Friday, August 29, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Show: Friday, August 29, 2014

This is a black arts and culture site. We will be exploring the African Diaspora via the writing, performance, both musical and theatrical (film and stage), as well as the visual arts of Africans in the Diaspora and those influenced by these aesthetic forms of expression. I am interested in the political and social ramifications of art on society, specifically movements supported by these artists and their forebearers. It is my claim that the artists are the true revolutionaries, their work honest and filled with raw unedited passion. They are our true heroes. Ashay!

Our first guest is: Melinda Holm, director, Middle Passage Pilgrimage, West Coast Premiere, 8/30, 7-9:30 p.m. at the East Bay Meditation Center, 287 17th Street @ Harrison (3 blocks from 19th Street BART).

8:30 AM Theodore Lush, Katrina survivor, Maafa Commemoration founder in Montgomery, Alabama

9:00 AM Cast members: Katherine Renee Turner, Eddie Ray Jackson and Roscoe Orman, from Marin Theatre Company's production of Will Power's Fetch Clay, Make Man, a play about a young Muhammad Ali and Stepin Fetchit, based on a true story (through Sept. 7)

9:30 AM William Rhodes, just back from South Africa, where he took quilt pieces from children at the Dr. Charles Drew Elementary School, here in Bayview Hunter's Point to children in South Africa.

Fetch Clay, Make Man by Will Power at Marin Theatre Company Muhammad Ali and Steppin Fetchit on stage at the same time?!

When one thinks about Steppin Fetchit, what probably comes to mind is the worse in the blaksplotation genre in that it proceeds the naming of the phenomena. The actor wasn’t Sambo or Superfly, the first a figment of Hollywood’s imagining, but then Step certainly wasn’t representative of true black genius either or was he?

Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry gave audiences what they wanted—benign blackness, but at what cost? A contemporary of Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, son of former enslaved Africans, what did this say about the legacy Lincoln Perry left, ( a man who was Johnson’s contemporary?

Will Power’s play, “Fetch Clay, Make Man where he writes in the subtitle: “One snuck in the back door, so the other could walk I the front,” is complicated as are all stories like this; however, the young Muhammad Ali about to fight Sonny Liston a second time wants to speak to Perry about Jack Johnson, whom he heard was Perry’s friend. Perry(actor Roscoe Orman) excited to meet Ali shows up and what unfolds is over the course of the story is a young man confident in his skills as a fighter, yet uncertain about his skills as a husband, a Muslim and a man.

The Ali (actor Eddie Ray Jackson) we meet here is young and naïve, but not so naïve to ignore the hovering vultures who are waiting for his fall. Just married his wife, Sonji Clay (actress Katherine Renee Turner) is not Muslim, but the two love each other. We meet Rashid (actor Jefferson A. Russell), who serves as doorman and body guard.

Everyone wants something from Ali; at one point he asks Perry if he can just be his friend. Ali has heard that Johnson had this magical knockout punch and he wants Perry to teach it to him. Perry denies knowing what Ali wants and refuses—the punch is not something one has to learn. It is a part of our African American legacy. 

In Will Powers’s play which looks at the relationship Perry had with Ali, we learn that judgment belongs to the creator, not to creation. Fetch Clay is a libation to Step, the first black Hollywood actor whose career remains unrecognized by those who fail see the man behind the mask.

The play is up at the Marin Theatre company, 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA (415) 388-5208, through Sept. 7, 2014.  

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Wanda's Picks Radio Wed., August 6, 2014

Antoine Hunter is an African American Deaf and Hard of Hearing Choreographer, Dancer, Dance instructor, model, actor and poet. Hunter was born deaf and was raised Oakland, California and began dancing with Dawn James at Skyline High School.

He has studied West African Dance with Master C.K. and Betty Ladzekpo, and studied at the Paul Taylor Summer Intensives in 2003 and 2004 as full scholarship.

