Monday, February 28, 2011

Black Choreographers Here and Now Week 3, Closing Night

All I can say is, if you weren't there, you really missed a stellar performance. I'd been in the house the evening before and when I walked in, late but not as late as the night before--yes, I got a seat (smile), choreographer Sheena Johnson and composer Chris Evans were performing Freedom Study 1. There is something nice about seeing a work multiple times, especially work one enjoys if doesn't quite understand, which was the case with Freedom Study, which I was told was really a study--Chris and Sheena interviewed people for the work. I had a great conversation with Chris, the composer, filmmaker and dancer--who is working as a researcher at Mills College, about the piece. She said she and her husband, Ernest Jolly, were resident artists at The Luggage Gallery Gallery Annex located in the Tenderloin National Forest called "Community Property:Transbarrow Gardens," last November. The artists put out a call to dancers and other artists and voila, there was Sheena.

Some of my favorite artists were a part of the event: Byb Bibene, David Boyce (on saxophone), Marshall Trammel (on drums), Eboni Hawkins and Sheena Johnson, a new favorite artist (smile).

The piece looked at how geography is informed by the people who live there and vice versa. Chris described at intermission Sunday, how she went out with her tape recorder or camera harvesting sounds. It sounded really cool, but then everything they do at The Luggage Store Gallery is cool. Ernest made large scale items as a part of the exhibition, the a portable wheelbarrow garden is now a part of the permanent collection. Visit A new exhibit, "Bullet Train" opens March 12, 2011. Two artists collide, one from LA, the other from San Francisco.

I enjoyed watching the dancers again, especially now that I knew what to expect. I savored favorite parts and saw aspects of the work anew.

A Quiet Uprising followed, Jasmine Donaldson's premiere which explored, the choreographer said, "the diversity of women in America and the obstacles they incur to move forward." Distinctive about this piece besides seeing Sheena Johnson as part of the cast--I was like, wow, what a quick change! was the live accompaniment and the original music and costume design. I loved the simplicity--Sheena's character opens at a hearth, stirring a meal in a pot and even when she is pulled away, her serenity--combined with patience, the patience one feels earned with being around long enough to not let certain situations worry one. She says to a young woman - "hush" the way one soothes a child.

Forgive and Let Go, with choreographer Eurydice Ross and dancer Zari Le'on paid homage to Mama Africa--in tutu-like garments what showed off the dancers' athleticism and grace--sassiness and soul as they strutted their stuff to Miriam Makeba's "Amampondo."

Remember I mentioned how fun it was to see a work again? Well Forgive and Let Go was followed by Michael Velez's untitled solo work, danced by Erik Lee to "Lucifer" by Jay-Z. Sometimes the straight and narrow tight rope without a net beneath is a bit much for the mightiest warrior, who despite his best intentions stumbles and falls before he takes up the challenge.

How am I going to do change without making a fool out of myself, is perhaps the question the protagonist agonizes over? Michael Velez's character interpreted by Lee disappears into the darkness before we see what happens. Perhaps there is a Part II?

The work was just as lovely the second time as it was when I first saw it the evening before. Then there was an intermission where I got to meet Chris and other mentors and artists like Raissa and Jetta, whose work choreographer Micheal Velez danced in last year.

Jetta's Emergence (2005) was stunning. Have I used this word too much? I am misplacing my adjectives--sometimes only images suffice and luckily I have a few (smile). The music "Perfection" by Clint Mansell and "Castles Made of Sands," by Jimi Hendrix, with costume design and construction by Catherine Macklim, were stunning as well (darn, there is that word again).

Were there feathers or just billowing strips of fabric so colorful as to conjure birds of paradise and peacocks? In a tutu--lots of classical ballerina stuff happening closing night--Jetta's figure told the story of what it feels like to be free--to let loose to come out of one's shell cocoon shelter cage. She didn't burst out, rather the emergence was subtle and gradual--over time.

Nanette Ada (premiere), choreographed by Jamie Ray Wright, a Black Choreographers Festival veteran. I think he goes back to the first one, was a departure for him--as least from what I've seen in the past. Usually his work is very Euro-centric whereas this piece, performed to Youssou N'Dour's work, conjured memories of Senegal and West Africa as the piece combined African sensibility as only a choreographer like Wright whose palette is both folkloric and modern --as in jazz and modern dance, could imagine. It was a fiery, energetic and lovely-with outstanding solo and ensemble interludes with his company.

