Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wanda's Picks Wednesday, March 31, 2016

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!


1. Steven Anthony Jones, Artistic Director, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, joins us to talk about "Thurgood," which opens at the African American Art & Culture Complex, April 7-17, in the Burial Clay Theatre, 762 Fulton Street, in San Francisco.

2. La Freshia Brown, Uppity Edutainment, presents "Not for Sale: The Oscar C. Wright," (2015) directed by Michael Lange. All screenings are at Oakstop, 1721 Broadway, every Thursday at 6 p.m. Screenings start at 7 p.m.

3. Christopher K. Walker, director, Welcome to Leith which premieres on Independent Lens Monday, April 4, 2016, 10:00-11:30 PM ET (check local listings) on PBS.

4. We close with a conversation with Cheryl Patrice Derricotte re:  Ghost/Ships at MoAD-SF through Sunday, April 3.

Music: Brother Jahahara's "Pachamama."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Wanda's Picks Radio, Friday, March 25, 2016

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!

Show link:

1. Sheila S. Walker Ph.D., featured speaker March 29 at the UN program, and Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, Dos Amigos Slave Ship Replica Project, join us to talk about the United Nations General Assembly designation of March 25, as International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (program moved to March 29), as well as African Ancestor Commemorations this weekend, specifically in Key West, FL.

2. Nana Farika, Vice President of WADU will join us to talk about a recent forum in Washington to look at The State of Africa and Its Diaspora (3/20/2016).

3. We close with a conversation with a representative about a special program in Oakland, March 27, to honor the legacy and work of Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Political Prisoners, Prisoner of War. We were looking forward to his release at his recent parole hearing.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a member of the New African People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is one of the longest held political prisoners of war in US federal detention at this time. He has been locked down and kept from his people for over 30 years since his capture on Feb. 11, 1986. He was charged and convicted of freeing our Sister Assata Shakur from prison and master minding a 1981 expropriation of a Brinks armored truck.  Dr. Shakur was set for release on Feb. 10, 2016 but his release never occurred. Just before this date he was informed that he would only be scheduled to get a hearing for parole on April 4, 2016.


Sheila S. Walker Ph.D
Cultural anthropologist and filmmaker, Dr. Walker is Executive Director of Afrodiaspora, Inc., a non-profit organization that is developing documentary films and educational materials about the global African Diaspora. She has done fieldwork, lectured, con-sulted, and participated in cultural events in most of Africa and the Diaspora, and has numerous scholarly and popular publications. Her most recent works are the documen-tary, Slave Routes: A Global Vision, produced for the UNESCO Slave Route Project, and an edited book, Conocimiento desde adentro: Los afrosudamericanos hablan de sus pueblos y sus historias/Afro-South Americans Speak of their People and their Sto-ries, featuring articles by Afrodescendants from all the Spanish-speaking countries of South America. She also edited the volume African Roots/American Cultures: Africa in the Creation of the Americas and produced the documentary Scattered Africa: Faces and Voices of the African Diaspora based on the international conference she orga-nized on “The African Diaspora and the Modern World.” Dr. Walker was Director of the Center for African and African American Studies, the Annabel Irion Worsham Centen-nial Professor in the College of Liberal Arts, and Professor of Anthropology at the Uni-versity of Texas at Austin, then Director of the African Diaspora and the World Program and Professor of Anthropology at Spelman College.

Watch this recent interview:

Dinizulu Gene Tinnie: Brief Biography

Dinizulu Gene Tinnie is a New York born, Miami-based visual artist, semi-retired educator, writer, independent researcher, and activist in historic preservation and cultural affairs, with a formal academic background (including a Fulbright scholarship) in foreign languages and linguistics.  He has taught at virtually every educational level from pre-school to university, including adult education in community schools and in penal institutions. 

As a visual artist, he specializes in original drawings, painting, and sculpture, in graphic design, and, most recently, in monument design, as well as in museum and gallery exhibition design and installation.  He is has recently completed a Richmond Heights Pioneers Monument for a historic community in Miami and is lead designer for the artwork for the Key West African Cemetery memorial monument.

