Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wanda's Picks July 25, 2012

Today we'll be speaking to Robin Damelin, subj. of One Day After Peace, screening at the SFJFF 7/31 & 8/1. Visit The film is directed by the brother/sister team Erez Laufer and Miri Laufer. Visit and

When I saw this film a few weeks ago I was rivited riveted by the staunch passion Robi Damelin exhibits as she travels between sorrow and forgiveness in a journey undertaken to bring closure,or perhaps more importantly understanding to bear on her personal circumstances following the tragic death of her son, David. She finds it important in her healing process to know the person who shoots her son, and that process leads to the film which chronicles this journey, one she shares with Palestinian mothers and South African mothers who have all lost beloved sons.

War by its very nature leaves casualties, the youth who shoots Robi's son, would given other circumstances much he and the Israeli youth could agree on. War prevents such camaraderie, whether the wall is tangible or philosophical. Only tragedy or a cessation of violence allows the darkness to dissipate ever slightly so veils can lift so a little light can shine into crannies marked by prejudice, propaganda and harmful policies. Seldom do we take time to investigate often too busy reacting to or preparing for the inevitable offense to one's humanity or dignity--war takes everyone prisoner and in One Day After Peace, Robi learns that the conversation she opens with a letter to the man who took her son, opens her to his story as well, so the film is about the other side of the line--what happened in the Palestinian youth's life that made him target an enemy combatant? What makes this story work so well is its balance of opposing viewpoints in Israel and Palestine then in South Africa where the film moves to look at the way South Africa led by Bishop Desmond Tutu addresses in a unique way the healing of individuals via a national healing protocol called The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

South Africa, a country ripped asunder by apartheid similar to Rwanda after the events of April 1994, reflect individual soul work. In the film, One Day After Peace, former officials and combatants speak about the release they feel when the family or loved ones of those they have harmed reach out to them and forgive them. It is a way of reclamation of one's humanity. Often these attempts at redemption are not enough, and in the case where one is not capable of undoing the harm, this is where forgiveness lies--in the space where revenge or retribution is justified sometimes expected and the wronged person says "no."

There are many mothers in the San Francisco Bay Area walking this walk as well. I have met many of them, one is my sister Octavia Edwards, another is my other sister Joyce Gant. One killing is unsolved, the other is unresolved, as happens when the killer is a government employee. The irony is priceless, yet the cost is the same, two black youth are gone.

I got the news yesterday that my cousin's grandson, Alixi Johnson (17) was killed in Chicago Monday, in the 9600 block of South Merrill Avenue. He was standing in a park and someone took out a gun and started shooting randomly. He was the only one killed in a shooting rampage throughout the city that left 13 wounded.

One Day After Peace humanizes the conflict adults start, yet children pay for with their lives. The film is screening twice more, July 31 in Berkeley at the Roda and in San Jose at Cinearts, Aug. 1.

We also speak to David McCauley, Dir., Ailey Camp at UC Berkeley. In its 11th year, Ailey Camp concludes August 2, 2012, 7 PM at Zellerbach Hall. Tickets for the free performance are available through the UC Berkeley box office. Visit

I dropped by AileyCamp Monday afternoon. I barely slipped in before the youth finished their day. They were on stage with , Derrick Minter,
Modern Dance teacher, rehearsing one of the pieces they will perform on August 2 at the community performance at Zellerbach Hall. The 52 youth dressed in black leotards and dance shoes were on their Ps and Qs as the modern dance instructor took the kids through their literal paces as a large group and then in smaller segments.

David W. McCauley, Camp Director, stood watching occasionally offering suggestions or comments as group leaders assisted where needed. The performance, certainly felt like a family affair up to the surprise cake for Mr. McCauley which included a group hug--yes, it was a sweet moment (smile).

Joe, with Cal Performances filled me in on the background of the camp and Cal Performances partnership with AileyCamp over the past 11 years--for some reason I heard 12 years, but when I spoke to David, he corrected my mistake (smile). It as great seeing choreographers and company directors I've known for many years, like Mama Naomi Johnson Diouf. I know her as Artistic Director of Diamano Coura, West African Dance Company and as faculty member at Berkeley High School whom I have seen many times on and off stage as my younger daughter had her at Berkeley High School, I have studied with her and when I taught her younger son, Stefon at the College of Alameda. (Stefon just graduated with his BA from Cal State East Bay).

Zari Le'on, Jazz Dance teacher and LaTeisha, Congolese Dance, were a a couple of other names and faces I recognized. I was really impressed by the seriousness the youthful group leaders imparted through their carriage, especially, Dominique Fluker (2006 alum) and Spencer Pulu (2005 alum).

Mr. McCauley stated that the alumni return often, some yearly, as volunteers. Such is the case with Dominique, who studied ballet, prior to AileyCamp which she joined to expand her dance palate. Spencer, on the other hand, hadn't been dancing seriously, but took the opportunity offered by Oakland/Berkeley AileyCamp to put behind him a negative situation. Six years later, Spencer is at City College of San Francisco studying dance and dancing professionally with multiple companies like Culture Clash. Dominique is finishing up her second year at Sarah Lawrence. Though, college is not stressed per se, the deliberate integration of the camp into the fabric of the University of California via scavenger hunts and other activities puts the idea of higher education on the radar of children who might have parents who didn't complete high school. AileyCamp true to the mission of Alvin Ailey Dance Company's founder's philosophy that dance is not for the elite, dance is for every body, chooses campers who might not have dance backgrounds but like to dance.

