Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Robert Henry Johnson, Presente!

 Just learned that Robert Henry Johnson, artist extraordinaire is with the ancestors. We wanted to acknowledge his wonderful presence with an interview from Wanda's Picks Radio, October 7, 2011 on the topic: Maafa Commemoration. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

"A Particular Memory" by Wanda Sabir

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

25 Years in Higher Education

Twenty-five years in Peralta

A Journey

I was so excited to be full-time faculty I said yes to all requests. I thought this is what teamwork looked like until I needed the team to support me.

I said yes to teaching canceled classes at the last moment in the summer. I even said yes to buying books without reimbursement.

I said yes to working in the summer while on vacation. I said yes, even though no was an option.

No one explained my options to me or what my contract entailed. Tenure trek just meant harassment. I have never received a compliment in 25 years from an administrator. All evaluations have been what I am doing wrong, yet when I request staff development funds to attend a training, the answer, yes, was no.

I grew silent. The eager professor who volunteered for everything started keeping her public and private persona separate.

No one wanted to know her.

Hired for one position and then evicted from her offices and position one summer, COA was never the same again.

For a year or two I office surfed between my car and trunk and the student lounge.

I shared an office briefly with a colleague who had no space for guests.

Eventually a retiree relinquished her office and I had a space.

Since Covid and illness, I have not seen my new office and since I am retiring, I am not sure I ever will.

I remember fondly the days when Kelly Purnell and I were a part of a learning community, the first at COA. We had a lot of fun over the course of 4 semesters.

I'd matriculated at Holy Names College through learning communities and I am a fan of this kind of pedagogy for first year students and students who need more connection.

I taught in Puente the first year tenure. I was also faculty rep for PAAA.

As PAAA rep we had Gatherings at Sherrone's house. We chartered a bus and went to Allensworth.

We coordinated Black History events in collaboration with Professor Carlotta Cambell, Speech Communications and Robert Brem, Mustafa Siddiqi, History and the English departments.

We had a faculty talent show. We also had end of the year COA dinner parties with live music.

At the end of my classes we'd have presentations in the F-building. One year my Critical Thinking class got newspaper coverage.

The mayor and City Manager came. I had really sharp students.

The topics were homelessness, food deserts. . .

In English 201 we wrote and performed skits on topics ranging from hip hop cultural icons like Tupac to scenes from The Color Purple.

Students wrote essays on social entrepreneurs we went to plays. In one class we watch a film about Shakespeare behind bars and read the work.

When Tookie Williams was on death row we read his autobiography and children's book.

We did a survey of women in hip hop, Tupac and his mom plus selections from his musical Canon and collection The Rose that Grew from concrete.

We read about nonviolent protest in Liberia led by women. We watched films connected to literature.

Often I structured courses around productions. When the Color Purple was being produced we read it and went to the theatre.

When there was an exhibit on Gordon Parks at BAMPFA we read one of his books.

We went to see a Baldwin film and read The Fire Next Time. There was a companion film connected to Hunter's Point when Baldwin came here and the youth he met. We watched that film and juxtaposed the events of that time to now.

What if anything has changed?

There was a lecture at City College of SF and we hopped on BART and went. The professor is a scholar on this period so it was engaging to learn about this period and what happened when SFPD killed a young unarmed Black man.

Reagan, then governor threatened to send in the National Guard. He said he was not going to tolerate another Watts. My mother said the government opened up the Shipyard for jobs. This is where she learned to program computers, fix tgem, and do keypunch.

On another trip to SF we saw John Hope Franklin, we hopped in our cars and went to an author event at Black Oak Books. We jumped on BART to hear Dr. Dyson at MoAD. We went to AAACC to see the Medea Project Theatre for Incarcerated Women perform My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. We had dinner at a restaurant afterward or before, I forget. I'd get free or discounted tickets.

When I see students working in Alameda or shopping locally we stop and chat. They tell me about some of their favorite assignments.

One of my favorite assignments was the trial of Bigger Thomas.

When Oakland selected Ernest Gaines's "A Lesson Before Dying," as "The Big Read," I assigned the book and gave students extra credit to attend any of the series of events at OPL, Laney College, CSEB.

In the hip hop culture survey we looked at Refa Ones art and visited Joyce Gordon Gallery where the artist gave us a private tour and talked about art and politics. He'd attended the Oakland Community School. His dad was a Black Panther.

More recently he painted the Oscar Grant mural in Fruitvale.

In Freshman Comp for many years we read a book called the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I'd attended an author event and thought Happiness would be a fun topic to center a course around.

(Women Hold Up) Half the Sky was another project theme I used in the Spring Semester.

Students had to profile a woman who was changing the world for the better. She had to be alive and living in the Bay Area.

