Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wanda's Picks Special Broadcast Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jed Rothstein, Director/Producer, Before the Spring, After the Fall.

Three years before the Arab Spring, a group of young Egyptian rock musicians struggled for freedom amidst the stifling dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Two brothers among them, the sons of a dissident political prisoner, would help lead the uprising in Tahrir Square and the struggle for the future of their country.  Airs tonight on ITVS.

Bio: Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Jed Rothstein specializes in hard-to-get stories from around the world that help people understand one another better.  Whether seeking out  heavy metal musicians who become Arab-Spring revolutionaries (PBS's Before the Spring After the Fall); pioneering doctors (HBO's Coma and Pandemic); Al Qaeda terrorists (The Oscar-nominated HBO documentary Killing in the Name);  defenders of free speech (The 2009 Sundance film Shouting Fire); journalists on the front lines (Independent Lens' Democracy on Deadline) or fundamentalist Christian college kids training to take over Washington (God's Next Army), Rothstein works with people to help them tell their own stories in their own words. His films have played in film festivals around the world, enjoyed special screenings at the United Nations, and been broadcast on HBO, PBS, the Discovery Channel, IFC, Channel 4, the BBC, and elsewhere. When not loitering in global hotspots, Rothstein has worked as a senior producer on a weekly television show and a consultant and writer for numerous documentaries.  He lives in New York with his wife, the writer Mira Jacob, and their son.

Link to show:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Wanda's Picks June 27, 2014

Guest 1. Ayodele "WordSlanger" Nzinga, Ph.D., joins us to talk about the August Wilson Century Cycle, part 7, Two Trains Running, which is opening this August, 2014.

Ayodele Nzinga is a multi-talented West Coast based art visionary, who in the tradition of the Black Arts Continuum uses performance as a method of inter-intra group communication. In 2000, Nzinga became the writer in residence and the resident dramaturge at The Prescott Joseph Center For Community Enhancement. This has resulted in over a decade of theater seasons, a troupe in residence, and a summer theater camp for youth. The troupe, The Lower Bottom Playaz, founded by Nzinga in 1999, is enjoying growing acclaim, while mounting, and traveling two-three productions per season. A bright and consistent energy on the cutting edge of the East Bay performance scene, Nzinga aka The WordSlanger, is a tour-de-force Spoken Word artist. Her latest published work appears in Black Magnolias and The Pan African Journal of Poetry.

Guest 2. Arielle Julia Brown (Project Director/Founder) speaks about Love Balm for My Spirit Child--- A choreo-play based on testimonies from Bay Area mothers whose children were lost to gun violence, directed by Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe, opens at Brava! For Women in the Arts, Theatre Center in San Francisco, 2781-24th Street at York, July 11-20, 2014 shows Fri-Sat 8 p.m.; Sun 3 p.m. Tickets are: $10-25

Ms. Brown (Project Director/Founder) is a playwright, arts administrator and facilitator currently based in the SF Bay Area.  As a facilitator, Arielle has taught and directed performance workshops for adults and youth of all ages throughout the Bay Area with such organizations as, Intersection for the Arts, Destiny Arts Center, Streetside Stories, Guerilla Performance Group at Eastside Arts Alliance and the Alameda County Juvenile Justice Center.    Arielle is the Artistic Director of The Love Balm Project, a Bay Area theatre workshop series and performance that explores the testimonies of local mothers who have lost children to systemic violence. Workshop and performance iterations of The Love Balm Project have been presented at or in partnership with 7Stages Theatre, Theatre of Yugen, The MilkBar, Eastside Arts Alliance, La Peña Cultural Center, San Francisco Playhouse The Triangle Lab (A joint program of Intersection for the Arts and Cal Shakes) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Arielle is a 2013-2014 SF Playground company playwright.  She is a 2014 Artist Investigator in residence at The Triangle Lab.  Arielle is a 2013-2014 SF Emerging Arts Professionals Programming Chair. Arielle’s work has been supported by Theatre Bay Area, The Triangle Lab ( supported in part by The James Irvine Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and MetLife Foundation and Theatre Communications Group) and CalHumanities. Arielle’s theatre work is rooted in peacemaking on both local and international levels. Arielle began doing international theatre work at 7Stages theatre in Atlanta, Ga. Arielle is a core member of Theatre Without Borders.  Her  international theatre experience includes work in Senegal and East Africa. Arielle received her B.A. from Pomona College where she studied Theatre and Africana Studies.

Actors/Artistic Collaborators
Ayodele Nzinga is an Actor/Artistic Collaborator in the work, so she joins us as well.

