Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Eugenics & California History

Dear Students:

Tuesday morning, I was listening to Upfront on KPFA and the topic caught my attention. The host and her guest were speaking about eugenics and medical ethics.  With Henrietta Lacks on my mind, you know I had to be at the event at UC Berkeley, Boalt Hall this evening, for the discussion, even if I knew I was going to be late-- (I had a writing deadline to complete).

I hadn't known California was at the forefront of a government program between 1909 and 1972 when more than 20,000 state-sponsored sterilizations were performed. I was floored.

What was cool was the other panelist who was skyped in from Detroit. Alexandra Minna Stern wrote the definitive book on this topic, Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (2005). Talk about experts on the topic! In addition to Stern’s presence were other scholars who knew the breath of the issue and related it to current US policies.

The California numbers represented one-third of the 60,000 total in the United States. Children were taken from parents and forcibly sterilized. Others had to be sterilized in order to be released from state hospitals, prisons and other government facilities.

There are 831 survivors alive today. In California they are around 88 years old, but in North Carolina where the film is shot, the people are a bit younger. Targeted for sterilization were the poor, people with disabilities, especially cognitive (IQ 60 and below), Latinos, black people -- "people deemed 'unfit' for reproduction."  This does not even take into consideration what was happening on the reservations where such practices also occurred with regularity.

In 1970, USC hospital sterilized Mexicans. The story is documented in the film: "No Mas Bebes." The program would round up the entire family and sterilize the children too. Under President Nixon and then Johnson's War on Poverty, 100s of 1000s of women were sterilized. Nixon's program was called federal family planning. It was similar to what civil rights activist Ella Baker called the Mississippi Appendectomy. Women went into the hospital (in the 1940s and ‘50s) for one surgery and come out sterilized.

I went to the screening, arrived late and missed the film, but it is screening free online presently, so I am going to show it to you Wednesday morning. Donna, the director was at the screening at Boalt Hall. She said her husband bought the Skloot book for her when she was beginning her research for her film: "The State of Eugenics" in 2010.

What advocates are looking for are preparations for the survivors. In 2013, North Carolina paid $50,000 per survivor, while two years later Virginia paid, $25,000, in the meantime, California has done nothing. More recently, as in 2011, sterilizations of women prisoners in California were stopped. Women were targeted who were recidivism risks. Here is an article about new policies.

What I appreciated about discussion, especially Stern's, was the connection of Eugenics to an unparalleled global system of white supremacy and racism. These government officials were playing god, deciding who was worthy of being here and bringing others into the world like themselves, and who was not.  The director cited an article she read today where Harvard scientists were questioning the ethical application of research involving fetuses and new technologies which allow them to grow tissue, body parts, etc.

Here is a review of the book in Stern's book in the New England Journal of Medicine.

From the website:

REEL SOUTH: THE STATE OF EUGENICS, dir. Donna Sinclair-Shapiro

Video duration: 56:46 Aired: 01/26/17 Expires: 03/23/17 Rating: NR Video has closed captioning.
Between 1933 and 1974, the state of North Carolina ran one of the most aggressive eugenics programs, sterilizing more than 7,600 men, women and children. This film follows the journey of survivors, legislators and journalists who insist the state confront its role in the tragic, forced sterilization of thousands of Americans thought to have “undesirable” genetics.

I spoke to the director, Donna last night and she sent me a link to her film on pbs.org "Reel South." She also tells me that she will call into my class to speak to students about her film. I am more than jazzed. We watch the film, which is excellent. What is moving are the personal stories of the victims she follows who tell their stories of being robbed of an opportunity to have a family. One man says that the nurse tells him to sing and when he awakens, he is sterilized. Another person, says that the doctor told her the procedure is reversible.

The director traces the history of the program and its national application. What is shocking is the deliberate use of sterilization to for genocide. A bureaucrat with no connection to the youth who is recommended for the surgery, makes inquires until the suggestion become his legacy. In one country over 400 people were sterilized.

