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We lost Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin on Aug. 16 (March 25, 1942-Aug. 16, 2018). We also lost Kofi Annan (April 8, 1938, to Aug. 18, 2018), the seventh United Nations Secretary General and the first from Sub-Saharan African to lead the International organization. When we think about Black women and their navigation of public spaces, we remember the recent deaths of Nia Wilson, 18, and Jessica St. Louis, 26, who were not safe when they should have been #safehername.
On the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination, Wednesday, April 4, we need to stop and reflect on the many landmark movements which began 50 years ago … like hip-hop. For the Oakland Museum of California to showcase this culture in an exhibit entitled “RESPECT: Hip Hop Style and Wisdom” now through August 2018 is to elevate this conversation and its creators to a level unprecedented.
Dr. Maryse Narcisse, presidential candidate of Fanmi Lavalas, addressed an overflow audience in Oakland in late April. She spoke in the wake of the selection of Haiti’s new president, Jovenel Moise, a right-wing businessman and protégé of former president Michel Martelly, who took office via an electoral process so replete with fraud and voter suppression that opposition forces called it an “electoral coup.”
Dr. Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory, 84, joined the ancestors Aug. 19, the same day as the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington, D.C. A longtime advocate for human rights, Gregory ran for president of the United States, went to Iran to negotiate the release of Americans held hostage, is also known for his Bohemian diet and extensive fasts for human rights. Ten years ago he visited Oakland to honor the lives of the 918 adults and 305 children – including 40 infants – who lost their lives along with U.S. Congressman Leo Ryan and a United Press International film crew.
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.
2017 marks the centennial of the nation’s bloodiest race riot in the 20th century in East St. Louis, Illinois. Migrant Black people were hired to work as miners to replace striking white workers at the Aluminum Ore Co. The white workers stormed City Hall demanding redress from the mayor. Shortly thereafter, news of an attempted robbery of a white man by an armed Black man set off the reign of terror in downtown East St. Louis in which unarmed Black men, women and children were pulled from trollies and street cars and beaten and shot down in the street.
A fundraiser for California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Sara (Mariposa) Fonseca and Julia Steele Allen’s “Mariposa and the Saint” is a play created from correspondence between an inmate in solitary confinement and a volunteer with a CCWP visiting team who became Mariposa’s friend. The prison will not let Steele Allen in to see Mariposa since the play was written.
The Lower Bottom Playaz, Oakland’s premiere North American African theater company, under the direction of Ayodele Nzinga, in collaboration with OYNX, will present staged readings of “Zara’s Faith,” a play by physician-activist Marc Sapir, on June 6 and 7. “Zara’s Faith,” set in a city that could be Oakland or any inner city in America, unfolds around the police shooting of two unarmed brothers on their way to meet friends.
Over a 25 year period, 200 women in South LA went missing. Of these missing women, 100 were found dead. All of the women are Black and most were prostitutes. The refusal to let these women’s lives go unacknowledged is due to the work of Black Coalition Fighting Back Against Serial Murders. HBO will broadcast “Tales of the Grim Sleeper” on April 27.
I’ve been hearing a lot lately about a “Cotton Pickas” documentary due out Black History Month 2015. And I’m finally sitting down with the director, Robert “Fleetwood” Bowden. “Da Cotton Pickas,” explores the trials and tribulations of Southern cotton plantation workers following the abolition of slavery in America. Red carpet film tour screenings Feb. 7, 21, 24 and 27 – all free!
Given the trajectory of 2014 regarding Black lives, perhaps February would be a great time to reflect on what bell hooks calls “the love ethic,” a principle Dr. King embodied and preached. Langston Hughes would have been 116 on Feb. 1 (his mother, Carrie Langston, was born Jan. 22, 1873). Albert Woodfox will be 68 on Feb. 19. Hopefully he will be eating cake under some sunny sky, a freed man by then.
I am recovering from a huge blow – my computer was taken along with other personal irreplaceable items. We stopped by Loon Point to visit the shore before driving back to the San Francisco Bay Area Jan. 30. It was early, we’d just finished our first session of the Winter Quarter. We left our luggage in view in our cohort’s car. In Oakland, we’d not have done that, but somehow the seashore, mountains and quiet terrain deceptively seduced us.
The next screening of the Black Riders documentary, ‘Let Um Hear Ya Coming,’ is Thursday, Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m., at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. The event also features the Conscious Roots Music Showcase, with performances by E Da Ref, Askari Mwari, Jah Wave, Fly Benzo and Ms. Incredible, Audiomatic, DJ 8 and DJ Cuba.
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.
Back when Mumia was a member of the Black Panther Party, he traveled west to work with the Oakland chapter – an important time in his evolution as a radical journalist. Now the story of his life and revolutionary times comes to The New Parkway Theater. Read about it and all of Wanda's Picks for March 2013.
In an earlier statement, I said that Richard Aoki is and was my respected friend, comrade, mentor and crime partner. I received the feedback that I had used fine words but had given no examples to show what I meant. I accept that criticism and the following is my response. I hope that you can see what kind of cat the brotha was.
1995 was a very auspicious year. My “Entering Oakland” poem, which made fun of Oakland’s ominous border signs that actually read “Entering Oakland,” was a catalyst in getting the city’s signs changed to “Welcome to Oakland.” Now I’m attempting my biggest endeavor ever, a Cultural World’s Fair.
The Oakland International Film Festival is Friday-Sunday, April 6-8, at the Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Street, Oakland. Visit http://www.oiff.org/2012schedule.pdf. This year’s headliner is one of the most controversial independent films ever made, “The Spook Who Sat by the Door.” Watch it again here.
When the Occupy San Quentin rally ended, San Rafael police followed us to the Richmond Bridge. I don’t know if it was Jabari Shaw’s orange CDCR jumpsuit that kept them wondering – Is he an escapee, one of ours? – or if it was the sheer magnitude of fearlessness represented by women like Kelly, a former prisoner who would not let her traumatic experience silence her. One brother got so full looking at the guards on the other side of the gate watching that he looked like he was going to leap the gate and hurt someone as he recalled the violations of his person over and over again. Members of All of Us or None dropped everything to embrace him when he left the stage.
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