His written commentaries have frequently appeared in local African American newspapers and he has published articles, often related to his research on the history of the Middle Passage and specifically the Dos Amigos/Fair Rosamond Slave Ship Replica Project, in a number of periodicals, including Florida History quarterly, FlaVour Black lifestyle magazine, Islas bilingual Afro-Cuban Journal, and the venerable Journal of African American History, as well as in local South Florida newspapers.

Mr. Tinnie serves a number of boards, including as Chair of the City of Miami Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, charged with the restoration and operation of Miami’s fondly remembered one-time only “Colored Beach” of the segregation era; the New Birth Corporation in Daytona Beach, keepers of the Historic Home and legacy of theologian Howard Thurman; the Palm Beach County-based Florida Black Historical Research Project, Inc., which gathers and preserves Seminole Maroon heritage; and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, home to the Henrietta Marie slave ship artifacts and touring exhibition.  

Dinizulu Gene Tinnie is the recipient of numerous local awards and honors, including a Pillars Award from the Miami Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board, recognition by the Talladega College Alumni and by the U.S. Armed Forces Southern Command, a Miami ICON award from the City of Miami, the 2013 African American Achievers Award in Arts and Culture from Broward County-based JM Family Enterprises, among numerous others.

He is often called upon as a lecturer and panelist in historic preservation, cultural arts, and African World Heritage, and as a judge in art competitions, and to serve on public grant review panels at the State and County level.  He is presently an adjunct professor of African American history and French at historically Black Florida Memorial University in Miami, FL.


Nana Farika Berhane is a poet, fiction writer, storyteller, oral historian, journalist and cultural activist.  Born in Kingston, Jamaica of Garveyite parents, she was a familiar face in the island’s artistic and media circles during the sixties and the seventies. She has written for several newspapers and magazines in Jamaica and the USA.  Her novella “The Story of Sandra Shaw,” was at the heart of the Cultural Revolution taking place in Jamaica according to Professor Kamau Brathwaite, distinguished historian and poet.  Her plays, short fiction and poetry won prizes in the literary section of the island’s annual festival of the arts. She wrote radio documentaries for Jamaica Information Service and scripts for its celebrated serial “Life in Hopeful Village.”  She also wrote the island’s first local television sitcom “Life with the Littles.”   The Jamaica Nationals Association awarded her for “excellence in the literary arts” on the occasion of Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence in 2012.

 Her work has been published in Jamaica, London, Europe and the USA. Her language and use of Jamaican patois gives a musicality to her poems.   Her short story “Brother Ben,” was a prize winner in an international short story contest for Black writers and was adapted as a play and staged at Lambeth, England.  She was nurtured as a writer of Jamaican patois by Jamaica’s icon folklorist Louise Bennett who was a family friend. Farika”s work is featured in  the following books: “22 Jamaican Short Stories published 1n 1992 by LMH Press in Jamaica, WPFW Anthology, published in Washington DC , “The Mother of us All, Karla Gottleib, “Africa World Press  and in  the Jamaica Journal, Institute of Jamaica Press as well as in many Rastafari publications.  Her first anthology of poetry, “Sing I a Song of Black Freedom, was published in Palo Alto, California and has had several editions published by Queen Omega Communications.

   Nana Farika was an arts educator and reading specialist in public schools in, California, Detroit and Washington DC.  She was with California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) a programme funded by the California Arts Council, the US Department of Education and the National Endowment for the Arts.  She received many grants from the DC Commission on the Art and Humanities for her arts education projects. Starbucks and faith based organizations also supported them.  She worked with the Nairobi Institute of Cultural Arts as a performing poet while she was in California.  She also worked there with Stanford University and the Institute for the Advanced Study of Black Family Life and Culture in Oakland as an ethnographic researcher.  Her cultural and historic tours that she conducted to Maroon settlements had the  Accompong Maroons appointing her as their representative in the United States from 1984-1994. She lobbied for community building projects for them through grants from Canadian Save the Children Fund, Oxfam America and the OAS.