Though the film focuses on the two starts where reparations are being paid, the work certainly speaks to the larger work still waiting to be completed.  

Sunday, February 05, 2017

27th Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry

A little rain never stopped this show in the 27 years it has been happening at the West Oakland Branch Library across the street from Lil Bobby Hutton Park at 18th and Adeline Street. This year, we didn't have any youth or children on the program, but Randolph Bell brought his daughter and the two enjoyed a bit of the program before they headed to their next stop.

A lot happens in the shortest month of the year, which highlights the historic legacy of black Americans. For the other 11 months, the megaphone is all but silent. Nonetheless, we know without black people, America would not be the America it is today -- from the traffic light and light bulb, to blood plasma and the ball point pen, refrigerator transport systems and home security system, ice cream and ice cream scooper (with spring) ironing board, swiveling sprinkler system, dry cleaning process, automatic elevator shaft closing, computer, clock, watch, folding chair. It goes on and on, especially when we include the theft of Henrietta Lacks's immortal cells renamed HeLa, were used to develop the vaccine for Polio, travel in outer space and used to research for: "herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, Parkinson's disease, certain types of genetic diagnoses, cancer, AIDS, cloning, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, and in vitro fertilization."

It is said, Mrs. Lacks is the most important woman in medical history. Unfortunately, everyone made money from her cells, except her young children and husband in dire poverty when she died.
Avenging the Ancestors Coalition is an organization in Philadelphia which has a list of inventions invented by black men and women. ATAC says: We did it. They hid it.  Grounded in the Akan concept of Sankofa, ATAC explains that genius is political and if the person with the idea was owned by another or the competitor was more powerful, then theft would go without prosecution. In the case of Lacks, the doctor(s) just hid his research from the family and ignored Mr. Lacks refusal to cooperate by stealing Mrs.Lacks's cells.
This 27th year, we had a full audience—lots of volunteers and a nice mix of both new and old faces. People stayed until the end, because the poetry was so good—I mean outstanding. 

Rahim Sabir opened with a nice live drum interlude. Later on, Rahim also accompanied me with my poem. That say we had duets and sole performances; however a highlight of this year was the tribute to Lee Williams, Sr. a longtime supporter of the Celebration.  Tique, eldest daughter, shared a few Lee Williams standards and Lee II and his wife performed songs from an upcoming recording. It was fun listening to Lee and his wife perform, especially the song: “Mo Grown” where the singer laments his errors and “Hard,” where the singer says life is hard because “he forgot about God.”

Gene Howell, Jr. and Halifu Oṣumare performed a duet—their poetry full of loving metaphors—Gene’s “Le live da la femme noire or Black Woman Book,” Halifu’s answering “Where did you come from” felt unrehearsed. It was as if poetry were their livelihood, their breath, all else unnatural or pretense.

Steve McCutchen shared stories about NASA and the black mathematicians and scientists he knew as a child, in his poem “A Lever and a Place to Stand.” His tribute, “Conversation,” to his friend Lee Williams was also lovely. At times his voice sounded like Lee’s.

Darlene Roberts shared a meditation on the N- word. However, it was a poem she wrote for Lee which he never heard, which took us back to Victor’s Café in Oakland and to the Western Addition Cultural Center in San Francisco where Darlene, as President of the International Black Writers in San Francisco would host monthly Saturday meetings.

Reginald Wilkins led us in a meditation on black life and black love and resilience and resistance with his tow pieces, “I Can Breathe” and “It’s Supposed to Be Easy.”

Andre La Mont Wilson’s work is biographical and this year his selections, centered on his parents, Mom and Dad: “Heartache”; “Note in a Pot”; “Sankofa.” Both parents were poets and left him lots of poems when they passed. Andre said that his dad, a ceramicists would send him pots for presents. He says, he would have enjoyed a visit from Dad more until he found the note in the pot. 

