Friday, January 30, 2009

Wanda's Picks Radio January 30, 2009

Today we feature Randy Weston, phenomenal musician, composer, historian, humanitarian and scholar; this one hour special is followed by an interview with Soulive producer Carla and Chuck Lounge, with Farenhyte 5150 which has a concert tomorrow, 1/31 at Club Anton in Oakland's Jack London Square, 428 3rd Street, (510) 924-2044 and Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. If you mention Wanda's Picks, you get the $12 price! We close with a conversation with composer, scholar Anthony Brown and playwright, Philip Kan Gotanda, whose work "Yohen," debuted at the Durham Theatre at UCB, 1/29. It was his first bilingual Japanese/English reading of this play and featured excerpts with actors: David Moore and Ayako Nagamine. Featured music during this segment is from Anthony Brown's Asian American Orchestra's TEN, an album celebrating the band's 10th Anniversary last year. Visit

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wanda's Picks Radio January 23, 2009

This morning we will have a tribute to William B. Lawsha, "Prince Lasha," born September 10, 1929 to December 12, 2008. Prince Lasha was born in 1929 in Fort Worth, Texas and went to school with Ornette Coleman. In1947, the two of them started playing saxophone in a school band (which also produced great musicians like Charles Moffett and King Curtis). They worked with Harold Land and Red Connors before going their separate ways. He lived in New York, Oakland, Germany, Italy, and France where he had the honor, he says, of playing with many great musicians such as Sonny Simmons who worked with Prince for six years; Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins recorded together—in fact he wrote "Music Matador that Eric Dolphy made famous. Wanda's Picks concludes with an excerpt of Matador (from …A True Story).

When he made his transition last month, Prince was working on releasing a new CD on his label Birdseye Records, called "Baritone Madness." I hope we'll see this CD in the near future. It features Woody Shaw, Ron Carter, Odean Pope and Eddie Gale. Prince Lasha Jr. said there's another release coming out in a few weeks and he'll tell us about it this morning. Perhaps I can get the producer, Prince Jr., to come on the air to talk about the project.

We will be joined this special 1 1/2 hour tribute by Prince's friends and family, including Odean Pope, Eddie Gale, Sonny Simmons, Chuck Fishman, Oluyemi Thomas, Destiny Muhammad, Leon Williams, Anthony Foster, and sons: Anthony, William and Prince. Wanda's Picks concludes with an interview with Kelly Whalen, co-director of Tulia, TX, a film about a small town's search for justice in the midst of blatant police misconduct in an attempt to rid the town of drug trafficking. The ITVS film is premiering at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street, near Civic Center BART. Visit : and

Lanier Pruitt, our beloved friend and colleague died suddenly. His funeral is today, Friday, Jan. 23, 12 Noon, at Cooper Mortuary, 1580 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland, CA.

I plan to play more Prince Lasha music on each show this month, so listen in for the continuation of our musical tribute of this great man's legacy. As long as we speak their names, play their music, walk in their footsteps, continue their work…those who die are not gone, they live on. Ashay!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Hussain Obama Comes to Washington Take 1

“Mend our brokenness…God of our tears and weary years”
Barack Hussain Obama First Black President

I'm in the F-Building, Student Lounge at the College of Alameda now. And though I would have liked to be in Washington D.C this morning, there is no other place I'd rather be than here with colleagues and student friends. I arrived a little early, so I got a front row seat and ended up the official party photographer as I took one picture after another of faculty and staff standing next to the life-size poster figure of the new president of the United States.

We all rose to our feet when Obama approached the stand to take the oath of office. We smiled when he stumbled as he repeated the oath--all of us probably just as nervous as he. Obama's wife and daughters were by his side as he stood and took on this responsibility. We were there too as his short speech honored the legacy of those who preceded him.

As we stood in solidarity here in Alameda, the smallest campus in the Peralta Community College District, American flags decorated the student lounge, festive red, white and blue balloon bouquets hung near the podium where college president, Mr. Herring and Vice President of Instruction, Janette Jackson, Robert Brem, and others spoke this morning about the historic moment we were witnessing.