It was certainly one of my favorites. If I'd known the program notes lacked details I would have asked him a few questions--next time (smile).

The closing two works were ones I'd seen the evening before and I was closer this time and enjoyed the work, both Movendo con Capoeira (work in progress) choreographed by Tania Santiago and Homage (bridging the gap) (work in progress) choreographed by Jamar Welch and Kory Watkins, just as much. In Sunday's performance, the dancer who did a complete body flip, did not hit the floor--a dramatic feat one has to see at least once in her lifetime, so I am glad I caught it the night before (smile).

Tania Santiago's piece will be a part of Cuba Caribe this year, also at Dance Mission. It is certainly worth seeing again and again. To stay abreast of BCFH&N visit their website. The showcase collaborates throughout the year with other presenting organizations such as CounterPulse, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Dance Mission, ODC Theatre, Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, Dimensions Dance Theatre, and many others as co-hosts of artist symposiums and master classes with visiting choreographers. Visit

Sunday, February 27, 2011

OZONE Photos

OZONE Reflections & A Review

Activism 101 an Oakland Standard

One could tell the kids were into it—by kids, I don’t means children, just neophytes to Liberation Struggles getting their collective awakening Friday night at the Oakland Museum’s OZONE. Without the acid rain, snow, clouds or high winds the O-was certainly in a zone, scientifically unspecified. Laying it on with a spatula, as in thick and indelibly stuck to all in the ZONE that night— from the DJs spinning all the hits from a time when lyrical content meant original unsampled thoughts . . . well I take that back, nothing is original— just like the air we breathe and the land we occupy, it is all dead and reborn—like the revolutionary fever sweeping the planet, the O was a pot flavored and simmering with the spices present that evening.

Have you even had air stuck in your esophagus and couldn’t get a good enough belch? That was the O. Some call it the last days, others indigestion—the planet has had enough and now all its inhabitants have declared or given put the lords and ladies on notice—the people are taking over!

Linguistically the Oakland Standard’s OZONE (OS launched January 2011) one of its programs continues thematically –its all about opening the space to art which is art is kinetic –participatory useful—wear it, feel it, do it, be it! Art is not for lazy minds or innocents lost—perhaps it is, but for the active mind or citizen, those people who generally find themselves in museums in the first place, reluctantly as kids and then selfishly as adults, the Oakland Standard concept makes art a part of life for those who really enjoy living, really living as free citizens of Oaktown and Oak-Universe. Prophet Fred Wilson's museum space sojourns says this, he also speaks with his work to the exclusion of certain audiences when one talks about museums and other “high art.” OZONE is a way to demystify such phenomena. The audience was predominately white, even though the material or presentations were about the black aesthetic, yet typically the subjects were absent. There wasn’t even consideration given to the few black folks in the audience that evening—we couldn’t get into major lectures and concerts. Linguistically the Oakland Standard’s OZONE (OS launched January 2011) one of its programs continues thematically –its all about opening the space to art which is art is kinetic –participatory useful—wear it, feel it, do it, be it! Art is not for lazy minds or innocents lost—perhaps it is, but for the active mind or citizen, those people who generally find themselves in museums in the first place, reluctantly as kids and then selfishly as adults, the Oakland Standard concept makes art a part of life for those who really enjoy living, really living as free citizens of Oaktown and Oak-Universe. Prophet Fred Wilson's museum space sojourns says this, he also speaks with his work to the exclusion of certain audiences when one talks about museums and other “high art.” OZONE is a way to demystify such phenomena. The audience was predominately white, even though the material or presentations were about the black aesthetic, yet typically the subjects were absent. There wasn’t even consideration given to the few black folks in the audience that evening—we couldn’t get into major lectures and concerts. See

This would have been okay if the sound had been broadcast and if there had been a video simulcast—in the past the Oakland Museum always provided such especially for programs where it expected large audiences. African people do not like the cold and the idea of standing in a line for 45 minutes was a turn off to many elders who left early. At midnight the majority of folks still at OM were 30 and younger, unless they were working and white.

Consciousness is hard work, yet it can be fun and in its second program since launching Oakland Standard, OZONE proves that yes, consciousness is the only way to live a full committed to justice revolutionary or change agent.