Dance is the hook. What kid doesn't like to groove to good music? Then after they are at the camp, the kids get exposed to professionals in all aspects of performance whether that is choreography, lighting or set design. The camp has a values based curriculum where the whole child is nourished and nurtured. After the daily affirmations where children are inspired to think without limitations, the respect each other and to believe in their infinite and perhaps untapped potential. See Each day children have two meals, the first breakfast, personal development class, creative communication, along with the various dance classes. In the personal development children learn about sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS. There is transportation to and from the camp on buses from Oakland and Berkeley.

All this and more is free per student--this means Cal Performances which has raised funds for AileyCamp yearly since the camp's inception 11 years ago is seriously committed to East Bay families and youth. A quarter of a million dollars is nothing to sneeze at, especially in a shrinking economy, one where programming for youth and children is often cut. I am sure the AileyCamp experience for many children is their first exposure to performance and other creative art explored daily over the six weeks such as--writing, filmmaking, costume design and other art practice that varies from year to year.

Cal Performances in its 106th season didn't have to take this on, but despite a UC board of trustees which has made it more difficult over the past 20 years for students of color to matriculate on its campuses statewide, programs like AileyCamp are a portal into these hallowed halls, space many of these children or their families would never have thought were theirs to claim. As tax payers, as citizens, AileyCamp says, claim it, claim everything you want, for it is yours.

How can a child think otherwise if daily they are filled with a font of optimism carried in the affirmations which form the basis of the AileyCamp foundation: I am a winner. I am in control. I think before I act. I will pay attention with my mind, body and spirit. I will not use the word "can't" to define my possibilities (5 of 10).
There are so many great stories one could share, yet, all the space goes to tragedies and despair. Don't forget to call for your free tickets: (510) 642-9988.

Mr. McCauley is followed by special guest host We close with a special guest host, Safi wa Nairobi who interviews the Watts Prophets who perform at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Center in Berkeley, Sat., July 28.

There are many great programs for youth in the San Francisco Bay Area, among them, AileyCamp at Cal Performances, Destiny Arts, Oaktown Jazz Workshop, Dimensions Extensions, and Oakland Public Conservatory of Music founded by Angela Wellman.

Considering how much is going on at this place on a quiet corner in Oakland, I am just shocked that the buzz has not gotten out about this community treasure. Last week, I had so much fun watching the children prepare for the final session at the camp, which culminates tomorrow evening at 5:30 in a performance. Each instructor introduced him or herself and then performed, which meant the dance teacher had the kids up dancing salsa or rumba to the Cuban instructor's jam.

This Saturday, July 28, OPC honors in one of its Treasures Concerts, Donald Bailey, premiere drummer, best known for his work with Jimmy Smith. This concert will also be a passing of the baton from one Frederick Douglas Youth Ensemble member to another as older youth prepare to leave this fall for college or university opening multiple chairs: drum, trumpet others (smile).

Angela and I always have a great time conversing. Since she has been away at the University of Wisconsin, these conversations have not happened nearly enough, so this show was an opportunity to catch up (smile). I was happy to hear that financially things had gotten a bit easier for the conservatory at least around the lease itself, which in the past was hard to manage what with offering instruction to school children free of charge. Now, classes during the school year are about $10 a class, about $600 for the year. Angela mentioned fundraising and grants the board will look to secure, however in the meantime, this small yet dedicated institution can certainly use financial support.

My conversation with Angela Wellman, founding director, Oakland Public Conservatory wraps up a wonderful conversation this afternoon about peace and reconciliation and forgiveness, reciprocity and patience: MAAT. She performs this evening at Freight and Savage in Berkeley. The OPC Summer Music Academy concert is, Thursday, July 26 at 5:30 PM with the children at 1616 Franklin at 17th in Oakland. Visit The concert is free (smile).

The taped conversation with David McClauley and Safi's wonderful interview with poet activists Richard DeDeaux and Father Amde Hamilton rounded out a really wonderful afternoon of programming. I haven't decided how I am going to navigate the spaces opened July 28: Watts Prophets in Berkeley, National Treasures and Awards Concert in Oakland and Amiri Baraka and Reggie Workman, 8 p.m. also in Oakland at EastSide Arts. The men will be in conversation, Sunday at 6 p.m. "The State of Black Jazz." The final Friday's Film at EastSide Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd. also looks good, "Triumph of the Underdog" a classic film about Charles Mingus. Again, I was in Watts this weekend, and thought about Charles Mingus, who lived in this community.

I think I will go to Donald Bailey's Treasures Concert and then go over to Berkeley to catch the end of The Watts Prophets (smile). Friday, Zulu Spear performs at Ashkenaz in Berkeley.



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