Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio, Wednesday, July 9, 2014: Madagascar Made

TaSin Sabir at Book Release Party
Photo credit: Everett Bass


TaSin Sabir joins us in the studio today to talk about her book, Madagascar Made (2014).

Her artwork can be described as vibrant and full of powerful and emotional messages. Skilled in a range of mediums, (including photography, painting, film, web & print design, and screen printing), TaSin uses this love for art making to express topics that are of an importance to her.

In 2004, TaSin graduated from California College of Arts and Crafts (now CCA), where she received a BFA in Fine Arts Photography.

TaSin signing Madagascar Made. Her father, Bilal Sabir watches.
Photo Credit: Everett Bass
Born and raised in Oakland, California TaSin’s artwork has been exhibited all around the Bay Area and Nation. Such galleries include, The Oakland Museum of California, The African American Historical and Cultural Society Museum, The Richmond Art Center, The Judah Magnes Museum, Pro Arts Gallery, Joyce Gordon Gallery, and the African American Museum in Philadelphia. TaSin has also published another photography book with Dr. Sonia BasSheva Mañjon: 100 Families Oakland: Art & Social Change (2007).

In 2007, TaSin took her passion for art and love of her community and opened a galley in Oakland called The Oakpod. During its time The Oakpod was a vital source for art and entertainment in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since its closure, TaSin has become an independent curator and curated shows for the Joyce Gordon Gallery, Maafa organization and others.

Currently TaSin is a freelance photographer and designer specializing in utilizing all her skill sets to create one of a kind projects for her clients.

TaSin with her mother Wanda Sabir at Madagascar Made
Release Party.
Photographer: Everett Bass.
Synopsis for book Madagascar Made

For a Diaspora Citizen, true freedom lies in choosing where one belongs. Such is the case for TaSin Sabir who fell in love with Madagascar, its people, fauna and flora at eleven years old in a geography class. When she finally made a journey home recently as an adult, the Sakalava people (West Coast) embraced her too. Madagascar Made (2014) illustrates this journey in bold, bright color. When TaSin donned her people's traditional basket hat, even police were surprised when this perceived native daughter spoke fluent English and carried an American passport. His facial expression was priceless. This is the creative genius of a Diaspora citizen, we belong and then, we do not. Hidden in plain sight, Madagascar Made shows in several self-portraits, TaSin here and TaSin there--Madagascar portraits on sight juxtaposed with shots posed similarly on another West Coast. Madagascar Made embraces the multiplicity of the African sojourn then and now and the fact that we are a global presence to be embraced as TaSin Sabir does photographically in this brilliant book.

Music this show: Rossy's One Eye on the Future, One Eye on the Past: "Mandry Ve," "Ramasy," and "Sira Sira." (Shanchie).

Link to the broadcast:

TaSin getting an award for photography at the Black Media Appreciation Night this Saturday 7/12/14 at the African American Art & Culture Complex San Francisco. starts at 7pm

TaSin's photographs from book Madagascar Made in this exhibit: The Capture of Life, Absent from Color. Exhibit runs from July 4 – July 26, 2014 at Joyce Gordon Gallery, Oakland.

Web links (photography and design portfolio) (you can preview the book, promo video and purchase)

Q&A about book on SFBayView site

Friday, July 04, 2014

Wanda’s Picks Radio Friday, July 4, 2014

We opened with a prerecorded interview with Nefertina Abrams, Royal House of Makeda Productions, and Melame Gange, ModeAfrika apparel, (first aired 7/2/2014) re: Ubuntu-Faqir Simunye Pan African Love and Unity Festival on its concluding night, July 4, 2014, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Humanist Hall on 27th Street, in Oakland. We open with Gange’s “African Suns.”

Melame Gange and Nefertina Abrams, July 3, 2014
Ubuntu-Faqir Simunye Pan African Love and Unity Festival
photo credit: Wanda Sabir
David J. Dennis, Sr., Civil Rights Activist
and Community Organizer
We then play a segment from an interview with Civil Rights Movement architect, Dave Dennis, who is just returning home from a successful 50th Anniversary Conference at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. The goal of the conference was to answer the following questions: What were the lessons learned? How do they apply to today’s challenges? What is the next phrase? How will an appropriate response be developed for the next phase?

While speaking to Mr. Dennis about the conference and current issues on the stove top boiling over presently like Voter’s Rights and Educational Opportunity, especially for black youth as access to higher education is still neither the norm or representative of the majority of black families, Mr. Dennis the first in his family to graduate from high school.  50 years later, I meet students in my classroom who are the first to graduate from high school and college.