Guest 3. American Experience presents: Stanley Nelson's Freedom Summer

Stanley Nelson (Producer/Director/Writer) is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, MacArthur “genius” Fellow and member of the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences. Nelson is the director of 12 documentary features, including Freedom Riders, Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple and The Murder of Emmett Till. He is also co-founder and executive director of Firelight Media, which provides technical education and professional support to emerging documentarians. With seven of his films having premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and multiple industry awards to his credit, Nelson is acknowledged as one of the premiere documentary filmmakers working today. Nelson is currently in production on a series of three films he will direct, one on the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and another on the beneficiaries of the Atlantic slave trade, as part of a new multi-platform PBS series entitled America Revisited. The film, along with Nelson's earlier, Freedom Riders is up for viewing on the website:

4. Closing Guests: Michael Gene Sullivan and Velina Brown speak about the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s 2014 premiere, The Ripple Effect— opening July 4th at San Francisco's Dolores Park

Velina Brown (SFMT Collective, Actor, Performance Booker) has been a principal actor for the Mime Troupe in such shows as Social Work, Escape to Cyberia, Coast City Confidential, Soul Suckers from Outer Space, Killing Time, Damaged Care, City for Sale, Eating It, 1600 Transylvania Avenue, Mr. Smith Goes to Obscuristan, and Showdown at Crawford Gulch. She was Veronique in Veronique of the Mounties, she's played Condoleeza Rice three times, and was both an actor and Contributing Lyricist on GodFellas and Making a Killing. Velina's most recent shows with the Troupe include For The Greater Good: Or the Last Election, Red State, Too Big to Fail, and Posibilidad, Or Death of the Worker for which she won Best Principal Actress by the Bay Area Critics Circle. You may have seen Velina earlier this year in Theatre Rhino's lovely A Lady and A Woman. Other credits include A.C.T., Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Word for Word, Lorraine Hansberry Theater, Thick Description, SF Playhouse, Theatreworks as well as film (Bee Season with Richard Gere, A Many Splintered Thing with Chris Evans and Milk with Sean Penn) and television (Party of Five, Nash Bridges,Trauma, Final Witness). Velina also is the founder and owner of the "Business of Show Biz," which offers career planning consultations and workshops for theater artists. She also writes a popular column of the same name for Theater Bay Area Magazine. In 2012 she was honored as one of the magazine's "35 Faces," artists who've made significant contributions to the Bay Area theater community. For more info and to hear samples of Velina's music:

Michael Gene Sullivan (SFMT Collective Actor/Resident Playwright), joined the Troupe as an actor in, has since performed in, written, and/or directed over twenty SFMT productions. As an actor, Sullivan has also appeared in productions at the American Conservatory Theater, Denver Center Theater Company, Magic Theatre, Theatreworks, Lorraine Hansberry Theater, SF Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theater, and San Jose Repertory Theater. Michael has also directed for the Mime Troupe, SF Shakespeare Festival, African American Shakespeare Company, Mystic Bison Theater, and Circus Finelli. In 1992 he became a contributing writer for the SF Mime Troupe, and the Resident Playwright in 2000. His scripts for SFMT include GodFellas, Red State (2008 nominee, Best Original Script, SFBATCC), and Too Big To Fail (2009 nominee, Best Original Script, SFBATCC and Posibilidad, or Death of the Worker. He is also the author of "Did Anyone Ever Tell You - You Look Like Huey P. Newton?", his award-winning one person show, and 1984, his critically acclaimed stage adaptation of George Orwell's dystopic novel. 1984 opened at the Actor's Gang Theater under the Direction of Tim Robbins in 2006, and has since been published in English and Catalan, and has been performed in Europe, Asia, Australia, South America, and has had several tours of the USA.

His script "Recipe" won the Israel Baran Award, and will premiere at Central Works in Berkeley, October, 2014. Michael is also a blogger for the political website, The Huffington Post.

Music: Avery Sharpe’s Ain’t I a Woman “Son of Mine;” Keb’mo’s Someday We’ll All Be Free; clips from S. Nelson’s Freedom Summer

Show link:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Wednesday, June 25, 2014

JOHN PIERRE, JD, speaks about MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM SUMMER 50TH ANNIVERSARY CONFERENCE Inter-generational Action Agenda at Tougaloo College - Jackson, Mississippi, June 23 - 29, 2014. Visit
John K. Pierre has been on the law faculty of the Southern University Law Center since 1990 and was promoted to vice chancellor in 2006. Pierre is a member of the Louisiana State Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association.  He has previous teaching experience as a visiting and adjunct professor at California State University, Southern Methodist University School of Law, Loyola University Law School, Southern University College of Business, Saint Leo's College, Webster University, Louisiana State University, and Baton Rouge Community College. He received the bachelor's degree in accounting from Southern University in 1980, a master's degree in tax accounting from Texas Tech University in 1982, and a juris doctor degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law in 1985. Pierre has published numerous articles on tax law, sales and contracts, real estate and commercial law, ranging from magazine features to legal journal and law review articles.

Blair Doroshwalther
Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Patreese Johnson,Renata Hill
We close with a prerecorded interview with Blair Doroshwalther, dir., Out in the Night (2013) and film subjects, Patreese Johnson and Renata Hill. Out screens June 26, 2014, 9:30 p.m. and June 28, 2014, 1:30 p.m. as a part of Frameline38 ( Out looks at the case of the New Jersey 4, Venice Brown, Terrain Dandridge, Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, four young Lesbian women arrested, charged and imprisoned when they defended themselves from first verbal then physical attack. The four women who faced the most time were those who maintained their innocence. Patreese and Renata are two of them. Visit

Music: Angelique Kidjo's "I've Got Dreams to Remember", Ben Vereen's interpretation of "Defying Gravity," and Gina Breedlove's "Cover Me for 1 Billion Rising."

