Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Living Expo 2008

I had a lot of fun today. It’s always great being in Alice Walker’s presence. I like her a lot. She is such a generous soul who knows her limits and capacity. She was looking better than I’ve seen her in a while--refreshed and as always in a very present place.

We arrived late for her talk. I assumed the conference was at Moscone Center, so we had to walk quite a few blocks from 3rd and Howard to 8th a Brannan. We met lots of great people, ate good food, exercised in ten minutes the equivalent of a full workout, attended a lecture on longevity, and learned about an education program for children utilizing the Internet. I bought some lovely earrings and bracelets and as we were leaving I bought a bed--from a man named Justise.

The company owner just dropped it off. I was sleeping when the phone rang and there was the truck with my $2,700 bed with a life expectancy of 25. Not bad for a first bed. It is electronic and does a lot. I might decide to name it.


It was great seeing Sandra and Nefera today also. They are so knowledgeable about alternative life choices re: nutrition and well-being, both spiritually and physically and emotionally.

It was also good seeing Bonita Bruce, chiropractic doctor. I spoke to her about my friend Sami who is in the hospital. I had a great day. When I got home I went outside and pulled weeds until the sun went down. I then washed the house where birds pooped and my car, made a salad, and fell asleep sitting up.

I've got to clear my office and make space for the new bed. I am going to enjoy sleeping.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Casper Banjo Alert

Supporters of Casper Banjo, 71 year old Oakland artist, killed March 14, by Oakland police, are asked to join Akili Banjo, his neice, Monday, April 28, 2 p.m., at Garfield and 73rd Avenue, in Oakland, to canvas the area for witnesses. The Oakland police said there were no witnesses. She will supply flyers. If anyone can, please bring staplers, and tape.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tenure trek is over

Tuesday, April 22, Peralta Community College District hosted a reception for those of us who made it through the tenure process. it was a fun event, that ended with the start of the Board Meeting where trustees and newly honored faculty received a certificate and congratulations from Chancellor Elihu Harris and other board members. it was so cool to be welcomed again by Mr. Harris who was mayor when he made me Library Advisory Commissioner. I have admired him from his days in the California Assembly. It was a fun evening which continued at Yoshi's at the Mo'Rockin' Project CD release party where Glen Pearson, my colleague from COA also was celebrating the end or the arduous four year process. It really did feel like graduation. No money but, then some things are priceless, like an education.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bobby McFerrin, Jack DeJohnette and Chick Corea

This was some concert. A voice used as an instrument, never mind the bass, McFerrin was the entire orchestra--and DeJohnette also played flute and sang on the encore. The house was sold out, otherwise I certainly would have shifted to another seat where I could see DeJohnette, but I couldn't and we didn't so I never saw the drummer's face until the end of the hour and a half set. I'd never heard him play that loose before, that open, with such variation....The fact there were just voice, piano and drum and other percussion allowed the work to be much more open-ended.

Parking was horrible so we arrived late. Standing in the hall we heard them playing; the ushers weren't letting us in until the end of the song and then the song never ended so after 10 minutes the rules changed and we were allowed in.

McFerrin was standing near the piano singing as Corea played. Locs tied back, he and Corea improvised while DeJohnette played quietly, then McFerrin went closer and DeJohnette decided he had a lot more to say.

Though we couldn't see, what we heard couldn't have been produced without the aid of technology--McFerrin is good, but the echoes and double voices and repeat tracks was a bit more than he could achieve, though he was certainly amazing to hear as he sang words without words slipping in and out of diction and rhythm...genres: rap and classical.

He was a drum...his voice matching DeJohnette--all three men sang. It was really cool. The audience sang also, and then McFerrin left the stage with a mic, the lights up as he gently challenged several people to sing a line. There were no refusals--if anyone has been to a McFerrin show, she knows it's praticipatory. A woman in our section was so impressive vocally that he stayed with her a little longer--she clearly knew how to sing and knew his technique.

There were kids in the audience and adults-youth and elders, plus people of many cultural backgrounds. The encore was one of the only songs which had words. It was a blues.

The evening was certainly a highlight for me.