Community members asked questions and the political science faculty used this as an opportunity to not just answer questions but to also share their own personal journeys, many paralleling that of Obama.

These teachable moments echoed throughout the day into the early afternoon, as we watched Obama's speech a few more times after the broadcast ended at the Presidential Luncheon, George W. Bush on his last flight courtesy of the American people.

I wasn’t as attentive to the speech the first time I heard it, as I was the second and third time--yet I did feel the emotions rise in the room as those gathered at the inaugural event here connected with the audience in DC who were trying to stay warm, also expressed their joy, a joy palatable across the miles and via satellite or cyber-TV.

It is amazing how truth translates across the most disparate mediums. All is certainly one.

Here at COA there was standing room only and though there were simulcasts in the Library and in the Cafeteria, people chose to stand and remain physically close to each other rather than leave.

This event is a defining moment for our nation, and it is also a defining moment for the COA college community; it goes without saying that this is a defining moment for every American citizen and every African American citizen.

Barack Obama changes the look of America. No longer is the white man at the pinnacle of power. A black man holds the reigns.

When Obama mentioned founding fathers, I had to laugh at the mention of men, who didn’t claim Africans as citizens or equals in a nation whose creed declared life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. But he is a politician and some aspects of his speech were prepackaged and expected like the closing lines: God Bless America.

I don’t think it is any less sincere that he remembers the Founding White Fathers of this nation who have now stepped aside so that those whose ancestors built this nation, literally the White House and most if not all the monuments in the Nation’s Capital, have their turn and as the Delancey sisters would put it, "have their say."

This is a historic turning point…the 44th presidency is in the hands of a black man, a man with roots in both America and Africa, Indonesia and Hawaii, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

This inauguration falls this year the day after Martin King Day, the first black man to have a National Holiday—it is the year King would have been 80 years old. This year the national holiday is also birthday of Muhammad Ali, another man who stood on his convictions and suffered because of it—.

Another significant date is that of Obama's acceptance speech last year at the Democratize National Convention, August 28, 2008, the same date Martin King delivered his historic speech on the National Mall—I Have A Dream in 1963.

I was looking forward to hearing poet Elizabeth Alexander. I really admire her work, especially her poem for the South African woman, Sara Baartman, also know as the Venus Hottentot. Baartman's remains were finally laid to rest a few years ago, after being the property of the British Museum--her pickled genitalia. Her poem was an inspiration for Suzan Lori-Parks' play, "Venus." Visit

Alexander's “Praise Song for the Day” was a liturgy for those who came before and those who stood before her in that moment and those like us many miles away in American cities and elsewhere. Her words echoed those of President Obama who also called on his ancestors and those ghosts walking the halls both European and African. I wonder if white Americans think about the end of their visible access to power now that a black man is in the driver’s seat. I wonder how they feel. I wonder if the policeman who shot and killed Oscar Grant III and the other police who killed Adolph Grimes III in New Orleans, both in the early hours of New Year’s Day.

The queen of soul, Aretha Franklin's selection and that of Itzhak Perlman (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet) were other high points for me.

The COA program continued with a discussion of the BPP and a film clip on Merritt College, home of the party. Professor Sherrone Smith shared her reflections on the BPP and what she knew of the organization. She connected the formation of the Party to the migration of AA to the SF Bay, West Oakland to Harbor Homes where many of these black people, a part of the Great Migration for the War Industry. Most African American are descendants of Louisiana and Mississippi and Arkansas. She is first generation Californian, born in Berkeley. She lived on 53rd Street, right by Grove Street, now Martin Luther King Jr. Way. These families sent for their families to join them.

She then shared thoughts on Barack Obama, a bi-racial man. He identified as a black man, not bi-racial. Offspring of two races have an identity crisis; she used Mariah Cary and Halle Berry as examples of this struggle. When he messes up he’ll be black and when he does well, he’ll be bi-racial.

She’s been at Alameda since 1980. She never thought she’d see this and told her students she wouldn’t see this either. Today’s young people represent a new way of thinking and a new way of life. Her children tell her, things have changed. “They look at people in terms of who will get the job done.”

