Saturday, June 25, 2011

Out. The Glenn Burke Story

Out. The Glenn Burke Story

The word out takes on multiple meaning when one thinks about Glenn Burke’s life in the documentary based on his life: OUT—as in outfield, strike out and out of the closet.

The first openly gay professional major league ball player and Bay Area native, OUT airs this Sunday, June 26, 2011, at 9 p.m. and Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 2:30 p.m. YouTube Promotion:

Friday, June 24, 2011

VIVA RIVA! opens in Berkeley and San Francisco

This jury is still out on the first feature film to come out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in twenty years, “VIVA RIVA!,” opening Friday, June 24, 2011, at Landmark Theatres: the Lumiere in San Francisco and Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley.

Produced and directed by veteran filmmaker and insider, Djo Tunda Wa Munga, I am not sure why the film is so bloody, so full of violence—if “VIVA RIVA!” is a travelogue then one might think multiple times before visiting the DRC, unless one is going to work. Most audiences are familiar with the international exploitation of mineral resources in this Central African nation: blood diamonds. Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage’s "Ruined," teaches us the cost of war on black women: body and spirit, as Congolese sage, artist Samba Ngo sings about blood cell phones—yet, Munga’s “VIVA RIVA!,” adds yet another layer of complicity. What is the director saying about the Democratic Republic of the Congo in his first feature?

In an interview (broadcast this week, June 23-24, he tells me he was not looking at models rather at film as art, a craft driven by story. He says he wanted to tell a story relative to the Congolese experience presently—so he drapes whores in ceremonial masks, not to make the circumstances which leave these women no alternative, any less tragic, just a little sugar to make reality a little easier for audiences to swallow.

Satan walks in Kinshasa. His name is Cesar and he wears a white suit and a Panama hat. He is alive and well-fed with the blood of the guilty; he is unstoppable –or at least it feels this way.

When the film ends one is filled with questions. Who is Riva? Was his life completely pointless? Are there people like him in the world, people who make so little impact—use such a small amount of space in the grand scheme of things, it is as if they never existed?

Nothing is sacred here and almost everything is for sale— one cannot take anything into the fire, so everything is negotiable: values, principles, faith.

In the heart of this thriller, Blaxploitation —Kinshasa style—“Viva Riva!,” we meet a likable crook, Riva (Patsha Bay). Riva loves the whores, befriends the street kids and has no patience for honor among thieves. After a big job, he returns home where he is treated like royalty in the bustling urban center –the medium of exchange oil as in petrol or gasoline. He brings in a huge truck full and its owner is turning over grave sites looking for him. The chase is brutal, which is reason enough for the rating, mature and adult, but the idea that life is so cheap—that gasoline is worth more than human beings is such a global phenomena especially when one is black. The blacker the berry the more easily crushed and crushed it is as the grape vat become ripe with red wine.

The protagonist, Riva, doesn’t have a family, and when he hits town he grabs his running buddy, snatches him from his domicile and the two men party hard—liquor and women. That first night Riva falls for a femme fatal, lithe, light and dangerously attached to the local thug, “Nora” (actress Manie Malone). Viva Riva is a Carmen with a male protagonist—like Shakespeare, Munga’s “Hamlet” is haunted by ghosts—his dead brother’s and parent’s who heap blame on his already tortured soul. Riva’s Kinshasa is a place where even though your troubles are all the same, one can drown them in someone else’s glass (“Cheers”).

Maybe that’s the trouble here, everyone knows everyone’s name, which means no one can hide and the underground scene . . . if it’s as scary as the street scene Riva runs through, then one hasn’t a chance.

Riva is spirit, a touchstone, an egungun as he walks toward the other side. No life he touches is ever the same. I never thought about Robert Johnson’s entourage. Riva has one too . . . everyone he touches has dues to pay. Nothing is free, especially happiness.

The story has few heroes--likable characters, yes, like Riva, Nora to an extent, Riva's friends, and a little boy--a street kid, Riva befriends. Perhaps with everything to lose one can only win. Is this the story VIVA RIVA! tells?

