Monday, March 09, 2015

Let the Living Unbury Their Dead (Xtigone closes Sunday, March 8, 2015)

A Review by Wanda Sabir

, playwright Nambi E. Kelley’s treatment or reimagining of Sophocles’s Antigone raises issues not easily ignored on International Women’s Day 2015 and the 50th Anniversary weekend of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Set in Chicago, the First Family’s hometown, Lorraine Hansberry’s literal stomping ground along with notables: Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks, The Art Ensemble, the AACM and so many more – DuSable, anyone (smile), Black Classics Press, the Hon. Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam, Nobel Drew Ali’s Moorish Science Temple . . . Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s Black Prophetic Justice, Richard Wright, a Native Son. . . .

Chicago is also one of America’s most bloody cities. It rains red there. Remember the child who marched in the inaugural parade two years ago who was killed just a week later? She survived DC, but not Chi Town.

In the classic story, Antigone wants to bury her brother and when she disobeys her uncle, she is killed. In Kelley’s tale, Tig unburies the dead, because she believes the killing will not stop until the cover-up ceases. It is a time of war, then and now. In actress Ryan Nicole Austin’s able hands Tigs takes on her Uncle Marcellus (Dwight Dean Mahabir), who is also City Mayor, and her Aunt Fay (Jasmine Strange). Even her sister, Izzy (Tavia Percia) does not support her sister’s challenge.

All alone except for Mama Goddess, Tigs feels compelled—driven to complete the work her brother E-Mem), started.  The Disciples Gang Leader (actor AeJay Mitchell) was trying to uncover the source of the weapons in his community and the trail was leading him to City Hall. As E-Mem called his uncle out, he simultaneously placed the blame for the deaths in the leader’s hands. Tigs not only unburied E-Mem, after Uncle Marcellus performs the rites, she has everyone in Chicago’s effected communities bring their dead to City Hall too. There are bodies everywhere – one could reach out, just lean forward a bit (from front row theatre seats) to touch a corpse.

Yes, it got a bit creepy, but that was the (unstated) intent. Gun violence is epidemic in Chicago and other American cities. It is an illness, a social infection worse than AIDS. The dead cannot rest; AeJay Mitchell’s E-mem and to a lesser degree, rival gang leader, Drew Watkins’s Ernesto is similarly disturbed. Who killed them before peace was secured? E-mem haunts his city; he talks to his sister; appears to his uncle— He will not lie still; his commitment is cut short, but with Tigs he has a chance to continue. Tigs inherits her dead sibling, E-Mem’s work. In Dagara or West African culture, it is expected when a young person dies that the living sibling celebrate his life. E-mem leaves so much unfinished for Tigs, who in turn leads a double life.

Eventually the dead sibling relieves the living person of such responsibility, but only after the earthly tasks are done. AeJay Mitchell’s character is a driving presence in Tigs’s life. He is always on stage—he is not a passive ghost. There is too much at stake and he knows this, even if Tigs does not initially. The work E-Mem, then Tigs do, mirrors that of Dr. Joe Marshall at Alive and Free in San Francisco. E-Mem’s and fellow gang leader, Ernesto’s collective goal is thwarted in a town where the mayor’s wife is selling souls for cash. How can a truce keep citizens alive and free when body counts equal wealth? The Latin Kings and Disciples leadership truce only temporarily interrupts, yet does not stop, the war machine.  They do not operate the machine which prints money on the backs of its most vulnerable citizens. Fay is so deep in the game we see dirt raining on the two, Chicago’s first lady and her unsuspecting husband. She sells her soul without reading the fine print. Faye’s temporary fame ends tragically when she opens the attaché case for everyone to see the corpses, dead bodies (skulls, amputated hands . . . blood money). Chicago’s guns and its violence are interchangeable with Liberian (etc.) conflict diamonds. The enemy keeps us fighting worldwide so it can take the spoils.

Dirt rains on Marsellus as Faye screams.

There are so many guns on stage, so many dead-walking or about-to-be-dead children walking that the heaviness of the work rivets a person to her seat. I know the first time I saw the play, there was no intermission and I could barely move when the curtain fell. The added intermission, while powerful, weakened Xtigone’s intensity.

The potency dissipates, like a cloud pregnant with rain evaporates in the sunshine. I am not sure if that is a good thing.  Did I miss the showers? Was I happy to leave damp, yet dry? Are we let off the hook? Some patrons used the intermission as an opportunity to escape. Not everyone came back I noticed as I moved closer to the burying ground. I wish the performance had ended with a conversation about next steps. Do we take our dead to city hall in San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, San Leandro. . .? What do we do with our loved ones chilling on cooling boards still too warm to touch?

The talented young cast sing, dance and use sign-language in this well-choreographed and directed work.  Coarse street vernacular characterizes most of the dialogue; even the Old Seer (Awele Makeba) uses profanity which I think is unnecessary, yet despite this criticism, Kelley’s reworking of Antigone in Xtigone, a play which revolves around a curse—her father Oedipus sleeps with his mother.  Tigs decides to uncover this degradation of all that is holy and human. She uses her legacy as a warning. How easily honor turns to horror. She unburies the dead to give these ancient roots a repotting.

Ms. Rhodessa Jones is a perfect choice as director; her ability to spin tales and weave magical realism on stage is legendary. Her Medea Project: Theatre for Incarcerated Women is testament to her vision. Incarceration is relative. Xtigone is the story of a city under siege, a city at war. Isn’t war the ultimate captivity, that and the fear war brings? Ancestors get up and walk among us— they are in the aisles, behind us in the darker regions of the inarticulate shadowy spaces. The ghosts’ random wanderlust remains one of the works more unsettling aspects.

For those familiar with Jones’s aesthetic hand we notice the use of ASL and the work’s heighted feminine. Even if the words were not spoken, that is, “Mama Goddess,” we would know SHE was running this show (smile).

Ms. Jones in collaboration with Tommy “DJ Soulati” Shepard pull together an amazing work—Jones says Shepard was with her in rehearsals composing melodies to fit the scenes. Known for his ability to craft scores, especially in hip hop theatre, Xtigone is in keeping with his reputation. Kelley’s play would have been wonderful without the music; her stunning lyricism coupled with Shepard’s craft, make the work a contemporary masterpiece. Again, it is because the cast are such fine artists: Tigs’s sister Izzy (Tavia Percia), not to mention the Chorus (Brooklyn Fields), Fay (Jasmine Strange) and Tea Flake (Naima Shalhoub) – when the two gangs square off—Michael Wayne Turner (Tigs’s Beau) is paired with a wonderful younger gangster who holds his own with the older actor.

