Friday, June 29, 2012

Wanda's Picks June 29, 2012

Rebroadcast of Wednesday, June 27, 2012, Incarcerated CA Women Special with Professor Angie Bell re: Angola 3, Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of their solitary confinement April 17, 2012, and Woodfox recent court hearing in late May this year.

We then shift a taped conversation with Georgia Horton, a prisoner currently incarcerated at the Central California Women's Facility Chowchilla, CA (CCWF). We also speak with Hamdiya Cooks, Asst. Dir. LSPC and Beatrice Smith, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, witness to the atrocities facing women inside CCWF.

We conclude with a live interview with Sabina Zuniga Varela about her role in Luis Alfaro's BRUJA at the Magic Theatre through Sunday, July 1, 2012. We then play the rest or almost the rest of the interview with Georgia Horton (smile).

I am going to start with the interview we didn't hear first. I open the show with a review I wrote on Bruja at the Magic Theatre, and it's a good thing I did since we do not hear the interview with Sabina (smile). It is played in the off air portion of the show this morning, proceeded by an interview with Mrs. Smith.

Write letters of support for Georgia Horton W33911, Central California Women's Facility 512-20-3L, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Luis Alfaro's BRUJA which is having it's world premiere in San Francisco at the Magic Theatre is pretty phenomenal. Imagine Euripides's classic tale of a woman scorned, Medea, set in San Francisco's Mission District among the undocumented immigrant community juxtaposed with the upwardly mobile Creon, Aegeus and Jason. The latter Medea's man, or so she thinks. With luscious language and even more luscious landscapes --those within Medea and without, the bruja or witch--wicked or sweet one can't say until she is scorned.

The set which opens on the tiled courtyard with fountain where Medea treats her patient, Aegeeus who wants a son, but first needs to ask his wife in Mexico to let him go. She didn't want to leave her home, so he left her and marries anew. The healer or curanderola dons a red bandana, and dips leaves in medicine and hits his torso and back with it; she then take rum in her mouth and sprays him with it.

Vieja, her dunya or grounding who tries with varying success to temper the young woman whose passions run hot and deep for her man Jason. She loves him too much, much more than perhaps he deserves or even comprehends until it is too late.

The synergy between Sean San Jose's "Jason" and Sabina Zuniga Varela's "Medea" is kinetic, especially when Jason asks his lover and mother of their twin boys to work magic on him and she says he is too close, so she shows him her heart instead--she takes her heart from her body into her hands and gives it to him. . . . Yes, it is one of those theatrical cinematic moments this work creates and then reinvents again and again with exquisite lighting and sound design.

Medea and Vieja's apothecary is center stage and has on it besides the usual candles, Florida water, flowers --a machete and large leaves like wings which Medea dons to call the spirits both good and evil--

The girl darkens the sky when she mourns and all near tremble.

Alfaro's Bruja or Medea is a tale of "old country" not quite meeting the new. It is the mishap or missed step when assimilation skips a key generation (smile). It is the story of blind ambition, Jason's and one woman's simple yet powerful love. Medea has all she wants in Jason, whereas, Jason is enamored by wealth and wants what his boss, Creon (Carlos Aguirre) has to offer him.

Both Medea and Jason hold secrets, and Medea who has nothing but her love for Jason is betrayed by that love. Neither Creon nor Jason respect her love; it has no value on the open market in this new land. It's not sanctified; it isn't even legal--she has no license. She is not married by law, so no one, not even Jason values the relationship which he betrays in the worse way. I am shocked.

Of course, Medea is (smile).

It isn't good to make a powerful woman angry. I don't know what Jason was thinking.

Creon married a gringo, who dies and leaves him a daughter, Glauce, whom he loves and whom he wants to leave the business too. His daughter, a shallow rich girl, loves clothes--Medea makes her a dress and has Vieja, take it to her.

The dress shimmers and glows; however it is woven from serpent skin which comes alive. Alvaro's Bruja --80 minutes without intermission blends Greek and Mayan with Santeria spiked Curanderola medicine to make a tale that is unbelievably real.

What will a woman do when scorned? I am reminded of Lady MacBeth who kills for her husband then can't rid herself of the ghosts.

Where does one put the bloody memories? They don't wash out.

When Jason returns home from Creon's mansion to Medea and calls for his sons and then looks for them and find Wilma Bonet's "Vieja" digging holes in the garden . . . where else can Medea go but up and away?

The bird imagery which permeates the tale brings the work to a surprising conclusion as Jason sits bewildered in the courtyard--his big dreams shattered.