We wrote about misogyny in hip hop. I think that was our midterm. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson was our go to. Our station was Hard Knock Radio on KPFA.

When I taught at Laney we read Youth Outlook and the Beat Within, a magazine that featured work from incarcerated youth.

All the writers and editors were 25 or younger and they were paid. My daughter was a photographer for YO from high school through college and after that. She was young.

One of the issues I will never forget were poems and letters home for Valentines Day. The topic was love.

We also wrote about love and the science around broken hearts.

We had so much fun as a learning community. The text was Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. Our science professor looked at brain transplant. Was it possible?

Students were able to see a real brain 🧠 and heart.

I taught a research unit in the biology class because all classes had to write an essay.

For the counseling psychology class they went to Glide and fed people on Thanksgiving one year.

We spent the weekend in SF and went bowling and dancing with Danny our dance teacher. It was so much fun.

What I loved the most was sitting around after hours problem solving together. How or what can we do as an institution to facilitate a student's success?

Everyone didn't complete the classes, but most of our cohort did.

Another semester we adopted Jurassic Park. That was cool, specifically the math involved. I learned as much as the students as I saw how my colleagues integrated the learning so that the thematic language flowed between disciplines.

I think one of the important outcomes was how academic work is not separate from our day to day lives or interests. Math is a language just like English and dance and biology.

These were my happiest years.

I hardly ever taught English 1B, but when I did it was pretty amazing.

One semester Jovelyn Richards taught us how to write a scene and perform it.

Another time tongo eisen martin came and taught a class on politics of writing.

Michael Socrates Moran, co-founder and Artistic director of OTP came to the class to talk about the hero's journey.

Charles Blackwell would visit each semester to talk about poetry and Black esthetic. He is also a painter. One year I had a performance at the Beat Museum in SF and a few students came. That was the semester I was kicked out of graduate school.

One year, when I was still adjunct Elsie Washington substituted for me. A NY writer, she is credited with writing the first published AA romance novel. She moved to Oakland to be with her sweetie, Kamau Seitu. They are both ancestors now.

I hosted poetry reading on the student center. One was after Bush was reelected. It was poetry for peace.

I hosted a forum with formerly incarcerated women, students and staff.

I participated in Constitution Day with Robert Brem, History faculty.

I had so many ideas that were squashed like an African American learning community, international travel in the African Diaspora, plus so many opportunities to collaborate on engaged literacies.

When I taught at Laney I was off campus at United Indian Nations when we collaborated with artists and educators like Dr. Brightman and Sherman Alexis and ?

These men and women came to our class and talked about being indigenous.

We went to the sunrise ceremony on Alcatraz Island many times. We read a poetry collection by an Indigenous author.

Diversity?

No, more hidden legacies. Whose voices are absent from the discourse?

Let's explore them. Who is missing from the chair next to you? Let's explore that geography.

This is the role of education. Noting 📝 noticing snd making room for the silenced to speak.

Listening is an art the dominant culture needs to practice.

The noisy soundtrack is the reason why nothing changes

No one can hear. The static is almost unbearable.

It took this single parent who spent a semester on her older daughter's couch when she was evicted, ten years to get a full time job. I taught at Chabot, Contra Costa and Laney and Vista for ten years.

I think I had three interviews with presidents. One told me he couldn't hire two Black women, so he hired one Black woman and a white man.

I saw two single men hired one Black the other white.

I saw a married couple hired at the same time.

By the time my final interview rolled around and Dr. Cervantes offered me the position, I thought it was an April Fool's joke on me.

So you see why I jumped into the pool with boots on and the life jacket on the shore.

I hosted Reginald Lockett during National Poetry Month at the Library.

Include photos and writing from students.

Photos of me too.

Go to the college and get the portfolios.

Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Wanda's Picks Radio Show: From the Archives features "The Unexamined Letters of Langston Hughes to His Mother"

Wanda's Picks Radio Show March 19, 2004

Guests
1. Dr. Carmaletta M. Williams
, Professor of English and African American studies at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan., author of Langston Hughes in the Classroom: “Do Nothin’ till You Hear from Me” and Of Two Spirits: American Indian and African American Oral Histories and 

Dr. John Edgar Tidwell, professor of English at the University of Kansas and author of Montage of a Dream: The Art and Life of Langston Hughes; After Winter: The Art and Life of Sterling A. Brown, and Writings of Frank Marshall Davis: A Voice of the Black Press, join us to talk about My Dear Boy, Carrie Hughes's Letters to Langston Hughes 1926-1938 

http://news.ku.edu/2014/02/24/project-examines-how-letters-langston-hughes-mother-influenced-his-writings.