   The Smithsonian Institution awarded her in 1992 for her work on Maroons and so did the Caribbean American Inter Cultural Organization. The city of Cambridge gave her its keys on behalf of the Maroon people.  She is presently the Vice President of the World African Diaspora Union and the CEO of Queen Omega Communications. She is an international associate of the Women Institute for Freedom of the Press. She has travelled to Ethiopia, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana on Pan African affairs. Contact her for storytelling, poetry readings, Oral histories, Maroon tours and reports on AU summits and Rastafari women at  Visit

4. Omar Hunter is a Detroit born, Oakland based, Science Teacher, Father, Cuber and a community activist.  He has been a part of the 5% Nation of Islam, Ausar/Auset Community, and NCOBRA. He is currently a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement ( MXGM). As a member of MXGM Omar sat on the design team, as well as taught, at the School Of Social Justice and Community Development and participated in the campaign to Free the San Francisco 8.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Wanda's Picks Wed., March 23, 2016

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!

Hon. Senghor Jawara Baye
Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the Hon. Marcus Mosiah Garvey's first visit to New York, March 23, 1916. We speak to the Hon. Senghor Jawara Baye; President General of the UNIA-ACL, about the call to all African Disapora people to pour libations today at sunset.

Music: Jahahara Alkebulan Maat's "Love and Defend Pachumama" and "Marcus Garvey -- Rise Up, You Mighty Afrikan People!" Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate's "Passport."
Raissa Simpson in "Sailing Away" (2013)
Byb Chanel, Robert Henry Johnson, Tristan Cunningham,
Antoine Hunter

Antoine Hunter and Amara Tabor Smith in "Sailing Away"

We close with the archival interview with Joanna Haigood re: Sailing Away 9/13-16, 2012 in San Francisco.

Show link:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, Ashay!

Sanctuary at Metropolitan AME Church, Washington, D.C.

Today is Dr. Francis Cress Welsing's birthday (March 18, 1935-January 2, 2016), yet, instead of felicitations and cake, we prepare for her memorial tomorrow, to lift her spirit into the next realm. I hear there are enemies still pulling at her, tearing her flesh, blocking her ascension, so she cannot move on. But we will keep her in the light and help her along the way. I also heard today that Dr. Ben is on her team--tackling evil forces, blocking them so she can ascend.

Imagine, the last talk she gave at Howard University was on Trump and here we are this week at the Primaries. Truth has no expiration date. Dr. Cress Welsing said: "I pledge to use all my life energy, intelligence and creativity, in all areas of people activity, to eliminate the global system of racism (white supremacy) on planet earth and to replace it with justice so that there can be peace. . . So help me God."
Sabrina Johnson

The last time I saw her was on my birthday last year in June. The next time hers. Kind of fitting, this reunion.

I went to the wrong location earlier this afternoon. I thought the memorial was at Union Temple, instead it is at Metropolitan AME Church near the White House. I wonder if President Obama will drop by or send a representative?

I caught the METRO twice this afternoon and then walked. A larger system than BART, I was able to navigate a bit better than I expected. When I arrived at the AME, my ADACI sisters were there already erecting the larger altar in the sanctuary. Mama Tendai was assembling the centerpiece where the ancestor objects sit. This section is then shrouded. Lights illuminate both the seen and the unseen. Large photos of Dr. Cress Welsing sit on both ends of the table, with a Sankofa bird in front of raffia, vases of flowers and other ceremonial objects.

Crystals and magical balls that sparkle and glow, hour glasses filled with sand, crystal vases filled with candles, white lace covers the floor and table, pyramids, and of course Dr. Cress Welsing's books: The Isis Papers, Neely Fuller's The Compensatory Code and The Color Confrontation Theory pamphlet, Cress Welsing's The 17 Admonitions (adapted from Fuller's Textbook for Victims of Racism (White supremacy) and Dr. Cress Welsing's "Cress Theory" and The Isis Papers), "A Black Oath," and "A Liberating Black People's Prayer," and the scholar's poetry, along with red candy canes, black coal, and green mint chocolates -- right! Red, black and green treats for guests to sweeten the bitterness of death.
Smaller Altar in Fred Douglass Hall

Along the balcony terraces hang textile paintings on bark, kente cloth and other ceremonial decorations.  Ancestor or Egungun  sit on each side of the altar, from above-- to complete the fresco. When one walks into the church lobby she sees Dr. Cress Welsing's magnificent image, a white skirt completing the presentation.