Reminds me of the saying, what good is it to gain the world if one loses one's soul? Bruja has been extended through Sunday, July 1, 2012. There are nightly performances Friday and Sunday, with a Sunday matinee. Visit

Listen to my interview with Sabina "Medea" on Wanda's Picks Radio:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wanda's Picks June 27, 2012 CA Women Prisoners Special

We are dedicating this broadcast to the women and men behind bars, literally and figuratively. Our first guest, Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell is Assistant Professor of Legal Analysis & Writing at Southern University Law Center in Louisiana. She speaks to us about the 40th Anniversary of Angola 3 inmates Albert Woodfox & Herman Wallace's stint in solitary confinement and the actions April 17, 2012 in Baton Rouge. She also gives us the context and results of Woodfox's recent 3 day hearing and the momentum built to ensure his release this time. Visit

Angela A. Allen-Bell is a 1998 graduate of the Southern University Law Center (SULC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After law school, she spent ten years working at an appellate court and, in this capacity, gained an expertise in appellate law. In 2008, she went to work as a law professor at (SULC). Professor Bell is a committed public servant whose scholarly interests include social justice, civil rights, human rights and prisoner rights issues.

Professor Bell finds great solace in the written and spoken word. She writes and publishes poetry and legal articles. Additionally, Professor Bell often speaks in schools and to professional organizations, as a motivational speaker or about cultural competency or on legal, social, criminal justice or human rights topics.

Her proudest accomplishment is remaining true to her Christian principles in all she does. A prayer intercessor recently described her as a “minister of justice.” After thinking on this, she reread Jeremiah 5:1 and humbly owned the label, knowing that God said “give me 1 who seeks justice” and realizing that the pursuit of justice is where her soul abides.

Her list of publications follows:

• Angela A. Allen-Bell, Perception Profiling & Prolonged Solitary Confinement Viewed Through The Lens of The Angola 3 Case: When Prison Officials Become Judges, Judges Become Visually Challenged and Justice Becomes Legally Blind, 39 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly (spring 2012).

• Angela A. Allen-Bell, Bridge Over Troubled Waters and Passageway on a Journey to Justice: National Lessons Learned About Justice From Louisiana's Response to Hurricane Katrina, 46 Cal. W. L. Rev. 2 (Spring 2010).

The next hour we speak to Hamdiya Cooks, Administrative Director at of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. She speaks about Georgia Horton, who is currently up for parole, and what it means to go to the board hearings. As former executive director of California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Mrs. Cooks also updates us on the proposed conversion of Valley State prison, also in Central Valley, Chowchilla, CA. Mrs. Beatrice Smith joins Mrs. Cooks to continue our conversation about Ms. Horton. We also speak about long term incarceration and its impact on both the prisoner and her family. Mrs. Smith, a formally battered woman, left three young children when she was incarcerated for 16 years. The youngest was ten. She talks about rebuilding or mending severed relationships. Both she and Mrs.Cooks talk about the CA Habeas Project.

Sabina Zuniga-Varela, "Medea," speaks about her role in Luis Alfaro's BRUJA at Magic Theatre, Ft. Mason Ctr., San Francisco through July 1, 2012. Visit

Born and raised in New Mexico, daughter of a Civil Rights Activist and a Vietnam Vet, Sabina was raised on red and green chile, elk meat, jazz, and Cat Stevens. A graduate from the prestigious MFA program at the University of Southern California, she currently resides in Los Angeles.

She is a founding member of Teatro Nuevo Mexico, a Latino theater company and current member of the Latina theatre troupe Las Meganenas.Currently she tours with Will & Co. in the show Portraits of Courage: Latinos Shaping a Nation written and directed by Colin Cox.

Zuniga Varela is recipient of the 2007 Best Female Performer of the Year from the NM Hispano Entertainers Association for her portrayal of Frida Kahlo in Still Life, produced by Camino Real Productions, which opened at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque and subsequently toured to San Miguel Allende, Mexico

She was honored to perform the roles of "Masha" in Three Sisters, directed by Kate Burton, "Feste & Antonio" in Twelfth Night, directed by Andrew J. Robinson, and 6 various roles in an original piece entitled Forget My Name, directed by David Bridel. Other favorite roles include "Dunia" in Tanya Saracho's El Nogalar, inspired by The Cherry Orchard, the title character in Luis Alfaro's Electricidad and Rosaura in Jose Rivera's Sueño.

Zuniga Varela is also a certified Special Education teacher (MA in Gifted and Twice-Exceptional Education), with experience in social justice theatre curriculum development.

We close with the second, third and fourth, part of an interview with Georgia Horton June 10, 2012. Because she is in a CA Correctional Facility she has to make multiple calls for us to complete the interview. I get almost to the end of the fourth. About seven minutes is missing.

Write letters of support for her parole hearing July 11, 2012 to: Georgia Horton W33911, Central California Women's Facility 512-20-3L, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla, CA 93610-1508.

The 40th Anniversary shot courtesy of Professor Allen-Bell is in the pants suit to the right of Albert's brother Michael Mable (in white t-shirt, front row).

Mrs. Beatrice Smith and Wanda Brown, formerly incarcerated. W. Brown was released a few months ago after over 20 years. Hers was the first Habeas case in San Francisco County. Photo credit: Wanda Sabir

Actress, Sabina Zuniga Varela (Sabina's website)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wanda's Picks June 22, 2012

Today we had a great show featuring artists and community activists despite technical glitches later on in the show (smile).

