Sunday, February 06, 2011

Wanda's Picks February 2011

Author Event

City Lights Books & SpeakOut present: Clarence Lusane, Writer, Scholar and Journalist on Race, Human Rights and Electoral Politics, Author of The Black History of the White House (City Lights Books)

Thursday, February 10, 2011 • 7:00 p.m. , City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. This event is FREE and open to the public. Scholar who Manning Marable calls "one of America's most thoughtful and critical thinkers on issues of race, class and power."

For more info about this event: visit or call (415) 362-1901. For more information on the author visit

Oakland Standard @ Oakland Museum of California

Well missed the kick off of the series Friday, February 4, 2011, but, the exhibit is still up (smile): New contemporary arts series kicks off with a night of music by DJ Mia Moretti, street dancing with Turf Feinz, and Tag Team Talks with notable Oakland creatives

The Oakland Standard explores experimental ways to connect art to our contemporary lives.

Proudly produced in Oakland, and generously supported by The James Irvine Foundation, the Oakland Standard is an experimental series of music events, blogs, installations, film screenings, lectures, workshops, performances, and more---all exploring new ways for the Museum to present content and for the public to participate in the Museum experience.

"The Oakland Standard intends to be a hotbed for the experience and discussion of critical and timely ideas related to California," says Senior Curator of Art René de Guzman. "Through the Oakland Standard's many projects, OMCA aims to be a forum for public dialogue and participation-all while presenting the Museum in new and engaging ways. A world-class museum supports its local creative communities: artists, writers, musicians, and the public alike;The Oakland Standard aims to work with the talents around us in experimental and exciting ways."

Museum admission is $12 general; $9 seniors and students with valid ID, $6 youth ages 9 to 17, and free for Members and children 8 and under. OMCA offers onsite underground parking and is conveniently located one block from the Lake Merritt BART station, on the corner of 10th Street and Oak Street. The accessibility ramp is located at the new 1000 Oak Street main entrance. For more information, visit


Brian Copeland’s “NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN” at The Marsh Berkeley: February 4, 11 & 18, 2011

Brian Copeland’s hit show, NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN, for two benefit performances at The Marsh San Francisco and three February performances on his home turf in the East Bay at The Marsh Berkeley. The Marsh is very proud to be the theatrical producer of what became the longest running solo show in San Francisco history and thrilled to welcome Copeland to our Berkeley stage for the first time. We are also very grateful to him for stepping forward with this benefit to help The Marsh during Dan Hoyle’s injury hiatus.

The Berkeley performances are on Friday, February 4, 11 and 18 at 8:00 pm The Marsh TheaterStage, 2120 Allston Way, Near Shattuck in downtown Berkeley. The public may call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006 or visit .

“In 1972, the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing Called San Leandro, California ‘a racist bastion of white supremacy’. It was named one of the most racist suburbs in America. CBS News and Newsweek covered the story. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights conducted hearings. And then, we moved to town.” So writes Brian Copeland in his first solo show, NOT A GENUINE BLACK MAN, revealing a little-known chapter of Bay Area history. In a monologue that's both funny and poignant, Copeland explores how surroundings make us who we are.

Copeland’s memoir based on the show is now available nationwide. It received high critical acclaim from, among others, Publisher's Weekly, People, Ebony and The Boston Globe while reader reviewers on are calling it "The best book I've ever read." It was chosen as the 2009 selection for Silicon Valley Reads, a library sponsored program which encourages all Silicon Valley residents to read one book at the same time and engage in community wide discussions on its relevance. It is widely used in school and college courses. For more information on Copeland, please visit his website at .

Copeland will be returning to The Marsh in May with his long-awaited new show, The Waiting Period! In the meantime, join us for an evening of laughter, tears and sociology.

Clybourne Park Extends Through February 20 at ACT!

I really enjoyed the West Coast premiere of Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park which luckily was extended before its official opening through February 20 at the American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) in San Francisco. I wasn't certain what to expect and when the curtain rose on Bev and Russ Stoller, a white couple relocating to Glen Meadow, a suburb outside Chicago, who were selling their home, I didn't get the references to Lorraine Hansberry's classic, A Raisin in the Sun either; however, soon the mystery was dispelled when Bev and Russ's neighbor, Karl Lindner, a representative of the neighborhood community association, with pregnant wife, Betsy, enter the living room, and inform the Stoller's that the new owners are a black family. Surprise! Surprise!

