Saturday, May 24, 2008

Photos from the Repast and Funeral for Reginald Lockett

photo credit Wanda Sabir, May 2008

Reginald Franklin Lockett's Homegoing, May 22, 2008

I have been running this week at work. It’s been one thing after another with school –finals and last minute preparations. I gave my first of three finals Friday, May 23. We had a scholarship awards dinner Friday night; afterwards I went to Kimball's Carnival to see, Legally Blind, great ensemble! It was hard going to work a day after Reginald Lockett’s funeral, which was a wonderful tribute to this great man’s life. Although, the open forum was postponed until later on at the repast, the speakers which included many relatives, among them his daughter Lauren Jones, a painter, who lives in San Francisco, I felt each speaker spoke about an aspect of this man, who by the way was gazing with his eyes shut at them as they spoke –the coffin open the entire time.

There were proclamations from the City of Oakland and the federal government, and relatives had driven all night or flown in that morning to pay their final respects. At the Black New World later on poets I hadn’t seen in a long while, like John Hatch and Avotcja, and others I’d seen as recently as Mother’s Day, plus many visual artists whose work hung on Reggie’s walls at home and grazed the covers of his books, were present. Marvin X gave me a poem at the funeral he’d composed honoring Reginald one of the anchors and founders of the Black Arts Movement on the West Coast.

Ted Pontiflet perhaps described Reginald best at the funeral earlier that day, when he spoke about their weekly rendezvous at the Oakland Farmer’s market in Old Oakland and at Jack London Square. I could just see and hear the two men throwing words on the page the way a painter tosses color on a canvas— I felt envious that I couldn’t think of a similar relationship with anyone I knew…though I had had such in the past.

As the service at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, progressed, Reggie’s dad, Mr. Jewell Lockett (92), sat closest to the casket. In a wheelchair, every now and then he’d look over in the direction of his granddaughters, Maya Lomasi Lockett and Lauren Jones, seated to his right or nod his head. One speaker spoke about Reggie and his dad’s relationship as one that was close. He mentioned the weekly dinners he and his dad shared.

There was poetry throughout the program. Al Young sent a statement which Ishmael Reed, another one of Reggie’s friend’s, read after relating a few personal comments. Reed recalled Reggie’s annual gift of a classic Sweet Potato pie each Christmas…another friend of the family, Maya’s best friend, said she’d miss his famous jerk chicken.

Word Wind comrades, Q.R. Hand and Brian Auerbach both recited poems—Brian’s one he’d just written as he channeled Reggie. A few poets read poems created in this fashion. If nothing else, this dearly beloved man was certainly an inspiration.

I videotaped the service for Maya and also took photos, then rode with Carol Afua and Derethia and Brother Yusef Al Waajid to the cemetery in Richmond. I’m glad I did because at the repast I ran into several people who couldn’t find the plot. Rolling Hills Mortuary is a big place. The first funeral we saw, parked and then walked up to wasn’t ours. We then got directions and hopped back into the car and went over to the correct plot. Reggie’s place of rest had a gorgeous view overlooking more hills. I don’t remember if it was called Garden of Eternal Peace or not, but it was a poetic reference.

The streets along Telegraph Avenue as I drove into the parking lot were under construction so the electricity was affected inside the church—the power went out so the pastor, officiating, Rev. Ron Swisher told the speakers to use their preacher voices. The president of San Jose City College said he’d use his lecture voice and so he did as he told the touching story of meeting Reggie 20 years ago when he had an interview for the position of college president. (And then the electricity returned—it was as if “Let there be light,” was proclaimed, “light and sound” )

I could see Reggie giving the perspective SJSC candidate directions to his appointment. I could also see how appreciated and valued Professor Lockett’s presence was to the president, who said his office was just across the hall from Reggie’s classroom and to the students who’d had a noontime vigil honoring Reggie earlier that week. He said at graduation later that evening they would have a moment of silence in honor of Reggie’s memory. He also said that he always addressed Reggie as Mr. Lockett.

Rev. Swisher, pastor of Taylor Memorial Church, Reggie’s pastor, whose friend and colleague at Beebe let the family hold the service there, because Taylor was under construction presently, told us of how he prepared for the morning talk about his parisher’s life. He spoke of how the family made Reginald’s 4 books of poetry available to him and his reflection on one poem in particular, that spoke to him most. This particular poem was about Reggie and his grandmother watching Friday night fights on television. He also spoke about her reading the bible as Reggie did his homework up to the time when the match was on. The pastor said that he used to box, as did his father, and the proceeded to use this poem to illustrate the life of a man whose first literary inspiration was James Baldwin, the book, native son. If ever there was a “native son, native to this land, America, native to so much more, the African and human Diaspora—was certainly Reginald Lockett.