First Guest: 8 AM Gina Breedlove speaks about the community healing: One Billion Rising Bay Area, Sunday, June 24th, 2012, Sunday, June 24, 2012, at Civic Center Park (MLK At Allston Way, across from Berkeley High). http://www.bayarearising

Summer of Peace Kick-off in Oakland, tonight Friday, June 22-23, with organizers: Jennae Wallach, Peace Educator, Facilitator of the Oakland Peace Ambassadors Mahasin Abdul-Salaam, Genesis - Transportation Justice, plus several other organizations; Queen Reverend Mutima Imani, Community organizing and peace-building consultant, Reverend at East Bay Church of Religious Science:

Good Goods @ Crowded Fire Theatre. We speak to playwright Christina Anderson, directed byMarissa Wolf, through June 23, 2012. Cast will drop in as well we hope:

Tony Saunders talks about the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre kick off of its"Summer at LHT" series with his romantic melodic sounds entitled: "Romancing the Bass" on Friday, June 22 at 7 pm, at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, 450 Post Street, conveniently located in Union Square with doors opening a 6 p.m., a 7 p.m. meet and greet with Tony Saunders, 8 p.m. performance. For tickets & more, visit

Wanda's Picks June 20, 2012

Today's my birthday and I am playing the Mother's Day Special 2012, featuring as one of the guests my dear mother, Helen Isaac (smile).

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wanda's Picks Special June 19, 2012 10:30 AM

James Baldwin is one of my heroes. The man was brillant. Not every child can say that he wrote the anthem for the City of New York, but Baldwin can (Notes of a Native Son). His book length essay, The Fire Next Time is brilliant and needs to be read by every black boy beginning at the age of 8 or 9 and then again at 13. It should be on the book shelves of every halfway house, juvenile prison and in the library of everyone who says they care about black youth. That Baldwin, one of the architects of the Civil Rights Movement, visited San Francisco at a time when Birmingham was burning and blood running through the streets, the same red blood from black veins running through the streets of San Francisco in its black communities like Bayview Hunter's Point is significant on this day, Juneteenth 2012. Director, Caroline Bins has revisited that historic and great day in San Francisco with men who were there like Mr. Oscar James, Mr. Famious "Jackie" Bell, Mr. James Lockett, Mr. Tyrone Primus. In 50 years what has changed? The black president James Baldwin told the youth they could expect, has happened. However, with President Obama, his reelection to a second term this year, is there a significant difference between then and now? Bins's film: James Baldwin in San Francisco: Hunter’s Point Then and Now based on the rarely seen, 1964 film, Take This Hammer, KQED’s mobile film unit follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he’s driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community and uncover what he calls, “The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present,” is having a very special free screening with residents of Hunter's Point at 7:30 PM @ Luggage Store Gallery

We are joined by KATHERINE FAIRFAX WRIGHT - filmmaker; MALIKA ZOUHALI-WORRALL - filmmaker and LONGJONES - subject from the film, Call Me Kuchu, screening at Frameline this evening, June 19, 2012 at the Castro Theatre.

Call Me Kuchu depicts the last year in the life of a courageous, quick-witted and steadfast man whose wisdom and achievements were not fully recognized until after his death. While heartbreaking, the documentary traces a narrative that takes the viewer beyond the chronicle of victimization depicted in international news media: it tells the nuanced story of David and Kampala’s kuchus as they work to change their fate, and that of other kuchus across Africa.depicts the last year in the life of a courageous, quick-witted and steadfast man whose wisdom and achievements were not fully recognized until after his death.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Father's Day Weekend Reminisin'

This weekend has been extremely busy, with planet Ben Vereen touching down in San Francisco Tuesday. I was able to get over to see the show Wednesday evening and it was one of the best shows I have ever seen. Vereen's stage presence was magnetic, one felt as if he were speaking directly to you and in many cases he was (smile). I had the best seat I'd ever had before. I'd had a great interview with him which I broadcast earlier that day, so literally Vereen was on my mind. I liked the way he told the story of these musical giants who shaped his career from a young boy in Brooklyn to Manhattan on to San Francisco and Las Vegas. Interspersed with show tunes and lots of laughter, even tears (in the end), it was one of the best evenings of entertainment I have experienced in a long time and from the photo opts afterward in the lobby with guests ranging from what looked like ten years old on up. He'll be at the Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko in San Francisco through Sunday, Father's Day.

Last night found me at the screening of Robert Townsend's In the Hive. It was the opening film for the San Francisco Black Film Festival. Starring Jonathan McDaniel as Xtra, a young father whose imprisoned father played by Roger Genveur Smith and hooker mother, make life difficult for Xtra who has dropped out of school, yet has an innate brilliance no one recognizes, not even himself.