Similar to programming at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Oakland Standard, as it premise shouldn’t toss out what worked in the past—new doesn’t mean nothing old allowed: people, ideas, customs. I guess with the new exhibit on Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the old suffering Christ –nailed to a cross, bleeding is an image I couldn’t stomach, however, the newer images of this mysterious patron saint, a way of flipping the colonial baggage into something not just new, but liberating, is what I see Oakland Standard providing for its East Bay constituency—if they are extended the proper invitation.

I saw a few parents with their children out for the evening, but not enough. I know the museum has its Family Sundays which are kid-friendly, early in the day and often outdoors.

Some audiences don’t come if you open the door –one has to go get them. Audience development is still a weak area for many presenting organizations like Oakland Museum which has ethnically specific community advisory boards—I suggest OM solicit their expertise. There was no reason why there were not more black youth between the ages of 15-25 in the OZONE especially for Soundtrack: The Drum and the Oakland Standard Conversation, not to mention the Oakland Standard Political Poster Jam, even the Game On! Was a place for families and friends to sit around talk, not to mention the open galleries where in Art History in the back I heard a woman interviewed for her Oakland Story, a program of Story Corps.

Standard implies a flag or flagship idea which is self-promoting; carry it long enough and it becomes you. Certainly Oakland needs a new standard and with a new mayor and a revised vision for an Oakland institution, the Oakland Museum of California, the concept is timely and necessary, but historically Oakland seems to be receding from focus—after all museums are nothing without people—human beings are the greatest work of art imaginable. The African presence seems the first to go when institutions are formed or changed—I am rattling the cage so OM doesn’t follow in the footsteps of its many predecessors.

Activism 101 an Oakland Standard: A Review

I was in the OZONE February 25-26, as Oakland toasted February goodbye and with it—black history. Well actually, February 25 at the Oakland Museum of California did just the opposite. With “resistance” as the theme of the evening—from the classic poster art of Emory Douglas and Faviana Rodriguez, to the tasting revolutionary tortillas, with cheese and Angela Davis on the outer shell—to roses for Rosa Park, and a Huey (fig) Newton—all edible –a new line called consciously delicious—patrons had a multisensory experience at the museum—an idea which is a part of the OM motif.

The place was full to capacity with patrons forming lines early for the special celebration Sountrack—the Drum, with Anthony Brown and CK Ledzekpo narrating joined the Stanford Steppers, the CAL Drumline from UC Berkeley and as a special treat, Mr. Hambone himself: Derrick McGee—it was a wonderful walk from Africa to California –Oakland, to be exact (smile). Drums filled the stage—African percussion drums played by CK and students and/or members of his ensemble from East Bay Center for the Performing Arts—the trap drummer, another student of CK’s who is traveling to Boston to attend Berkley College of Music this summer.

As CK explained the music he was playing and where in Africa it originated—dancers led by Mrs. Ledzekpo performed to the music—at one point the audience was invited to participate—I was one of the first persons on the floor—a cold night, dancing warmed me up.

Duane Deterville gave a lecture on resistance in black music, while a distinguished panel with former Minister of Culture, Emory, artist Favianna, Carol A. Wells, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, and political poster historian Lincoln Cushing, discussed art and politics—that room filled to capacity early and I couldn’t get in—I met a brother named Jesus who is a visual artist –Refa One and one of the youth designers featured in the AeroSoul 2, Youth Exhibit which is up through early March, said he explained to security that there were hardly any black people in the room, and to tell two-four white people to leave so he and Malik, the young artist could go inside.

From what Refa shared, it sounds as if those persons in the audience really didn’t know how are can change minds, even hearts—think about the power of music to “soothe the savage beast—right?

The brother coming out of the lecture looked like a work of art, as did his striking friend. Most of the events repeated at least once—the only problem was I was attending another event at the same time—then as one walked between classrooms, the tent, or the Blue Oak café—there were art stations where one could silk screen a political poster: I made three: Nina Simone, singing Mississippi Goddam, another Free the San Francisco 8, the last one a poster celebrating the end to tyranny on North Africa—across from that very popular table—at any given moment there were two and three clothes lines filled with posters drying. There was another artist across the way doing spray can art—his image was of the Wiki-links founder. What was interesting was watching him apply the multiple layers.

The Oakland Standard Poster Jam participants were, the San Francisco Print Collective, Great Tortilla Conspiracy, Eddie Colla & Jesus Barraza. Patrons were able to silk screen posters with Nina Simone, Drop the Charges SF 8: Francisco Torres and a “The People Want the System to Fall” with a woman kissing the cheek of an Egyptian soldier. There were postcards with actions planned for the next month and an e-list.