He is a lover to dance. You may had seen him in commercial or music video. Had performed and taught all over USA and all over the world such as, Rome, London, Cuba, Africa and so on.
He also has performed with Savage Jazz Dance Company, as dance artist/performer/jazz instructor; he has also performed with Nuba Dance Theater, Sins Invalid, Sonic Dance Theater of Epiphany Productions, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Alayo Dance Company, Cat Willis, Push Dance Company and Robert Moses’ Kin Dance Company, Sign Dance Collective AKA. Signdance Theatre International, Dance Captain for an commercial, choreographer for Amerikana The Musical, and many more.
Mr. Hunter has attended the California Institute of the Arts and is studying toward a B.A at St. Mary’s College of California L.E.A.P. He later becomes Founder/Director of Urban Jazz Dance Company 2007. A faculty member at East Bay Center of the Performing Arts, Dance-A-Vision, Youth In Arts, Shawl and Anderson Dance Center, Ross Dance Company, just to name a few.

Antoine Hunter, Artistic Director and Founder, Urban Jazz Dance, joins us to talk about DEAF LOUDER: The 2nd Bay Area Deaf Dance Festival this weekend, Friday, August 8 and Saturday, August 9 at 8pm; Sunday, August 10 at 4 pm at Dance Mission Theatre in San Francisco. DEAF LOUDER proudly presents a festival that celebrates deaf culture. There will be dance, poetry, song and rap by deaf and hearing performers. Starring Def Motion from London, Michelle Banks, Fred Beam, Joey Antonio, Rosa Lee, and Antoine Hunter. Other performers include James L. Taylor the 3rd, CODA Brothas, Sister Master, Half N Half, Deaf ASL singer Tonique Hunter and poet Joy Elan Sledge.Tickets: $25  For a discount use the code: “DeafLouder” (for an $18.00 ticket at Brown Paper Tickets); $12 for children 10 and under). For groups of 5 or more contact Ms. Stella Adelman 415-826-4441

There will be a special workshop Saturday with Michelle Banks at EBCPA in Richmond and Sunday from 12-2 there will be dance workshops at Dance Mission and a conversation witht the artists. Visit Antoine Hunter is an African American Deaf and Hard of Hearing Choreographer, Dancer, Dance instructor, model, actor and poet. He has performed and taught all over USA and all over the world such as, Rome, London, Cuba, Africa. He also has performed with Savage Jazz Dance Company, as dance artist/performer/jazz instructor. He is a faculty member at EBCPA, Dance-A-Vision, Youth In Arts, Shawl and Anderson Dance Center, Ross Dance Company, just to name a few.

For all Deaf Louder Festival details visit

We open with Lacey Schwart, dir. Little White Lies, featured in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 34, with screenings: Aug. 7 (PARK 7 p.m.), Aug. 8 (RAF 3 p.m.). Visit and 415-621-0523.

Music: Kim Nalley's "Trouble in Mind" and "I Wish I Knew How It Felt to Be Free."

Link to show:

Friday, August 01, 2014

Lacey Schwartz, dir. with mother
Who Would Have Known? Schwartz means Black
By Wanda Sabir

It is one thing when there is racial ambiguity based on systemic commodification of one’s people, it’s another when the questions stem from an omission or purposeful lie, which is the case when little Lacey Schwartz was born. Lacey who is accepted into the clan notices as did others her darker skin and curly hair, yet said nothing.

Perhaps upper class Woodstock, New York, is a town without many black people, certainly the childhood photos in the her film, Little White Lie (2014) do not show any students in grammar school with Lacey who are unquestionably black, nor do we see Jews with African ancestry at her family synagogue. Hers was the tight, close-knit community which can be a blessing; in this case it was, because though different, no one seemed to stigmatize the young girl for her darker skin or complexion.

Lacey Schwartz
Yet, Lacey knew she was missing a part of the story. How come she didn’t look like both parents, cousins or aunts—the Sicilian grandfather explanation for her skipping generations of pigment, just didn’t feel right the older she got. The questioning glances didn’t help either, especially when her mom and dad divorced. Was she the cause?