Places of resonance are when the cast surround the mayor and make him face the deaths. The contemporary ring shout holds the dead. The youth call the names of children killed by gunfire and sanctify the ground where they lie uncovered. The mayor runs from its center, but there is nowhere for him to go. While he babbles incoherently at the intersection between worlds, it is the vocalese of mayoral aide Niama Shalhoub’s Tea Flake that keeps us falling off the edges of our seats. Tea Flake opens the work; she is the voice we can trust. And we follow it even when Tigs is arrested; Fay admits to graft, selling out and Beau arrives too late (or so we think)—Tea Cake keeps the story moving from one frame to the next. Often a lone voice in the quiet or disquiet, Tea Flake is also conflicted; she likes and perhaps admires Tigs, but who would go against a power structure like the Mayor and his City Hall unless she wants to suffer the same fate as her brother E-Mem?

Tigs is alone; even her fiancé, Beau (Michael Wayne Turner) cannot save her from the gallows. There is a lovely scene where Tigs sings of her doubt and fate. Human walls confine her—pliant, they push back when she tries to escape. Tigs never forgets where she is going or where she came from. She is connected to a linage bigger than the sins of her father and mother. Several times we hear her call the names of her ancestors and heroines whom she gains inspiration. A name she calls is that of first lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama. The goddess who lives in Tigs’s world is engaged, active and present. She is a Mama Goddess, who blesses all her children, yet seems to favor the women (smile).

Awele Makeba, as the old woman, dances the medicine, while the old seer chastises the mayor who “should have known better,” she says. He once was a man with principles we learn in a talk with his son, Beau (Michael Wayne Turner) who implores his father to return to these core beliefs before it is too late. Dressed in ceremonial white, Makeba whirls and bends the space between subjects as she sweeps the temporal with magical broom, tying off loose threads which occasionally entangle. She welcomes the departed and clears the path for the living. We hear her rattle—like cowries sending telegrams between saints and those left unearthed. The rattle is also Dhambalah, the snake, purifying the sacred spaces which contain both suffering and healing. Makeba’s Spirit, like the seer, mediates between slumber and death.

Tigs can see the dead too. She and her brother E-Mem have a special relationship. Sometimes one cannot outrun destiny.

Xtigone is cautionary, while at the same time it honors the young lives lost to senseless violence. The two gangs: Disciples and Latin Kings want to halt the violence, but who will be the first to put down his gun? In this contemporary world, young girls carry assault weapons as are boys. Bravado leads to unnecessary killing and death, surprising in its random trajectory.  Xtigone is powerful, because we know these children and the names called. The bodies unearthed belong to our kin. Two are my nephews, Carlton and Oba– one killed in San Francisco, the other in Oakland. I wonder what happened to their shoes? Perhaps if killers or those responsible for the death of so many innocents had to walk in the shoes of their victims the landscape might take on a different meaning? To his credit, Marsellus puts on E-Mem’s Jordans.

Dwight Dean Mahabir’s character, to his credit (and Kelley’s writing) does not remain in a weakened state. Just his associations with the Seer or Old Woman whom he initially listens to early on in his career, gives citizens (and the audience) a bit of hope. But until the very end, we don’t know which way his spirit will blow – lovely Fay (Jasmine Strange) his windy city.

From the set to the costumes and lighting, Xtigone had a fabulous world premiere in San Francisco at the African American Shakespeare Theatre, celebrating 20 years this 2015 (smile). Look out Chicago (next stop on the tour), African Shakes’ production will be a hard act to follow (smile).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Place/Displacement at SOMarts Nov. 20-Dec. 13

Opening Night was really exciting! Lots of people were out despite the chilly cold wet weather. As I drove across the bridge I could barely see. At one point there was a flash of lightning.

I put the blue table cloth on the table along with the catalog for the show, business cards and the art caddy. It was great talking to everyone about their place of birth and their ancestry.

The exhibit is entitled: Movement Trails Within and Beyond Diaspora: A Global South Tale. In it we trace our movement from home to other places. Some people left the land of their birth fleeing death, while others were sold or kidnapped from home, never to return until generations later.

The thread represents people's mapping their journeys. I had them start with their place of birth and then locate their ancestors. We had 100 pins, at the end of the reception, 99 were used. There were stories left in the basket that spoke of genocide and refuge, confusion over where the person belonged. One woman said she was adopted by a woman from Manila and she was born in Los Angeles.

One man was from Antigua, with ancestors in England and relatives in Ghana. His wife was born in Hawaii. One little boy was born in Berkeley, but claimed Oakland. His mother told him to choose a country from Africa for his ancestors.
A woman joined us from Kenya, who lives in California now. People traced their ancestry from New Orleans and North Carolina, to Jamaica. We had quite a few people from the East Coast, Buffalo, New York, Boston. I don't think anyone was from Florida. One person was from Cuba. Two from the Philippines, one from Iraq, another from Turkey and another from another place near Iraq (these folks didn't feel like writing so I am trying to recall this from memory.)

We had people with ancestry in France . . . polyglot European mixes, Amsterdam, Italy, England, Spain.
Because the map was abstract, many people didn't see the map until they stepped back and looked more carefully at the work. I had a more traditional map in the binder on the table so that people could orientate themselves, but geographic accuracy was not the goal. Wherever the person felt they belonged, even if the borders or lines were not geographically correct it was okay. We ran out of space along the CA coast so some people had to be in the Pacific Ocean. One woman said she had had a dream about this.
So many people said they were happy the installation was in this show. We had people in line because only one person could map their journey at a time.

One woman was Chinese and European. Another was European and Mexican, but with green eyes and pale skin, red hair when not dyed black, she said she was seen as an imposter by other Mexicans, especially when she spoke Spanish. She knew about post-traumatic slave syndrome and the Maafa. Not many people recognized the photos from the Maafa Commemoration.
Several friends told me they wanted to read my research written on place for my Ecopsychology class at Pacific Graduate Institute. Another woman and I (an artist in the show, who painting said "home," had a long conversation about African identity in the Diaspora and blackness. The two are not synonymous. She said she felt more comfortable calling herself black, rather than African.
Everyone I spoke to agreed that black people's humanity's survival was because of our spiritual grounding--those African gods who jumped on ships with us, kept us sane and human.
I am looking forward to seeing what other people write and where the lines are drawn while I am away (smile).

All photos taken at the Artists Reception
Photo credit: TaSin Sabir

Friday, November 07, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, November 7, 2014

Tracy Porter, University of San Francisco Trustee, joins us to talk about the University of San Francisco (USF) will welcome 60-80 (7th and 12th Graders) under-resourced middle and high school students to campus from Mt. Diablo Unified School District in Concord on Saturday, Nov. 8. He is CEO of Premiere Solutions, a firm connecting businesses with transportation services. He assisted with the launch of the auto brokerage firm Elite Auto Network.

Tracy Porter (center) with Elite Staff
Porter worked with the Johnson and Johnson company’s management, marketing, and sales teams for 14 years. He is a veteran of the National Football League, playing for the Detroit Lions, Baltimore Colts, and Indianapolis Colts.

