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Congratulations to Brothers in Pen for a fantastic book party and reading Oct. 20 at San Quentin State Prison. The work, whether fiction or poetry, creative nonfiction, memoir or dramatic lit, is stellar and the huge panel afterward, where the writers shared their creative process and the importance of art in their lives, was equally valuable and enlightening. That such beauty is possible behind bars is testament to the power of art to light darkness.
Those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area reflect on the legacy and work that illustrated the life of Queen Mother Makinya Kouate. After Maulana Karenga gave the students from Merritt College a mimeographed sheet with notes about a harvest festival called Kwanzaa, the Oakland-Berkeley team started hosting community Kwanzaas in their homes. Later Sister Makinya would travel to Africa and learn more about harvest festivals
What I loved this year was all the celebratory dancing from just before our ancestors crossed into the unknown territory to landing on these shores and celebrating life and the possibility of freedom, which remained physically just beyond reach for centuries. In small steps as we regained agency over ourselves, even if our bodies then and now continue to be exploited, liberation was a bit sweeter.
Don’t forget the legacy of the Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey (Aug. 17, 1887-June 10, 1940) this Black August. There is an annual program at Marcus Books in Oakland, Sunday, Aug. 20, 12:30-3:30 p.m. Happy Birthday to Karla Brundage (8/29), Cousin Jeffery Lewis (8/29), Gene Howell Jr. and to all the ancestors lost in the Great Storm – Katrina (8/29/2005), and to those still swimming home on rafts and other flotilla. Follow the light.
Happy Black History Month. Knowledge is power, something Black people from Frederick Douglass to Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks to Kamala Harris have never taken for granted. If white people would kill a Black person for teaching someone to read, not to mention knowing how to read – enough said! The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s organization, has chosen the theme: “Crisis in Education” for 2017.
On the 20th anniversary of the demise of my father, Fred Ali Batin Sr., the 18th anniversary of the Maafa Commemoration San Francisco Bay Area – the Ritual Sunday is Oct. 13, 2013; see http://maafasfbayarea.com/ – and approximately the 60th day of the hunger strike to end the inhuman conditions in California’s Security Housing Units or SHUs, I just want to pause and reflect.
Set on the banks of the Mississippi during the Civil War, "…and Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi" is a poetic journey of forgiveness and redemption inspired by the myth of Demeter and Persephone. This thought-provoking play combines traditional storytelling, gospel music and a wicked sense of humor to create a rich, imaginative world that allows trees to preach, rivers to waltz and Jesus to moonwalk. The run has been extended through April 25.
Maafa 2009 was chillier than usual, but our hearts were certainly no less warmed by the ancestors’ tight embrace as supplicants made their way through the Middle Passage to the Wolosodon rhythms, the slave march through the Doors of No Return to the beach where each person held a piece of string – symbolic of a connection … a philosophical connection to the homeland, family and history.
Black August begins with a campaign for the acquittal of Francisco Torres, the only member of the San Francisco 8 still charged. Go to www.freethesf8.org for messages to phone or fax to Attorney General Jerry Brown, urging him to drop the charges. Cisco’s hearing is Aug. 10 if the charges aren’t dropped.