2. We close the show with frequent guest Raissa Simpson, choreographer, master teacher and Artistic Director of PUSH Dance Company's premiere of "Point Shipyard," March 29-30, 2014 at MoAD-SF. She is joined by collaborators and performers: Katie Wong and Adriann Ramirez www.pushdance.org

Music: Dwight Tribble's "I've Known Rivers" (based on Langston Hughes's poem by same title); soundscape from PUSH Dance Company's collaboration with the 3rd Street Youth Center & Clinic.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

An Interview with Dawn Monique Williams, director of Dominique Morisseau's "Paradise Blue" @the Aurora Theatre

                           https://auroratheatre.org/paradiseblue




To listen to the interview click the title or join here Wanda's Picks Radio Show

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

2022: A Year in Review

Author and Mother

Where do I start? Well the beginning is a good place. It has been a busy year, full of growth and loss and betterment, always hope for the betterment. 

I have learned a lot about myself this year--lots. I guess self is the enigma and the prize. As long was we stay connected to self, we are never alone or lonely. There is always more than enough to amuse and confuse (smile). 

I took a Mindful Self Compassion Course in January-February. It was so helpful. I also continued my classes and workshop series at the SF Jungian Institute-- Deep River Poetry and Jung for Everyday Life. After the MSC, I participated in an affinity practice group that met on Tuesday evenings on Zoom. Later in mid-August, I started attending Al-Anon again and started my foray into Codependency Anonymous. I was in crisis so I started attending meetings daily multiple times for the first few months. I now attend meetings a few times a week and participate in a smaller CoDA group called the Power of 5 (30 Questions).

I found a group in Al-Anon that is for Black folks and two others with majority Black folks. A friend of mine attended a couple times and we talk about our family of origin issues that affect our relationships as parents and intimate partners. It has been enlightening. 

I attend lots of groups through InsightLA and enjoyed a series called Heart Medicine. I also attended Afrikan Wisdom on last Sundays at InsightLA and Alex's Mindful Tribe on Fridays. I stopped attending Alex's group which is a part of the Mindful-based Stress Reduction course, when I started attending CoDA meetings on Fridays. The times overlap. 

I attended two mini-conferences through CoDA this year too, the first one in September when I started going to meetings was really helpful. The second one was hybrid a couple months later. I like Al-Anon better than CoDA, but its growing on me. I really like the Al-Anon literature, specifically the daily readers. I have a really extensive library now and a few of my core meetings are with women who have a lot of recovery-- I hear my story and feel encouraged by their successes and coping strategies. They might fall down but the way down with tools is more like a stumble than a fall and a person's ability to recover (I've noticed) is faster than pre-Al-Anon. 

I really like the meeting closing which says to "take what you like and leave the rest." This journey is specific as is our relationship with our Higher Power (HP). I like that too. I am not in competition with anyone else. My recovery is my recovery. When I am well and share my presence and story or just witness another's healing, it rubs off. The healing is like a blanket we all share. When someone else feels HP's warmth or compassion, if I am present, I feel it too. 

There is a blessing in the company we keep, especially when we are all practicing betterment.


Wombfulness Gatherings


March 2022 marked the end of the first Wombfulness Gatherings cycle and we collaborated with Shawna Sherman, head librarian, at the SF Main Library, African American Center. It was amazing. I had an intern from Howard University, Mylan, oh my goodness. She was fantastic and crafted a social media campaign that brought in so much community. Here is a link to the blog and recorded program with featured Black women across the diaspora: Jamaica, Africa, Berkeley, Oakland, LA, Hawaii. 

We're going to have another kick-off during International Women's History Month 2023. This year's theme is finding "truth"--articulating a soul-journey or rite of passage. The target age is 55+-65+ We will continue the Gaia Talks too for which there is no age limit.  


                                    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiYHjUGG1hc&t=7s)


Teaching

I taught a class this Spring at Allen Temple Leadership Institute,
a Critical Thinking class I have been teaching in the Spring for the past couple years. This year was a challenge, as I hadn't taught for a year and I was nervous. We studied Mrs. Jarena Lee, the first woman pastor in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (Bishop Richard Allen's church). Her evangelism took place during a time when slavery was legal and a woman could not work unless she was widowed. So these single Black women preachers wrote narratives of their lives and used the sales to support their ministries and their families. Often these women were single mothers too, husbands deceased. 

Jarena Lee was a contemporary of Sojourner Truth, who was younger. Truth's Narrative is a bit better known, but Lee's is equally provocative. I learned of Rev. Lee, A Religious Experience and Journal, from the 19th Century Black Women Writer's series edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in collaboration with the Schomburg Library. Rev. Lee's book is available in Creative Commons as its copyright is over 100 years old. 