He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Louisiana State University and is a graduate of The Wharton Executive Development Program.  This is the 5th annual event of its kind, bringing in prominent African American professionals to speak with students about how they achieved professional success and encourage higher education. Among the speakers slated for Nov. 8: Charles H. Smith, former president and CEO of AT&T West (45,000 employees), Tracy Porter, CEO of Premiere Solutions, and Dr. Clarence B. Jones, attorney and speechwriter for Martin Luther King Jr.

Having the event on a university campus is a way of encouraging the young men and inspiring them to set their sights on college. USF President Fr. Paul Fitzgerald, S.J., will be on hand in the morning to officially welcome the young men to campus.

Following the keynote address by Dr. Jones, CARES students will have the opportunity to attend workshops led by USF professors and Epsilon Beta Boulé members, offering practical tools for academic success and career advice for a variety of professions including teaching, health sciences, marketing, business, and technology.

Victor Fields sings the music of Lou Rawls

The Lou Rawls Project
infuses elements of jazz, soul, and R&B to present a fresh and contemporary approach to the tribute collection. Recorded in Minneapolis, London, Nashville and the Bay Area, the project features a collection of timeless standards such as “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Natural Man,” and “(I'd Rather Drink) Muddy Water” alongside signature staples like, “You’ll Never Find A Love Like Mine,” “See You When I Get There” and the lead single “Lady Love”.  The Lou Rawls Project features producing chores by Fields’ long-time musical collaborator, producer/musician Chris Camozzi, and a coterie of legendary Bay Area artists that include: Nelson Braxton, Brian Collier, Skyler Jett, Vince Lars and others. “My purpose is to celebrate the timeless talent of Lou Rawls and the rich musical legacy that he left behind,” says Fields.

Musi-kongo Malonga
Muisi-kongo Malonga, choreographer and dancer joins us once again to speak about the remounting of her Kimpa Vita! Nov. 14-16, at CounterPulse in San Francisco. Kimpa Vita! is a music, dance and theater narrative told through the dual lens of Kongolese and African American cultural arts traditions, exploring the controversial life of Kongolese prophet and martyr, Mama Kimpa Vita. At the heart of Kimpa Vita! are movement and poetry set to a musical score that layers the wailing cadence of African American spirituals with the textured harmonies of traditional Kongolese song and percussion.

Plot for Peace

We close with an extended conversation with Spanish director, Carlos Agulló, who speaks about Indelible Media's PLOT FOR PEACE, opening on November 7, 2014, at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco which he will attend for Q&A after the 7:20pm and 9:55pm shows.

The untold story behind History, a well-kept secret behind the world-wide icon : Nelson Mandela’s release was a Plot for Peace. PLOT FOR PEACE is a character-driven historical thriller documentary feature about the demise of apartheid. It tells the story of Jean-Yves Ollivier, alias “Monsieur Jacques”, whose behind-the-scenes bargaining was instrumental in bringing about regional peace and the end of racial discrimination in South Africa.  For the first time, heads of state, generals, diplomats, master spies and anti-apartheid fighters reveal how Africa’s front line states helped end apartheid. The improbable key to Mandela’s prison cell was a mysterious French businessman, dubbed “Monsieur Jacques” in classified correspondence. His trade secret was trust.

Perhaps though more, director Carlos Agulló writes in his notes is Ollivier's example that one person can make a difference, and that relationships are developed over time and that trust is not something that happens from afar, it is interpersonal and up close.

Carlos is part of the lively core of Spanish auteur cinema increasingly being recognized outside its borders. He worked as an assistant editor on The Sea Inside by Alejandro Amenábar, which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and later as film editor for other award winning Spanish directors such as Mateo Gil (Back to Moira), Oskar Santos (For the Good of Others), Jorge Blanco (Planet 51) and Jorge Sánchez Cabezudo (Crematorium). He has also directed several of his own award-winning short films. The South African documentary PLOT FOR PEACE is his first feature.

Here is a link to the show which ends in an hour long interview with the director:

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Show October 31, 2014

"Not One More" Installation at SOMarts
Curators, LULU MATUTE and FALLON YOUNG join us to speak about Not One More, an altar in the Visions at Twight: Dia de los Muertos 2014 at SOMarts through Nov. 8 in San Francisco. Not One More is dedicated to victims of police brutality and state sanctioned violence. After moving to the Bay Area from Chicago, Lulu began advocating for education equity in California Community Colleges to improve college completion and transfer rates amongst students of color. As a member of the Alive and Free program in San Francisco, Lulu works to combat the disease of violence by addressing anger, fear and pain on the individual level as well as in communities. She joined the #BlackLivesMatters ride to Ferguson and #FergusonOctober to protest for justice with the people of Ferguson. Fallon Young coordinates outreach efforts and serves as the social media voice of SOMArts Cultural Center in her role as Director of Communications & Community Engagement. Visit or call 415-863-1414.

MICHAEL SMITH, founder/president of the American Indian Film Institute (AIFI), joins us to talk about the 39th Annual AIFF Nov. 1-9, in San Francisco. Visit

who has been active in the National Lawyers Guild since early 1969,
 serving on local and national executive boards and was national president, the first non-lawyer to hold that position in the Guild's 75-year history, joins us to talk about a recent trip to Palestine (May '14), hosted by 
Addameer, a West Bank organization dealing with the huge issue of political prisoners being held by Israeli authorities.

Sahar Francis, General Director of Ramallah-based Addameer Prisoner-Support and Human Rights Association is speaking Mon., Nov. 3, 5:30-8 p.m. at UC Hastings School of Law, 100 McAllister in San Francisco. Visit to RSVP.

Link to show:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Show: Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mildred Ruiz-Sapp
Steven Sapp
We speak to UNIVERSES co-founders, Steven Sapp and Mildred Ruiz-Sapp about the Berkeley Rep premiere of Party People Oct. 17-Nov. 23. 

Steven Sapp
: BARD College, BA ’89 - Theater. Playwright/Actor.Playwriting/Acting credits include: PARTY PEOPLE (Directed/Developed by Liesl Tommy); AMERIVILLE (Directed/Developed by Chay Yew); The Denver Project (Director Dee Covington); One Shot in Lotus Position (Director Bonnie Metzger); BLUE SUITE (Directed/Developed by Chay Yew); SLANGUAGE (Directed/Developed by Jo Bonney); Director- RHYTHMICITY (Director/Actor); THE RIDE (Playwright/Actor/Director) Acting only credits include: The Comedy of Errors (Directed by Kent Gash). Directing credits include: THE ARCHITECTURE OF LOSS (Assistant Director to Chay Yew); Will Powers’ THE SEVEN (Director-The Univ. of Iowa); Alfred Jarry's UBU:Enchained (Director-Teatre Polski, Poland).