It is at an alternative school, The Hive, that Xtra learns to read and explore gifts he hadn't known he possessed especially those connected to technology, programming and computers a curriculum focus at this school headed by Mrs. Inez portrayed by Loretta Devine, with strong backup with Mr. Hollis, Michael Clarke Duncan. It is an edgy story which is made all too true by the immediately I felt last night after a trip earlier that morning to San Quentin, where I was able to see the men present Hamlet. In rehearsals since last August, this one performance was I believe their 6-8 in a program hosted by the Marin Shakespeare Company.

Not open to the entire prison population, the performance was filmed so that other inmates will be able to see it on the San Quentin channel and read about it in the prison newspaper. In the Q&A which followed, one man stated that he had dropped out of high school and had never seen a Shakespere performance before.

Afterward one prisoner who is being released in 202o spoke about how he got turned onto reading when he was handed the Frederick Douglass's Slave Narrative. I promised to send him a list of books I'd recommend.

It was the same for Xtra in The Hive when he asked his English teacher, an AmeriCorps volunteer for books he could share with his little brother who was also struggling with his reading at school. She gave him a stack of books from Black Inventors to other books about black life and culture. I thought it was cool that she had the students reading Michael Eric Dyson's Holler if You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac, (b. June 16), a book I use in my college composition classes.

Jonathan was at the screening last night and spoke the director, Robert Townsend, the film and how he prepared for his first feature role. His respect for Townsend reminded me of Townsend's reflection on his mentor and friend, Sidney Poitier just a day earlier at the press conference.

It has been busy. I am on my way to San Francisco now to the Ethnic Dance Festival at YBCA.

More later.

Wanda's Picks June 15, 2012

Today we are joined by: Bill Doggett, scholar, archivist and curator and Andy Kimmell, Remembus; Doggett speaks about his upcoming program, "The Civil War@150 Years: the Negro Spiritual and the Underground Railroad," which includes a short film created by Kimmell, at the African American Museum and Library at Oakland, 14th Street @ MLK Jr. Way, Sat., June 16, 2012, 2 PM.

Almost 50 years ago, James Baldwin, noted author and activist visited San Francisco's Bayview District to talk to the black youth about what they were experiencing there. From that visit came the film: Take this Hammer, KQED's cinéma vérité record of the visit. Caroline Dijckmeester, Dutch director, stumbles upon this footage and decides to see if she can find some of these young men. She responded with a short film in response which is screening with the original at The Luggage Store Gallery in San Francisco, June 19, 2012, 7 PM. James Lockett, one of the subjects also joins us to talk about HP then and now. Take this Hammer Part 1:

As a part of a series, Wanda's Picks has been profiling choreographers for the 34th Annual SF Ethnic Dance Festival which continues this weekend three, June 16-17 at YBCA. This show concludes this wonderful series. Visit

We speak to Rasika Kumar, Abhinaya Dance Company, about the work, "Synergy," a collaboration between her south Asian or Indian dance company and San Jose Taiko. Naomi Diouf, Artistic Director of Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, shares what her company is presenting this year, closing weekend, June 30-July 1.

Kimberly Bryant, founder, Black Girls CODE, talks about blacks and the digital divide, even more pronounced when one looks at the absence of women and girls. Sunday afternoon, June 17, as a part of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, June 15-17, 2012, her organization is hosting a free workshop for boys and girls. Visit and


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wanda's Picks June 13, 2012

Our first guest is Clara “Clarae” McDaniel who is a native San Franciscan with a reputation as one of the city’s dynamic female vocalists and fast growing Bay Area theatrical talents. Her life of performing and sharing of her musical and acting talents began in her childhood and continues over the years with marvelous results. Clara has shared her vocal skills as a sought after solo talent with well know gospel choirs, rhythm & blues groups and as a background singer for well known recording artists. She has also performed solo concerts for churches and other audiences. Some of her theatrical works have included plays & musicals such as Pinocchio Jones, Tie That Binds, A Child Called Destiny, The Story of Bessie Smith, and Queenie Pie. Her work with LHT includes Tamborines to Glory, Your Arms Too Short to Box With God, Ain’t Misbehavin, Waiting to be Invited, Hit It!, Black & Blue, Eubie!, The Bluest Eye and Black Nativity. Still a long standing member of the LHT family, she is now returning for a 12th season with the New Joyful Noise. When not performing, Clara works as an Insurance Assistant and attends Destiny Christian Fellowship Church. She is the Mother of 3 and the Grandmother of 5. Clara has also completed extensive classes in Movement of Actors with Shotgun Players’ Andrea Weber, vocally with Judy Hubbell/Kelly Ground, Theatre Performance with acting coach Clay David and Scene Studies with Instructor Debra Shaw. To “BABY” RIP. To God Be The Glory!

The San Francisco Bay Area veteran actress and singer shares with us her insight on James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, on the 25th anniversary of his passing and its staging at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre at 450 Bush Street in San Francisco, Monday, June 18, 7 p.m. Visit

Project 1 Voice honors James Baldwin's memory with the second annual 1 Voice 1 Play 1 Day which is an a fundraiser for black theatres here in America. Year one in19 theatres in 15 cities with just under 5,000 people in attendance, actors and directors read Alice Childress's Trouble in Mind.