We looked at the role of Black women in the church. Allen Temple has a female pastor, the first in its history, so the topic certainly had prescience. I always love this class because the students are often my elders and know so much and are so passionate about their chosen field. For a minute I thought it would be an all women class and then at the cut off date, a male joined us. He fit in well. 

I noticed how tired I was just before class and wondered how I had ever taught 4-5 classes each semester for 25 years online or in person. 

Employment
On that note, I am back at the college, so I cannot teach my favorite class in the Spring, because that would make 4 classes and I can't teach that many classes anymore. I am teaching two freshman comp classes and one composition and literature class.

Fall semester went okay. I taught three freshman comp classes, two 18 weeks and 1 ten weeks. I am teaching a reduced load.  The theme was "greatness" and we read Muhammad Ali's book, The Greatest: My Own Story (1975) co-written with Richard Durham. It was an amazing class. Students completed the course with online multimedia presentations to compliment their research essays about a person who exemplified greatness. The people profiled were both provocative and controversial.

I don't have a theme for Spring Semester-- unless its "retirement" (smile). My goal is to pass 55-75 percent of the class. Attrition is high for first year students in online core courses like English 1A. When the course is accelerated to 8 and 10 weeks as mine are, the completion rate drops even further. I asked the Vice President of Instruction recently why the college offers these courses online and accelerated when students often fail. He said to bring this concern up in the next department meeting. 

WCRC in Berkeley

The Women's Cancer Resource Center has been another wonderful resource on my healing journey. I have taken so many wonderful art classes and meditation classes and writing classes. I am really enjoying Tomye's watercolor pencil and acrylic painting classes. Next year she will be teaching another painting class. My classmates are really good. I am new to painting. I am more a photographer and illustrator which explains why I feel more comfortable with the watercolor pencils. 

Also, since I had to return to work this fall, I have had less thought time to have fun. Again, I am looking forward to being free again at the end of Spring 2023 for the rest of my life.  

As a way to show my gratitude, I hosted a "Bring Your Own Jam" (BYOJ) on Friday, Dec. 30. It was a virtual event. Friends from Oakland, Eureka and Montgomery shared highlights from 2022 and plans for 2023. I played songs requested and danced. It was fun. One friend just made 82 earlier December and my other friend shares my father's birthday. She is in her 70s and I am in my 60s. Coolness. We are all survivors of illnesses that could have taken us out, but obviously that was not the plan. I am happy about that. I'd like several more decades to have fun now that the "work" is done-- publish, dance around the planet, make beauty.

The Art of the African Diaspora

I continue to rustle up work for the Art of the African Diaspora exhibit at the Richmond Art Center. I really enjoyed this year's work. It looks really good. I didn't sell my portrait this year or last year, which is disappointing. I submitted a photo from Elmina Dungeon in Ghana and last year was a photo of Brother Muhammad, a elder, expatriate in Ghana. He is an ancestor now. 

This year I was thinking of submitting a landscape from the Grand Canyon, but ended up submitting work from my Sunsets at the Beach series. (I missed the art drop-off deadline, so I will not have a submission this coming year). 

Ancestor Retreat

Another high point this spring was the Ancestor Retreat I participated in in April. Deep Time Liberation was recommended by Iya Arisika Razak in preparation for my Souljourning for Truth, a trip I was taking across the country to Sojourner Truth's homeland, Ulster County, New York. 

I'd started doing research on these phenomenal women 19th Century African American women, a year earlier as I healed from surgery and got back on my feet.  Most, if not all were from the East Coast and free women of color. I learned about contemporaries of Sojourner Truth and her predecessors. 

People were not masking as much and businesses were opening to indoor commerce. However, I was and continue to distance. My illness left me immunocompromised and I mask and avoid crowds. 
Not much has changed for me in that aspect; however, Deep Time Liberation was online, so I was able to participate. 

I mapped out the journey to New York via car. The plan was to drive across the country stopping at National Parks along the way. After a consultation with an agent at AAA, I realized that between the gas and hotel costs, not to mention car rental, I would not be able to afford this as the fundraising efforts peaked at $2000.00 and stayed put. I needed a lot more money than that. 


I didn't give up hope and decided to take Amtrak. Got a roundtrip ticket ticket for $500 and after an introduction to Iya Jo, was invited to stay at her house for a month. There went the need for a hotel in New York. Yeah!

Iya Jo met me when she lived in the Bay and recalled our meeting during the Maafa Hurricane Katrina activities in 2005, raising funds and awareness here. We curated many activities: fundraisers, an anthology, political activism for resources for Katrina survivors who now lived in the Bay. Iya Jo and Baba Daniel welcomed me into their home like family. 

We are all connected, right?

Her home is a temple, candles and prayers and altars. Libations are her way too, the ancestors walked this road before me. 