When I got it--so to speak, I wondered if I cared to know the neighborhood association back story. The play really didn't pick up for me until the second act when the characters spoke to me specifically since I see what was happening in Clybourne Park 2009 throughout the Bay Area. I thought Norris's depiction of the urban white professional who can't afford to buy in San Francisco (my reference), so they purchase something in West Oakland, an externalizing of a phenomena which I don't recall seeing on stage from the white perspective. Though I am not the audience, I certainly could appreciate just hearing the argument which is not resolved because the wound is still to new to heal, yes, even 158 years later (1863-2011).

Race and real estate. The inequities in American society seem to always end up an issue of property rights or inheritance, prejudicial values we can't seem to shake or let go. The Stollers don't care if a black family gets their haunted house and the family gets a sweet deal because no one wants to buy it. 50 years later, the story is the same. No one wants to buy it for different reasons and when the new owners find out that it's haunted (smile), the wife, Lindsey, asks if it's legal to not disclose such tales to perspective buyers.

All the available floor and seating space is cluttered with boxes, while Russ is seated in an easy chair reading National Geographic and eating ice cream. He is quiet --sort of like a simmering keg of dynamite, and grows irritable and more combustive when Bev invites her pastor, Jim over for tea and counsel which is unwelcome. Just as Jim is leaving the doorbell rings and other unwelcome guests --at least Russ sees them as unwelcome, enter.

Haunted houses, reverse gentrification or white supremacy are themes in Act 1, and when the channel shifts in Act 2, the neighborhood is run down as Karl predicted. Did he curse the integration process or was it already cursed?

Bev's maid, Francine is drawn into the discussion about whether or not she'd buy a house in the fictional Clybourne Park neighborhood as she prepares to leave for the day. It is quite theatrical watching her dodge the overt bigotry in the questions, her husband Albert who comes by to pick her up, acknowledges.

In Clybourne Park white people really haven't a clue about how black people live; it was almost as if National Geographic should do a special cover story on the subject. Bev hadn't met Albert and didn't know how many children the couple had, or their ages, even though her maid had been with her for many years.

Norris's Clybourne Park, directed by Jonathan Moscone, has an air of mystery, both mystery regarding the house and the couples' discomfort and a mystery regarding the handling of the tragedy. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not mentioned but clearly is the reason why the Stoller's son snapped. Another theme is forgiveness and how despite his obvious remorse, Clybourne Park did not forgive Kenneth, a Korean War veteran, who'd served time for murder.

Fast forward to 2009, where we meet Steve, married to pregnant wife, Lindsey, with their attorney Kathy (the daughter of Betsy and Karl, who move out of Clybourne Park just after her birth) the story is the same. Seated in the coveted Stoller home are also Kevin and Lena (Lena, the great-niece of Lena "Mama" Younger from Lorraine Hansberry's play A Raisin in the Sun). Tom from the neighborhood property owners association (the son of the realtor who sold the Stoller home in Act 1).

Double and triple cast, the ensemble does a great job with the story and their characters. Actress Omoze Idehenre, is outstanding in her role in Act 2 as Lena. If readers recall her namesake, the woman is a feisty reminder and representative of her ancestor. Lena's husband, Kevin, portrayed by Gregory Wallace, presents a nice foil for her slow combustion. Unlike Idehene's Lena/Francine, his Kevin reminds me of Albert in the first act, the character's conciliatory or easy going nature is there until he is pushed. Actually, both couples play off one another, Lindsey and Steve, a different kind of foil. Actress Emily Kitchen's "Betsy" is deaf, while her "Lindsey" is not, yet both are pregnant. The couple's role in Act 2 is the reverse of that in Act 1, yet the rationale is the same whether it's a black family moving into a nice white neighborhood or its reverse a white family taking advantage of a real estate deal available in blighted black neighborhood.

