Tuesday, June 29, 2010

San Francisco Opera: Giacomo Puccini's The Girl of the Golden West

I'd been trying to get to the San Francisco Opera's production of the Spaghetti Western. The signs looked so festive and fun, besides that, thematically it seemed in keeping with that of Cal Shakes's "Pastures of Heaven," which playwright Octavio Solis adapted from John Steinbeck's collection of short stories based on the lives of inhabitants of the lovely: Pastures of Heaven in Salinas Valley.

The plan was to write the reviews as one piece, since they were both set in California, and both looked at early settlers in the region. Well I didn't get to the opera until tonight and Pastures of Heaven closed last weekend.

Not quite aware of what I could expect at the time, I knew whatever Cal Shakes was cooking, it would be well done. As one story folded seamlessly into another against a backdrop which celebrated the California landscape, I thought about the displaced persons--unmentioned whose land all these white people now occupied.

The company performed in repertory fashion so actors appeared in numerous roles, and with the collaboration of Word for Word Company, the play was pretty close to the original collection of stories.

Getting back to the Spaghetti opera which has a few more performances left, I loved Minnie's confession of love for "Johnson from Sacramento." Though hard to believe the old maid was a virgin--with that blonde hair and the white dress she put on for her date, not to mention the white snow, as in "pure as the driven snow," Minnie hadn't been fooling around or interested in any of the fellows who were stationed at the mining camp.

The only woman in the camp, her ties with the men whom she helped write letters home, nursed when ill, and any number of other tasks was more sisterly than anything ulterior. The very married sheriff has a crush on Minnie who doesn't feel the same as he.

The opera is funny, even though the outcome for the bandit looks grim. After all, it's a love story.

In one song Minnie sings of love's redemption and how she doesn't know anyone whose heart can't change for the better. And then she falls for the villain. It is a great story, except for the caricature of the lone Indigenous man, whose line is: "Ugh."

Opera is an elitist pastime, so I don't expect to see many black people in the audience, let alone on stage. It was with great surprise and delight to see Kenneth Overton (Sid). I thought I might be seeing things, so I didn't get too happy until I checked the program and yep, he is a black man. His San Francisco Opera debut was as "Frazier" in 2009 in "Porgy and Bess." I liked his "Sid," he wasn't afraid to knock the power structure if he felt it was unfair.

Other San Francisco Opera events coming up are:
San Francisco Opera is at Stern Grove Music Festival Sunday, July 4, 2 PM, www.sfopera.org, at Sharon Meadows, Sunday, Sept. 12, 1:30 PM www.sfopera.com/park, and Aida Simulcast at AT&T Park www.sfopera.com/simulcast

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cracking the Codes: A 21st Century Conversation About Race

This weekend was as full as usual. I found myself juggling events, trading one for another and disappointed that I could not be in three places at once. I found out this afternoon that Luisa Tuish hosted a ritual at the beach Saturday morning to send prayers and light to the gulf region where lives are being lost and lives are forever changed as the oil continues to spill into the sea.

I'd planned to get by the Wise Women event that afternoon to see Nikki Giovanni, who has a new collection describing how much she loves her bicycle, but my younger daughter had a horrific car accident early that same morning and the day was spent having the car towed, calling insurers, and visiting the hospital.

She walked away from an accident which could have been deadly. I went to opening night of the final weekend of the Ethnic Dance Festival. It was marvelous, with companies representing Afgahnistan--a company I really enjoyed, the live music and lovely costumes, the women in long colorful scarves and dresses which they twirled as they turned.

Another company with lovely costumes and choreography performed dance from Boliva--the men wore feathered head dresses which rotated like wheels and the women had on white flowered head dresses. When they leaned forward so that their faces disappeared it looked like a field of flowers. Other head ornaments were hats which looked like flower pots...these festive costumes and the lively music just enhanced a marvelous performance.

There were a couple of a solo artists, between the larger company works. One was a belly dancer. Her belly was too small...she was too skinny. Cute, great personality, but physically didn't have what it took to pull it off. When she used her scarf to bring in the Red Sea, the inspiration for the piece "Progression" one could see the rippling water, sunlight reflected on its surface and the light beneath its surface as the dancer interpreted the folkloric baladi progression in a modern way.

Wan-Chao Dance company's "Follow the Footprints," incorporated choreography of the normatic traditions from Balkan dance style, the Central Asian steppes. One could see the influences of Turkish, Arabic, medieval European and Persian influences in the choreography as the women took their audience along certain migratory roots.

The company from Zimbabwe, the Chinyakare Ensemble, was excellent--the three women the women moved gracefully with a basket of grain on their heads. Drummers sang and played as the company members also sang...their bodies fluid as they shifted from one dance to another. It was really exciting as one company segued into the next, often showcasing two styles and repertoires at one time.

Such was the case with Shabna (Persian tradition) and Las Bomberas de La Bahia (Puerto Rican tradition).

The ensemble, Imani's Dream were a favorite. This year the piece, A Rose That Grew from Concrete, based on the Tupac Shakur poem was the theme, while company members whose ages ranged from five or six to young adult executed their moves with skill and amazing procession, especially three youth who soloed and also improvised using hip hop phrases such as upper body locking and breaking and spinning. One dancers danced on his head.

Charya Burt Cambodian Dance company was so elegant, each movement measured as one of the three dancers turned her head, bent a wrist or lifted an ankle. The dance, Vileer Churuar Knear explored "the dancer's journey from isolation as an American immigrant into new found possibilities," the choreographer sang at the end in a plaintive voice. Perhaps the slow movement or measured pace reflects the passage of time as acculturation takes place.

Sunday, I bopped over to Samuel Merritt University for the World Trust event which was a fundraiser for Shakti Butler's latest film: Cracking the Codes: A 21st Century Conversation About Race--excellent film. I can't wait until it is completed. Dr. Butler includes new voices as well as a familiar face, Ericka Huggins. As we watched the film, we were asked to take notes and then between the three segments had a conversation within small informal groups within the auditorium.

We then shared our comments.

There was a reception afterward where people mingled and continued to talk. I connected with an old friend and got a chance to meet Dr. Butler's husband and daughter and grandchildren, along with others.