The producer of "Congo in Four Acts," a quartet of short films that exposed the distressing reality of every day life in the Congo, says he hopes with VIVA RIVA! he has the start of what he calls “New Wave of Congolese Cinema.” In Lingala with English subtitles, Munga lets American audiences know who his audience is and that isn’t us. Nonetheless the European trained cinematographer draws a thin line between western expectation and African reality.

The acting is superb and the look of the film rich in texture and color. Kinshasa is a musical city and the film’s score expresses the spirit of a young city trying to leave a difficult past. Composer Cyril Atef (CongopunQ) celebrates the diversity of Congolese music with AfroPop tracks from contemporary artists ranging from Flamme Kapaya, Papy Mbavu, and Radioclit along with popular songs from the 70s by Franklin Boukaka, Franco and Manu Dibango. Visit

Photos: Riva (Patsha Bay Mukuna), Nora (Manie Malone), The Angolans, Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga with Marlene Longange and Hoji Fortuna.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sharon Jones and The Dap King; Ben L'Oncle Soul

Stern Grove Festival 74 was quite spectacular. Many in the audience there because of Sharon Jones and the Dapp-Kings were quite blown over by Ben L-Oncle Soul. The cute kid in glasses brought a full blown orchestra including a fantastic rhythm section with horns. He even had go-go boys in bow ties, knickers and blue cardigan vests, but that didn't stop them as they kept hydrated and boogied till the very end (smile). The day was San Francisco warm--record warm, not wear one's jacket and hope for the sun weather.

One could say that spring is here, summer just around the corner--

The line for autographs was so long, Sharon Jones was into her third, maybe fourth song before Ben finished. He sold out all his posters (large and small) along with his CDs at $30 a pop. Now Sharon Jones would have made a killing. I don't know why she didn't have product on sale, even if she couldn't sign them.

She was the name, the draw.

With radio announcer bass in his voice the bassist, who is also a writer, introduced the Dappettes first, Star Duncan and Sandra Williams who both sang a couple of songs before Ms. Jones came on stage in a short shimmy--black with silver accents. Hair in a short page boy, cute silver slippers with heels and modest silver jewelry, I couldn't imagine her as a corrections officer at Rikers Island until she sang a song about kids growing up.

However, it was her song for the ancestors--actually an ancestor set, that well,it was the best celebration of African American history on an Emancipation Day that I can recall.

She started talking about her heritage: Indigenous and African and how her African family got here-- in chains and how they must have danced when they were freed. She then started naming nations: Cherokee, Seminole, Crow, Blackfeet, Creek . . . . and incidents marking the massacres and slaughters, like the white man's killing off the buffalo. Then she did a dance such that they might have as they still fought for freedom--resistance was certainly in the air, in her genes, in Stern Grove Sunday afternoon as Jones's head back, arms out, knees bent danced her ancestor's freedom song.

Working up to her birth, decades later Jones spoke about attending church with her grandmother and recalled the SHOUT: one part praise, the other part joy. "Both ancestors started in the feet and the feet would ShOUT." Jones said.

Her explanation reminded me of Saturday at the Friend's of the Negro Spirituals Emancipation Sing-a-long, where scholar Wendell Brooks spoke about the SHOUT, how it black people used their voices as drums when the drum was taken away--the choral music tradition one created and embraced by enslaved African--the SHOUT a way of embodying the music.

As the saga traveled through her body: hips, arms, neck, and head . . . Jones added a bit more choreography to the step which was moving her from one end of the stage to another. It was here that she used her towel for the first time.

As I stated, it was simply marvelous watching her relive that history!

The tempo slowed it down with "100 Days, 100 Nights," which reminded me thematically of the Ark with Brother Noah. I think it rained 40 days and 40 nights. I'm sure everyone was a bit stir crazy. The story also reminded me of poor Scheherazade and the king . . . but that was "1001 Nights" or Arabian Nights.

