Saturday, May 19, 2018

Liberating Words draft

Today was a beautiful African day.  Sunny, we got up early and prepared to travel to Ghanata Senior High School in Dodowa. There we convened in Mr. Afrifa's theatre arts class where we spoke to the students, shared poetry, answered questions and made new friends. The high school is one of the state schools serving children 14-20. The youth board there and Ehalakasa hosts writing workshops. One of the poets is a former student. He and the kids freestyled a poem where he took their words and incorporated them into a narrative he was weaving in the moment.

The youth performed work for us, some in their native languages. They were engaged and listened deeply to the adults who traveled across the world to meet them. Lots of hugs and phone number email, Facebook, instant messenger, WhatsApp exchanges.

The themes ranged from empowerment to spousal abuse. The sharp youngsters will perform on Sunday too. They will perform a play, poetry and dance.

We left there and went to a restaurant where we call spoke together. One of the poets was performing that evening at a concert featuring the largest chorus in the country, but I missed it. I fell asleep. Tomorrow we are having a Old Accra Day Tour. It is supposed to rain.

We left the hostel at 8:30-9 p.m. for the Coco Lounge, a upscale restaurant for a meal. Afterward we were to go dance. The food was excellent and afterward folks went to Osu to find a club to hear Hip Life and Reggae. I came back to the Hostel with Marcus (who flew in earlier this evening), Mama Makeda, Zakkiyah and Shoshi. When Karla said they planned to be out about 5 hours, I was not able to commit to so much time. Besides it's hard to get a car late at night, so I would have been stuck. We were having trouble with Uber from Coco's.  We called several times and had to get taxis.

We were dressed to impress: Imani was asked often for her number as heads' turned. She had on black slacks with vertical tears in the legs, solid top, her hair pulled back, makeup accentuating her cheekbones and eyes. Xiomara also looked loving in her white lace trimmed tunic, while Tyrice had on a bold candy-cane stripped jumpsuit and Karla had on a two piece as well. Omu looked sharp in his all white.

The restaurant had a dress code: no shorts, so we weren't able to go inside. Instead we opted for the patio which worked out even better. It was our own private party-- really awesome and fun. One of Imani's admirers brought us music so we danced and then ate and talked.

Joseph and friends popped by for an hour or so. He is a really good friend to Karla. One of his friends is a therapist who works to send ritual female violence. She told us about the practice of having families give a daughter to the priests to atone for an ancestor's wrongdoing. These girls (some babies) are often sexually molested and are servants for life. In many cases the women ended up serving for multiple generations-- their children and grandchildren progeny of the same priest. The clinician explained the kind of trauma healing work she with those women and girls rescued. Although the practice had been illegal for a long time, the Ghanaian government is not prosecuting these pedophiles.

She told me about a film which premiered at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in 2017.
This is important humanitarian work. The problem faced here is the absence of public information. The more the public knows about this cultural practice, the better for the girls trapped and/or targeted.

On my way home from Coco Lounge, I thought about the parallel narratives Karla and I occupy: she carries the right badges and has access to arenas and people I do not which makes her a valuable ally and comrade.

It had been-- if not completely, certainly a modified conversation if I am speaking to black revolutionaries, whom tired of systemic racism leave America without a backward glance.  The way an employee of the State Department queries and perhaps adjusts his or views is not something I have ever been able to ask about before. The person I spoke to said when he was in Venezuela, he respected President Chavaez for his policies towards fellow citizens. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Agoo . . . I May draft

WO2WA in Ghana Day 2

We left out of SFO with many hitches from Marcus missing the flight completely to my almost missing the flight several times before I finally arrived at my seat steam rising from more than my collar.

As I sit here in my room at a lovely Youth Hostel, Agoo. . . I hear the faithful reciting beautiful words to the creator or his Messenger. It is the first night of the blessed month of Ramadan-- one day down with minimally 27-29 more to go.  It was this kind of faith that wrapped or covered each of us as we stepped from the plane onto the motherland -- many among the group home for the first time. This second evening I heard two young women expressing how welcome they felt.

