Friday, September 20, 2019

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Wednesday, September 18, 2019

1. Dr. Megan Ebor joins us to speak about Upspoken created RoyalTea, a sexual health and wellness guide by Black women for Black women RoyalTea, Hot Tips to Sip for Sexual emPowerment -- Sip 1 – Our Secret (Not For Long).
2. Rebroadcast Sept. 6, 2019 show with Raissa Simpson, Push Dance Company founder and Artistic Director, joins us to talk about the 14th Home Season and Sixth Anniversary PUSHfest Dance Festival, Friday-Sunday, Sept. 20-22 at ODC Theater, 3173 – 17th Street, San Francisco. Visit
The exhibit opens Thursday, Sept. 19, 6-9 p.m., with a performance at 7:30 p.m.

3. Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh and Sawyer Rose join us to talk about Sawyer's new exhibition collaboration: Counting the Hours, Art, Data, and the Untold Stories of Women’s Work at Code & Canvas, 151 Potrero Ave., San Francisco, Sept. 19-Nov. 2, Tues. & Thurs. from 1-6 p.m., Sat. from 12-3 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission  The exhibit opens 9/18, 6-9 p.m. with a special dance performance at 7:30 p.m.
4. Titus and Androdicus at Theatre Lunatico, August 30-Sept. 29, 2019 at La Val's Subterranean Theatre

Show link:

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, September 4, 2019

This is a black arts and culture site. We will be exploring the African Diaspora via the writing, performance, both musical and theatrical (film and stage), as well as the visual arts of Africans in the Diaspora and those influenced by these aesthetic forms of expression. I am interested in the political and social ramifications of art on society, specifically movements supported by these artists and their forebearers. It is my claim that the artists are the true revolutionaries, their work honest and filled with raw unedited passion. They are our true heroes. Ashay!

1. David Roach joins us to talk about the Oakland International Film Festival Sept. 19-29, 2019


2. Emma Van Lare (Hamida) House of Joy by Madhuri Shekar, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian, at Cal Shakes extended Sat., Sept. 7, 8 p.m. and Sun., Sept. 8, 4 p.m. All seats are $40. 20 or younger, tickets are $20.

Emma grew up in the Houston area and moved here just over two years ago to pursue her MFA in acting from the American Conservatory Theater. She just started her third and final year there and House of Joy is her first professional show!
3. Jewels from the Archives: Sister Act at Theatre Rhinoceros (May 2019)


Friday, September 13, 2019

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, Sept. 13, 2019

This is a black arts and culture site. We will be exploring the African Diaspora via the writing, performance, both musical and theatrical (film and stage), as well as the visual arts of Africans in the Diaspora and those influenced by these aesthetic forms of expression. I am interested in the political and social ramifications of art on society, specifically movements supported by these artists and their forebearers. It is my claim that the artists are the true revolutionaries, their work honest and filled with raw unedited passion. They are our true heroes. Ashay!
1. Rebecca Caplan, Director, SF Green Film Fest, Sept. 24-29,

2.Alfonzo Washington and Michael Harris join us to talk about the 9th Annual African Global Trade and Investment Conference in Sacramento

3. Chanon Judson, Artistic Director, and Samantha Speis, Artistic Director, Urban Bush Women to talk about the company's  show, Hair and Other Stories, 8-10 p.m., Sept. 14, at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Ave.,in San Jose.

Music: Zion Trinity's Opening Prayer for Elegba; Desert Rose's Ubuntu


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Wanda's Picks Radio Show Friday, Sept. 6, 2019

This is a black arts and culture site. We will be exploring the African Diaspora via the writing, performance, both musical and theatrical (film and stage), as well as the visual arts of Africans in the Diaspora and those influenced by these aesthetic forms of expression. I am interested in the political and social ramifications of art on society, specifically movements supported by these artists and their forebearers. It is my claim that the artists are the true revolutionaries, their work honest and filled with raw unedited passion. They are our true heroes. Ashay!