Yes, there is a need for black theatres and this 1 Voice project is a way for the American community to support its local black theatre--all monies raised go to the local theatre hosting the staged reading.

Ben Vereen returns to The RRazz Room to with his show "Steppin' Out with Ben Vereen," a high energy tribute to the music of Broadway, along with musical selections made famous by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., audiences can expect to hear classics such as "Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries," "Mr. Bojangles" and "Defying Gravity." Well known to theatre audiences for his Tony Award and Drama Desk winning performance in Pippin, Vereen has also appeared on Broadway in Wicked, Chicago, Fosse and Jelly's Last Jam. He is currently celebrating the release of his CD "Steppin' Out Live." The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko is located at 222 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Shows nightly Tuesday to Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. (800) 380-3095, (415) 394-1189,


Saturday, June 09, 2012

Healdsburg Jazz Festival Closing Weekend

This evening or at this point, last night, Michele Rosewoman's Trio with Billy Hart on drums and Andy McKee on countrabass with special guest Julian Priester on trombone were phenomenal. I knew I was going to love Rosewoman, what's not to love with as name like that my favorite flower and favored gender (smile). Billy is also another favorite musician of mine--I remember hearing his with Geri Allen almost twenty years ago and had to meet the man his range and vocabulary so expansive. I got the opportunity to hang with him and his good friend Donald "Duck" Bailey who interviewed Billy on his Soul Beat Show. I don't know how I got so lucky, but I kept quiet, just in case the men realized I was there and stopped feeling so free to share and reminisce and just treat me like I'd known them as long as they'd known each other or long enough to not bear tales (smile).

I'm really happy Billy is coming back to San Francisco with the Cookers. I hear they are on album 3 and I don't have a 1. Billy just came out with a new CD on ECM --not a month out the oven and nope, I haven't seen that one either. In the twenty or so years I have known Billy, I don't seem to have any of his music. I think this year, I will have to fix this.

Mr. Priester --oh my goodness. I have never heard anyone play the trombone like him. It was as if the horn could talk, literally or rather sing--of course (smile). At times, he and Rosewoman were hitting the same notes in their unique ways. I hadn't realized he was so close--Seattle, Pacific Northwest. We have to get him to come back and bring his band.

I loved it when Rosewoman gave us a tiny taste of her folkloric palate, Afro-Latin flavor --she even sang a bit, and then there was another original, her last before the encore where the music was so dense one could hear the multiple layers as each discovered new places to dance.

And then there were his compositions--the man can write. Between the four of them, Priester, Rosewoman, McKee and Hart (I don't think they played any of his) --the super group were stellar. It's no wonder Rosewoman had a fist full of money when I asked her for a photo (smile). She might have sold out.

I am really looking forward to Billy hosting the panel later today at 2 p.m. with Roy Haynes and others. What do drummers talk about when they get together? We shall see (smile).

Andy McKee is new to me, but not for long--great composer and writer, I will look out for his name. Visit

Friday, June 08, 2012

Libations for the Ancestors June 9, 2012 in the San Francisco Bay Area

It's that time again, our annual ritual pouring libations for our ancestors. We join communities in Charleston & Georgetown, South Carolina, Portobelo, Panama, West Indies, Cape Coast, Ghana, and Brooklyn, New York, Seattle, Washington, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, West Indies, Hampton, Virginia, Atlanta, Georgia (?).

Stop what you are doing Saturday, June 9 at 9 a.m. PST and pour libations for our African ancestors who were taken against their will from Mother Africa. Ask them for strength and endurance. Freedom is a constant struggle. For those who'd like to pour libations in unity. Join us at 8:30 a.m. We will pour precisely at 9 AM. Bring your drums and other percussion instruments to celebrate our ancestors' lives. Bring flowers, breakfast pastry and fruit to share. It is traditional to wear white, but for those who know me...bring yourself, it's what's inside that counts.

Feel the power of that moment as we recall their greatness of spirit and give thanks. Ashay!

Last year we met at the fountain at Lake Merritt in Oakland, across from the Merritt Bakery where the fountain is: E-18th Street at Lakeshore Drive. We can meet there again this year. It is a nice spot, easy to locate and wheelchair accessible.

This is our fifth or sixth year participating in the international remembrance of the African ancestors who were bought and sold during the European slave trade. This is also an opportunity to reflect on those subsequent ancestors like Mama Tubman and Baba Denmark Vesey, and ancestors elsewhere in the African Diaspora. It is, a prayer for our survival and an opportunity to greet and support one another in this important work: healing from enslavement: socially, politically, and economically. It is also an opportunity to reclaim our personal and collective power, plus long overdue justice and equality.


