Friday, October 31, 2008

August Wilson Legacy Saluted in the SF Bay

This month in the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time there are three plays celebrating the legacy of August Wilson: Piano Lesson at Laney College Theatre, Radio Golf at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto or Mountain View and Joe Turner Come and Gone at Berkeley Repretory Theatre. Of the three two close this weekend: Radio Golf tomorrow November 1 and Radio Golf Sunday, November 2. The Berkeley Rep production opens this weekend.

August Wilson in his ten play cycle, which ended with Radio Golf and opened with Gem of the Ocean, chronicles the history of black America from the perspective of the residents in Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania--his boyhood home. By keeping the location stable, this extended saga where people come and go, the principle characters often reappearing older and wiser, one sees how no matter where one is in this not so vast terrain we call home--America, somethings don't change: racism, poverty, political and social disenfranchisement and the toll this takes on our lives. He shows in all his plays how hard we've worked for equality, a place illusive and once achieved as in the case of the principle characters in Radio Golf, how easy it is in one decision to lose.

The tension between the past and the present, something that keeps Boy Willie and his sister Berniece at odds in The Piano Lesson, something that worries Hammond in Radio Golf, his decision what makes the play a fitting close to the 100 year cycle. And then Joe Turner, a burden one family carries, one many of us carry when history is forgotten.

The protagonist returns from capture--illegal reenslavement to his family and no one recognizes him. His story reminds me of the many men and women captured in the prison industrial complex, their dilemma upon return to try to catch up or recapture those lost years, those lost moments and what happens when they find out it's not possible.

Most persons behind bars don't get visitors and its this isolation that makes one crazier than the actual bars and chains. It is this dilemma that proves the hardest for the protagonist in Joe Turner to escape from ultimately once his body is free.

He's like the ghost black America has to embrace. He represents the Maafa, the Black Holocaust we have to love into wellness, into wholeness. He is a vital part of ourselves we forgot we lost so used to a paraplegic state we've become.

These symbols are represented in people and in material things like the piano Berniece wants to hold onto and that her brother Boy Willie wants to sell; it's the house with the red door about to be demolished on the hill in what is on the list as blighted property because it's been abandoned for so long.

The red door/little house on the hill and the piano, and the stranger are metaphors for an aspect of our lives we can't forget or let go of otherwise they will haunt us until we do--not just black people but America. What Wilson's plays ultimately do is show all of us that the black centennial depicted in his great movement is an American centennial. Black history is American history and these characters reflect ultimately what it means to be human in this journey of the spirit.

I also want to let my audience know that the cast from Radio Golf are guests on my radio show this morning, 8-10 a.m. on

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Troy Anthony Davis... The Living Word Festival

Since my conversation with Troy Anthony Davis' sister Martina Correia, Troy has gotten a temporary stay of execution. We are really happy about this. Listen to the 10/22 archived interview with Mrs. Correia. Also, on this show is an interview with Chanaka Hodge, whom I saw last night at the Living Word Festival in San Francisco. Jacinta Vlach Liberation Theatre's Animal Farm opened the evening, followed by War Peace: the One Drop Rule. War Peace, a multidisciplinary work which examined the interplay of relationships of a customer and a clerk (Chanka Hodge) in a coffee shop and three men on a corner, one who sold CDs and DVDs, the other a dancer (Jason Samuels Smith) who never spoke, and the third, a voyeur.

I thought from the title, the one drop rule had to do with the racial segregation practiced during enslavement and post-antebellum America--if there is a post-Antebellum America, to keep black people apart. This tactic is similar to the one practiced by colonizers in Rwanda among the indigenous people--Tutsis and Hutus, favoring one over another, giving status and privilege to one ethnic group over another based on a frivolous external feature like skin tone or nose length--but the One Drop Rule is not about that.

I wish Chanaka had spoken a bit more succinctly about War Peace, especially her character, who looks at the bible, a document the girl in the coffee shop believes in, yet questions--especially the Noah story and how he was saved. She has a line which questions inconsistency and the chaos unraveling all the work people have invested in being human, the self-regulation, prescriptions and laws pertaining to what it means to be human. This ties into Animal Farm really well, the whole notion of questioning the paradigm, rather than just staying in the box and getting by....

The one a drought where only the San Francisco Bay Area is without water and things get so bad, people contemplate jumping into Lake turned around at the LA border, unless you can prove you live there. It was a crazy scenario that made me think quite a few times before I flushed the toilet later on, before I turned on faucet after that to wash my hands....I even took the leap and thought about how many paper towels did I really need to use to dry my hands.