Next steps obviously include access to college education and programs in place to address the attrition rate among black men. Ironically, the issues around voter’s rights are expiring as state’s reevaluate residents’ rights and make certain residents ineligible or make voter registration difficult and access to the polls another hurdle in a society where historic memory is a tragedy of youthful ignorance and social apathy.

See and USA Today Freedom Summer

I share a bit from a wonderful article in the AARP newsletter about the two men, Bob Moses and Dave Dennis’s reunite after many years apart concerning another human rights issue, educational opportunity, something that still eludes many black children and Moses and Dennis’s work through The Algebra Project to demystify and bring these kids into the social economic loop

The absence of such access reflects systemic efforts and a national move to keep black people forever on the bottom of the heap; if one limits a people’s access to knowledge, a permanent underclass is normalized. Not anything new, when one looks at the slave codes which forbade educating black people. Privatization of education, increased prison building and development, plus a legal framework which supports these insidious policies, just point to the massacre we are seeing unfolding as the cradle to prison pipeline grabs more and more of our youth, youth who are not able to compete intellectually in the ring and so become casualties. Call it preventable crib death.

The Algebra Project fits these children with gloves and schools them in a winning strategy, that is, how to win the battle which continues to rage 50 years after the strides made 50 years ago. The poison is in the formula, the bottle, the bedding, everything connected politically to our success as a nation up from slavery. We cannot trust anyone, especially a politician, to have our best interests at heart if we forget to hold these same interests dear as well.

"Dave Dennis was a Freedom Rider and Co-Director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Mississippi. Dennis was the Mississippi director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), but he worked with SNCC members and other civil rights activists in Mississippi under the COFO umbrella to avoid intra-organizational conflicts. COFO organized activists for a Mississippi voter registration drive during "Freedom Summer." Dennis spoke at the funeral of James Chaney, and he worked closely with both Bob Moses and Medgar Evers" (Blackside, Inc.).

He writes on his website: Dave Dennis Connections that "he has been fifty years in the making.  As a speaker, Dave will make available to the public his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement from 1960-1965, using those experiences to frame his personal analysis of the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on present society, both positive and negative, and to share his personal experiences and observations on education that are derived from his involvement with the Algebra Project and the impact of that work on the present and future education system(s) in America."

In an interview with Blackside Inc., Nov. 10. 1985, for the seminal series, Eyes on the Prize: The Civil Rights Years 1954-1965 we are privy to transcript which is not included in the series.

In this work Mr. Dennis reflects on the battleground, tragedies of war and lessons he learned which were not necessarily anticipated. One of these that the United States under Johnson especially after JFK was killed, would not protect the Civil Rights volunteers. The FBI observed, yet did nothing to stop the bloodshed. In a preconference workshop, legal interns from throughout the country, with some from outside this nation, were assigned cold cases, that is, murder cases of black people also casualties of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1965), plus Jim Crow Laws which have yet to be solved. The cases span the years 1910 t0 1979.

This organization founded by Dr. Margaret Burnham out of Northeastern University, the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project (CRRJ) takes its lead from the reopening of, prosecution and resolution of the Emmett Till case, his murder said by many to be the start of the Civil Rights Movement. Mrs. Rosa Parks was certainly thinking of the youth when she refused to surrender her seat on the Montgomery bus not long after his murder. The Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act of 2007 passed unanimously on September 24, 2008, and signed into law by President George W. Bush in October 2008.   See

In many ways the passage of the Civil Rights Act, reflects a compromise which to date, still does not benefit black people who are in many ways worse off regarding economic access to wealth and quality education despite having so many black people in political office. It is a Trojan Horse, Mr. Dennis says of the Act, impressive, yet when one examines its interior--it leaves much to be desired. He says this as he proceeds to share the four buckets trajectory to outline next steps for the ensuing 50 years.

There was a lot of celebration and congratulations, I am certain at the grand reunion two weeks ago, but these elders or veterans of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM), men and women, plus the 700 or so youth were clear that the battle was not won as they rolled up their sleeves and joined hands. Mr. Dennis said it was easier to organize people 50 years ago because then people were more tangibly connected; now it is hard to find this same synergy within the black community. Even the churches are not as cohesive a destination as before, perhaps because many are so huge, parishioners do not have personal relationships with one another.

Nonetheless, people are encouraged to make their voices known to their city council, county supervisors, on up from governor and congress and senators to our president whose name is attached administratively to policies which undermine the gains made 50 years ago June 2014.

