Monday, April 23, 2012

OCCUPY4PRISONERS PRESENTS In Solidarity with the Occupy the Justice Department protest in Washington, DC

On Tuesday, April 24th - Mumia Abu-Jamal's 58th Birthday End Mass Incarceration!

4PM - RALLY at 14th and Broadway, Oakland

Occupy4Prisoners and supporters will rally at Oscar Grant Plaza, where awareness and understanding regarding the brutality and corruption within the United States INjustice system will begin to rise up. We will be doing educational outreach about the prison system with music, speakers, a "Truth Mob" and amplifying the voices of people inside of prisons.

5PM - MARCH to Federal Building and Obama Headquarters

We will take to the streets to march as an expression of our solidarity with the 2.5 million people incarcerated in the country. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country, with 743 people in prison per 100,000 of national population. Occupy4Prisoners brings to the attention of the greater Occupy Movement how we cannot forget the bottom 1% of the 99% in our greater struggle for justice and equality.

The march will continue past the Federal Building (13th and Clay) where representatives from the Labor Action Committee to Free Mumia and theMobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal will speak. Folks from the Bradley Manning Support Network will share information about Bradley’s plight when we reach the Obama Headquarters (17th and Telegraph.) Then we will march to...

6PM - THE INJUSTICE SYSTEM ON TRIAL - 19th and Telegraph

Once we arrive at the 19th and Telegraph Plaza, we will be putting the Injustice System on trial. Powerful local activists will preside over a trial that is actually about the truth.

The prosecutor will be Anita Wills, (Oscar Grant Committee andOccupy4Prisoners), the defense attorney will be Deborah Small, (Break the Chains), and the judge will be Jerry Elster (All of Us or None). The system will be played by Dan Siegel (National Lawyers Guild).

The jury will be YOU!

These witnesses will be bringing evidence against the system regarding the following charges:

1. Targeting youth of color

Chris M, Occupy Oakland

Sagnicthe Salazar, Youth Together and Xicana Moratorium Coalition

2. Allowing murder and assault by police to go unpunished

Denika Chatman, Kenneth Harding Jr. Foundation

Carey Downs & Dionne Smith Downs, A Mother's Cry for Justice

3. Enforcing racism at every level

Jabari Shaw, Rapper, Laney College Black Student Union

Manuel La Fontaine, All of Us or None and Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity

4. Holding political prisoners hostage

Kiilu Nyasha, Independent journalist and former Black Panther

Aaron Mirmalek, Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee Oakland

5. Torturing people inside the prisons

Sharena Curley, Oscar Grant Committee

Luis “Bato” Talamantez, California Prison Focus and one of the San Quentin Six

6. Conspiring to commit mass incarceration

Linda Evans, All of Us or None and former political prisoner

Ghetto Prophet, Onyx Organizing Committee and spoken word artist

More information:

Major Protest and Civil Disobedience Planned at the
U.S. Department of Justice: April 24, 2012, 11:00 am, Washington, DC

New York, NY - - A broad coalition of community organizers, activists, artists, students, scholars, celebrities, and concerned individuals will hold a national rally and protest at the headquarters of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 at 11:00 am in Washington, DC (located at 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). The purpose of the protest is to call for the release of political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal on the day that is his 58th birthday. Renowned activists Frances Fox Piven, and Norman Finkelstein; actor Danny Glover; hip hop artist M-1 (of the duo dead prez); and others will engage in acts of civil disobedience at the protest. Organizers hope that the planned civil disobedience will dramatize their formal request that US Attorney General Eric Holder meet with a delegation to discuss systemic police corruption and civil rights violations in Abu-Jamal’s case and in the cases of hundreds of others across the nation.

Organizers will make seven core demands of US Attorney General Holder:
1. Release Mumia Abu-Jamal
2. End mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black and Latino Youth
3. Create jobs, education, and health care, not jails
4. End solitary confinement and stop torture
5. End the racist death penalty
6. Hands off immigrants
7. Free all political prisoners
Attorneys will be available to answer questions. The website is

Johanna Fernandez, a professor of history at Baruch College, CUNY in New York and the filmmaker of Justice on Trial: The Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, announces that the rally and protest are tied to short term and long term goals. “Our immediate goal is to have Mumia Abu-Jamal released from prison. His recent release from death row was only a half victory. Our long- term goal is to end mass incarceration. Toward that end, we have developed a project called Liberation Summer. In just a few months, we will join with others to mobilize, train, and organize thousands of people who want to see an end to the unjust criminalization and mass incarceration of African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, other people of color, immigrants, and poor communities. Mass incarceration is not the solution to social problems. Rather than criminalization, we want a world without prisons.”