Mildred Ruiz-Sapp: Playwright/Actor/Vocalist. BARD College, BA ’92 (Literature/Language). Publications: UNIVERSES-THE BIG BANG (2015 release- TCG Books); SLANGUAGE in The Fire This Time (TCG Books); BLUE SUITE in The Goodman Theatre's Festival Latino - Six Plays (Northwestern University Press); PARTY PEOPLE in The Manifesto Anthology (Rain City Projects- Fall 2014); Featured on the covers of American Theater Magazine 2004 and The Source Magazine 2000. Member: AEA. 

Awards/Affiliations: 2008 Ambassador of Culture: U.S. State Dept. and Jazz at Lincoln Center - Rhythm Road Tour; 2008 TCG Peter Zeisler Award; 2006 Career Advancement Fellowship from the Ford foundation through Pregones Theater; 2002-2004 and 1999-2001 TCG National Theater Artist Residency Program Award; BRIO Awards (Bronx Recognizes its own-Singing); Co-Founder of The Point CDC; Board Member (National Performance Network - NPN); Former Board Member (Network of Ensemble Theaters-NET); New York Theatre Workshop Usual Suspect.

Ericka Huggins

We'll close with an archived interview with Ericka Huggins (smile). We spoke on the theatrical release of The Black Power Mixtape. 

Shows Link:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Edris Cooper Anifowoshe's Traveling While Black at Brava Theater Center through October 26, 2014

Edris Cooper Anifowoshe’s Traveling While Black continues at Brava Theater Center in San Francisco weekends, Friday –Sunday, through October 26, 2014

TWB is epic. It is a story that has audiences laughing while at the same time catching their breath as Edris Cooper Anifowoshe takes us with her into situations only a well-written narrative can then retrieve you from unscathed.

The journey is fraught with peril. And for those who thought only black men had it rough, Cooper-Anifowoshe quickly erases that illusion as she transports us from a MUNI bus ride in San Francisco to a slave ship off the coast of West Africa without a blink of an eye. Seamless transport—the shocks keep us comfortable, so comfortable we don’t miss or feel the millions lost on the journey with us as TWB takes us through the massacre of the Indigenous populations here to the separation of black people abroad—via countries of origin. All of a sudden TWB with an American passport removes the racial stigma and one is just an American traveling.

Cooper-Anifowoshe uses her experiences as a child growing up in Tennessee and Arkansas with a nuclear physicist dad who liked to get in the car with his children and take them on road trips, to share her early experiences TWB in America.  Those who know the playwright’s trajectory know this is the condensed version of the story—she leaves out a lot, but what we see is her navigation of a racially articulated paradigm that keeps beeping when she gets too close to a border or treaty or international agreement. This border or margin is also complicated by gender and national origin.

Using a color-coordinated fleet: boat, an airplane and a suitcase, Cooper-Anifowoshe sails from Spain to Morocco then takes a plane to Nigeria, Abidjan where finally she’s home. The story of her welcome there is one all people of the Diaspora need to feel.

All along the journey we hear Cooper-Anifowoshe’s mother and father. In fact, TWB shows that one cannot leave oneself behind when one changes landscape; however, it is good to check the baggage or lock it away before one boards the plane. TWB shows how having the right attitude and being able to think quickly on one’s feet can save a person’s life as TWB is not for the faint of heart. No, it takes a lot of heart to TWB, especially when traveling with ignorant companions--white Americans with the wrong attitude. She saves her companion's life more than once and then decides it isn't worth the risk, so she "veils up" and leaves him in a pool of blood.

Anifowoshe-Cooper talks about a cultural orientation, that has white American students from Iowa University, think it strange that there are no white people (or few) in Africa, nor do they find it easy to adjust to the fact that black people are in charge.

She realizes they are a risk, yet as their teacher she cannot leave them at the airport (smile).  The many faces of the story are funny as the actress puts on many masks, one a Sister-friend who doesn't greet fake camaraderie well when white Americans want to be friends in Africa when in Iowa they could barely speak to her.

TWB shifts for Cooper-Anifowoshe when with dual citizenship once she marries a Yoruba man and means she can choose to show her green African passport or blue American passport. Cooper-Anifowoshe speaks about how sad she and her newly minted African American students felt when they saw how disrespectfully people they’d come to respect and love were treated by American immigration officers. The newlywed had to leave her husband behind.

A friend of mine (later) tells me the story of her husband who was caught in Egypt when the Americans were held by Iran and the airports were shutting down. Marty held up his blue passport, and he was able to board one of the last planes leaving North Africa.

We visit former southern plantations, slave ships, the Shrine (in Lagos) while Fela lay ill behind the curtain, sacred places along the Oshun river . . . run for our lives with Edris as boys chase her and others in Spain with ill intent, bricks sailing by her head; get pulled over in a SF Mime Troupe truck by Southern cops who take them in for questioning after finding contraband in the vehicle—black and white people.

It is a wonderful jaunt. Cooper-Anifowoshe wearing an earring with the outline of Africa jauntily swinging from one ear as she talks plenty smack during the never a dull moment sojourn at home and abroad. TWB is lively, the pacing up temple, the text sharp and witty—it is as if we dropped by the playwright's house for the evening to catch up on the latest news. Considering this is a long overdue visit—literally hundreds of years between conversations, time travel and continent hopping . . . Cooper-Anifowoshe ends where she started--San Francisco on the 14 bus.

Standing on the crowded bus the lights fade.

(I believe the 14 bus has one of the longest routes in San Francisco, at least it goes through more neighborhoods with a changing demographic than any other (I saw a film about this at the MVFF or SFIFF many years ago—Rhodessa Jones, founder, Medea Project, is in it. The bus goes through Noe Valley, her neighborhood).  

Brava Theater Center is at 2781 24th Street @ York in San Francisco, CA. For tickets and information visit Edris’s play is in the smaller, more intimate theatre Annex.
Shows are Friday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 3 p.m. Tickets are $15.

Recent articles about TWB: and and

Funny, none of these stories are from a black American male perspective.

Wanda's Picks for October 2014

Blood Moon

On October 8, between 1:17 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. view the eclipse of the moon. Called the blood moon because of its red hue, it should be pretty spectacular and weather permitting, you can see it all from Oakland:   There will be a partial solar eclipse October 23 also visible from Oakland.

Maafa Commemoration 2014

This is just a reminder that Sunday, October 12, 2014 marks our 19th Annual Maafa Commemoration. This is a time when we gather to remember our African ancestors, especially those who endured the transatlantic slave trade or the Middle Passage, the Black Holocaust. It is a time for Pan Africans to gather and celebrate life and recommit ourselves to the work of liberation: spiritual, psychological, economic and political.