Show link:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blackbird @ Frameline38 June 22, 2014

Director, Patrick-Ian Polk, producers, and stars in Blackbird
Blackbird directed by Patrick-Ian Polk features a star-studded lineup of talent with outstanding performances by newcomer to the screen Julian Walker as Randy Rousseau.

Haunted by Christ, Randy struggles with nocturnal emissions--leaks in his faith which he is unable to stop. Add to this a mother who has lost her mind with grief, younger sister abducted or missing for six years--yellow ribbons dangling from bare tree limbs like leaves or bottle fruit. Is this the new sacred tree? Will spirit descend and rectify the wrong? What can this devote, yet confused young Christian do with these dreams which are consuming his consciousness?

The dreams are so real the audience is confused as well until Randy awakens. By far, this is the strongest component of the film, which also features lovely scenes in church with the protagonist leading the choir in song. Other strong moments are those between Randy and his friends --  who know he is gay even though he denies it. Except for his sexuality confusion, his distraught mother and absentee dad, Randy is a pretty normal Southern boy (smile).

There are lovely moments where the friends (the two boys and a girlfriend) talk to him about his sexuality which is complicated by his feelings of guilt. We see Randy praying fervently for himself and his mother and missing sister. His dad (Isaiah Washington) is no longer in the home, but he is keeping an eye on his son, who he sees as he walks to or from school. He offers him a ride and finds amusement in his boy's assertiveness, even though I am sure it also pains him, when the child walks away.
Actors, Julian Walker & Kevin Allesee

Washington's character, Lance Rousseau, is the only one who gives his son space to see a different answer to his entreaties to the man on the cross. It is also interesting that Mr. Rousseau becomes the parent Randy calls on for help. Maybe it is his stubborn presence within the physical absence. There are many silences surrounding Randy which operate like voids or open spaces that further trap the faltering youth.

Mr. Rousseau tells his son about his younger life and his sexual trysts attended by his mother, to Randy's astonishment. This makes his son rethink his doubts about his faith. Perhaps he isn't cursed. Perhaps he isn't condemned. Perhaps he is okay just as he is.

His father is a patient man, who participates from the fringes in his family's life--his sorrow is of a different sort and gives another dimension to the concept: abandonment or absence. He is physically absent from the home, yet, he is more present than his wife, Claire Rousseau (Mo'Nique) who does not acknowledge the child she did not lose, Randy. Randy's pain is ours as we watch her ignore his needs, both emotional and physical. Her neglect adds another layer to the complexity of the adolescent's problem.

What will Randy do about these dreams which are becoming more like hallucinations when faced with the person who inspires these dreams? There are fine performances by the young cast, all from Mississippi, Harrisburg to be exact.

I know Hattiesburg, Mississippi. My uncle lived there and Genevieve Bayan and I stayed there when visiting New Medina where Imam Warith Deen Mohammed was speaking. New Medina was to be a Muslim town. There we met Muslims from around the country who had bought land here and were building homes and a school and a grocery store.The conference was at Southern University in Hattiesburg (where director received his undergraduate degree). My uncle and aunt had two homes there. They are in Picayune now. I think my cousin still lives there.
Director, Patrick-Ian Polk speaking w/cast
and producers of Blackbird

Adopted from Larry Duplechan's novel by the same title, writers Polk and Rikki Beadle-Blair (Metrosexuality, FIT) create a lilting beautiful tale of acceptance and triumph. At times a bit confusing, especially the concluding dream --nonetheless, we see a level of acceptance in this Southern town quite unlike what is anticipated when one thinks about the black church's reputation regarding homosexuality. It is rather amazing that Randy's close childhood friend is "out" and hangs with the minister's daughter and her boyfriend, who agrees to play a gay character in the senior class's closing production, they rename, Romeo and Jules. It is elements like this, which might not have happened were this not a film that add a nice fantasy element in keeping with the script and the story Polk tells.

Sexuality and sexual questions are ones all the close friends raise, Randy the only one who feels guilty. Mo'Nique's character is mourning and crazed by grief. She has checked out of her son's life and lives only for the return of her daughter, gone now for six years. One wonders how the protagonist has grown into the healthy kid he has given his mother's emotional absence as we cringe as we see the pain her negation has on his young still formative life.

I wonder at Mo'Nique's ability to carry these maternal characters from Precious to Blackbird; she steps so well into these toxic maternal roles given her comedic and dramatic range, yet who wants to be known for such? At least in Blackbird she is allowed a degree of redemption. At the Q&A she states she makes these films to save children.

Polk shares at the Frameline38 premiere how he stumbled across the novel, one in a series, 21 years ago, and how he immediately knew he wanted to adapt it for the screen. He contacted the author then, who gave him the option for $1 and so this work is one from the director's "To do list."