This was the finale and the organizers told the band that there were no encores --that 4:30 was it. However, even that end was negotiable --all the people standing and clapping must have moved some bureaucrat's heart--so Jones ended her celebration of the musical tradition James Brown made popular, with his classic: "It's a Man's World."

It was such a perfect Father's Day song and she admitted after the song, as she wished dad's a Happy Father's Day, that she'd forgotten. But then she hadn't had she?

Her tunes which I didn't know at all included: "Longer and Stronger," "Money"--where she stopped and looked at my friend, and asked him if his funds were enough; "She Ain't a Child Anymore;" "Mama Don't Like My Man," a fun tune that showcased the women's harmony--the sisters were hot on this tune which was a throw back to the girl bands.

Ms. Jones said that she'd been on the road for a year and a half. That's a long time. Her band was bigger than Ben's, however, both groups were 60s funk and Jones could dance too.

She took us to Soul Train the famous line along a route that only stopped at the best stations. Jones would called out "Dapp Kings play some funky chicken music" and they would oblige--precise and professional, the band was rocking the entire time as with the toot of Jones's whistle even before she kicked off her shoes.

"That's okay," she said as someone looked for her dancing shoes in the dressing room. After dancing barefoot at the first stop, the tour could get better with stops at cool jerk, mashed potatoes, swim and others popular dances of that wonderful period in American history.

Ben's band was the perfect warm up for a Sharon Jones--who would have known? Well obviously the programmers at Stern Grove Festival did and so they brought this fantastic band all the way from France to hang out with us on Juneteenth--soul music in France. Singing in both English and French, Ben's band played an introductory medley where I hear James Brown's Hot Pants.

To get to know his audience, Ben asked all of us to say our names together after he introduced the band. It was really cool--I don't think anyone ever did this before. He played some covers --most I didn't know. One was a hip hop selection and the choreography showed the artist's range. Up beat and positive Ben shared a dream he had about a song as he performed.

When people outside American speak fluent English, I feel so lazy which is why children need to get a second and third language, before the privilege bug sets in (smile).

Musical historian at my table told me about the Dapp Kings as Amy White

One wouldn't have known Jones was now 55 if she hadn't told us. She danced the entire set nonstop.

Visit for information about the entire season. Next week Jazz Mafia Symphony feature MC Chali 2Na debuting a new symphony, Symphony No. 2, The Emperor Norton Suite. Concerts start at 2 PM.

Cedar Walton and Roy Hargrove tonight!

In a rare concert, Cedar Walton, piano, and Roy Hargrove, trumpet, perform at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, 7 PM. It's a SFJAZZ Spring Season special! At the same time literally across the street, at Davies at 8 PM, Winton Marsalis's Jazz at Lincoln Center perform with Sean Jones and Marcus Printup on trumpet. Should be nice.

So how were Angelique Kidjo and Youssou N'dour Friday night? Was anyone at the Vusi concert that same evening? What about Carmen Lundy?

Last night did folks get over the the 57th Street Gallery for the Barbara Hunter Quartet? Yes, I missed that too along with the first day of San Francisco Juneteeth. I am missing the complete SFBFF. The programming focusing on fathers and sons couldn't be more apropos according to Marvin X on his blo, posted this morning.

I ended up at Lundy's concert for a second night at the second set. This audience was just as appreciative as the one opening night, they just knew a bit more about the artist. The next day, several people told me they'd wanted to see her and missed it.

She spoke about a song she composed and performed with Cedar Walton, who is a preeminent artist. It promises to be something special.

Juneteenth Special on KPFA radio 94.1 FM

In commemoration of our Juneteenth Freedom Day, WE have been invited to participate in a special two-hour program on KPFA-FM (94.1 FM or, the flagship station of the Pacifica Radio Network. The program will air on tomorrow, Sunday, 19 June, from 9 am -11 am pdt (12 Noon to 2 pm edt). There will also be an opportunity to offer your comments, viewpoints and questions by calling in at 510.848.4425 . As with all Pacifica Radio shows, this one will also be archived to listen to at a later time. Asante Sana (Many Thanks) for your consideration.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Carmen Lundy Quartet at Yoshi's June 17, 2011

Even though it had been a log day, I knew if I could get there Ms. Lundy would be all the cure I needed, the cure, the meditation, the sunshine and raining affirmations her songs embodied. Love, yes love, even after heartache.