A friend of mine, told me that a psychic told her that Reggie was happy, and that his only regret was that he hadn’t pushed Linda martin to stop postponing their marriage and do it. He also worried a bit about his dad. Other than that he felt he’d accomplished all that he’d planned for this life. As my friend told me this, it was as she was there at the funeral and repast where other’s expressed the same sentiments.

After all was said, the coffin was closed and the pall bears carried it out of the church, the family following closely behind it. The singer, Linda’s cousin sang as we processioned out. I thought how lovely and how fitting to not include the said final viewing in the ceremony. We were left then with the uplifting messages and a final view of Reggie as he made his final journey to his temporal resting place. I sat with Dafina and Greg, which I was so happy to share this moment with. I couldn’t have done this alone. And although, I believe there is more to life than this body and what is visible to the eye, I will still miss seeing my brother Reggie walking the Lake with Derethia or alone. I’ll miss his encouraging presence in my life, I’ll miss knowing he’s here recording African American history with his illuminated pen.

After the repast, I went over to the new vegetarian soul food kitchen on 13th Street, almost next door to the Tribune Tower. I had southern friend tofu with lentils and greens. The food was great but a bit too spicy for me. I have allergies and I was so hungry I forgot to ask about the ingredients like black and red pepper, and tomatoes. I ate it anyway, pushing the tomatoes to the side and had to take medicine afterwards for itchy hives. I won’t do that again. But at $10 bucks, I would certainly recommend the restaurant to folks for a meal. It is laid back, friendly and really convenient for anyone looking for a place to have lunch or dinner in downtown Oakland. The servings are also significant. I gave my greens to a carnivorous friend. And they sell peach cobbler made with organic raw sugar, something else I’m allergic to, but I asked about dessert 

I caught BART over to San Francisco for opening night at the San Francisco International Arts Festival where I saw “Speaking in Chinese,” a USA/China collaboration with artists, . It was really intriguing. The dance theatre performance was based on a novel by Love in a Fallen City, a 1943 novella by Chinese American writer Zhang Ailing and featuring the lovely orchestra and chamber music of Shanghai composer Zhu Jian’er. The setting is a time of war and strict Chinese cultural traditional during the 1940s. Imagine and black man and a Chinese young woman, who falls in love with her sister’s groom.

Dancers, C. Derrick Jones (Catch Me Dancer Theatre) and Hou Honglan (National Ballet of China) was beautiful as they tell this story.

I really enjoyed the piece…the dance styles were so different—the feminine, lithe body of Hou Honglan, light and airy—one point, twirling… in contrast to C. Derrick Jones’ earth-centered, his body literally touching the floor. He drew her to him, this man she tried to resist—the magnetism electric as she succumbed to his passion. They rolled across the floor…tossing confetti, rolling yarn…explosions going off in the midst of this brief interlude. One wonders if it is for the moment of everlasting. The landscape is intriguing, two paintings show Shanghai and the other could actually be the Bay Area, the bridge in the second bridge evoking, the San Rafael bridge.

A bowl hung center stage between the two bridges, a smoking balm gave the space a dreamy-like—aura. Jones occasionally blew on the bowl as he hung on the chain, it a prop in his dance—he twirling swinging between the two possibilities—

Speaking Chinese concludes this evening Saturday, May 24, 7 p.m., at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco. I got a chance to meet, Hou Honglan whose family, though, safe, was directly affected by the recent earthquake which hit the dancer’s hometown. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be here for the weekend and not at home with her loved ones. Andrew Wood, festival founder, asked the audience to sign a card in the lobby that evening. There was also a dish to leave donations.

The SFIAF continues for the next three weeks. Visit for all the details or call (800) 838-3006. There are a lot of free concerts at Union Square in San Francisco, as well as a concert closing afternoon, with Omar Sosa’s Afreecanos outdoors at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Garden, Third and Mission, Sunday, June 8, 1 p.m. with DJ Third World Liberation Music.

Keep an eye out for the details to come for the next event: November 4, 2008, Reggie’s birthday celebration of his life. Next original plan.