I dashed home, changed clothes and ran over to La Pena Cultural Center for Jovelyn Richards's newest work: Ma. Pat's House, the story of a brothel, and its inhabitants. She had a live band and the piece was certainly provocative as Richards told the stories of how each person ended up at the house...the circumstances which landed them at 515...Street whether that was becasue a woman's husband learned that his wife was "passing" as white (and was really black) or the woman could make the weather change when she danced--snow in the summer, or a boy liked to wear women's clothes...each story had its own song...particular sadness and a room in a house where all seemed welcome and all was taken care of and all were loved.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Solar Returns

Sunday, June 20, 2010, found me up early or at least thinking about getting up early to go stop the Israeli ship from docking at the Port of Oakland. I thought about the famous work stoppage in San Francisco docks when the longshoremen refused to unload ships from South Africa during the height of the Apartheid regime over 30 years ago. I also recalled protests at the Port of Oakland during the early days of the Iraq war and their aggressive actions against peaceful protesters. I wasn't sure if I was ready to put my body on the line on my birthday, but got up anyway after pushing doze at 4:30 AM, dressed in multiple layers, got in my car and headed to West Oakland BART.

I got there at 6 AM and by the look of the lot, their were a lot of people already there. A volunteers with cars were shuttling people to and from...very nice of them.

So Tureeda and I got a ride to the staging area where we began marching at one gate and then as the numbers grew moved up further to the gate nearest the water.

Chanting and marching, I saw many familiar faces and got a chance to catch up on the latest with Pierre about Haiti and Susan about Kevin Cooper. Kevin's capital case is on appeal to the Supreme Court and in Haiti, the sex trade is getting a boost post-earthquake, as girls and women are being exploited for aide.

Today I heard on the news that Albert Woodfox's appeal for release was overturned. I am not certain what the next steps are, but I saw Marina and Bo from Free Angola 3 marching as well. Marina was in New York for the Human Rights Watch screening of Land of the Free, a film about the men: Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King: The Angola 3.

As I walked back to my car, I was happy to have gotten out of the bed to support my Palestinian brothers and sisters, my Turkish brothers and sisters. Global outrage has made Israel lift the bans on aide and now philanthrophists are able to deliver goods so long there are no weapons.

I remember when Cynthia McKinney was in the San Francisco Bay Area last year, she said the Israeli government wouldn't let chocolate in.

Some people feel this embargo needs to escalate to the level reached at the height of the Anti-aparthied movement. It's a perfect time for Connie Field's film: HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG (8.5 hours total)which opens June 25 at the Smith Rafael in San Rafael and June 27 at the Roxie in San Francisco. I think it will prove instructive re: the current move to bring Israel to account for its blatant disregard for human rights, not just for Palestinians but for their allies and supporters.

HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG is the cinematic history of the worldwide effort to destroy South African apartheid, a story that has never been told before in any medium. Working over 10 years, filming throughout the world, interviewing dozens of the major players — Connie Field constructs an epic 7-film history (divided here into 3 parts) that will stand as the final word on how a violent, racist, intractable government was destroyed by the concerted efforts of men and women working on multiple fronts inside and outside South Africa for more than three decades. HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG is 7 films shown in 3 parts, is a total of 8.5 hours and is not MPAA rated.

PART ONE - ROAD TO RESISTANCE (58 minutes); HELL OF A JOB (58 minutes); THE NEW GENERATION (58 minutes)

PART TWO - FAIR PLAY (90 minutes); FROM SELMA TO SOWETO (90 minutes)

PART THREE - THE BOTTOM LINE (86 minutes); FREE AT LAST (75 minutes)

This series is a chronological whole meant to be viewed straight through in sequence.

Okay, enough of the commercial break (smile). I will have the director on my radio show Wednesday, June 23, 7 AM. My first guests are the writers and subject in the true account of another case of injustice in the sentencing and prison time served of John Thompson, who spent 18 years behind bars at Angola State Prison, for a crime he never confessed to and was exonerated of. He was granted reparations and the state of Louisiana denied it. He is currently appealing the decision. He'll be on with writers: John Hollway and Ronald M. Gauthier. For Gauthier, truth must certainly be stranger than fiction for the novelist and librarian who co-authored the book with attorney and first time author, John Hollway. They will be on at 6 AM.

I dashed home, changed clothes and made myself a bowl of cream of wheat. It was going to be a long day and I had no money after giving the balance in my account to the San Francisco police department for my car which was towed Thursday, June 17, opening night for the San Francisco Black Film Festival, which I missed, dashing back and forth between San Francisco and Oakland on BART with ten minutes to spare when I got back to the City in time to save myself an additional $180. The $330 was set to jump to $500 at 9 PM.

When I called the towing service at 6 PM the woman who answered told me I had an hour. When I called back, another woman told me I had until 9 PM. Situated just under the freeway behind the courthouse, many vehicles never get claimed. Owners can't afford to get their cars. I had books in the car for my class I needed to prepare a syllabus for.

So I get my car and look at the ticket, which is not a ticket, that is on my windshield: $155 for administrative fees, $179 for towing and the ticket is $85. Crazy! I a going to fight it. The phone number on the pole at Pine and Larkin was the wrong number and the information on the pole contradicts the ticket. The times are incorrect--there were three signs on one pole.

I also have two parking tickets for street cleaning in Oakland. I can't even pay the tickets because there is no fee or bail on the envelop. It's crazy; I feel set up. If I forget to get the mail, the ticket can easily slip into a warrant.

So I am broke and I can't buy my granddaughter a hot dog at Stern Grove or myself a falafel which look yummy. I can't eat my birthday cake; it has sugar in it. So thank god for cream of wheat--it keeps one warm inside when space is opening up and the vacant sign is near.

The day was warm and Bree, Ragni and I went for a walk up the terraced hill where people sat under trees prepared to watch the concert. It was a nice hike. Leave it to Bree to talk us for a walk. I'd never been up the hill in all my times to the park. I saw Tarika Lewis seated with a friend up there, along with families: parents, children, dogs....

It was a cool birthday--when we walked in we spotted Rahni who'd gotten a nice spot near the entrance in the shade. I had a couple of seats at the press table, but it was in the sun, so I ended up hanging out in the shade, while other birthday guests sat at the table. My mother's birthday carrot cake went over well. People liked them. They looked good. Two years ago she made the cake with honey and I remember enjoying the cake then.

She'd decorated a pillow with a photo and a glass plague with a nice verse about June birthdays. She had put the cupcakes on a yellow tray with lavender flowers on a dollie. It was pretty.