Revolutionary Art 101!

The finale was the Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble featuring members of Fela Kuti & the Africa 70, Sonny Okosuns and others. DJ Wonway Posibul with a live percussionist was excellent—his jams were right on. In the café, there were board games out for people to play from 9-11:30 PM.

I missed Bill Bell and the Jazz Connection Trio with Eddie Marshall, on drums and Jeff Chambers on bass. I heard they were fantastic! The new exhibit Splendors of Faith/Scars of Conquest was pretty gruesome in especially the graphic details of the crucifixion. I had to turn my head on some, the torture too unsettling. I wonder why in Oakland would there be such a large exhibition on missions—that’s like celebrating the various slave dungeons where Africans were held captive before shipped to other lands. Most of the missions are further south and of course in San Francisco to Oakland’s west.

Missing was the African Diaspora use of Catholicism to practice Ifa, big in Oakland presently and in California. In the section, which I enjoyed the most there was nothing and within the exhibition itself I didn’t see an African presence or perspective at all. When one thinks about California, named for an Amazon Queen Califia, one has to consider the impact of missions or Catholicism on African people in California.

Bliss. . .what is it? Freedom Part 1, hum never thought of freedom as a mini series before.

I arrived late to Dance Mission Theatre and the venue was sold out, but at least the weather was cool, not unbearably freezing or snowing--yes in California, as predicted by local weather personnel. Not only that, I drove to San Francisco,instead of taking BART and just crossing the street--Dance Mission is on 24th Street, across from the 24th Street Station. Nonetheless, I found a parking spot just three long blocks away--it was the walk that made me late by five minutes, five minutes that cost me a seat. I found a comfortable place to stand and then at intermission I actually found a seat which got better when half my row asked me to move to the center, so when they left before the end, I wouldn’t be disturbed.

If I’d had my camera, I’d say, the evening was perfect, but I forgot it at home and so without visual props, my descriptions of the lovely evening, the second of three, will have to do—well not really if you are reading this tonight or tomorrow before 7:00 PM. You could go to the theatre and see many of these performances yourself—all but the Artist Mentoring Program artists: Denice C. Simpson and Byb Chanel Bibene.

So let’s start with what you missed (smile), I mean really missed as in you can catch Byb in the Pilot Project at ODC March 26-27, but it is a work previously performed at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco last year, “Nzoto Installation,” not “Tombola Makolo” (Lift your feet) –a premiere, at BCFH&N which he says is a “sample painting that portrays a certain lifestyle in his home country, Congo, which he visited last summer.” He was joined in Congo by another Bay Area artist, Amara Tabor Smith who is performing "Our Daily Bread" at CounterPulse April 14-24, so stay tuned.

Even before I read the description, I was captivated by the playful childhood games dancers as children reenacted: duck-duck-goose, hopscotch, and various hand clapping rhymes. This scene faded into the children's mothers and sisters also laughing and singing. Work and fun are synonymous and Byb illustrates this with his colorful and captivating characters and movement. From sun up to sun down--what a different picture of Africa Byb paints. I love the slumber, peaceful except for nocturnal sounds and the music--both ancient or traditional and modern. Byb performed last year at BCFH&N I believe, yet the first time I saw him perform was with Compangie Li-Sangha at the San Francisco Arts Festival in 2007. I can hardly believe it has been four years--wow!

Each year I am just amazed at the level of artistry each choreographer brings to the stage. Week 2, Kendra Kimbrough, co-founder of the Black Choreographer Festival, said was visually lovely—each piece like a painting, whereas week 3 is certainly varied stylistically taking audiences to Central Africa and to South America—happy stories. It was great seeing Pan African stories that had characters smiling and laughing and playing, flirting and celebrating.

“My Peace—Bliss, Dis, Just Be,” another premiere, choreographed by Denice C. Simpson, who was so excited when I cornered her before she left the theatre to have a celebratory meal with friends, and rightly so, her big night as a choreographer mounting her first piece.

"Bliss" is a long choral piece that uses words not music as a back drop for performance. It gives audiences the back story for the narrative on stage—the solo character split, three characters portraying different aspects of her story—the Holy Ghost and Spirit Daughter danced by Latanya D. Tigner and Lavinia Mitchell.