The program which is of course instructional, includes greetings by Pastor William H. Lamar IV, scripture readings, an opening processional, poetry, performance by Sweet Honey in the Rock, reflections by healers, scholars, friends: Ray Winbush, Pat Nelson, Mario Beatty, Carl Nelson, Tariq Nasheed, Professor Griff, Dr. Marimba Ani, Dr. Tony Browder--by sister, Lorne Cress Love, a video of Dr. Cress Welsing, Eulogy read by Rev. Willie F. Wilson . . . and a collective reading of "The Black Oath.

Pastor William H. Lamar IV will give the benediction followed by a performance by the Kankouran West African Children's Dance Company, Sunu and Manjani. The program is followed by a reception in Frederick Douglass Hall.

The memorial service will be live streamed and live broadcast from WPFW 89.3 FM,

The memorial service will also be live streamed on the website of Metropolitan A.M.E. Church:, on Saturday, March 19, 2016 from 1p.m.- 4 p.m. EST.

To view, go to:

Here is a link to the second tribute on Wanda's Picks Radio February 2016: The first was January 27, 2016:

Here are photos of the altars we set up today. If you are not here, visit the Cress Welsing FACEBOOK event page for information on the live broadcast March 19 and for information about a foundation Dr. Cress Welsing's sister has set up.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Orisa Urban World Festival Opens in Oakland Town USA

Awon Ohun Omnira
Adimu Madyun and Mama C
It was raining all day, but last night, an evening blessed with new moon wonder, the cleared air breathed -- inhaled a misty optimism peppered with spicy African folk. We were in an upper room remember  Brother Rafiq Bilal-- ashay, Oakstop was destination Orisa Urban World Festival 2016!

Adimu Madyun, event host, introduced  Awon Ohun Omnira who opened the evening -- evoking Esu/Elegba and all that is good and holy and wonderful as the ancestors parted earthly waters and danced and danced.

Baba Obafemi Origunwa

The elder panel was the featured event --
after the invocation and welcoming ritual
each elder was introduced and welcomed
to the panel with applause and standing ovations.  Some elders and other guests had flown into town from as far as Washington D.C., New Orleans and Houston. I heard that these guests were pretty tired and a bit hungry, having just stepped off the airplane, to drive to the venue. There was food, beverages and complimentary libations for all of age.

Facilitated by Baba Obafemi Origunwa, the panelists: Yeye Luisah Teish., Ph.D., Iyabeji Cathy Royal, Ph.D., Iya Nedra T. Williams, Baba Kola Abimbola, Ph.D., Baba Wade Nobles, Ph.D. shared personal stories about mentors and the presence of Ifa in their lives . . . stories of energy work, spirit call and response. It felt like we were home sitting around the table after supper listening to the grown folk talk. The conversation so sweet, dessert forgotten -- at least for a moment (smile).

James Gayles and Iya Bobi Cespedes
It wasn't as if there weren't other luminaries in the audience. We are royal. Most, if not all, seated at the table shared stories of friends and elders, family members who pointed a younger self towards a path best taken.
Iya Hadiah, Iya Lelani, Yeye Teish, Iyabeji and Iya Nedra

Panelists: Dr. Nobles, Iya Nedra, Iyabeji, Dr. Kola, Yeye Teish

Yeye Teish holding Iyabeji:
Make Way for the Mothers, Sweet Water Women
Yeye Teish said that one always has a choice. Everyone on the panel could trace his or her spirit development to a relationship with an elder, Baba Wade's was a relationship which spanned multiple generations through a name, his, "Wade." He spoke of being the incarnation or incantation of his great-grandfather Wade and how his friend, an Ifa priest, told him he needed to get initiated to accomplish the work he was sent here to complete. Dr. Nobles demystified the idea of orisha by called orisha, energy -- ashay, manifest in creation.

