Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mother Mary Ann Wright

Our beloved Mother Mary Ann Wright, passed last week (she was 87) after dedicating her life to service. She fed the hungry, clothed the naked and often sheltered those who were without shelter. Her life touched so many others here in Oakland that she lay in state for an entire day and multiple services were held in her honor throughout the City. Her reach was local and international. Rep. Barbara Lee called her "our Mother Teresa."

As announcements were made about Mother Wright's Homegoing celebration Wednesday-Thursday, May 27-28, I wondered what the cost of all the pomp and glitter if liquidated would have added to the reach of Mother Wright’s mission and work here and elsewhere? Oakland still has a huge homeless population and with the city in its current state of monetary crises…City employees forced to take unpaid leave twice a month. I always wonder where the money comes from to put on these events. But then, an accountant told me that governments are never broke. The politicians just tell us this.

And we couldn’t let such a giant among human beings pass without a murmur, now could we? Of course not. The ceremonial farewell reminded me of what it would have been like to attend the services for Coretta Scott King. Mother Wright was the Bay Area’s First Lady of Grace.

I remember when I read her booklet, quite a while ago. It spoke of her early life in rural Louisiana, orphaned at two upon her mother’s death, teen marriage to a brutal older man and first husband, her escape to California and liberation, the trials of raising such a large family (12 children) combined with her duties as a wife to a loving second husband, her strong faith and belief in God, and her calling to feed the hungry –a dream which shook her from sleep in 1990.

Soft spoken when not in the pulpit or behind her bullhorn holding church at her multiple food giveaway sites, frail-looking physically in her later years, yet always sharp, focused on her mission--to eradicate hunger, always internally strong, I marvelled over this woman who’d done so much to comfort the poor, a woman loved by all who knew her.

Mother Wright spoke at my friend Joy Holland’s funeral two years ago. It was here that she mentioned her upcoming birthday party at Sweet's Ballroom in downtown Oakland. I wish I'd gone.

At Joy's funeral, she said to “give her her flowers while she could still smell them. They were of no use when she was gone.” I know Mother Wright received many flowers while she was alive from her loving children and other children (all of us) whose lives she touched. She received many proclamations and awards, one was given to her by the late, Diane Howell, Ph.D. at the Black Expo honoring “101+ Women Making a Difference.” There were/still are so many good women in the San Francisco Bay Area like Mother Wright quietly changing the world one life at a time. I was on that list too, and got a chance to take a picture with this great woman.

I first met Mother Wright when I was working at Acorn 2 Apartments in West Oakland and she gave away Thanksgiving groceries to residents. I later visited her organization and she gave me a tour. She could always be counted on to show up at Old Man’s Park on Jefferson--rain or shine, giving away hot food, clothing, good and hope. (I learned last week, OMP or "Lafayette Park," its official name, was the site of the first Chabot Planetarium).

She was the epitome of a forgiving and selflessness. Her life was one of service, but she also knew how to have a life too. She celebrated her birthday, she loved her family and she showed up when she needed to show up for others, like as I said two years ago, to honor my late friend, poet, artist, activist, Joy Holland.

Mother Wright is survived by 10 children, 33 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by two sons. Visit and

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wanda's Picks May 29, 200i9

Today we feature the music of Sila & the AfroFunk Experience and Tosin Aribasala "The Hallalujah Jazz Project." Guests are: Josef Norris, founder and director of Kid Serve, an organization that creates mosaic murals in San Francisco Bay Area communities, one school or neighborhood at a time. Visit There is an unveiling Friday, May 29, 12 noon at Ida B. Wells High School, 1099 Hayes St., on the Fell St. side in San Francisco.

Kid Serve with the Oakland Mosaic Project offers adult classes June 27-28 in Oakland. Visit Kid Serve's website for details.

Josef is followed by a wonderful conversation with Eric Greene who appears as "Jake, the fisherman," who is married to "Clara" (soprano, Angel Blue)in Porgy and Bess, at San Francisco Opera in a few weeks. Eric has been with the production since its inception in Washington, DC, and has performed "Jake" along the tour at the Lyric Opera Chicago, Baltimore Opera and the Grand Théâtre Luxembourg.


San Francisco Opera's George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, is set, this production, in the '50s. Dubose and Dorothy Heyward's play is the basis for the opera, which opens June 9-27 at the War Memorial Opera House. Bass-baritone Eric Owens and soprano Laquita Mitchell headline the cast as "Porgy" and "Bess," an unlikely couple who manage to find love amidst the squalor of Catfish Row.

