Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Good Friday

It wasn't a good Friday, April 2, 2010, because the weather was warm and the skies were blue. Just the opposite, the weather was chilly and though the skies were clear, showers were imminent so some people carried umbrellas.

It wasn't a good Friday because I had a great show today, guests Reggie Wilson, Kendra Kimbrough Barnes, Ron Jones, and Cathleen Riddley started my day off well. Well actually, my daughter's good morning was how my day got started, after a good night's sleep, the first in two days--I went to sleep sitting at the table Wednesday night...getting my column filed with my editor.

It was a great Friday for all these reasons and more. I watched a wonderful film, Breath Made Visible, which opened today at the Roxie Theatre in San Francisco and the Smith Rafael in San Rafael, about a great dance pioneer, Anna Halprin, whose evolution as a dancer reflected her growth and evolution as a human being. She reminded me of August Wilson; he had his work, she hers. But unlike Wilson, whose work in itself lacked the intrinsic comradery of dance--writing is a lonely/solitary occupation, Halprin invited her children and then community to participate in art making, human being making. She had the first multiethnic dance company, after a year long project with white dancers in San Francisco Bay Area and black dancers in Los Angeles, engaged in a dance conversation to heal the community of Watts after the rebellion. The culminating conversation between the two groups once they merged was such a success, the African American dancers wanted to continue with Anna,so some moved north and the stage under the redwoods which her husband had built for her shifted and grew to accomodate them.

The film, directed by Ruedi Gerber, starts at a concert when Anna is 86, then travels back and forth to tell her story, one which includes her grandfather whose praise dance make her think early on, that God must be a dancer.

The lines between art and life blurred until there was no separation. The story of Anna's relations with her husband Lawrence Halprin, who himself is an artist, architecture his field, and the support she'd had as a child from her mother, who enrolled her dancing child in ballet, and when that didn't seem like the right fit discovered Imogen Cunningham, I think--one of those choreographers who expended the contemporary form to include modern dance.

She says she wasn't good academically, but excelled at dance and theatre. She was very funny. Anna was blessed with parents who don't have all the answers and let her speak to them about what she wanted and needed--not verbally neccessarily.

My parents were like that, especially my mother. Money was the only reason why they let me dress up for a trip to Chicago promised me by the minister, rather than just purchasing a plane ticket for me themselves. I knew that Savior's Day was an important one, one not to be missed, but I did...the ticket never materialized and I went to sleep in my dress whites waiting and waiting for a phone call telling me I was going.

This morning and later on that afternoon, I was waiting for news of my trip to Haiti. As I write, I am still waiting, it has been almost two days now, well really a day and a half.

I am excited to be traveling to Haiti for Spring Break. We have a fundraiser coming up at the end of the month and I'd like to have photos and a report back to share with our audience. I am not preparing to enjoy myself, but I do feel called to do this. I haven't paid my mortgage or car insurance. I'll take care of the insurance when I return and any other bills. I plan to eat less this month to compensate for the unexpected expense, but go I must.

This evening I went to a candlelight vigil for trafficked children. Hosted by Victory Outreach Church in Oakland, Ramona Jones, church member, the key organizer did a marvelous job of bringing leaders in the field together with community. I am really disappointed none of my present students were out, (I saw an old friend and former student there) since we are looking at this issue presently in class. It was freezing, but most of us weathered the cold for two hours, going into three.

Assemblyman Sandre Swanson was present, and I hadn't expected him. He also spoke. He was followed by Nancy E.O'Malley, JD, Alameda county District Attorney. I think besides the great speech by a representative of New Day for Children, the most moving testimony was the policeman who has been on the human trafficking taskforce for ten years. As he shared the stories of the children he was trying to rescue and the adults who are kidnapping and enslaving them, he had to stop several times to pull himself together. He spoke of a recent case where a young girl was killed her body dumped at Mosswood Park. He asked for information about the assailants. He said he was retiring after this year, he said he couldn't do this anymore.

"They won't come talk to me," he said. "They'll talk to you." He said.

As I left, another woman, who once recruited girls for the pimps, spoke of a child she fed recently. "My heart went out to her," she said, as she watched the girl eat her meal and tell her that she had to go hit the streets to make money for herself and her pimp to have a place to sleep.