So to say Yemaya was in the house last night, means that her energy or ashay was manifest through those daughters who were sweet water women. Iya Sula (Zion Trinity) called out "Make Way for the Mothers," as Iyabeji came to the center of the circle and began to dance. Immediately taken by the song, Yeye Teish stepped near her and said, "I've got you baby."
Spirit of Orisha: Sula with hand on Sweet Water Women and Iyabeji
Yeye Teish was not the only one; we also saw a young girl child dancing with the elder woman, gesture for gesture, even anticipating others-- the two, A Grand Pas de Deux: entrée (introduction), an adagio with multiple variations, then acoda (or conclusion). This form called pièce de résistance and bravura is performed by leading or principal dancers and is a highlight of a ballet repertoire. Iyabeji's surrender last night shifted the energy so that Orisha could enter in all its majesty. The moment reminded me of another occasion when Zion Trinity, minus one, performed at the Maafa Commemoration in New Orleans last year. We were in Congo Square in front of the altar, libations had been poured, prayers recited but the energy was a bit to contained. There was hesitation, people weren't being freed, so Sula started pouring libations and talking and as she talked the air changed and when she finished, and she and Andaiya started singing, the square was filled with Africans unchained, literally unhooked.

Yeye Teish, Iyabeji and the Young Goddess
Sula signing Spirit of Orisha
Kele Nitoto
The Zion Sisters got it like that. I can't imagine this evening when they perform for the first time with a live band.  Later when I asked Iyabeji if she remembered the possession, she said no. She could recall thinking how at home she felt and then letting go, (when Yeye assured her she was protected). Iyabeji or mother of twins, reflected earlier on the panel how orisha is always present with her, and so she never walks alone.

Khalilah Isoke, Prosperity Movement, and Mama C
Mama C (Charlotte Hill O'Neal) who is visiting from Tanzania, opened the acoustic set. She played the East African Lute or obokano with accompanist Kele Nitoto on congas.

After her set, the three sisters: Sula (Spirit), Osun Ede (Water) and Andaiye (Fire), sang selections from Spirit of Orisha.  Theirs was a classical and fitting conclusion to a wonderful evening. We mingled, circulated black dollars, laughed and talked. Children slept standing up, too excited to sit for long, yet not used to being up with the grown folks. Others who'd passed out were held by dads and moms.

Wife and Husband, Khalilah and Adimu
with Andaiye (Zion Trinity) at Orisa Urban World Festival

The concert tonight, March 12, 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at The Uptown in Oakland featuring Iya Bobi Cespedes is going to be awesome. She was present last night too. James Gayles shared with her a painting he made of her likeness. When I left at 12:00 midnight, he was working on a painting of Miles Davis for the opening of the new film next month in Los Angeles. I knew it was Miles from the eyes, which was all that is finished at this point (smile).

Name that tune? No, name the iridescence or soul mapping our eyes represent. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wanda's Picks Radio, March 11, 2016

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! 

1. Māhealani Uchiyama,  director, Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance in Berkeley, Kumu Hula (hula teacher) of Hālau Ka Ua Tuahine. She is creator and director of the annual Kāpili Polynesian dance and music workshops and Traci Bartlow, as Artistic director, Starchild Dance Company uses African, hip hop, house, praise dance, and authentic jazz dance styles in her choreography. Both choreographers are featured in the 21st Annual Collage des Cultures Africaines, March 10-13, at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice Street, in Oakland.

2. Christian L. Frock, guest curator for Take This Hammer @ YBCA March-August, 2016. Opens tonight! Frock is an independent curator, writer, and educator. Frock’s practice focuses on art and politics. Invisible Venue, the curatorial enterprise Frock founded and has directed since 2005, collaborates with artists to present art in public spaces. She has organized programs, exhibitions, and commissions with many organizations, including the British Arts Council, Headlands Center for the Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Southern Exposure, SOMArts Cultural Center, and Emergency USA | Thoreau Center for Sustainability. Her writing has been featured in the Guardian US, KQED Arts, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. Chronicle Books published her first book, Unexpected Art, in March 2015. She recently co-curated Public Works: Artists’ Interventions 1970s – Now at the Mills College Art Museum and is presently 2015 - 2016 Scholar in Residence at California College of the Arts’ Center for Art + Public Life. Her work is archived on and

3. Risk Is This @ Cutting Ball Theatre in San Francisco opens next weekend. We are joined by one of the playwrights whose work is featured: Phillip Howze, a Yale School of Drama graduate in playwriting, who is the author of tiny boyfriend, abominable, and all of what you love and none of what you hate. These and other works by Phillip have been presented at The Bushwick Starr, Dixon Place, Bay Area Playwrights, and now Cutting Ball. Ariel joins us from Cutting Ball to talk about this Risky Season.

