Friday, February 13, 2009

HBO's Black List Vol. 2 Screening, and Tribute to Ave Montegue

Tuesday, February 10, at Ft. Mason's Cowell Theatre, HBO previewed its Black List Vol. 2, which was a continuation of a now two-part series which profiles successful African Americans from a variety of backgrounds and fields. What continues to set this series apart, and what makes it a unique and special journey, one doesn't tired from, is the quality of the storytelling. Each of the persons interviewed has an interesting perspective on black life, which complements and expands on other perspectives, even though each interview happens in isolation of the others.

The producers', Elvis Mitchell, interviewer, and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, photographer/cinematographer, are committed to covering a range of black experience in these interviews which include: activists, educators, artists, actors, clergy and politicians. The roster, while not overwhelming, is impressive and what they cover in just 60 minutes is testament to the untapped greatness we overlook daily. The men and women profiled see themselves as a product of a community, and not exceptional. What they have done with their lives is something they see others capable of doing also.

Those interviews I enjoyed the most were with filmmaker pioneer, Melvin Van Peebles, whom I'd seen in Isaac Julien's installation, Baltimore, at the New Orleans Museum of Art, Propect One New Orleans, last month. See Van Peebles spoke of the power of positive thinking--he didn't know that he couldn't make films or that certain ideas weren't practical or possible, so he made his films the way he wanted to, the first one, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), a genre setting model for independent film.

He spoke matter or factly of homelessness, of literally doing without to make art. One night while sleeping on a park bench, he said a commotion woke him, and this domestic altercation is a scene in his film.

Lawrence Fishburne, post-Boyz in the Hood, didn't understand what this film meant to a generation of boys in South Central LA, New York, America--until his friend told him after a kid gushed over an opportunity to speak to him one day. Fishburne learned that the role extended past the screen into the streets, that he is father to a generation of youth, who have adopted him.

I remember Angela Davis stating at a Sister of Fire event--an event Women of Color Resource Center put on each year to honor other women who are shaking things up and knocking down edifices, that she didn't understand why people were so awed by her...until she learned that she represented a period of hopefulness and change for a generation, so when they saw her, they saw a realization of possilities.

During the Q&A one sister, who had been waiting almost a lifetime to tell her this, stated that Davis was her hero because of what she stood for and what she did.

I enjoyed Elvis Mitchell's conversation with Anglican Bishop Barbara Harris too, and found Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's comments about how moved he was when then President-elect Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination moving as well. He spoke of how choked up he got when Obama gave his acceptance speech at the Deomcratic National Convention--and he wasn't the only man crying that day.

This kind of revelation is what makes, The Black List Vol. 2 and Vol. 1, a moment to treasure and revisit when the world just doesn't get it and your need an affirmation to attest to your innate greatness.

I hadn't known the history of Meharry Medical College ( either. I'd heard of Meharry, but didn't know it was a training ground for black doctors, and loved Valerie Montgomery-Rice, academic and physician's comments on why she chose medicine over engineering--"I was just too cute." She was wonderful! All the men and women profiled in the Black List are equally powerful. And if they are, so are we. Their stories, like the ones of other unsung heroes like those honored at KQED in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 11, give one hope and are one of many reasons why we should be celebrating our black lives, instead of wallowing in despair.

Those honored in San Francisco at the KQED event, were Charlotte Bremond, Bay Area Regional School Scrabble Championship; Coyness L Ennix, Jr., M.D., Center for Cardiac Surgery in Oakland; Walter J. Hood, Jr., Hood Design, Oakland/San Francisco, CA; and Mike Robinson, a.k.a. Big Mike, founded UndaGround Music Xtreme (UGMX)in Oakland/San Jose. Visit

Sometimes the horror is all we see, when the horror, though real, is not all there is. If it was, then I'm sure we would not be here today in all our African American, African Diaspora glory.

As we listened to these engaging conversation at the theatre last week, one could hear the audience laugh, and later on in comments many people remarked on the ease with which the creative team: Elvis Mitchell, interviewer, and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, filmmaker, were able to capture the conversations. Many commented on how well-prepared Elvis was and how even for those segments which were little more than talking heads, Timothy's lighting and framing added to the aesthetic quality of the work.