I haven't read the book so I cannot speak to all the additional elements; however, I am sure the older Rousseau's queries to his son about safe sex is a 2014 addition. Maybe not? Nonetheless, I like every scene Isaiah Washington's character, Lance Rousseau, is a part of --even those where he doesn't have lines like when he is in the church seated in the rear listening to his son sing (and leaves before he is acknowledged), or at the end of the film, where we see him taking care of the lawn or standing silently behind his wife and son.

When Randy takes an ad from the a tree for an audition for a film and meets Marshall MacNeil (actor Kevin Allesee) in an abandoned lot, we are afraid for Randy, even when we learn that this attack was a part of the audition. A bit older and a lot wiser youth at 21, Marshall finds Randy's innocence charming and attractive. I like it that Marshall does not take advantage of this. It is in the interaction between the two, a questioning Randy and an attracted Marshall, that the dialogue is superb. Allesee's Marshall is kind, yet frank with Randy as he introduces the questioning kid to a world he didn't know existed, except perhaps in his dreams.

There is a sordidness present in the Piney Woods car park the two visit where young and older men, both black and white, pick up other men who are looking for love and acceptance or a place to hide their desires at least for the night beneath a starry canopy.  There Randy sees someone he knows. This is juxtaposed with a club Marshall takes Randy to to dance, where he says in answer to his friend's query, "What is this place?" "It is a place where 'he can be himself.'"

In this club scene we see the director performing in a band (smile). I failed to mention that Marshall is white, a talented filmmaker, yet poor, his homestead a trailer park. At times it was really hard to understand Allesee's accent on screen, and at the Castro Theatre Sunday night, June 22, the actor was clearly overwhelmed by the experience, his response to questions a self-depreciating profanity-laced tirade. Hopefully he will relax and get used to the accolades (smile).

Within the film we see a middle class black community, juxtaposed with a white community unable to afford the dreams Randy and his peers have for themselves. It is refreshing to see on screen a community where the kids are law abiding, go to school, respect their parents and believe in God. As such, we have a feeling that Randy's family will work it out and that Randy will resolve the conflict present in his dreams.

The novel is set in Southern California; however, Polk sets it in his hometown, Hattiesburg. I am told, this particular genre fiction (1970s) has as its trope the black man rescued by a white man. This is revealed in the closing dream-scape where a tearful Randy is visited by his classmate Romeo who foretells his future, one where his white friend and lover will save him and provide access to a charmed life when actuality, it is Randy's acceptance of himself and the love he has for his family that saves him.

The physical window that opens where dreams enter the room allows the interaction between the secular or profane and the sacred. It contracts and expands as its multiple dimensions are explored. Voyeurs are extended invitations into this porous psychic space to witness Randy and his friends take turns losing their virginity, and Randy's remorse as he tries to wash his desires away, yet each night they return to haunt him.

I love the bloody hand print on the mattress . . . evidence again of the porous nature of the psyche. The youthful stories of sexual conquest, yearning and disaster are interwoven and connected. It is in his bed that the pastor's daughter loses her virginity. His bed is the true stage in this drama as first one then another character finds resolution . . . demons are exorcised and Christ is relieved of his cross. 

Why is it so important to lose one's virginity? When did being a virgin lose its attractiveness? Julian Walker's Randy shows that virginity is an attitude or disposition not necessarily a physical state. In the film within the film we see how this is so. Once again, Walker really carries the work, of course with excellent support from a fantastic cast --professional and otherwise, but it is his lovely singing voice, big eyes and sweet demeanor that share a story of acceptance and love, which with certainly appeal to both parents and youth. What parent does not want for his or her child a life filled with pride and certainty?

It is a story gay and straight audiences can appreciate, because when things are not working out in one's life, they haunt your dreams.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Saturday, June 21 Reflections on Frameline38 and Angelique Kidjo in Concert at CIIS drafty

Angelique Kidjo was wonderful! She mixed her uplifting musical performance with talk about the plight of girls in Africa and women around education and control of their persons and destinies. She shared worries about her girls whom she is putting through secondary school in Mali whom she has not heard from as the areas where they reside are those occupied by “insurgents.” We contemplated this for a moment as all thoughts referenced the girls in Northern Nigeria kidnapped and still at large months later. The song Kidjo sang was of a girl about to be married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather, her new daughters the same as she. Quite a few songs spoke to this conundrum between sexuality and power and how despite the inequities, African women keep rising.

About two thirds through the concert, Kidjo had everyone on his or her feet— the music that infectious coupled with a tight rhythm ensemble from Chili, Senegal/LA, and New York—bass, guitar, drums and African percussion—Kidjo in one of her beautiful gowns, mini skirt with tails, beautiful legs in sparkling stockings—perfect for her seated Cajon solo, just after an outstanding set up by the drummer. All the men sang and the guitarist danced with her as well.
I don’t think I have ever been at a concert with Kidjo where she danced through the audience before she invited people onto the stage to dance with her percussionist—but not only did she kick off the solo, she then encouraged all those on stage to solo as well. There were two children who were naturals.