In the photo below, I make a collage with photos from Ulster county and Battle Creek. I add a bit of Mars sand to the image-- it looks like waves but that's not water, it is sand. I wanted to draw attention to the Sojourner Rover's 25th anniversary year. "It was launched Dec. 4, 1996, aboard a Delta II boaster. It reached Mars on July 4, 1997. 

The Sojourner explored Mars and sent back images and analysis of rocks and surface materials to scientists here for research. "It operated in Ares Vallis channel in the Chryse Planitia of the Oxia Palus quadrangle, from July 5 to Sept. 27, 1997, when the lander cut off communications with Earth" (wikipedia). The dates' historic significance is uncanny. July 4, 1827 was the year New York State planned a gradual emancipation of enslaved Africans. This was the contention between Truth and Dumont. He told her that if she completed her work earlier, he would free her a year earlier and then did not. This is why she walked away to freedom October 1826. September is also the month Iya Truth made her final ascension. 

Truth learned to love the heavens from her mother who told her that's where her siblings lived. Truth said don't weep for her, that she was going home "like a shooting star." 


My Grandmother Josephine was already there, in New York-- ancestors are like the air-- everywhere all at once. Turn and the hug envelops.  

Taking a year off was a good choice. I needed all my energies to heal completely.  I have a coach, who helped me envision this souljourney-- the journey inside and the one on the ground. My body was still grieving its loss . . . it still feels the absence. I don't think any-body expects to lose some of itself on the road, but I had a diseased organ and it needed to be removed. I made a complete physical recovery and both my check-ups have been excellent. 

My Go-fund-me folks were lovely too and remain friends. I wrote a booklet about my Souljourney for Truth which was magical. There is also a 35 minute film.  When I arrived in Poughkeepsie May 23, I immediately started looking for Sojourner Truth's Freedom Trail. I really wanted a map-- I was not getting any hits on Google Maps. I immediately became familiar with the local and county bus line and rain and shine I was on it traveling to Esopus and New Paltz and Kingston looking for those illusive directions to that 11 miles walk Truth took to freedom in October 1826.  

I met people who'd been at the opening of the curated trail, February 2021, but no longer could put their hands on the map. I spoke to elders and met many wonderful people. None were available for a sunrise jaunt June 1, Truth's freedom birthday, the day I'd chosen to walk. June 1st is the date she changed her name to Sojourner Truth. 

I asked around and Rome Neal suggested Kevin W. Thorbourne, who showed up with a second camera-- his brother, Glenn. They picked me up in Poughkeepsie and we drove to the general area the map on-line designated. We had some cross streets, historic and natural landmarks, the area is also known for a reserve named for a famous naturalist and writer, John Burroughs. We passed it, backtracked and drove onto the site hoping for assistance.   

There was no signage, no entrance to the park.  We drove around, backtracked, stopped started over.  It was an exciting and frustrating adventure.  We leaned into the excitement. I walked several paths in the vicinity until we kind of dead ended on this road and decided to walk it to see where it went. 

I walked along a few yards and looked down and there was Truth looking up at me. We were ecstatic. Though I'd watched the Truth Walk trail dedication online, I didn't remember how many narrative plaques there were.  All of a sudden, I looked up there were Truth button shaped signs on the trees just above my head. 

I am short. 

It wasn't a road without peril, up and down and through tall grasses and flying insects. I had a walking stick and I certainly needed it. I wasn't 29 and I wondered even at 29 how Truth walked and carried her baby too? She was a determined Black wom(b)an, so was I. 

I slipped and caught myself a couple times, but carried on. It wasn't going to be all 11 miles, so the loop was not strenuous, but the symbolic gesture -- the walk, was satisfying. I felt really happy to be there that overcast day overlooking the Hudson River thinking about Truth and Freedom. 

I remember 29 too. I was separated from my husband and responsible for two girls. I'd never lived alone before with dependents. It was certainly an uphill journey as I adapted and learned on the job how to care for my daughters while instilling independence and skillsets (like carpentry and auto mechanics) so they would be more equipped as grown people than I was when I had them. 

I think they are great women and great citizens, model mothers too. 

Back to Truth. 


The walk was a highlight of the trip, but if things could get better, they certainly did. Kevin shot mini videos, really cute and as we stood by his car after the walk looking at the footage when these ladies asked what the occasion was-- I was in a white dress and copper crown with a staff-- cars had stopped and looked on our earlier treks up quiet roads nearby. 

Honk if you believe in "freedom," we wanted to say and folks nodded, slowed down or waved, anyway. 



Back in Poughkeepsie

I am on the Walkway Across the Hudson (selfie). I rode Iya Jo's bike when in town. It was raining a lot and I didn't want to ride it to New Paltz, but I rode it to events in Highland on the Walkway. 