Notes: Happy Birthday Archie Shepp, May 24
“To My Queen,” (How Deep is the Ocean) Walt Dickerson passed May 15, also, he was 80 years old. Art Sato was doing a tribute to both men, Reggie and Walt Dickerson, viberphonist.

Saturday, May 24, 2008 “Forms and Feelings,” KPFA (2-3) 3-4 p.m. (I tuned in at 3:30 after Sharifah sent me a text.) Art Sato was sitting in for Jim Bennett. I saw Art at Reggie’s funeral. Art’s show followed 4-6 p.m. and are places you can read about Reggie.

Friday, May 30, Tributes: Noon to 1 p.m. Living room on KPFA

Saturday, May 31, “In Your Ear,” 4-5 p.m. KPFA
Avotcja’s show, Friday, June 6 on KPOO 12-3 p.m. Music and poetry all day, KPOO airing since “the Civil War.”)

His life was a “yes.” She reads his poem “Yes.” He’s really a treasure. The Movement by Reginald Lockett, performed by him, Q.R. Hand, Brian Aucerbach, and Lewis Jordan on saxophone.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival, Queenie Pie

Yesterday at San Antonio Park celebrants were reminded of the legacy of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz, as his name was invoked along with other revolutionaries like Martin King, Fred Douglass, and General Harriet Tubman. The day was warm but not unbearable...but as I was arriving Kiilu Nyasha was leaving. She's arrived at 11 to see John Santos. She said he was great! Yet, after 3 hours and no bathroom accress, when 3:30 arrived she decided to ride on over to the BART in her wheelchair and go home. I was getting out of my car as she rolled by. We caught up in her news, one her birthday, May 22 and a surprise party last week. It was her first in 77 years. (I need to check that number.)

The second bit of news was Kiilu is hosting a TV weekly show, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, on SF Live, Cable 76 in San Francisco on Fridays from 7:30 to 7:52 p.m. (PST). It is also on-line, at There is no archive.

As Muziki Robeson's Quartet closed out an outstanding program featuring some of the Bay Area's hottest artists, Dwight Trible called John Coltrane's name to bless the day and even sang a few choruses of Lift Every was truly a transcendental moment as the vocalist traded lines with the saxophonist. Earlier on the same stage, Howard Wiley lead the Freedom Now Band which was pretty awesome. My goodness Howard can blow that horn, makes one wonder if Gabriel played sax not trumpet. Although Ambrose Akinmusire Project with Goapele, makes me think that heaven has an orchestra where one can play a variety of brass and reed instruments--your choice. Ambrose was great on trumpet...and the organist and drummer were awesome also. Goapele might have been the draw, but the ensemble certainly upheld the standard John Santos opened the afternoon with four hours earlier.

I was walking around listening to the music from a variety of vantage points...Black Panther Alumni booth, with BJ and Gail; Malcolm X Grassroots; Clothing and Jewelry booths--there was a cute, Oakland Republic t-shrt, even a booth where kids were choosing henna patterns for body painting designs. I made the rounds, stopping to say hi to friends reclining on the grass on blankets or lounge chairs.

Ambrose's group sounded great. Between his set and Muziki's, I moosied over to the Electric Church with Black Dot Stage ---featuring folks from Hairdoo, Shaka Jamal and Adimu. But it was this sister, whose name I learned afterwards is Queen Deelah, who really captivated me with her song about stopping the violence. She's a part of Turf Unity and Silence the Violence, two iniatives out of the Ella Baker Center in Oakland. We spoke afterwards and she told me about a new CD dropping early summer, so look for it. There will be a release party in June, probably the second week. Earler, this was also the spot for the New Orleans Brass Band. Folks were cutting the rug literally as the boys in stage, pumped it up.

After Muziki's set ended a bit later, I hurried off to see Queenie Pie at the Oakland Opera. The only opera written by Duke Ellington, the music was fantastic, especially with the live orchestration and great singing. The story was sad. Set in a TV studio with a live audience, us, Queenie Pie was the story of a Harlem hairstylist who'd been winning the crown for her beauty secrets until Miss Cafe Ole comes to town and challenges the reigning queen.

There is an interesting twist, enchanted islands and life after prison. It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz, the part about Dorothy "wanting to go home" and the wizard facilitating that. Dorothy made a good choice; Queenie Pie, well let's just say, it's questionable. I won't spoil it for you, as it closes this weekend. Left incomplete at his death, and never performed while he was alive, Ellington's son, Mercer completed the work for Dad.

