Sunday, June 14, 2009

Juneteenth 2009 in Oakland

Kongo said at the Libation for the Ancestors that all the 'teens were cause for celebration freedom and liberty of the African spirit and if we could make it through these seven days without violence: verbal, physical or spiritual toward one another, it would be a monumental step in Oakland for the rest of the year.

Omnira Projects Roots of Freedom: A Celebration of the End of Slavery, which followed the Libation in another part of Lakeside Park, extended the libation in a more communal and practical direction. As the facilitator, Wanda Ravernell led those assembled in a well-choreographed sequence of music, dance, song, plus relevant and significant history lessons reaching back into American history and showing how no one was left unaffected by the enslavement of African people, whether that meant one was the descendant of a victim like the Chinese and who were brought in to take the place of the emancipated Africans, white women who still hadn't gained equal rights, or a perpetrator like some Jews and other races of people. Various communities offered prayers from their traditions: a prayer from the First Nation, along with a reading of the 13th Amendment with historic testimony read by a volunteer from those assembled, as Just4U band played a refrain from "Saints Go Marchin' In. Then representatives from African nations shared from the Ifa (Yoruba), Vodun (Dahomey), and Palo Mayombe (Congo) traditions offered prayers and other insightful stories.

The Saints Go Marchin' In refrain began again and someone read the 14th Amendment to the Constitution with testimony about how this is the Amendment that granted everyone the right to vote, but wasn't enforced until the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act over 100 years later.

The Abrahamic Faiths then shared, along with representatives from Eastern and an Inner Faith. The afternoon ended with a recessional to When the Saints Go Marchin' In waving our white kerchiefs...our feet treading in the footsteps of formerly enslaved Africans who looked forward to this day many did not live to see.

More Libation photos

Saturday, June 13, 2009

National and International Libations for the Ancestors June 13, 2009 9:00 AM PST

Friday, June 12, 2009

Jimmy Cobb's So What Band @ Kind of Blue at 50

I hung out in the dressing room watching the men eat Thursday evening. The menu was sushi and vegetables. It looked good...the men were hungry and tore into their meal with gusto. I'd never seen artists eat so hardily between sets before, but maybe this was a Miles Davis energy-thing?

Pictured are: Jimmy Cobb in cap signing autographs, his wife, Elena and band member, John Webber. Across the table are: Vincent Herring and Larry Willis. Guests are seated on the sofa and chairs and standing. The center photo is of Wallace Roney and Dawn. Yoshi is between them. She was dancing during the first set.

Wanda's Picks Radio June 12, 2009

Today we will speak to the wonderful photographer, Howard Bingham, who has documented the Black Panther Party in his new book: Howard L. Bingham’s Black Panther’s 1968, just released on AMMO (

Unfortunately his exhibit, by the same title, just closed this week at the California African American Museum(CAAM). Visit
past32.htm and blac.html and community/calendar/46131142.html.

An interview with director Johnny Symmonds follows. His film: "Ask Not," airs on the PBS Series, Independent Lens, Tuesday, June 16, 2009, at 10 p.m. The film is about the U.S. Military's controversial "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Visit

We were looking to have Christian McBride on. He is in Oakland 6/13-14, following a 3-day at Yoshi’s Oakland, “Kind of Blue @ 50” with Wallace Roney, and Jimmy Cobb's “So What Band:” Vincent Herring, Javon Jackson, Larry Willis, and John Webber (Buster Williams is ill, but feeling better.) Kind of Blue at 50 takes the show to Southern California, Saturday, June 13, for the Play Boy Jazz Festival. What makes this a treat is the fact that Jimmy Cobb is the only member on that date who is still with us. He said in an interview today, that he gets asked about the making of Kind of Blue all the time because he was there. I’m happy he felt like sharing this afternoon.

