Sunday, July 28, 2013

Save Marcus Book Store in San Francisco Rally at City Hall

Concerned citizens are gathering at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday to tell the San Francisco Board of Supervisors why they think Marcus Bookstore should stay in San Francisco. This could be our last chance to save the store.

Meet at 1:30pm on the steps of City Hall and attend the Board of Supervisors meeting, which begins at 2:00. Some of us will be able to give public testimony and talk about what the bookstore has meant to us over the years.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Slave Cave Image & Tour

This is a much better shot of the natural slave cave in Zanzibar. I couldn't capture the coral walls well with my camera.

Taken from

Here is a link to a tour:

Tracing the African Trade at the Indian Ocean: Mangapwani Beach

School children at Slave Cave site
School children at Slave Cave site
Entrance to the Cave. The stairs are a recent addition
David Livingston, the English explorer, is given a lot of credit for halting or ending the slave trade here, but according to my guide, the abolition of the trade was an added benefit for Africans, similar to the bonus prize when the Confederacy refused to join the Union Africans were released from bondage January 1, 1863.

He said, Livingston's maps made it easier for the Arabs to penetrate the "interior," and that after the British abolished slavery in the Arabs continued at the Mangapwani Caves located about "20km north of Zanzibar Town along the coast" (Lonely Planet 144). There are two spots, one a contested natural cave which has stairs caved into it so one can descend into the large open space where there is a source of fresh clear water. So even though the enslaved Africans marched into the cave from the beach after the dhows dropped them at its mouth, a mile from where we stood, the water kept them from starving as sales were made.
The men or women were hoisted up through the hole by rope and auctioned off. Any rebellious Africans were chained to the natural coral walls of the cave. When asked about the potential for escape, the guide said that most of the captives had never been to sea prior to their enslavement, so the idea of going back through the tunnel to the ocean and trying to swim or run away was met with despair. This cave held the less expensive Africans; up the road, a bit further north was another place, this cave dug from the ground (out of the coral limestone deposits) where in two separate underground rooms enslaved Africans were placed on tiers chained facing one another and sold.

The buyers could walk between the rooms and tiers and see the "product," which unlike the other Africans held in the natural cave were washed and fed and treated a bit better given their higher market value. This particular site is now a UNESCO Heritage site (October 2009, 400 years after the atrocity).

The larger cave would be covered with leaves, so no one would know anyone was there. Without a road, in the middle of the forest, it was unlikely that the Arab traders would be caught and they were not.

It seems as if everyone (I am speaking of the Indian traders who had been present in Zanzibar for many centuries amassing wealth) turned a blind to this trafficking until Britain saw Arab wealth as a disadvantage and ended the trade and with other Western nations divided up Africa and began another sort of captivity and exploitation known as colonialism.

We drove through Bububu to get to the caves, and what's interesting about this town is its name, which is taken from the sound the stream train made while carrying goods up and down the coast. The old train depot is now a police station, yet buses headed in this direction sputter this title.

The second cave is in Chuini, just north of Bububu. We passed the Maruhubi Palace and grounds on our way there. Here Sultan Barghash in 1882 built this place, 4km north of Zanzibar Town to house his 98-99 member harem. All gifts, as he was known to like his women, the concubines would bathe in a pool and he'd point to the ones he wanted that night to sleep with. If they became pregnant, they were killed. The sultan could not afford to have heirs loose. He built his wife a lovely sauna, floors out of marble. The palace was burned and many if not most of its treasures looted up to recently. My guide saw tourists carrying away pieces of marble tiles from the floor.

It's quite majestic and the scientific design of the aqueduct and reservoirs where the fresh water flowed and still does is amazing. The inner chambers where the concubines had their indoor pool with toilets and the different types of toilet and their maintenance was also interesting.

Another palace, Sultan Seyyid Said's Mtoni Palace is just north of Maruhubi. It is described in Emily Said-Reute's Memoirs of an Arabian Princess.  I didn't get by it. 

I am still trying to register my response to the slave caves. They were just something outside of my imagination. We walked in reverse the trek these Africans made from the beach after the voyage. They were washed on the beach and it is said, they dried themselves in the sun sitting on the huge rocks below the cliff where we stood.

Coral could be seen in the shallow waters. This rocky bed gave the Arab merchants and advantage against the British whose ships would not be able to navigate the terrain without getting stuck.

If it is not too expensive. I am going to walk from the beach to the caves, follow the route. This is so much more interesting than just seeing the dungeons and hearing the philosophical cries of our ancestors. I want to stay at St. Monica's hostel where the slave prisons were too at the Anglican Cathedral on Creek Road and l which is built on the largest slave marketplace in Zanzibar. It is the first Anglican cathedral in East Africa built in the  1870s by the Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA).