She sings of Shango on Eve, which is the orisha who came up during the reading for 2014. She also has a song for orisha, which she sang as an encore following a blind woman's singing to her on stage a Kidjo song.
Afterward she signed CDs and posters and chatted with fans.  I reminded her of our conversation and found out that Angela Wellman was the interviewer before me who went over her time (smile). It was good to see Sister Wellman, who is completing her doctorate degree. I learned that Adeeba Deterville received her Masters Degree in Psychology that afternoon at Sofia University.

Black photographers: Hubert Collins, Jonathan Eubanks,
producer, co-writer, Don Perry, Lewis Watts,
Louise Eubanks (painter) in front of Victoria Theatre
photo: W. Sabir
Earlier that afternoon in San Francisco at Frameline 38 friends and I saw the wonderful Through A Lens Darkly:Black Photographers and the Emergence of People, dir. Thomas Allen Harris. It was well received and a few of the local photographers interviewed were in the audience: Jonathan Eubanks and Lewis Watts. Don Perry, co-writer and producer was there to answer questions from the audience and will be a part of a panel discussion Tuesday afternoon, June 24, 2014, 3:30-5:00 p.m.: Past (Im)perfect: Filming Queer History at the Roxie Theatre. It is free.

Unfortunately, there was just the one screening Saturday, but there will be a theatrical release in New York and then throughout the country, including the SF Bay.

Dyke Central Posse: Director, Florencia Manovil (left)
photo: W. Sabir
As we chatted the line began to form for the screening of Dyke Central, a really fun film made of 4 episodes about lesbians in Oaktown. Several of the cast were outside and I was so excited to meet them and tell them how much I loved the film and their characters—I am such a fan of the director’s work. She is such a good writer. You don’t have to be gay to love the work (smile).

I might go see the film in the theatre at the Elmwood on Tuesday, June 24, we shall see.

Angelique Kidjo had a lot of competition tonight—Frameline38 has it going on this weekend—I really wanted to see Yves St. Laurent, 7 p.m. at the Victoria too, just one screening. I hope it opens somewhere. Tomorrow is Smokey Robinson and Patti Austin at Stern Grove at 2 p.m. Arrive early— At 6:30 at the Castro Theatre is Blackbird, which is also a Frameline38 selection with a lot of famous actors in the cast— Mo'Nique plays the mother of a young man who is gay, member of the church choir, Isaiah Washington portrays his father. . . . Monday night, June 23, 7 p.m. at the Roxie Cinema is Al Nisa:Black Muslim Women in Atlanta's Gay Mecca, dir. Red Summer, just in time for Ramadan (smile). Lesbian Muslimahs? Hum. Really?

I hadn’t known that Meshell Ndegeocello is a lesbian and a mother too. The film is really heartwarming. It seems that the way the sisters see it, Allah doesn’t have a problem with their sexuality, the public does. These women were brave to share their stories and since the film has aired some of their lives have been threatened and endangered.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wanda's Picks Friday, June 20, 2014

We open with an interview with Angelique Kidjo, Grammy award-winning recording artist deemed "Africa's greatest living diva" by NPR. In addition to international touring, she has used her visibility to campaign for women's rights, provide education opportunities for girls, and support environmental initiatives. She performs Sat., June 21, 2014, 8 p.m. at the Nourse Theatre, 275 Hayes Street, San Francisco, CA (415) 392-4400

Thomas Allen Harris, Director
We close with an interview with Thomas Allen Harris, dir., Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photography and the Emergence of a People, which is a part of Frameline38 and scenes June 21, 2014, at 1:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre in San Francisco. Visit

Deborah Willis & Thomas Allen Harris
Following an award-winning festival run, which saw Through a Lens receive an African Oscar for Best Diasporic Documentary (African Movie Academy Awards,) Social Justice Award (Santa Barbara International Film Festival,) Programmers' Best Documentary Award (Pan African Film Festival,) along with a TEDDY Award nomination (Berlin International Film Festival) and screenings all over the world, we will have our New York theatrical premiere Aug. 27 through Sep. 9 at Film Forum  This will be followed by a national theatrical release by First Run Features, one of the foremost art house film distributors in the country.  See also  

Music: Georges Lammon's "Dreaming Diaspora" (title track of CD); Gina Breedlove's "Cover Me" (for 1 Billion Rising); Angelique Kidjo's "Ive Got Dreams to Remember," Move on Up for Curtis Mayfield; and "Out of Africa" (all from Oyo); Thao and the Get Down Stay Down's "We the Common";  Billy Harper's "Knowledge of Self" with Amiri Baraka. 

Show link:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

International Libations for the Ancestors, Saturday, June 14, 2014

Reflections from Arusha, Tanzania, East Africa

What an absolutely beautifully spiritual experience we had down at the river in Mwangusha Forest during our ritual to honor our Ancestors during the International Libations event today! Being out in nature like that invited our Ancestors into that area and filled us up completely with love and blessings.