Getting back to the film, I have to say that Tyler Perry's story was another one I liked. His late arrival on the stage and screen, is testament to the adage, "it's never too late." RZA's discussion of how Wu Tang started, the black fraternity on a hip hop vibe which swept the country and the world, was another case of "keeping it real." He said he speaks publicly to youngsters and at one school a child told him that he wasn't being true to the image, because he didn't live in the ghetto. RZA told the child, "No one chooses to live in a place where you could be easily killed by a stray bullet. He said, he and his son love their 50 acres. People live in the ghetto because they can't afford to live anywhere else, I guess was the message. But perhaps if people with vision and creative and positive resources lived in the ghetto because this is the place which needs the most transformation, then perhaps the ghettos would disappear?

I was so happy to have seen Wu Tang late last year, post-Old Dirty Bastard (ODB) and without Method Man. It as still good(smile). Charlie Pride,country western singer, was great, especially coming on the heels of my first time seeing Oakland's own country western singer, "Miko Marks," at the Oaktown Jazz Workshop Fundraiser last month. Miko is from Detroit.

I also liked hearing from Patrick Robinson about fashion design, something one doesn't hear about often--who are the mavericks and what does it take to make it in this field? Bishop T.D. Jakes was so humble, yet I admire his ability to tap into multiple genres: romance novels and film to show how religion is relevant and fun and can shape popular culture.

Kara Walker and Suzanne de Passe were two others interviewed. Kara's segment was highlighted with her artwork and photos of her as a child. When she spoke of the perception that black artists were innately angry, "no matter how many smiling pictures they paint," I was reminded of my daughter TaSin and her label in art school.

de Passe's behind the scenes tales of Motown and Berry Gordy were better than the most popular sitcom. She had stories of the Jackson 5 and The Wiz, which she wrote and got an Academy Award nomination for co-writing the screenplay "Lady Sings the Blues." de Passe garnered two Emmy Awards (the first black person to win this award). She also received the NAACP Image Awards as Executive Producer of "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, and Forever," and “Motown Returns to the Apollo." I loved hearing about her creative genius and how she got along with the boss. Her story was also illustrated with pictures.

I guess you can tell, those were the segments which worked best aesthetically, also, the narratives for some persons, needed editing as they jumped--the cuts not clean. I am looking forward to seeing the televised version which might be better edited.

The show premieres Feb. 22, on HBO and then rebroadcasts often. Visit There is another film, Witness from the Balcony, which airs Feb. 18, 8 p.m.

On April 4, 1968, a day after delivering his stirring "Mountaintop" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated while standing on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. With King on the balcony that tragic day was his good friend and fellow civil-rights activist Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles. His vivid memories serve to recount the events that led up to King Jr.'s assassination in this deeply felt documentary. Also included are firsthand accounts from fellow civil-rights leaders Dr. Benjamin Hooks and Mrs. Maxine Smith, as well as former sanitation worker Taylor Rogers. (NA) ()

The Black List Part 1 is available on-line for $9 at (or in the store), and features: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Lou Gossett, Jr., Bill T. Jones, Vernon Jordan, Toni Morrison, Richard Parsons, Chris Rock, Al Sharpton, Slash, Faye Wattleton, Keenen Ivory Wayans and Serena Williams. It is longer too, 90+minutes. You can watch outtakes here:

Speaking of Target, this weekend is a Target Family Matinees: All Seats $18, at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's "Waitin' 2 End Hell" (A Man's answer to the dilemma posed in Terri McMillan's "Waiting to Exhale.") Sundays, Feb. 15, Feb. 22 and March 1, there will be free hot lunch catered by Ms. D's Fabulous Kitchen, with dessert and an opportunity for the audience to meet and greet the director and cast. Waitin' 2 End Hell is at PG&E Auditorium, 77 Beale Street (near the Embarcadero BART Station), San Francisco. Visit

Ave Montegue, founder of the San Francisco Black Film Festival and a sponsor of this event with HBO, was also saluted Tuesday evening. She died a few weeks ago and people have been asking about arrangements. We learned Tuesday that her memorial is Saturday, Feb. 21, at the West Bay Center on Fillmore at 12 noon.

Other Films
Other great black history programming is on the Documentary Channel this month. Additional content is located at and its primary Web site located at

Telecast on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT, DOC began its tribute by presenting the 1968 Oscar® nominated “A Time For Burning” on Feb. 4, a wonderful discourse on civil rights issues, a conversation between black youth and white. This program was followed by “No Short Climb: Race Workers & America's Defense Technology” on Feb. 11. Next week the film, “Have You Seen Drum Recently” is shown on Feb. 18, and “New York Noir: The History of Black New York” on Feb. 25.