We have our 501 (c) 3 now, so if anyone wants to make an endowment or give us property like a building or car or van, you can write it off (smile). The ritual is as always here in the Bay at Ocean Beach, Fulton at the Great Highway. It starts before sunrise, about 5:30 or so. Wear white, dress warmly (so if your warm clothes are not white—wear them (smile), bring your kids, instruments, breakfast items to share, flowers for the ancestors (white and red for the Ritual of Forgiveness), blankets to sit on or chairs. We can always use more chairs and tables for the food. If you’d like to carpool, especially if you can pick up people who are traveling from as far away as Vallejo, Sacramento, maybe Los Angeles, Oakland, Hayward, Alameda. . . let us know. We can use donations to pay Urban Shield (security) and to rent the port-a-potty.  A few people are carrying all the costs. If you’d like to help, especially with 2015, drop me a line: We still need a rehearsal space for the Ritual. Visit or call (641) 715-3900 ext. 36800# 

Health and Wellness

The "Be Still Retreat,” a place for black people specifically to learn about self-care and stress reduction, is Saturday, October 4, 2014, 10-4 (at 9 a.m. there is a mindfulness walk).  Sponsored by Black Women's Media Project, its in a new location: Mills College in the Graduate School of Business (GSB) building. 5000 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland. 94613. To attend call 510-834-5990. It is a free event.

Day of Prayer for Mental Health

Alameda County Mental Health Awareness Annual Day of Prayer is Tuesday, October 7, 8-9 a.m. at 1221 Oak Street. There will be representation by diverse faiths, Observance of Japanese Crane, a Proclamation by the Board of Supervisors, and Refreshments. The goal will be to lift up those in need of mental wellness support, prayer and love, especially African American males.

The Spirituality Factor Conference

The following week is the Spirituality Factor Conference: Weaving Spirituality & Behavior Health Using Evidence on October 9th and 10th in Oakland at Allen Temple Family Life Center, 8501 International Blvd. Go to to learn more and get registered to attend.

The title of my presentation is: Where Is Home for the Pan African as Exemplified through the Baseball Metaphor Jackie Robinson and Home Plate


Color Struck 2014-2015: Conversations N Color Tour,
written and performed by Donal Lacy Jr.
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 3-4 at Laney College

Join Donald Lacy Jr. for an evening of thought-provoking conversation about race relations in America. Audiences will find themselves both laughing and then pinching themselves once the tears stop rolling down their cheeks--That really wasn't funny, was it? Will be the operative thought that night as the interrogation looks at deep wounds and scars in the American psyche --wounds which are not just contagious, they are deadly.
For tickets call 510 One Love or online at Portions of the ticket proceeds benefit LoveLife Foundation's Art & Media Training Academy.

Traveling while Black?
After a rockin' debut in in March of 2013, Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe's “Traveling While Black” returns to the Brava Studio, 2781 24th Street, San Francisco, for a full run, Oct. 3-26.  With direction and design by Jose Maria Francos, TWB is part travelogue, part history lesson, part stand-up comedy and based on a lifetime of travel as a touring artist. Based on treks through Europe, the Americas and Africa, “TWB” is part travelogue and part history lesson and seeks to exploit the tensions between tourism and colonialism as it interrogates boundaries and reveals cultural connects and disconnects. Inspired by Langston Hughes’s “I Wonder As I Wander,” “TWB” examines the post-slavery condition of Black travel, both fanciful and forced. TWB is part of a trilogy of plays by Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe. The first production of the trilogy, “Adventures Of A Black Girl In Search of Academic Clarity and Inclusion” has been published in the anthology, solo/black/woman by Northwestern University Press.  For information visit or call (415) 641-7657.

Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe (Actor/Writer) is an award-winning director, actor and writer and has performed at many regional and independent theaters and for more than a decade was a lead artist for Rhodessa Jones’ The Medea Project; Theatre for Incarcerated Women. Edris’ original solo performances have been seen at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois and the University of Florida in Gainesville; and in San Francisco at AfroSolo Festival, Intersection for the Arts and other small independent venues, including her own former Sugar Shack Performance Gallery and Cultural Center in the Lower Haight. Internationally, Edris has performed in Ibadan, Nigeria and Berlin, Germany and presented scholarship on performance in Mexico, the UK and the Netherlands.


The 37th Mill Valley Film Festival is October 2-12 / Films of African Diaspora Interest include: Timbuktu, dir. Abderrahmane Sissako (“Bamako”). This new film takes place during the Jihadist take over in 2012. Recounting events influenced by a public stoning of an unmarried couple. Selected to compete for the Palm d ’Or in the main competition section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. At Cannes it won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury and the Francois Chalais Prize. Screens Sunday, October 5 at 1:45PM at Smith Rafael Film Center; Monday, October 6 at 3PM at Sequoia.

The Aftermath of the Inauguration of the Public Toilet at Kilometer 375, dir. Omar el Zohairy. This short film from Egypt follows the aftermath of a single sneeze which takes on Kafkaesque proportions for a government official. Screens as part of 5@5 Round and Round on Monday, October 6 at 1:30PM at Sequoia; Wednesday, October 8 at 9:15PM at Smith Rafael Film Center;

Black and White, dir. Mike Binder. After the deaths of his wife and daughter, an attorney (Kevin Costner) becomes entangled in a custody battle with his biracial granddaughter’s paternal grandmother (Octavia Spencer). This hopeful ! lm explores a volatile discussion in American life and aims straight for the heart. Screens Wednesday, October 8 at 7:30PM at Smith Rafael Film Center;

Finding The Gold Within, dir. Karina Epperlein. Bay Area filmmaker Karina Epperlein follows six African American college freshmen, alumni of the unique Ohio mentoring program Alchemy, Inc., and well-equipped with self-confidence and critical-thinking skills, as they leave home for the first time. Cast: Kwame Scruggs, Jerry Kwame Williams, Darius Simpson, Brandyn Costa, Stacee Starr, Shawntrail Smith. Screens Friday, October 3 at 8PM at Lark theater; Saturday, October 4 at 8PM at Smith Rafael Film Center;

F R E E, dirs. Suzanne LaFetra and David Collier. A feature length documentary following five teens through a year in an Oakland dance program. Their journey in the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company reveals how collaborative art can be a foundation for personal discovery, turning the courage, determination, and stamina demanded of their lives into a contagious joy. Screens Saturday, October 11 at 7:30PM at 142 Throckmorton; Sunday, October 12 at 2:30PM at Smith Rafael Film Center;

Gardeners of Eden, dir. Austin Peck. Even in Kenya’s Tsavo East National Park, elephants aren’t safe from poachers. The surging price of ivory has given rise to organized gangs that hunt and kill these majestic creatures for their tusks, usually leaving orphans in their wake. Continuously on the lookout and always ready to come to the rescue, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has a well-established protocol for transporting and caring for the traumatized baby elephants and, just as crucially, a remarkable record of successfully reintroducing them to the wild. Screens Saturday, October 4 at 2PM at Sequoia; Sunday, October 5 at 4:45PM at Smith Rafael Film Center; Tuesday, October 7 at 11:45AM at Smith Rafael Film Center;

How I Got Over, dir. Nicole Boxer’s documentary follows a group of women all residents of Washington, DC, recovery community N Street Village as they prepare to turn their harrowing life stories into a theater piece that will be performed at the Kennedy Center. Screens Sunday, October 5 at 7:45PM at Sequoia; Thursday, October 9 at 2:45PM at Smith Rafael Film Center; Saturday, October 11 at 8:30PM at Smith Rafael Film Center;

Imperial Dreams, dir. Malik Vitthal. In the electrifying debut, Imperial Dreams (winner of The Best of Next award at Sundance), aspiring novelist Bambi returns to his Watts neighborhood after two years in prison to extricate himself and his young son from their criminally compromised family. Screens Saturday, October 4 at 5:30PM at Lark theater; Sunday, October 5 at 2PM at Smith Rafael Film Center; Wednesday, October 8 11:30AM Smith Rafael Film Center; Sooleils, dir. Oliver Delahaye. Part road trip through time, part heroine’s journey through memory,

Soleils is a beautifully rendered meditation on the wisdom of Africa, as a young woman is initiated into the roots and legacy of her heritage. Screens Saturday, October 11 at 5PM at Sequoia; Sunday, October 12 at 5:15PM at Smith Rafael Film Center.