What does it mean to imagine a space opposite the one you do not occupy as being more real than the container you occupy? What if, none of it is real? Do you pour water into the air? Does it land or does it evaporate? Does it matter?

Hum. The One Drop Rule. Race is Fiction. It's a provocative idea. There were tee-shirts one could buy before and after the show with the 2008 theme logo. Tonight the Living Word Festival concludes. Check out my website: and click on the blog to see a photo I took last night as the cast was taking their bows. I didn't take a photo of the opening ensemble. I was trying to be good...No cameras allowed and all that...although there wasn't an announcement and I am press....

There were so many great images and if you know the Orwellian tale of the animals taking over the farm...they just get tired of being mistreated by the big guys and then once they are free find themselves trapped in their minds. You can free the body but if the mind is not free then reenslavement is inevitable. Jacinta Vlach Liberation Theatre's Animal Farm is a little different. The animals seem to come to their senses, all except one who can't shake off the chains and gets trapped in the ideology of the oppressor.

The visuals are awesome...spaced between text from the book, like the declaration of Animal Liberation. There is also a really cool graphic of a President Bush puppet the hand tattooed with all the corporations connected to his government--I intentionally didn't include myself--his versus mine or ours. The music was equally entertaining. I wish there was a program. I was like, is this a reflection of budget cuts or what?! Anyway, I will get back to you on the details, because for so much work to go into these performances, the least we can do is acknowledge the individuals, like the actors and dancers, set designers who made it possible and some of the thinking that went into the piece. The choreography was simply awesome. The use of hip hop aesthetics in the movement, design was so obvious and so fantastic, especially in Animal Farm, which I hope to see again, as I hope to see War Peace again. I think Chanaka said what is premiering at the Festival is an excerpt.

The cast in War Peace was on the flier: Chanaka Hodge, Rafael Casal,Daveed Diggs, Nico Cary, and choreographer and yes, silent dancer, Jason Samuels Smith.

Okay, so if you are in San Francisco, check out the Living Word Festival this evening, closing night at Artuad Theater.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, October 24 Wanda's Picks Show Reflection

Today's show went relatively smoothly once guests were confirmed late yesterday afternoon--you wouldn't know the juggling that goes into programming, but I guess that's a sign of my growing sophistication. I never knew how difficult this radio business was. I still like it, but wow, two shows is hard.

I have had technical problems since Monday, so I haven't been able to operate my computer out of the safe mode, which means I can't save data. It's a drag.

Today we highlighted the Oakland Community School, the first charter school in the State of CA and a model promoted by then Gov.Jerry Brown--yes, unbelievable that this same man, as CA Attorney Gen. is promoting the trial of the SF8. We had Billy X,, Melvin Dixon, the Commemorator and the Lil' Bobby Hutton Literacy Program and Naomi Banks, former student on the air. "The Down Memory Lane Reunion," is 10/25, 12-5, at the old school site: 6118 International Blvd., Oakland. We also had Naima and Alixa, who have a new show: Hurricane Season, Oct. 24-25, at La Pena Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley, 7:00 doors, 7:30 show. They will also take "Hurricane Season," to Cell Space in SF, 10/30, 7:00 doors, 7:30 show. They are performing poetry at the "Wonders of Cannibis" Festival its second day, 10/26, which also features Dead Prez, at Golden Gate Park in SF, CA. My other guests were, Avotcja & Modupue, which features musician Jon Jang, and others, performing at the Jazz School, in downtown Berkeley, Oct. 24, 8 p.m. Next was guest, Shara K. Lange, whose film, "The Way North," about a Morrocan sports photographer, Fatima Rhazi, turned activist for women's rights in France, screens at 2 p.m. at the Shattuck Cinemas, in Berkeley, 10/25. It's a part of the "12th Arab Film Festival" We closed with a great conversation with Black Panther Party Chairman,and co-founder, Bobby Seale, ESCC co-founder, Greg Morozumi, and the author of the book, "The Snake Dance," about the Second Annual Third World Book Festival at ESCC, 12-6 p.m. Oct.25-26, at 2277 International Blvd. in Oakland. Visit

Wanda's Picks Radio Show October 24, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wanda's Picks Radio October 22, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Faye Carol CD Release Party

Thursday, October 16, Faye Carol had a CD release party at Yoshi's. In the audience in the first set was Oakland mayor, Ron Dellumns and his guest, Ray Nagan, mayor of New Orleans. During the show, Mayor Dellums went up to Carol and gave her, as she put it: "Some suga!"

