Thursday, December 30, 2010

Black World Arts and Culture Festival: FESMAN

FESMAN is winding to a close this week. It has certainly been an indescribable experience this month, especially living in what is called the Artist's Village. I love it here. It is a prototype of what paradise looks like--African people, who despite the absence of a common language interact on a deep soul level that is often beyond thought.

This afternoon my friend, Tracy and I picked up our passports for Mali and dropped by the film center located near the university and the mall--yes, there is a mall in Dakar frequented by the beautiful people--wealthy and so French, Africa is often an after taste.

That is one thing I have to say really put me off, is the Francophone nature of the Festival. All sessions were in French with not much translation, especially into English outside the academic forums. Programs, all signage and all announcements were in French--no explanations. Can you imagine sitting through a play where you miss all the jokes as the audience laughs?

Most of the countries presenting were Francopone too. Brazil had a strong presence too as did the American artists, although most were not women.

Today I went back to an art exhibit and saw Hank Willis's work on the walls. My goodness, Hank is everywhere. I was blown away by his pieces, one a striking work which looks like The Door of No Return in a bottle.

The Biscuiterie is a really cool venue. I did part of the art exhibit, my second time there. I missed the African dance classes today. I think it was South Africa or Cuba. I didn't get upstairs. I am going to try to get back early on January 1, so I can do the upstairs.

I lost my tape recorder with all my interviews from the first two weeks and then the next day I lost my FLIP camera. I lost those interviews as my computer is not compatible with the program. I also wasn't able to swing the visit to the women's prison, but I feel like I am getting closer for next time.

Everything here is double the price in the USA and most things are imported. I was looking at a photocard and it was $30 for 4 GB. I left it at the store. Perhaps I should have bought it.

I finally got by the architecture exhibit, which was coming down. I thought the architects had recreated the housing prototypes in actual size --CICES, the place where they were housed was large enough to have taken advantage of this opportunity to make the dwellings more inhabitable physically as well as philosophically.

There was a noticible absence of East Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia. This is not to say individuals from these nations where not present, there was just not a noticible presence, except Ethiopia which was represented in a big way in the Lucy Exhibition at IFAN.

All the art catelogs, except one was in French. I would have been cool with African languages, but French is the language like that of English, German, Spanish, Portugese, Italian.

Even though this is a black festival, the invisible hand of Europe was certainly present. The president's kids are biracial so techically everything here is integrated, not that I don't admire President Wade. He is a brillant man. Now that the Festival is over I am seeing lots of white folks sort of coming out of the wood work.

Dakar is so Oakland, San Francisco, probably Paris and LA and certainly New York, and I'm not speaking Brooklyn or the Bronx, rather, Manhattan. But then when one drives or walks into the neighborhoods away from the beach front, she sees fishermen, market women, crippled people, single mothers, tattered children begging. One Senegalese woman told me with pride that she never gave money to beggers--this was at 11 PM at night. I don't think anyone sleeps in a parking lot with her baby behind a store because she wants to.

I met a lot of young people who only speak French and taxi drivers who say they speak French, but really just speak Wolof fluently. There is nothing worse or dangerous than a person who thinks they are bilingual when they are not (smile). One of the interviews I lost was with a young scientist who would answer my uestions in away that clearly indicated that the translator was misunderstanding the English (smile). But hey I was thankful. Me and my monolingual self.

No I don't think I am an elite because I live in America. I actually bought Rosetta Stone in Januaary and hired a private teacher this summer to learn French. She quit and kept my money. I wasn't disciplined enough for Rosetta Stone. So I plan to try again when I return, this time with UC Extension, which was my first course of action this summer, then I changed my mind.

The president made a point to state that Senegalese didn't have an inferiority complex and that white supremacy might have touched most of the African Diaspora, but not Senegal. What a contradiction. While stating this, Senegal had so many women apoloding Wade was there skin had aged prematurely from applications of bleaching cream.

Excuse the typos. The spell check is in French (smile).