I think more than the actual country, which I had been to before was the warmth carried in the relationships created over the past 1-3 years between the poets in West Africa and the poets America. After feeling displaced and or tolerated more than wanted, here for the first time for many was acceptance and genuine care and love. At the morning meeting, rain pouring in sheets-- the Atlantic and the Pacific shaking hands and slapping high-5s. Karla and Black -- what a perfect name right?! had between them developed a relationship and a vision for this public reunification.We'd looked ahead at the weath forecast and were not surprised  by the precipitation; however, we were not looking forward to getting wet and for the most part, we didn't.

The Slam poetry form formalized in the United States long before the film-- Slamnation based on the work of early "spoken word artists": ? and Wanda 

Ehelakasa, the poetry ensemble formed almost 20 years ago have invited Oakland to a duel of words. Thursday evening the poets were busy rehearsing their performances. Our taxi driver, Penny said he would come and bring friends to root for team Diaspora. Ehelakasa doesn't have a chance. Earlier this afternoon we were further pumped by the visit to the American Embassy where we met the Americans who live and work in Ghana like nurse practitioner LaSheera Washington and Bernard Gresham from Oglethorpe, Georgia. A 20+ year veteran, he manages the facilities for the consulate. We met folks who worked in security and other black folks who were so happy to meet us. Many of the men and women we met said they would come to the Slam this Sunday and root for the home  team.

At the meeting this morning, poets were excited to get copies of Door of (no) Return: African +/- American Contact Zone.

From Youth Speaks to Deaf Jam where the work was exported in a big way, was the spoken word tradition was returning to its roots when African poets picked up the microphone. Langston Hughes recited to live improvisational music or jazz while the blues tradition is the kind of poetry that heals as it hides coded messages between the designs on sheets.

The W.E.B. DuBois Center tour where the great man lies in state with his second wife brought Makeda to tears she said outside the gazebo where DuBois had a garden. The museum is the couple's last home together. It was great listening to the guided tour, part of a national service obligation all graduates from undergraduate school have to participate in for a year. After the tour, about half the group went to Osu Market where Xiomara purchased a lovely purse. The African Diaspora Center is another great place in the Center, along with a small bed and breakfast named after Marcus Garvey. The two men come together philosophically in Ghana through the vision and love of the Hon. Kwame Nkrumah.

As we walk through the halls, peeking in at the bathroom with sunken tub where DuBois bathed and relieved himself, there above our heads are great African leaders like: Barack Obama, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba and a young and dashing Dr. DuBois.  There are photos of Dr. DuBois's poetry collections and in his library hundreds of book. Like Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Institute, Dr. DuBois believed in education to free black minds and critical in the liberation of our nations at home and abroad.

There is a Sankofa Wall which is a project to raise money for the many Diaspora African Forum Projects (DAF). Donors pay $100 for a brick which is then added to the wall, We missed Honorable Excellency Ambassador Erieka Bennett, Head of Mission, but perhaps we might catch her Sunday at the SLAM.

After dinner we went over to a nearby club. It is Ramadan, and it was the last show for a month. The band was excellent. The group honored Hugh Masekela and had a wall with photos of the great band leader. Zakkiyah had us up doing the Electric Slide which was fun until the band seemed like it was never going to end the song. Afterward Joseph came in with his colleagues from the Embassy. We talked and stayed shut the 233 Club down. We'd walked and gotten a taxi, however, at 1 am there were no taxis so Joe called Uber. The guy got lost getting to us and once we were in the car he couldn't figure out where we wanted to go.

Obi, who'd just arrived from Abijan helped him a bit and Karla a bit more and then it clicked in for the driver that he'd been at Agoo before.

I am still up listening to the call to prayer and supplications. Earlier it was so noisy I couldn't sleep. Now the noisy people are quiet. We are going to a school tomorrow to talk about poetry.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Wednesday, May 9, 2018

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. Libations for Kiilu Nyasha (May 22, 1939-April 10, 2018) rebroadcast. There is a memorial, Community Celebration of Kiilu's Life, May 20, at the African American Art and Culture Complex, 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco. It is free and open to all.