Here is the official Souljourning for Truth film (June 1, 2022, Ulster County, NY), directed by Ms. Wanda Sabir, filmed by Kevin Thorbourne. 


Back to June 1 Freedom Walk

So Kevin and I are looking at the footage. We are really pleased and two women in the parking area ask us if they can ask us a question. We say yes. 

One of the women was a graduate of SUNY New Paltz and she was so proud of the Sojourner Truth Library and mural inside. She insisted I visit. I'd already been in touch with Morgan Gwenwald, Special Collections Librarian, there and had an invitation to drop by. That was a fun visit, once I made it. I had to rent a car and returned just a day before I left for Michigan. 

After we posed for photos and I gave the women one of my Souljourning for Truth buttons, we walked down the now familiar road and saw the Truth Freedom Walk sign. It was literally right there by a fenced open field and highway. 

As we stood there taking more photos a bicyclist rode by with questions and we learned that he was from Amsterdam. Yep. Truth had sent him by. A native Dutch speaker, he had to help us document this moment. I gave him a button and later he wound up at a church I'd been trying to get too, but was too tired to drive there. 

I didn't want to push myself, because I had to stay well. I heard about his visit because the pastor, Rev. Zuill and I had been speaking since introduced by the curator at the Esopus Museum. Her son and I share the same birthday. I'd seen Rev. Deborah Zuill online in the dedication ceremonies and then again at the Dutch Reform Church in Kingston. The sexton shared a video with me from her computer. Besides keeping the grounds up, the sexton is also a fine artist who likes painting formerly enslaved Africans from their narratives. Her work is all over the church on the second floor hallway and meeting rooms. 

On Juneteenth weekend I went to a concert there. I also attended the Pinkster Sunday church service there early June, the weekend after my historic walk (smile). 


My first excursion was right after my arrival. Esi Lewis, professor at SUNY New Paltz and head of a nonprofit dedicated to her mom's memory, Dr. Margaret Wade-Lewis Black History Research and Cultural Center at Ann Oliver House in New Paltz. Her mom founded (or was one of the founders of) the Black Studies Dept. at SUNY New Paltz. Esi is also an attorney. She and others coordinated the New Paltz Juneteenth the year I visited (2022) at a historic community cemetery where Black Civil War Veterans are buried, along with freed Black people. Historic Huguenot was the location of the second part of the commemoration; however, I had to leave for Kingston. 

I had a chance to finally meet Susan Sessin, Town Historian, whose car I followed until she lost me. We'd spoken on the phone and via email before I arrived.  Loved the opportunity to connect with folks like this during my monthlong visit. At the Kingston City Government offices we met with the guests on the Ulster County Juneteenth Truth Tour. There I finally got to meet Truth's 6th Great Granddaughters, Barbara and Kimberly. 

Earlier that week, Wednesday, I'd met quite a few of the guests at the special hearing in the court where Truth sued the State of New York for the return of her son, Peter, sold south which was against the law. The legal documents filed had been lost until a year ago. For one day, the public was invited to see the documents and hear jurists talk about Truth's impact on the legal system and on their lives. 

Amazing that a government that legally enslaved human beings, ruled in favor of this Black mother's right to her son. The kidnapper was ordered to return the child to his rightful heir, his mother.

It was an amazing moment. 

Kingston and by extension the entire area is like a country town. Vast and white, yet friendly. I really enjoyed my souljourn. In Poughkeepsie I saw a jail in the middle of a neighborhood. I didn't see a lot of Black folks, but I saw want . . . by no means did I think, all was well for everyone, but there was wealth in Ulster county and there is wealth in Empire State where the roads I traversed on foot and bike and by road revealed plenty-- a stratified plenty. 









When I drove to Northampton, MA, there was open roads and a long drive from Poughkeepsie. My rental had a flat or low pressure tire and so between car trouble and thinking I was lost a 4 hour drive took all day. I really wanted to return, but I didn't have an extra day. The David Ruggles Center was such a delight and the walking or driving tour was equally delightful given the living history and again Truth's huge footprints I was mapping. 

It was amazing to see yet another monument, set in a park. This made three, the one at the Walk Way Across the Hudson and the monument to Truth as a child. I didn't mention that Esi Lewis and her friend drove me there and to Jugs Tavern, where Truth was enslaved before Dumont, her final owner purchased her. 

The idea of a person being owned feels strange, yet in Ulster County following the Truth Trail it is a reality that resonates in one's bones. I can still feel it in my body as I recall the scars on the back of the child Isabella at Port Ewen where the child sculpture is placed. 