The club was not as full as the last time I saw her live. It was the week John Hicks passed and her brother, Curtis was on bass. It was a transcendental set--everyone's mind on the dearly departed soul.

In the ensuing years I've kept up with Lundy . . . her various albums and had an opportunity to speak to her when her Solomente (2009) was released. Visit (June 21, 2009). On this album, Lundy is pictured playing both guitar and drums. However, at Yoshi's she left the literal instrumentation to her guys: the incomparable pianist Anthony Wonsey, phenomenal bassist and new comer to the ensemble, this his first gig, Corcoran Holt, and the prodigy of the group, as in youth, Jamison Ross, 23. Hailing from Florida, the black Indian, Seminole nation, was unspeakably subtle on the traps, never overstated or overbearing, a witty, supportive presence in the ensemble from start to finish.

He and Holt, physically close in proximity, shared a certain camaraderie, Wonsey all alone across the span of 88 keys years yards of wood and octaves--empty spaces waiting to be filled. Despite the physical distance, one could see Ross's face above the cymbals talking to Wonsey, listening intently to the musician whose command of his instrument made us realize that we were in the presence of greatness.

Black magic is certainly real when Carmen Lundy has the wand. "Tell me," she asks her audience, "How many of you are just getting to know this music today?" Unperturbed that half the audience were among the uninitiated, she stayed in the water--the baptism falling from her lips with each selection . . . just one more reason why CD sales were brisk after the band returned for an encore sing-a-long.

She takes us on a safari with Wild Child, then shifts into a finger popping "Lucky Me--I'm in Love Again." I hear patrons calling out Ray Brown's name as Holt solos on bass matching Lundy's speaking in tongues-- scatting. Here Ross gives us a taste of his percussive power, a foreshadowing of what's to come. One hears echoes in the audience as he performs --table top drummers. The two women we meet later after the set are good--who would have known the syncopation was unplanned--just sisters feeling the music.

When black magic is in the room, no one leaves uninitiated--sort of like a contact high (smile).

Lundy tells us her next song is a first composition on guitar. This is a song she and the guys love, she says, as she asks us to indulge her--

"Tonight stars are brightly shining when love surrounds us. . . ."

Wearing a lovely waist length lavender jacket, ruffles along the neck line, stylish and functional, the artist had on these cool black slacks with ruffled pleats, her eye shadow lavender as well, her long lashes coquettish without pretension. Cute short red curly cut favored and framed her pretty heart shaped face.

Singing about love and loss and forgiveness, most of the songs were originals, with perhaps one, one might call a standard" Lundy says of a song from a film she hadn't seen. The song, "A Nightingale Sang In Barkley Square" is unrecognizable the way she arranges it and with it begins a medley of songs on the soon to be released recording taped she mentioned back stage in less than 48 hours. I think they went in at 12 noon, the call at 10 AM and were through at 6 PM the next day--it's like that--star dust and such celestial adornment(on new CD). Listen to The teen idol Bobby Darin sings it here

The songs were about love and relationships, between lovers and friends, even strangers.

She sang: "My one and only love is a dream come true . . . I'm your neighbor. Let go of your paranoia and fear. Where did it gone . . . how did we ever lose the feeling?"

Ross's solo on drums is a meditation that opens the next song. It was like the Niyabinghi rhythm, but then it wasn't. Moving . . . it was hard to place him.

My friend whispered Betty Carter while listening to Lundy--her strength, her command, her range--Carter's performances legendary in their physicality. It was on this song Ross introduced that Lundy's vocal reach was operatic.

Her repertoire varied in style from ballads to stunning forays into areas in the celestial hemisphere I hadn't traversed lately--Lundy's vocal range as wide and as deep as the ocean-- ocean blues and foamy seas.