See and

I didn't get to church there, but maybe when I return. It's an interesting history. They were called by David Livingston and at the heart of their beliefs is abolition of slavery.

School children at Slave Cave site

As I was reading more literature I ran across this contested story of the "natural cave."

Mangapwani Slave Cave is not natural, but cut out of the coral limestone. It is a sort of cellar, more or less a square-shaped cell. It was built for storing slaves by Mohammed Bin Nassor Al-Alawi, a prominent slave trader. Boats from Africa (Tanzania) landed at the nearby beach and unloaded their human "cargo". The slaves were kept here until they were taken to Zanzibar Town or to Oman.

In 1873 Sultan Barghash signed the Anglo-Zanzibari treaty which officially abolished the slave trade. Some time after the cave was still used as a place to hide slaves, as an illicit trade continued for many years. Today, the cave itself remains, although the wooden roof under which the slaves were hidden has now gone. There are steps which lead down onto the cavern floor (

I find it hard to believe that this cave is not natural. It continues on to the beach where the enslaved Africans were dropped off. There is another chamber a bit further through the narrow passage that opens into a larger room. I am more of the belief that it is natural rather than not. The other slave caves, further north fit the description here.
Little boy at Slave Cave site in Zanzibar

School children at Slave Cave site

School children at Slave Cave site

School children at Slave Cave site

School children at Slave Cave site
Plaque at Slave Cave site explains its use as a place to hide and then Africans after the slave trade was officially abolished


Love created the memorial

Memorial sign from a distance

Tree at sacred site.

Entrance to cave.

The tour guide told us to collect rocks.

With rocks. Later he tossed them into a space inside the cave we could not climb down to
where we heard a splash,indicating the fresh water pool.

Stairs leading into cave

Plaque from a distance

The cave entrance via stairs.
School children on a field trip.
School children at caves.
Going into the cave.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ramadan Mubarak

A blessed Ramadan to all who are observing the fast this year. Today is also the first day of the resumption of the hunger strike in California prisons and solidarity hunger strikes elsewhere. 30,000 prisoners refused their meals today.

I am sure this is not a coincidence.

Ramadan references the fourth pillar in Islam and philosophically ties one to the humanitarian ethics connected to Al Islam and human decency, both which are disrespected when one considers the Secured Housing Units or SHUs in Pelican Bay and elsewhere in California's extensive and unparalleled prison industrial complex.

What makes these containers such a travesty of justice and alarming that after hearings and recommendations by the State Assembly last year to stop there use, is the sensory deprivation. If that isn't enough to put a stop to this human rights violation, the reasons why men and women are assigned to these places is as arbitrary as justice in America.

Economically dependent and racially and politically motivated, this SHU, which sounds like footwear, is reason for prisoners to starve themselves, for some, to death.

The prisoners housed in the SHUs are not necessarily violent or a risk to the general population. Assignments vary in their inconsistency. A short term punishment has for many inmates become a cross many bear to their untimely graves.

The effect is one that is irreversible once the prisoner is released from such custody; this counters any potential for "rehabilitation." Breaking another human being's spirit is not good policy in anyone's book, judicial or biblical or qu'ranic. 

During Ramadan one feels the burning sensation of hunger and thirst as one fights vigorously the warring Satan who is tied up but still struggling to make one lose one's form. I hope the strikers demands are met this time and that the fast ends sooner than it did last time and without any casualties.

Here in Dar es Salaam, there are billboards with Ramadan Karim written on them. President Obama's face covers polls on the major boulevards, one renamed in his honor. I learned that businesses give their employees vacation during this time and start major projects. In places like Zanzibar, if one is staying in a hotel not catering to tourists, during the daylight hours one cannot find food (smile).

At an artist residency or workshop, Nafasi Art Space, the group decided not to book too many evening activities because during Ramadan, the public tends to go to the mosque after sunset and are less likely to attend secular events.

It works out well for the students are University of Dar es Salaam. Classes resume in September after the fast ends (smile). I am traveling, so not obligated to fast. I will probably feed a few hungry people this month while traveling as Allah encourages us to do. It is a large university with extensive grounds and lots of student housing with medical services. I saw a business school with a separate school for entrepreneurial development. The school of fine arts, distance learning, history and other schools. The chancellor is appointed by the president of Tanzania. I was surprised the government is linked so closely to the institution.
I wonder if that is a good thing.

As we were headed home last night, my tour included the First Lady's offices. I thought that nice that the First Lady of Tanzania has a place to conduct business and make policy.