Afterward, Esi Lewis dropped me at the opening of one of the many Empire trails and told me to walk straight which I did. I was about two hours from the other statue, dedicated on International Women's Day this year. How fitting right? That this Black mother, suffragist and abolitionist would model female agency in Ulster County. 

After I admired the statue, I still have another hour's walk ahead. I think I made it back to Iya Jo's house just before dark. 

You only live once right? Correct, so live your life. Don't put it off for anyone. 

Truth owned property and spoke about how owning property and reading really didn't guarantee you'd make a good choice at the ballot box. It just made it more likely the villains would continue to control outcomes. 







I'd wanted to see the Cascade Mountains, so that's what we did for my birthday (also in June) after I returned from visiting Truth's Freedom Trail. I'd planned to walk it again that day, but there were too many scary bugs and the grasses were really tall. I turned around. The Cascade Mountains are old. One doesn't think about mountains as aging. Like people they shrink in statue and grow dense. One could feel their depth. I wonder what it felt like to walk along a trail. I will have to climb the Cascades next time. 

I did return to the Sojourner Truth library, went shopping in a mall and bought some healthy goodies at the grocery store and health food store. I was on my way to Michigan by way of Chicago again. (The train route is circuitous.) The next morning we put my considerable items in the suitcase and one of Iya Jo's and headed to Amtrak. I had way too much to carry. I am going to have to learn to pack lightly. I haven't mastered this yet. 

In Chicago I met with my friend Zoe. That was a fun visit, until I lost my suitcase. Zoe found it and I got it on my way back home. (Yes, the train went back to Chicago from Battle Creek, MI to head to Oakland.)













We stopped off in Pittsburgh where I got to August Wilson's home, now theatre complex. The famous Hill District. I might have visited there on my way to Detroit after leaving Chicago-- I forget. There were stops at every little town across the country. We must have stopped 50 times going and coming. It was a lot. The train arrived in Pittsburgh six hours late. We were supposed to arrive in the daytime, but it was dark. I still hired a car and spent too much money visiting the hallowed stomping grounds of our beloved Race Man, August Wilson. 

I am so happy I splurged and stayed in Battle Creek a few days to unwind. Sitting up for 4 days is hard. I did get a massage for the road and got one when I arrived in Poughkeepsie. The sister had magical hands. 

I was having trouble walking when I boarded the train for Poughkeepsie. Packing too much also means you have to carry too much, even as a senior with accommodations. 

Washington DC


I took the train to Washington to see the Truth bust at the State Building; however, the revelation was the Independence Monument completed by an enslaved Black man. That was amazing and not a part of the official tour. If you don't know your history, the guide is certainly not going to share it, but we had a good one. He even told us about the enslaved Africans' thumb prints and other finger signatures along the columns. 

Reminds me of the cherubim in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, where the African artisans, made the angels different some with mocking faces and bodies to leave their presence in the holy spaces. 
  
While there I participated in the ADASSI Ancestor Libations and Prayers for African Ancestors at the Anacostia River. I got to cross the new Frederick Douglass Bridge too and visit the Carter G. Woodson Park and home. 

When I pulled into the station in Emeryville, I counted the days. I'd been on the rode 40 days and 39 nights. It was Moses' rode trip or Muhammad's with a pink suitcase-- the references felt holy, not that I needed such validation. It was holy because I'd asked for guidance and Truth showed up and she still guides me. At the cemetery in Battle Creek, Barbara Allen introduced me. 

Yep, I am official. 

Presentation to Supporters

I waited to the very last moment to create my presentation for my Souljourning for Truth sponsors, Sunday, Oct. 30.  We don't know what day she walked to freedom, just that it was in October in 1826. I have a booklet (20 pages which tells the story of my journey. They will be available for purchase soon. I also have a purse with an original design and buttons I shared along my Souljourning for Truth, which are now for sale. Again, stay posted, I need to find vendor(s) to support these two products. These items were a part of an art exhibit, "A Brave and Startling Truth: Women Scribe the World," Nov. 2-Dec. 4 curated by Stephanie Russell in Poughkeepsie, NY.