Background: Mumia Abu-Jamal
On December 9, 1981 in Philadelphia, journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal was arrested for the killing of a Philadelphia Police Officer Daniel Faulkner. In 1982, he was convicted and sentenced to death row. Last year, the Supreme Court allowed to stand the decisions of four federal judges whose unanimous rulings and arguments state that Abu-Jamal’s 1982 death sentence was unconstitutional. In early December, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office decided that it would not continue to pursue a death sentence in this case and Abu-Jamal’s original sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole. Supporters of Abu-Jamal have cited the elimination of the death sentence in this case as one of the few civil rights victories in the post-civil rights era. Abu-Jamal’s demand for a new and fair trial and freedom is supported by heads of state from France to South Africa; by city governments from Detroit to San Francisco to Paris; by the Congressional Black Caucus and other members of U.S. Congress; by the European Parliament; by the NAACP, labor unions, and distinguished human rights organizations like Amnesty International; by Nobel Laureates Nelson Mandela, Toni Morrison, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu; by scholars, religious leaders, artists, scientists; and by countless others around the world.

Now that Abu-Jamal is off death row, activists are demanding his release from prison. On December 9, 2011, in an event at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia that marked the 30th year anniversary of Abu-Jamal’s incarceration, Archbishop Desmond Tutu joined countless others and asked the nation to "rise to the challenge of reconciliation, human rights, and justice" and called for Abu-Jamal’s "immediate release."

Background: Why Rally at the Department of Justice?
The police officers who shot, beat, and arrested Mumia Abu-Jamal in 1981 -- for the shooting death of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner -- were under scrutiny by a Department of Justice investigation of the Philadelphia Police Department. The probe, which began in 1979, marked the first time in the nation’s history that the federal government sued a police department for civil rights violations and charged an entire police department (rather than individual officers, with police brutality). The DOJ suit maintained that the Philadelphia police’s practices of “shooting nonviolent suspects, abusing

handcuffed prisoners, suppressing dissension within its ranks, and engaging in a pattern of brutal behavior ‘shocks the conscience.’” (Philip Taubman, “U.S. Files Its Rights Suit Charging Philadelphia Police with Brutality,” The New York Times, August 14, 1979). Only days after the end of Abu-Jamal’s trial and conviction, 15 of the 35 police officers involved in collecting evidence in his case would be convicted and jailed, as a result of this federal investigation, on charges that included graft, corruption, and tampering with evidence to obtain a conviction. Chief among these officers was Alfonzo Giordano, the police inspector who led the crime scene investigation in Abu-Jamal’s case. The DOJ investigation remains unfinished: it did not provide relief for defendants like Abu-Jamal who were convicted by the testimonies and work of these corrupt and convicted cops.

ENDORSED BY: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition to Free Mumia (NYC) Occupy Philly OCCUPY General Assembly (NYC) Occupy DC Now Occupy DC Criminal Injustice Committee Occupy the Hood Decarcerate PA Supporting Prisoners and Acting for Radical Change [SPARC] Millions for Mumia/Int'l Action Center dead prez (Sticman and M1) John Carlos Talib Kweli Immortal Technique Angela Davis Danny Glover Alice Walker Francis Pixen Amiri Baraka Marc Lamont Hill Cornell West Vijay Prashad Norman Finkelstein ANSWER Coalition Prison Radio
For event information, contact Johanna Fernandez at 917.930.0804 or 215.600.6626; visit; and @A24OccupyDOJ (Twitter). Media inquiries are directed to AKILA WORKSONGS at 718.756.8501 or

The Oakland Community Lifts Khalil Shaheed as a Local Hero in a Celebration of His Life

The event started after 3 p.m., Oaktown Jazz Workshop full to capacity--people lining the walls, standing in the aisles, in front of those seated, it was impressive--Oakland out to show love for a man we miss quite a lot. Opening with a second line march from outside on Jack London Square into the club, the waves parted as the sea of musicians with Oaktown musicians leading the way onto the stage where they played "When the Saints Go Marching In" as the audience on its feet clapped.