Storytellers: Linda Gorham and Kirk Waller are performing stories of Freedom, Change and Hope at the Storytelling Association of Alta California, Saturday, June 13, 7-9 PM at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Avenue, in Oakland. Visit and also and

Anna Maria Flechero, singer/songer writer, closed the show. She shared stories about being Filipina and African American and how music has been a way for her to discover her roots. Today is also Filipino Independence Day, the date of a wonderful fundraising benefit concert tonight @ Club Anton, 428 3rd Street (at Broadway) in Jack London Square. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert is from 8-10 p.m., with a raffle at 9:30 p.m. DJ music closes the evening from 10-12 midnight. The event is a preview and features besides Flechero: Little Brown Brother, Raquel and Ann Marie Santos. Tickets are $12— Visit

Anna Maria Flechero is also headlining the 2nd Annual San Francisco Filipino American Jazz Festival Sunday, August 8, 2009, 5-9 p.m. at The Forum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco. Visit

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Court Hearings June 8 for SF8, June 15 for David

The is a press conference for the SF8, at 850 Bryant in San Francisco, in the morning, Monday, June 8, 8:15 AM.

To hear David speaking about his case visit (archived show April 8,2009).

David's upcoming Discovery Hearing takes place on Monday, June 15th, 9am, at the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro (2500 Fairmont Drive). Please mark your calendars and let others know. David's Defence Committee is looking to have a visible presence at his hearing demanding the charges be dropped.

If anyone is able to organize outside this query and invitation send the organizers your thoughts, ideas, and questions around support David's case.

The battle for justice for Oscar Grant is in high gear as the murdering cop goes to trial. At this moment it is crucial that people are mobilized to stand against systemic police brutality and this cold-blooded murder. Remember, it was only AFTER a mass outpouring of righteous protest took to the streets in Oakland that Mehserle was even charged in the first place! For an update on the trial, (written before Mehserle was set to be charged with murder, but still very relevant analysis of the case) see recent article in Revolution Newspaper: "A Critical Moment in the Battle" at

As part of that protest in response to the murder of Oscar Grant, David, a young revolutionary, for speaking the truth and standing on the right side of justice, was arrested and wrongly accused of two felonies. A passionate and dedicated leader, he is one of only 4 out of 120+ arrested that night who have been targeted with serious offenses stemming from their arrests that night. This is not just an attack on David, but an attack on all those seeking justice for Oscar Grant, an attack on the revolutionary movement, and an attack on all those who dream of a radically different and far better world! (David's Defense Committee)

Misery Loves Company

Danesha Simon's play, Misery Loves Company, a gospel musical stars among others, Suga T. The live band is great as are the cast, especially the wonderful solos by Simon, Suga T and others. Considering the heaviness of the topic: child prostitution and trafficking, there is room for humor.

Misery Luvs Company is at the Black Rep, 3201 Adeline Street in Berkeley. 5:00 p.m. this evening, Sunday, June 7. The setting is a doctor's office--psychiatrist's office. Black mental and spiritual health is an underlying theme in this play. Misery also lends importance to the role mothers and other parents play in a child's life, even those children who think they are "grown."

Porgy and Bess at SF Opera House

Porgy and Bess was another hit Saturday afternoon at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. At the dress rehearsal, it was great seeing so many black people working. The absence of black faces in the opera orchestra was disappointing—not a one, and the "Bess" character really needs a self-esteem class or/and mentoring. She was certainly a vessel without content, unless poured by one of the more unscrupulous men in her life like Crown or Sportin’ Life. Porgy was the more positive influence but only when he was physically around. What’s sad is that the “Besses” exist…little girls are groomed socially to please men, to be what men want—these girls who fall into the such linguistic and social or economic traps end up like Bess— Both Bess and Porgy are tragic, Bess because she doesn’t know what she wants and when she finds it, can’t hold onto it, and Porgy is tragic because he loves this woman more than the loneliness he faces without her, so much so he is willing to kill and be killed.

I didn't remember the references to Bess's red hair in the lyrics and I like Porgy better as a paraplegic. The actor/singer, Eric Owens certainly swings it, but there is something about that wooden cart that adds to the pathos, misery and drama. I remember seeing the opera ten years ago. It was in the summer, I think, and my friend gave me a ticket for my birthday present. I think it was my first opera in the orchestra. I was tickled and awed. I wasn't awed today--too high up to see, but the tour gave me a few wows,especially when I got a chance to peek into the orchestra pit--yes, the one where there were no black musicians.