Listen to Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, June 8, 2012 8-10 AM where I speak to Sisters Deborah Wright (Charleston, SC), Chadra Pittman Walke (Hampton, Virginia), Afua N'Diaye (Seattle, WA), Kefentse Chike (Detroit, MI), and Dr. ChenziRa Davis Kahina (Virgin Islands); Brothers Osei Terry Chandler (founder of Charleston, SC Remembrance) and Azikiwe Chandler (Charleston, SC); and host: Wanda Sabir (Oakland, CA). Click on the title or follow the link:

Photos taken in 2011 at the Libations for the Ancestors. Photo credit: Wanda Sabir

Wanda's Picks Friday, June 8, 2012 Remembrance for the Ancestors Special

For the past 25 years, the second Saturday in June, this year, June 9, has been hailed as a day to remember the ancestors. What is significant about this day is that throughout the world African ancestors are being revered simultaneously. In Pacific time zone, that means we are pouring at 9 AM sharp. In Central or Mountain time, 11 AM sharp and Atlantic or Eastern time zone it is 12 noon sharp!

In other parts of the world our morning will be their evening, but we'll all be in the same day (smile). Though community is important, especially for African people, if you are not able to get to a gathering or cannot host one of your own or are on the move, stop at the designated time and pour libations on the roadside, if necessary. . . . Join us in spirit and at the least pour thanks from your heart then, now and forever more.

Tomorrow throughout the African Diaspora in the Americas and beyond, Pan African people lift the names of ancestors who made the journey across the Atlantic and those who died aboard those slave ships. We are joined in the studio by: Sisters Deborah Wright (Charleston, SC), Chadra Pittman Walke (Hampton, Virginia), Afua N'Diaye (Seattle, WA), Kefentse Chike (Detroit, MI), and Dr. ChenziRa Davis Kahina (Virgin Islands); Brothers Osei Terry Chandler (Charleston, SC) and Azikiwe Chandler (Charleston, SC); and host: Wanda Sabir (Oakland, CA).

Dr. ChenziRa Davis Kahina of the Per Ankh community organization is well known on St. Croix as "Dr. Chen" for her years of tirelessly promoting the spiritual and cultural connections between Caribbean and African people, heritage, exposing youth to traditional art, dance, healing and an alternative spiritual path.

Chadra Pittman Walke, of the Hampton, Virginia Remembrance describes herself as Mother, Anthropologist, Writer, Dancer, Advocate. Born and raised in the Bronx, NY, Chadra holds a BA in Anthropology and minor in African American studies from George Mason University.
Chadra worked at the African Burial Ground Project as Public Educator and Media Coordinator and has been published under the American Anthropological Association.

Deborah Wright, of the Charleston, South Carolina Remembrance, is a native of South Carolina but was raised in New York. Deborah regards herself as a Pan Africanist and currently works at the Avery Research for African American History and Culture. In her spare times, she is an avid reader and designs African inspired jewelery.

Azikiwe Chandler. University of Notre Dame, B.A. Zik is a widely traveled educator and expedition leader from Charleston, South Carolina. He majored in Architecture at Notre Dame, where he received the Student Leader Award for outstanding contributions to the university. Upon graduating he joined AmeriCorps-NCCC, serving as a team leader in South Carolina and Denver and as a selection and placement officer in that organization’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. Zik subsequently spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bluefields, Nicaragua, where his focus was at-risk youth development. Visit

In the past 42 years, Afua N'Diaye has been an integral part of keeping cultural arts and entertainment vibrant in the Pacific Northwest and abroad. She is dedicated to the community and viewed as a leader of cultural arts. In 1986 she co-founded the Adefua African Music & Dance Company, a company that provides cultural entertainment to the general public. Moving on up in 1994 Adefua became non-profit while opening doors of culture and becoming known nationally for preserving our rich gregarious rhythms rooted in African tribal and Ancient court dances presenting traditional West African music, dancing and song to many bridging the gaps to our youth, then back to the workplace annually for 27 years employing hundreds of artist on stage.

The beat of the drum is a common thread across all cultures and provides a way in which people can embrace and appreciate African culture through education and performance. In 2002 she became a Washington State Certified therapeutic counselor and in 2002 she received her Certificate of Achievement in Teacher Education. These educational achievements allow her to offer a vessel for every k-12 grade student to experience Africa and utilize edutainment through music, song and dance. Visit or

Wanda Sabir is CEO and co-founder of Maafa San Francisco Bay Area, hosts a bi-weekly radio show, is arts editor for the San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, and is a full-time college professor. Visit

We conclude with conversations with choreographers and leaders of ensembles performing at the 34th Annual Ethnic Jazz Festival: Shabnam (Middle Eastern Belly Dance Fusion), Pedro De Rompe y Raja Cultural Association (Afro-Peruvian), Julia Chigambe from Chinyakare Ensemble (Zimbabwean Traditional). Visit

We close with a prerecorded interview with Vijay Iyer, his latest release: "Accelerando." The artist was at home in New York when we spoke about his latest work with his trio featuring: Iyer on piano, Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. Iyer will be here for the 14th Annual Headsburg Jazz Festival, June 1-10, 2012. Visit

Music: "Spirit of the Dead" from Sankofa dir. Haile Gerima; Nawal's "Hima," Judith Sephuma's "Le Tshephile Mang," and "Tanzania" courtesy of Chinyakare Ensemble.