It's Been Busy

I haven't checked in for a while. It's been busy, event after another. I saw Freddy Hubbard a couple of weeks ago, Wayne Shorter Quartet with Imani Winds last week; plan to see Bobby McFerrin and Chick Corea and Jack deJohnette tonight at the Masonic on California in San Francisco;and Lura tomorrow at the Herbst, courtesy of SFJAZZ and Yoshi's.

Omar Sosa Quartet was awesome last Sunday night, and I hope I get to see Billy Cobham, missed him last night at Yoshi's in Oakland. I also want to get over to Jazz at Pearl's. I keep missing folks at Anna's Jazz Island like Walkin' Talkin' Bill Hawkins' director, W. Allen Taylor a couple of weeks ago. I still haven't gotten by the New Earth Artist's Cafe for Sunday afternoon jazz and poetry, 4-7 p.m., on Park Street near the Parkway Theater in Oakland. And I missed Slide Hampton last week at the Oakland Public Conservatory. I was writing my story on Al Young, reciepent of the Fred Cody Award this past Sunday at the Northern California Book Reviewers Association Awards event at the San Francisco Main Library's Koret Hall (Larkin at Grove). This week there is another awards event, this time for young writers writing about the environment. Again, it's 1-4 p.m. Free.

As I said it's been busy. Ran by Artists for Casper Banjo last Friday at Swarm in Jack London Square before heading for Shorter at the Masonic. I couldn't believe it! Found a parking spot. Orlonda sent the goddess with me, as did other friends from Swarm that night. It was great feeling the creative black magical energy there.

This weekend the plan is to get over to see Obama at the rally from 12-2 p.m. at Frank Ogawa. Saturday afternoon it's Frances Dunham Catlett at the AAACC on Fulton for her conversation and program celebrating 100 or almost 100 years on the planet making art, changing lives, and writing poetry. It should be a nice program. That evening I'm off to the Black Comedy Explosion at the Black Rep in Berkeley for 9 p.m.

Oh, I forgot, Friday evening I'll be at the Herbst for Lura from Cape Verde. The pretty sister is pretty amazing! I'm headed for Ashkenaz later to listen to a brother from Senegal on kora. Should be a great way to cool down.

I've been watching films and more films: "Body of War" opens this weekend at Landmark San Francisco and Berkeley. Great film co-directed by Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro in person who'll be at the weekend screenings: Sat 4/19 after 4:45 show at Landmark’s Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street (at Clay), San Francisco (415) 267-4893 and Sunday, April 20, after 4:50, at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley (510) 464-5980.

San Francisco International Film Festival has some riveting films focused on the atrocities of war, like "Ezra," directed Newton I. Aduakua, which is set in an unspecified country, though it feels like Sierra Leone, though it could also be the director's own Ogidi, eastern Nigeria during the Biafran War when his parents were literally dodging bullets as they moved from place to place. Only four, at the time, the director, a war child himself, only has scanty memory of the time, yet while researching Ezra, a film about a child soldier, abducted at 7, serving in the rebel army for another 7 years, Aduakua says he remembered the "fear, insecurity, and instability."

This translates well in the 16 veteran of a war he hadn't enlisted in when kidnapped and made to fight and kill and destroy. When we meet Ezra at a Truth and Reconciliation Hearing, he cannot sleep, haunted by memories of the atrocities he witnessed and committed--most committed in a drug induced haze. It's terrible the way, through flash backs the audience sees how little the children's lives are valued. Killed just for complaining about the lack of food, fatigue, or the murder of family and friends when the raids take them to villages where they once lived--Ezra is Africa's child, an Africa where children --boys and girls, are the new frontier for battle.

It's not revolutionary to take a child and make him into a killer. One wonders about these men who do so. This is hinted at when Europeans meet with the adult leaders and supply the troops with drugs, which are injected into the children who are almost half-starved. They are then pumped up and ready to do whatever they are instructed.

There are government troops also who are fighting. It gets confusing sometimes trying to figure out who the good guys are or if there are any good guys. Ezra's wife volunteers to fight in the revolutionary war. When she meets Ezra and other kidnapped children, she is disgusted. Her parents were revolutionary, well-known and well-respected until they were captured and killed.