2. WAAfrica 123 (May 3-June 2) just opened at TheatreFirst and it is phenomenal story of love, trust, and courage to take a stand against tradition. One of our favorite playwrights: Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko is joined by director Lisa Evans and two members of the cast: Damieon Crown (Chief) and
Troy Rockett (Awino) at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley. Runs Thurs thru Sat, 8pm and Sun 2pm

For a 25 percent discount, use the promo code: WANDA25


Nick Hadikwa Mwaluko / Playwright

Trans, queer, NB, African, poet-playwright-fiction-essayist NICK HADIKWA MWALUKO: Plays include: 37, S.T.A.R: Marsha P. Johnson; two queer African trilogies Waafrika and Waafrika 123; the QTPOC trans masculine S/He:THEY/THEM; the queer apocalypse Homeless in the AfterLife; Blueprint for an African LesbianSH/eroe; Asymmetrical We; Brotherly Love; Trailer Park Tundra; Once A Man Always A Man; Mama Afrika; Queering MacBeth; Life Is About the Kill; That Day God Visits You; Ata; To Dyke Trans; Gayze and many more. Residencies include Resilience and Development (R&D) Writers’ Lab with Crowded Fire Theater Company in San Francisco; New York City’s EWG (Emerging Writers’ Group) at the Public Theater sponsored by Time Warner; New York City’s Groundbreakers Group, Djerassi Artist Residencyin northern California, Freedom Train Productions, Ragged Wing Ensemble and more. Nick is a two-time recipient of the Creativity Fundissued by the Public Theater and Time Warner, and a 2017 Spring grantee of a Theatre Bay Area (TBAIndividual Artist Cash grant. Nick graduated Magna Cum Laude at Columbia University and completed an MFA at Columbia University as a Point Scholar, the nation’s largest LGBTQIA scholarship fund, and Columbia University Fellowship.

Lisa Evans / Director

Lisa Evans is a black non-binary actor, poet, and cultural worker and a lover of bad horror movies and good comics.

They have worked with several different Bay Area youth development and arts organizations including Youth Uprising, the QT Network of Alameda County, Peacock Rebellion, Destiny Arts Center, The California Shakespeare Theater and more.

They can be seen in award winning fBlack Is Blue. Lisa was also a 2016 YBCA Fellow and is the co-founder of both the How Spirit Moves Us Project, a healing arts project focused on using performance art to celebrate the struggles, resistance and resilience of Black Queer and Trans folks, and the #BreakingtheBinary Project, a initiative that works with theater arts organizations across the United States to create sustainable practices for TGNCNB2-S (trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary, Two Spirit) inclusion.

Dameion Brown / Chief

Dameion played Macduff in 2015 under the direction of Lesley Currier as part of Marin Shakespeare’s Arts in – Corrections programs. He played “Othello” in 2016 with the same company, a performance that earned him the best principal actor award from Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, as well as a nomination for best principal actor for the Falstaff awards. He has also worked with Utopia Theatre Project. Dameion also works in the community as a Case Manager for the Transitional Age Youth ((TAY) population. He also holds Restorative Justice circles in the community with (TAY) youth. He is honored to be working Theatre First and is equally “thrilled to be on a team with such amazingly talented artists”.

Troy Rockett / Awino

Troy Rockett received a joint MFA/MA degree in English Literature at Holy Names University. An avid reader she finds liberation through honest and radical story-telling. She is thrilled to be apart of a current truth-telling movement where Indigenous, Migrant, Trans, Queer and POC stories are taking the stage and rising on new platforms. She would like to give a special thanks to past production families as well as deep bows to artists D’Lo, Cherríe Moraga, Staceyann Chin  and Adelina Anthony, in which she was first able to see herself reflected on stage.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Friday, May 11, 2018

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.Rubie Macaraeg, June Jordan School of Equity and Rosalie Zerrudo, Hilway Art Project with Women Inmate Artists of Iloilo City District Jail Female Dormitory. Both are panelists for Kularts's Incarcerated: 6X9 continuing Friday-Sunday, May 11-13.

2. Adlemy Garcia, Essie Justice Group, Community Organizer, joins us to talk about the 2nd Annual Free Black Mamas:, #EndMoneyBail  (Cat Brooks'

3. Ayasha J. Tripp, Writer/Educator/Director Ayasha Is Life Website 

4. Jessica Care Moore, Black Women Rock Tribute to Betty Davis at YBCA's Transform Festival, May 12, 9 PM, 701 Mission Street

Earlier at 11AM is a free offsite pre-show artist talk 5/12 @African American Art & Cultural Complex,762 Fulton Street, SF.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Wanda's Picks Radio Friday, May 4, 2018

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. Kharyshi Wiginton,Community Programs Manager at McClymonds shares her seven year journey and plans for the future. Plus her recent trip with youth to South Africa. Next Thursday, at 6 pm, McClymond's Youth Center, 2607 Myrtle Street (28th Street side). $24,000 debt.