The Faye Carol Quartet was in great form, with her daughter, Kito Gamble "Sista Kee," on piano, Howard Wiley on tenor sax, Darryl Green on drums and Marcus Shelby on bass. Though this was a CD release party for her latest recording honoring Billie Holiday, she also played compositions of her band members: Howard Wiley's Angola Project, Marcus Shelby's Harriet Tubman Suite, and of course her daughter's. It was truly an evening of celebration. Carol said, Billie Holiday is often shown as a tragic character when she was monumentally phenomenal and had a lot of give thanks for. Her arrangements were so Faye Carol, the references in let's say the Cole Porter tune she shared, relevant to the community she was singing to. It was the same with Holiday.

The band is touring Italy now and will return November 14, 7 p.m., for a gig at the Black Repertory Group, 3201 Adeline Street, in South Berkeley, where Ms. Carol teaches a music in the community course. Call (510) 652-2120 for tickets and information.

Wanda's Picks October 17, 2008 Show

Friday, October 17, 2008

Breath of Our Ancestors: Joy Holland and Casper Banjo, presenting Keith Hopkins

At the Breath of the Ancestors Exhibit Reception, Wednesday, October 15, at the Prescott Joseph Center we honored the legacy of the San Francisco Bay Area’s premiere artists: Berkeley resident, Joy Holland and Oaklander by way of St. Louis, Casper Banjo, with featured artist: Keith Hopkins, another Oaklander.

The exhibit, titled: “Breath of Our Ancestors” is an opportunity to meet a woman whom one guest tonight said sounded like Fanny Lou Hamer, Harriett Tubman and Ida B. Wells rolled into one. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the work of internationally acclaimed artist, Casper Banjo who was taken from us too soon, last year, when he was shot not far from his home in October as he took his evening walk.

Stories of Joy’s banner on the side of her home with the words: “No Son-of-a-Bush,” walks through the neighborhood where talk of her fearlessness spread. No one bothered Joy. Ava said she hadn’t shed a tear since her mom passed months ago…perhaps she said, because her mother’s spirit lives. Her brother Tajmal echoed these sentiments later on.

TheArthur Wright spoke of his good friend Casper Banjo, an internationally well-known artist, whose passing was such a surprise. Shot by a police man, the exact circumstances are still unknown as the police refuse to release their report to family. Casper’s material was brick—an unusual medium…but one the St. Louis native knew well. Mary Rudge, poet laureate for the City of Alameda, spoke of Casper fondly, his love of all art—literary, visual and performance and how he didn’t let his gender or race keep him from participating on art shows or gatherings.
Avotcja spoke of her relationship with Casper who was “a trickster,” portrayed as Anansi in African tales, Brer Rabbit in African folk tales here in America—Elegba in the Yoruba tradition.

“He was such a personality…outrageous and fun.” Avotcja said about her friend, who went to college and high school with her. (Casper’s family relocated to Oakland where he graduated from Oakland Tech.) She and Casper taught at Laney college, and were participants in an artist center not far from Prescott Joseph Center—7th and Peralta. Avotcja said Oakland needed places more places like this now: free, assessable art spaces where artists could get together and hang their work.

Mary Rudge said she thought often of how she’d like to have an exhibit where bricks were the medium…a brick wall. She said bricks were a material used by cultures throughout the world…. Casper told me of a suit he made from fabric stenciled with brick patterns he created. The medium was certainly durable—bricks, reminiscent of the earth and its inhabitants…human beings the new comers, clay a lot older.

TheArthur spoke of his friend. He said Casper was everywhere there was art. Even once he had heart surgery, and suffered from depression, the humor and playfulness associated with Casper was well-known. TheArthur recalled. TheArthur explained how Casper was a friend and a mentor because he comes late to painting, his first love or medium writing. (TheArthur is well-known for his painting with bleach of images of Queen Califia.)

It was great hearing the stories about the artists –Ava shared her mother’s poetry and Avoctja played a DVD she’d made from a performance in 1991 at La Peña Cultural Center where Joy and the ensemble Black Poets with Attitudes: Joy Holland, Avotcja, Abimbola Adama, Beverly Jarrett and Wanda Sabir, performed. “We were better than good!” Avotcja said later on—she’d previewed entire show and pulled our the two segments of Joy’s.