Kate Shaheed opened the afternoon with a reflection on her life with Khalil and an overview of the afternoon. Logistics were an issue and one saw youth giving their seats to elders as the ocean parted again and uncannily the space expanded as even more people joined those gathered.

I stayed in the main room and didn't visit the quiet room where there were altars for Khalil filled with memorabilia like is prayer clock, key to the City of Oakland, awards, a painting of him and Kate, photos of him and his daughters, favorite books and CDs, DVDs. There was a huge photo with signatures and a clothes line where people wrote notes or put on red lipstick and left a kiss.

There were many places where one could sit and reflect. . . pillows next to the window where one could see the Bay. One could also get snacks and juice at the bar which Kate, her mother, younger daughter and many volunteers hosted throughout the day which went on into the evening.

It was that kind of healing space-- the community opened and then held the space for those who needed a bit more time. Richard Howell hosted the open mic which had three shift changes. The open mic saw many of the Oaktown Jazz youth return for more, like a young pianist, and drummers like Ayinde. A wonderful tenor saxophonist and trumpeters.

The Oaktown Jazz performance was impressive, just as impressive as they were in innumerable performances whether that was their yearly fundraiser at Yoshi's or a special gig like that for a Miles Davis's 50th anniversary recording of Kinda Blue, but I think it was another recording session celebrated.

Earth Day, Khalil Day, Umi Vaughn Day. . . it was a day filled with a lot of love and warmth. In an eloquent eulogy Pastor B.K. Woodson, father of an Oaktown Jazz alum Josiah, said, "Let's love him forward and make him a legend."

John Santos spoke of meeting Khalil when he was in high school and remembered how Khalil saw the connections between the American art form jazz, and the Pan African Diaspora--that there was no separation, similar to earlier legends like Dizzy Gillespie.

Jack Dorsey and Sean Silverman spoke of their friend whom they'd met in the late 60s when Khalil moved the San Francisco from Chicago to attend San Francisco State University. I don't know if Khalil completed that part of the journey, however, both men spoke of his the younger Khalil was full of ideas and the bands they formed as a result of that creative spirit.

They also spoke of Khalil's transformation and return after a brief pilgrimage and a walk which never ended, a path he never left, a mission he never departed. The man was committed to celebrating this legacy called jazz by some, creative black music by others, truth by the remainder.

More later.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Khalil Shaheed 's Celebration at 2 PM

from Tracy:

Dear Friends of Khalil,

Thank you all for your kind offers to help and participate in Khalil Shaheed's upcoming Memorial Celebration on Sunday, April 22 at 2pm. We are pleased to announce that this special event will take place at one of Khalil's favorite spaces: Oaktown Jazz Workshops at Nadine's in Jack London Square.

You can also find the event details and join the guest list of the Memorial Celebration on Facebook, so that you will remain updated on details for the event:

There will be refreshment's for sale in "Lina's Lounge" - the cafe portion of the club that will be managed by Khalil's daughter Lina. Also, we will be setting up a special room where we are collecting memories and mementos for Khalil's daughters, Lina & Savannah. We are encouraging everyone to bring photos and items you can part with. Be prepared to share your memories and stories of Khalil with the videographer that will roam the event.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: If you are able to attend and would like to help out during the event, please reply to me with the "station" you would like to volunteer for. We need 2 volunteers for each station & we would need you to arrive at 1:45pm, before the guests start coming in at 2pm.


-Pre-Event set up at 12:30pm

-Lobby greeters to hand out programs & have folks sign guest book

-Lobby table to assist with donations & gifts in Khalil's memory

-CD & T-shirt sales table

-Security/Greeters at door in front of venue

-Memory room attendants / help collect & label memories on bulletin boards / kid craft table

-Sunday evening post-event clean up (for those that can stay past 6pm)

Take care and thanks again.


Happy Earth Day: Honoring Dr. Jacqueline Hairston

Honoring Dr. Jacqueline Hairston

The East Bay Church of Religious Science warmly invites the Community to join it in honoring its beloved Dr. Jacqueline Hairstonfor her dedicated service to its Music Ministry today, Sunday, April 22, 2012, during the 2nd service -11:30AM at the East Bay Church of Religious Science, 4130 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, CA, (510) 420-1003.

Dr. Hairston is relocating to Sacramento and has taken a music position with The Center for Spiritual Awareness.

We at Friends of Negro Spirituals will miss Jacqui and are most appreciative of the generous support she has given toward keeping the Negro Spirituals heritage alive in the Greater Bay Area and beyond.