It opens June 9, 8 p.m. and runs June 12, 8 p.m., June 14, 7:30 p.m., June 18, 7:30 p.m., June 21, 2 p.m., June 24, 7:30 p.m., June 27, 8 p.m. It is three hours and fifteen minutes. This includes an intermission (at the rehearsal).

Pictures are Eric Owens speaking to guests back stage. The other three women were supernumeraries (extras) and photos inside the opera house. The photo with me is with Eric Greene "Jake, the fisherman, father and Clara's husband."

I hadn't remembered the hurricane, but post-Katrina, I felt Oya's turbulence. The lights rock and dim and the orchestra sounds like crashing waves. It was an experience I wasn't looking forward to reliving, even vicariously, so be warned.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

John Handy Has Class

Friday night, Healdsburg was the place. I should know, I drove almost three hours to get there and at 10 p.m. when I arrived, there was time to freshen up as Greg Bridges introduced John Handy, made a few programming announcements, and then left the stage as the lights went down. I kept looking for Randy Weston and Mrs. Weston. Dafina and I were going to offer them our seats, she told me. Mr. Weston was in town for a fundraiser for the Jazz Heritage Center in San Francisco earlier this week.

As usual, the Raven Theatre was full, but not so full I could miss my sister, Dafina or miss out on two perfect seats. Yes, I saw them first, but it would have been an honor to give them to the Westons.

John Handy Septet opened the eventing with Motherless Child, sung beautifully by Kenny Washington. At times Kenny and John played the same notes. Nina, from New York, happened to be in town, so when she got the call, it wasn't a major logistical worry on top of everything else. Her mother had been ill, so she was on her way out to the West Coast.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Wanda's Picks Radio June 3, 2009

Visit for archived shows or call (347) 237-4610 or tune in on-line for the Live Broadcasts: Wed.6-8 AM/Fri. 8-10 AM PST

We lost a great man, Dr. Ivan Van Sertima, last week. Dr. Runoko Rashidi will be in the studio in the morning to talk about his great friend and teacher and the African Face in Mexico, the topic of an exhibit currently at the Oakland Museum of California, May 9-August 23, 2009. Visit

We will also be joined by artists, Malik and Karen Seneferu, a dynamic husband/wife team who will talk about their aesthetic ascension, the intersection between art and politics and their use of art to educate and inspire the youth to greatness.

I am hoping to persuade one of the artists from the OM exhibit to join us on the air, but until he confirms, I'll keep his name a secret. He has confirmed and I am delighted to say we will have as our special guest photographer, Tony Gleaton. He will be giving a slide show and lecture Friday, June 5, 7 p.m. at the Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak Street, in Oakland, California.

Director, Pamela Tanner Bol, will join us also this morning. Her new film, "Who Do You Think You Are," opens at the Red Vic in San Francisco, next week, June 10-11, 2009.

Historian, Research Specialist, and World Traveler Runoko Rashidi presents: "Recollections of Ivan Van Sertima" in Los Angeles, Friday, June 5, 7 p.m. at the Afiba Center, 5730 South Crenshaw (CORNER OF Crenshaw and Slauson). For more information contact: or call him at (210) 232-7272. Visit his award winning Global African Presence web site:

Monday, June 01, 2009

Spring Semester Reflections

Anything I could say in response to criticism would sound defensive so what I will offer are reflections on my process and areas I am thinking of changing. I had a new textbook which no one had ever encountered the likes of on campus, I am speaking of both students and faculty. Their collective response to Stewart Pidd Hates English was confusion given its subtle simplicity. Students who thought they could skate through the book found by the Parallel Structure essay they were in serious trouble, and instructors who thought the tasks too easy found out their mistake soon. For students though, this error cost many of them a passing grade. They didn’t believe me when I stated Pidd was a cumulative experience. There was a lot of disbelief this semester.

My persona or affect belies the seriousness with which I take my responsibility. I expect everyone in my classes to behave like adults. My deadlines have been fluid, and I do own this weakness which some see as an error in judgment. Community College is often a students first experience in higher education and I tend to offer a guiding hand to those who ask or seem to need it. This semester and in most semesters this leniency is abused, but the noose is also there to catch students who misstep—the graveyards filled with them and this story is no Antebellum lore, rather self-immolation, student’s refusal to take responsibility for their lives and education.