2. Wallis Hamm Tinnie A.B. (FAMU), M.A. (Univ. of Florida), Ph.D. (Univ. of Iowa) joins us to talk about her recent trip to Montgomery, AL for the opening of The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration. 

Dr. Tinnie served as Director of Protocol for the City of Miami from which she has retired and is Professor Emerita of English at Miami-Dade College.

She has also worked as a high school, college and university educator, journalist and volunteer activist for cultural arts.  Her studies undertaken include: Yale Univ. and The Univ. of Iowa which she says, nurture her post-doctoral research on race and legal coding [language is not innocent--"lynching"] in the literary text. 

In April of 2007, Dr. Tennie was co-chair of the Host Committee for the 70th Anniversary visit to Miami of the College Language Association, the premier organization of African American scholars of Languages and Literature. As an arts volunteer, she has applied for and received funding to organize an art and book expo and to direct several Pan African Bookfest and Cultural Conferences, events featuring artists, authors and books from Africa and the African Diaspora. I have also sat on the Boards of the African American Caribbean Cultural Arts Commission, Imani Um Nommo Writers Workshop, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, The Bakehouse Art Complex and the Florida Black Historical Research Project, Inc.

She has been married 36 years to Dinizulu Gene Tinnie, an artist and humanities professor who chairs the Board of the Virginia Key Beach Park Trust, an entity made up of citizens overseeing the Restoration of Miami’s former “Colored Only Beach.”  The couple has two daughters:  Antoinette Riley, in management with Home Depot in Boston, MA., is a graduate of Radcliffe (Harvard B,A.) and Simmons (MBA); and Michelle Riley, Chair of English Skills at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, is an alumna of  Yale Univ., FAMU (B.A.), and Barry Univ. (M.S.).


Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Wanda's Picks Radio Show, Wed., May 2, 2018

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. "Alleluia Panis and Jose Abad join us to talk about the dance media production 'Incarcerated 6x9'. The story is told through the lives of three Pilipino American inmates and their struggles to endure the American judicial system. The show premiers in San Francisco May 4-13, and involves community discussions after each performance." The venue is Bindlestiff Studio, 185 6th Street,

2. Stephen Vittoria joins us to talk about a new book he and Mumia Abu Jamal are rolling out in three segments, Murder Incorporated: Book 1: Dreaming of Empire. Join Stephen and Mumia Abu Jamal (by phone), Pam Africa, Emory Douglas, Ayana Davis, and others in a reading, Sunday, May 6, 7 p.m. at Oakstop, 17th and Broadway, in Oakland. Visit

3. Dr. Rachel Elahee and Toni Renee Battle, Ph.D. candidate join us to talk about the opening weekend at EJI's National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration in Montgomery, AL

Toni Renee Battle, Melinda Williams,
Deputy District Director, 7th District, Alabama,
Dr. Rachel Elahee with her daughter (10)
at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice
photo ©Wanda Sabir
This is the monument for the unnamed victims of terror killings. Toni's three familymembers are unnamed in the counties where the lynchings occurred, so this memorial is for them.

EJI's The Memorial for Peace and Justice; The Legacy Museum open in Montgomery, Alabama

Kwame Akoto-Bamfo's Nkyinkyim Installation
Slavery has indeed marked this nation. It's soot leaves a residue the best detergent cannot wipe away or wash out. Truth-- bitter, the missing ingredient is hard to swallow, let alone see, yet this is what The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and by extension The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration demands we face. It is not in your head or imagination that these atrocities to other people reside. No, when on the hill at the top of Caroline Street in Montgomery you enter the sanctuary and see West African artist, Kwame Akoto-Bamfo's Nkyinkyim Installation sculpture of captured Africans-- men and women and babies, juxtaposed with text along walls which remind one of a village thatch or clay, the steel like grey of the pavement or road covered in flint rocks along a curving grassy meadow.

We walk along the path towards these hanging planks oddly familiar. They are the size of tombstones, the kind that seal the grave-- keep the body from floating off (rising again). If the reference to burial sites and graveyards escapes visitors for the moment, when we emerge on the other side of the hill to the area where we see the tombs-- hundreds to be claimed by the townships where those persons listed once resided -- the reference is strikingly clear. 

