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 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.


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