4. We close with a prerecorded interview with Albert "Shaka Cinque" Woodfox, upon his release from Angola State Prison Feb. 19, 2016.

Link to show:

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Iya Nida Ikahlas Ali, Ashay

The shoreline swiftly becomes a thing past as I cycle—rain pouring in sheets, then laughing teardrops as stinging wet pebbles soothe an aching heart.

She’s gone?

If fleshy presentation were all, sorrow would have the illusion of calm beneath quickened sand—life a flash within nebulae, its appearance vast until a star falls and then we see how temporal and tiny a presence – our short stay.

She’s gone?

Comforter, nurturer – mother of men, creator of dynasties

As I look over my shoulder I notice the receding tide . . . as an old canon rolls forward

Uncovered – its wick lit for a salute . . .

FIRE! I say, as time is stilled.

Shorebirds eat at her repast, sandy table set with viands plenty . . . Sister Nida loved seafood as do her guests.  Surfers nearby – I count 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 enjoy the wind beneath sails as the waves toss them along – the rushing water slippery . . . STEADY . . . the fresh air . . . HOLD TIGHT . . .  the wonder of it all—LIFE!

So much of our plans sink below (into what is unconscious) when we lose our footing and fall.

Sometimes we can rise again—re-membering, sometimes not. Sometimes the pieces are a bit too scattered to locate as we fear the waters below . . . the unknown beneath our soles.  Sandy particles tickling our toes.

Death is one of those falls the living have a hard time rising from, but rise we must until it is our time to move on.  The earth in our hands is just the body returning to itself . . .

Until then we have to keep swimming, keep breathing cross multiple terrains and know Iya Nida and all our ancestors stand ready with cosmic breath or winds to lift us from darkness (the not knowing) before sunsets as we travel towards the light (growing as we travel in illumination) until we have reached the final shore—The City of Bones (Olokun).

My mother never wanted to talk about women things with me, especially relationships, so I learned about how women and men acted toward each other through observation and eavesdropping and through conversations with women like Sister Nida, who certainly was like a mother to me.

Her son, Ernest and I attended Muhammad University of Islam at the same time and I remember, Na’eem and Sadat too.  One of the brothers was also around my brother, Fred's age.  Sister Louise Muhammad was the secretary and Sister Elretha Rashid was the Dean of Students. Sister Maryom Ana Al Wadi was like a principal, but I don’t think she had that title.  Sister Nabeehah Shakur was a teacher then, so were Sister Marva and Sister Sharifa and Sister Bayinna.

In San Francisco we had lots of fine directors from Brother Maxie and Brother Kenneth, Assistant Director, to Brother Sunni Ali Shabazz, Assistant Director; to Dr. Fatimah Ali, and Brother Cedric X, both directors.

I remember when Sister Louise lost her hearing and I would visit her in Berkeley at home. I knew her great-granddaughter and granddaughter. I met Sister Edna, her daughter later I think at Sister Nida’s shop after not seeing her for years.  When I met her again, she'd started a new career as a massage therapist. She just died a few weeks ago and her good friend, Sister Nida helped prepare her body, but wasn’t able to attend the funeral. She wasn’t feeling well.

Sister Louise and her daughters and extended family all lived on a lot with two houses. It was really nice. It felt like an African village.

Then the school moved to Oakland, the principals I remember were Sisters Tauheedah and the late Sister Salihah (Jacqueline). We had a Brother Director, Brother Nu'man for a short while. When I left for college, Brother Shuaibe was minister and I remember how cool he and his wife were as first lady and Imam. They knew the latest dances and taught me how to dance (smile).

I just learned two days ago that my younger daughter TaSin went to school with Sister Nida’s granddaughter. Both Class of 2000.  Both families were at the Greek Theatre when our children graduated 16 years ago (this year), yet never discussed it. Sister Nida’s Berkeley roots reached back far.