If the idea is atonement and reconciliation, then so far, none of the townships have stepped forward to claim its citizens or as EJI put it "confronted the truth of its history." Not yet. To claim a monument is to admit your county, your town has unsolved murders and killers among its residents. The statue for murder does not go away, so why are black people advised to "get over it" whenever we want to mourn, remember and seek justice for the dead or fallen among us?  Why is it okay for Jews to pursue killers with the assistance of an international court, yet for these acts of terror against black Americans there is no legal resolve or public interest by those in national or international power?

When El Hajj Malik El Shabazz took the plight of the American black people to a national court at the UN, he was killed. The same is true for Martin King when he took the racial justice for black people conversation beyond this nation, he was killed.
The National Memorial designed by Michael Murphy, co-founder, executive director, MASS Design Group, begins the conversation on race America has never had, yet needs now more than ever as the numbers of incarcerated black men and women are greater than those enslaved, and the normalizing of such state acceptable.  #45 has given white men permission to once again resort to public lynchings. Black America is in a state of emergency.

"True peace is not just the absence of tension, but the presence of justice," Dr. King stated. Stevenson replies "we remember [w]ith hope, because hopelessness is the enemy of justice. With courage, because peace requires bravery. With persistence, because justice is a constant struggle [, and] [w]ith faith, because we shall overcome."

The Memorial for Peace and Justice's importance is rooted in its insistence on and highlighting of black power, the power to resist, reform and survive. There is really no stopping us.  Sankofa is alive on the hill amidst the sadness because we dare REMEMBER and as Hank's black men depicted in the sculpted piece continue to "Raise Up," as Dana King's three ladies (representing three generations) push forward an agenda in "Guided by Justice."

As Stevenson's text combined with Elizabeth Alexander's poem, Invocation, Maya Angelou's encouragement and Toni Morrison's wisdom guide our steps we walk the labyrinth that is both literal and figurative black life.  The gardens in front of the museum where people gathered to talk Sunday afternoon are along a path that invites meditation and reflection. I loved the wall made from bricks fashioned by black men who were at one point enslaved. Walls are really powerful symbols and we all remember the story of the three pigs and what happened when the wolf tried to blow down the last house.

Is this the finale to America as we've known it? I just reflect on Marian Wright Edelman's lockets with Sojourner Truth and Gen. Harriet Tubman's faces on them, as she spoke at one of the excellent plenaries at the two-day Peace and Justice Summit.  Facilitated by Michel Martin, with Gloria Steinem, I kept hoping she tell us about her choice in jewelry.

She did.  Truth and Tubman give Wright Edelman, champion for Freedom Schools and children's rights, strength to continue the work. She just thinks about these two women and she is encouraged and rejuvenated.

When we look at a monument and touch the unforgiving corten steel, it like structural racism and white supremacist ideals that shaped values which devalued blackness and its melaninated mankind-- we remember that ideas while fastened to structures which seem immobile and impenetrable, when the water hits it, it bleeds like the rest of us; it dissolves into the ether like other ideas no longer acceptable.

This is the challenge the Memorial asks, that the 800 monuments ask, that the more than 4,000 African American men, women and children lynched whose names are engraved on these bars of steel ask of us-- make some noise, it is time to end the silencing shame.

Black lives matter here. Black people deserve to feel safe. When we think about the largest internal migration out, that is, the Great Migration in the '30s-'40s ('60s) from the south anywhere else north, east, west, it was tangibly connected to the racial terror lynchings depicted here.

Still haunted, some families are not ready to break the silence-- this stoicism or unacknowledged terror is all that is keeping the pieces from shattering.  It is hard to function broken, but to live in terror is brokenness.  To break black spirit was the purpose of the lynching in the first place-- to terrorize not just the family, but the community. In this way we would bend to the dominate culture's will living down to their expectations.

The Memorial uplifts the names of those killed. . . lifts the bodies until we have to lean back to see the names and the counties where the victims resided. I hesitate to use the term "victim," because the reason why the men, women and children were killed points to something else-- these men and women and children were free people at a time when free black people were seen as a threat to the social fabric where whiteness was the warp and woof.  It is different in Alabama. The Confederacy lost the war, yet predicated on racial terror and violence  "We the People" did not and does not include blackness.  This writer was not invited to the press preview of the Legacy Museum or the Memorial for Peace and Justice, however, in the many articles published by the corporate press especially those papers in Montgomery, the fact that the week chosen to open Monday, April 23, the Confederate Memorial Day just illustrated the need for a monument to honor black people killed just because they were black.