February 19, 2012 Carnegie Hall

Lyvonne thanks Jacqui for allowing her to video/document the historic February 19, 2012 Carnegie Hall Concert in New York for the archive files of Friends of Negro Spirituals. Lyvonne is currently editing the video footage, from which she will make a DVD.
We will invite Jacqui, those who were associated with the concert, and the public to a showing of the finished DVD.

In the meanwhile, Yvette Johnson, a FNS member in New York, has written a review of the concert; the review is attached.

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

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Wanda's Picks Special Broadcast: David Roach & Javier Reyes

We have a prerecorded interview with David Roach, Executive Director and Founder of the Oakland International Film Festival, kicking off its 10th Annual Festival, Apr. 6-8, 2012 at the Oakland Museum of CA in Oakland, 10th and Oak. Visit

We open with a conversation with Javier Reyes, poet, playwright, activistt who is bringing his latest work and collaboration to the Bay Area for one night before the company heads for New York (smile).

His Each One Reach One & Urban Healing Tour Present "Toy Soldierz," a joint collaboration to raise funds for Bay Area Youth Theater programs on Monday, April 9, 2012, 7-11 p.m. at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley, will showcase UHT's critically acclaimed multi-media, hip-hop theater production "Toy Soldierz." UHT will be showcasing One Act Plays written by incarcerated youth working through EORO's award winning theater programs.

Youth poets from Youth Guidance Center Integration Center perform as well. Proceeds from the show help fund travel to the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in May "Toy Soldierz." To Purchase tickets, please go to Tickets are half price for patrons under 25 years old. Also visit and

Support the project and the campaign to stop teen violence:

Urban Healing Tour presents Toy Soldierz

Monday, April 09, 8:00 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm)
a multi-media hip hop theater show benefiting Each One Reach One
$20.50 advance / $22.50 at door
Purchase tickets online

Toy Soldierz is a multimedia production that combines hip hop music, dance, spoken word, and film. Telling the true story of Devon Johnson, a high school student who lost his life in a shooting, the production deals with themes of teen violence and forgiveness in a special performance benefiting two non-profit organizations, Each One Reach One and Urban Healing Project.

Each One Reach One (EORO) and Urban Healing Tour (UHT) have aligned and overlapping goals, and a shared vision of a safer future for the community. EORO provides transformative, mentor-based playwriting workshop experiences and academic tutoring programs for incarcerated youth. UHT is a multimedia hip hop theater platform that supports productions for social change coupled with arts-based workshops centered around the process of recovery and learning to forgive.

Javier Reyes, UHT’s founder and creative director, wrote and directs Toy Soldierz. The performers, Bay Area-based actors, poets, singers, and dancers whose lives have been touched by gun violence, are united by their passion to help heal the community.

I was doing a search for Javier Reyes's poetry and found two pieces videotaped in Atlanta, where he is based now, and then I get an other Javier and I wonder if the Javier I know, poet, playwright is also a musician. It's a different Javier, but the name of the band, Animals as Leaders is poetic and the music, rock--is really great! So. . . here it is. Let me know if the band makes it to California. I want to see them.

Music: Animals as Leaders, an American, Washington, D.C.–based instrumental progressive metal band, formed by guitarist Tosin Abasi in 2007 which now includes guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka. We play "Tempting Time" and a "New Song" recorded live at Bunters, Truro 26 August 2011,

Wanda's Picks Friday, April 6, 2012

Greetings Everyone:

I want to share the line-up for tomorrow's show. I am so honored to have as opening guest Kelly Jermaine Turner, CEO/President of Symple Equazion She will speak about life after solitary confinement and her emotional autobiography, an interactive literary journey (smile). She is also speaking at Hastings Law School tomorrow evening.

My other guests are: Arielle Brown and Ayodele Nzinga to talk about Love Balm for My SpiritChild Staged Reading - Encores

Bay Area Mothers Use Theatre of Witness to Fight for Justice for Murdered Children

Love Balm for My SpiritChild: Testimonies of Healing Justice through Mothers' Memory is a 4-part healing performance workshop series that celebrates the spirit of commemorative justice in mothers. The Love Balm performance features testimonies from the mothers and grandmothers of Kenneth Harding Jr, Oscar Grant III, Kerry Baxter Jr, Christopher La Vell Jones, Daniel Booker and more. The performances will take place at The Legendary Black Dot Cafe in West Oakland on April 14th and 21st at 2pm. Tickets are sliding scale, 7.00 - 20.00 at the door. The performances are encores of the original reading at Eastside Arts Alliance in January, 2012.