“When we first started rehearsing, we danced in silence, and then I added the words.” Simpson said. She didn’t want the dancers to hang a phrase on a line. “Dancers usually perform with music—I wanted the poetry to be an additional layer, not a prop.

Simpson is on stage first –her movements large, she fills the stage. Positive affirmations cover her steps as she speaks aloud about “bliss”—bliss like one hears others talk about heaven. Simpson’s character is joined by another Tigner on stage who repeats phrases and then dance alone—the second dancer is joined by a third (Mitchell) who also repeats familiar phrases and then the scene shifts back to Mother Goddess (Simpson) and one hears doubts creeping into the monologue. “Bliss” seems to have shifted into something entirely different. Where is the happy young woman we met earlier? Where is her optimism? What Simpson says in "My Peace" is that sometimes one has to let go of the bliss, especially if the joy is outside of oneself. Sometimes the greater good only comes when one lets go.

"Bliss" came out of a bad relationship—Simpson says. For her, the end was potential for a new beginning. “My Peace” shows how the protagonist had to get to a place where she realizes that she is enough--complete, that she is sufficient for her needs.

"My Peace--Bliss, Dis, Just Be” is a journey of growth and transformation—none of it easy. Simpson’s character pulls on her inner strength shown in the concluding solo—the dancer’s lithe figure swiveling her hips once again as she claims her divinity and power. Simpson has been invited to perform the work again at Laney College’s Spring Showcase 2011 and perhaps at Dance Mission during their Frost Project later this year. Check the local calendars for the details.

The program closed with choreographer’s Jamar “Jammer” Welch and Korry “Kato” Watkins, "Homeage (bridging the gap)" with Imajik Dance Theater, a new company under the Housin Authoity Productions umbrella.

I remember seeing Housin Authority at a Black History event at Contra Costa College –my first teaching gig in higher education. Kamau Seitu told me his friend, Terence Elliot passed on the word that CCC was looking to hire English teachers and if he knew anyone, he should encourage him or her to apply. I did and Fritz Pointer hired me.

Just like Midnight Voices, with Muhammad Bilal and Will Power was my introduction to hip hop music or rap, Housin Authority was my introduction to b-boying West Coast style. In an interview Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, Jamar Welch, one of the founding members, said the ensemble is approaching its twentieth anniversary—wow time certainly moves when one isn’t keeping track. “Homeage” (bridging the gap), a work in progress, celebrates Michael Jackson and the musical era he was a part of either by participation or influence.

Jammer and Kato kept the party going with company members: Nigel Bolton aka Liquid, Anthony Gooch aka The Gooch, Jeriel Bey aka Sparks and Alvedo. Lip-syncing popular songs in the style of male groups like The Temptations and of course The Jackson Five, the men then brought it home to the Richmond projects with sharp freestyle moves that had the audience on the edges of its seats as each dancer soloed, the moves complex yet executed with such skill and ease— Imajik members masters of their craft. At one point a dancer did a complete body flip and was flat on the floor --it was astounding! I could hear the oohs and ahs from the audience pausing mid-clap. We were like, oh my goodness! How did he get up so gracefully without missing a beat?!

I loved “Freedom Study 1” with choreographer Sheena Johnson, who was surrounded by so many fans after the show I couldn’t get close enough to say congratulations. She was on my radio show as well that fateful Friday morning before opening night. I wasn’t certain which of the two dancers she was. I think she was the one in the film, but I won’t know for sure until Sunday evening and ask (smile). See

Once again I wish I’d remembered my camera—the two women, Sheena and Chris who also provided the original score, were pretty awesome. The video installation which was as much a part of the live performance, combined with the dance and music, made the work multiple layered and intriguing. The dancers were literally on the screen and on the stage, in the film or video and then projected onto the screen in a live filming of the process—use your imagination here—the one melting into the other and then when projections made a character larger than life, face contorted—the two dancers partnering and juxtaposed to one another—it was hum, what does it mean and what does freedom have to do with any of this, which is lovely but I don’t get it? What is the room? Is she trapped? What is freedom and where is the next phrase of the study taking us?

"Movendo con Capoeira," a work in progress by choreographer Tania Santiago, was a celebration of Capoeira and the berimbao—the instrument, its legacy, the dance—its sensuality and deadliness, the sacred and the secular dimensions of a complex system: Angola meets Brazil –one African and the other African Diaspora—capoeira a coded system linked to ancient times before capture, before slavery.