The state holiday was one of the many ironies I noticed while in Montgomery. I kept thinking about crime scenes and how there were so many criminals with monuments or statues, street names and plazas. Though Bryan Stevenson's Equal Justice Institute's work has erected multiple historic markers highlighting slave warehouses and auction houses and places of note throughout the city to counter the dominate racist narrative, who's listening if the economics for Montgomery stay the same?

The historic hotel not far from EJI where Martin King would stay remains closed. All the money that came into Montgomery probably didn't touch black community, because I did not see any restaurants owned by us, nor was this highlighted in any material I was given to read. The hotels I saw were all chains I've seen here in the Bay Area. Maybe the shuttles were owned  by a black company. I don't know. I did see a lot of black people working, young black people working, but if the owners were black, I couldn't tell. Until we call those economic shots then the Memorial is not complete.

We honor and continue their work. Though many men were killed for supposedly having a relationship with a white woman, more often this was not true and if it was it was consensual not rape. However, the majority of the racialized terror was because black men stood their ground, were smarter than white men, had more money or better business sense. Men were also lynched when they refused to see themselves as subservient. They saw themselves as equal to white men (maybe superior) and willing to die for it. 

As I walked through the monuments calling names, I saw so many women's names. I knew black women were lynched but not the large numbers. I was surprised to see how many families were killed. Some lists looked like the terror was over a week, with multiple people lynched daily.
The stories these named and unnamed black people tell just by their presence in the memorials cause one's heart to stop in one's throat.  It is hard to witness. I can't imagine how it must have been for the child trying to remove his father's boots once his body was cut down. The child wanted to make sure his daddy made it into heaven.  He'd heard that you couldn't wear boots into heaven.

Similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings in South Africa, the steel monuments are a political statement that municipalities and its constituents can't ignore. One headline asked the question, "What next?" 

The Memorial invites conversation with strangers as one walks the sacred corridors where the bodies swing, lie in state.  Talk on Sunday afternoon was for reparations for the families of the deceased, that the families whose ancestors responsible for the killing pay restitution to the families harmed. We spoke about EJI setting up a fund for such donations for the families. It could be an education fund, a medical services funds, a housing fund . . . whatever the facilitated conversation between victim and perpetrator's ancestor. We also spoke about setting up a fund for indigent prisoners.

Not able to leave right away, many visitors gathered or sat at the entrance talking Sunday afternoon after our visit to discuss restorative justice practices and what facilitated conversations could look like. This would be an important next step, because most of the people walking through the Memorial were black people and white people from out of town. I met a woman who traveled all the way from Sidney, Australia. I met a lot of people from California. I would like to know what ordinary white Montgomery folks felt when they looked at the names of black people lynched in their counties.
I went to a lot of cemeteries this weekend-- from Africatown, The National Memorial for Peace and Justice and then to Tuskegee to pay homage to Mr. Booker T. Washington and to Dr. George Washington Carver. We passed by the cemetery across from The First Baptist Church (also known as the Brick-A-Day Church) on North Ripley Street. Rev. Ralph Abernathy pastored there (1952-1961). It was one of the largest churches in the south. We also passed by the pastor's home and Nat King Cole's home too.

The River Front reminds me of the River Walk in New Orleans where the Maafa Commemoration takes place-- this year is NOLA 150th Anniversary; however, the quietude which permeates Montgomery and even Selma is disturbing.

It is a false peace.
If all these bodies can be aesthetically exhumed, then what else is there to uncover? As Stevenson says slavery did not go away, it just transformed, adapted to new circumstances. This is the city where only enslaved black people were allowed. If a black person were freed, he or she had to leave town , otherwise the papers would be null and void. There is even a Confederate White House where school kids are taken on field trips. A black woman is one of the tour guides. I wonder what she tells them . . .  as I think about a more substantive use of the children's time. What happened at the South Carolina Statehouse three years ago is not happening in Alabama, where Gov. Kay Ivey passed a law May last year, which makes it impossible to removed a monument, rename a building or street which has been on public property for more than 40 years. "That includes most, if not all, Confederate monuments in the state" (J. Kaleem).