We close the show with Amana Harris, founder and executive director of ArtEsteem, a program of the Attitudinal Healing Connection, where she is Associate Director. "The 11th Annual Self As Hero" show is up at the Oliver Art Center Center for Art and Public Life, at the California College of the Arts--CCA, 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618 through Friday, May 29. Hours are: M-F: 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays, 1-4:30 p.m. Visit 1st broadcast 5/26/09

Other events!

This weekend is also the Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival at San Antonio Park. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has a special dance performance/site specific with Ronald K. Brown and the Nike Cave exhibit. I am going to check it out Sunday at 3 p.m. "Up," the film opens tomorrow. It is a really sweet story about family and commitment and change. It's a film for the entire family. ARCHWAY RECOVERY SERVICES presents “A Celebration of Recovery” A CONCERT/ART SHOW CELEBRATING RECOVERY FROM ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE, Saturday, May 30th at the Fairfield Center for the Creative Arts. Call(707) 435-1804 or visit The Roots are at Davies Symphony on Saturday, May 30 and the Armando Perez party kicks off tonight and continues through tomorrow evening at Yoshi's in Oakland. The dance floor will be open. Esperanza Spaulding, the bassist, will be at Healdsburg Friday, May 29, also. Happy Birthday to Armando Perez, Marvin X, Sara Marie Prada and Robert King.

Geminis in da planetary house!

May 27, 2009 Wanda's Picks Radio

Today we will feature an interview with Randy Weston recorded earlier this year. Weston is performing at the 11th Annual Healdsburg Jazz Festival, June 6. This prerecorded interview will be followed by a live conversation with Tony Wade, Vernon "Ice" Black, re: ARCHWAY RECOVERY SERVICES presents “A Celebration of Recovery” A CONCERT/ART SHOW CELEBRATING RECOVERY FROM ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE, Saturday, May 30th at the Fairfield Center for the Creative Arts. Archway Recovery Services, a licensed and certified residential drug and alcohol treatment program for men, is hosting its first ever concert and art show. The concert will feature powerhouse vocalist Lydia Pense of classic Bay Area band Cold Blood. Opening the show will be Sacramento Old School and R & B radio station V101.FM’s Artist of the Year Aaron Young (nicknamed “Baby Luther Vandross” for his smooth vocals). The musical director is guitarist Vernon “Ice” Black who has recorded and toured with Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey and many others. The gallery exhibit will feature works of art by people in recovery and/or inspired by people in recovery. The Fairfield Visual Arts Association and many other great local artists will contribute their works. All tickets are general admission and are only $25. They can be obtained by either calling or going to City Hall at the Mall located in Westfield Shopping Mall in Fairfield, lower level next to JC Penney (707) 428-7714, or by calling or stopping by Archway (707) 435-1804 or visiting

Feather River Camp Memorial Day Weekend 2009

It was camp clean-up at Oakland Feather River Camp, Friday, May 22-Monday, May 25. Lots of good hard work and clean fun! I was so tired Monday night when we got back, I couldn't get out to celebrate Miles Davis' Birth of Cool Birthday Party. I know it was smashing!

Plumas County National Forest is a lovely place. The last photo is of baby catfish in Donner Pass. Visit

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Remembrance for the Ancestors June 13, 9 AM

It's that time again, our annual ritual pouring libations for our ancestors. We join communities in Charleston, South Carolina, Panama, West Indies, Cape Coast, Ghana, and Long Island, New York.

Stop what you are doing Saturday, June 13th at 9 a.m. PST and pour libations for our African ancestors who were taken against their will from Mother Africa. Ask them for strength and endurance. Freedom is a constant struggle. For those who'd like to pour libations in unity. Join us at 8:30 a.m. We will pour precisely at 9 AM. Bring your drums and other percussion instruments to celebrate our ancestors' lives. Bring flowers, breakfast pastry and fruit to share. It is traditional to wear white, but for those who know me. Bring yourself, it's what's inside that counts.

Feel the power of that moment as we recall their greatness of spirit and give thanks. Ashay!

Last year we met at at the fountain at Lake Merritt in Oakland, across from the Merritt Bakery where the fountain is. We can meet there again this year. It is a nice spot, easy to locate and wheelchair accessible.