Visions at Twilight: Día de los Muertos 2014 group exhibition, Saturday, October 11–Saturday, November 8, 2014. Opening Event is Friday, October 10, 6–9pm, $12–15 sliding scale admission. Exhibition unveiling features live music by Rupa, interactive installations and Día de los Muertos inspired artist market. Gallery Hours: Tuesday–Friday, 12–7pm, Saturday 11am–5pm, Sunday, 11am–3pm. Cost: Free admission during gallery hours

Information: https:///  To listen to an interview with artist Candi Farlice about her piece this year which looks at the politics of the black male body:

Art con’t.

“Candi Farlice: Musings from an Artist's Life” currently at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin, San Francisco, African American Center (3rd Floor) through Oct. 16. Visit


African American Shakespeare Company presents: The Tempest

The time is 2020, the place is a trash island in the middle of the ocean, Prospero, the former CEO of SYCORAX, a multi-product industrial conglomerate based in Milan, charged with polluting the environment lands here when his ships capsizes. Directed by Nancy Carlin and starring Michael Gene Sullivan as Prospero, The Tempest inaugurates the 20th Anniversary Season (2014/15) of the award-winning African American Shakespeare Company. The last time we saw The Tempest was in 2001, a full 13 years ago.

With his daughter Miranda in tow, along with the single inhabitant of the island, Caliban, and an application/personal assistant called Ariel, he builds from reclaimed circuitry and other detritus, Prospero begins his campaign of holographic manifestations and manipulation of weather patterns to help settle the score.

The staging of the play also touches on topical environmental themes. "We set this production set on an island of garbage in the middle of the ocean," says Callender, "because there is such a place, several of them actually, these massive structures floating in our oceans. What if they are creating their own life forms? Could a Caliban be a result? We were interested in stretching our imaginations and the imaginations of our audiences, young and old."

The play runs October 18-November 9, Saturday at 8pm; Sunday Matinee at 3 p.m. at the Buriel Clay Theatre, African-American Art & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$34.00:
To listen to an interview with Mr. Callender, the director Nancy Carlin, and actress Ponder Goddard who portrays Ariel,   (final guests).

Michael Gene Sullivan’s play, “Recipe” opens at Central Works Oct. 16–Nov 23

Michael Gene Sullivan serves up the laughs in this delicious take on a circle of sweet old grandmotherly bakers, who just happens to be dedicated to the armed overthrow of the United States government.  But baking pies and cakes isn’t enough to satisfy these four intrepid refugees from the sixties, and their burning desire to “Up the Revolution!”  It’s one thing to say “The government is probably listening to my calls,” but what do you do when you find out it’s true? If it seems that the government that you call “a fascist, surveillance state” has specifically targeted you, is specifically watching YOU (it’s not paranoia if they really are after you!), then what?  How do you live your life knowing that all your fears may, actually, be true?

Performances are at the historic Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley,  Thursday, Friday and Saturday 8 pm, and Sunday at 5 pm (with Post-show talk-backs on Oct. 19 and Nov. 9). Ticket prices: $28 online at, $28–$15 sliding scale at the door. Pay-what-you-can: Previews and every Thursday, at the door as available. For reservations and information:  510.558.1381 or


THE MORRIE MOVEMENT:  The Influence of “Wee Pals” Cartoonist Morrie Turner

November 8, 2014 – January 29, 2015

“The Morrie Movement: The Influence of ‘Wee Pals’ Cartoonist Morrie Turner” will follow Candi Farlice’s solo show this month at the African American Center of the San Francisco Main Library’s from November 8, 2014 to January 29, 2015 at 100 Larkin Street in San Francisco.  The exhibit opening/panel discussion will take place on November 16, 2014, from 1-3 pm in the Koret Auditorium.  The exhibit is created and curated by Kheven LaGrone.

The Egungun

Many trees have fallen in the forest this year, more recently Elder Herman Ferguson (Dec. 31, 1920-Sept. 25, 2014), whose comrade and age-mate, Yuri Kochiyama passed a bit before, followed by the much younger, yet fierce revolutionary composer, musician, designer and host of the Scientific Soul Sessions, Fred Ho (Aug. 10, 1957-Apr. 12, 2014).

Both Iya Yuri and Brother Ferguson were 93. Baba Ferguson’s memoir “An Unlikely Warrior Herman Ferguson: Evolution of a Black Nationalist Revolutionary” written with his wife Iyaluua Ferguson, a woman with over a half century of activism in the struggle for human rights and the liberation of Black people under her own belt, gives context to the marvelous history Baba Ferguson has lived beginning with his early years in the then rural southern town, Fayetteville, North Carolina, reared by a mother and father who valued education and more importantly taught their children to stand tall for their rights.

In between Mrs. Ferguson’s narration we have the voice of Elder Ferguson speaking about seeing Malcolm X the first time. Brother Malcolm was walking to a dais where he was to speak. Ferguson had heard him before, but never seen him live. The two men he says, nodded to each other. Later Ferguson would head the education wing of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, this after much community organizing and work as Assistant Principal at PS 40 in Jamaica Queens, New York. The educator speaks about a leadership training the OAAU hosted which graduated ten students in its first class, Yuri Kochiyama one of those who received a certificate signed by Brother Malcolm who was killed before the OAAU could host its next session. In the book, which is a quick yet satisfying read, we learn of the formation of the Republic of New Africa, what it means to stand trial when not only are your peers absent from the stand, so are your people. Truly prisoners of war, Unlikely Warrior speaks to this inconsistency.

Brother Herman says of this time when he decides after 19 years to return to New York from Guyana, “[he and his co-defendant, Arthur Harris] had been convicted in Queens of a 1967 plot to assassinate then NAACP head Roy Wilkins and Urban League Chairman Whitney Young, among other things. [They] were also accused in court on the morning after Senator Robert F. Kennedy was gunned down in Los Angeles of having a hit list that included his name! [Ferguson asks rhetorically], What can I say? It was a no-win situation before an all white, all male jury. Lynch law was in full effect” (230).