When Georgetown University accepted her application for admission, then had the audacity to call her African American when she left the race identification box unchecked (yet included the requisite photo), suddenly, someone disconnected emotionally from the sigma or shame silently attached to Lacey’s birth, named the elephant sitting in the room all her life.  

Lacey Schwartz
Georgetown helped coach the elephant out of the house onto the field where it gave Lacey room to hose it down. The stench was pretty awful—lies are like that. Clearly Lacey was onto something she had to pursue and she immediately joined the Black Student Association.

The omissions –who was she . . . loomed like huge craters in her 18 year existence.  She stepped gingerly on the debris covered surface; careful not to fall as she led two lives – one at school and another in Woodstock.  If her parents noticed her changing, neither said anything to her about it. It was as if she had really come home once she got away. Her brown skin now had social and political context. Unable to claim all of herself for 18 years, Lacey had a lot of catching up to do then.

Now –post film, after academic life, after marriage –now that she is CEO of Truth Aide Media, and interested in helping others uncover their secrets or lies, one could say the split is less apparent.

Lacey now occupies both sides of the room—she has had feet in both worlds about equal time, so perhaps she has finally caught up with herself, however, when asked says the process of healing and forgiveness might take a lifetime.

One wonders in “Little White Lies” (the word “white” is highlighted in the color to emphasis the literal coloring or racializing of the word), was the notion of blackness ignored or omitted because whiteness was preferable to blackness?

That typically white people do not talk about race, certainly played a role in Lacey’s acceptance in Woodstock, but at Georgetown University, then later at Harvard where the director got a law degree, Lacey’s evolving discovery of self and other aspects of her personal history and culture continued to be challenged as she embraced all of herself even if the parts sometimes were at war.

In an interview, the director says that she was able to make the journey because she had such a good therapist whom we meet vicariously (invisible) in multiple sessions where a sometimes tearful Lacey on film shares what she is feeling as her carefully constructed world comes tumbling down.

James McBride’s (writer) mother tells him when he asks about his skin color and how his is different than his mother, that he is the color of water, God’s color. In“Skin,” directed by Anthony Fabian, a South African family whose daughter, Sandra Laing (b.1955) is clearly black, her father has her classified as "white" because both he and her mother are. However, the child learns painfully that judicial mandates do not always win out over appearances when she is kicked out of school and her father disowns her when she marries a black man. The young woman has to leave home and family when her brother, father and community turn against her. Unlike Lacey’s story, this black woman who was raised in Anti apartheid South Africa finds herself between the two poles, accepted by neither.

Limbo is a dangerous place to occupy.

Even though race, technically, is an artificial construct, so much of American life (including post-Apartheid South African), public policy is still based on pigment or melanin content. If Lacey had been able to pass for white, she would have never known she had another father and the “little white lie” would have remained under wraps until perhaps a stray gene like a free radical—the kind Woodstock was known for, peeked its head cross generations in recognition of the complexities of relationships –who we marry, who we love, who we decide is worthy and who we disregard or pass over and the consequences of all this a la Lacey.

Late in the film, Lacey in many conversations with her mother who tells the lie, learns that her mother would not have married her biological father even if she could have, because her Dad (who raised her) in her view was the better catch. Yet, we hear her mother's hesitation, that she couldn’t see herself marrying a black man then. It just wasn’t done. Lacey’s biological father’s wife knew about the affair and his child, yet neither Lacey nor her dad did.

I don’t know what Jews do to repent, but Lacey’s mother has a lot of repenting to do. Maybe these years of silence were the purgatory this film allows her to wash with truth?

The film has its world premiere this weekend at the Castro Theatre as a part of the SF Jewish Film Festival 2014, with screenings Sunday, August 3 (CAS. 7 p.m.), Aug. 4 (CAL 6:40 p.m.), Aug. 7 (PARK 7 p.m.), Aug. 8 (RAF 3 p.m.). Visit and 415-621-0523.