1. Raissa Simpson, Push Dance Company founder and Artistic Director, joins us to talk about the 14th Home Season and Sixth Anniversary PUSHfest Dance Festival which features Mothership III by Raissa Simpson and a World Premiere by Gerald Casel within four different programs of local and visiting artists over three evenings Friday-Sunday, Sept. 20-22 at ODC Theater, 3173 – 17th Street, San Francisco. Visit

2. Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh is an Oakland based exhibiting and teaching Artist.

Sawyer Rose is a sculpture, installation, and social practice artist. She is a graduate of Williams College in Massachusetts and currently lives and works in the San Francisco Bay Area, both women join us to talk about Sawyer's new exhibition collaboration: Counting the Hours, Art, Data, and the Untold Stories of Women’s Work, New art exhibition by Sawyer Rose and The Carrying Stones Project at Code & Canvas, 151 Potrero Ave., San Francisco, Sept. 19-Nov. 2, Tues. & Thurs. from 1-6 p.m., Sat. from 12-3 p.m. and by appointment. Free admission

The exhibit opens Thursday, Sept. 19, 6-9 p.m., with a performance at 7:30 p.m.

3. Titus and Androdicus at Theatre Lunatico, August 30-Sept. 29, 2019 at La Val's Subterranean Theatre

"Tina Taylor (Director/Choreographer) is the Artistic Director of Theatre Lunatico. An English theatre artist who has been acting, directing, and facilitating theatre both in the UK and California for over thirty years. Tina was originally a dancer before turning her attention to theatre. She has a BA (Hons) in Drama and Dance from Leeds University, England, is skilled in the process of devising original theatre through ensemble improvisation, and has also worked in prisons and with community service organizations using theatre as a means of conflict resolution. Tina teaches Shakespearean acting using her physical theatre training as a gateway to decoding and understanding text. She has a deeply intuitive understanding of the craft and acting, and enjoys bringing her diverse performance background and spontaneous creativity to her directing and teaching work. Past productions include Shakespeare, Chekhov, Sheridan, Brecht, Bond, Zimmerman, and many original plays devised through ensemble improvisation. She will be directing the West Coast premiere of Convoy 31000 with Theatre Lunatico in the fall of 2019."

Shane Fahy (Titus) last appeared with Lunatico in 2018 as Angelo in Measure for Measure and is delighted to be back. His most recent roles include The Chaplain in Ubuntu Theatre’s Mother Courage and Durand Durand in Dreams on the Rocks’ Barbarella. He was nominated for a Bay Area Theatre Critics award for his portrayal of David in New Conservatory Theatre's For the Love of Comrades. He would like to extend a thanks to everyone involved for the joy of being onboard this spaceship.

Bryce Smith (Aaron). This marks Bryce's second production with Lunatico! He performed in Dracula with us last year, and he's thrilled to be back for Titus. Exploring a character such as Aaron was new territory for Bryce, though he seems quite keen on it now.

About Theatre Lunatico:

"Theatre Lunatico is an ensemble physical theatre company, producing exciting and innovative work since 2004. Artistic Director Tina Taylor, working with core company members, Michael Barr, Eileen Fisher, Leon Goertzen, and Shawn Oda, are thrilled to have a new home at La Val's Subterranean Theater where we can create ensemble-oriented, stripped down theatre that focuses on simple, yet superb storytelling.

Theatre Lunatico works to foster a deeper connection with our audiences through bare bones, small-scale, intimate productions that deeply explore the essence of the human experience."

Monday, August 26, 2019

1619-2019 Commemoration: First African Landing

400th Anniversary Ceremony of First Africans in Virginia

This weekend, Thursday, August 21-Sunday, August 25, 2019, was a National Recognition of the real date for the founding of America. July 4, 1776 might be the date the colony in the New World parted from its big sister Britain; however, it is August 20, 1619 when the White Lion docked at Point Comfort with 20 African bondsmen and women whom were then traded for food and other supplies that the philosophical tone was set or cast in a mold stiffly in opposition to the democratic values that came much later in the Constitution.

What became known as America was not an empty or barren landscape. These white men looking for opportunity they could exploit, did not recognize the humanity of anyone outside themselves. Though the history of the African people who ended up far away from home did not begin in 1619 with their capture, this event marks the start of a calendar.