Neferina Abrams’s Royal House of Makeda Productions is an edutainment company whose focus is on creating unity within Africa the African Diaspora through the Arts and Entertainment. The Ubuntu-Faqir Simunye Pan African Love and Unity Concert is more than just some music concert, it is a space to network, learn about businesses you can support, put faces to names, build a network, it is a beginning and certainly not the answer to every question. 
Neferina Abrams and her mother, Mrs. Geraldine Abrams?
Opening Night, July 3, 2014
photo credit: Wanda Sabir

Ms. Abrams gives a lecture chronically Pan Africa’s historic unity which includes oral testimony from an Ethiopian elder the honorable Getachew Asrat, was a child who helped our Great Leaders plant trees to symbolize the growth of African Unity during the 1963 conference in Ethiopia.

Abrams says, “Think of my show like those trees, I am trying to grow unity through the practice of culture. I am an Africana History lecturer and a visual anthropologist which is a person who studies culture with a camera and makes documentaries.
Sista Dymah Rodgers (singer)
"Living on the Edge"

Next she is traveling to Barbados to do research on enslavement during the research process. She states: “I found records of an ancestor of mine who had been enslaved on the island.  I will be doing a documentary which I will show upon my return.  I am also getting ready to begin doctoral research in which my thesis will be a feature length documentary on 'Repatriation.’”

Stay tuned.

One of the dancers Opening Night
Melame Gange’s African Suns celebrates our heroes and the spirit of promise inherent in African sons.  We close the show with his single “Dancing Partner.”  He writes: "This new lover’s rock reggae anthem pays homage to the 50’s era, celebrating dance culture and the power it brings to the human spirit. Gange’s soulful vocals are accompanied by an assortment of instruments that complement the retro spirit of the song encouraging listeners to find their dancing partner."

“This is a protest song” says the singer. “I’m protesting the end of the era where people used to dance. We need that. We need music that moves people to dance.”  The song is available on   Also visit

What I like about the song is Gange’s beautiful vocals. The native Virgin Islander is making his mark on the local and international world of Reggae Music one hit single at a time. This soulful, roots reggae singer, is motivated by a deeper understanding of life, history and culture with a sincere desire to help his people find FREEDOM through music. In addition to his mesmerizing stage presence and captivating voice, his raw vocal talent is most often coupled with issues that he is passionate about, creating a conscious level of music that the people can relate to and “support de ting.” Gange has shared the stage with many of reggae’s royalty bringing forth a message of peace.

Melame Gange is the founder and lead designer of ModeAfrika apparel, a conscious clothing brand that merges history, culture and fashion into each of their unique designs. He is also the founder and Executive Director of Beach Fyah, an annual concert that showcases local music, art and fashion, held at deferent beaches throughout the Caribbean. Stay tuned for Beach Fiyah 2014 “Support de Ting”!

For bookings, drops, dubs and other inquiries contact

Music: selections from Meklit and Quinn and Melik Hadero; the Nile Project: Salaam Nubia from Aswan and Tezete; Melame Gange's African Suns and Dancing Partner.

Link to show 7/2/2014 audio:

7/4/2014 show:

Show link  for July 2, 2014

Kali and Maji Opening Night, July 3, 2014
Aunt Geraldlynn, Nefertina and Mama Geri Opening Night, July 3, 2014
Two Poetess, Kelly Spice (R)

1. Rebroadcast of Ms. Bonnie Boswell, niece of Civil Rights Leader, Whitney Young, Executive Producer and Producer of Power Broker: Whitney Young's Fight for Civil Rights, aired Feb. 6, 2013.

2. Nefertina Abrams and Melame Gange join us to talk about the first annual THE 'UBUNTU-FIQIR SIMUNYE' PAN AFRICAN LOVE & UNITY CONCERT, July 3 nd 4, 2014, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. (both days) at the Humanist Hall in Oakland, CA. Admission is $10 for adults, children are free.

3. We close with part 1 of an interview with Civil Rights Maverick the Hon. Dave Dennis, Freedom Rider and Co-Director of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Mississippi. Dennis was the Mississippi director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), but he worked with SNCC members and other civil rights activists in Mississippi under the COFO umbrella to avoid intra-organizational conflicts. COFO organized activists for a Mississippi voter registration drive during "Freedom Summer." Dennis spoke at the funeral of James Chaney, and he worked closely with both Bob Moses and Medgar Evers. Visit; (to watch film on-line)

Vendor at Unity Festival Opening Night

D. Haloka and Sprandore

Gange and Ms. Abrams

Ebun and D. Haloka

W. Sabir, Ebun and musician and
choreographers for the African Dance Troupe

Soul of the Lion Proprietor

Ghanian vendor

All photos from Pan African Love and Unity Festival Opening Night July 3, 2014. Photo credit for all pictures: Wanda Sabir

Pan African Unity Festival in Oakland Day 1

Sister Nefertina, Makeda Productions hosted the first day of a two day celebration of Black Love. From the good food, to the great vibrations, libations to the ancestors and wonderful African dance and drumming--it was a memorable evening--Edutainment or food for the soul.