Seeing Joy reciting her poems: “The Key” and “Port Chicago” and her love poem, brought back so many wonderful memories. I recalled Joy’s periodic phone calls and cards and articles in the mail. She’d clip articles I wrote and send them to me for my records. She’s also called me to encourage me to continue writing or to ask how she could help with many of the poetry events I put on. Casper did the same thing. I’m so sorry I never took him up on his many invitations to write a story about his many exhibitions. I didn’t realize until later how great an artist he was. I just knew he was everywhere and his spirit was gentle and kind and encouraging. I think one of my best visits was once when I was on the 57 bus and he and I shared a ride from MacArthur BART to Eastmont and we had a chance to talk. Riding public transportation is a great way to slow down. For once I wasn’t in control and had to give that aspect of the journey over to someone else and thus I was able to enjoy visiting with a wonderful man, a man I respected.
Casper’s body of work spans historic and more recent events and topics, such as a recent piece, Katrina, painted September 2005. Using graphite, printmaking and embossing, he also drew or painted work celebrating his family, like his nephews and mother, Lucy.

Joy was also multitalented. Ava mentioned how her mother began writing during the time she was caretaker of her parents, whom she refused to put in a convalescent home, until after quitting her job to take care of them, the task grew to much for her to handle. Her paintings were something her children Ava and Taj and their deceased sibling grew up watching their mother do. When I met Joy, I guess 20 or so years ago, she was a poet, painter, and clothes designer. Did I mention activist and teacher?

She and I taught poetry workshops at Longfellow Elementary school, just up the street from her home. The children wrote poetry, made books and then performed for the school. She loved children, evident in her relationship with her grandchildren and the youth in the neighborhood.
Joy’s advocacy and work to revitalize the more well-known of California’s black towns, Allensworth, which celebrated its 100 anniversary last weekend, October 11-12, 2008, was known. She was one of the reasons why I wanted to make the pilgrimage last week. It was my way of saying thank you. Even though the town was dusty, its large fields barren, except for the replicas of old buildings like the old library, Col. Allensworth’s house, the school, barbershop, town store and pharmacy, plus homes of prominent citizens, many of them friends of the Colonel and other prominent citizens—it’s history is undeniable. And I hadn’t known Allensworth was in the desert and the land was sold to Allensworth and the other founders because they were expected to fail.

The Buffalo Soldiers were present Saturday when we attended the celebration. Mary Rudge recalled her stop at the town another Founder’s Day years ago—it was a special stop on her trip from Southern California back north. The Amtrak conductor told his passengers the detour was for passengers headed to the felicitations. The fact that the train was rerouted was one of many factors that killed a town, as I said; no one ever expected to thrive. When Col. Allensworth bought the land with other founders, it wasn’t expected that the descendents of enslaved Africans would make an oasis in the desert, but they did, despite hostile responses from Tulare county leadership and some residents.

“It was Klan country,” Avoctja said, “yet these black people made a way out of no way and built their town. They weren’t trying to prove anything to white people, they did this for themselves. This same fearlessness is characteristic of Joy Holland and Eddie Abrams who almost singlehandedly stopped Tulare County from issuing permits to dairy farmers who were going to bring cows into the county just across the road from Allensworth.

It is Joy Holland and Eddie Abrams’ commitment to keeping this town and its revival paramount that forms the basis of its going from a barren field to as stated previous, a slowly growing installation which has the potential of complete revitalization. Presently, the town of Allensworth is still uninhabitable; there still isn’t any running water, electricity. One can camp at Allensworth State Park, but why anyone would want to is questionable—

As we drove through the town last Saturday, it looked like the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, the only thing, there was no hurricane, but the unnatural elements, racism and structural violence struck this black town, the same way –neglect and policies of exclusion keep the Lower Ninth and Allensworth from accessing government resources which would enable both to rebuild. Just as in Allensworth, for miles and miles all on sees in the Lower Ninth are empty fields…boarded up homes, weeds, peopled sparsely by people in trailers. If you didn’t know you were in California, you’d think you were in Mississippi or Louisiana.