Nothing today can undo that injustices African Diaspora people have faced and continued to face. What this commemoration does is speak out loud the unpleasant truth that needs addressing so the surviving generations can benefit.

A day later on my way to Newport News airport the taxi driver says that his daughter and husband (32 & 22) voted for Trump. The two belong to a church in Florida and the preacher -- white man, convinced the congregation -- majority African American, to vote for Trump because he is against abortions and same sex loving couples. Now that the former members are fellowshipping with another group, the preacher has nothing positive to say to the husband who saw him as a surrogate father.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson said at Healing Day that he commended Gov. Ralph Northam, 73rd Governor of Virginia, for admitting the errs of his predecessors and has committed himself to righting those wrongs with legislation that is equitable and fair. Several people were taking photos with the governor at the Healing Day. Though Secret Service was there, he was accessible. The mayor of Hampton sat on the curb close to the stage later on. These politicians didn't seem afraid of their constituency. Everyone was invited to get close that weekend whether that was on the history tour where we met the historic couple who started the documentation trail in 1619 where torn from their homes in Angola without regard for the disruption and irrecoverable stolen legacy – Antoney and Isabell become servants of Captain William Tucker, who was the commander of the fort at Point Comfort.  Their child, William is the first recorded baby of African descent Baptized in English North America—Jan. 3, 1624.

It is to this same place, the fort at Point Comfort that three African men who decided they did not want to be sold further south away from friends and family and took refuge where Major General Benjamin F. Butler granted asylum – using the clause “contraband of war” to legally justify not sending them back to their masters.  Harriet Tubman also spent time here at the hospital nursing the sick soldiers and others who sought refuge back to health.

I arrived Wednesday – in time for the 400 Commission Community Meeting at Ft. Monroe. The nest day I attended the ceremony at the Tucker Family Cemetery where hundreds of descendants of the first African couple: Antoney and Isabell and William Tucker. From there we went to the Political Pioneer Stakeholder Luncheon, then got dropped off at Hampton University to visit the museum and see the exhibition.

Later that evening was a panel discussion at the chapel on the Hampton campus hosted by ASALH. We met many families who were helping their children get settled into the school. Quite a few were legacy students, that is, their parents were alumni.

It was with this acknowledgement -- the truth of what this nation has done to people of African descent and how its wealth is centered in the free labor and stolen lives dating  back to August 1619 here-- that the events leading up to the National Day of Healing, Sunday, August 25, 2019 proceeded.

I arrived late Wednesday night at Newport News.  The next day, Thursday was a wonderful community conversation about the 400 years of African American History Commission and what its charge is. I met many men from San Francisco, one an author. I met a wonderful resident there who not only gave me a lift, she took me around to visit the African American heritage sites like Emancipation Tree at Hampton University where I marveled at the 400 year old testament to liberty and education. Not only was the Emancipation Proclamation read here, this is also the site prior to freedom where Ms. Mary Peake, a free-born African American woman and  an educator, taught free and enslaved Africans to read out of her home and later under the tree.  Such act was against Virginia law.

“At 98 feet in diameter, the Emancipation Tree is ‘designated as one of the ‘Ten Great Trees of the World’ by the National Geographic Society and it continues to be a source of inspiration for all Hamptoians” (1619-2019 Family Tree). A school was later erected so that students – adults and children, could be more comfortable studying, especially during the inclement weather. Bright red, a replica sits near the tree.

While on campus, my new friend, gave me a tour of her alma mater. We visited the graveyard, saw the chapel, library and a few of the new buildings and sat next to celebrity politician, activists and scientists like President Obama, Dr. King, Ms. Peake and ? I ignored President George W. Bush. Dr. ? University President has expanded the holdings during his ? tenure. Downtown Hampton is the site of a beautiful office building. The is a new Scripps School of Journalism, housing developments, ? and ?
I hadn’t know what the term contraband referenced and why it was used when speaking about escaped African people. I learned that “contraband” is a legal term and again references those Africans who escaped from captivity into another captivity in name not deed. As word spread more and more Africans: women and children and the elderly showed up at the fort and stayed. Additional schools were established and hospitals were organized—when Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation was delivered, six African schools had been constructed in Hampton.