When Lamine Falleh and his group came on they were really good. I'd been listening to their latest CD and recognized many of the numbers. We were grooving in the grove in our spot. I ran down to the front and squeezed my way through to the front to take a few photos and then danced my way back to my friends. Portia joined Ragni, Bree and I. Elouise came through next. Other folks were looking for me. I forget the vibrate setting--so I missed a lot of calls, but I saw folks later, like Elaine and Bill. I also saw other friends like Jahahrah and Ashoke; Jim Dennis. My daughter got lost but she came through with her boyfriend, Shawn. Kamau Amen Ra was on the set and I met a nice sister from Brazil at the press table. I saw Lily from Alliance for California Traditional Arts, which funded the Maafa Ritual a few years ago.

Angelique Kidjo was hot. She always is. I don't think she broke a sweat and sistah-girl was moving all across the stage. I decided to go up to get a shot towards the end of the set and was kicked out the pit. But I stayed close anyway and she came to sing right in front of me. It was really cool. Kidjo is such an awesome artist, she is a true Pan African always giving honor to the ancestors and those who started the musical traditions which maintained the through line between who were are now with who we were then.

Kidjo left the stage and traveled the audience laughing and singing and dancing. When she came back, she invited audience members onto the stage. I grabben Rebeca and her friend's hands and told them I needed their moral support, but I was doing this, dancing on stage with Angelique Kidjo for my birthday.

I was kidding when I told folks she was coming to town to help me celebrate, but on stage when she spoke to me complementing me on my moves, I was like, maybe so (smile).

Okay, so this was a first as well. Next time I'll do a solo. I started my African dance class this afternoon at Laney with Baba Zak. He is teaching us history as well about the dances. It's going to be more than a dance class. Today was really nice.

Back to my birthday, though, after I left the stage and made it back to my people, TaSin showed me photos and a video she'd recorded. I was hoping someone would notice me up thereon stage with a camera and get a shot (smile). I hadn't even thought about a video (wow!).

Earlier Mama and my brother Fred and my niece Widya and nephew Wilfred dropped by the Grove, what they called making a cameo, before the concert started to sing happy birthday to me.

I saw my friend Carol Afua later on as well. She caught Kidjo's encore...an Aretha Franklin inspired number. Sister was singing all the greats: Franklin, James Brown...I don't recall if she did any Michael Jackson...not to mention some of her Kidjo standards. Her latest CD pays tribute to these great artists.

Of course it wouldn't be a Kidjo concert without the pep talk about being one's own blessing--not the stuff but the life. I had to agree and I was happy to be on stage in the light with her. There was a sister in this big hat, black and white whom Kidjo called out--"Sister you are wearing that hat!" She laughed.

That was nice. I went by brother's before returning home. It was a great birthday! I ended up not going to the Tinariwen concert this evening. I got home too late, but perhaps they'll be in Mali at the Festival in the Desert in 2011. I wonder if Fesman is happening this year in Dakar.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Resistance @ Port of Oakland Sunday, June 20, 2010

What a great way to great a new birth year--with resistance and a re-dedication to liberation! All I could hear was Paul Robeson's voice: "No more auction block for me, no more, no more." This is what it is, telling the multinationals that the people are willing to so without rather than support industry that kills and maims and robs nations, as well as, individuals of their sovereign and human rights, such as, the right to peace and justice, land, homes, work and education.

We blocked all three entrances to the Port of Oakland. The Israeli ship which was to come in this morning has been delayed and time is money, lots of it. If the ship decides to go to another port, that is even more money, but definitely the operators know San Francisco Bay Area is out en masse.

I'd awakened at about 4:30 AM and at 6 AM made it to West Oakland BART where volunteers were shuttling folks to the port. I saw Tureeda Mikell when I arrived which I took as a good sign. I'd been kind of worries about the march. Port police are known to be brutal to those that get in the way of multinationals ability to keep making that money. I remember the rubber bullets that met many protesters in the past and tear gas. One person was blinded in such an altercation--the protest against the War in Iraq.

So I was leery, and not necessarily down for martyrdom--who would help my daughter with the mortgage? I have to go to work June 21. Today is my birthday and I kind of wanted to celebrate at a party I am throwing for myself at Stern Grove this afternoon. Hum?

Everyone came out--Israel had overstepped its bounds and really lost its ind when it attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla May 31, 2010, shooting and killing many unarmed volunteers, most from Turkey. I remember when they conficated the aide when Cynthia McKinney was aboard last year in her peace mission. She and others aboard the vessel were arrested and imprisoned.

Clarence Thomas, ILWU, said that the longshoremen can't refuse to work on principle, but they can say that it is a safety issue and that their health is threatened if they handle the cargo. So with the possibility of not having a crew, the ship might dock later today, but it won't get unloaded if the SF Bay has anything to say about it.

As I was leaving, a longshoreman in a forklift a bit further away tooting his horn in solidarity--it's looking good on our political end, thus far.

Later this morning, ILWU met and decided to send workers home--a victory for the people!

On the eve of the Summer Solstice and the day after Juneteenth and the National Day of Mourning for the Africans who died as a result of the Middle Passage, and the ritual in Key West, Florida this morning at 5:30 AM ET for the ancestors...this action couldn't have come at a spiritually more fortuitous time.

Juneteeth in Oakland yesterday was awesome as usual. Wanda Ravenell and Omnira Productions is to be commended for bringing to together such a diverse body of people to remember Africa and its children spread throughout the Diaspora in the European Slave Trade. It is gathering such as this that show how interconnected the trauma truly is, trauma if not benefits.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Great Integration: A Hip Hop Chamber Opera

Robert Henry Johnson presents the Buriel Clay Playwrights Festival 5, featuring Fannie-Lee Lowe's exquisitely wrought QUARTET PLUS THREE, Sunday, June 13th and Sunday June 27th @ 3pm at Sheba Lounge, 1419 Fillmore Street at O'Farrell in San Francisco, FREE TO THE PUBLIC. Please support this magnificent black female playwright.

RHJ is also the Blackswordsman and Prophet in the Hip Hop Chamber Opera: Great Integration, having it’s Bay Area Premiere this weekend, June 18-19, 2010 at ODC Theatre.