"She wasn't ready to leave that life," the woman said, but at least she knew that someone cared.

I thought about my ancestors stacked like logs in the bottom of ships, tossed overboard when too ill and hosed off like animals when dirty, and these children who by the hundreds and thousands are being held against their will, drugged, beaten and forced to have sex with 30-40 men a night.

The founder of MISSEY said she was one of the girls her agency is now trying to save. "Most of these girls come from foster care and the juvenile system." She also thanked those who voted yes on Measure Y, which is where most of the organizations funds come from.

Not all the trafickked children are from dysfunctional homes, not all victims are uneducated, some have college degrees. The common denominator is substance dependency, whether that is illegal or prescription or alcohol, low self-esteem, and many times, post-traumatic stress.

Those of us concerned enough to weather the inclimate climate are the new abolishionists. On Good Friday, it was okay to call Jesus's name, but people who need help don't have to be Christian to take advantage of the safe house at Victory Outreach or A Safe Place.

I was appalled when I learned that in the country there are onky 44 beds for traffickked children. We certainly need to do something about that. I have so many homeless kids coming through my classroom, many former foster care kids reuniting with dyfunctional families they were taken from, for good reason. At 18 though, the kids age out of foster care and often don't have anywhere to go. College is a good thing, but if they don't have anywhere to live and don't have any income, what are they going to do when they get hungry or cold?

I have met some brilliant youngsters, some whom were responsible for their siblings and themselves, and eventually dropped out. I just hope when I don't see them anymore that they have transferred or got a job and that's why I don't see them, not that they are in jail or prison.

As my candle's flame kept blowing out and I kept relighting it with the flame of the woman next to me, eventually blowing it out, I thought about the children on International near my house who are victims of sexual abuse.

I am so happy in California, thanks to Assemblyman Swanson, traffickked children are no longer arrested and booked and treated like criminals when they are victims. I remember when the Oakland City Council wad divided on the issue. I don't remember which argument won. Strange, although the event took place on City Hall steps, the mayor's office didn't issue a statement, nor were they present, neither were any City Councilmembers.

For more information visit: , A Safe Place, Family Justice Center,, Children of the Night, Victory Outreach Oakland, S.A.G.E.

HEAT WATCH: Office of the District Attorney
America's Human Exploitation and TRafficking (HEAT) Epidemic. HEAT Watch Hotline: (510) 208-4959 or Requests for anonymity will be honored. When calling or emailing tips, include the following:

1. Exact dates
2. Make,model, color and license plate of any vehicles invloved
3. Descriptions of people invloved, including gender,age, race, height, weight, clothing, scars, tattoos
4. Details about actions/activities taking place between trafickers and victims,such as, location and timegirls are droppedoff and by whom; name and room numbers of motels/hotels being used

Do not confront or physically encounter any offenders, your personal safety comes first. Visit

I met a mother helping her daughter get the word out about a girl scout project next week, April 10, 2010: "This is How We Do It: Youth Violence Prevention Forum, Oakland Youth Addressing Violence"

Topics: Gang/Turf Violence, Teen Dating Violence, Drugs/Alcohol role in Violence, Gun Violence

The forum is at the EOYDC, 8200 InternationalBlvd., Oakland, CA, 10AM to 4:30 PM. REgistration begins at 9 AM/ Lunch is provided.

The forum is supported by the Alameda County District Attorney's office, Girl Scout Award Project/Girl Scouts of Northern California Troop No.30228 Oakland Service Unit--Jean Follete Advisor

For information contact: Taylor Marie (510)632-1171or

Another event is a play, "Echo: A Poetic Journey into Justice," a theatre performance to bring awareness to the horrors of sex slavery/trafficking, Friday, April 9, 8 PM, Saturday, April 10, 8 PM, and Sunday, April 11, 5 PM.

50 percent of proceeds will go to MISSEY. The other 50 percent raised will go to Dreamcatchers Runaway and Homeless Youth Services.

I met the playwright Regina Y. Evans last year at a production of Machiavelli's "The Prince" at Central Works Theatre where the play is staged, 2315 Durant Avenue, Berkeley (located inside the Berkeley City Club).

For information call (510) 562-2336 or Tickets are also available through


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