Also at 8:30 AM we speak to director Tracey Quezada about You and Me and The Fruit Trees, screening at UCB Tuesday, April 10, 2012.

We close with interviews with directors from the films The Island President, Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen (9:30-10) which opens at Shattuck Cinemas in Berkeley April 6, and They Call It Myanmar, Robert Lierbman which opens at Landmark’s Bridge Theatre in San Francisco(9-9:30). Directors and Producers will be present at these opening weekend screenings.

Shot clandestinely over three years by novelist, filmmaker, and Cornell Physicist Robert H. Lieberman, THEY CALL IT MYANMAR - LIFTING THE CURTAIN provides an astonishing and intimate look inside what has been the second most isolated country on the planet. Providing a grand sweep of the country, its people and its troubled history, this visually stunning documentary brings a human dimension to a country that still remains a mystery to much of the world. Shot clandestinely over three years by best-selling novelist and filmmaker Robert H. Lieberman, this film with its stunning footage provides an astonishing and intimate look inside what has been one of the most isolated countries on the planet. With an exclusive perspective provided by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, this film brings a human dimension to a country that remains a mystery to much of the world.

Jon Shenk’s THE ISLAND PRESIDENT tells the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced—the literal survival of his country and everyone in it. After bringing democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed is now faced with an even greater challenge: as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.

THE ISLAND PRESIDENT captures Nasheed’s first year of office, culminating in his trip to the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed is unusually candid about revealing his strategies—leveraging the Maldives’ underdog position as a tiny country, harnessing the power of media, and overcoming deadlocks through an appeal to unity with other developing nations. When hope fades for a written accord to be signed, Nasheed makes a stirring speech which salvages an agreement. Despite the modest size of his country, Mohamed Nasheed has become one of the leading international voices for urgent action on climate change.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wanda's Picks April 4, 2012

Today on the anniversary of MARTIN KING's killing, we reflect on healing and survival via a variety of perspectives, beginning at 7 a.m. with a conversation with Ifa Priestess Oyafunmike Ogunlano who portrays the role of "Mona" and "Shola," in Haile Gerima's classic: Sankofa.

Beginning her career on the theatrical stage, Ms.Ogunlano first graced the stages of Washington, D.C. as a proud member of the D.C. Black Repertory Company under the direction of Robert Hooks in such powerful productions as The Blacks, Imamu, Day of Absence, Changes and more. She has appeared in many stage productions including North Seventeenth Street, Homecookin’ and Oursides as member of the renowned the Negro Ensemble Company. With the Nuyorican Poet’s Café she performed in Shango de Ima, Julius Caesar set in Africa and Obatala. She was a member of the Ebony Impromptu Theater Company, under the direction of the late Harry Poe and is also an accomplished African dancer who has danced with the dynamic Olatunji's Drums of Passion, Wo’ se, and Mori Nimba to name a few.

She will also speak about her Ifa temple project, "Palmaras." Visit

I meet her at Iya Nedra's home which is an art gallery. The interview is filled with laughter, jazz playing quietly in the background. I am treated to a green drink, as I gaze past my subject out the window where a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay awaits. The women, dressed in white, greet me with Alafia, Yoruba for peace. I take off my shoes after I pass Xshu at the door and after the initial oos and aaaas, I ask if I can return on a personal field trip. Iya smiles and tells me any time.

I find Oyafunmike easy to talk to, so easy to talk to I forget I am working and don't ask about her work with Olatunji's Drums of Passion, and what she knows of his work with John Coltrane in New York. I don't ask her about how Gerima happened to have a cast of spirit workers--how did he convene such a super cast or spirit workers? Was it intentional or just fortuitous?

She says that her ancestors told her everyone was handpicked for this work, did they mention why 19 years ago, they felt it necessary to make the Sankofa journey and why Gerima, a man from the continent, Ethiopia, a place never colonized by the west, why he was the man they wanted to do their bidding?

What was in it for him? What did he say of the vision quest that they collectively walked? In retrospect, even if she is angry with him for stealing her work, what were some of the rewards connected to this work she is best known for?

Does hanging onto the anger slow her down in measurable way? If so, what are they?

Hunter Poetry
We open with A. Madyun's Every Breath of Life.