Sold out opening night, Great Integration is a tale of the end of the world . . . if you were trying to get tickets; it's the story of the end of a relationship for Temptress, and the start of something new for the Black Swordsman as he quits his body and moves on. It’s a story of forgiveness and retribution . . . regret and remorse, remorse over not living according to a higher good, even it you are the only one toting this value around.

I had forgotten that someone always dies in an opera, even a hip hop opera with a small ensemble or chamber orchestra—it’s still serious pathos, angst and passion. In fact, in “Without Goodbyes,” composer JooWan Kim dedicates the composition to his friend, Michael Kinney and to all those who died suddenly or too soon.

Wearing ceremonial white, MC Kirby Dominant too calls the names of ancestors, his two brothers during the libation, while Christopher Nicholas’s voice, the balm in Gilead, soothes the passage. Dominant’s lyrics or poetry—the libretto, is certainly thought-provoking especially when Raissa Simpson’s choreography doesn’t exactly follow the script, but it works. Hip hop recognizes its lineage here—creative black music, jazz—where innovation is the name of the tune every time. There is even a moment in the piece where the audience is invited to participate—get noisy, while Dominant freestyles along with the dancers, who improvise solos one after the other. Raissa’s is quite spectacular.

JooWan plays piano in bare feet—now I’ve heard of singers taking off their shoes, but pianists? Whatever works, right? And JooWan certainly played well opening night.

I would have liked to be able to read the libretto, at times I wasn’t clear who was whom. The personalities to watch though were Raissa’s Temptress and Robert Henry Johnson’s The Black Swordsman/Prophet, although Jetta Martin’s Hero, Kat Worthington’s Virgin and Julian Pham’s Leader didn’t quite live up to their characteristics. I liked Virgin best. She was a no-nonsense presence who felt no pity for the dying Swordsman after all he’d put her and her people through. It was like die, while Temptress was feeling regret and sorrow. I wasn’t even in the piece, I was telling her to save her pity for a more worthy soul.

I wasn’t aware of the love interest there until the really lovely aerial dance which illustrated--Temptress and Black Swordsman's relationship –its comings and goings. . . the fragile connection linked through literal fingertips . . . it was a lovely moment.

The parallels between the Prophet and the Black Swordsman are clear: both have power of life and death; both invite hatred and love; both can potentially exploit the faith of others and to a certain degree both do.

What Temptress shows is that evil done unto you is not permission to commit evil in return. Evil is evil. The temptation to "do unto others. . ." is an externalized reality in Raissa's character. What Prophet/Black Swordsman shows is the duality that is one’s life and how one’s lesser self has to die before one can live honestly and free. Great Integration is also a commentary on how little control each of us exercises over his or her lives. Great Integration tells us to let go of the tight, yet tenuous hold we think we have on the journey's direction or outcome.

It's a lot easier that way.

When the opera ends, “Temptress” is holding the Prophet’s book, albeit upside down. Is the final lesson, knowledge is power or is the lesson one has to study the enemy to outsmart the enemy?

MC Kirby Dominant probably said something deep to this point, but I couldn’t write fast enough to get it down. JooWan Kim is bringing The Great Integration music to Yoshi’s in San Francisco, July 25, 2010. And if you miss the Bay Area premiere, Raissa Simpson's Push Dance Company is taking the hip hop opera dance performance, Great Integration, renamed per JooWan's request to The Saga of the Black Swordsman, to Joyce SoHo, 155 Mercer Street, New York, NY, July 23-24. Visit their website: http://www.pushdance.org/ and http://goldenfetus.com/

The wonder chamber orchestra musicians are: JooWan Kim-composition/piano, Christopher Nicholas- voice, Valentino Pellizzer- drums, Kirby Dominant- MC and other rotating personnel including; Jacob Bertrand- composition, Tracy Goodwin, Jill Heinke- flute, Ricki Nelson- clarinet, Liana Berube, Ken Lin- violin, Achilles Liarmakopoulos- trombone, Rob Woodcock-bass

Read more: http://www.myspace.com/ensemblemiknawooj#ixzz0traMwud1

Pictures above are: Raissa Simpson with my niece, Wilda Batin, JooWan Kim with Kirby Dominant and Robert Henry Johnson; JooWan Kim with Christopher Nicholas, and Raissa Simpson with two friends.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mountains That Take Wing—Angela Davis & Yuri Kochiyama: A Conversation on Life, Struggles& Liberation (97 minutes, 2009)

What is so striking about this film, Mountains That Take Wing, directed by, is its living history lessons, the breath of singular and plural movements, the shared hue-manity and generations present in the room with subjects Yuri Kochiyama and Angela Y.Davis: Great orators in the traditional and epic sense, women with big hearts who have endured personal suffering and survived—like the mythical phoenix that rises when we aren’t looking—this is what Mountains That Take Wing delivers.

It is not a random history lesson at all—evident in Yuri’s index cards or typed sheets when she speaks. What makes a heroine—is it humility or laughter—Davis and Kochiyama have both and so much more.

WW2, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan—Korean war, Japan’s atrocities against the Chinese and Indonesian women known as Comfort women—the embargo against Cuba, even the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

We learn of the Rosenberg children after their parents were executed as spies from their classmate Angela Y. Davis. We learn of El Hajj Malik El Shabazz’s international work and his alliances cross racial lines from his friend and pen pal Yuri Kochiyama.

The revolution coalesces and expands between these women’s shared histories and overlapping legacies—Davis’s meeting with El Hajj Malik when he spoke at her university where she was one of a handful of African American students. We learn of her mother’s early influence on her life—her parent’s lessons about the world as they supported her organizing discussion groups at her church which was bombed.

Terrorism is not an abstract concept, rather it is all too real when the FBI knock on Yuri’s door and take her father, just home from the hospital where he had surgery, away to prison where he dies 16 days later.

Terrorism is all too real when Davis talks about going underground, when she talks about her friendship with Comrade George Jackson and when she wonders if when the coalition formed to free her from prison meets this “Angela Davis” whom myths had been made, will find he disappointing (smile).

The film captures the love and admiration the two women hold each other. Yuri is so gracious and fiery and so is Angela—it’s surprising the film doesn’t blow up the camera. The directors captured precious moments with Davis speaking about freedom and her politics and Yuri as well, that is, speaking about her early political education teachers. One can hear the admiration in Davis’s voice –probably because coming along a bit later, her relationship might have been a lateral one—housed between the pages in a book, where as Yuri was there (smile).