The percussionist/drummers and dancer, Mestre Cafu, danced as he played the berimbao, his torso adorned with a multiplicity of tattoos some I recognized. In the center of a circle, the surrounding dancers sang, clapped and then paired off for sparing. Stephanie Bastos and Ricardo Acosta in a duet flirted with the idea of love—Bastos of the lovely voice (smile). The choreographer off stage sang at the beginning in a call and response, a style repeated several times during the performance. Who knows, we might see the work later this year as a part of Cuba Caribe, May 2011, also at Dance Mission. Visit

One of my favorite pieces was choreographer Michael Velez’s untitled piece, danced by Erik Lee. A solo powerfully executed by Lee whose demons were all the typical stereotypes or demons black men fight just as hard as society fights them. Danced to Jay-Z’s Lucifer, I wondered as the character considered what he was up against and whether or not he chose to succumb to the destiny assigned him, not necessarily the one he deserves if given half a chance?

I was reminded of artist Nancy Cato’s angel series, inspired by the murders with handguns taking out so many young black men— In one of her pieces, there are two young men with guns pointed at the other’s head. Angels are tugging at their hands barely keeping the barrels from making contact, while other angels pull on the men's arms, one angel positioned between the two men’s knees. It isn’t clear at the end of the short, yet powerful dance which ends with the young man disappearing into darkness, what his choice is. Just as with Cato's piece, one doesn't know if the angels will win. Visit

We can only hope for the best.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Black Choreographers Here and Now Week 1 Day 2 photos

Wanda's Picks Radio Feb. 18, 2011

Daniel Biram, director/producer, speaks about his film: "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia's Story," which will have an ITVS Community Screening, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, 5:45 PM at the San Francisco Library, Main Branch, on Larkin Street. Powell Street BART stops just across the street. Visit There will be an East Bay Community Screening in March, 2011.

In 2004, Cyntoia Brown was arrested for murder. There was no question that a 43-year-old man is dead and that she killed him. What mystified filmmaker Daniel Birman was just how common violence among youth is, and just how rarely we stop to question our assumptions about it. He wondered in this case what led a girl — who grew-up in a reasonable home environment — to this tragic end? "Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story" explores Cyntoia’s life.

The camera first glimpses her the week of her arrest at age 16 and follows her for nearly six years.

Our next guests are artists: Nancy Cato and Refa One, who have exhibits up currently in Oakland, CA. Nancy is a part of Oakland Local at Gallery 416, 416 27th Street. The closing reception is Feb. 23, 2011 at 5 PM to 9 PM. Refa One's AeroSoul 2 at Joyce Gordon Gallery has a program tonight, Friday, Feb. 18, 6 PM. Educators will speak about how they use hip hop visual art in the classroom. Visit and to find out about the companion youth exhibit and reception Feb. 25, 6 PM at Posh Pieces Studio.

S. Pearl Sharp drops by for a quick interview about her classic film, The Healing Passage/Voices from the Water (2004), which will have its Documentary Channel debut as a part of a 3rd Tuesday series of African Diaspora cinema, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, 8 PM both PT/ET,

We close with guests: scholars and arts activists CK Ladzekpo, director of the African Music Program at UC Berkeley and a cultural icon here in California, especially the SF Bay and Anthony Brown, Ph.D., ethonomusiciologist, drummer, composer and groundbreaking artist who brings together the Asian and African aesthetics through his body, literally body and figurative body of work. Cynthia Taylor, Adult Program Manager with the Oakland Museum shares with is O Zone: Soundtrack--The Drum, which is a public program Friday, Feb. 25, 2011, 5 PM to 12 midnight.

Visit The event is family friendly and free for members & children 8 and under, 9-17 years $6; seniors/college students $9, general $12.

Happy Birthday Albert Woodfox!

Judge Brady Rules in Albert's Favor!

Great news!

The hearing on Tuesday went so well that Brady has already ruled in Albert's favor, granting Albert an evidentiary hearing on the issue of discrimination in the selection of the Grand Jury foreperson (read the 2 page ruling here). The presumption that discrimination occurred is now technically in our favor and this hearing will be the State's chance to rebut it. Timelines are still being worked out but most likely the hearing will be scheduled by summer.