One drop of black blood made you black…pre-DNA; this was the rule of the South. Those who didn’t go to war, worked in the canneries and other industries. She said.

I loved Rev. Joseph E. Lowery benediction which combined humor and a nod to the historic precedence. He gave a nod to James Weldon Johnson and the black national anthem with a few salient quotes from the black national anthem. He said, with Obama perhaps the cliché “if you’re black get back” is now a thing of the past, and brown can stick around....

I remember when I first learned that the Walden poem was considered as our national anthem, and disregarded because he was a black man. Amazing fact…. The stone the builders have rejected has become the corner stone. Goes to show you, one has to treat everyone with decency and kindness because you never know, really, you just don’t.

I am just so happy! I am going to be flying for the next four years and then for four more. I too am America, now for real. I’m sure Langston Hughes, and Jimmy Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and others are smiling on us. If image is everything in a campaign or a movement, then Obama’s image can do a lot for urban youth who feel disenfranchised, ignored and full of despair. It is time to get engaged and stay involved. The work has just begun, it’s just now we have a leader who is working with us not against us.

Obama stated: “We need to reaffirm the greatness of our nation and choose, hope over fear, unity of purpose over false promises—the time has come to set aside childish ways….”

I am happy. I am so happy. Today is the halfway mark for my 50th year and I will remember my 50th year’s half way mark almost as much as I remember fondly the June day when my sun returned in Gemini and I was reborn once again thankful to Helen Isaac and Fred Batin for having me.

I am going to surround myself with people who are serious and positive. Anyone who is not serious and positive will not get the time of day from me, I don’t care how attractive. I don’t have time to spend on adults who possess the faculties to continue their evolution, yet refuse. My association with such spirits undoes my progress

Life Every Voice And Sing Lyrics
Written by- James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing,
till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the
dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
bitter the chastening rod,
felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
yet with a steady beat,
have not our weary feet
come to the place
for which our fathers died?

We have come over a way that with tears have been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
out from the gloomy past,
till now we stand at last
where the white gleam
of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
thou who hast by thy might led us into the light,
keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee;
lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee,
shadowed beneath thy hand,
may we forever stand,
true to our God,
true to our native land.

MLK Jr. Day

I left home headed for San Francisco for the Bringing the Noise for Martin Luther King Jr. at the Herbst Theatre. While there I found out about an exhibit closing Friday, January 23. The exhibit is an interactive poetry exhibit by Writer's Corps. There are stations where one can listen to poets talk about their work, and recite poetry. There are sofas and other places to relax and listen to multiple poets at the same time. There are drawings of the poets on the walls, copies of their poetry in bins, and copies of poetry books published by Writer's Corps and other books and resources. As I walked along Grove back to my car, I heard poetry being recited. I looked in the window and there were videos of poets, the same poets in the exhibit at the Herbst Theatre.

After I left the Herbst, I went over to Yoshi's for the San Francisco All-Star Big Band 34th Anniversary concert. I sat with John Handy and his wofe Dell. John was one of the living legends who'd played with David Hardiman's Big Band 34 years ago.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Linda Tillery, Clifford Brown Jr., Melanie Demore and others...In the Name of Love

Destiny Arts...In the Name of Love

More from In the Name of Love: Ms. Faye Carol

In the Name of Love

Once again In the Name of Love: 7th Annual Musical Tribute to Martin King was lovely. It made my heart sing...beginning with the children, to Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra's excerpt of the composer's latest work, a Tribute to Martin King featuring his orchestra and the lovely choral ensemble with Nicholas Beard, Ms. Faye Carol, Kenny Washington, and , to the sermons of Dr. King on video, the emcee, Clifford Brown Jr.'s commentary and the Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Awardee, Kevin Grant, head of the Mayor's Violence Prevention and Street Outreach, to the closing celebration with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir.