Art and politics, music…the women cover it all. Well not all …there might be bonus chapters when the work goes to DVD. However, in the meantime, this film is a classic, the way Assata by Assata Shakur is a classic, along with Professor Thelwell’s book with Kwame Ture: Ready for Revolution is a similar classic … as is Still Grazing by Hugh Masekela and Amiri Baraka’s latest: Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music—these authors, as have Yuri and Angela’s lives, crossed so many movements, so much history, yet their persons illustrate how it is possible to change the world. One person really can do something to right a wrong. One person is really all it takes to start a movement and women are an integral part of black liberation movements and justice movements nationally and internationally. (This theme is echoed in other San Francisco Black Film Festival films this season).

Mountains says to its audience one doesn’t have to remain quiet with hands folded. Mountains not only are mobile, they fly.

Can one imagine a mountain flying? The film takes place between two meetings: 1997 and 2008… archival footage, posters and other art fill in where the conversation leads –the journey always exciting and inviting. This certainly a film, one does not want to miss and such a precedent setting film to kick off this annual film extravaganza.

We can only continue look forward. The film screens at the San Francisco Black Film Festival, Thursday, June 17, 2010, 6 PM at Sundance Kabuki, Post and Fillmore in San Francisco. Great location too: Japantown and the Historic Fillmore District. For information about the film visit www.QuadProductions.org Friday, SFBFF12 will host a day of film screening at JHC’s Koret Screening Room, 1330 Fillmore Street, in the Historic Fillmore District. Then, Saturday and Sunday, screening at the Opera Plaza Cinemas downtown SF (1 block from Civic Center Plaza) across from the San Francisco Juneteenth events that Saturday, June 19.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Post Modern Pomos; James Carter Trio; Homeless in the Bay

Yesterday when I left the library walking up Grove to Larkin, I saw a form in the middle of the sidewalk and almost walked right into it...before it moved and I looked down into the eyes of a man sleeping dead center in the middle of the sidewalk. I'd never seen anyone sleeping right in the middle where one walks. I kept turning around and would catch his eyes watching me. What kind of society is this where people would rather sleep on the sidewalk than behind closed doors even if we had enough facilities?

I can still see him now. His cream colored blanket almost a camouflage for the sidewalk. Hum, human chameleons.

I am just happy I didn't accidentally kick him or step on him by mistake. As I walked back up Larkin trying to locate my car...I cut across the plaza where there is a satellite dish which broadcasts the soccer game during the day beginning at 11:00 AM. That's really cool. The sign said the broadcasts will continue through July 11. Visit

I found my car up the street a bit on Van Ness.

Fierce Love
Brian Freeman with Thandiwe Thomas DeShazor and Dazié Grego were great in the dramatic reading of one of the classic Pomo Afro Homos (Post Modern African-American Homosexuals) work “Fierce Love,” published in an anthology edited by Dr. Harry Elam, chair of the drama department at Stanford University. (I saw Harry at Quentin’s celebration Monday as well).

Pomo Afro Homos (1990-1995) was an African-American gay theater troupe founded in San Francisco by choreographer-dancer Djola Bernard Branner, actor Brian Freeman, and singer, dancer, and actor Eric Gupton. Later, Marvin K. White joined the group. They presented the black gay male experience. Their pieces include: Fierce Love: Stories From Black Gay Life and Dark Fruit” (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Fierce+Love-a013705062).

At “Fierce Love 2010” at the San Francisco Main Library, it was nice seeing people there whom I'd just seen the evening before at Quentin Easter's Celebration of Life. As one friend put it, this was a happier occasion. The stories of coming out, class distinctions in the gay community, finding love in risky places, dying with secrets and celebrating queer difference, while written twenty years ago, many of the structural references closed, if not forgotten, the pieces still resonated for the cast, especially the younger members who said, this extremely popular black gay theatre ensemble put black gay life in the main stream. “These men were my heroes.” Thandiwe stated.

The first performance of Pomo Afro Homos was at Josie's Juice Joint, Cornelius Moore told me, and he was there. After the performance at the library during the Q&A there were PAH fans and relatives in the audience who shared their recollections of the stir the trio made in places like Anchorage Alaska at a time when the closet was where gay men lived--blankets and pillows already ordered and in place. PAH brought the black community together, gay and straight. They were a cause to celebrate, an opportunity for black people to forget all the petty divisions for a higher good: respect.

I saw yet another friend, Margo Hall, who directed Sonny’s Blues at a Lorraine Hansberry Theatre/Word for Word collaboration. She was present at co-founder Quentin Easter's final gig Monday evening as well. The San Francisco Bay Area is close knit like that, so I wasn’t surprised to see Margo at the end of the Carter Organ Trio set. I recalled our conversation about her dad’s band and how the young cats spent time nurturing and developing their talent with her father’s group. A Detroit native, she said she always tries to get by when they are in town.

James Carter Organ Trio
Carter was in stellar shape at Yoshi’s San Francisco opening night...his horn at times playing itself...James's breath not completely spent. Talk about echoes of the ancestors. Carter so often surpasses even himself.

The repertoire was stellar and included history lessons. What a great teacher he proved as he told the story of yet another artist who found American less than palatable: tenor saxophonist Don Byas who left for Europe in 1946, not returning until 1970 with Thad Jones @the Village Vanguard. It sounded like Carter would have loved to have been in the audience if he'd been a bit older. If he’d been born (smile). There are these tapes of the concerts on Youtube.com Carter said. As Carter spoke of Byas's musical breath from the Japanese koto to a Fado singer, one could see the same elasticity or range in his playing as he shifted between flute and soprano to his more well known tenor saxophone.

When I looked up Byas, I found he'd switched to tenor sax from the alto when he moved from Oklahoma to California, before moving on to New York in 1937 to work with the Eddie Mallory band where he accompanied Mallory's wife, Ethel Waters on tour at the Cotton Club. "He recorded his first solo in May 1939: "Is This to Be My Souvenir" with Timme Rosenkrantz and his Barrelhouse Barons for Victor. He played with the bands of such leaders as Lucky Millinder, Andy Kirk, Edgar Hayes and Benny Carter. He spent about a year in Andy Kirk’s band, recording with him between March 1939 and January 1940, including a beautiful short solo on "You Set Me on Fire". In September 1940, he had an 8 bar solo on "Practice Makes Perfect" recorded by Billie Holiday. He participated in sessions with the pianist Pete Johnson, trumpeter Hot Lips Page, and singer Big Joe Turner. In 1941 at Minton's Playhouse he played with Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke in after hours sessions" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Byas).