This means that the criminals will grace this landscape in perpetuity. '" The law defined schools, buildings and streets as “memorial” if they are “erected for, or named or dedicated in honor of, an event, a person, a group, a moment, or military service. She says to critics 'all generations learn not only from our heroes and our greatest achievements, but [she does this] to ensure we learn from our mistakes and our darkest hours'" (Kaleem).

This is easy to say when one is not harmed by a system that perpetuates not darkness rather whiteness.
The work of EJI continues with its National Monument to Peace and Justice and in its Legacy Museum. The stories we hear as we enter the slave chamber where holographic spirits tell us their haunting stories, stories not for the faint of heart. These stories are only amplified when we listen to the stories of modern slaves, many still alive, escapees present in the form and shape of our very own Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, and Hamdiya Cook, Chief Operating Officer, LSPWC, who with other returning citizens, give testament just by their presence to the value of such a museum, such a monument, such a place founded by a man, Bryan Stevenson who put the two together -- mass incarceration and slavery visually for all with eyes to witness and act.

Of course, the concept -- "The New Jim Crow," even before Michelle Alexander, is not uniquely Stevenson's but these monuments to lives brutally snatched from families in racially motivated terror killings is a soothing balm.  The antidote began years ago when volunteers and family members of ancestors lynched began collecting soil from the place where the crime took place. Recognition that even the earth needed healing.

Between sessions at the two day Summit, April 26-27, we watched footage of these treks to public spaces where killings took place. Often, the soil collected in large mason jars might be the only tangible part left of the person killed. Spectators mutilated, chopped up, burned . . .carried off pieces of mangled bodies as souvenirs.
At the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, there is an altar with dirt from multiple places inside a glass monument. Someone placed white roses on the top of it. The altar or "soil monument" sits across from the water running down a wall. Here visitors are "invited to remember the thousands of victims of lynching whose names will never be known.  So much of the Memorial is metaphor, a shifting metaphor . . . the Middle Passage . . . the Atlantic Slave Trade. . . the Mississippi River.

Nuecheer Franklin, Visitors from Prichard, Alabama

The National Monument for Peace and Justice
All photos copyright Wanda Sabir
The Legacy Museum in Montgomery, just like the prison cells and references to solitary confinement at, The National Museum for African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, does not include a place for action-steps or networking with organizations-- which it should, both nationally and locally. Fliers and postcards should be available as well as information about local or regional organizations like Pastor Kenneth Glasglow's Defense Committee is hosting Stop the "Legal Lynching" in 21st Century Alabama, May 9, 5 p.m. ET.   It will be a national call. Visit or He is the founder of The Ordinary People's Society (TOPS). Rev. Glasgow's freedom is threatened.

Other organizations are: All of Us or None and the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People and Family's Movement.  I was surprised when I was in DC for the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights  march, no literature there about the huge action that weekend. But the Legacy Museum just opened so I am sure in the future such can and will probably happen.
I have to confess, after visiting The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, I couldn't settle into a place where I could experience the Legacy Museum. I didn't want to read all the materials and I certainly did not want to write down all the information. I'd hoped the catalog would have had information about what the museum contained, but it didn't. For anyone familiar with what EJI does, you have already read the information in other places which is what I liked about the Memorial and Legacy. If you missed a point in one place, it was repeated in the other. The connections are intentional and visceral from the jars of dirt to the red bricks made by enslaved craftsmen to the black bodies crucified then (1877 to 1950) and now.  I did enjoy the art work: paintings and sculpture of Elizabeth Catlett and others.
Wanda Sabir, Mrs. Qwen Carr, (Eric Gardner's mother,
Candice Francis, ACLU, N.Cal; Jimmie C. Gardner, Exoneree.
I met Jimmie at the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March
last year. He spoke.

Black men at Starbucks, black woman at Waffle House? Remember Denny's? Slavery continues. Lynching continues, but not for long.
  The Memorial is a way to collectively validate the worthiness of these lives -- the 4000+ listed here on monuments, named and unnamed.  It is also a wake-up call to white America and to others who would strip from black Americans their human rights that we will not stand for it any longer.

The Legacy Museum: From Slavery to Mass Incarceration is open daily (8-9), the Memorial (8 until dusk or 5 p.m.)