This is our fourth year participating in the international remembrance of the African ancestors who were bought and sold during the European slave trade. This is also an opportunity to reflect on those subsequent ancestors like Mama Tubman and Baba Denmark Vesey, and ancestors elsewhere in the African Diaspora. It is, a prayer for our survival and an opportunity to greet and support one another in this important work: healing from enslavement: social, political, and economic. It is also an opportunity to reclaim our personal and collective power, plus long overdue justice and equality.


Listen to Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, June 5, 2009 8-10 AM. I have asked "Remembrance for Our Ancestors"'founder, Tony Akeem, and long time supporter, Osei Terry Chandler, to be my guests that morning. You can listen on-line or by calling (347) 237-4610. The website is:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wanda's Picks Radio May 20, 2009

We are joined by Don Reed, whose "East 14th: True Tales of a Reluctant Player," at the Marsh Theatre, 1062 Valencia Street @ 22nd Street in San Francisco. Visit Halifu Osumare,Ph.D., whose seminal work "The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip-Hop: Power Moves. She is sharing this work at Barnes and Nobles in Jack London Sq., in Oakland, Friday, May 23, 7 p.m. Ana Nitmar and Andrew Woods, San Francisco International Arts Festival 2009; we close with a conversation with Khalil Shaheed, composer, musician, educator, about the Miles Davis Birthday BASH: Birth of the Cool, May 25, at Yoshi's Jack London Square, in Oakland. For information call (510) 206-4509 or

Monday, May 18, 2009

Don Reed's East 14th opens at The Marsh in San Francisco

The story is a young man's coming of age story in the most unlikely household. Blended families have nothing on Don Reed, whose stepfather's conversion to Jehovah Witness means no more Christmas, while biological dad's belief in a good time means initially that the boy-child has a bit more freedom than he knows what to do with, when he decides he is tired of the authoritarian rule in his Mother and Step-father's home.

What East 14th shows, however, is the space between stereotype and reality, the fact that a kid could have a father who the world sees as an outlaw--his occupation outside of the law, yet get trophies in debate competitions, go off to UCLA...have a successful career in screenwriting, film and acting, including a Broadway run of East 14th.

A Pimp? Yes Donnie's dad was a pimp. I wish the actor's mother hadn't disappeared so quickly after the play--almost two hours without intermission.

The set is deceptively simple, a white hat, and a sign post with the infamous street name, E-14th Street, now "International Blvd." until one gets to San Leandro where the name shifts back to E-14th.

Energetic and engaging, Reed's characters, two brothers, mother, father(s), school friends, dad's girlfriends, his own and the wonderful musical interludes which are used as segues in adolescent angst and conquest and peril--make the theatrical experience memorable.

By the end of the play, Donnie's dad is a hero, a hero because he let his son believe he had a free reign, when actually Donnie's moves were planned, choreographed, his dance and the music on the radio prerecorded.

Other stars in the huge cast, all performed by Reed were his brothers, who morphed into Frankenstein's monster or flaming queens who could kick butt, at the drop of a kid brother's hat.

East 14th is also a love story, that between a son and his father. It's a tribute to the folks no one gives credit for moral sense: drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes, and the kid who misses the glitter for the substance. Donnie doesn't see what law enforcement sees or what the social critics see either, at least while he is a child. E-14th is not a tale glorifying street life, it is a story which shows how roses grow from gardens created from nails and string, glass cylinders filled with Christmas ornaments.

It's not a Manchild in the Promised Land or Claude McCay tragedy, because unlike the protagonist in that story, Donnie has a father, who cares and gives him guidance. He also has a community that watches over him: the drug dealer who refuses to let him throw away his life when he has options--college.

Donnie's household, four men when he arrives, is one where everyone is free to be judgment, just love, and with such ingredients a child can't help but grow--although I'm not certain I'd recommend the combination--LOVE plus an aberrant lifestyle, but children are sturdy and are pretty smart too as Donnie shows as he matures and develops confidence--watch his great dance moves.

The story we don't see is his school attendance and excelling in academics. We don't see the family at meals. I think E-14th like Brian Copeland's Not a Genuine Black Man, also produced by the Marsh, would make a great memoir. I hope he writes it, but as a tribute to his fathers and brothers and community who raised him, it works even with unanswered questions.

The play is up at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia Street, in San Francisco, Fridays-Sundays, 8, 8:30 and 3 p.m., through June 16. It's not suitable for audiences under 17 years old. Visit or and 1-800-838-3006. The Marsh, by the way is celebrating its 20th anniversary and produces 400 shows a year--that's one active and hardworking theatre!