I really like her character and that of Ezra's sister, who is mute. Aduaka's characters, the ones mentioned and others, show the complexity of warfare, and how when it involves innocent people there is no justification. Ezra screens Sunday, April 27, at 9 p.m. at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, Tuesday, April 29, at 3:30 and Thursday May 1, at 6:30 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. Visit and

"Body of War" also looks at these issues, also through the lens of a survivor.
The Phil Donahue and Ellen Spiro film looks at the life of Tomas Young who enlists after President Bush asks Americans to join the fight against terrorism. He thinks he's going to Afghanistan and ends up in Iraq. He says he doesn't fire his weapon because all he sees are civilians, yet after five days he is shot through the back of the neck and returns home paralyzed from the chest down. "Body of War" is his story, and what an amazing and heartbreaking and triumphant story it is.

Spiro is a great storyteller with her camera and the way she and Donahue allow Tomas' story to frame the fiasco Bush has gotten this country into with the permission of the legislative body is an important reminder. It is also a reminder of why the framers of the Constitution did what they did and how important, even if overruled or outvoted, it is to object.

"Ezra" looks at the trauma of war, as does Tomas' story. Ezra is 17 and when we meet him, Tomas is 25. I think to myself, these could be my sons--these are our sons.

On another note I watched a lighter film, "Love and Other Four Letter Words" which was great! It stars Tangi Miller as "Stormy LeRue," a successful talk show host about to go national who gets a call from home about her grandmother, which makes her reevaluate her life. What is fame if you don't have a family or anyone to share it with? To encourage her grandmother, "Nana" (actress Aloma Wright) to get better she tells her that she's getting married in six weeks. There is no groom in sight, but her old flame, "Peanut" (Flex Alexander) is looking mighty fine, but he's a pastor and Stormy doesn't even consider him for her scheme she and her assistant (portrayed by actress Essence Atkins) cook up with a stripper, who's not to bright but agrees to Stormy's terms. There are many twists and turns in the comedy which of course has a happy ending, which I needed after watch "Ezra." The DVD is available now for $14.98 from One Village Entertainment.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Police Review Commission

These are photos taken at the Police Review Commission yesterday. Photo credit: Wanda Sabir

Casper Banjo

I didn't know what to expect at the Police Commission Board meeting, April 10, 2008, but what I encountered wasn't what I'd expected. As a friend, Hubert Collins stated, "I want to see the police man who pulled the trigger!" I thought we'd have a hearing and evidence would be presented, like the disputed toy gun, the assault rifle, witnesses. Nothing like that happened, but the Commission did allow Casper's friends, family and supporters to testify. They expressed condolences to the family and friends and observed a moment of silence. I thought them genuinely compassionate. And if they didn't know Casper Banjo before, they certainly know him now and feel the tremendous loss his murder is to the Oakland community.

The testimony about Casper to the Commission just emphasized what a great light was extinguished when our brother was killed. A star fell from the sky and today I feel the heaviness of darkness--I've been stumbling all day trying to stay on my feet.

A friend told me to be strong. Sometimes strength is not what one needs to make it to the other side of the day.

Casper's absence....

Here is another space in the universe no one will ever fill. I left feeling emptiness...I'm tired of spaces opening up which we were unprepared for. Death is natural, but murder is not. Death is a transition and happens over time...each day we all die a little. Organically, after birth--the one high point in our lives, the rest is downhill. Perhaps this is the lesson of gravity (what a word)--its heavy and then it's light. Gravity is groundedness in truth.

Violent death for a calm, softly spoken man, gentle presence is wrong and unfair, just as Martin King's murder was. I'm feeling sad, very sad. Tears are streaming down my cheeks, my nose needs blowing....I felt this way yesterday. I'm feeling the weight of the collective loss, the weight of our people. I didn't speak. I listened and watched the panel and Casper's friends among them: Akili and her little boy, Ache; Leroy Moore, founder of DAMO , Safi wa Narobi, who is also a member of the Disablities Commission for the City of Oakland and member of DAMO; Tomye, artist; Mesha, founder of the Idriss Stelley Foundation, members of the California Coalition for Women Prisoners, as well as Casper's adult nephew, KPFA, Freedom Socialist Party, World Can't Wait, Cop Watch, Justice4GaryKingJr. About 30 people were present and not all spoke.

The Commission has 96 open cases, not that all of them were murders. I wonder if this is a slow year or if so many open cases is normal?

I think the Police Review Commission should automatically investigate all police murders--police are public servants, so when a servant kills its master then something must be wrong, really wrong and citizens need to know why it happened whether the immediate family or circle of friends demands it or not.