Our other artist, Keith Hopkins attempted to call me, but I didn’t hear the phone ring, and so those at the reception were unable to hear from him. Keith Hopkins work can be viewed at I also had an interview with Keith some time ago on my radio show: visit (click the links and check October 3. It was a Friday.)
The show is up through the end of the month, October 31, at 920 Peralta Street in Oakland, 9-5 p.m. daily. The community organization is closed on weekends again now that the play, Ebony and Johnny has concluded. Admission is free. For information about Prescott Joseph call (510) 208-5651.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Oakland International Film Festival October 2008

These photos are from opening night, October 9, the feature film, Baayan Bakari's "Equinox," and closing night, October 16, with producer, Lathan Hodge's film, "Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome." Included are photos of Wanda Sabir's students from College of Alameda with David Roach, executive director of OIFF and cast members of Equinox.

There is also a photo of Davey D with Lathan Hodge and the photographer for Terrordome.

Paula West at SF Performances

This evening Paula West gave a wonderful performance as she and George Mesterhazy Quartet played superbly. It was a rare and gratifying evening of music. Even Paula's mistakes were forgiven as she practiced songs on her San Francisco audience the band will be performing in New York next week at a month-long engagement at the Aquanlin Hotel.

With clear diction and phrasing West made the old standards new, her training coupled with ?'s fine ear for arrangement. There were songs I didn't because I'd never heard them from the beginning. I guess some singers jump right into the song, and by-pass the important preludes and other preamble.

Give me a pig foot...I always thought this song began there--nope! And there were others arranged so creatively by Mesterhazy. At times I could barely recognize some songs until West was way into it...a delightful aspect of the evening which meant it was full of surprises.

She introduced most songs from the stage and while I'm good, at times I can't decipher my writing when the lights come up. Friday night, was one such evening.
As West made frequent eye-contract with Mesterhazy, I wondered how she and the quartet met, how she's managing to stay true to her voice and aspirations when this band is flying high. But enough of my cynicism. The ensemble functioned as a unit--tight most of the time--and certainly having fun and this is ultimately what West said in our earlier interview--life is all about!

After the set West met friends in the lobby...who fawned over Dizzy--I believe this is what her dog's name is. The puppy was so cute and friendly, bestowing kisses on everyone. He is going on the road too.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wanda's Picks October 10, 2008

Monday, October 06, 2008

Shams Ensemble: The Rumi Songs and Peace

I have been running all week, Sunday the end of a weekend which included two fieldtrips in three days. As I caught the BART back to San Francisco to attend the concert featuring Shams Ensemble, Iranian music played on the traditional tanbour with Whirling Dervishes and the poetry of Mawlana Jallaluddin Rumi, it was to be the perfect end of the Ramadan season for me, and it was.

Under the direction of Kaykhosro Pournazeri, the first musician to compose music specifically for the traditional Kurdish lute, tanbour, the ensemble which featured a woman singer and a 12 year old child prodigy. Visit

I plan to continue my personal Eid Al Fitr with the film: Allah Made Me Funny, which opened this weekend. One of the comedienne's published a reflection on the death of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed a few weeks ago which gave a little history about the beginning of this show, now made into a movie.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Additional Maafa Events

Do not forget to visit the and visit the blog to see updates and wonderful images from last year's ritual. Leave a comment when you visit.

Art Reception

Reception for "Breath of Our Ancestors" exhibit at Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland, CA, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., (510) 208-5651, Wednesday, October 15, 2008. There will be a reflection on the work of artists: Joy Holland, Casper Banjo and Keith Hopkins by their friends and family members, which will include introductory drumming procession and blessing. The show's curator is Wanda Sabir, with guest curators: TaSin Sabir and TheArthur Wright. We'd like to thank Dr. Burns,director of Prescott Joseph Center and Ayodele Nzinga, Shakespeare in the Yard, for their invaluable assistance. For information call: (641) 715-3900 ext. 36800# and visit and listen to (Tune in Wednesdays: 6-7 AM and Fridays 8-10 AM live or later archived shows)

(Casper and Joy are ancestors; Keith Hopkins is alive.)

How Did It Get This Way? Why Do We Still Live As Slaves?

500 Years Later: The Movie is About Bayview Hunters Point
And Every Community in America that is Dealing with the Psychological Effects of Slavery


Saturday October 11th, 2008 4-8 p.m. at the Bayview Opera House, Third & Oakdale. Sponsored by: Bayview Opera House, Bayview Safe Haven, The Company of Men

Film: Traces of the Trade
October 12, 2008 Film Screening - Traces the Trade: A Story From the Deep North,12:00 pm – 2:00 pm MoAD Salon

Join us for a screening of the feature documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North in honor of the 13th Annual MAAFA* celebration. In Traces of the Trade filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine cousins retrace the Triangle Trade and gain a powerful new perspective on the black/white divide. Q&A to follow screening with Co-producer Katrina Browne.