This is a small but important step towards again overturning Albert's unjust conviction. A huge congrats to the legal team for the months of unexpected legal work it took them to get us back to this stage of the game, and lots of gratitude to all the supporters who made the trip to Baton Rouge to fill the hearing courtroom. Thanks to a brilliantly argued case, the court is better poised to again give Albert yet another chance at freedom than it was when this process began.

Albert's 64th Birthday - Saturday, February 19th

Saturday, Feb. 19th is Albert's 64th birthday. What a lovely gift this ruling is. Here is his mailing address in case you want to send him a card :)

Albert Woodfox/ #72148/ David Wade Correctional Center, N1A/ 670 Bell Hill Rd./ Homer, LA 71040

A3 Newsletter: Feb. 17, 2011 (

See also

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peoples Tribunal February 19-20, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book signing and second release of Ise Lyfe's "Pistols & Prayers" book. This insightful, eye-opening book can be an educational tool. It's a free event that will be at Barnes & Noble in Emeryville, CA on February 15, 2011. The book will also be released as an audio book.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now Weekend 1 Sunday, February 13, 2011

I flip on the television to a musical tribute to Aretha Franklin with Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, Florence (of Florence and the Machine), Christina Aguilera, and Martina McBride doing their version of “Natural Women.” At first I am worried that the Lady of Soul has taken a turn for the worse, but a taped appearance says she is actually doing better now, recovering well. Thank goodness. She looked thinner but healthy in a white dress trimmed in fur.

I don’t know half the winners this 53rd Annual Grammy, or many of the artists performing—I wonder, what station were the judges listening to?

After spending a wonderful Sunday afternoon at Black Choreographers Festival 2011: Here and Now Sunday matinee at Laney College, while one can’t say the evening performances with professional companies weren’t superb, there is something about 100 kids—there were a lot of them--it felt like over a hundred danced across the stage: youth, young adults, all expressing themselves so well creatively, that well—it makes one smile inside—that smile radiating up one’s arms into one’s fingers, down and outward through one’s toes.

They were that good!

The special family matinee began at 4 PM, but the dancers had been at Laney since 9 AM that morning where they participated in dance-related workshops, had lunch, did tech for their performances and then performed.

It was one stunning, high powered performance after another: liturgical magic, in “By the Side of the Road” (1984) performed to Lionel Richie’s “Jesus is Love,” arranged by James Anthony Carmichael, choreographed by Jacqueline Burgess, Laney College faculty—the five dancers lovely in their white gowns—a stained glass projection on the wall--the afternoon closing with Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble in Latanya D. Tigner’s “Fly/Lifted” (2005).

Just as Baba Zak and Mama Naomi closed out the evening performances, Saturday night, DEPE were like icing on a delicious cake or maybe they were the ice cream (smile).

Imagine dancers literally flying across the stage, the performance opening with a solo, the ensemble alternating between dances for two, three, entire company, to musical selections from the black heritage songbook: Precious Lord, I'll Fly Away and Lift Every Voice, Traditional songs arranged by Wycliffe Gordon (Precious Lord) and Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir (I'll Fly Away and Lift Every Voice). DEPE performs its 7th Annual Fund Raiser Concert, "Something to be Proud Of," Saturday, March 19, 1011, 7 PM at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice Street, Oakland, CA (510) 465-3363 and Geusts include: Art of Ballet, Destiny Arts and East Bay Center for the Performing Arts.

The afternoon opened with a traditional piece: Lamba/Mandiani with Art of Ballet, with live musical accompaniment—which is a gusty move. Art of Ballet was the only performance with live music.

Politics of Education

Yes, Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company went there with excerpts from “Lesson Plans: A Right to an Education,” which I hear premiered on January 20, at Laney in collaboration with Youth Speaks. I wonder where I was, certainly not on that mailing list (smile). Not only was the premise thought provoking: a child’s human right to an education. Consider how arts are the first programs cut when budgets need adjusting. (Destiny has a show at Laney College 3/25/11 through 4/3/11. Visit

Last night, I took some great shots, but Sunday afternoon, the performances were so dynamic and fast paced, all I captured when I looked at photos later were blurs—blurry and blurred (smile).

It’s too bad some of you are reading this after the fact. Next year, plan to attend the Family Matinee.

The set was graduation, the commencement speaker reflecting on her last years in high school—while we wonder where she is going to school, so we can send our kids there (smile) and we find out that PSYCH! such a place doesn’t exist, at least not in this Alameda county public school system.