After a retiring from his work as “architect of the Guyanese education system, founder of the country’s youth training service (the Guyana National Service, equivalent to the U.S. Job Corps), Lt. Colonel in the Guyana Defense Force (GDF),” he says, “There was no one to sit around with and talk about old times. There was no life for [him]” (234-235).  At 68, he was in good shape, a fact the FBI agents who arrested him once his plane landed in New York, commented. At his arraigning the day after his arrival and arrest, the courtroom was filled with comrades fists raised, among them Yuri Kochiyama, two of his sons and others.

Brother Herman also says of his return that “when you believe in something, you stand and fight for it.” This is something Brother Malcolm told him when Ferguson asked him why he returned and kept returning when he knew it wasn’t safe.

“I had no illusions,” the activist, founder of Black Brotherhood Improvement Association (BBIA), an organization ideologically linked to Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X’s work of black liberation, stated on his return. He knew “what was going to happen to me and what I would be able to accomplish if I came back. I was not going to be the Black knight on the black horse returning to save the day. But I would run no longer (236).

Herman Ferguson says he was fighting for economic justice and human rights. This was the call when he organized the Jamaica Rifle and Pistol Club Inc. so that the BBIA could protect itself from police violence. This was the motivation earlier when he successfully organized the Rochdale community around a development project that did not offer jobs to residents nor plan to allow any of them to live there either.

I could just imagine seeing the shock on the faces of construction foremen arriving at work September 5, 1963 to the sight of four men and a woman chained to cranes dangling precariously high above ground.  If the workers started the machines the protestors could have fallen to their death (112-113).  If the FBI didn’t know the Assistant Principal’s name, they certainly knew if now (smile).

The men were arrested and when they went to court, Judge Bernard Dubin called them “’patriots’ for their bold action and dismissed the charges” (112). The ancestors guided Brother Ferguson’s feet and he listened. There were so many times he writes, where had he been present, let’s say in Attica, when the police shot all the leaders point blank, he would have been in that number. Even the way comrades escorted him back to this country, allowing media to put a hidden microphone on him so that they could monitor what happened to him if they were separated, all contributed to his safety. 

The last time I saw Brother Herman was at the annual Dinner Tribute to the families of Political Prisoners in Harlem, the same day Brother Baraka was laid to rest in Newark.  The salute to the wonderful couple was quite moving. Lynn Stewart was there with her husband. It was her first public appearance after her release. Pam Africa and her husband were also in attendance as were Russell Maroon Shoat’s daughters and son. Robert H. King was there and so many others, like the couple’s great granddaughter who spoke about her Great Grandmother and being raised in the Black Liberation Movement and what that meant and how normal it was to know what she knew about nationhood and the state’s injunction against her people, and her right to self-defense.

Among his other legacies, Baba Ferguson formed the Malcolm X Commemoration Committee; was the Administrator of the New Afrika Liberation Front; founding member along with Safiyah Bukari and Jalil Muntaqim of the National Jericho Movement, publisher of “NATION TIME,” and served as Co-chair of the Queens chapter of National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA). He is the father of four, step-father of two, grandfather of ten, and great-grandfather of fourteen. great-great grandfather of two. Ashay.

Mr. Herman B. Ferguson’s Memorial Service is 1:30 p.m., Saturday, October 4, 2014 at the Funeral Home, 1515 New Bern Avenue, Raleigh, NC. Moments of visitation with the family, 1-1:30, prior to the Service:

Brother Syed Malik Al Khatib

I’m thankin’
I’m thankin’ each droplet of uninterrupted water
Washing, cleansing purifying me
Each ray of sun choosing me as the one
Beating upon my pores
Healin’ all my sores
I’m thanking revelations conversations
With you on my side
Blessin’ this holy ride
Fillin’ illusions optical conclusions
Leavin’ me alone with you again
I’m thankin’ the sin
The scrapes and the falls
Allowin’ me to hear your calls
Givin’ me your holy name
Usin’ me the same way you usin’ creation
Humblin’ elevation
Dancing to the rhythm of your song
My life, our life, his life— a prayer in your palm

--by Koren Clark

When I learned of Brother Syed Al Khatib's transition I was surprised. There is never time to prepare for such, especially when one is not close to the recently departed. So I hadn't known of his illness over the past year(s), otherwise I would have certainly visited him. Alas, another ancestor whom I get to know more intimately once I have opportunity to read an obituary—I think about the conversations we could have had, that we will now have from alternative dimensions. As African people, he is not gone and nothing is lost (smile). His family and friends who remain will serve as conduits to a wonderful man whose work in black psychology, theology and philosophy is unparalleled. When one thinks about the scholarship that institutionalized black psychology as a discipline, perhaps Dr. Al Khatib's name does not ring a bell, but it should. He is the father of the discipline, his theoretical children--Dr. Wade Nobles one of the more popular or visible, yet Baba Wade certainly had company as the young black scholars met then Dr. Cedric Clark at Stanford University where his work looked at corporate media and its construction of black image(s).

Dr. Al Khatib’s journey was long, but perhaps not long enough for daughter Koren and his three grandchildren, ex-wives, brothers, sister and friends, yet, as a scholar his work is well documented, all that needs to happen is to perhaps pull the essays together into a Syed Al Khatib Reader. Perhaps a graduate student at his alma mater, Michigan State University or where his work touched so many lives— Stanford University, San Francisco State University, Princeton, etc., will take his voluminous work on as a graduate thesis? We'd all be more than grateful. After he left Stanford, he spent the same number of years at San Francisco State, and the same again at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Dr. Khatib challenged Dr. William Shockley, Stanford University, Noble Prize winning physicist, on his theory of black genetic inferiority and the money he offered often poor black people to voluntarily sterilize themselves. Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, MD (in Ebony Magazine July 1974) says that Shockley admitted he had no medical background to base any of these claims. He also stated that environment had nothing to do with cognitive development, which we know is false.

Dr. Al Khatib’s scholarship also looked at the notion of the “exceptional” black in popular TV roles. These black attorneys and teachers, property owners and police detectives, did not mirror the reality on American streets. It just confused black America who sought this fiction in reality yet kept running into nooses and auction blocks where opportunity said slavery and discrimination were over?!

After driving around for quite a bit I found parking and headed over to Juma Prayer and the Janaaza Funeral service for Dr. Al Khatib, Friday, Sept. 12. I'd never been to this particular masjid before. Built from the ground up, the Oakland Islamic Center (just down from Summit Medical Center) was enclosed in glass –lots of windows, so I could see the brothers inside. As I walked thought the parking lot, I was able to see the entrance for the women, and where they sat, which was up a steep flight of stairs.  The very full room reminded me of a similar tight-space in Dar es Salaam last summer.