Eyes closed, Carter played energetically, occasionally leaning back so far I wondered if he'd tipped gravity just to confuse me. There were a few children in the audience, on his closing "JC on the Set" while we clapped, he played to a young patron seated on her mother's lap. His horn an extension of his voice, the conversation was "just the two of them," the child laughing as she clapped and responded in kind.

Carter's "Misterio" with the keyboardist playing "Take Six" samples...the voices tied to key strokes, I couldn't tell if he was singing or not. Not, he told me later after the show.

I was feeling left out because I am not going to Detroit for the World Social Forum next week; the James Carter Trio remedied this regret last night--Detroit was certainly in the house, on the set and I was happy to be present as well.

Carter usually announces his set early in the performance, which I appreciate as I forget it (smile), last night was no different. Opening with "Rouge" then moving into "Quiet Dawn"...a good choice considering the intensely combustive opening number which had Carter--elegant in his tailored gray pin stripe three-piece suit, blasting off as he made the journey swing as only Carter can. The journey would have looked even more effortless if he hadn't paused to wipe his brow (smile), but I think I was perspiring more and I was just watching, and then the club AC went up a notch and well Carter and I wiped our brows less frequently.

Remarkable is not even the half of it.

"Quiet" eased into "Nuages" (French for "Clouds"), one of the best-known compositions by Django Reinhardt. "Misterio," "Gloria" and "JC on the Set" showcased the tight ensemble. Each musician had an opportunity to strut his stuff --at times Leonard King stood and played his floor tom like a djun djun, while Gerald Gibbs shifted between a synthesizer, organ and electric keyboard.

The story behind Fuga y misterio, the tango (from operetta, María de Buenos Aires) Composed by Astor Piazzolla, was funny. Carter said he was getting a massage and the song was playing quietly creating a soothing ambiance, but it had the opposite effect on Carter--

"It was in the key of F, temperate. It was track 5 and I couldn't relax." The musician was inspired. We could see him on the table twisting and turning and at the end of the session walking out with the CD.

His version of the piece, what he calls, "New Misterio," was really rocking! He opens with the flute...Gibbs on electric keyboard, King lightly playing the cymbals before Carter picks up the soprano sax, Gibbs slides over to the organ and the piece gets "funky" Detroit roots music. It's a journey across several landscapes and then we're back home...Carter closes just the way he ends as he begins, solo, gently, a bird alighting on a petal.

I think some folks stood up on that one. There were many moments like this for Carter opening night, first set. James Carter, didn’t come out between sets, he’d been having issues with his reed on the tenor, so I expected he was back stage fixing it

It was a marvelous night of music. The James Carter Organ Trio will be at Yoshi's in San Francisco through June 17. Carter has two sets: 8 and 10 PM.

Soweto Uprising
I forgot the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising was also today. Usually there is something happening to commemorate this huge occasion, where many students gave their lives for South African independence. Back before Mandela was released and most expatriots returned home, one way of another--alive or dead as in the case of my friend Zulu Spear founding member and leader, Sechaba Mokeoena-Lead singer, composer, dancer, there was a big event: party and teach-in usually at Ashkanez Music and Dance Center where Zulu Spear first performed locally. As with the Post Modern African-American Homosexuals or Pomo Afro Homos, there were not many venues in the now progressive San Francisco Bay Area for African artists to perform.

Pan African was not always hot! This is why venues like the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, the Black Repertory Group, the former Oakland Ensemble Theatre, Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center, La Peña Cultural Center, the Justice League, Josie's Juice Joint, and other smaller venues, were so important 30-40 years ago when black was not hip, especially black non-commercial, non-mainstream. Such artists were not even on the invite list.... We've come a long long way baby and have even further to go.... (Visit http://www.livingondreamsband.com/photos.asp?ph=gallery&photo=77 for bios.)

Visit Subject: Black Consciousness Movement commemoration of Soweto Uprising

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tribute to Quentin Easter June 14, 2010

The San Francisco Bay Area Arts Community was out last night to pay tribute to one of their own, one or our own. Quentin Easter was certainly a man whom too many of us will miss, miss for his warm compassionate smile, unruffled presence and positive outlook in the face of tremendous stress and obstacles. I am speaking of Lorraine Hansberry Theatre's search for a home after a long and contemptuous battle with San Francisco Art Academy when it purchased the Sheehan Hotel and evicted the premiere black institution, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. Without missing a beat or a season as it were, Quentin Easter, Executive Director, and Stanley E. Williams, the co-founder and Artistic Director, found alternative theatre space at the PGE auditorium, until finally settling once again in its new home at the old Post theatre.

After opening with a splash with Mahalia, a wonderful musical play starring Jeanie Tracy,the season came to an abrupt close when both co-founders were admitted into the hospital. I can't believe it was just four months ago. A lot can happen in a short span of time.

The program last night was hosted by Ms. Belva Davis with Brad Erickson, executive director, Theatre Bay Area. The evening Celebrating the Life & Work of Quentin Easter, featured presentations from a who's who line-up of people who'd performed on the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre stage or one of its many Bay Area theatre family members like ACT-SF ensemble member Steven Anthony Jones who (with another company member) performed a scene from an Athol Fugard play, cast members from California Shakespeare Festival who performed an scene from John Steinbeck's The Pastures of Heaven which looks at the early American influx into California, a prosaic look at the early colonizers of this region and the captivating beauty that is California--a beauty which is also Quentin Easter.

Other guests included L. Peter Callender who graced LHT stage often, most notably in August Wilson's King Hedley II opposite Rhodessa Jones. Callender read a poem, as did Jewelle Gomez from one of Quentin's favorite poets, W.H. Auden, 21 February 1907 – 29 September 1973, who was born into a middle class home in Birmingham, England, now a black community. Among his more well-known poems is "Stop all the clocks" or "Funeral Blues" written in 1936. It is recited in the film: Four Weddings and a Funeral:

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message: “He is dead!”
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves.
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can come to any good.