Casper should have been telling stories about his life. He certainly would have had a captive audience. We need a space to share idea and histories before yet another light is extinguished forever. I found it ironic that it was a day after Paul Robeson's 110 birthday and a day past the opening reception for the exhibition. Robeson, a man who used his art for fight for justice would be saddened by our loss.
This exhibit is up through the end of the month, and is an abbreviated version of the AAMLO's multimedia exhibition curated by Rick Moss a few years ago.

Photo credit: Wanda Sabir. Note: All photos were taken inside or outside hearing cha bers 4/10/2008

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bishop Desmond Tutu

Bishop Desmond Tutu is also going to participate at the candlelight vigil and protest against the United States support for China as host for the Olympics. China has occupied Tibet for too long and has been documented for human rights abuses. China is also complicit in the massacres in Dafur, and the dismantling of the economic systems in West Africa where Chinese citizens are becoming the newest immigrants, contributing to a serge in population.

The protest/vigil is from 6-8 p.m. at UN Plaza in San Francisco. It's near Civic Center BART. Let us know if you go. If you write about it, you can have extra credit.There was a Tibetan flag hung from the Bay Bridge span last night.That must have been impressive.

Earlier Bishop Desmond Tutu is at the World Affairs Council. It's $10 for students. Visit The website often pod-casts lectures; this might be one of them. They are also broadcast on KQED radio 88.5 FM. Visit

The event is 11:30 - 12:30 a.m. The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town will be in conversation with Jane Wales, President & CEO of the World Affairs Council of Northern California at 950 Mason at Powell (Nob Hill) in San Francisco.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu joins the Council to discuss his role as cleric and activist, including his most recent role as chairman of The Elders, a group of world leaders who contribute their wisdom, leadership and integrity to tackle some of the world's toughest problems. As the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches in 1979, Archbishop Tutu spoke strongly and internationally, pushing for non-violent change and economic sanctions against South Africa. Two years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, Tutu was chosen to be Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position in the Anglican Church in South Africa. In 1994, he was appointed as Chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate apartheid-era crimes. His policy of forgiveness and reconciliation has become an international model of conflict resolution, and a trusted method of post-conflict reconstruction.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

“April Fools Day Blogger Party” Reflections

Wax Thoughts
We'd taken BART and the street car over to Fisherman's Wharf for the "April Fools Day Blogger Party at the Wax Museum," now in its 45th year. The ride was uneventful, at least on the way there; however, on the busy trolley back, the bus driver told passengers to hold onto their purses because pick-pockets went fishing there.

Barry Bonds stood at the entrance batting…as we walked out the museum. Of all the African American replicas I'd seen that evening, he was most realistic. Piles of baseballs were next to him as a net filled with more balls hung near by. But as I said, I'd missed Bonds on my way in, just as I missed President Bush. I don't know how I missed Bush. But then again, it probably an unconscious choice.

When we walked in we were met by Jesus and his disciples… JC on the rock delivering his sermon, his tasty last meal--he was in good company as others in the panoply of religious icons: Confucius, the Buddha and a display without images for Islam and Prophet Muhammad--were near by. It was interesting seeing all these religious references in an amusement, but perhaps it was like the Mormon display in Hawaii near the tourist spot in Honolulu. Proselytizing doesn't take a day off even when one is having fun.

I was also taken aback by the lengthy installation on King Tut…nose Angelized, along with the noses of the Sphinx and the boy king’s relatives. I'd seen better at museums in Washington DC, Ft. Lauderdale, and even at the de Young in San Francisco. I wasn't certain if the sign stating "real gold" was actually true. One could touch or wave one's hand over a device and a narrator's voice would tell the visitor information about the display. I skipped the King Tut--nothing but lies, I could tell this from what was there.

Oh yeah, the Titanic was there too, the movie version of the story and the brother who'd been aboard the ship when it sank was not depicted in the scene. (I'd seen him in the exhibit in Ft. Lauderdale also. It was very well done.)

The art section didn’t reference any of the great black artists, American or African and this absence of significant black artists and historic figures continued throughout the museum--it became by default almost a theme--Hum, let's see who is left out. Great reverse history lesson, but was it necessary? I was happy I hadn't had to pay for this.