The rare screening of “A Time For Burning” marked only the second time in more than 40 years the film has been presented to a television audience since first appearing on public television. “A Time for Burning” was directed and produced by New Jersey-based filmmaker William C. Jersey and nominated for an Academy Award® for the Best Documentary Feature in 1968. Shot with no script or narration, the film commissioned by the Lutheran Church chronicles the attempts of an Omaha, Nebraska minister to persuade his all-Caucasian congregation at the Augustana Lutheran Church to reach out to African-American Lutherans in the city’s north side of town. In 2005, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

In addition to the film, DOC’s telecast and online presentation of “A Time For Burning” will feature an all-new original “DOC Talk” special, including the
network’s own exclusive interviews with filmmaker Jersey and a key figure in the controversial film, former barber Ernie Chambers, who later became the longest standing state senator in Nebraska political history.

Pacific Film Archive African Cinema
Don't forget the African Film Festival continues through next week, and it is followed by the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Visit

The Indie Film Festival continues through this week Feb. 22. Visit The Asian American Film Festival starts March 12. Visit

On Feb. 11, “No Short Climb: Race Workers & America's Defense Technology” brings to the forefront the contributions of African-American scientists and technicians who helped shape America’s defense efforts in World War II. Just after the America’s Great Depression, young college educated African-Americans found themselves unemployed and unemployable because of racial barriers. As the U.S. geared up for war in Europe, efforts were made to aggressively recruit and place African-Americans in the military and in civilian service corps. Despite efforts that hindered acceptance, promotion, and recognition of their accomplishments, African-Americans made major contributions to the technological success of “state-of-the-art” defense weaponry during the WWII era. Combining personal memoir with archival footage, still photography, and graphics, filmmaker Robert Johnson, Jr. presents a first-hand account of this previously unknown story.

DOC’s celebration of Black History Month continues Feb. 18 with “Have You Seen Drum Recently,” directed by Jurgen Schadeberg and executive produced by James R.A. Bailey, which is regarded as one of the most important films to emerge from apartheid South Africa. Filmed by the father of South African photography and former photographer and artistic director of Drum Magazine, this is the story of a black magazine in a white world. The 1998 film explores the golden era of the South African magazine during the 1950s and its contribution to the cultural and political life of the country, before the system of apartheid had been fully implemented.

On Feb. 25, “New York Noir: The History of Black New York” examines the history of New York's African-Americans, who have had a profound impact on the history of New York City, from the early 1600s through to today. Produced by MyMar Entertainment, rare historical footage is featured in the film that includes segments on civil rights, politics, business, science and discovery, military heroes, sports and entertainment, the Harlem renaissance and much more. Above all else, this film honors and pays tribute to the many great contributions African Americans have made to New York, the nation, and the world.

The Black Rock World Premiere on Alcatraz @ Pier 33 and Alcatraz Island, Feb.17

The Black Rock World Premiere on Alcatraz
A Kevin Epps Production

On February 17, 2009, 300 (100 spots available for general public) guests will be invited to Alcatraz Island for the highly anticipated premiere of The Black Rock. Filmmaker Kevin Epps is partnering with Golden Gate National Parks to bring forth this historical event. This cinematic unfolding of history and untold accounts of African American Prisoners and Correctional Officers (1934–1963) will take place in the actual Dining Hall of Alcatraz.

The Black Rock is a documentary feature chronicling the role of African-Americans in the first super-maximum security prison from the 1930s to the 1960s. Alcatraz "The Rock" an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay was meant to hold high-security prisoners. This feature highlights the truth about the African-Americans who experienced Alcatraz during a time of racial prejudice and discrimination. Interviews with historians, the utilization of archived documentation, and other methods, such as visual imagery, photography, re-enactments are used to present an entirely new perspective on the most feared prison of its time. Join us on February 17, 2009 as we explore the cultural and socio-political dynamics.

A yacht will be taken from Pier 33 to Alcatraz Island. Food and music will be part of this historic, life changing event. Once we are on the Island, the screening will take place followed up with a Q&A before we journey back to mainland.

A historical event. After this premiere, a 15 minute segment will become part of the historical archives of Alcatraz.

The event is Tuesday, February 17, 2009, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. for adults, 18 years old and over. It is free. Contact information is

RSVP at:


Post a Comment

<< Home