Don't miss Day 2, July 4, 2014, 7 p.m.-1 a.m. at the Humanist Hall in Oakland on 27th Street, between Telegraph and Broadway.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wanda's Picks Special Broadcast Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jed Rothstein, Director/Producer, Before the Spring, After the Fall.

Three years before the Arab Spring, a group of young Egyptian rock musicians struggled for freedom amidst the stifling dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Two brothers among them, the sons of a dissident political prisoner, would help lead the uprising in Tahrir Square and the struggle for the future of their country.  Airs tonight on ITVS.

Bio: Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Jed Rothstein specializes in hard-to-get stories from around the world that help people understand one another better.  Whether seeking out  heavy metal musicians who become Arab-Spring revolutionaries (PBS's Before the Spring After the Fall); pioneering doctors (HBO's Coma and Pandemic); Al Qaeda terrorists (The Oscar-nominated HBO documentary Killing in the Name);  defenders of free speech (The 2009 Sundance film Shouting Fire); journalists on the front lines (Independent Lens' Democracy on Deadline) or fundamentalist Christian college kids training to take over Washington (God's Next Army), Rothstein works with people to help them tell their own stories in their own words. His films have played in film festivals around the world, enjoyed special screenings at the United Nations, and been broadcast on HBO, PBS, the Discovery Channel, IFC, Channel 4, the BBC, and elsewhere. When not loitering in global hotspots, Rothstein has worked as a senior producer on a weekly television show and a consultant and writer for numerous documentaries.  He lives in New York with his wife, the writer Mira Jacob, and their son.

Link to show:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wanda's Picks June 27, 2014

Guest 1. Ayodele "WordSlanger" Nzinga, Ph.D., joins us to talk about the August Wilson Century Cycle, part 7, Two Trains Running, which is opening this August, 2014.

Ayodele Nzinga is a multi-talented West Coast based art visionary, who in the tradition of the Black Arts Continuum uses performance as a method of inter-intra group communication. In 2000, Nzinga became the writer in residence and the resident dramaturge at The Prescott Joseph Center For Community Enhancement. This has resulted in over a decade of theater seasons, a troupe in residence, and a summer theater camp for youth. The troupe, The Lower Bottom Playaz, founded by Nzinga in 1999, is enjoying growing acclaim, while mounting, and traveling two-three productions per season. A bright and consistent energy on the cutting edge of the East Bay performance scene, Nzinga aka The WordSlanger, is a tour-de-force Spoken Word artist. Her latest published work appears in Black Magnolias and The Pan African Journal of Poetry.

Guest 2. Arielle Julia Brown (Project Director/Founder) speaks about Love Balm for My Spirit Child--- A choreo-play based on testimonies from Bay Area mothers whose children were lost to gun violence, directed by Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe, opens at Brava! For Women in the Arts, Theatre Center in San Francisco, 2781-24th Street at York, July 11-20, 2014 shows Fri-Sat 8 p.m.; Sun 3 p.m. Tickets are: $10-25

Ms. Brown (Project Director/Founder) is a playwright, arts administrator and facilitator currently based in the SF Bay Area.  As a facilitator, Arielle has taught and directed performance workshops for adults and youth of all ages throughout the Bay Area with such organizations as, Intersection for the Arts, Destiny Arts Center, Streetside Stories, Guerilla Performance Group at Eastside Arts Alliance and the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center.    Arielle is the Artistic Director of The Love Balm Project, a Bay Area theatre workshop series and performance that explores the testimonies of local mothers who have lost children to systemic violence. Workshop and performance iterations of The Love Balm Project have been presented at or in partnership with 7Stages Theatre, Theatre of Yugen, The MilkBar, Eastside Arts Alliance, La Peña Cultural Center, San Francisco Playhouse The Triangle Lab (A joint program of Intersection for the Arts and Cal Shakes) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Arielle is a 2013-2014 SF Playground company playwright.  She is a 2014 Artist Investigator in residence at The Triangle Lab.  Arielle is a 2013-2014 SF Emerging Arts Professionals Programming Chair. Arielle’s work has been supported by Theatre Bay Area, The Triangle Lab ( supported in part by The James Irvine Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and MetLife Foundation and Theatre Communications Group) and CalHumanities. Arielle’s theatre work is rooted in peacemaking on both local and international levels. Arielle began doing international theatre work at 7Stages theatre in Atlanta, Ga. Arielle is a core member of Theatre Without Borders.  Her  international theatre experience includes work in Senegal and East Africa. Arielle received her B.A. from Pomona College where she studied Theatre and Africana Studies.