I removed my shoes, walked up the stairs, checked out the scene and then retreated to the cooler space at the entrance until I hear the Iqamah or call to prayer and went back upstairs to participate. The khutbah or sermon was in Arabic, which I do not understand, so I was surprised when the funeral prayer was preceded by a few instructions in English. The first part of the prayer is a series of Allahu Akbar (God is Great) followed by Al Fatihah (The Opening chapter of the Qur'an) recited silently. In between the silent utterances one is to pray for the deceased person’s soul and ask that his sins be forgiven and that his ascension is swift.  The body, which we could not see upstairs, was downstairs in a closed cardboard box. After the short prayer, when I came downstairs and put my shoes on and went outside I saw Dr. Al Khatib's body carried in a box on the shoulders of about six men and put into a hearse. The family was outside by then. I knew his daughter Koren Fatimah Clark, and met visiting elder brother, Peyton Clark and younger brother, David Clark, grandchildren and former-wife and friends, Wade and Vera Nobles and members of their family (whom I also knew) were there as well.

I took photos of the group and asked if I could hitch a ride to the cemetery for the burial. I rode with Dr. Syed’s former wife Carolyn Martin Shaw, her friend, Nubra Elaine Floyd with her life partner at the wheel. Dr. Carolyn’s granddaughter Amasha Lyons-Clark kindly took the middle seat in the back between Nubra and me. I'd been given a short obits to read at the masjid and told that Sunday at the Nobles’s home there would be even more shared about Brother Khatib's scholarship and life.

The drive to Livermore to 5 Pillars Farm Cemetery where Brother Khatib's remains were laid to rest was without incident. We arrived after the prayer, but before his remains were covered. I'd been worried. The family took turns shoveling dirt into the grave. . . the physicality of this gesture one of both closure and embodiment. There is something about death that feels final to the human being. I don't know how other living beings experience this, but for this woman, when I see the hole opened up, filled then closed, there seems to be something irretrievable about this moment that feels like a loss, a missed opportunity, finality . . . even when I know intellectually that the person's spirit or true essence is not in the hole. The carcass or the garment is and I know I will miss seeing the person walking about in such finery.

Heaven or the idea of a here-after is distant and more philosophical than real at that point, so the idea that such a moment could be rushed by people who do not understand "the African way," is sacrilegious. Grief cannot be rushed and the internment is important to those left behind perhaps more than to those who have moved on. In African villages among the Dagara people in Burkina Faso where traditional healer and scholar Malidoma Patrice Somé (Ph.D.) hails, there are wailing choirs (smile) whose job is to stir the heart, while other villagers’ jobs are to take care of the family who might want to go with the departed love one. Granted, the deceased is present physically, seated in a chair dressed in his or her best clothes. Gifts are given to the family by close friends and relatives. The ceremony sounds so wonderful. It is said that if there is no ceremony, the deceased does not ascend. If there is no noise, no tears, no signs of grief . . . the deceased paces the earth, haunts the family and village, so to properly mourn is an important skillset modern society has lost. 

Though not present physically, the ritual at the Nobles’s compound in Oakland was the true funeral or home going celebration of Dr. Syed Malik al Khatib. On more than one occasion people attested to his presence, whether that was his daughter Koren's testimony regarding what she wore and what of her father's work she brought to share or Baba Wade's recollection of his first time in Africa with his wife Vera, Dr. Cedric and Carolyn and his encounter with an elephant.

Present were colleagues who'd known him for a long time and those who knew of his work, like the Dean of Ethnic Studies from SFSU, who arrived at Stanford just after Dr. Al Khatib left. His treating physician was there, as was his nurse, grandchildren, former wife, daughter, siblings and extended community. When I arrived I heard a conch shell call from behind the house; however, when I got to the back, the assembly was moving indoors.

There was poetry and great lifting of spirits as loved ones shared sacred moments with the beloved Dr. Al Khatib, called brother or dad or grandfather or comrade or even Dr. Cedric X.

I'd know Dr. Cedric as a youth when he was director of Muhammad University of Islam No. 26 in San Francisco on Fillmore and Geary. Having graduated at 15 from the same institution, I was a young student teacher when he came on board. What I remember of Brother Khatib (Dr. Cedric is what we called him then), is how impressed I was to meet a black man with a doctorate. He had swag and brought to the school other smart lettered black men, who talked to us, encouraged us and pushed us to excel.

He didn't wear suits, yet his authority was present in his poise and carriage. Well maybe he did, I just remember his white shirts and the rolled sleeves. I can still see his smiling face and sparkling eyes. He was really happy and always greeted me with a smile. I remember when Dr. Na’im Akbar was getting a tour of the school and I was introduced.  Brother Sunni Ali Shabazz was the Assistant Director then and I remember the talk swirling around me about attending UC Berkeley, where Brother Sunni went.

Then he was gone.

I never forgot Dr. Cedric and don't know why his tenure as director of MUI was the brief whirlwind it was, yet when I saw him years later and learned he'd retired from Stanford, that he was that close all this time, I wished that we'd stayed in touch. It would have been nice to talk to him about higher education. It has been tough being the only one again and again.

He made being intelligent cool, not just for me, a young woman who didn't know any black people with undergraduate degrees, let alone doctorate degrees, but for all of us on Fillmore and Geary. Youth from families that were living just above the poverty line.  I knew Dr. Cedric would not lie to me, so if he believed in me, I should believe in me too. I knew that I could achieve the same level of acumen I admired in him and his peers. I always felt capable in his eyes. I always felt I could do whatever I set my mind on, even if I had to work a bit harder than my peers. And I have, Al Hamdulilah (praise God).

Dr. Cedric was a true role model, subtle yet highly effective. He told me a maybe a couple years ago that he was proud of me and what I had achieved. He was so tickled about an article I wrote about a statewide black mental health initiative (published in the SFBV) that he sent me an email (smile).

What else could one ask for— praise from one's role model? That he noticed was beyond phenomenal. I valued his opinion, a rock star, he not only gave me an autograph, he called my name (smile). Dr. Cedric or Syed Al Khatib (translated means: “Mister Teacher/Clerk/Scribe.” What a name!) Dr. C knew my trajectory . . . 40 years ago to now, may Allah bless this great man with immediate access to the highest levels of Jannah or paradise.
Professor in Psychology and Communications, Executive Editor at Ebonic Editing, his academic work at Michigan State University, where he graduated with Doctor of Philosophy in Communications and Media Studies (Linkedin), he certainly has earned the preferential treatment.

After the salutes people shared in a repast and read Dr. Khatib's scrapbook which included clips of news articles and record of debates, scholastic achievement and other publications. We then gathered on the patio next to the pool as the sun retreated on the horizon to participate in a Kikongo ceremony, where we put wishes and requests on tiny sheets of paper for the newly inducted ancestor and burned them in a roaring fire on the patio.
The Egun or ancestors need to be kept busy I’ve heard on more than one occasion; they've nothing but time (smile).

Dr. Cedric has a good head start. Ashay! (And so it is.)