Friday, April 13, 2012

Wanda Picks Radio Show Friday, April 13, 2012

It's International Poetry Month and International Jazz Heritage Month and Rape Prevention Month (don't know if that is international yet).

These themes are acknowledged by several guests this morning beginning with three special women: Nurse-midwife Mary Koroma from Sierra Leone who over the past 10 years has dedicated her life to saving the lives of mothers and babies; Ayesha Feary, Director of Information and Education of AAPDEP and Xandréa Sanford-Treistman, psychologist and nutritionist. The Africa's Future in African Hands Tour lands in Oakland April 18-19, 2012 with stops in two locations: Wednesday, April 18th, 6:30pm at Niebyl Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave, Oakland; Thursday, April 19th, 6:30pm, Uhuru House, 7911 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland--both events a kick off for the Bay Area Birth Justice Fair, Saturday, April 21st, 10am to 5pm at Uhuru House, 7911 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland. The events are all free to the public. The Bay Area Birth Justice Fair opens with a healing circle for mothers who have lost a child before its first birthday and features presentations from AAPDEP, birth practitioners, healers, baby yoga, Reiki, massage, health and wellness information for mothers and babies. Sponsorships from organizations and individuals of the fair go to support Africa’s Future in African Hands Tour. Visit and or call 510-395-1780

Michael Warr, award winning poet, speaks to us about his latest book, a poetic memoir titled: The Armageddon of Funk and two upcoming reading with a jazz band. The first at MoAD in San Francisco, April 25, and the second at Readers Book Store, Bldg. C, Ft. Mason Center in SF, April 28.

Warr's book is separated cryptically. One poem might tell the story of a lifetime or several as is the case in Scars (21) and Street Signs, Convolutions, and other California Coincidences (24-25), which looks at four lives and a scarred resiliency that resurrects. Many of my favorite pieces in this collection have to do with the inside out nature of Warr's trajectory whether that is "Man within the Boy" (19) or "Warriors" (56-57), "Hallucinating at the Velvet Lounge" (45) or a praise song for the muse in "Her Words," for Gwendolyn Brooks (46-47) and "Duke Checks Out Ella As She Scats Like That" (69-70).

Covering a lot of territory linearly and spatially, one wishes for an annotated walkway. Yes, I can appreciate the Warr's sojourn, yet when I hear how high the mountain, how steep the cliff, how wet the road, how precarious the meal--I want to know what the words reflect in a pool competing with passing clouds.

I am missing a lot. . . . Poetry, while vivid pats itself on the back for brevity--Warr's work screaming so much more (smile). This is another reason to see him live, then one can ask the poet for the back story hanging out in the wings.

It was interesting hearing Michael talking about his relationship with the publisher of his books (3), Luis Rodriguez and his friendship with Patricia Smith, both poets just out here not long ago and both hailing from Chicago, where Warr lived for quite some time. Both friends sent Warr messages that he was one of the winners of The Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards, "Honors Books for Poetry Award, an award which has not included poetry before now. The conference is in Anaheim this year in June. I was even more intrigued when "Comrade Warr" spoke of interviewing the soon to be president of Zimbabwe, then Rhodesia.

One can take nothing for granted in Funk. It is certainly a book that reflects a journey the poet has trod. The Armageddon of Funk take us there and brings us back. It is often hard to hold onto one's breakfast as the bungee cord rips us across the Sahel and its multiple tributaries often traveling in counter-intuitive patterns. Rivers flowing up instead of down.

Warr's writing lends itself to the natural rhythm of language melted between two chunks of chocolat"[his] alchemy changing [us] from stone into sugar" (63). It's the nommo in us, the space between Armageddon and Funk that we are born (again). Visit

We close with a wonderful conversation with cast, director and writer for the wonderful film closing night film at the 10th Annual Oakland International Film Festival, April 8, BASKETBALL 3:16: When You Are Open to Receive, God Allows You to Receive: Pharoah Charles Powell, screen writer and star, director, Ramasses T. Head Founder, History In The Making Entertainment, and actresses: Karen Cox and Jo'Nez Cain.

This film looks at the life of a man, Kevin K-Money Warren (Big Spencer) just out of prison without many options, who meets Calvin Nichols (Pharoah Charles Powell) who has traveled a similar road.

Basketball 3:16 references the biblical passage: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" John 3:16.

It was Easter Sunday night at the Oakland Museum of California, lower bay, when the stars started coming into the lobby. All of a sudden the flashbulbs started going off as one beautiful woman dressed in a golden glove--her dress accentuating all her curves, strutted into the lobby, a handsome man by her side. One by one the stars made their entrance, excitement filling the air. Some people didn't know where the beautiful people were headed but they wanted to be on that train ride.

80 or 90 minutes later, not a dry eye in the theatre, we knew why David Roach, founder of OIFF, chose a film which so epitomizes Oakland--Basketball depicts Oakland as a place where folks get caught in a lot of game, but for those who make it to the right court, there is much love and hope woven into the hoop one is aiming for.