Humor is a great place to disguise discomfort masquerading as racism and/or bigotry, and the playwright gives his characters full reign in Act 2, as the debate ensues over new construction that does not consider the historic integrity of the community. He says in answer to a question, (by Beatrice Basso, in the program) about political correctness as relates to societal evolution that in theory perhaps evolution is possible, however, even if "normalization" happens when one is careful, "we white people (because we are the oppressors) sit around going, "Is it time now" Has enough time elapsed? Can we say 'nigger'? But of course that never happens, so white people feel resentful becasue we realize the past is going to hang around our necks like millstones forever. There is no end. Even if we gave reparation payments, still it wouldn't be enough."

I don't agree with the inevitability tacit in Norris's answer. If one looks at a recent book, by Sana Bulter, Sugar of the Crop: My Journey to Find the Children of Slaves, (2009), then slavery is still a current event and as such how can we forget or allow others to forget or slip off the hook? The government hasn't addressed reparations nor has it officially apologized. What we need is a truth and reconciliation hearing on slavery, but in the meantime Cybourne Park happens 50 years after Lorraine Hansberry's play, based on her family's story --a lot more violent than that experienced by Mama Lena's family. Hansberry's story was also a tragedy--Lena's husband worked himself to death, and it was the insurance money which allowed his heirs to as George Jefferson would put it: "Move on up!"

What isn't addressed is how the family home came to be sold and why was it in such disrepair? If one remembers Mama Lena and her family, there was such pride in ownership. What happened to the grandson, Walter and his wife Ruth's son, Travis Younger, what happened to the sister who wants to be a doctor Beneatha Younger (“Bennie”)? What happened to Walter Lee Younger?

Norris says in that same interview: in response to a question on humor: "Tim Sanford--who runs Playwrights Horizon In New York [where Clybourne premiered last February] referencing a political theorist he's read, who says tragedy is only possible in community where everyone shares the same sense of themselves, where everyone has the same identity." That "[i]n a modern society as fragmented as ours, that's not possible. . . . The second part is comedy [because] the people in the first act all understand each other much more than the people doing the second act, everybody makes assumptions.

"Everyone holds their tongue, because we live in a society where speech is more dangerous than activity--than action."

In Act 2, which is supposed to be a comedy--humor a relative social concept, the clients and their attorneys are seated in the blighted house--dark, dank and gloomy, with their future neighbors to resolve a zoning issue which is tying up their construction plans. There is graffiti on the walls in a room missing doors, dark, long uninhabited. The contrast between 1959 and 2009 is evident just 50 years later.

Norris says that Lorraine Hansberry's play, along with Our Town were a part of his school curricula when he came up in the 1970s in Houston in an all white community and that this constituency is his audience. "When asked why I don't write plays about people in housing projects, I say," Norris says, "Well, because those are not the people who go to theatre. . . . People who buy subscriptions [to large theatres] are usually wealthy people. They are almost always wealthy, liberal people. So why not write plays that are about those people, since those are the people in the audience? If you actually want to have a conversation with that audience, then you have to address them directly."

Read more of this interview on

The five additional performances will take place on the following dates: Wednesday, February 16, at 8 p.m.; Thursday, February 17, at 8 p.m.; Friday, February 18, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, February 19, at 8 p.m.; and Sunday, February 20, at 7 p.m. Clybourne Park plays at the American Conservatory Theater (415 Geary Street, San Francisco). Tickets (starting at $10) are available by calling the A.C.T. Box Office at 415.749.2228 or at

I interviewed actress, Omoze Idehenre, on Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, February 11, 2011. She concluded the show 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM. Visit

Family Genealogy

Family Journeys: A Celebration of Black History and the African American Family, Saturday February 19, 2011, 10 AM – 2 PM at The Black Repertory Theatre, 3201 Adeline Street, Berkeley, CA 94703.

Learn about the journey of black migration to the Bay Area and discover your own family history at this special community forum! Be inspired as you listen to local experts, community leaders and youth engage in an inter-generational dialogue.