If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life, Grant said when accepting his award. Other quotable moments were Clifford Brown Jr.'s comments on what King said about hope. He said, "Without hope we die. Hope is as essential to us as air, food and water. Barack Obama's election is one of King's hopes realized, but the work is not over. The goal is to rid our world of injustice and to promote and secure equality for everyone."

Faye Carol said it best in her rendition of Precious Lord, Martin King's last request at the service before his death April 4, 1968.

I saw a lot of friends in the audience: James Knox, Latisha and her husband and daughter, a former colleague, from my AIDS Volunteer Clearinghouse days, Debra Israel who was at AIDS Project of the East Bay. I saw Diane Ferlatte in the balcony with her husband, and I was sitting next to my good friend, Abdi Rashidi's mother, Aishah Rashidi, and didn't know it as I hugged her after the program closed with We Shall Overcome, all of us swaying and holding hands.

She said I looked like I was Kenyan, and when I gave her my card she noticed the Muslim name and introduced herself to me and said I might know her son. Of course I do. I know both her sons, and grandson. Later on, I saw Sharon Henderson's mother, Ms. Ruby dressed to the nines as she always is. Last year she had on this gorgeous red affair, last night she had on a sky or powder blue number with matching hat.

I took photos of Clifford Brown Jr., Melanie Demore, and Linda Tillery. Her play-son, drummer with Interfaith, and a new father, shared his picture of his son on his phone. I met him last year and since have seen him perform with his wife Miko. She was very pregnant when I saw her last.

Linda shared a bit of history with us about Pete Seeger, whom Marcus said wrote "We Shall Overcome." Actually, he had the song copywritten, but it was composed by Charles Albert Tinsley from an original hymn, "I'll Overcome Someday."

Seeger had it copywritten to protect it and gave the royalties to either the NAACP or a MLK Jr. fund. I couldn't fathom the reasons why black musicians didn't copyright their work and Linda told me it was very expensive even today to get a good attorney, also the agents and producers tricked people out of their rights to their work. "I'll make you a record and get you a gig if you give up your publishing rights to me."

Linda used Bessie Smith as an example of an artist who never saw any of her royalties while she was alive. Her son, Jack G. Jr. took Columbia Music Company to court to get his mother's royalties.

I asked about this as Blue Note makes 70 years. I wonder about the previous 30 years and what happened to that music and who profited from it's sale and distribution. "People are still getting cheated today," Linda said, and referenced the different mediums one's music, for example, can be distributed: digital, compact disk, electronic files or downloads, live feed or streaming, etc.

As I said, the event was lovely and we got these cute bound tablets to reflect on how we are becoming or acting as a change agent in our communities.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"No, Not My Son" closes

I attended a play last night at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, “No, Not My Son,” written by Rodney James, and directed by Achebe Hoskins and Ronnie Prosser. The play is set in the '60s-'70s at the time when black men returning from combat duty in the Vietnam War were returning addicted to heroin. The story opens with an overture sung by Watt (Rodney James), followed by narrator, Otis “The Barber,” who offers a running commentary throughout the play.

"Not My Son" starts at the end, a warrior returns from duty overseas, the second tour of duty for this family—the father served during WW2, the son, Preston Thomas, Vietnam. Hattie Mae Thomas, mother, is in denial about her son’s addiction even after she notices her heart medication money missing. Preston’s sister Pearl Thomas (actress Valerie Evans), is more skeptical and tries to get her brother to let the family help, but he doesn't believe he has a problem...taking drugs allows him to escape the combat memories that haunt him.

The ending is not a surprise, nor are the events that lead to the protagonist's untimely and the play's sad conclusion. "Not My Son,” shows how the trauma connected to war lasts long after the battle weary return home, the new front line the urban communities they left behind, the new causalities the children these men father, the mothers and sisters whose hearts they break.

Hattie Mae Thomas (actress Aiyesha Earls) knows her son is on drugs, but she can’t face him with this truth because she is so happy he is home once again. She says she could barely stand it when her son, her only son was drafted. I think, as her only son, he would be exempt. The military didn’t draft only sons’ post-WW2, so Preston would have had to volunteer.