One of my favorite pieces was a song dedicated to her mother--"Rivers so Wide and Deep . . . walking through the wind alone, I stumble-- Please hold out your hand. I need your strength to go on. Show me a sign. Send me your love--Keep me alive."

Her song reminded me of the Billy Joel song, "River of Dreams," but my notes don't match his song.

It is here that Wonsey gave one of his many stellar solo performances and Ross his first extended solo. I think the song is called "One More River to Cross" on This is Carmen Lundy. Listen to it here:

Nope, this isn't the song she sang (smile). I don't know its name, but the research was fun (smile). This is what happens when one isn't an expert and I don't ask for a set list. I'll see if I can get answers to my questions tonight (smile). Visit

I like the Joel piece though, so I am going to include it here.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To the river so deep
I must be lookin' for something
Something sacred i lost
But the river is wide
And it's too hard to cross
even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and stand on the shore
I try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find what I've been looking for
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the valley of fear
To a river so deep
I've been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I'd never lose
Something somebody stole
I don't know why I go walking at night
But now I'm tired and I don't want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn't take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is I've been looking for
(Three beat Pause)
In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To the river so deep
I know I'm searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night (break)

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I've never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That is runnin' through the promised land (Long Five beat Pause)

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We're all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

Lundy's voice is a physical presence, the music coming from her pores--as in water spirit soul . . . bending from the waist, crouching and balled up like an embryo holding onto what she knows as she tumbles into the light, Lundy would then reach up into the heavens, arms outstretched in supplication, in reverence, in thanksgiving --the music a gift. . . .

In all of this one could feel the music. She is the music. We are the music. Is this philosophical or transcendent or what?! But it's not that deep until you look back at the shore and see how far you are from where you were when you stepped into her arms -- the melody all the trust you need despite the current and the occasional waves.

Magic. It's contagious and addictive.

The encore, "Come Home," is a song about memories of family and siblings, the happy memories we recall when the others fade from view. Scatting as she dipped into that treasure trove that is --magic, black . . .magic, Carmen Lundy magic --the finale was a perfect ending to a perfect evening. Imagine the disappointment of people counting on a second set arriving at 10 p.m. I hadn't known the show was almost canceled until I arrived and went back stage.

Ticket sales were slow. Friday night,tonight, Lundy has to sell the club out. I am sure word will get around that the queen is back and perhaps if we treat her well, she'll come back our way soon.

Roots of Freedom: Omnira Productions Juneteenth Celebration, June 18, 2011



For hundreds of years enslaved Africans and African Americans prayed for freedom. Jubilee, as they referred to the coming of that great day, arrived with Abraham Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

To Wanda Ravernell, host of Omnira Projects’ Jubilee celebration on June 19 at the Lake Merritt Boathouse Picnic Area, the end of slavery was nothing less than a moral national victory. “I read that the news was tapped out over telegraph lines and as word got out, there were spontaneous celebrations, dancing in the streets and prayers at churches,” she said.

Most of these annual commemorations, celebrated by black and white alike, died out by the 1920s. But, 145 years later, the Texas festival known as Juneteenth (because the news of freedom arrived more than two years later, June 19, 1865) appears to be the most prominent of the freedom festivals that remain.

“I believe that we are Freedom’s Children,” said Ravernell, who is African American. “We owe it to our ancestors to give up a little time in their memory for their sacrifice.”

The celebration will include a procession led by sacred African drumming, chants in the various faiths of the African captives, and very old spirituals. In addition, because American Indians were enslaved first, there will be chants from First Nation representatives as well, Ravernell says.

This is Omnira Projects third outing at the lake Merritt Boathouse area.
“I held a similar program at my house for several years, but it makes a difference to have it outside. I read thatLincoln announced the Emancipation outside under a tree. Perhaps that has something to do with it.”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Justice for Oscar Grant March, Sunday, June 12, 2011 in Oakland, CA

ALL OUT Sunday June 12th to honor Oscar Grant and protest the lack of justice in his murder by a police officer who has been let off by the criminal injustice system with a slap on the wrist, and who is about to be released!