I was so honored to be a part of that blessing which was a merging of several African Spiritual Traditions that simply illustrated that our traditions boil down to one thing in the of the Creator and reverence for the Ancestors! Different languages and generations, but the same heart and spirit.

I hope that you who are planning to celebrate in the diaspora have the same spiritual experience in harmony, peace and love. We put out some powerful vibes that flew into the universe today Y'all! I KNOW You will do the same!!

Love and Blessings from the foothills of Mt Meru,
Mama C


Reflections from Oakland, CA, USA

Thanks Sister Charlotte for the report. I shared it this morning with those gathered at Lake Merritt in Oakland. This year was our largest to date. We also had our youngest participant this time as well. She was under five years old. We shared stories of fire and water, earth and sky as the warmth of each heart made the circle intimate and powerful.

I shared an ancestor story I'd just read in Angelique Kidjo's book: "Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music." One women said that her grandfather was born in 1862, so she was reminded often how close to the Black Holocaust or Maafa she was/we are.

Two brothers brought drums.

As I dashed to the corner to cross the street with no time to spare, I saw a brother in white just ahead of me and two sisters on the corner--they were in white--I knew they were going to the same party (smile). As we waited for the light to change we chatted about the Ritual and how it started and what year it was for us.

We arrived just in time. The three people there had already started to pour. Some had never poured libations before and one brother in his description of what a libation is said that it was a way to deepen our connection to spirit, since to pour libations is to evoke an element which makes up 90 percent of our bodies. Similarly the ancestors are our family, a part of us too.

Some people called just a few ancestors, others called many. We then had the opportunity to reflect on another element-- fire, as Sister Afua, who shared ocean water with us to use in the libation, had a candle with Egyptian myrrh incense which helped people go deep, deep to Kemet and reflect on the wisdom of our ancestors like scholar Dr. Asa Hilliard.

For those who arrived after the 9 a.m. Libation, we opened the circle for more libations, then read the Ngozo Saba aloud in groups of three. Earlier Sister Afua shared writings from Dr. Karenga on "love."

Love and Truth seemed to be the two themes today; imagine a libation the day after the Honey Moon appeared in the sky, a Friday the 13, a day which reflects a woman's menses cycles and the moons between (13).

After the libation, many people walked or drove over to the other side of the Lake for Omnira Institute's Juneteenth Commemoration . There were more libations there, prayers in African and Diaspora languages, freedom songs, drumming, and dancing.

When I arrived an Indigenous elder was drumming. I could hear him before I saw the people. He spoke of those men and women and children who crossed the Atlantic, how brave they were and how strong they had to be.

It was a good day, when I got home I rested after I ate and then went for an evening walk along the beach. It was a great evening for a walk. I was searching for the moon and could not find her. I called people to ask if they'd seen the moon and everyone near Lake Merritt was out. It felt like they were all at the Moon Party and having too much fun to take a call (smile).

October 7, 2014 is the 19th Annual Maafa Commemoration in San Francisco. Visit

Friday, June 06, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Show: Libations for the Ancestors Tribute

This morning we speak to organizers of the Global Simultaneous Libation for the Ancestors Saturday, June 14, 2014, 9 AM Pacific Time, 12 noon Eastern Time. Osei Terry R. Chandler, native NYer, arts activist, former radio host, father, and social worker with emphasis on rehabilitation, career counseling, community service, and alternative education administration, plus co-founder of the Charleston, SC, Remembrance with Deborah Wright, founded the Charleston Remembrance Committee in 1998 for the purpose of honoring our ancestors who perished DURING the Middle Passage; Helen Phillips or “Salako” is the libation pourer at the Charleston Ritual.  Born and raised in NYC, now residing in SC since 1991. She has been a midwife since 1998. She was initiated to Obatala in 1975. Chadra Pittman Walke, Hampton, Virginia, Mother, Anthropologist, Writer, Advocate is the Founder & Director of 4 E.V.E.R and The Sankofa Projects and Chairperson of the ALLIANCE. Jerrie Spruce, Hampton, Virginia— Kemetic Priestess Auset AkuRa, Reiki Master, Interfaith Minister, Creatress of Candles and Zenora Botanical Arrangements, and Founding Member of The Sankofa Projects.  Brother Osakumi Jackson, Georgetown, South Carolina. This First Annual Middle Passage Remembrance is sponsored by the Ayida Wedo Drummers Society, Inc. Visit for a listing of the 2014 ceremonies.

Credit: Courtesy of Moores Memorial Library of Christiana

Forty-five years after the Christiana Riot, Samuel Hopkins and Peter Woods
returned to the scene for this photo.
Michael Gene Sullivan, playwright, actor, director, joins us to talk about his new work, fugitive/slave/act, a historical drama based on a true story from the turbulent days before the Civil War. Told in the form of a Greek tragedy, it follows the story of William Parker, the leader of a community of ex-slaves living free, and Edward Gorsuch, the slaveowner pursuing his "property," and who could not accept a world where he was not a master. The free performance is presented by Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and the Museum of the African Diaspora at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., San Francisco. Visit

For more about the story see: and

Tangela Large
 (Ruby) and Tyee Tilghman (Cecil), cast from pen/man/ship, Christina Anderson’s World Premiere at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco through June 15, join us to speak about this otherworldly venture (in 1896) aboard a former whaling ship along a reverse Atlantic Trade. 