The following day started 

Beautiful photo essay: 

Daily Press: 1619-2019  Commemoration  of  the  First  Africans  Landing  at  Point  Comfort

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

"A Lifetime of Being Betty Reid Soskin" CD Release Party this weekend, August 17

A Lifetime of Being Betty Reid Soskin CD Release Party this weekend, August 17
Betty Reid Soskin
Photo credit: Andrea Scher

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin’s “Sign My Name to Freedom” (2018) memoir follow-up is a collection of stories tied with a ribbon called, what else? “A Lifetime of Being Betty,” released August 17. There is a special party arranged for Ms. Betty and others at Little Village Foundation Fundraiser that evening at Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, beginning at 8 p.m. (Doors open at 7 p.m.) Tickets are $20 in advance, $24 at the door. Visit:

Founded by Jim Pugh, Little Village Foundation is a non-profit cultural producer and record label that searches out, discovers, records and produces American roots artists who might never be revealed to the masses. The artists highlighted along with Betty Reid Soskin are: Anai Adina, Mariachi Mestizo, Enriching Lives Through Music, Mary Flower, Saida Dahir, Skip The Needle.

The wonderful selection of stories – the CD release on the eve of Ms. Betty’s 98th Birthday next month, covers territory many have not tread given the storyteller’s longevity. It is not everyone who lives in future perfect.  Perhaps best known as the nation’s oldest park ranger, Ms. Betty holds court at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front Museum.

What I love about the stories captured on Ms. Betty’s latest project is her voice and the quality of the narrative: there is suspense when she shares the story of a home invasion and humor when she talks about recruiting drug dealers to register people to vote. Such tales can be savored over a couple of weeks like a rich confection, box too pretty to discard or all at once—like I did, the reflections, laughter and smiles still present after the 11 stories have concluded.

“A Lifetime of Being Betty” begins with a migration story one that takes place decades before Hurricane Katrina, breached levees and finger pointing blame. Ms. Betty’s mother travels with her three girls to Oakland to stay with Papa George Allen, her father, after the levees are bombed in the 7th and 9th wards to save the white occupied Garden District from flooding. The blueprint for Katrina was lit in neon. Ms. Betty’s tone is matter of fact, yet, it is a practiced levity.

Ms. Betty and I have a brief phone interview the week “A Lifetime of Being Betty’s” scheduled for release.

Wanda Sabir: When I was listening to the various tracks on the recording “A Lifetime of Being Betty,” I wondered if you could tell me more about the three generations of women. I am a NOLA native and when you talk about the flooding and what happened to African American people and your family’s migration to Oakland, I am reminded of another great migration after a flood – Katrina.

Ms. Betty Reid Soskin: “I didn’t realize until my 80s how unusual it was for me to have that connection back to my great-grandmother. She was born in 1836 into slavery, enslaved until she was 19 and freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.  She married George Allen who was enlisted in the Colored Troops fighting on the side of the north. She lived to be 102, which meant she didn’t die until 1948. That was three years after the second World War.

“My mother was born in 1894 and lived to be 101. My great grandmother lived to be 102. My mother was raised by my Great Grandmother, because her mother died when she was seven months old. My great grandmother became my mother’s mother. I was born in 1921, so the three of us were all adults at the same time. I was 27 years old, married and a mother when my formerly enslaved great grandmother died. I knew her as the matriarch of my family. She raised all the adults who were significant in my life. She was very important throughout my young life-- all of the stories came out of those grownups. I actually got to meet her several times before she died.

“Those three lives, because we were all adults at the time, bridged everything in the American narrative: from the Dred Scott Decision to Black Lives Matter. (She laughs). Can you imagine that? And I didn’t realize how unique that was until I began putting those pieces together.”

Wanda Sabir: I was thinking about St. James Parish which you tell us about in this section, and I was thinking about Jamestown, Virginia, Fort Comfort and the 400 Year Anniversary of Africans arrival there. In one of the sections you talk about the end of African imports, yet this did not stop the trade in human beings. You state the southerners started breeding slaves and this is how your great grandmother was born.