Oscar Grant was a young black working man and father, who was shot in the back, as he lay face down on a BART platform, by a police officer named Johannes Mehserle. Mehserle, who drew his gun and fired point blank at the prone victim, who was pinned down by another cop and lay unresisting before him, was convicted in an LA court of only a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter. He is now to be released on Monday the 13th of June, after serving only 11 months for this open and shut execution by a police officer.

MOBILIZE: Oscar Grant (Fruitvale) BART Station, 3 PM, Sunday 12 june. March from there to 14th and Broadway, Oakland. Called by the Coalition for Justice for Oscar Grant.

This is a crime of the criminal justice system, which is based on the legacy of slavery, and on the racist capitalist system itself. This system is waging class war on us, and we must fight back.

Honor Oscar Grant! Jail All Killer Cops! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all class-war political prisoners!

MOBILIZE: Oscar Grant (Fruitvale) BART Station, Oakland, at 3 PM, Sunday 12 June. Be prepared to march from there to 14th and Broadway.

- Labor Action Committee To Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
PO Box 16222 Oakland CA 94610 510 763-2347

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Libations for the Ancestors

Libations for the Ancestors June 11, 2011 in Oakland, CA; Coney Island, Miami, FL; Philadelphia, PA

Each year for the past five or six years Oakland, CA has added itself to the long list of places in the African Diaspora where libations are poured for our African ancestors the second Saturday in June at 9 AM Pacfic Time, in conjunction with programs in Brooklyn, NY (Coney Island); Portobello, Panama; Cape Coast Castle, Ghana; Sullivan's Island, just outside of Charleston, SC, one of the sites where captured African men, women and children were transported and sold into chattel slavery, and elsewhere.

Sister Shukuru Sanders who lives here now introduced me to her friend Brother Osei Terry Chandler, also from Brooklyn, New York, who organizes a similar ritual in his new home in South Carolina. In the San Francisco Bay Area we honor our ancestors in a formal ceremony in October, however, I thought it would be great to join this global libation on the second Saturday in June.

I remember the first year we did so, it was a week after Josephine Baker's centennial birthday, June 3, 2006, where in Paris the black folks, the Ex-Pats were toasting our ancestor. That first year we trekked over to San Francisco to Ocean Beach, but the following year we decided to stay in the East Bay, since the majority of us who attended the inaugural year live over here.

Both ceremonies were born within a year of each other, the Annual Maafa Ritual or Black Holocaust Remembrance is 16 this year.

Toni Cade Bambara, author, in 1987 issued a call to those assembled at a storytelling concert at Meger Evers College, and Dr. Mary Umolu, Professor, MEC, 1996 and AKEEM, Producer, 1996 responded. Since that first event in November, since moved to June, a lot easier to weather, literally, Brother Akeem has been the official leader/coordinator of The People of the Sun-Middle Passage Collective and overall Tribute worker/keeper of the flame (

I have yet to speak to Brother Akeem, he is always too busy, but I have spoken to Brothers Bill Jones and Habte Selassie on my radio show. Both men have been participating from the beginning, along with Brother Osei whom I spoke to recently, about the flame he lit in his new home, Charleston, South Carolina.

Their tributes are integrated, as are most except ours and the Caravan to the Ancestors, in October in Galveston, Texas, sponsored by the Black United Front of Houston. Organizers tell me that if they were exclusive, no one would show up (smile). Personally, I like small and intimate, which is the way ours has been each June.

Odunde Festival in Philadelphia is also this weekend, June 9-12, 2011. The big Festival in on Sunday, June 12, and begins with a procession. Begun in 1975, I think Odunde is the oldest Festival of Pan African culture in the United States. One year I had Founder, Lois Fernandez's daughter, and Executive Director of Odunde, Oshunbumi Fernandez, on my radio show with Brother Osei and Brother Bill. It was a great conversation as neither man knew about the Odunde Festival, nor did Bumi know about the Annual Libations for the Ancestors the same weekend as Odunde which means Happy New Year in Yoruba which concludes the community guided procession to the Schuylkill River (at noon), to honor Oshun, Goddess of the River.