Regina E. Mason
, Oakland native, is the great-great-great granddaughter of pioneering autobiographer William Grimes who wrote the first fugitive slave narrative in America, Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave. She is joined by Oakland veteran actor, director, playwright, Michael Lange who portrays Mr. Grimes in The Raw Truth, a stage adaptation of Mrs. Mason’s discovery of her ancestor and his accomplishments. The program is this weekend, Sunday, June 8, 2014, 1:45 p.m. at St. Benedict’s Church, 2245 82nd Avenue, Oakland. Tickets are a discounted $20 with the mention of Wanda’s Picks Radio (smile).

Thursday, June 05, 2014

San Francisco Doc Fest 13, June 5-19, 2015

This year at the SF Indiefest’s 13th Anual Docfest, June 5-19, 2014 at multiple venues on both sides of the Bay, quite a number of films looks at sexual exploitation of youth, crimes of poverty and profiles of superheroes, ordinary citizens with tenacity and inner fortitude and great love for their community, like the Honorable Michael Tubbs, central character in Kevin Gordon’s "True Son."  In “True Son,” Tubbs, shines as just one of many youth like himself whose family held him close and thankfully random circumstances did not cut short his life just as it was beginning, as has happened to so many others in the first major US city to file bankruptcy.  We see the child of a teen mother and incarcerated father (he meets for the first time behind bars at 12), talk about how much he loves to read. His mother would not let him play outside—she kept him busy indoors. A bag of books was like Christmas to her son, who graduated from Stanford University with a bachelors and master’s degrees and now works at University of the Pacific and teaches Social Studies at a Stockton Middle School.

In “True Son,” Tubbs says when he told his high school teachers he wanted to go to Stanford, they were discouraging, and said his high GPA at his high school would not be enough for him to land academically competitive there, that their star student would be at the bottom of the heap at the prestigious university. Nonetheless Tubbs was not deterred then or on other occasions as we see him in archival clips addressing Stockton City Council on several pertinent issues as a child.

“True Son” follows Tubbs when he returns home to run for City Council against an incumbent, whose track record has not addressed the systemic problems facing the poorer population located on Stockton’s south side—funny how south continues to be a geographic euphemism for poverty. (East Oakland is geographically the southern part of the city.)

True Son is showcases Tubbs’s political campaign as a grassroots movement for the people. Tubbs is clearly in the race for his folks; his very presence at 22 years old models alternatives to choices which lead to risky life-threatening behavior. Granted, many times desperate people do not think clearly or realize there are choices, but “True Son,” speaks to these circumstances and the opportunity Tubbs was prepared to step into.

There are celebrity appearances by Oprah Winfrey and MC Hammer, just when Tubbs seemed unable to pay for campaign materials. The interaction between Tubbs and his campaign manager, Nicholas Hatten, also native Stocktonian, who believes in the kid who sometimes tries his patience and his right hand man, Lange Luntao, who grew up in an entirely different Stockton, the gated community where those with higher incomes reside makes for dicey moments as Tubbs steps into civic leadership—point to the how Tubbs is ultimately successful.

I am reminded as I watched “True Son” of Chinaka Hodge’s Watts character in Searching for Mehserle, who fearfully stays indoors for 17 years and when he finally steps out of his home pushed by mom to get a job, he finds Oscar Grant’s memorial instead, which triggers his descent into a tailspin, life again off balance and out of control.

This is where First Fridays in Oakland could have gone were it not for the organizers’ plan to not let tragedy eliminate a social good which is what First Fridays in Oakland were since inception. Director, producers, N’Jeri Eaton and Mario Furlon’s debut feature length film, First Friday, is also a treatment honoring the lives of Oakland youth, like Kiante Campbell, 18-year-old Oakland Technical High senior, expected to enter UC Berkeley that fall, who was killed February 1, 2013, a year ago.

The film honors his memory and screens, at Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) Saturday, June 14, at 12:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 14, at the Roxie in San Francisco, just after what would have been Kiante Campbell’s 20th birthday, June 12, 2014.

Doc Fest 13 has many titles which looks at child exploitation, especially sexual exploitation from “A Man Called God,” dir. Christopher St. John, Roxie, June 15, 4:45 p.m., 6/18, 9:15 p.m., to “Who Took Johnny”, a mother’s search for her kidnapped son, dir. D. Belinson, M. Galinsky, S. Hawley, Roxie 6/13, 7 p.m., OSA, 6/7, 2:45 p.m., and “The Engineer,” former victim turned champion, dir. Juan Luis Passarelli and Matthew Charles, 6/7 9:15 p.m., 6/12, 9:15 p.m. and "Love Me," dir. Jonathon Narducci, look at the "mail order bride" industry, Roxie Sun. 6/8 9:15 p.m., Mon. 6/9 7 p.m.