Actors/Artistic Collaborators
Ayodele Nzinga is an Actor/Artistic Collaborator in the work, so she joins us as well.

Guest 3. American Experience presents: Stanley Nelson's Freedom Summer

Stanley Nelson (Producer/Director/Writer) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur “genius” Fellow and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences. Nelson is the director of 12 documentary features, including Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple and The Murder of Emmett Till. He is also co-founder and executive director of Firelight Media, which provides technical education and professional support to emerging documentarians. With seven of his films having premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and multiple industry awards to his credit, Nelson is acknowledged as one of the premiere documentary filmmakers working today. Nelson is currently in production on a series of three films he will direct, one on the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and another on the beneficiaries of the Atlantic slave trade, as part of a new multi-platform PBS series entitled America Revisited. The film, along with Nelson's earlier, Freedom Riders is up for viewing on the website:

4. Closing Guests: Michael Gene Sullivan and Velina Brown speak about the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 2014 premiere, The Ripple Effect— opening July 4th at San Francisco's Dolores Park

Velina Brown (SFMT Collective, Actor, Performance Booker) has been a principal actor for the Mime Troupe in such shows as Social Work, Escape to Cyberia, Coast City Confidential, Soul Suckers from Outer Space, Killing Time, Damaged Care, City for Sale, Eating It, 1600 Transylvania Avenue, Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan, and Showdown at Crawford Gulch. She was Veronique in Veronique of the Mounties, she's played Condoleeza Rice three times, and was both an actor and Contributing Lyricist on GodFellas and Making a Killing. Velina's most recent shows with the Troupe include For The Greater Good: Or the Last Election, Red State, Too Big to Fail, and Posibilidad, Or Death of the Worker for which she won Best Principal Actress by the Bay Area Critics Circle. You may have seen Velina earlier this year in Theatre Rhino's lovely A Lady and A Woman. Other credits include A.C.T., Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Word for Word, Lorraine Hansberry Theater, Thick Description, SF Playhouse, Theatreworks as well as film (Bee Season with Richard Gere, A Many Splintered Thing with Chris Evans and Milk with Sean Penn) and television (Party of Five, Nash Bridges,Trauma, Final Witness). Velina also is the founder and owner of the "Business of Show Biz," which offers career planning consultations and workshops for theater artists. She also writes a popular column of the same name for Theater Bay Area Magazine. In 2012 she was honored as one of the magazine's "35 Faces," artists who've made significant contributions to the Bay Area theater community. For more info and to hear samples of Velina's music:

Michael Gene Sullivan (SFMT Collective Actor/Resident Playwright), joined the Troupe as an actor in, has since performed in, written, and/or directed over twenty SFMT productions. As an actor, Sullivan has also appeared in productions at the American Conservatory Theater, Denver Center Theater Company, Magic Theatre, Theatreworks, Lorraine Hansberry Theater, SF Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and San Jose Repertory Theater. Michael has also directed for the Mime Troupe, SF Shakespeare Festival, African American Shakespeare Company, Mystic Bison Theater, and Circus Finelli. In 1992 he became a contributing writer for the SF Mime Troupe, and the Resident Playwright in 2000. His scripts for SFMT include GodFellas, Red State (2008 nominee, Best Original Script, SFBATCC), and Too Big To Fail (2009 nominee, Best Original Script, SFBATCC and Posibilidad, or Death of the Worker. He is also the author of "Did Anyone Ever Tell You - You Look Like Huey P. Newton?", his award-winning one person show, and 1984, his critically acclaimed stage adaptation of George Orwell's dystopic novel. 1984 opened at the Actor's Gang Theater under the Direction of Tim Robbins in 2006, and has since been published in English and Catalan, and has been performed in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and has had several tours of the USA.

His script "Recipe" won the Israel Baran Award, and will premiere at Central Works in Berkeley, October, 2014. Michael is also a blogger for the political website, The Huffington Post.

Music: Avery Sharpe’s Ain’t I a Woman “Son of Mine;” Keb’mo’s Someday We’ll All Be Free; clips from S. Nelson’s Freedom Summer

Show link:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Wednesday, June 25, 2014

JOHN PIERRE, JD, speaks about MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM SUMMER 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE Inter-generational Action Agenda at Tougaloo College - Jackson, Mississippi, June 23 - 29, 2014. Visit
John K. Pierre has been on the law faculty of the Southern University Law Center since 1990 and was promoted to vice chancellor in 2006. Pierre is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association.  He has previous teaching experience as a visiting and adjunct professor at California State University, Southern Methodist University School of Law, Loyola University Law School, Southern University College of Business, Saint Leo's College, Webster University, Louisiana State University, and Baton Rouge Community College. He received the bachelor's degree in accounting from Southern University in 1980, a master's degree in tax accounting from Texas Tech University in 1982, and a juris doctor degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1985. Pierre has published numerous articles on tax law, sales and contracts, real estate and commercial law, ranging from magazine features to legal journal and law review articles.