I am still trying to make it through the Grammy’s . . . Usher and his protégé just finished and I am like, who hired the choreographers? They certainly couldn’t have met those artists featured in BCHN opening weekend: Roquisha Townsend, Rashidi Omari, Phylicia Stroud, Lavinia Mitchell, Sonja Travick or the other marvelous choreographers previously mentioned.

The sound isn’t that great traditionally on television, but there is no excuse for the poor and unimaginative choreography—what’s with the military themes—and the Michael Jackson retro moves—I was like, hum. Even the set for the Justin Bieber performance reminded of something from a Jackson catalog. What saved him was Will and Jada Smith’s son, Jaden Christopher Syre Smith’s appearance—he was about the freshest act on the stage—he was actually singing and dancing at the same time, not singing over his recording as Bieber was.

After Lesson Plans the younger Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company took it away with Boyz (2007). High energy and high spirited these children were hot as they danced across the stage—their entrances and exits as exciting as their floor exercises. They were sharp! And the costumes—oh my goodness!

Then Oakland Technical High Schools Advanced Dance Class 2010-2011, who have a performance coming up this Spring, maybe April—were let’s put it this way, that number from Chicago—“Call the Law-He Had It Commin’” (2004) was so fun, while at the same time so well executed. Those young women could really dance, evident in their solos, as each convict shared the story of how her partner ended up DEAD. The lighting was excellent—especially that on the cells and the soloists as they took center stage. The piece opened with the larger ensemble piece similar theme--the program a part of an advanced class Broadway musical research assignment. I hadn't expected anything quite so sophisticated. My eight year old granddaughter missed the premise entirely, which was fine with me.

Between sets or performances, the audience were treated to Italian ice at intermission, and then after the show and raffle there was chocolate cake—

Grammy Moments

Wow, Esperanza Spalding received the Grammy for Best New Artist. I know her music—met her when she was with the Christian Scott Band and next thing we know, sister-girl has blown up and left Chris in the dust—not really— Chris is still hot, but Esperanza is getting lots of play in all the festivals including: SFJAZZ, Healdsburg Jazz Festival, Stanford Lively Arts.

I am still watching, I know, the plan was to turn it off—but Barbra Streisand is going on now singing one of her classics—“Evergreen.” I really appreciated the roll call and salute of artists who made their transition last year. I hadn’t know Solomon Burke died or that Lena Horne passed as well. We lost a lot of people last year. Did I know that James Moody was gone? I am not certain—I can still see Mr. Burke rocking the Paramount Theatre last Spring at the SFJAZZ concert with Keb’Mo. Mick Jagger’s tribute was awesome, with kiddos to the guitarist. I didn’t understand why Jagger kept pushing him.

Oh, when I was really ready to turn off the set, Cee Lo Green, duetting with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, in a skit featuring Muppets—minus the occasional bleeps (smile), was really cute. Seated at the piano, he reminded me of funk forefather George Clinton, in a red suit—on the line of Big Bird’s without the feathers.

The Grammy’s are getting better as the evening closes . . . hum. I didn’t understand why Rihanna appeared in stage with rapper Drake, dressed like a video whore—when she can sing? Red hair . . . stilettos about the most tasteful aspect of the Cleopatra Jones look. Isn’t she the one who was beaten up by Bobby Brown? What is the new look—a justification for the abuse? Sister-girl needs a therapist.

Funny how one really doesn’t know what good is when one’s choices are limited—all the more reason for programs like Black Choreographers Festival: Here and Now. Local and national in its programming, I’m sure the Grammy’s have to know their name. In fact, I think choreographers have been a part of Grammy programming—the name that comes to mind is Housin’ Authority, who are performing this year as well. Check the schedule

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Black Choreographers Festival Feb. 12, 2011 photos

The two founders: Laura Elaine Ellis and Kendra Kimbrough doing their thing (smile).

This year is special as Laney College is celebrating its 40th Anniversary. There was the traditional Black Choreographer Festival cake after the show, I am not certain if it was a seventh anniversary cake or a 40th Anniversary cake or a Happy you came to opening weekend cake or a Happy Birthday Kendra cake?! Whatever, as some queen said many years ago: Let them eat cake . . . .

Yes, I know, I am completely out of context. BCHN has much better intentions and the audience seemed to enjoy the treat on a Saturday night (smile).