"The ODUNDE festival is an occasion marked by joy and hope, a joy which is highlighted by a colorful procession . . . where offerings of fruits and flowers are made to Oshun, the Goddess of the River. The religion, call IFA, embraced by the Yoruba people is very old. It involves the worship of one God and 401 orishas, similar to saints in the Catholic Church. Included in its three tiers of worship is “ancestor remembrance” in the offering of libations, divinations and other such acts" (

I just think spirit moves in all of us at the same time. There are no coincidences (smile). What I like about Odunde and other observances is the active participation of scholars and people from the continent in their ceremonies and festivities. This year Odunde has invited ambassadors from Angola and Liberia (

Next week in Miami, there is another ritual healing ceremony at the Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, there. This year it falls on Sunday, June 19 [Juneteenth], 5:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public. The Kuumba Artists Collective of South Florida can be reached for information at: (305)751-9791 or

Two themes this year are: 2011 Black History Theme: Black Soldiers in the Civil War (First year of Civil War Sesquicentennial Observance)and 2011: International Year for People of African Descent, proclaimed by UN General Assembly, December, 2010. Visit

Here is a site for Juneteenth Celebrations through out America. It's all about lifting up our people, right? Visit

In reading about the original inspiration and motivation for the annual ritual on Coney Island, 22 years ago, organizers state:

"The Collective believes that we must revere and talk about the Atlantic Ocean that roars beneath the endless blue sky on days when calm is hiding. We bear witness to the Water that has created additional moisture to cry its own tears again and again and again. Tears that turn from blue green to mud brown over dead and poisoned fish that float by our human castles that have claimed the earth and house horrendous deeds and thoughts. The Ocean. Water with a floor of cleaned bones. Bones of Baba, Mama, Cousin Him, Cousin Her, and Neighbor Friend. Bones of those who couldn’t take the darkness, the filth, and the lack of food and clean drinking water. Bones that couldn’t take the systematic beatings and rape. Bones that caved in when eyes witnessed children and loved ones being tossed overboard, providing more food for the sharks. Bones that couldn’t stand being paced like sardines with heavy chains around necks, hands, and feet. Bones that couldn’t take lying in urine and feces and vomit while continuously rocking in the bowels of those ships. Bones that decided to take a chance and fight back. Bones that tried to fly home. Grown-up bones and baby bones. Bones that tried to stay alive. Tired hard to hold on, one hour at a time. But lost. Flesh given to ocean scavengers. Bones lying in the Ocean, the largest single graveyard in the world. We believe that there is a physical and spiritual presence in the Ocean that we must acknowledge and stop throwing garbage upon. We must remember that, like the Earth, the Ocean is sacred, and it demands our recognition and respect.

"We believe that it is a place for both our fun and our seriousness, a place for our children’s laughter And our grown-up Tears, some of Which are caused By Memory, that Life force that Keeps our Ancestral Stories alive. And while we Do all the Various Things that Must be Done in our Daily lives As we Struggle For Survival, Quality, justice, And peace, we Must continue to find the time and the space to create an ongoing memorial for those people who are buried in the Ocean. It is then and only then that their Spirits will be able to rest in peace and offer us blessings as we continue our trek on Earth. We believe that we must listen to the wind over the Ocean, and hear the voices from the past calling out to us. If we dare, we might hear the ancestors telling us what needs to be done. We must listen to the quiet voices within our Black selves while we are at the Ocean, and hear out Kushite hearts beat with the call of the drum, the drum call for justice, freedom, and peace. We must make certain that the world never forgets those wicked slave ships and slavers, and the human flesh and hearts that were destroyed by greed and beliefs in racial superiority. We must remember that today the great, great, grandchildren of the wicked slavers often wear designer suits and ties. They carry new types of whips and build new types of holding cells while they poison the water and the air, and attempt to destroy our memories through continuous and deliberate mis-education.