The theatre, located on 3rd Street, is a bit past Clay. When it's complete the theatre is going to be an impressive presence along the Oakland waterfront.

Funeral Arrangements...for Reginald Lockett

Reginald Lockett's service will be held on Thursday, May 22 @ 11 a.m. at Bebe Memorial at 3900 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, California. He will be interned at Rolling Hills in El Sobrante. The repast at the Black New World following the burial about 4 p.m. Guests are asked to bring a dish for the repast and a poem, art, a song to share, etc.. The gathering is to be celebratory.

The Black New World. is at 836 Pine St. Oakland CA 94607 Oakland: Jack London Square (510) 451-4661, You can send condolences to Reggie's family's house: 3717 Market St., Oakland, CA, 94608

Reginald's Daughter Maya Lomasi Lockett can be reached (510) 798-8201.

This is from an email exchange Reginald and I had a couple of years ago.

February 16, 2006


This is just a note to thank you for the wonderful introduction and being instrumental in having me as a guest at College of Alameda. I really appreciate it. Here's a poem by Derek Walcott that speaks to all human beings:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

Reginald Lockett was born Reginald Franklin Matthis in Berkeley to Rebecca Sue Matthis. To this day I do not know who my biological father was, or is. It is said he was a West Indian merchant marine or a US Navy sailor from somewhere back east. My biological mother left me in the care of three aunts--Alyce Lockett, Marzetta Stearns, and Argie Sloan--and moved to Los Angeles. I was later adopted by Jewell and Alyce Lockett who I always thought were my actual parents. I began school at Pearl Harbor Elementary School in Honolulu. I was later shipped off to Marion County in Northeast Texas to live with my grandmother Sudie Matthis. I attended a segregated country school Macedonia where a great-uncle Levi Matthis was principal. My great-grandfather Paul Matthis, a former slave, was one its founders and later served as principal. His wife Angela was also a former slave and a daughter of her former master who sent her to a normal school to become a teacher. The idea to write about fried bologna sandwiches was inspired by what we were served for lunch. Many southerners consider this a delicacy. I returned to California after my grandmother passed and attended Longfellow Elementary where I was placed in a special education class because white folks assumed black kids from the South lacked scholastic skills. I attended Hoover Junior High School and McClymonds. I earned a BA and MA from San Francisco State University. It was at Hoover that I fell in love with the word and became a voracious reader. James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time" was the first book by an author of African descent I ever read. Yes, I spent the money on the book, not the Levi's. This lead to the discovery of other Black authors. I was a member of the BSU at SFSU where I would read my poetry with Marvin X, Amiri Baraka, Askia M. Toure, and Sonia Sanchez. My work has been published in over 50 anthologies and periodicals, and I have published 4 books of poetry. As the editor the KPFA Folio in 1978, I had access to an IBM composer that was used to type news print and other graphic arts material. I learned how to use many of the tools and decided to produce a chapbook to sell at open readings. I lived in San Francisco then and hung out with the boyfriend of Diane Brown, sister of Santana bassist David Brown, who dated Cyn Zarco. Cyn gave me a call to inquire about what I was doing. She knew how to produce books because she worked with Ishmael Reed and Al Young producing "Yardbird". Out of this encounter Jukebox Press was born.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"All the Kings Men" 2 Tour 2008

After dinner at Skates by the Bay with Sspire, the COA transformative learning community, one of the core teachers, Kelly, and I, went dancing at the Shattuck Downlow in Berkeley. Now that was fun. Unfortunately, all the students except, maybe one, was under 21, so they couldn't join us and we didn't know of any other place in the East Bay outside of La Pena and Ashkenaz that might be appropriate. I called my younger daughter and asked her what was going on musically, and she recommended the Shattuck.