Ms. Betty: “[Though they had male slaves whose job it was to impregnate enslaved women,] the slave masters were [also] producing their own stock and that history has been pushed under the rug. We’ve never processed the Civil War, [let alone the sordid history of slavery.] Until we do, we are doomed to live through it again. I think it is so sad. I think that is what we are seeing in the white supremacy movement.”

WS: It is amazing that you have access to this rich history in the first person.

Ms. Betty: “I think the Internet has allowed us to make those connections in ways that former generations couldn’t. Those stories are available to more people than realize it. Everyone needs to be tracing their [histories] as far back as they can go. I know it’s hard to get past the slave trade, but it’s possible.

“I’ve been able to do it. I’ve got my mother’s history, my maternal line back to 1631, and my father’s line back to the 1400s. My father’s family came into the United States before the Revolutionary War and before the Louisiana Purchase. From the French Charbonnet to my mixed family came in the 1830s.”

WS: When did the African side of the family comes in?
Ms. Betty: “I really don’t know. My mother’s background is Cajun. My great grandmother was Cajun and Black. The Cajun people were agrarian; they worked their fields with their slaves. The “brown” Charbonnets -- she says with a chuckle, were the result of a French Charbonnet taking up with a Black woman, perhaps a free woman of color in New Orleans when he returned from Haiti. Ms. Betty says it was an unhappy marriage.

“Those would be the parents of my great grandfather. I have been able to back up all that history and because we live in a time where those racial barriers are breaking down there are a couple neighbors of the Allen brothers, a couple of neighbors of the Charbonnets who are white, in tracing their families found me.”

WS: Oh.
Ms. Betty: “And we began to exchange information. At this point we have Charles Charbonnet, who is a member of the white Charbonnets. We met at the grave of our ancestor in common (another laugh).     

“I feel so grounded in those stories because they come from a wide range of family members.”

WS: Tell me about the Little Village Foundation that published your work and is having a benefit this weekend at Freight and Salvage, Saturday, August 17, 8 p.m., Marcus Garvey’s birthday.

Ms. Betty: Oh really, she says with a smile. I didn’t know that. [She then shares a story of a family member who was a member of the UNIA.] The Little Village Foundation is presenting 5 new albums at 8 p.m. at the Freight and Salvage. I think they do this annually. There are 3 that are musical albums, mine and a spoken word album. We will all do something from our albums in an impromptu concert and the albums will be for sale on that day.”

WS: In the first track: “From Lincoln to Obama” you cover a huge territory. How does it feel to embody all this history? And you are articulate. There are other people who have lived as long, or longer than you, but we don’t hear from them, we don’t know them like we do you. You are a public person sharing this narrative with us in multiple mediums. When you talk about Rosie the Riveter not representative of the Black women you know who worked outside their homes long before WW2 and Kaiser opened a shipyard, we get a story absent from the nostalgic reflections by whites.

You talk about your first job as a domestic, because that’s what Black women did. Your mother told you about the job and how much is paid--50 cents an hour and you worked Friday-Sunday, cleaning and cooking and taking care of the children and then on payday, the woman handed you a 50 cent piece. Crazy.

And you talk about the Black Panther Party and your entree through the Unitarian Church in the story called: “Bag Lady” – she carried monetary donations to Kathleen Cleaver and Eldridge Cleaver in paper bags. Ms. Betty also advocated with the City of Berkeley to clean up the drug trafficking on Sacramento Street (1970s) and build affordable housing in South Berkeley—what became known as Byron Rumford Plaza, after the assemblyman who authored the California’s first and most important fair-housing law. There is a stature of the Assemblyman across from Reid’s Records.

Ms. Betty and then husband, Mel Reid opened Reid’s Records, 3101 Sacramento in June 1945—(to close October 2019), for economic independence. They were tired of working for white people and the philosophical sharecropping that characterized Black employment. With the success of the record store which sold “race records” as well as gospel records, the couple had the kind of economic independence that demands respect despite structural racist mores.

You tell the story of taking your great grandmother and granddaughters to the White House, a building built by people of African descent, to meet President Obama.