Okay, so let’s say he volunteered like so many kids are volunteering today for the war in Iraq. Like Preston (actor John Casselberry), these youth don’t have many options: either die on the streets in the neighborhood or the streets in Iraq, or for Preston, the killing fields in Vietnam.

The trauma connected to urban warfare or its military equivalent is explored in “No! Not My Son!” Otis puts it well when he speaks of the photos on his shop wall of kids’ first cuts and then later seeing these same kids’ photos on obituaries.

The play raises important questions, such as, how can a family help a family member who won't self-disclose? Hattie Mae isn't the only mother with a son on drugs in this play. Skeeter's mom prays for him and eventually her prayers are answered. Are these mothers too patient? Should they do like the parents did for their son who was using in Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" put him out, and not let him back in, as his father suggests, because when his mother let's him in for a meal, he steals from his parents again?

What is the answer?

What does one do when the only way one's child can face each day is through a narcotic haze, the reality of his deeds for the sake of national security too horrific to face sober? Addicts, like Preston, live for the next high. Any soul searching or guilt is drowned in the bliss associated with the hit.

Although I heard scattered laughter in the audience, the themes explored are not funny and the drunken sage, actor, Rodney James' "Watt’s" comments are not as funny as they are true. What is the difference between a drunk and an addict, except legality? Even the comic relief addict Skeeter (actor Rafael Wishon) provides is a pitiful extremist view of the lengths an addict will go to score.

The Bay Area Performing Arts Collective has two shows scheduled for next month, February 7 and 28. February 7 is a new play by Achebe Hoskins and February 28 is a re-staging of the very successful, “A Raisin in the Sun.” Visit

March for Justice for Oscar Grant II

I'd just arrived home from New Orleans last week January 7, and was too sleepy to attend the first mass action, but a week later, January 14, the first day of classes on Peralta campuses where I work, I decided to attend, to show my support for the Grant family and other families who have lost sons and brothers, sisters and daughters to police violence.

The BART policeman was arrested in Nevada, January 13, so the mood Wednesday afternoon wasn't as tense, but justice was still not guaranteed even though a win in Oakland for the people could mean a win for the people in New Orleans where Adolph Grimes III was also gunned downed by multiple police New Year's Day.

The police were doing their usual overkill: swat teams with masks on corners bordering 14th Street and Madison, Franklin, Oak, and other intersections. Either their cars blocked traffic or cops on bikes and those standing blocked the side streets between 14th Street and 13th street. Cars were diverted as helicopters circled above. One policeman didn't want to let me walk up to the rally from Alice and 13th Street where I'd parked. He kept telling me the rally was over and that the march was coming down 14th. After he saw I still planned to go to the rally, he asked me if I lived in the neighborhood.

I was like...what is your problem. That sistah nonverbal crazy look. The guy moved and let me pass.

As I walked up 14th Street, I saw lots of folks I knew. They were directing people traffic and telling the grown folks--of which I am one now that I am 50, to grab a kid and take him home after the rally and march were over. I saw former students who remembered me from Laney College, kids who told me they were on track. I was happy to hear it. I hope they weren't around later on when kids started breaking windows on businesses along Broadway near 14th Street. I no longer found them when I looked around at dusk.

Baba Greg Hodge was telling people how the march was to proceed by the time I made it. My attention was taken, however, by Mayor Dellums who was in a deep conversation on the steps of City Hall, with the parent of one of the BART victims New Year's Day, Michael Greer. He witnessed his friend, Oscar Grant III killed, as he was also detained, arrested taken to jail and later released.

Dellums said he was hopeful, and with the arrest of the BART policeman, justice would be served. He said he'd been around so long he'd seen the scenario we were facing many times, and in this moment of heartache injustice too passed. He recalled out loud the celebration just a few months ago on these same streets, in front of City Hall, maybe patrolled by many of the same police, on the occasion of Obama's victory. He said now was not the time to lose hope, that just as King hoped one day for an America where character and skills, not skin color would determine one's ability to rise to whatever station one desired, we needed to trust the system to work in the case of Oscar Grant III.