She’s gone?

No, not really, just returning to Allah.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Bird Lady

Feeding the birds vegan biscuits.

Almost finished

A Dear Friend Departs This Realm

Dear Sister Nida Ikahlas Ali . . .

Sister Nida Ali (1941-2016)
I really loved my Sister Nida Ali who flew home to Allah this morning. I think what I appreciated the most about her was her ability to be a spiritual warrior who walked the planet earth. She really loved Allah and Allah’s servants. She was loyal and forgiving too, and she took care of a lot of people.

I’d visit with her monthly for many years and she’d work her magic in my hair, whether this was press and curl, California Curl, Sister Locs or just a wash and conditioner. The price was always the same, $20 unless I was getting a trim and then it was $35. For over twenty years, the price never went up.

Only two sisters ever did my hair, and that was Sister Haneefah and then Sister Nida. I don’t remember why I switched, but I liked how Sister Nida was always trying new products, moving away from chemicals towards pineapple based hair relaxers, shea butter conditioner, and natural dye colors. She sold Obama bling in the shop and we could even take a photo with the President (smile). His life size cut out lived in the shop on Telegraph near Alcatraz.

Sister Hajji Nida Ali
in Mecca (Feb. 2001)
Even after I was no longer getting my hair done monthly, I’d pop by when I was in Berkeley to say hi and get a hug.  Sister Nida was an entrepreneur and sold art and clothes. In addition to Sister Nida’s beauty shop, before her sister and sister-in-law passed, the three of them had a catering business. Her shop was truly an African Marketplace, decorated with her brother, Umrani’s designs – sculpted work, textiles and paintings. She also had personal art like the beautiful plaques and other creative work her children and grandchildren gave her for birthdays and anniversaries, calendar art and figurines from her many journeys abroad. I remember a few times over the many years I visited her, she had another designer, Ms. Barbara, in the shop as well, but mostly it

Sister Nida Ali
at a wedding in 2007
was Sister Nida. Sometimes I got her all to myself. I recognized the treat this was whenever that happened.

Sister Nida Ali
I’d see friends I hadn’t seen in months, even years, there. Merrakesh Beauty Salon at 6609 Telegraph Avenue, was the depot along a trail route many of us traveled. These encounters included friends from my childhood and friends of my daughter’s friends. 

Um hmm, go figure. I’d watch TV series there and children’s classics like Anne of Green Gables and Akilah and the Bee.  She also introduced me to murder and intrigue. She was a great storyteller. I think I first learned of The Good Wife, Treme, Scandal, and a few other shows at her spot. Loved her Denzel collection. Visiting Sister Nida was an all-day affair and she was so forgiving when I would arrive late with my hair still twisted. Many a time she fit me in and then stayed late to finish my hair.
Sister Nida Ali at her shop

We’d talk about men, and she’d share what she’d learned over the years with a laugh. Her life wasn't flawless; however, I learned watching Sister Nida and Brother Ernest that for a relationship to work, there had to be trust, respect and freedom. Sister Nida was the freest black woman I knew. Perhaps this freedom was tied to faith. I remember the early morning Sirah study sessions at Masjid Warith Deen she'd attend. Sister Nida was a devote servant of the Din exemplified in service. 

Classic Black Family:
Sister Nida and Brother Ernest Sr.
and sons.

It was lovely watching Sister Nida and her husband, Brother
Ernest Sr., in the shop too. He’d bring her lunch and she’d brush his hair into a pony tail.

Her Merrakesh was truly a place where one could travel. Sister Nida and her Sister and Sister-in-law would trek the planet. She knew how to relax and have fun. I loved looking at her photos when she returned from Egypt, Morocco, Hawaii and elsewhere across the globe. Rides on camels, sunbathing on the beach, spa days . . . . Her stories of Mecca with her sister friends from Oakland gave Hajj a dimension or a spin only a black woman would have the audacity to share.