Blair Doroshwalther
Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson,Renata Hill
We close with a prerecorded interview with Blair Doroshwalther, dir., Out in the Night (2013) and film subjects, Patreese Johnson and Renata Hill. Out screens June 26, 2014, 9:30 p.m. and June 28, 2014, 1:30 p.m. as a part of Frameline38 ( Out looks at the case of the New Jersey 4, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, four young Lesbian women arrested, charged and imprisoned when they defended themselves from first verbal then physical attack. The four women who faced the most time were those who maintained their innocence. Patreese and Renata are two of them. Visit

Music: Angelique Kidjo's "I've Got Dreams to Remember", Ben Vereen's interpretation of "Defying Gravity," and Gina Breedlove's "Cover Me for 1 Billion Rising."

Show link:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blackbird @ Frameline38 June 22, 2014

Director, Patrick-Ian Polk, producers, and stars in Blackbird
Blackbird directed by Patrick-Ian Polk features a star-studded lineup of talent with outstanding performances by newcomer to the screen Julian Walker as Randy Rousseau.

Haunted by Christ, Randy struggles with nocturnal emissions--leaks in his faith which he is unable to stop. Add to this a mother who has lost her mind with grief, younger sister abducted or missing for six years--yellow ribbons dangling from bare tree limbs like leaves or bottle fruit. Is this the new sacred tree? Will spirit descend and rectify the wrong? What can this devote, yet confused young Christian do with these dreams which are consuming his consciousness?

The dreams are so real the audience is confused as well until Randy awakens. By far, this is the strongest component of the film, which also features lovely scenes in church with the protagonist leading the choir in song. Other strong moments are those between Randy and his friends --  who know he is gay even though he denies it. Except for his sexuality confusion, his distraught mother and absentee dad, Randy is a pretty normal Southern boy (smile).

There are lovely moments where the friends (the two boys and a girlfriend) talk to him about his sexuality which is complicated by his feelings of guilt. We see Randy praying fervently for himself and his mother and missing sister. His dad (Isaiah Washington) is no longer in the home, but he is keeping an eye on his son, who he sees as he walks to or from school. He offers him a ride and finds amusement in his boy's assertiveness, even though I am sure it also pains him, when the child walks away.
Actors, Julian Walker & Kevin Allesee

Washington's character, Lance Rousseau, is the only one who gives his son space to see a different answer to his entreaties to the man on the cross. It is also interesting that Mr. Rousseau becomes the parent Randy calls on for help. Maybe it is his stubborn presence within the physical absence. There are many silences surrounding Randy which operate like voids or open spaces that further trap the faltering youth.

Mr. Rousseau tells his son about his younger life and his sexual trysts attended by his mother, to Randy's astonishment. This makes his son rethink his doubts about his faith. Perhaps he isn't cursed. Perhaps he isn't condemned. Perhaps he is okay just as he is.

His father is a patient man, who participates from the fringes in his family's life--his sorrow is of a different sort and gives another dimension to the concept: abandonment or absence. He is physically absent from the home, yet, he is more present than his wife, Claire Rousseau (Mo'Nique) who does not acknowledge the child she did not lose, Randy. Randy's pain is ours as we watch her ignore his needs, both emotional and physical. Her neglect adds another layer to the complexity of the adolescent's problem.

What will Randy do about these dreams which are becoming more like hallucinations when faced with the person who inspires these dreams? There are fine performances by the young cast, all from Mississippi, Harrisburg to be exact.

I know Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My uncle lived there and Genevieve Bayan and I stayed there when visiting New Medina where Imam Warith Deen Mohammed was speaking. New Medina was to be a Muslim town. There we met Muslims from around the country who had bought land here and were building homes and a school and a grocery store.The conference was at Southern University in Hattiesburg (where director received his undergraduate degree). My uncle and aunt had two homes there. They are in Picayune now. I think my cousin still lives there.
Director, Patrick-Ian Polk speaking w/cast
and producers of Blackbird

Adopted from Larry Duplechan's novel by the same title, writers Polk and Rikki Beadle-Blair (Metrosexuality, FIT) create a lilting beautiful tale of acceptance and triumph. At times a bit confusing, especially the concluding dream --nonetheless, we see a level of acceptance in this Southern town quite unlike what is anticipated when one thinks about the black church's reputation regarding homosexuality. It is rather amazing that Randy's close childhood friend is "out" and hangs with the minister's daughter and her boyfriend, who agrees to play a gay character in the senior class's closing production, they rename, Romeo and Jules. It is elements like this, which might not have happened were this not a film that add a nice fantasy element in keeping with the script and the story Polk tells.

