know him. And now that he is physically gone, his legend will only grow. The FBI once identified him as “the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the pan-African movement in the United States.” Even those who critiqued him considered him to be brilliant, even referring to him as the Malcolm X of literature and spoken word. He often said bluntly and yet humbly that “Malcolm X was my leader.” Amiri Baraka put into practice what Malcolm taught him about cultural revolution.
Gina M. Paige explained that the organization, African Ancestry, started with Dr. Rick Kittles, genetic researcher at Howard University who was interested in isolating the gene that caused prostate cancer, one of the leading causes of death in our community. He found this research methodology applicable in other genetic detective research and so in 2003 African Ancestry was founded with Ms. Paige.
Ayodele “Wordslanger” Nzinga is a major thespian and theatrical force in the Bay Area hailing from the Lower Bottoms of West Oakland. She is now involved in producing the works of the great August Wilson and is currently producing “Seven Guitars,” which will run the last weekend in June and the first two weekends in July. Tune in as Ayo gives us some game on our history.
Congratulations to my nephew Wilfred Batin, 9 years old, who was one of two honor roll students from Rosa Parks Elementary School honored this year at City Hall. Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who deserve more than a day to honor them. Congratulations to all the college graduates!
Storytelling is one of the most ancient forms of entertainment – before radio, television, paper and cinema. Ayodele “Wordslanger” Nzinga is one of the Bay Area’s most talented griots who tells stories of the past through her West Oakland-based theater company, The Lower Bottom Playaz. The legendary August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” opens July 13.
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