When it comes down to it, sometimes we all have to make the best of what we’re given, even when it doesn’t seem fair or equitable. The time we have with each other is a moment in a string of moments connected to eternity. Why linger in a bad taste when the bouquet might be on the next horizon if one keeps moving?

Attendance was erratic for many students this semester and though I could have dropped students who were failing, I continue to leave this up to them, because students are adults and while I don’t compromise my standards, I am willing to inconvenience myself for students who are willing to do the work—those who missed the drop date and still want to pass the course. This means, I am letting students get the work in post-finals week, the first week of Spring Intersession, my first week of vacation.

Another thing I do is let students revise as much as they like, past a passing grade. I am going to stop this process. It involves too much reading and I get behind reading and rereading the same essays over and over again. I am going to rethink this process—one revision for the semester or only revisions for the NC essays. Which means students might try a little harder if they know they cannot turn in crap the first time around.

I am also going to stop feeling sorry for students who do not want to buy the books or can’t buy their books, students who are not prepared and students who refuse to avail themselves of academic resources and students who want to turn in assignments late. They will just fail. I am going to start the semester the first week, so we don’t get behind.

My classes will probably shrink, but what is left hopefully will be students who are serious about their learning. I don’t know what I am going to do about the students who don’t want to read. It’s crazy. I am still uncertain about what books I want to use this semester but several are looking appealing.

I was thinking about Dr. Halifu Osumare’s The Africanist Aesthetic in Global Hip Hop: Power Moves, Jeff Chang’s Total Chaos, maybe The Angry Black, White Boy. People seemed to like The Coldest Winter Ever. I liked the Poetry Book with the CD I used last year, and Felicia Pride’s The Message. I also liked Ernest Hardy’s Blood Beat’s Vol. 1. His Vol. 2 is out. Writing the Future of Black America, Literature of the Hip-Hop Generation by Daniel Grassian looks interesting. I am thinking about Dyson’s Searching for Tupac for the English 201and English 1A, along with Jasmine Guy and Rose Grew from Concrete. Students said Guy was easier, so we’ll start with Guy and then shift to Dyson. I like starting with Dyson, but I’ll try the books in reverse order. By the time we get to Dyson, they will be more than half-way through with Pidd, which I am going to use again. What I will do is host workshops for the students who have not walked the Stewart Pidd gauntlet and for those who have, they will be dinged for all the errors we reviewed in SPHE they make in their essays.

I am trying to have my cake and eat it too, but assigning Diana Hacker has not worked. Students do not read the book, no matter how much time I give them. It is also too much to grasp. SPHE is a great way to segue into the handbook. I will assign the handbook to students who have gone through Pidd. I will have to have separate assignments for them. We’ll just have two classes going simultaneously for the first month. I can let the SPHE grads tutor those who are new to the book. I can also have them proctor the quizzes and give the answers. They will be TAs. We’ll all be reading from Guy’s book or The Angry Black White Boy or Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop or Tricia Rose’s Black Noise. It’s all complex and scholarly. I wonder if the material will be enough to snatch the ear of students, light a candle under their imaginations?

We shall see. I am not as despondent as I was last week, Friday, May 29, at graduation. As I sat and watched students like Brendon and Kevin, Eric and Rose, Renora and others walk, and students I didn’t know were finished like Mesha, walk that walk…I felt happy for them and happy they allowed me to participate in a portion of their journey. I was still ready to quit or find another profession that paid as well and had these benefits at the end of a long day.

What I decided was to pursue my Ph.D. and perhaps look at other ways I could serve my community, keep my sanity and grow in the profession. I am not like other professors. I don’t think I ever will be like other professors, but students who have taken my classes are prepared for college. They are not shocked when they transfer nor are they underprepared.

Marvin X Jubilee

Saturday, May 30 in Berkeley, friends and supporters came out to wish Marvin X, a man I still consider a rock star after knowing him for over ten years, and his work even longer. Here is a montage of photos taken that afternoon into the evening. It was also a book party and release of his memoir on Eldridge Cleaver: My Friend, the Devil.