In these films, especially “A Man Called God” and “Who Took Johnny,” viewers take epic journeys into landscapes where one does not expect children to disappear or saints to do wrong. What attracted me to "A Man Called God" was its director, Oscar winning cinematographer Christopher St. John also the photo of Sathya Sai Baba, Afro wearing Indian saint. However, I quickly come under the spell of the storytelling of narrator, Kristoff, a child at that time who uncovers a secret.

“God” starts innocently enough, St. John Sr. and wife at that time, British actress Maria St. John, travel to Indian for enlightenment, Maria captivated by Sai Baba’s charm and sleigh of hand miracles sic tricks. St. John is invited to make a film about Sai Baba.

The film father and son eventually make, 30 years later shows how easily it is to fall under a charismatic spell and get carried away despite one’s better judgement. Sai Baba is not unique in this aspect and other popular cult leaders are referenced in the work.

More importantly, “God” shows a father’s belief in his son and his love. With footage shot on 16mm film in 1980, the completed work is a healing gesture from father to son, whom I suspect never completely forgave himself for what transpired.

In “Who Took Johnny”, the world of child sexual exploitation is revealed and shows how in the course of Johnny Gosch’s abduction in Iowa (a thirty-year-old cold case), how laws have changed to help recover these children, as well as keep other children from harm. It is once again thanks to his mother, who never stopped pushing lawmakers to find her son. The film takes multiple twists and turns as other newspaper boys are also abducted under similar circumstances, national and international rings are uncovered, perpetrators are revealed and high powered political pedophiles whose taste for young flesh keeps the trade going, are tried and dismissed. We meet other parents who form coalitions to support one another. Just as in “God” power trumps justice and the guilty walk free while the children suffer.

Both films reveal stories about horrific circumstances which are allowed to continue because the villains have power. The reason why child sexual trafficking continues to date is because there is a market for it. The operations Johnny’s mother uncovers succeed because its clientele are held sacrosanct or above the law. The villains and victims cross all racial lines; we should all be concerned.

On the lighter side, other titles which looked fun are Urban Fruit, dir. Roman Zenz, Roxie, Sat., 6/7, 2:30, Wed., 6/11 7 p.m. OSA, Sun, 6/15, 2:45 p.m. “Oh Snap! The 90s Sing-a-long Show” at the Roxie Fri. 6/6 9:15 p.m., “Vessel” dir. Diana Whitten, at the Roxie Sat., 6/14 4:45 p.m., Wed. 6/18 7 p.m.;  OSA Sat. 6/7 12:30 p.m. The Roller Disco Party is Friday, June 13 at the Women’s Building, 3543 18th Street (at York), in San Francisco. Visit

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Show June 4, 2014

This morning we feature interviews with directors featured in the 13th Annual SF Doc Fest June 5-19, 2014, or (415) 552-5580 adv. tickets: N'Jeri Eaton, producer and Mario Furloni, director's "First Friday," Ryan Murdock's "Bronx Obama," and Kevin Gordon's "True Son." We close with a prerecorded interview with director, Chris Mason Johnson, "Test." Test opens theatrically in the Bay Area June 6, 2014.

Music: Amikaeyla's Hambone and Dreamer; Meklit Hadero's "Call" and Meklit and Quinn's "This Must Be the Place."

Link to show:

: In the same year Oakland was rated one of the top five destinations in the world and one of the most dangerous cities in America. Once a month, these two realities collide. People here call it  First Friday. The event has become a symbol of Oakland’s renaissance. But after a teenager is murdered, the future of First Fridays is threatened.

TEST is a visually stunning, beautifully choreographed, and powerfully moving story set in the San Francisco modern dance scene of 1985, in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, right before the first HIV test is announced.

TRUE SON follows 22-year old Stanford graduate Michael Tubbs’ campaign for Stockton, CA city council in a year of impending bankruptcy and record homicides. For Michael Tubbs, a Stockton native born to a teenage mother and incarcerated father, engaging with youth is crucial to solving Stockton’s problems. In a remarkable election campaign, Michael rallied hundreds of young Stockton residents between the ages of 14-21 to join his movement to Reinvent Stockton.

TRUE SON documents Michael’s journey as he returns to his roots and leads a passionate campaign to win a seat on city council and reinvent Stockton.

When Louis Ortiz shaved off his goatee one day in 2008, his life changed forever. He looked in the mirror and he didn’t see himself – a middle-aged, unemployed Puerto Rican father from the Bronx. He saw the face of change, of hope… of money.

BRONX OBAMA tells the strange and improbable tale of a Barack Obama impersonator who tries to cash in on the “look of a lifetime” and chases a fevered American dream from opportunity to oblivion. Filmmaker Ryan Murdock’s debut feature film has been in the making for nearly 3 years, as he intimately documented Mr. Ortiz’s transformation during Obama’s first term and the 2012 election season. Murdock has rolled out this story in multiple parts – first as a 36-minute radio piece for NPR’s This American Life, then as a short film for The New York Times.