Sexuality and sexual questions are ones all the close friends raise, Randy the only one who feels guilty. Mo'Nique's character is mourning and crazed by grief. She has checked out of her son's life and lives only for the return of her daughter, gone now for six years. One wonders how the protagonist has grown into the healthy kid he has given his mother's emotional absence as we cringe as we see the pain her negation has on his young still formative life.

I wonder at Mo'Nique's ability to carry these maternal characters from Precious to Blackbird; she steps so well into these toxic maternal roles given her comedic and dramatic range, yet who wants to be known for such? At least in Blackbird she is allowed a degree of redemption. At the Q&A she states she makes these films to save children.

Polk shares at the Frameline38 premiere how he stumbled across the novel, one in a series, 21 years ago, and how he immediately knew he wanted to adapt it for the screen. He contacted the author then, who gave him the option for $1 and so this work is one from the director's "To do list."

I haven't read the book so I cannot speak to all the additional elements; however, I am sure the older Rousseau's queries to his son about safe sex is a 2014 addition. Maybe not? Nonetheless, I like every scene Isaiah Washington's character, Lance Rousseau, is a part of --even those where he doesn't have lines like when he is in the church seated in the rear listening to his son sing (and leaves before he is acknowledged), or at the end of the film, where we see him taking care of the lawn or standing silently behind his wife and son.

When Randy takes an ad from the a tree for an audition for a film and meets Marshall MacNeil (actor Kevin Allesee) in an abandoned lot, we are afraid for Randy, even when we learn that this attack was a part of the audition. A bit older and a lot wiser youth at 21, Marshall finds Randy's innocence charming and attractive. I like it that Marshall does not take advantage of this. It is in the interaction between the two, a questioning Randy and an attracted Marshall, that the dialogue is superb. Allesee's Marshall is kind, yet frank with Randy as he introduces the questioning kid to a world he didn't know existed, except perhaps in his dreams.

There is a sordidness present in the Piney Woods car park the two visit where young and older men, both black and white, pick up other men who are looking for love and acceptance or a place to hide their desires at least for the night beneath a starry canopy.  There Randy sees someone he knows. This is juxtaposed with a club Marshall takes Randy to to dance, where he says in answer to his friend's query, "What is this place?" "It is a place where 'he can be himself.'"

In this club scene we see the director performing in a band (smile). I failed to mention that Marshall is white, a talented filmmaker, yet poor, his homestead a trailer park. At times it was really hard to understand Allesee's accent on screen, and at the Castro Theatre Sunday night, June 22, the actor was clearly overwhelmed by the experience, his response to questions a self-depreciating profanity-laced tirade. Hopefully he will relax and get used to the accolades (smile).

Within the film we see a middle class black community, juxtaposed with a white community unable to afford the dreams Randy and his peers have for themselves. It is refreshing to see on screen a community where the kids are law abiding, go to school, respect their parents and believe in God. As such, we have a feeling that Randy's family will work it out and that Randy will resolve the conflict present in his dreams.

The novel is set in Southern California; however, Polk sets it in his hometown, Hattiesburg. I am told, this particular genre fiction (1970s) has as its trope the black man rescued by a white man. This is revealed in the closing dream-scape where a tearful Randy is visited by his classmate Romeo who foretells his future, one where his white friend and lover will save him and provide access to a charmed life when actuality, it is Randy's acceptance of himself and the love he has for his family that saves him.

The physical window that opens where dreams enter the room allows the interaction between the secular or profane and the sacred. It contracts and expands as its multiple dimensions are explored. Voyeurs are extended invitations into this porous psychic space to witness Randy and his friends take turns losing their virginity, and Randy's remorse as he tries to wash his desires away, yet each night they return to haunt him.

I love the bloody hand print on the mattress . . . evidence again of the porous nature of the psyche. The youthful stories of sexual conquest, yearning and disaster are interwoven and connected. It is in his bed that the pastor's daughter loses her virginity. His bed is the true stage in this drama as first one then another character finds resolution . . . demons are exorcised and Christ is relieved of his cross. 