*MAAFA is a ritual of commemorating and memorializing the 100 million ancestors lost in the horror of the Middle Passage.

There will be projected images from four artists: TaSin Sabir, Opal Palmer Adisa, Keith Hopkins and Nancy Duranteau in the MoAD salon this weekend, October 11-12. There might be a discount for persons who attend the screening if they arrive in the first hour the museum is open. Mention the Maafa Ritual at the door. (Demetrie is our contact person).

Wanda's Picks October 3, 2008

Maafa Awareness Month...Ebony and Johnny, Breath of Our Ancestors: Joy Holland, Casper Banjo, introducing Keith Hopkins

We had a great discussion on my radio show Friday, October 3. It was crazy since I was in Anaheim at a conference. I skipped the closing plenary and last workshop. There was just too much to do beforehand and then I was mentally and emotionally spent...but everything went well. I have learned over the past month and a half on the air, that success is staying loose, having two back up strategies or plans and then being open, at the last moment to another change in plans.

One issue I am still trying to iron out is technical. I need to find a way to record my interview via phone and then upload them to the website. Right now their is a hum which when minimized causes the vocal quality to be distorted. If anyone knows how to minimize this and make a better quality voice recording for radio, let me know. You can post responses here.

What else?

So after the show, I rush around the hotel room packing and then run downstairs to join my colleagues for lunch and then check out. We'd reserved a return airport van so it was outside waiting for us. The driver was really nice. The drive over was perilous with the driver swerving and honking at other drivers. People told me they were afraid. I guess I didn't notice.

I visited with my sister and nephews both evenings and we went out to dinner. The kids had fun jumping on my bed :-)

When I got into town, I had just enough time to run home, drop off my luggage and head over to the theatre for a field trip to see Ebony and Johnny, a remix of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, The Lower Bottom Playaz version at the Theatre in the Yard, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland.

It was superb. The writing was awesome. I could hear where the Bard left off and Sistah Ayodele Nzinga, the amazing wordslanger, took over. Oh my goodness! The poetry, iambic pentameter, with themes recast in urban America, no less the community where the theatre is located: West Oakland, the Lower Bottoms.

Okay so the heads of the two rival families: the Montagues and Capulets, were once friends, but one friend sold his buddy out for greed and he is being bribed by another man (Paris) who wants his power and money. Enter Johnny Montegue who is portrayed as a dreamer, innocent and somewhat shielded from the street or gangsta life of his cousins and even close friends. He doesn't carry a gun or participate in street life jargon. He even challenges his friends when they call women out of their names and each other by stereotypical insults.

Ayodele's Johnny (Romeo) exemplifies the nuanced place adolescents occupy, young adults on the verge of adulthood. He is bewildered and questioning. He is impulsive and irrational--everything is fluid. One can see why his adviser, the Rastaman (Friar), in this play doesn't take his fidelity or passion for Ebony Capulet(Juliet)seriously. Just the day before he'd been in a tizzy over Rosaline.

The setting in this 'hood tale is West Oakland, which is up for grabs. Real estate speculators are snatching property from poorer residents. The haves are distanced from the have-nots, there is violence and despair, but Ebony's coming of age party is an opportunity to mend the philosophical differences between these families who have powerful allegiances. It is at the costume party where Ebony and Johnny meet. He doesn't know who she is initially, but before they sneak off, he does, and despite the danger involved and warnings, he proceeds.

I like Ebony's spunk and her challenge to Johnny to "come correct" if he truly wanted her. The direction is superb and to gage how well opening night went: at 10 p.m. while Ebony lay on her bed without a pulse, the rain started to fall and no one in the audience left. We covered our heads, some people left to get umbrellas, but all of us stayed until the cast was introduced and they took their well-deserved bows. I just wish I could return for another show. It can only get better as the words eventually... become flesh.

The art exhibit: "Breath of Our Ancestors: Joy Holland and Casper Banjo, introducing Keith Hopkins," opened last night also. It is curated by Wanda Sabir with TaSin Sabir and TheArthur Wright, at Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland, through October 31, 9-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call (510) 208-5651.

Reception for "Breath of Our Ancestors" exhibit at Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland, CA, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., (510) 208-5651, Wednesday, October 15, 2008. There will be a reflection on the work of artists: Joy Holland, Casper Banjo and Keith Hopkins by their friends and family members, which will include introductory drumming procession and blessing.

sources: and