I went by the ATM and grabbed a few dollars. It would be the first time I went to the club for pleasure and didn't have a comp. The $15 cover charge wasn't excessive and although I didn't know exactly what I was getting into, I liked reggae music and knew I could go wrong especially when I saw Daniel who told me the line-up was impressive that night. The floor was still kind of empty. I saw Belinda, an artist friend across the room. I felt that if these people were in the house, it had to be good. The last time I was there, Belinda was my guest. When Kelly arrived and treated me to a drink (water), Mommed saw me and reintroduced himself to me. He used to see me often at the Malonga Center in Oakland, where I'd taken dance classes. I wasn't taking classes like before--my figure certainly attested to that, but Friday night dancing was a step in the right fitness direction--a recent spring resolution :-)

It had been a hot the 90s and I was ready to cool off naturally. so there I was, waiting for Kelly in the dark, having had a fun conversation at the door with the brother who asked me for ID. I asked him, "Do you really believe I'm under 21?" he smiled and then wanted to stamp my hand. I refused and gave him an alternative, "stamp something else." He waved me inside with a smile. I like easy....
I found a place to set my purse where I could see it, took out my camera and sort of rocked in place, not quite dancing but clearly feeling the beat. It was my version of stoned yet sober. Everyone must have come in high, the only intoxication was alcoholic induced. The marijuana smoke was limited. I only caught one puff late in the evening when i moved all the way to the front of the house and bagan to take photos. (I should have pulled out my tablet... Can't remember a lyric this morning.)

The band played a set prior to the first singer, who was a member of the band. His name is "Tuff Lion," on guitar. He kicked off with a theme that was repeated throughout the evening, "love." His songs: Country Time and Radical Love were memorable.

I certainly agreed, radical love, a love that is self-generating, is what could save us all. Amiri Baraka said as much the previous week in his bopera, "The Sisyphus Syndrome," produced by EastSide Cultural Center. It wasn't about giving up, it was about loving the world and its most evil people bach into health--humanity. Jimmy Baldwin agreed, in his seminal work, The Fire Next Time--two essays: "My Dungeon Shook" and "Down at the Cross," as did of course Martin King. Folks are killed for less. Love as a political agenda is unpopular and risky.

Perhaps this is what is meant by "love can kill." Perhaps love can kill evil? Well guns and violence are certainly not working-- I saw someone videotaping...he should send a copy to the world leaders.

After "Tuff Lion," "Luv Fyah" came on. His set included songs: Newstar Born, all Mighty, time Traveler, What a Blessin, Ethiopia I Belong, Coming from the West, Bobby Dem Creep, High Road Way. Belinda told me about this brother, who had a chorus line of one...waving the Rasta flag--that of the Lion of Judah, as he sang. I was too far away and didn't get any great shots of him on stage. I was just digging his music which was great.

He was followed by Army whom I didn't know, but certainly want to know more of. Smooth pretty black skin, dressed in all white, he rocked the mic...with his consciousness. "All the Kings Men" did. Not only could I understand them, I wanted to hum their words into the night...I felt healed...cleansed, freed with such positive energy.

Army's set included, War Mongers, Yesterdayz News, Fire City, Butterfly, Share Your Love, Honor Rebel, Contrary, Rocky Road. When he sang, "News" he connected to the killing of youth on the streets today by police, a recent killing just this past week. He sand "Contrary," a capella or maybe it was "Road." I forget.

I was like, yeah, this is certainly the answer. Why don't more people know? The leaders are few and we're many....


David Morrison closed it out: "Love Come and Go, Jah Run Things, Lil'Green, Made 4 Me, Sufferer, Love Has Found a Way (cool remix), Do for Budi (a cool freestyle on What you won't do, Do for Love, you try everything...), African Princess Intro...End of Time, Change A Come (a capella), Wicked Development (Binghi).

Morrison whom I'd seen with the Abyssinians ran onto the stage full of energy. He like the others sang a capella -- as he freestyled...taking familiar R&B songs and changing the lyrical content. He also played a little on the drums. He was awesome and then all the men came back and they closed out the evening about 2 a.m. with War & Crime or maybe that was just Morrison's encore :-) I think they might have ended with "Promised Land. Whatever it was, it was positive. As I said, I wasn't taking notes if i don't write it down....

When I asked the saxophonist for his set list, he said he needed it. "Oh this is happening again, like tomorrow night?" He nodded yes. I was like, okay, and took the drummer's set list instead of copying his three pages of notes. The drummer's was typed and I figured he could print another one from his computer. As soon as I put the saxophonist's list back, he hurried onto the stage to snatch his copy.

As I hurried into the darkness, with my sheet...before the drummer could grab me, I laughed. It was a great evening and a great way to begin a weekend celebrating the legacy of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz.