I met Oyafunmike at Adimu Madyun's listening party, where I taped the next interview. It was noisy and Adimu was excited, as we all were. "Hunter Poetry" is a phenomenal project, its message positive and enlightening. We were black folks in the know, rubbing elbows with other powerful Africans, also in the know with know how.

Tico Wells

The circle is still unbroken as are our hearts and souls, evident in WolfhawkJaquar: Hunter Poetry, as well as Sankofa and the legacy of severance it references. John Henry Redwood’s play, The Old Settler, directed by Tico Wells, reflects this endurance and spiritual rejuvenation. It is no wonder given Redwood's background in theology--one wants to think, Liberation Theology, he has written such a provocative play about some very different sistas: Elizabeth, Quilly and Lou Bessie (smile).

As I spoke at length to the director, Tico Wells, I couldn't help but think about the conversation we were having when just moments into our conversation he mentions Dr. Joy DeGruy and Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome as he reflected on his grandfather's silences, which he drew on in his portray "Husband Witherspoon" when The Old Settler opened in 1997.

I couldn't help but remember Dr. DeGruy's statement at the CIIS talk last week to an audience which overwhelmingly did not know her prior to that day, how her father on his death bed asked her to validate his sacrifices, the times he kept silent when he wanted to speak. He chose to live, yet there remained decades later, self-doubt.

Though he told her, "I did it for you," the deeper question unasked was, when I don't behave manly or let someone clearly weaker walk on my human rights and citizenship, am I still a man?

This kind of silence is a form of internalized terrorism. One can remain silent, but to be silenced means one wants to speak and his or her tongue is cut out or muted, like one does to the speakers on one's laptop.

As DeGruy shared this story with the audience. It was a story I never heard her tell before. Instantly as she paused to wipe what looked like a tear, I was clear why she does the work she does, and how the need for this work is verified over and over again, whether it is in the supermarket where she has to do an intervention between parents having a dangerous meltdown--an intervention that saves the child and his or her parents or a personal example.She tells the story of a neighborhood child who threatens to beat her son up because he looks at him.

Not only have we been silenced, we cannot or we dare not look in the mirror for fear the reflection will validate the propaganda about ourselves we have been trying to ignore. The dominant narrative not only scares us, it reinforces the insecurity --cognitive dissonance, DeGruy calls it, that makes the image wobble just as we think we have a handle on our dignity.
This is a lot for an adult to handle, let alone a child?

"You mean to tell me you are going to beat up my son, because he looked at you?!" She asks the child, then goes on to use this waylayed assault as a teachable moment.

Wells went on to say that he was excited when Dr. Vaughn Scott at the Black Rep opened her theatre doors when he asked to produce this play there. The first rehearsals were by phone, the director in Los Angeles, and then when he came north, he expressed surprised at what he found at BRG, a theatre founded by Nora Vaughn, Dr. Vaughn Scott's mother. He found actors willing to do what it took to make a production work, what I would term, a holistic approach. The director found himself doing the sound, something he was not aware he had a talent for. He also learned of the personal sacrifice many of the cast and crew made once they agreed to participate. It seemed to inspire and renew his commitment and hope and belief in the power of art to articulate and tell stories about our people, in particular, which are not being told.

Wells said the public often thinks black actors are so far from reach, when they would welcome an opportunity to come back the the community and share what they have learned and collaborate on productions like The Old Settler. He compares this to elders send their offspring off to university, yet no prevision is made for them to return.

There is a dissonance that happens often on both ends--a strangeness, that can be bridged if both sides recognize the strengths of each: one is not hick and the other bourgeoisie. We came full circle to speak about Martin King and his legacy, one that could be connected to that of the playwright, John Henry Redwood, Ph.D.

John Henry Redwood’s play, The Old Settler at Black Repertory Group Theatre in Berkeley, has been extended April 5-8, Thursday-Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday, 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Easter Sunday, 5 p.m. BRGT is located at 3201 Adeline Street, Berkeley. For information call (510) 652-2120. Visit

10th Annual Oakland International Film Festival

We close with David Roach, director of Oakland International Film Festival, April 6-8, 2012 at the Oakland Museum, 10th and Oak. Visit

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Black Art In America
The Leading Voice for the Black Arts Community.

FRIENDS, We will miss ELIZABETH CATLETT, but her legacy will forever live on. We have been asked to pass along the following from the MORA CATLETT FAMILY.