Douglas “Katabatzi” Coleman’s work is always excellent; however, this year, his choices: A New Song; Blood Run; and Emancipation” were stunning artistically. He spoke about education in “A New Song.” The pedagogy in the new song youth will sing would “model peace and contentment. . . . Let’s teach the youth a new song, with rhymes and verses that they belong.”

In “Blood Run”, the poet challenges us to value black lives while acknowledging that this world’s values should be rejected. He writes: “Abandon notions of racial superiority/Embrace the common humanity/that we may explore our destiny/Let’s practice reciprocity.”

Karla Brundage’s work was self-reflective. What is public education and who does it serve and fail to serve and who cares when the neediest needs remain unaddressed. Her closing poem – Maafa Crossing was really great! She said she wished she had a rapper for the poem and a brother from the audience volunteered. He was really good too.

Jasmin Strange arrived just in time. Her stories about the poetry were almost as interesting as the work. The second poem had a refrain, “I see you,” which reminded me of something important. When we fail to acknowledge each other it contributes to the eerie displacement we see often in allies, doorways, street corners.

Tyrice Deane’s poems interrogated the notion of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in relationship to black people’s transport to this nation.





Friday, February 03, 2017

Wanda's Picks Radio Show presents: From the Archives Feb. 1, 2017

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. Rhodessa Jones's "The Resurrection of She" (3/28-4/7/2013).

2. Dr. Carmaletta M. Williams, professor of English and African American studies at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., author of Langston Hughes in the Classroom: “Do Nothin’ till You Hear from Me” and Of Two Spirits: American Indian and African American Oral Histories and Dr. John Edgar Tidwell, professor of English at the University of Kansas and author of Montage of a Dream: The Art and Life of Langston Hughes, After Winter: The Art and Life of Sterling A. Brown, and Writings of Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press, join us to talk about My Dear Boy, Carrie Hughes's Letters to Langston Hughes 1926-1938 http://news.ku.edu/2014/02/24/project-examines-how-letters-langston-hughes-mother-influenced-his-writings.

3. We close the show with frequent guest Raissa Simpson, choreographer, master teacher and Artistic Director of PUSH Dance Company's premiere of "Point Shipyard," March 29-30, 2014 at MoAD-SF. She is joined by collaborators and performers: Katie Wong and Adriann Ramirez www.pushdance.org

Music: Dwight Tribble's "I've Known Rivers" (based on Langston Hughes's poem by same title); soundscape from PUSH Dance Company's collaboration with the 3rd Street Youth Center & Clinic.                                                    

Friday, December 02, 2016

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

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!

Oakland Symphony’s nontraditional holiday tradition – Let Us Break Bread Together – is back December 11, 2016 at 4 PM at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. Enjoy many of your holiday favorites!
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panthers, and an important time in Oakland’s history. Oakland Symphony will pay homage by performing music from the time including Motown classics, gospel and protest music of the 60’s and 70’s. Let us Break Bread Together will feature Oakland Symphony Chorus, Linda Tillery, Vocal Rush, Kugelplex, Mt. Eden High School Concert Choir, and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.
                                                     
Maestro Michael Morgan, Music Dirctor and Conductor, Dr. Lynn Morrow, OEBS Chorus Director, Mr. Terrence Kelly, Oakland Interfaith gospel Choir, and Ms. Ellen Hoffman, Pianist and Composer

We close with Rodney Leon, architect, Ark of Return, Tribute to formerly enslaved Africans, permanent exhibit at United Nations in New York City (previously broadcast Aug.12,2014).