Ms. Betty: “You just put one foot in front of the other as you live your life. You do not know you are making history. I have been so fortunate, because I have been allowed by life to be able to now only chronicle my story, but the context that story came. Being able to share that is a real privilege. I don’t think my life is different from anyone else’s. I think that what’s different is that I’ve simply stayed on stage. I haven’t retired. I’ve gone on being Betty.”

WS: It’s so beautiful how you tell the story of being the “Bag Lady” for the Black Panther Party and now given the kind of official permissions given to white racists to kill those they do not like, you have the kind of expansive view to reflect on similar times in our nation’s past.

Ms. Betty: “That’s who we were as a nation. It does not mean that that’s who we are now.”   
Stay tuned for two films, one in December produced by the National Park Service, the other early 2020 with a soundtrack featuring Ms. Betty’s original music (smile).

Monday, August 12, 2019

A Note to Ms. Betty Reid Soskins

This post is in response to Betty Reid Soskin's post:

My response is too long and I can't post there (smile).

Hi Ms. Betty:

Thanks so much for the story of near misses, latent memories that spring to life without notice. The walk through the train cars past or through the see of whiteness, faces, mouths, eyes, a collective gesture of dismissal was an ancestral walk cross ship planks, down stairs into dark pits. . . across auction blocks. You heard the clank of weighted shackles around wrists, throats, ankles. You felt the bitterness of the fruit hanging so low it was hard to ignore its stench.

However, once past the foreign land—structural racism or segregation, once safely landed, you are embraced by family, other African Diaspora people who awaited your arrival.

You write:  "And we must remember, that we are not living in the same reality -- and rarely if ever has that been true.  The America that I've lived in bears little resemblance to that of many others.  That's probably as it should be.  I don't argue with that.  It's from those variables that our richness as a Nation is forged.  But the variables should not rise from the inequities and injustices embedded in a flawed social system that bears the awful legacy of slavery, but from the adjustments and corrections we've lived through as a people guided by our founding documents and a heritage of freedom that ensues therefrom  -- as we continue the process of forming our 'more perfect Union.'"

I saw a play recently at Shotgun Players in Berkeley, “Kill Move Paradise” by James Ijames, directed by Darryl Jones, Artistic Director, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. The play takes place in the spaces between death and what's after that.  The way into this club is violent death. The last person to enter is a Black boy-child.  He says what he remembers is the blood.

A completely white space, without memory, the men are met by a newly minted dead Black man. Isa is a one-person cheer team. He shares messages that arrive via paper airplanes and monitors the ticker tape pouring from the facsimile machine in the corner of the open room that looks somehow apocalyptic yet familiar.  Its whiteness is blinding, a cross between the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and a slave ship. There is a barred window at the top of an incline, the men try unsuccessfully to climb. There are also capped pipes-- cavernous opportunities into imagined alternative dimensions -- what if, your work and Ijames ask, if another way were possible?

Isa reads the names and then awaits the dead arrivals.

Each time there is an earthquake-- the death a fissure that cracks the soul that holds us, yet can't keep Black boys, Black men, Black people, safe.  When quaking ends and the dead man ceases his futile escape attempts, Isa asks him to recall his last memory -- this shared story, a totem the men wrap themselves around.

What if before the journey to the west in slave ships, African ancestors could have created a collective blog where they shared what they were doing, thinking, being before capture? Just like their shackled ancestors, these men cannot leave. Captives. The only difference between time now and time then is the shared language (like in the Colored Car you speak of Ms. Betty)—everyone speaks English. On the slaveships new language was born of necessity.

Another difference between then and now is viewership. The capture is not anonymous. In Kill Move Paradise, spectators take pleasure in watching the men's discomfort. Similarly, a certain pleasurable validation came from the white passengers who watched your public humiliation, Ms. Betty, yours and your elders as you were marched from first class to the cars behind the cargo next to the coal bearing engine.  Your memories triggered by the three shootings two weeks ago, as from Texas to Ohio to Gilroy point to historic cognitive dissonance this memory creates in a 97 almost 98 year old life.  You had to change trains cars in El Paso, Texas (the site of the shooting).