(Photo credit is all mine, c/o my little digital Canon. The emcee from KPFA reggae show had on this striking image of Robert Nesta Marley. I had to include the shot. Send me his name and when his show airs and I'll add it to the piece. I've tuned in before, I think it's called Reggae Express.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reginald Lockett

Reginald Lockett, died May 15, 2008

If there was ever a poet deserving of the title poet laureate for a city, Reggie was Oakland’s unnamed honoree. His work breathed Oakland—each syllable an experience we who call this fair city home, could relate to. He lived in a haunted house, haunted by the memories of black people from southern towns where they were just as unwelcome, as some were here. Lockett lived for a time during his early life in one of those places too, but when his grandmother died, he moved back to California and this is where the poet was born.

The last book he completed before his untimely demise was Random History Lessons, each poem one which vividly etched in one’s mind the characters and corners and attitudes Reggie the young man, Reggie the child, Reggie the young adult met coming up in the ‘hood.

I remember our interview quite some time ago, yet another which I’d not had time to published and now our brother is gone.

He was so helpful and encouraging. He was just about the most encouraging artist I have ever known. He’d send me leads for publications and then encourage me to send work in. He coached me on numerous job interviews for full-time teaching gigs at bay area community colleges and in 2006 he published our response to Hurricane Katrina, a collection of poety on his imprint, Jukebox Press. I remember the first time I saw Wordwind Chorus: Lewis Jordan, QR Hand and Reggie. It was at Gerald Lenoir and Karen's home in Berkeley. I remember his first book I owned, When the Bird Sings Bass, a Josephine Miles Pen Awardee. I remember when he was emcee at the Pen awards when Ntozake Shange was honored. I remember his reading during National Library Week at the College of Alameda and I got to introduce him. I remember the California Community College Composition Teachers Conference in Sacramento and our trip to the mall to buy me some tennis. I have been wearing New Balance ever sense, and I still have the shoes he helped me choose. We then had lunch before heading back to the conference.

I remember his poem about the "dumb class," a class he was in until someone checked his vision. I think about this often and how educators misdiagnose our students all the time.

Just this past Sunday, Reggie was to be a part of the program at Anna’s and I wondered why he wasn’t there. I remember he and Ted Pontiflet. If I saw one, I usually saw the other. I wonder how Ted is doing. I wonder how Al Young is doing, Ishmael Reed, Linda his partner, his daughter, Maya, his dad…all of us.

Reggie was the consummate human being. I was watching an old classic black and white film called Laura. In the film a woman was supposedly murdered but as the investigation proceeds she isn’t dead, she was out of town. I wondered if someone would be calling me back to tell me it was all a mistake; it was a case of mistaken identity—

I knew it was wishful thinking but in just two months I have lost two friends—Casper Banjo and now Reginald Lockett. When devorah called and told me she had something to tell me, I asked her if someone had died. I was hoping it was good news, but devorah doesn’t call me often—I got two more calls and I made two. I couldn’t think, and the details, the only details, that stuck were that Reggie was dead—I was foggy on the when and the who discovered this and why devorah knew it was so. I was hoping that someone was pretending to be devorah and really, it wasn’t her and then Phil Hutchings called, and Sharifah, and Kim verified what everyone else said and I was like—well I guess it’s true.

I had to get away, so I went to the theatre to see Figaro. It was great. I loved the language and the physicality of the piece. When I walked out and looked down there was a poem by Alice Walker, next to hers was one by Rilke (translated by someone else.)

I can see Reggie. I hear his voice…see him walking the Lake with Derethia. I remember giving him a ride to the dentist in Montclair when his crown broke one time. I always saw him and if I didn’t see him a Cave Canem announcement or some other writing lead in my on-line mailbox was his calling card.

He was really supportive of the Maafa Book Project and gave me lots of poems and made others I liked available.

Reggie Locket will be missed. Two writers gone in two years, not a year apart: Chauncey Bailey and now Reginald Lockett.

From my email archives
February 16, 2006


This is just a note to thank you for the wonderful introduction and being instrumental in having me as a guest at College of Alameda. I really appreciate it. Here's a poem by Derek Walcott that speaks to all human beings:

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Interview with Richard Howell conducted pre: concert. Posted after concert with concert photos from the Monday, May 5, Yoshi's SF gig

After all these years of wanting to speak to you, I finally have an opportunity to speak to one of my favorite musicians and human beings. I wanted to give him some ink on the gig on Monday, May 5, because it isn’t often that we get to see him with his own group. We see him with others all the time. It’s always a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t known he played with Anthony Brown, or at least I hadn’t remembered. I knew he was with Mo’Rockin, and he’s one of the producers, and then of course UpSurge! Whose CDs he’s produced, yet to see him as leader—I think this might be my first time.