"We believe that we can win the war against ignorance and misinformation when we collectively stand up to win" (

In its 15th year now, organizers in South Carolina state: "Each year is unique depending on who gathers to remember ... to heal ... and perhaps to share a gift with the community. While there are many touching and meaningful moments each year, many participants are especially moved when they offer their flowers, throwing the petals in the water to mark the graves of those souls who perished during the Middle Passage. For others, it's the Libation (12:00 noon EST) with its powerfully poetic oratory, each year led by those assembled.

"We all gather to honor the millions who perished in the horrific voyage, the Middle Passage. We feel and understand that if we don't remember and honor them, who will!"

So back at the ranch

Running a bit late this morning, when I arrived Sister Afua began to set up an altar facing the fountain and assembled birds. She lit incense in a holder next to a Shona sculpture. Another sister, Gale "Nasia" Jordan, visiting from Ghana where she now lives, brought a basket of musical instruments which released our inner children as we played.

In a traditional role call we stated our birth years to decide who would begin pouring first. Since our numbers were so small, each person poured with another person(s), all hands on the container or in one case, containers. (Sister Nasia brought water she'd blessed). I think for most it was their first time participating. One sister cried she was so happy to have made it this year, after trying to get here for the past three years. I spoke to friends later on who wanted to come but missed a bus or an alarm, so they poured at home.

Unlike the annual Maafa Ritual in October at Ocean Beach, Libations for the Ancestors is a lot looser in its programming. We call the ancestors into our space, then offer a reflection of what's on each of our hearts. Often people bring prayers to share, as Sister Afua did along with a proclamation from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I brought a few books I thought lent themselves to the spirit of the moment: American Hunger by Richard Wright, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson, and two by Gayle Jones: The HeALing and CoRregidora.

What Wright says about identity gave rise to many comments. We closed the circle with final libations and thanks to the angels in our midst, then paused for a moment of silence.

From American Hunger by Richard Wright:

"(Color hate defined the place of black life as below that of white life; and the black man, responding to the same dreams as the white man, strove to bury within his heart his awareness of this difference because it made him lonely and afraid. Hated by whites and being an organic part of the culture that hated him, the black man grew in turn to hate in himself that which others hated in him. But pride would make him hide his self-hate, for he would not want whites to know that he was so thoroughly conquered by them that his total life was conditioned by their attitude; but in the act of hiding his self-hate in him, he could not help but hate those who evoked his self-hate in him. So each part of his day would be consumed in a war with himself, a good part of his energy would be spent in keeping control of his unruly emotions, emotions which he had not wished to have, but could not help having. Held at bay by the hate of others, preoccupied with his own feelings, he was continuously at war with reality. He became inefficient, less able to see and judge the objective world. And when he reached that state, the white people looked at him and laughed and said:

"('Look, didn't I tell you niggers were that way?'"

"(To solve this tangle of balked emotion, I loaded the empty part of the ship of my personality with fantasies of ambition to keep it from toppling over into the sea of senselessness. Like any other American, I dreamed of going into business and making money; I dreamed of working for a firm that would allow me to advance until I reached an important position; I even dreamed of organizing secret groups of blacks to fight all whites. . . . And if the blacks would not agree to organize, then they would have to be fought. I would end up with self-hate, but it was now a self-hate that was projected outward upon other blacks. Yet I knew--with that part of my mind whites had given me--that none of my dreams was possible. Then I would hate myself for allowing my mind to dwell upon the unattainable. Thus the circle would complete itself.

"(Slowly I began to forge in the depths of my mind a mechanism that repressed all the dreams and desires that the Chicago streets, the newspapers, the movies were evoking in me. I was going through a second childhood; a new sense of the limit of the possible was being born in me. What could I dream of that had the barest possibility of coming true? I could think of nothing" (6-7).

Libations for the Ancestors June 11, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011

Still Black Still Proud Tour Stops in Oakland, CA