Everyone in the Bay Area knows the Garlic Festival. I remember the first time I heard of garlic ice cream and thought how much I wanted to taste it. The garlic festival is a summer is almost over, last hurrah, festival one wants to add to our memories chest as fall moves into winter. There is a sacrilege attached to killing people at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Garlic is what one wears to protect one from evil, like vampires.  Is that too a lie? Why wasn’t the pungent remedy effective?

You state you couldn't play the lead in a high school play because you were a Black girl.  The microaggressions haunt our collective gene pools.  You drop the class and enroll in public speaking. I wonder if the public speaking strategies would have helped you stand your ground, perhaps used Monroe’s Motivational Sequence to show how much the production needed you in its cast.

In your soon to be released CD, you share the story of being hired for a job because the employer didn't know your race by your surname.  Here you speak of your father's inability to advance in his career without a union card and that he might have passed to do so. For a man with five children, a mortgage and wages that were not on par with white men made this kind of deception an economic necessity for those men who could cross racial lines.

You write: "My proud father, Dorson Louis Charbonnet, a trained and experienced millwright and builder, once he left the South, could not find employment except as a white-aproned sandwich hawker in a Southern Pacific railroad lunch car! In that role he earned $75/month for most of his life [yet it cost $47.25/wk to support a family of five then.] [W]ith [his wife's] help, [the Charbonnet's were able to make it.

"But what about those who were too dark-skinned to use this option?  Suspecting that Dad was passing was never mentioned, though the fact that we never met anyone of his co-workers, nor were we ever taken to visit his worksite, and the silence around the issue made for a climate of shame that worked to alienate my sisters and me from our parents for much of our lives.  Since both my sisters were lighter-skinned than I in the early years, I'm sure that the burden of keeping the secret was most deeply felt by me; as if just being "colored" in a hostile world weren't burden enough for a child."

My older daughter experienced something similar. Hired over the phone, when she arrived, the employer was surprised with her African presentation, but they could not change their offer. What they did was change the job description and hide her in a backroom.   When you were denied promotion based on race, you and your husband quit your jobs and opened a record store, Reid's Records so you were no longer dependent on the whims of whiteness for your livelihood.

The descendents of southerners who lost the war still mourn their losses, their poverty, their outsider position in a nation that went to war to force unity on a people who vehemently disagreed. Everyone wasn’t wealthy, but the wealth which was in people and a way of life established on backs of African people, continues to haunt certain gene pools.  America is a lesson that forced alliances fail.  The government cannot force southerners to shake hands with Black Americans and say, “let’s let bygones be bygones.”

The southerners did not see Black people they'd enslaved as equal, and from white supremacists actions through President Obama's time in the White House and now #45 there is an elephant in the kitchen breaking the china.

Your description of the Black world you sort of fell into on this journey to your homeland in the south, is wonderful. In this story you share a richness that is Black Heritage and show a humanity bigotry and racism do not erase or pollute. Your work and life is testament to this amazing spirit. Thanks for the gift.

Toni Morrison stated that there is something wrong with a people whose sense of self is wrapped in racial identity, racial identify that is reflected in Black negation. What happens when the neck one's boot rests on rises up?

I also love your story of your Grandfather George Allen (which you tell on A Lifetime of Being Betty), how you would garden together. I think the analogy here is that as we prune and weed and plant, sometimes to make space for the next season's crops we have to clear what is no longer useful. Perhaps you thought you got it all when you were clearing last season, but obviously the harvest yielding truth, justice and righteous, still needs tilling. Rocks are keeps the plants from springing up. Denial is heavy, indeed.

What your memories remind us is to keep the hoes sharpened, there is still much racial justice accountability work to be done. Who has done and is doing the harm? Who are those people harmed? What needs to happen for those people and their ancestors harmed? What responsibility do those descendants of harmers need to take into account and address? What needs to happen with the current harmers? It is all connected.

Ms. Reid Soskin's is releasing a new collection of stories on CD, A Lifetime of Being Betty, released August 17, following the wonderful publication of her book last year, Sign My Name to Freedom (2018):

Stay tuned for two films, one in December the other early 2020 with a soundtrack featuring her original music (smile).