I’d like to ask you about the genre shifting. I know you sing and I noticed on Tuesday, Khalil was playing the talking drum, but I remembered you play that too. Could you talk about the genre shifting and how you use your multiple voices to speak musically as a vocalist, drummer and with what I say is your primary musical voice, the tenor saxophone.

RH: The saxophone would be my primary voice, but I am actually one who enjoys all music. I love all music that stimulates my spirit that makes me feel good. That goes from the European classical to American classical or jazz. I mostly immerse myself in the African Diaspora, West Africa, East Africa, to funk and hip hop, the jazz, I mean the rap and tap, reggae, bebop, blues. I listen to the music of North Africa. I listen to the music of West Africa. I love the music of Brazil. I listen to some of the music of Argentina. I listen to music from all over the world. I have been fortunate to have been involved in projects with West African musicians and North African musicians, hip hop artists, rap artists, swing artists—I just love the music. Free jazz, I’ve been very very fortunate.

WS: I know you have also traveled, so the music you enjoy has you actually been to those countries, like for instance Brazil and West Africa and North Africa. I know you go to Europe a lot to play in festivals there. I remember one time you told me you were at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

RH: I have been to practically every single festival in Europe. I spent some time in Mali, Burkina Faso, and I had an opportunity to play with Tumani Diabate in Mali, and I played with a group from Amsterdam called Faraa Faraa Sound in 2003. They were descendents of Suriname Africans. I got a chance to play with them and toured Africa with them. I get exposed to other music of the African Dutch.

WS: Who are the African Dutch?
RH: those from Suriname because the Dutch colonized this area in South America in the Caribbean near Guyana.
WS: Were you in Mali for a while?

RH: I was there for three weeks in 2005. I met Faraa Faraa at a trade show in Europe and they asked me if I’d play with them, and I said, definitely. They called me and told me they had a tour in Africa (in 2005). The thing was a lot of African Americans don’t want to tour in Africa. I said, I’m not one of those.

WS: They said a lot of African American musicians don’t want to travel in Africa?

RH: They’d played with a couple of African Americans who did visit Africa and didn’t like it. They were accustomed to their comforts and I’m one who is just ready to go.

WS: Are you multiple lingual?

RH: I barely speak English.

WS: You speak a lot of languages musically, that’s for sure.

RH: That is my language.

WS: Was that your first time in Africa in 2005?

RH: I was in Northern Africa approximately 15 years ago.

WS: Did you know Yassir back then.

RH: No I met Yassir less than two years ago. I worked on a project with El Hussaine Kili. I think one of the reasons I was solicited for the Mo’Rockin Project was because I already had experience in Northern African music. I introduced Omar Sosa to Northern African music through my friend El Houssaine Kili, a Moroccan vocalist and composer, whom I did production for his album in 2003 and 2004. The second album reached number one on the world music charts. It has not reached the United States, except on-line. The title of the album is Mountain to Muhammad.

I did a show in Berlin with Omar and I saw my friend there. I did that there in Stuttgart, Germany.

WS: Does he sing in Arabic?

RH: yes

WS: The song you sang Tuesday, April 22 at the CD release party was that in Arabic and what does it mean?

RH: Hamideen. It’s ‘counting your blessings for the things you have, giving thanks.’

WS: Did you write it?

RH: Yes I did.

WS: It was really beautiful. I could see my granddaughter singing it and the way the chorus came in, was really lovely.

Back to El Houssaine. You said you went to Africa 15 years ago and you introduced Omar to this musician. You said you were in Europe.

RH: I did this in 2000.

WS: Omar is on your San Francisco CD.

RH: Yes.

WS: I knew you played with him when you played here. How was it for you being in Africa? I know that you had read about it and played with musicians that were from Africa, African natives, but how was it being on the continent. Did it change the music in any way?

RH: It changed my life. He says emphatically without raising his voice.

WS: Talk about it.

RH: I don’t know how to describe Africa. It is different from anything I’ve ever been. There is an energy there that is really difficult to put into words. The sky looks bluer, the ground looks more colorful, the color are amazing, the people are amazing, friendly and warm—that’s my encounter, I met nothing but friendly people. I met people who welcomed me. I had people walk up to me and say, ‘Welcome my brother, welcome. Welcome home.’ That was the experience I had. I brought me to tears. I saw so many beautiful people and I saw people that reminded me of where I grew up in my neighborhood in Southern California. It really was like going home.