Stanley E. Williams, Quentin's partner also spoke to an extended standing ovation which only ended when he asked us to be seated. It was painful to see how frail and sick he still is, as he stood supported on both sides. I was told he was on the mend. Later, I was pleasantly surprised to turn around and see Stanley seated right behind me--talk about choice seats (smile). The theatre could have been fuller. It was a fundraiser; however, many people didn't come because there was an admission cost albeit just $10 at the low end, which I thought reasonable.

The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Black Nativity Choir was off the hook with accompaniment by Kenneth Little. However, Ms. Faye Carol's “Black and Blue” showstopper, a la Ruth Brown, “If I Can’t Sell It (I’m Going to Sit On It)," changed the energy as did her closing gospel piece about heaven. Accompanied by a really tight rhythm section with Glen Pearson on piano, Marcus Shelby on bass and Howard Wiley--yes, Howard was on drums and he was good,had his own sticks and everything (smile).

While Ms. Carol sang, the visuals were of her draped in saintly robes in her role in Black Nativity, a fun juxtaposition when singing about "sitting down on it." (The stills capturing the 30 year legacy Quentin and Stanley started were a treat.)

It was Carol's set and another later on with Michelle Jordan ("Crowns")which had a tangible affect on the room. Jordan explained how it had been a month since she'd agreed to perform a song for Quentin, and life being what it is got busy forgot, so she called on spirit which filled the room and with a nod to Glenn on piano to give her a note (I don't remember which one) led us in an improvisational piece created on the spot about Quentin.

I don't know why it happened like it did, but having these women singers grace the stage, one diva after another was just so wonderful. Stanley, seated behind me was laughing and clapping with joy.

Denise Perrier spoke of her role as Bessie Smith in August Wilson's "Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom." "I hadn't acted since high school," she laughed. I remember LHT's "Ma Rainey," my favorite Wilson play at that time. Now "Ma Rainey" has been joined by "Gem of the Ocean."

Paula West also performed "Waters of March," Portuguese: "Águas de Março", a Brazilian song composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim, closed her short set. If you recall, it's a list song: a stick, a stone.... Jobim rewrote the lyrics for the English:

Jobim himself re-wrote these lyrics for the English version. It's a whole new poem:

Waters of March

A stick, a stone,
It's the end of the road,
It's the rest of a stump,
It's a little alone

It's a sliver of glass,
It is life, it's the sun,
It is night, it is death,
It's a trap, it's a gun

The oak when it blooms,
A fox in the brush,
A knot in the wood,
The song of a thrush

The wood of the wind,
A cliff, a fall,
A scratch, a lump,
It is nothing at all

It's the wind blowing free,
It's the end of the slope,
It's a beam, it's a void,
It's a hunch, it's a hope

And the river bank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the end of the strain,
The joy in your heart

The foot, the ground,
The flesh and the bone,
The beat of the road,
A slingshot's stone

A fish, a flash,
A silvery glow,
A fight, a bet,
The range of a bow

The bed of the well,
The end of the line,
The dismay in the face,
It's a loss, it's a find

A spear, a spike,
A point, a nail,
A drip, a drop,
The end of the tale

A truckload of bricks
in the soft morning light,
The shot of a gun
in the dead of the night

A mile, a must,
A thrust, a bump,
It's a girl, it's a rhyme,
It's a cold, it's the mumps

The plan of the house,
The body in bed,
And the car that got stuck,
It's the mud, it's the mud

Afloat, adrift,
A flight, a wing,
A hawk, a quail,
The promise of spring

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the promise of life
It's the joy in your heart

A stick, a stone,
It's the end of the road
It's the rest of a stump,
It's a little alone

A snake, a stick,
It is John, it is Joe,
It's a thorn in your hand
and a cut in your toe

A point, a grain,
A bee, a bite,
A blink, a buzzard,
A sudden stroke of night

A pin, a needle,
A sting, a pain,
A snail, a riddle,
A wasp, a stain

A pass in the mountains,
A horse and a mule,
In the distance the shelves
rode three shadows of blue

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the promise of life
in your heart, in your heart

A stick, a stone,
The end of the road,
The rest of a stump,
A lonesome road

A sliver of glass,
A life, the sun,
A knife, a death,
The end of the run

And the riverbank talks
of the waters of March,
It's the end of all strain,
It's the joy in your heart

Such a well-choreographed celebration for Quentin Easter. The stories were so funny, such as that shared by California Arts Council who said when she funded the theatre initially the two men didn't have two pennies to rub together but they had a vision and a dream and she is happy the organization has funded LHT since its beginning. Everyone on the program didn't speak and everyone in the audience, who could have spoken was content to be present at this gala tribute to a beloved artist and humanitarian Quentin Easter. Senator Jay Leno sent a lovely resolution to the event and the Asian American theatre director shared kind words about the LHT legacy and its presence a precedence setter for multicultural theatre in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the region.

Ms. Doris Ward, San Francisco supervisor, reflected on her many conversations with Quentin about her love for theatre, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in particular. She called LHT an opportunity for black youth to express themselves in ways her peers were unable to in Indiana where there was no black theatre--Ms. Ward was lucky her parents took her to Chicago to see stage performances, but those talented writers and performers in Indiana, her friends, had no stage open to them to express this creativity. LHT has a youth theatre preforming arts program, evident that evening on stage when one of the younger choir members sang the national anthem.

I remember subscribing to LHT for the Sunday family matinee where I brought my daughters for many years to the theatre on Sunday afternoons where we'd see friends from the East Bay, as far away as Richmond, as well with kids in tow. One of the these patrons eventually became director of the Oakland Public Library. This predates Target Family Days. There was no cake or peach cobbler, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese to entice my kids--the stories unfolding on stage were enough to keep them rapt in their seats and I was proud as a single parent, able to afford to support black theatre. I couldn't even imagine then, that I would get to know the founding directors: Quentin and Stanley, that I would write a cover story for Theatre Bay Area's magazine about black theatre and of course LHT and become a person whom Quentin stated once always has an "unusual" or was it "original" (smile) take on LHT programming. I always felt welcome and appreciated by Quentin and Stanley and Marc (publicist). This theatre family's generosity extended to giving me a ticket to opening night at SF Playhouse/LHT Theater collaboration (when for some reason my RSVP wasn't received). I sat right next to Quentin and Stanley--yes, it was exciting.