Black Family History Day

Black Family History Day, presented by The African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC), Sunday, February 20, 2011, 2 PM - 5 PM, at the Family History Center at the Mormon Temple, 4766 Lincoln Ave, Oakland CA 94602

Antoinette Broussard, author of African American Celebrations and Holiday Traditions will be speaking. Volunteers from the AAGSNC will be available to help attendees prepare a 4-generation ancestor chart as a start in gathering their family histories.

Riding While Black 1955: Claudette Colvin, Walking While Black 1999: Bryonn Bain

Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama nine months before Mrs. Rosa Parks, will be the featured speaker at the Bay Area forum, “Riding While Black 1955 and Walking While Black 1999” on Sunday, Feb 6, 2011 at 1:30 pm at the San Francisco Public Library Koret Auditorium.

Ms. Colvin was just 15-years-old at the time.

“Rebellion was on my mind that day. All during February we had been talking about people who had taken stands. We had been studying the Constitution in Miss Nesbit’s class. I knew I had rights,” Ms. Colvin said.

The following year she became the star witness in the federal case, Browder v. Gayle, that desegregated the Montgomery buses. Her story is told in the book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose, a Newbery honor book and a 2009 National Book Award winner.

Ms. Colvin will be in conversation with Enid Lee and Bryonn Bain. Bryonn Bain, prison activist, author, teacher and hip-hop artist, was wrongfully imprisoned by the NYPD during his second year at Harvard Law and he sued the city of New York. Bain’s story, Walking While Black: The Bill of Rights for Black Men was published in the Village Voice and he was featured in an interview on 60 Minutes. His nationally touring one-man show, Lyrics From Lockdown tells the story of his wrongful incarceration through hip hop, theatre, spoken word, calypso, lyrics and letters exchanged with a fellow poet and friend—sentenced to Death Row at the age of 17 years old.

Enid Lee, world renowned anti-racist and multicultural educator is an accomplished “front line teacher,” educator, researcher, writer, consultant, facilitator and speaker. She has taught in the Caribbean, Canada and the U.S.A. and has been involved in the professional development of teachers for two decades. She consults internationally on anti-racist, inclusionary and equitable education.

The forum will feature cultural performances by Bryonn Bain and Awele Makeba. Awele Makeba has made it her life's work to tell history through the words of its oft-forgotten witnesses and has mesmerized audiences around the world, from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to the Musikverein in Vienna, Austria, to the Suriname rain forest and Tsinchu Teacher's College in Taiwan. She is an award winning and internationally known storyteller, recording artist, educator, and warrior for social justice.

The forum is presented by the African American Interest Committee and the African American Center of the San Francisco Public Library in association with the San Francisco Unified School District. A book and CD signing follows the program and reception. The program is FREE and wheel chair accessible.

All are available for interviews and media appearances. For interviews or additional information, please contact Awele Makeba at 510-601-0432 or The San Francisco Public Library, Main Library is at 100 Lakin St. (at Grove) 415-557-4277 Visit It is across the street from the Civic Center BART Station.

Art Exhibit

The Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery, Lindsay Dirkx Brown Gallery located in the San Ramon Community Center, 12501 Alcosta Blvd., San Ramon, CA 94583, (925) 973-3200, in conjunction with The Art of Living Black and the Black Families Association of Contra Costa County present "Rhythm of Life," a diverse collection of artworks from award-winning artists during Black History Month 2011. The exhibiting artists are Kabir A. Adejare; Patricia A. Montgomery and Karin Turner.

Reception: Sunday, February 6, 2011, 1-4 p.m. The show runs February 2-28, 2011. For more information: akaartwork@aol.comPlease link on the link below for a preview of the exhibition "Rhythm of Life"

On the Fly:
Khahil El Zabar is in town this weekend for one evening at Yoshi's in Oakland. The same is true for Randy Weston, who is at Yoshi's in San Francisco for 8 PM to talk about his latest book and CD. It will be fun seeing the great man, whom I saw last in Dakar. The 26th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference 2011 is Saturday, February 19, 9:30 to 5:30 at the MLK Student Union Bldg. at UC Berkeley. Register at Angela Y. Davis and Ericka Huggins are in conversation. Goapele is performing at the 5:30 P reception.

Check back for updates (smile).
I am having technical difficulties with the website presently:


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