Why is it so important to lose one's virginity? When did being a virgin lose its attractiveness? Julian Walker's Randy shows that virginity is an attitude or disposition not necessarily a physical state. In the film within the film we see how this is so. Once again, Walker really carries the work, of course with excellent support from a fantastic cast --professional and otherwise, but it is his lovely singing voice, big eyes and sweet demeanor that share a story of acceptance and love, which with certainly appeal to both parents and youth. What parent does not want for his or her child a life filled with pride and certainty?

It is a story gay and straight audiences can appreciate, because when things are not working out in one's life, they haunt your dreams.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saturday, June 21 Reflections on Frameline38 and Angelique Kidjo in Concert at CIIS drafty

Angelique Kidjo was wonderful! She mixed her uplifting musical performance with talk about the plight of girls in Africa and women around education and control of their persons and destinies. She shared worries about her girls whom she is putting through secondary school in Mali whom she has not heard from as the areas where they reside are those occupied by “insurgents.” We contemplated this for a moment as all thoughts referenced the girls in Northern Nigeria kidnapped and still at large months later. The song Kidjo sang was of a girl about to be married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather, her new daughters the same as she. Quite a few songs spoke to this conundrum between sexuality and power and how despite the inequities, African women keep rising.

About two thirds through the concert, Kidjo had everyone on his or her feet— the music that infectious coupled with a tight rhythm ensemble from Chili, Senegal/LA, and New York—bass, guitar, drums and African percussion—Kidjo in one of her beautiful gowns, mini skirt with tails, beautiful legs in sparkling stockings—perfect for her seated Cajon solo, just after an outstanding set up by the drummer. All the men sang and the guitarist danced with her as well.
I don’t think I have ever been at a concert with Kidjo where she danced through the audience before she invited people onto the stage to dance with her percussionist—but not only did she kick off the solo, she then encouraged all those on stage to solo as well. There were two children who were naturals.

She sings of Shango on Eve, which is the orisha who came up during the reading for 2014. She also has a song for orisha, which she sang as an encore following a blind woman's singing to her on stage a Kidjo song.
Afterward she signed CDs and posters and chatted with fans.  I reminded her of our conversation and found out that Angela Wellman was the interviewer before me who went over her time (smile). It was good to see Sister Wellman, who is completing her doctorate degree. I learned that Adeeba Deterville received her Masters Degree in Psychology that afternoon at Sofia University.

Black photographers: Hubert Collins, Jonathan Eubanks,
producer, co-writer, Don Perry, Lewis Watts,
Louise Eubanks (painter) in front of Victoria Theatre
photo: W. Sabir
Earlier that afternoon in San Francisco at Frameline 38 friends and I saw the wonderful Through A Lens Darkly:Black Photographers and the Emergence of People, dir. Thomas Allen Harris. It was well received and a few of the local photographers interviewed were in the audience: Jonathan Eubanks and Lewis Watts. Don Perry, co-writer and producer was there to answer questions from the audience and will be a part of a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon, June 24, 2014, 3:30-5:00 p.m.: Past (Im)perfect: Filming Queer History at the Roxie Theatre. It is free.

Unfortunately, there was just the one screening Saturday, but there will be a theatrical release in New York and then throughout the country, including the SF Bay.

Dyke Central Posse: Director, Florencia Manovil (left)
photo: W. Sabir
As we chatted the line began to form for the screening of Dyke Central, a really fun film made of 4 episodes about lesbians in Oaktown. Several of the cast were outside and I was so excited to meet them and tell them how much I loved the film and their characters—I am such a fan of the director’s work. She is such a good writer. You don’t have to be gay to love the work (smile).

I might go see the film in the theatre at the Elmwood on Tuesday, June 24, we shall see.

Angelique Kidjo had a lot of competition tonight—Frameline38 has it going on this weekend—I really wanted to see Yves St. Laurent, 7 p.m. at the Victoria too, just one screening. I hope it opens somewhere. Tomorrow is Smokey Robinson and Patti Austin at Stern Grove at 2 p.m. Arrive early— At 6:30 at the Castro Theatre is Blackbird, which is also a Frameline38 selection with a lot of famous actors in the cast— Mo'Nique plays the mother of a young man who is gay, member of the church choir, Isaiah Washington portrays his father. . . . Monday night, June 23, 7 p.m. at the Roxie Cinema is Al Nisa:Black Muslim Women in Atlanta's Gay Mecca, dir. Red Summer, just in time for Ramadan (smile). Lesbian Muslimahs? Hum. Really?

I hadn’t known that Meshell Ndegeocello is a lesbian and a mother too. The film is really heartwarming. It seems that the way the sisters see it, Allah doesn’t have a problem with their sexuality, the public does. These women were brave to share their stories and since the film has aired some of their lives have been threatened and endangered.