Click the title or

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Black N Blue Boys/ Broken Men written by Dael Orlandersmith

I am still thinking about Dael Orlandersmith's Black N Blue Boys/Broken Men. It is such a Maafa story--a reoccurring calamity. . . a continuation of the post colonial trauma that affects the lumpen proletariat masses, those not hooked up to a corporate life-support system intravenously.

These are their children. One father says to his son, the son he made profess: "I am nothing" three four five times then dropped the child from two stories to the ground--he says to this child later on after sobriety slaps him into shape for a few months maybe weeks: "I wanted to be a singer, and my father wouldn't let me."

This son, born in Ireland, takes charge of his life and leaves Ireland, yet success is not his because inside his soul he is still "broken."

The caseworker at the half way house, brilliant writer who cannot get published, a "trick baby"? What turn of fate pummeled him into existence? Functional just like the Irish success story until he looks in the mirror and sees himself hanging from the ledge falling into the nothingness he claimed as his--the case worker doesn't believe he is worthy, after all, his mother blames him for the dissolution of her marriage.

He is the bag left unclaimed. Trick or treat?


Broken man. If no one claims you, does that make you unworthy? If you are claimed, is it a mistake? How does one reverse the programming? How does one realize that all those people, biologically connected to you and those connected by circumstance were wrong? Where is the strangled voice that is crying to be heard?

Black N Blue Boys/ Broken Men is brilliant in its reflection on the human soul that there is something so indelible about the human species, especially children that no matter how battered, they often can find not only forgiveness but redemption for their souls.

However, in Black N Blue Boys. . . black and blue bruises, the blues melodies their lives sing again and again shifting from treble clef to lower rungs on the staff, the boys who make it to manhood are broken at least in this parable. Perhaps if there was more support for the boys running between stations trying to find safety, love, peace, then perhaps these boys would be able to articulate the pain and rid themselves of it so that they could be whole rather than broken men, like their fathers and brothers and friends who use drugs and alcohol as crutches, who strike out at the weakest link in the DNA strand or lineage, their children . . . often seen as hope for the family. However in Orlandersmith's world . . . there is no future, so children are a part of a static landscape like lampposts furniture debris one steps over, walks through or pushes out of the way.

There are witnesses. This battering is not all taking place in the back seats of limousines, in back room closets, under bleachers, in public toilets. Some of this tragedy if public, yet with resources shrinking, these boys don't get the help they need and deserve. The public is in such denial; even after seeing the play certain members in the audience didn't realize that these boys live next door to them or down the street, some even might be kin.

The problem is not over there just beyond our empathic reach. We live in such a economically stratified racialized world one can miss these boys even if one comes to plays like Orlandersmith's. From the comments in the talk back, I saw how the comfortable could choose to remain impervious, to do nothing and walk around blind.

Black N Blue Boys/ Broken Men written by Dael Orlandersmith, directed by Chay Yew at Berkeley Rep through June 24, 2012

I'd just completed my grades for the semester and wanted to celebrate. I am on the do not call, certainly do not notify about our season for Berkeley Rep, so after requests for tickets was ignored by the publicist, I decided to go anyway.

As I pulled up on Addison, I noticed a car pulling off and low and behold, there was a parking spot, directly across from the main theatre. Not only that, as I stood in the line to purchase a cheap ticket ($29.00) a man asked me if I would like a ticket. I said yes and found myself seated in the second row center stage. It was the best seat I have ever sat in and I have been in this theatre more times than I can remember.

My new friend and I chatted about the Met and how when he was a young man he'd stand in the front of the theatre where older patrons would give him and others tickets and they'd find themselves seated in the first row of the opera house. I thought that was pretty amazing!

I was surprised that he didn't know about Stern Grove, hadn't seen Orlandersmith's Yellowman which Berkeley Rep produced and I saw again in Johannesburg, nor had he seen any of the productions at Opera San Jose. He didn't know Eve Ensler either, whose latest work, I Am an Emotional Creature is coming next to the Rep, June 15.

When the lights fell on the stage, empty except for hanging lanterns and a chair, the actress walked out and began several starkly solitary interlocking tales of deprivation and despair. After the third story I stopped looking for a reprieve or hope. I put my hand over my chest and held on.

Strangely, the victims here are all boys and the villains are male and female, in the first tale we meet a child whose mother is mentally ill, yet the father in denial, condemns his son who is molested by his mother. Puerto Rican, the dad dreams of his island which he'll probably never see as his children are shipwrecked in a home which frightens them.

We meet many big brothers responsible for smaller siblings whom they try to protect often distracting the sibling from parental misconduct. Physical and debilitating emotional abuse, drugs, death, pedophilia. . . are just several of the stock scenes and sets these children scale and ride on across the low expectations their mothers and fathers project onto their children. It is a bit much listening to a child talk about how with the $400 he got from a trick, he can get a room. . . never mind the bloody anus he has to bandage. The child is just 11. Then we meet a child who is so sad he wants to kill himself as he asks, "Where is God?"