Photos are of Don Reed on stage and guests I met that evening, among them Donald Lacy, whose Colorstruck opens in Sacramento, May 29-June 21, at Images Theatre Company. Visit

Bay Trail

Willard and I rode our bikes today along the Bay Trail crossing the Park Street Bridge, crossing over to the Ferry depot, then taking the trail into Oakland, by the Raiders training camp, to the airport then back to Alameda via the High Street bridge. Today the bridge lifted to let a sail boat through. I missed it, as I took photos of the low tide.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Richard Bona & Lionel Loueke

Tonight's show was exquisite, the two men on acoustic guitars, Bona also on electric bass, were awesome to see and hear as they jammed both individually and in duet, songs composed by each. Benin and Cameroon were in the house, a house jammed to the uppermost seats in a room which provided a intimate ambiance whether one was in the front row or the back. I'd gone to the wrong venue, and finding the lights out and plenty of parking called someone and found out the event was on the other side of town. With a needle kissing empty, we raced back downtown, found a great parking spot and squeezed into the auditorium before the first song commenced--talk about blessed--blessed to get the Yerba Buena from the Palace of Fine Arts that fast. Double blessed to get front row seats in such a crowded room.

Richard Bona's locs cascaded down one side, then another side of his face, as he and Lionel who had no hair, save for a faint goatee and a loc near the nap of his neck. I didn't know Lionel except for his CD Karibu, so to see him live was a treat--his ability to sound like a choir and a full band is something I still can't figure out. His solos were forays into time signatures where clicks and stops, overlapping voices and percussive sounds added palatable textures to a tapestry of sound...and we're speaking of those solo moments...add Bona and well--the canvas grows larger as he croons and adds a mellow vocalese to the mix taking the melody out to an improvisational fairyland where much is possible and he proceeds to prove it.

The evenings selections included: There is no Greater Love, Te Nedeya, Nonvignon, Benny's Tune, Oh Sen Sen Sen (encore), Still There, and Ponder. Bona acted as the emcee, inviting the audience on the final tune to sing along, which we did.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Robey Theatre, May 10, 2009

Pictured Ben Guillory, artistic director and Wanda Sabir
S. Pearl Sharp, filmmaker and artist, Riua Akinshegun, and Wanda Sabir
Arial shot of the theatre and director, Ben closing the curtain to the theatre

Wanda's Picks May 13, 2009

We are joined by Ben Guillory, director of Robey Theatre Company, at the New Los Angeles Theatre Center. Its current production is "Bronzeville." He is joined by playwright, Tim Toyama. We close the show with the Mother's Day Radio Project: founder Shaunelle Curry and collaborators: Kelley Nicole and Jimetta Rose. In 2003, Shaunelle published her first book, "Shairi’s Journey Through Darkness Into Light," a women’s self-development toolkit that she uses in her Victim to Victor™ workshops.

Wanda's Picks Radio May 15, 2009

Destiny Muhammad and Frederick Harris, speak about the "Love Tour," and celebration of EW Wainwright, African Roots of Jazz founder, Sunday, May 17, at Anna's Jazz Island. It is also EW's 70th Birthday.

This conversation is followed by one with activists: Jack Bryson,Father of 2 young men who were with Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART on 1/1/09. He is has been involved since that date in community organizing for justice for Oscar Grant, and Rachel Jackson, organizer and coordinator of New Years Movement for Justice a community organization which is working towards getting the BART police officer convicted and sentenced for murdering Oscar Grant.

There are several important actions taking place this weekend: May 15,16, and 17. How to Lock Up A Cop for the Murder of Oscar Grant

This workshop, Sunday, May 17, 1-4 p.m., at the Humanist Hall, 390-27th Street, Oakland, (between Broadway & Telegraph) will educate and empower our communities to wage a sophisticated legal and political campaign that turns the tragic murder of Oscar Grant into a historic opportunity – to finally put one police officer behind bars for the murder of one unarmed man. The Teach-In phase on Sunday will cover specific steps the District Attorney must take in order to win the case of the People vs. Mehserle. The next phase will=2 0be the Teach-Out: to attend the preliminary hearing for Johannes Mehserle the next day, Monday, May 18th, 2009, at the Alameda County Superior Court, 1225 Fallon Street. (If by any chance the DA drops the charges against Mehserle, be prepared to protest as well.)The event is sponsored by: and visit for a comprehensive list of actions and activities. There is a hearing taking place presently.