Under the title of comedy there were no black comics, and although, the leading ladies included Oprah and Halle, absent were Hattie McDaniel, Lena Horne, Abby Lincoln. Mary Alice and Beah Richards. Mary Alice and Samuel Jackson were central to The Matrix, and they were no where to be found either in that display. I wonder if the curator knew that a black woman who the story and had to sue the directors to get paid and won?

Where was Morgan Freeman? Michael Jordan didn't look himself at all. I certainly wouldn't tell Denzel Washington to visit this museum. He looked pretty bad. There are a lot of black sculptors in San Francisco, the owner should hire one for the black displays...the current artist is not doing a good job.

I didn’t even see Sidney Poitier. None of the Negro League players were present and if there was a "Wizard of Oz," then where was "Cabin in the Sky"? "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," would have appeased me a little.

"Gone with the Wind" had an entire window to itself. What's next, "Birth of a Nation?" I wasn’t certain if it was cultural insensitivity or ignorance, the cultural imbalance. As we walked out the museum, past the horror chamber and the electric chair where I was scared out of my seat…we walked by scenes of peace makers like Martin King and Mahatma Gandhi. I don’t remember seeing Desmond Tutu.

Alice Walker and Toni Morrison were absent as well.

Michael Jackson didn't look that authentic and Muhammad Ali looked like he had a process, my friend commented. I liked Eddie Murphy, and Will Smith looked close enough to be recognized. James Earl Jones was absent too. How was this possible when he was the voice of Darth Vader, but then again, I don’t remember Stars Wars at all—R2 D2?

August Wilson wasn't there, neither was Phyllis Wheatley. I don't remember seeing Bill Cosby?! Maybe some of our folks were in the horror chamber, which I skipped.

It had been over 30 years maybe since my last visit, so I didn’t know what to expect. I knew Michael Jackson was there because I remember the fanfare around his addition, but there were so many cultural heroes and stakeholders absent. Where were the Vietnamese or Koreans? They are certainly a presence in San Francisco.

The Museum has Chinese owners and I don’t know if this has anything to do with the selection of exhibits, but that is certainly no excuse. Oprah and Halle were behind the white stars. To get a photo I had to walk round the display and shoot them from behind. It was as if Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott needed to visit San Francisco. Maya Angelou was also missing and besides her poetry and writing, she was the first woman conductor on the San Francisco Cable Cars.

I would think scenes from Alice Walker’s "The Color Purple" would have been in order, or at least Alex Haley’s "Roots." Malcolm X was also absent or if he was, I didn't see him. The founders of the Declaration of Independence had a scene—it was rivaled only by JC’s spread at the Last Supper. I wondered why George W. Bush was missing in the presidential suite and as I said, I saw him as I left.

I don’t know if I’d recommend he Wax Museum, just because it gives a skewered look at popular western culture—there are so many missing elements. It doesn’t represent my reality or my world— As a time capsule…such a place would not give future generations any idea of what was important to me. As it stands, I don’t exist.

What a difference between this wax museum and that in Washington DC honoring Frederick Douglass. Oh yeah, Sister Harriett Tubman was another heroine absent in the panoply of peace makers. Let’s just say, I didn’t remember seeing her. I was so overwhelmed by whiteness I am surprised I recall who was absent as well as I still do.

The Event: April Fools Day “Blog Party” at Wax Museum

Blogging Community invited to “eat, drink and blog merry” on Tuesday, April 1, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. San Francisco's Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf ( celebrating 45 years as a popular international attraction at the City’s number one tourist destination. To celebrate the landmark’s 45th anniversary, the Museum is inviting the Blog-o-sphere to check out the Wax-o-sphere to special party and tour, 6pm – 9pm, Tuesday, April 1 (145 Jefferson Street, at Fisherman’s Wharf).

“Where else can you mingle with Paris Hilton, Vladmir Putin and Barry Bonds?” says Wax Museum owner Rodney Fong, noting that grandfather got the idea for the Museum having seen the wax figures at the Seattle World's Fair. “If you blog about the Wax Museum already, come on down. If you haven’t, but need an excuse to party on April Fools Day, set up a blog and meet us beneath the bow of Titanic or outside explore King Tut’s on April 1.”

Tonight, lap-tops with Internet access will be set up onsite for partiers to record their thoughts, images and videos from the party.