We meet wealthy parents who are unusually cruel to their children. Mothers who do not stand up to their husbands and when they do, they are beaten. We see alcoholism and drug addiction and the children who try to live lives outside the poor examples set by their guardians who abandon ships which sink carrying their children below into murky depths.

These black and blue boys have their souls ripped out--trapped, there is no escape as safety nets are cut and the innocent fall through.

Yes, it is that depressing. . . the only glimmer of hope is quickly dashed as adults realize broken boys grow up to be broken men.

The writing is compelling even poetic. . . it is the reality network show in make believe. The problem is we know these children. We know their parents. The pedophile is Uncle Bob.

In the facilitated conversation after the show one patron asked if these are the children who populate the prison system. We suggested she read Michele Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. I should have also mentioned: Tim Wise's latest: Dear White America.

In Black N Blue Boys we see the resilience of human spirit buoyed by the hope these boys call on, reach deep inside to grab to pull them through the horrific trauma they cannot completely eradicate alone.

These are tragic tales higher education, material success and wealth cannot cure. Prevention is the antidote; if we could just prevent the harm we, American society, could save multiple generations.

When I left the theatre I looked down at the poem along the "Berkeley Poetry Walk" directly in front of the theatre doors near the curb. It was a quote from Bertolt Brecht. In it he says that one can change the ending or try to change the ending of the play. I had to smile, reflecting on Audre Lorde and her biomythology. . . . How could I change the open endings on most of the stories Orlandersmith tells?

The boys are not all grown when she leaves them for us to adopt or leave. I want to tell the social worker to self-publish. I want to see what happens to the boy who leaves jump rope for football. Is he having fun or just getting by until he can leave his master's house? Where is his mother? Is his father the man who picks up another character and sodomizes him? Is this the reason for the hyper-masculinity?

I wonder about the baby who loves to swim and ice cream cones in the winter. What will this early trauma do to him? Will his parents get the help for him he will need to mend the riff in his trust?

I wonder about the child, whom I thought was a girl whose mother's neglect leaves her/him empty inside, so empty the child wants to die.

I wonder about the Irish businessman who has it all, yet remains broken inside. Is he going to get therapy?

Unless cured or at least helped into wholeness, these men cannot help but break the spirits of other blue boys and the blue boys-- they will grow to be broken men.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Wanda's Picks June 6, 2012

Guests: JC Montgomery was part of the original Broadway production of The Scottsboro Boys. He also appeared on Broadway in Bye Bye Birdie, The Little Mermaid, The Color Purple, Thou Shalt Not, Swing!, Parade, Smokey Joe’s Cafe and The Boys from Syracuse.

Waights Taylor Jr
., born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, lives in Santa Rosa, California. His latest book, Our Southern Home: Scottsboro to Montgomery to Birmingham—The Transformation of the South in the Twentieth century, was published in October 2011 joins JC to speak about the play and the case, The Scottsboro Boys which opens at ACT-SF June 21-July 15, 2012. Visit

Nicole Klaymoon and guest collaborator, Sean San Jose,
join us to talk about Klaymoon’s Embodiment Project's latest installment of urban dance theater, House of Matter, this weekend at Dance Mission, 24th Street & Mission, Fri.-Sun., June 8-10, 2012.

Through Klaymoon’s signature use of street and modern dance, poetry, personal narrative and live music,
House of Matter examines the houses in which we belong – both the families that we are born into and those that we choose, the body that we inhabit and the planet that we reside. Visit

We close with a prerecorded interview with
director, Jeff Warrick, who speaks about his film Programming the Nation (opened in SF Oct. 2011).

Music: Ruthie Foster's "Truth."

Friday, June 01, 2012

Wanda Picks Radio Show Friday, June 1, 2012

CK Ladzekpo (Co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival), Emiko Susilo (Director of Gamelan Sekar Jaya), Nestor Ruiz (Artistic Director of El Tunante) and Kristina Ramsey (Dancer with Las Que Son Son) open the show's first hour. Visit

Our next guest is Arisa White, whose debut collection, Hurrah’s Nest, is this year’s winner of the San Francisco Book Festival Award for poetry. Visit

We close with devorah major, former San Francisco Poet Laureate, who will speak about Incantations by the Bahia a free poetry reading tonight, June 1, 2012, 7:30 p.m., at the Luggage Gallery, 1007 Market Street, in San Francisco featuring a stellar lineup of poets who will speak about the 1970s, a time of burgeoning voices from silenced communities of color: African American, Latino, Indigenous, Asian/Pacific Islanders. Visit

Featured music: Rene Marie's "Just My Imagination," Sweet Honey in the Rock, Umoja's "Our Problem to Solve" & "Yesterday's Lettuce," Wunmi "Oya-O."