Lorraine Hansberry is an Equity House, yet it is also a place where on Sunday afternoons one finds the seats filled with church buy-outs, a place where I have taken my classes at the College of Alameda to their first theatre performances: "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" and the Word for Word collaboration with LHT, directed by Margo Hall, an original score by Marcus Shelby, "Jimmy's Blues."

I always felt at home, just the way I feel like family at Black Rep in Berkeley. Dr. Mona Vaughn Scott and her son, Sean Vaughn Scott were also present last night.

I remember LHT sharing their rehearsal space along San Francisco's Embarcadero with the African American Shakespeare Company for their Cinderella rehearsals. Sherri Young, founding director and David Skillman, one of the original wicked step-sisters was there among others. I saw actors from Berkeley Rep, Aurora Theatre, the Magic Theatre, and San Francisco Mime Troupe like veteran couple, Velina Brown and Michael Gene Sullivan.

I remember the conversations hosted by LHT with Idris Ackamoor and others regarding regional black theatrical institutions and black arts programs like that envisioned by August Wilson called ATTAIN (spelling?).

Also, one cannot forget the time, LHT with ACT-SF hosted August Wilson and allowed the great artists a space to workshop his play, "Jitney," before it went on to Broadway.

Ms. Ward charged those of us present Monday evening with the task of supporting Quentin Easter and his partner, Stanley E. Williams's vision for black theatre arts in whatever capacity needed so that we can save black youth.

As stated, everyone on the program didn't get to present or speak, missing was Rhodessa Jones, whose Medea Project, Theatre for Incarcerated Women, debuted at LHT on Sutter. Soap Stone, a theatre program out of the San Francisco Sherriff's Dept. also debuted there as did the start of Marvin X's "One Day in the Life," a play about addiction and recovery and forgiveness." Recovery Theatre director Gregory Grier was present as was one of my favorite playwrights, Americ.

I just had to get a photo of Rhodessa Jones in her crown, one of three she received while in South Africa. The day Queen Mother Zenzile Miriam Makeba (1932-2008) died black women wore the Zulu crown honoring their queen. Surrounded by so many artists, and journalists and folks I just admire like Brenda Payton, I just marveled at the crem de la African American theatre crem out that night. I wish I'd had a photographer to just work the the reception, so I could just look and talk and reflect on Quentin Delancey Easter and Stanley E. Williams.

I hadn't known Quentin was a graduate of Princeton and that as a child he liked making speeches and graduated with a BA in History and a Certificate of Proficiency from the African American Studies Department in 1975. In high school and at the university he served as president of his class, Undergraduate Assembly at Princeton, Student Council President at Northern High School in Baltimore.

We closed the hall at 11:30 PM. I kept expecting Quentin to show up and well he did in all the words and lives he touched and in the brief clip we watched from a new film on Bay Area theatre where Quentin shared his philosophical belief about the power of art to change lives, transform society and heal community.
Visit www.lhtsf.org and save the date: October 16, 2010, Westin St. Francis Hotel, 335 Powell Street, Union Square, San Francisco.

Mahalia: A Gospel Musical at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre through March 7, 2010

What a wonderful story…and the music is superb. One could say that Tom Stolz’s "Mahalia" is a gospel tribute to an amazing woman, who could be called if she isn’t already the Queen of Gospel Music. In the hands of Jeanie Tracy under the musical direction of Kevan Peabody and able stage direction of Stanley E. Williams, LHT co-founder, this play rocks as in the buxom of Hagar and her heavenly chorus. At first I wondered why Mahalia as a child, a young woman and then an adult were portrayed by one actress, why we had to imagine the other people mentioned like the members of Mahalia's ensemble, then the magic took over as Jeanie Tracy’s Mahalia filled the room. Larger than the old LHT on Sutter, this space is wider and deeper, the balcony higher, but opening night the house was significant. I say this to say that Tracy's ability to fill the room was no small feat.

The writing is so marvelous. I just loved Mahalia’s lines, especially when she was talking about her lord and savior. The other cast was equally fine, especially John Borens who plays all the male characters, sings and plays the Hammond 3-B organ well. He is Mahalia’s cousin Fred, who convinces her mother to let young Mahalia go to nursing school in Chicago; he’s pastor Lawrence who encourages Mahalia and baptizes her; he is also the Chicago preacher who doesn’t like the soul Mahalia brings to his Northern church---she dances too much; he plays Blues Man; Thomas Dorsey, the father of gospel music who wrote many songs for Mahalia; he’s Francis, her blind accompanist; and last he is Martin Luther King Jr. Actress Yvonne Cobbs-Bey is Aunt Duke and Mildred. She is so funny and Charlene Moore, is the most understated star on the stage...she plays for almost the entire show, she doesn't have any lines but she sings as well. She and Tracy have history and it shows; neither misses a cue. Together they are Mahalia, who calls herself, “Hallie.”

I love the way the writer externalizes the character's thoughts so we can hear her thinking—Mahalia is witty and so true to what she believes that God blessed her with this gift and her job was to use it to heal people’s souls. She wasn’t interested in crossing over or becoming homogenized. What I found amazing was how this woman, born of parents who’d known slavery, had only a third grade education and couldn’t read music was such a huge success, not just monetarily—she had material success, but as a person. She was happy doing what she felt was the will of her lord. The story Mahalia, especially in the hands of Jeanie directed by Stanley Williams is the story of hope and faith. If Mahalia could reach such greatness with so little to support her then there is no excuse for any of us to not reach out potential. Other lessons were hard work, family and community support…

The audience was clapping along and singing along as the popular songs filled the theatre. When Mahalia sang I Been Buked, I couldn’t help but think of Alvin Ailey’s Revelation where this song is one of the songs played. (Ailey is coming to town March 9-14 at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall.)

Mahalia made each moment a joyous one, even the moments when she was afraid, like the time when she went to Montgomery to share a song with those walking for freedom during the bus boycott. Mahalia’s story is literally a story which reflects the movement of this country from slavery to liberation…when one thinks about the soundtrack for a revolution one certainly hears Mahalia Jackson sing.

For tickets call (415) 474-8800. Shows are Thursday-Sunday. Visit www.lhtsf.org The LHT is located at 450 Post Street, Union Square, San Francisco, CA. March 6, 2 p.m., is a Target Saturday, which means all seats are half-price, $20.00, and a meal is served at the close of the show.