So yes, it did change me a lot. I listened to a lot of music there. I watched a lot of African videos. I got to listen to a lot of the drummers. I went to clubs and saw people playing. I got to play with some of the Africans. I played with an African vocal group, four singers playing a capella and they invited me to sing with them. I was scatting while they were laying down a rhythm pattern. It was awesome, beautiful.
There is music all day long.

WS: Just like they say or one sees movies…not just African culture on the continent but in the Diaspora, how you hear music all day long in all the houses, in the streets…it’s a part of the landscape.

RH: It is.

WS: It’s like life having a soundtrack. It never goes away. You never turn off the sound track. At night time you have a different kind of soundtrack.
What part of North Africa did you visit when you went there?

RH: Algeria.

WS: So you knew all that history when you touched down?

RH: I was studying it then.

WS: So you knew about the BPP and the people given political asylum and how simpatico the government was towards African American concerns?

RH: No

WS: But you knew about the Battle of Algiers?

RH: yes and we both laugh.

WS: When you came back home after you’d completed the album for El Houssaine, did you have any music of your own?

RH; I write music all the time, but I haven’t had a chance to perform it. I actually busy. I’m CEO of which is an on-line distribution company. I’ve been more involved with becoming an entrepreneur and recording on the side, tracks of my own. At the time Big Belly was around, and I was playing with that group. I was did their CDs. I did the production for UpSurge! and at the same time I was actively working with Babatunde Lea. I did some of the production on one of his albums. So I stay busy, working on other people’s projects, sharing my experiences. It’s my time now, that’s kind of where I am now. All of my knowledge that I’ve accumulated working I am seriously putting it toward my own project. So this concert on May 5, did you start the on-line media organization I started it with Daniel Ryan. It started in 2000. Now I am sole proprietor.
When did you decide this was going to be your career and that this needed to support you?
When did you know this is what you wanted to do with your life?

RH: Probably at a very young age. I grew up in Southern California and had an opportunity to play with a lot of wonderful musicians down there. I couldn’t tell you…probably when I was playing in high school and someone paid me. .I was playing baritone saxophone and alto saxophone in high school and I also played upright bass.
On the fifth I’ll be playing tenor and soprano. I still own a baritone but rarely play it.

WS: What is it about the saxophone that speaks for you? When reading your bio, I noticed you play almost everything. Why tenor sax, what can you say that you can’t say with another vehicle?

RH: Tenor itself probably chose me. It kind of came to me as I was playing alto saxophone. I enjoy the range of it. It felt could and on top of that, John Coltrane plays it.

WS: I was reading about how when you dad brought home the Coltrane records—sounded like he had a really extensive collection; he played it for you and gave you permission to play others. That must have made you feel really good that he trusted you with the albums and the stereo.

RH: My father turned me onto John Coltrane. He listened to 'Trane, but he was a little too outside for him. He just handed it to me and said, ‘You’ll probably like this better than I would.’ He was more into Duke Ellington and Count Basie and Jack McDuff and Shirley Scott and stuff like that.

My father played baritone saxophone. He played in a big band and then when he started a family he stopped playing, so I never saw him play professionally. We had jam sessions at home. My older brother and my sister sometimes played with us. My father would play piano, my older brother played drums and I would play saxophone or bass. I actually played a lot of acoustic bass. I play a little electric now, so I’m a little shy with all the wonderful bass players in bay area such as, Ron Belcher, Garrett Brown and Mark Williams and I could go on.

WS: What are your plans for May 5?

RH: This is nothing new to me, what I’m doing. I’m very very pleased to be doing this with EW Wainwright, Garrett Brown, Fred Harris and Destiny. As I traveled, it started with…I’m a composer and I wanted to hear my music a certain way. Having a budget or not having a budget I would not have the opportunity to rehearse a lot of music and not hearing the music rehearsed the way I wanted it. I made the choice of just coming on the bandstand and just playing what I feel like playing (what I call) spontaneous creativity. Sometimes it puts pressure on musicians. They have a little difficulty handling that, but I didn’t this with this group of musicians before and it was like a piece of cake. It was like ‘yeah, let’s do this!’ They totally understood what I was trying to do this spontaneous creativity which is the essence of jazz anyway. So what we will be doing on the 5th. Because this is not about me at all. We will do is pay tribute to those responsible for us being able to play this music – I will call on the ancestors—all the ancestors.