Link: http://tobtr.com/s/9645817

Music: Staple Singers's Freedom Highway: "Introduction" & "Heaven"; Sowethu Gospel Choir's "Malaika;" Rocky Dawuni's Get Up Stand Up.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, Nov. 11, 2016

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. Poetic Response to the Elections with poets: 
Rafael Jesús González, Eugene Redmond, Marcus Lorenzo Penn, Sandra "Makeda" Hooper-Mayfield, Karla Brundage, Alan Laird, Ann Marie Davis, Raymond Nat Turner, Charles Curtis Blackwell, Karla Brundage, Zigi Lowenberg


2. Karen Oyekanmi, 30th Annual Black Doll Artists Show and Sale, Nov. 12, 10-5 at the African American Museum and Library, Oakland


3. BACCHANAL DE AFRIQUE Nkeiruka Oruche, Artistic Director/Producer Nkeiruka Oruche is a Nigerian of Igbo descent who lives and plays with her family in Oakland. She is a dancer, musician, performer and educator specializing in street dance and music styles from Africa and her Diaspora.

With over 15 years of experience and a passion for social justice and community-building, her goal is to work with people to use art as a way to lead healthy lives and create positive change in the world. Nkeiruka has worked with Amara Tabor-Smith, Loco Bloco, Dance Mission Theater, the Oakland Museum of California, Our Family Coalition, Youth Speaks and a host of change-making entities.

Currently, Nkeiruka is leading Afro Urban Society, a group that works to foster and preserve the resiliency, interconnection and existence of people of African descent in global urban settings through art performance and social engagement. She is also a Co-Founder of BoomShake, a social justice oriented musical community.


November 18: Til’ Dance Do Us Part, Afro-Urban Musical, 8PM @ Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco


November 19: Community Lab for the African Diaspora, 6PM @ EastSide Arts Alliance, Oakland


November 19: Afrobeats vs. Azonto Master Dance Class, 2PM @ Dance Mission Theater, San Francisco


November 20: Afrobeats & Soul Line & Turf & More Dance Workshops, 11AM - 7PM @ EastSide Arts Alliance, Oakland 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Wanda's Picks Radio, Wed., Nov. 9, 2016

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. Cleavon Smith graduated from the US Naval Academy and Mills College. He is the writer of Vs., produced by TheatreFirst in their 2016-17 season. His short plays have been featured in the 2012 PlayGround and the 2015 Ohlone College Playwrights Festivals. He lives in Oakland and teaches in the English department at Berkeley City College."
2. Standing Rock Protest. Tiyesha Meroe, People's Community Medics. To help visit https://medichealercouncil.com/donate/
3. Mark Harris, artist joins us to speak about his recent work and an exhibit opening Friday, Nov. 11, 6-9 at CIIS in San Francisco. His artist talk is Nov. 16, 6 p.m. at CIIS, 1453 Mission Street: 
  1. "Freedom isn't Free"
  2. "American Exceptionalism - Same as it Ever Was"
  3. "Silence = Violence No. 3"
  4. "Home Sweet Home"

4. Keith Josef Adkins, playwright, Safe House, at Aurora Theater in Berkeley

Set in Kentucky in 1843, Safe House examines the lives of one free family of color and the tensions that arise between two brothers with conflicting aspirations. While one brother dreams of opening his own business, the other risks everything in an effort to help fugitive slaves escape on the Underground Railroad. Based on true events in the lives of his ancestors, Adkins tells a gripping story of love, freedom and survival against impossible odds.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wanda's Picks Radio, Friday, October 14, 2016

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. Jovelyn D. Richards, who joins us to speak about "Tootsie's Juke Joint" (a.k.a. The Mother), is a international solo performance artist, director, independent film maker, and writer. Ms. Richards work has been produced by: Central Eastern University, Afro Solo, National Black Theatre Festival  & the Los Angeles Women's Festival. Her body of work she refers to as the :Nappy Headed Love Stories, Black Love & Intimacy

She is a radio host for Pacifica Radio 94.1.  Jovelyn holds both an MA & MFA in the humanities. Ms. Richards first indie novel Tulips for Evening was published this fall.  A copy of her novel will be auctioned off at her reading of her play October 20th at the Exit Theatre on Eddy Street in San Francisco as a part of The SF Olympians: Week 3: The Cradle, Oct. 19-22