We are informing you that Elizabeth Catlett, (born April 15, 1915) has peacefully passed away April 2, 2012, at her home in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. She is survived by her three children Francisco, Juan and David Mora Catlett, her daughters in Law, Danys Perez, Maria Antonieta Alvarez Mora and Sigrid Kistner, her grandchildren, Crystal Mora, Ife Mora, Paulina Mora, Naima Mora, Nia Mora, Citlali Mora, Mahalia Mora, Liethis Hechavarria, Jasmin Mora, Diego Mora, and her great grand children Sofia Piana, Noah Black, Niya Mora, Aza Mackin, Yuma Sanchez and Milan Castellanos.

The art is: Civil Rights Congress, 1949, Linocut on cream wove paper

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Black Rep Extends The Old Settler

The Old Settler: A Review

John Henry Redwood’s play, The Old Settler at Black Repertory Group Theatre has been extended April 5-8, Thursday-Friday, 8 p.m., Saturday, 3 and 8 p.m. and Sunday, Easter Sunday, 5 p.m. Produced for Women’s History Month, this play looks at the relationships between three generations of women: Elizabeth, Quilly and Lou Bessie, all ironically attached to the apron strings of one Husband Witherspoon (actor Clarence “Ray” Johnson Jr.). It is a play that looks at honor and fidelity, kinship, especially that between women society judges past their prime, as if value could be judged by shelf life or refrigeration—neither the case in the 1940s when one kept items cold with blocks of ice. But I digress. This Bay Area production is directed by Tico “Choir Boy” Wells, one of the original cast members in the play when it first opened at The Mc Carter Theatre in Princeton, NJ and The Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT in 1997. The original production was directed by Walter Dallas. Since then the play has been done numerous times including a television production with Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad. The play which boasts a stellar cast at BRGT, also looks at what happens when one migrates north where often, as is the case with the youngest woman, Lou Bessie (Tavia Percia), there is no one waiting for you. The opposite is true for Quilly (Paula Martin) whose sister Elizabeth (Dr. Arletha “Angel” Lands ) provides shelter for her younger sister in Harlem when their mother dies and the younger sister relocates.

I’ve seen several interpretations of The Old Settler and until the current production at Black Rep; I didn’t know there was another way to play it. In the capable hands of this cast and director, the play which is about an older woman who rents a room to a young man and the two fall in love, is deepened when actor Clarence Ray Johnson Jr.’s “Husband,” conveys a genuine love for Elizabeth and the decision reached about their relationship more hers than his. This not only allows Elizabeth’s character more control and a way to save face; it also leaves space for the two sisters to reclaim their severed ties.

Is the playwright hinting here that sisterhood is a stronger bond than any transitory or temporal relationship with a man, young or old? Is he also saying, in his juxtaposition of a young hot thing, Lou Bessie and Elizabeth, who reminds Husband of his recently deceased mother, that when one changes or loses the values which build strong character, then one loses herself, which is what happens to Lou Bessie who compromises, perhaps even leases if not sells her soul, to stay in her beloved Harlem? Husband refuses to follow her lead, even if he seems to follow her everywhere else.

People take a lot when they are lonely; they are also extremely vulnerable when they are alone as well. Elizabeth is prime for the take, yet, this Husband is gentle with her and I appreciate that, especially in 2012 when The Old Settler Factor is real for a lot of women who are getting infected with HIV disease, losing their homes and possessions to men younger than they. And then there is Lou Bessie who one cannot altogether fault for playing her cards right to get with the in -crowd, even if that means sleeping with her child’s father, Bucket, at night, while cleaning for a white woman, by day. She latches onto Husband, flattered he came north to find her. She also knows he has land and money, so why not "play" or take advantage of the country hick? However, Clarence Ray Johnson Jr.’s character might be from a small town, but he certainly is not small minded or as naïve or in love as she thinks. A single mother, whose child is being raised by her mother back home, Lou Bessie a.k.a. Charmaine seems to be careening along in a caboose without a driver.

Just because one is called an old settler, and in Elizabeth’s case “an old old settler,” does not mean the woman is willing to “settle.” She is excited and in love, but she is not a fool. Perhaps if John Henry Redwood would have pushed the envelope and let the affair work out as it might have if set in another place or time. One wonders if when there is a span of over ten years between partners is it love or lust or usury or a little of both?

The set and sound design are also really wonderful. BRGT is located at 3201 Adeline Street, Berkeley. For information call (510) 652-2120. Visit