Back to the Hunger Strikers. Here are links to coverage in 2011 and to a story I wrote after the hearing hosted by the California State Assembly Health and Safety Committee:

Wanda's Picks Radio July 15, 2011


Bay Area Playwrights Festival, July 22-31 at Thick House in San Francisco: features the work of guests: Jackie Sibblies Drury, "We Are Proud to Present a Presentation..." & Chinaka Hodge, "700th & Int'l." Amy Mueller, Festival Artistic Director and Edris Cooper Anifowoshe, director of Hodge's work,join us.

Next, Douglas Milton and Pat Baxter announce the National Black Cyclists Cycling Conference, AUG 4-7, 2011 in Oakland, CA.

We close with a look at the hunger strike July 1-now @Pelican Bay and the Bring the Noise Protest this afternoon in San Francisco. Guests are: Dorsey Nunn, ED, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, Dolores Canales, parent of a prisoner in the SHU, Deirdre Wilson & Manuel Manuel La Fontaine, All of Us or None, both fasting, as a part of "Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition," determined to amplify the voices of those on hunger strike, put and end to torture inside the Security Housing Units in Pelican Bay, & Corcoran, and win their 5 core demands. Samson from Revolution Book will speak about “Bring the Noise!” March In Support of Hunger Strikers at Pelican Bay and Beyond in downtown SF at Rush Hour @UN Plaza, today, Friday, July 15, 5 PM July 1, 2011, more than 500 inmates refused food at Pelican Bay State Prison and that 6,600 prisoners in 13 different prisons participated in the hunger strike on the weekend of July 2-3. This is an extremely significant and extraordinary development, something that challenges people on “the outside” to sit up and take notice. Many have been moved to support the prisoners in their just demands” ( Sit-in or similar action planned for July 18, 2011 at Capital Bldg. targeting the head of CDCR and Gov. Brown

Visit for regular updates from the inside.

Wanda's Picks Radio July 22, 2011

Program Notes: 8:00 AM: Update on the Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay with Deirdre Wilson Project Coordinator for CCWP and Free Battered Women,  and a supporter of the Fast for Justice started by inmates at Pelican Bay, July 1, 2011, and Linda Evans, a former anti-imperialist political prisoner, released in 2001 via a pardon by president Bill Clinton, along with Susan Rosenberg, another political prisoner.

8:30 AM: Maria Acuna, English professor, musician, composer, and Avotcja, Poet/Playwright/Multi-Percussionist/Photographer/Teacher join us to talk about a celebration of Pablo Neruda, Nobel Laureate Chilean poet, 7 PM, Wed., July 27, 2011 @ Cafe Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA. Avotcja is also celebrating her 70th birthday at La Pena Cultural Center, Sunday, July 24, 7 PM. Visit and 9 AM: Dr. Beheroze Shroff teaches in the Department of Asian American Studies at UC Irvin. She is a documentary film maker whose research for the past 15 years has been on the Siddi or African Indian community in India where she is now.

Dr. Henry J. Drewal is the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Art History and Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Adjunct Curator of African Art at the Chazen Museum of Art, UW-Madison. Dr. Sarah Khan, born in Pakistan and raised on the East Coast, received her BA from Smith College majoring in History with a concentration in the Middle East and Arabic. She has a Ph.D in Ethnobotany from CUNY with a specialization in South Asian and Asian Healing systems, specifically Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Drs. Khan and Drewal, the curators of the MoAD-SFexhibition "Soulful Stitching: Patchwork Quilts by Africans (Siddis) in India," July 1-Sept. 18, give a lecture at MoAD, Sun., July 24, 2-3:30 PM. 9:30 AM: Noa Ben Hagai, dir., "Blood Relation," @ 31st Annual SFJFF screening July 30, 11:30 AM at JCCSF and again at the Roda at BRT, Aug. 3, 12:25 PM

Wanda's Picks Radio August 18, 2011

Program Notes: 8 AM: Stepology choreographers: Jason Rodgers & Channing Cook-Holmes; 8:30 AM: Carol Stickman, Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children re: Legislative Hearing and Rally in Sacramento, August 23, 2011, on Pelican Bay Hunger Strike & CA Corrections;

9 AM:
Dinizulu Gene Tinnie re: Commemoration of the End of the Slave Trade and the Haitian Revolution. Historic Key West African Cemetery, in Florida, located on Atlantic Boulevard adjacent to Higgs Beach, between the White Street Pier and the West Martello Tower fort, will be the special venue for the Third Annual Observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, on Sunday, August 21, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. 9:30 AM: Ava DuVernay, director, "I Will Follow," which is having its DVD release Tuesday, August 23, 2011.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

A Letter To Rachel Jeantel, The Prosecution's Key Witness In The George Zimmerman Trial By Khadijah Costley White

Rachel Jeantel
June 27-29, 2013
Dear Rachel,

    I write this as I watch you testifying, tightening your lips, grinding your teeth in an attempt to be stoic, to not break down while you recount the grisly, too-soon murder of your friend. It was probably the most terrifying moment of your life. I can’t imagine listening, helpless, while my friend was stalked and murdered, panicked and afraid. You told him to run. You thought it would keep him safe. What could’ve been going through your mind that day? Did you worry when the phone was cut off? When Trayvon didn’t call you back or return any of your missed calls?