Aba's Funeral

The funeral for Aba is today at 11 AM. It's almost 12 midnight here in Dakar, Senegal. The funeral is probably still going on now, as I sit here by the beachfinally connected to the Internet. A Haitian group just performed. They were excellent! At another venue Salif Keita is performing. Seun Kuti is on the bill along with King Sunny Ade. I last heard King Sunny Ade exactly six months ago in San Francisco on Juneteenth, the day before my birthday.

Folks are speaking Portugese and Kreyol, French and a bit of English. I decided to skip the big concert this evening. I was tired. We keep getting in late like 3 AMish. I got up at 8 AM this morning. I thought I was going to Goree Island, but the person I was going with didn't answer his phone. It would have been perfect since today is the funeral.

My sister has been to the police station every day she said and also they shot him 13times and there were defensive wounds. She's lookin into a lawyer. The boys that were with Aba said he didn't have a gun. They also said they would turn themselves in but not to the police, because they are afraid.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My nephew is killed by Oakland police

My nephew was shot and killed by Oakland police Monday afternoon, December 20. I’m in Dakar at a plenary about youth while a youth in Oakland lies dying in a backyard. Obataiye Tamirr Lewis Edwards was 19. The elder of two sons, he was a sweet boy hanging out with the wrong people. No matter what my sister, Octavia, his mother suggested, he resisted, yet this was not reason to kill him.

I know the neighborhood where Oba was killed well, my daughter and I used to live just around the corner from where the crash and foot chase happened, near Oakland’s Highland Hospital.

I invited Oba and his mother, Octavia, to Susan L. Taylor kick-off just three weeks ago: A New Way Forward: Healing What’s Hurting Black America. Visit: I told Octavia that she would meet some of the organizers who could help her with Oba, like Baayan Bakari, who is at The Mentoring Center, Dr. Shawn Ginwright whose speciality is addressing the violence and dysfunction among urban youth, and Dereca Blackmon, who is project director for Oakland Cares and an expert on radical healing exemplified in her outstanding work with youth at Leadership Excellence. We even invited Aba's parole officer.

Oba complained he was bored, so he and his mother left early; they left before the youth spoke and presented later in the program. The youth testimonies were really powerful. I wonder why when there is a program about or for the youth, they present last or not at all, as was the case at the plenary in Dakar. The three youth who made comments only had between one and five minutes just before the session ended. Only one youth was from the Diaspora. No one mentioned the genocide in black communities outside continental Africa.

Perhaps if Oba had heard the youths' stories he might not have been in the car yesterday. It’s all about choice and sometimes one makes certain choices based on one's known world.

The police also make choices, and theirs is to shoot to kill. The news report said this was the sixth shooting in recent months and four out of the six ended in fatality.

What a wasted life, Oba had so much to live for, so much unexplored. Black America really does need to look at a new way heretofore and for boys like Oba who are in crisis, there has to be some kind of on the ground mechanism to reach them before the coroner’s office. Oba's mother was looking for help, looking for answers and the fact that Oba was there with her, complaining but there meant that perhaps on a deep pychic and spiritual level he wanted to try something different as well--we were just too slow to reach him and he was in urgent care.

We need a better triage system so we stop losing our youth.

On the street young black men fear and are feared, they are like the ducks sitting in a row at the amusement park—aim and shoot is the protocol. The ducks are all taken dead; there are no live ducks sitting on the wire when the game is played right, therefore, we have to rescue our kids, pull them off and away from the rifle range. Often, these boys don’t listen to their mothers, and Oba had a good mother in Octavia. They need men to lovingly offer them alternatives and give them boundaries with logical and reasonable consequences. One would think that if in the six police altercations, the four people killed were shot in pursuit then perhaps one shouldn‘t run, but even if one stops, that doesn’t mean one isn’t going to die.

As Oba’s mother said, the police only come into the black community to kill our youth, hardly ever as friends. I never heard in the report that the youth in the car were shooting at the police, just that guns were found, so why the excessive force?

Watch coverage of the story here:

Oba is pictured with his cousin Rayneco (in red), holding his little cousin, posing with his Aunt Phyllis and cousins, and alone. Photo credit: Wanda Sabir