On the tenth anniversary of OIFF, to close with Basketball 3:16 juxtaposed with Sam Greenlee's classic book into film, The Spoke Who Sat by the Door, one sits on both ends of the dilemma-- in Spook, Dan Freeman, learns the game and then checkmates. It's the same dilemma in Basketball 40 years later. How do black people make their way in a system predicated on their demise? How can one work within or with a system that doesn't recognize one's existence?

As in Spook, there are casualties, but the game continues regardless, because its not about one person, its about a nation of people who have been benched from birth who are ready to live.

Basketball is a story about rebirth and change --no one is walking on water at least not in this episode, but certainly one's choices determine the outcome on the court and Calvin is capable of doing anything he desires, because he wants to get right with the coach (God) and play with a winning team. It is the same with Greenlee's Dan Freeman. When Freeman leaves the CIA and goes back to the 'hood to recruit men for the revolution, he is finally part of a winning team. No longer a mascot, he is still playing both sides of the fence, code-switching, but unlike his work in Washington, he is working for a cause he believes in enough to die for it back in Chicago with the Cobras and other underground revolutionary groups, called by the misnomer "gangs," a pejorative, dismissive term.

Resurrection? Just as the Cobras change their skin for new ones, Calvin learns winning strategy when he joins the team for God.

God shooting hoops with the fellows in Oakland--now how cool is that? But isn't JC's MO hanging with the folk society rejects, folks who can't vote, are between shelter or a nod away from disappearing from the planet--these were JC's posse.

Instead of Galilee -- JC's crew is at one of Oakland's remaining open recreation centers. Calvin isn't a teenager, he's been around a minute and still doesn't have it together, but as he sits on a table in a park and two men, one preacher, the other a deacon ask him, "Do you have everything you need?" Calvin reflects on the holes in his life so large he is about to lose himself and decides to go school the basketball clergy. Can't hurt, right?

This gospel drama features Marcus Spencer "Big Spence" as Kevin "K-Money" Warren who just released from prison, seems at a loss. His sister Jamesha Warren, K-Money's sister (actress Ronique Marshall) drags her brother kicking and screaming to her church to speak to her pastor who then introduces K-Money to Calvin Nichols who has street cred. K-Money sits next to the former gangster in the pew and listens as Calvin tells him how basketball was the hook that got him back on the path. The story is filled with so may loops, twists and turns we are with K-Money prompting Calvin when the suspense is so unbearable we can't wait for the storyteller to turn the page (smile).

Sitting on the edge of the church bench, Calvin shares his painful and sometimes sad story with us as one thinks, what else can go wrong. One minute Calvin is safe, the next a wrench is pulled from the carburetor or the vehicle needs a jump start.

K-Money stands helplessly in the street reflecting on his life as Calvin is shaken upside down. Almost a zombie, Calvin looks alive but is barely functional prior to an encounter, one of many that changes everything for him.

There are many roads to salvation and one might have hoops and throw lines and starting clocks and bells and referees and viewing stands or bleachers with visitors and season ticket subscribers--all there for the game a game on volunteers to play. No one forces Calvin to try out or put on the jersey, but once he does, it is a perfect fit.

Communication is often the reason why costly mistakes happen, it also helps the protagonist avoid others. Calvin is typically silent --he applies the old macho phenomena to every situation when what he needs to do is to talk to someone. The basketball game allows the men to remove their bravado and bare their souls to one another in a way many of them have never tried with another man. Men learn to talk to each other on and off the court. One sees Calvin visiting the pastor's office and asking questions, trying out theories and getting comforted.

Most of the cast is not new to film or stage, and quite a few of them know each other and have collaborated on other creative projects before. This film is Ram's directing debut and Pharoah's first screenplay. Big Spence who has been crowned Be that "Kid" celebrity of the Year 2010, is not new to the screen, his last film Moneyball with Brad Pitt and On the Road` featuring Kristen Stewart from the Twilight series.

Marcus Spencer or "Big Spence (K Money) got his nickname from Oscar winner Will Smith who tagged him with it while on the set for The Pursuit of Happiness. Big Spence, an Oakland native, was happy to participate in this film. He said, "It's great to see such a positive message that's real to life, and it's refreshing to know that one no longer has to bring 'Hollywood to Oakland because it's already here.'" So true, and if anyone was in reception at the OIFF Sunday evening, he or she saw this (smile).

Other actors supporting this film are: Brian Hooks who plays Derrion Nichols, Calvin's brother. Hooks is known for the film 3 Strikes. Lakia Bailey who plays Kiana Smith is known for the reality show Real Chance of Love. Wight Out who plays a company member, was crowned "Bay Area" comedian of 2010. Ronique Marshall plays Jamesha Warren, Calvin's abandoned child. She's known for the reality show The Way It Is. Jo'nez Cain who plays Constance Thomas has been seen on stage in Life on Both Sides of the Wall: A Two-Way Struggle, and in Discovery Channels new show Cuff me if You Can. Pharoah Charles Powell, writer, plays the lead Calvin Nichols. Visit and


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