    What could you have possibly felt when you found out that Travyon had been killed? Were you able to sleep that night? Have you been able to sleep since? "He sounded tired," you said today on the stand. You do, too, Rachel. So tired.

    I want to write you an apology for this whole world, even if it’s not my place to apologize. I’m so sorry that you’re sitting on the stand right now, being interrogated like a criminal instead of another victim. I’m so sorry that people are judging you, fixated more on your beautiful brown skin, your carefully applied make-up, your body, your being, than your trauma and your pain. I’m sorry that you were born into a country where a man can pursue and kill a black boy, your friend, and go home the same night with the blessings of law enforcement officers. I’m sorry that you’ve been retraumatized, stigmatized, defamed, and attacked just because you were unlucky enough to love a black boy, to share time with him, to be the last one he ever called.

I’m so sorry for your loss.

This letter, I know, doesn’t make up for any of it. Not for the unimaginable grief and pain you’ve suffered in the last year. Not for the guilt or shame you’ve probably felt, which no doubt has affected your health and will continue to affect your life, your dreams, your faith. I can’t even fix the extreme likelihood that you and your children might soon find it impossible to vote in your home state. Or that you were never taught to read cursive, or that the school you grew up attending was probably more like a prison than a place of learning. I can’t promise that you, or another loved one (or mine) won’t, yet again, die too soon, too young, too black.

But I’m writing this all the same.

There are a lot of hateful things being said about you—comparisons to "Precious" (as if Gabourey Sidibe isn’t a real person or, irony of ironies, that Precious wasn’t also a victim of trauma), people making fun of your frankness, your tenacity, your refusal to codeswitch out of your mother-sister-brother tongue. You exemplify, in your girth, skin tone, language, and manner, a refusal to concede. You are a thousand Nat Turners, a quiet spring of rebellion, and some folks don’t know how to handle that.

In truth, you’re part of a long legacy of black women so often portrayed as the archetypal Bitch, piles of Sassafrasses, Mammies, and Jezebels easily dismissed, caricatured, and underestimated. For black women, in particular, being the bitch represents our historical exclusion from the cult of true womanhood, a theme traditionally bounded and defined by its contrast to white femininity. For some folks, being black and being a woman makes us less of both.

Don’t forget that in just the last few years, Fox News called the First Lady of the United States “Obama’s Baby Mama,” that a popular radio host referred to a group of college athletes as “nappy-headed hoes,” and that even a gold-medal Olympian wasn’t able to escape physical scrutiny and bodily criticism on the world stage. This rhetoric is bigger than you, older than you, deeper than you—it is notyou.

    (But you know that, already, don’t you?)

I just want you to know: I am so proud of you. In you I see a fierce resistance that reminds me of ancestors past. Each time you open your mouth, look down, clench your cheeks in a fresh wave of pain, I see Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Fannie Lou Hamer joining their spirits and bonding their strength to yours. I see a survivor, a woman who has miraculously kept her mind and nurtured her sanity enough that she can sit, for hours, and recount such horror. You have a brilliance that flares out, only to be quickly veiled by a glance down or a quiet stare. Past your soul-wrenching pain and your child-like bravado, I see hope and possibility, a small green tendril creeping out of a concrete playground. I see YOU.

I hold you in me—and there are many, many others, with our arms, minds, and hearts holding you right alongside me. I hope you feel it. I hope you know it.

And I’m so sorry that my apology isn’t enough.

Rachel Jeantel, the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon Martin the night he was killed, was grilled by George Zimmerman's defense attorney and the media on Wednesday, and Khadijah Costley White, a faculty member in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, apologizes to her on behalf of the world

Tracing the Trade in Africans

Inside the Slave Chamber
which was carved from coral rock.

The walk to the beach where the dhows landed
with Africans

Inside the slave chamber, carved from coral rock. There were two tiers with chained enslaved Africans facing each other. The men were on one side, the women on the other. Shoppers walked between the two tiers. The sales were packaged and sent off. This was the holding chambers for the more prized Africans.

The beach where the dhows landed and Africans bathed before heading to the Slave Chambers to await sales.

The beach from another angle. Note the coral rock structure.

Top of the slave chambers as seen from outside.
The slave chamber.

Slave chamber. The holes are for air and light.
Entrance to the slave chamber.
Note the depth of the stairs.
Slave chambers from outside.
Details of the plaque (2009).

Sign at the road
Mangapwani Village Slave Cave Monument (Chuini, Zanzibar)