Now what I wrote is not what he said, not exactly, but it sounds good doesn't it? I even believe this interpretation might have been his intention. I’m not absolutely certain, and perhaps the video of the interview will get posted on Youtube. There were tape recorders and a camera in his face. I truly love Dellums for his public service, but I think he is tired now and completely ineffective. I'll probably never say this to his face unless asked and why would anyone ask me such a question, especially him? This is one of the reasons why I have tried to stay out of his face, just in case.

I was so stunned as he spoke, when I found myself recalling his exact statements years ago: when he spoke about the Civil Rights Movement and his social justice work at a Vanguard Public Foundation event honoring an Indian South African Activist, then later at the annual Martin King Musical Tribute, the seventh annual January 18. I heard these same words again and again at his campaign talks once he decided to run for mayor.

These sentiments were echoed at Chauncey Bailey’s funeral too, this is when the mayor decided to look to law enforcement as a model for healing the community in 2007, police--highway patrol officers enlisted to assist in solving the war on Oakland streets. Today, we are still at war, our youth the casualties of this war.

As I listened to Mayor Dellumns, I was like wow. I don't see the man for almost a year and the first time I hear him speak, it's a rerun. But I think he's sincere, even if ineffective. He is also a handsome black man. Well he is (smile).

I saw Tarika Lewis and Geoffrey Pete and Angela and Fania Davis, and Mark Cary and Joyce Gordon whose gallery has a lovely exhibit featuring the work of Ben Hazard. I ran by Marvin X and Arthur Monroe as I headed out for the courthouse--the march had left me. Donte gave me a hand up so I could stand on a wall and take pictures of the crowd at the court house. I saw a woman who borrowed a book from me last year and got her number so I can get it back.

When I returned to 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza with the marchers, dancing to the music of the brass band with my friend Arnold and just before that Tiyesha. I saw lots of people Wednesday afternoon, many I knew and when the march got back to City Hall and a new group assembled on Broadway between 16th street and 13th, I was like okay Arthur, you can walk me to my car.

It was clear the youth weren't ready for the rally to end. They had a lot of energy left and no where positive to vent it. Organizers should have anticipated this and arranged for a poetry event, a debriefing discussion to plan next-steps, a basket ball game, pool, billiards, foods, music and then rides home.

These kids are the ones affected and the strategies employed didn’t include their voices, although I'm sure this wasn't the intent. Volunteers in orange vests held hands to contain the crowd, to keep people safe from police, but when I looked down Broadway, I didn’t see many volunteers once the main stage was empty.

Even if I don't condone the actions or agree with them I understand why the kids were running after the march ended and why they milled around after the "official" assembly was over.

I can imagine the rush the kids felt as the objects tossed at the large panes of glass shattered along the commercial strip. The kids weren’t concerned with consequences, just release from the anger, frustration, and fear that defines their daily lives. It didn’t matter—get shot today or tomorrow, life is that uncertain for Oakland youth.

The statistics have increased for murder of young black men, and for those who are still alive they probably figure those days are numbered if they are between the ages of 16-25.

Tracie Cooper’s son, Michael Greer, is a victim also, his life scarred by the absence of his friend Oscar Grant III. When one thinks about post traumatize stress, the impact of violence on black youth, black men, and the black community, one sees that the same type of concern or public outcry or concern is not evident when a black youth is killed.

It is as if these victims are somehow innately prepared for the environmental and psychological impact of these unexpected and tragic intrusions on their lives. The black victims are left to cope alone and fail.

Listen to New and Notes: "Helping Crime Victims Heal, Cope, And Find Justice," aired 1/16/2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ajuana Black at Soft Notes Take 2

Soft Notes, the Official Review of Ajuana Black and her Blackout Band

I found the club’s atmosphere pleasant the evening I arrived at about 10:00 p.m. after a show in San Francisco. I was there to hear Ajuana Black and her band. The first set was almost over and when I arrived and greeted by the hostess. She answered my questions about parking and what to expect that evening, and I was not disappointed as I ate greens and red beans and rice, sipping a club soda. I was kind of lonely, but Ajuana gave me a hug when she danced her way to the back of the venue and greeted her fans.