Sister Nida Ali on a camel in Egypt (2001)
For those who knew her, she always wore a fez or a sculpted wrap predating Erykah Badu (smile). Always ready for battle, just her preparedness meant everyone who knew better always checked the madness and entered Merrakesh in peace. I recall her charity to the homeless who came by and support of fledgling youthful businessmen and women who failed as often as they succeeded. She'd have to unlock her door, and let them in, and she did, over and over again. This was her Sadaqah or support for African Diaspora community at work.

Stop in NYC at the Apollo en route to Mecca
Yet, Sister Nida was not a soft touch. She was fierce and had no patience for crap. She was always honest, her speech peppered with a reality only certain words fit.  The writer in me will miss her linguistic flair. Her shop was like a cinema, theatre only second to life. I think we should open a movie theatre and name it Merrakesh in her honor. Sister Nida stuck it out, no new occupants were going to push her out of a neighborhood she cherished. The block will never be the same now that she is gone.

When I learned that she had been sick, I called her and she told me I could visit her. I took a calendar with natural hair styles I thought she’d like, some lavender and a small bottle to put the oil in with water. She told me she was not in pain at all, just a bit weak after being in bed for over a month. One of her sons was helping her with exercises to strengthen her legs, that and climbing all the stairs to her room.

She looked great. You wouldn’t have known she was sick unless she told you. It was good to know she was not suffering. I couldn’t imagine a disease that disappeared all your white blood cells. The soldiers were being taken hostage, however, when I saw her they were coming back home.

I remembered back when Sister Sadaqa was alive, along with Sister Laiqa Louise Muhammad (6/14) and Sister Ummus Salaama and Sister Nida (6/1)— the five of us would have a June Gemini Birthday Party on Sister Sadaqa’s birthday. I don’t remember the exact day. Sister Nida’s birthday is June 1. We’d go to Housewives Market in West Oakland and get a goose or duck for the meal. Sister Sadaqa would cook it. I don’t remember the entrees we’d have with the main course. I do remember enjoying being with my elder sisters even if I didn’t like the duck. I don’t know how I lucked up to be invited and a part of the party, but I was not complaining one bit.

Sister Nida Ali on the runway at an Evening of Elegance
We had our parties until Sister Sadaqa fell and she was placed in a convalescent hospital, where she died soon after. She was one of the first to live in the Sojourner Truth (or Harriet Tubman) Apartments on MLK Jr. Way (Grove Street) in Oakland. She gave me her Champion Juicer. She believed in the power of carrot juice to cure just about everything. Carrots and copper. She also gave me one of her copper bracelets.

When I met Sister Nida, she was First Lieutenant for Captain Sadie at Mosque 26 in San Francisco.  I remember when the Evening of Elegance was launched as a fundraiser for the Sister Clara Muhammad School. Sister Nida was elegant and beautiful. There were lots of photos in her albums from many such evening programs. The audience looked just as wonderful as those on the runway. It is not every day that one can wear one’s formal garments, so the black folks were stepping in high cotton (smile). The models ranged from little biddy kids to elders. One year I helped the models dress for the runway--that was fun! Years later I went on a date . . . another fun evening.  The two made a great team; Sister Sadie was so lovely to work with. They used love, not fear to manage the sister community.

I remember when Sister Nida made 70. Time kind of stood still for me; she didn’t age, she looked the same as 30-40 years ago when I first met her.  But she had pictures from her birthday parties and holiday parties to share with her other family, her friends from the market place—from her life before Imam Warith Deen Muhammad, World Community of Islam, American Muslim Mission and after that too. She was just so beloved by all, the space her absence leaves will certainly mean we have to tip carefully around the chasm so that grief does not swallow us whole.

Sister Nida Ali (June 1, 1941 - March 2, 2016) is survived by: Na'eem Perry, Sadat Perry, Ernest Deshan Perry, Ronald Woods, William Wood, and husband Ernest Perry. She is proceed in death: Louis Ragland, Madeline Beal, and Mary Louise Jackson.

Sister Nida Ali's Janaza or funeral is Tuesday, March 8, 11 a.m. at Fuller Funeral Home, 4647 International Blvd., Oakland. The internment is at Rolling Hills Cemetery in Richmond, CA. What a fitting day to celebrate a great woman's life, than on International Women's History Day!