The patrons spoke to me, and during the second set I was even invited to dance and this made my evening when I looked up and it was 12:30 and time to leave. The second set was my favorite because Ajuana sang a few tunes—maybe more from her outstanding CD: "Ajuana Black: A Soulful Journey." I was like a kid at a rock concert—Ajuana, the star as I sang along to the tunes I knew so well like “Keep Walking,” “Day by Day,” "Finally," which became a meditation for me, and “Real Love.”

Ajuana Black and her band, Blackout, were outstanding performers and both her original tunes from her latest CD and the stroll down memory lane, a stroll which had me singing along was delightful.

I don't know what it’s like at Soft Notes when Ajuana's not there, but for a place situated on an otherwise quiet downtown Oakland street--I mean really quiet, this is a nice venue to remember when the night is young and one isn't ready to retire. There were two big screen TVs over the bar and no one pressured me to buy anything, unlike clubs I've visited where waiters hover like vultures and then tell me repeatedly about their 2-drink minimum. I wanted to spend money there because my patronage means perhaps they will be around that much longer.

Again, I'd certainly recommend the spot, especially when Ajuana Black is there on a Friday night. Get on her mailing list:

Ajuana Black at Soft Notes Take 1

Ajuana Black at Soft Notes on 19th between Franklin and Webster Friday nights

I went to see a play Friday evening, Mud over at Cuttingball at the Exit Theatre on Taylor. Intriguing as only a Cuttingball production could be, I was surprised when at just a bit past 9 p.m., it was over. I guess that happens when there is no intermission, but the night was still early and careless in San Francisco, I wanted more, so I jumped on BART at Powell and went back to Oakland.

The plan was to go see Ajuana Black at Soft Notes, a bar, restaurant, club in downtown Oakland. I'd taken my notes, so I knew its location and drove from West Oakland to the downtown venue, found plenty of parking, noted the 12-2 AM curfew, locked my doors and walked to the corn of Franklin and Broadway looking for 333 19th Street just at Webster.

Soft Notes is an adult venue, which was nice. The basketball game was on and everyone spoke when I arrived and sat down across from the bar. Ajuana had on a shimmy dress, red and a matching wig— no it wasn’t red, just appropriate for the look…pageboy I think you call the style.

The set described as Harlem Cabaret.

The singer/songwriter danced from the stage all the way back to where I was sitting, kind of near the door. I could feel the breeze each time it opened and people came or left.

Soft Notes is long, not wide, so that was a lot of traveling from farthest point to farthest point. Most present were there because they wanted to hear Black sing and the food wasn’t bad either, especially those who love Cajun or Creole style cooking. I appreciated the absence of pork in the greens and red beans. And I was really digging Ajuana and her off the hook band, but when the second set started and the singer reappeared in jeans and a tunic, natural hair…I knew it was on as the bassist stood up, the back up vocalist stepped forward and the entire tone shifted the singer trekked down a collective memory lane--yes, it was a sing along, only we didn't have mics. Ajuana Black selected a medley of old school goodies, before launching into a set featuring Black originals.

I love her CD,"A Soulful Journey," and the opportunity to hear her sing some of my favorite songs live, was an unbelievable treat. She rocked! As did her band and singers.

I didn't know there was dancing, even though an empty dance floor was a clue that such were possible, I just hadn’t seen the dancing part of Black Fridays at Soft Notes advertised, but I am remedying that. After one invitation to dance, I was up for the rest of the evening. I even lost my glasses as I moved closer to the beat. The second set was the better set for me.

I’d wanted to dance tonight and dance I did. My dance partner and I cha cha-ed and salsa-ed and freestyled the evening away as the artist's insightful meditations --read lyrics, washed over all present. There were a lot of January birthdays in the house too, including a new friend’s kid brother.

You know how you know you're where you're supposed to be when you see someone you know and their presence is an affirmation, well that is how it was when I saw Mama Jumoke Hodge, Oakland Public School Board Member. Here she is pictured with yours truly and the kind hostess I mention in my review...take 2 (smile).