I had enormous design help from Tyrice Brown, an artist, poet, teacher in South Carolina. She was fast and efficient. I looked very good. My son-in-law helped me finalize a few items and insert video and practice as he juggled three children two babies that Sunday morning. I dashed home afterward with moments to spare. It went well, but definitely was a "had to be there production" (smile). I will create the slide presentation again for the public. It will one of the features on my YouTube channel @wandaspicks

Later this year, in November, we honored Truth


Honoring Sojourner Truth on her Ascension Day, Saturday, November 26. My friend, Kheven gave me a collection of her speeches so a few of us got together on FB.com/wombfulnest (via Zoom) and read her speeches and discussed them. We started and concluded with songs, because she ministered with her songs. Visit the Sojourner Truth Project which looks at the speech "Ain't I a Woman?" which was not the original speech given. The popular speech which was published 12 years later and is credited to Frances Gage, who added the "Ain't I a Woman" refrain. Gage "presided over the 1851 woman's rights convention in Akron, OH, where she introduced Sojourner Truth, a move that was also not supported by all attendee."
Gage separated from Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton "when they did not support the 15th Amendment, giving African-American men the right to vote while not giving women or either race the same right. Her belief was abolition first, women's right second and temperance third" (Civil War Museum)

One was propaganda, the other Truth. Truth knew both versions. She approved the first. Both are also in the Penguin collection; we read the original version.   


Grand Canyon

On the anniversary of my surgery, I had another trip planned and then my friend Fred T, died. I left the day after his memorial service. July 20. 

Colorado means red and the river which is the most colonized tributary in the nation is a Black woman's womb-- monetized and broken off to supply and feed and support so many children, so will eventually disappear. 

However, in her glory, she crashed through rock and created over a six million years the Grand Canyon. I had to see her work. It was like a giant footprint. Took Amtrak and headed south and then west. It was a nice trip. Part bus, part train . . . delayed and left stranded for hours on our way back, but it was worth it. 

You don't know beauty until you have see a sunset in Grand Canyon. I visited the South Rim. This coming year, I plan to visit the Northern Rim. 

Well, All Good Things End

Actually nothing lasts forever, so wise ones enjoy the moment and then release it. I am practicing opening my hands rather than clinching my fists. 

Ran out of sick leave and had to go back to work this fall too. August found me nervous about teaching 4 classes, so I taught 3 and got through it. Spring session I'll teach three more and then I can retire. It is official. I am in my 65th years 2023. 

I am so happy to have my life back soon. Being off from work for a year to do what I pleased lets me know that I need to end this contract. Although I will have less income, even less than the part time salary I am making now, being able to live the life I want is so worth it. 

I thought when this day arrived I would have a partner who was also looking forward to being on the same train with me, but oh well, such is not the case, but I will be fine. I am fine. I am letting go of control and letting the car steer itself.  It is connected to a higher frequency and together we can't get lost as we create the path to freedom and joy together. 

I am lovin' the journey since I got my new set of wheels. The old model was not how I wanted to travel. I am an elder now. I wanted a better class and more amenities, so I traded it in for a better ride. I got what I asked for. It is so smooth, I can't feel the road. 


BYOJ December 20

On my half-year birthday we got together in Zoom and played favorite songs and danced. It was fun. 


It's Nia Day, Friday, December 30, 2022

Not a creature is stirring not even a rodent. Good the traps are holding. I was born on a Friday. I am Osun's child. Who knew? Nia is my song-- purpose arriving ahead of me like sunny days and predestination,  a soundtrack designed just for me. The steps engraved along a path my ancestors carved in the landscape, sheet music notations I sing. 

I am never lost, not for long. I turn my face and there it is. . . a note flying on the hummingbird's wing or just ahead the fluttering dragonflies. Butterflies whisper songs in my ear, light on my hand, embrace my soul when it parts and returns it to me. 

I linger in today. Tomorrow is too far away to contemplate. All is well, I think. 

I was born on a Friday. The day of congregation-- Yomul Jumah. I feel lucky. 

At the Morning Sit (InsightLA) we looked distress in the eye without blinking. Hugging it close, my knees shook, not enough to collapse, but enough to notice what it feels like to wobble or lean into the shifting consciousness. 

My basement is empty. All the guests sit in the living room. I went shopping today. They tell me to prepare for a long winter. They plan to stay a while. 

This year I have been working on my recovery. I hadn't known I was lost, until recently. Now certain mysteries are cleared up. I have been working hard-- last year in preparation for my surgery I took a Mindfulness Stress Reduction Course. It was extremely helpful. Fear is the unknown sometimes. Knowledge is the candle lit. When there is light it is easier to not fear (as much (smile). 

Movement

I also take Tai Chi Chuh and Qigong for balance and stretching. I have taken Mindful Self-Compassion and learned about the Plum Village Application which I used to learn about how to function when there is turmoil. How to handle strong emotions. How to be gentle and kind to oneself. How to listen to one's body. 

I have continued with the acupuncture. I have also had coaching. 

Al-Anon

In August when I started back in Al-Anon, I also added Codependence Anonymous. Al-Anon is my go to, that and meditation circles. I like meditating in group settings. I am much better at controlling my thoughts than I was last year this time. I do not feel like my life is running me. It feels more like I am more in control. I am learning patience. 

As I ease into the center of my sixth decade, I have noticed that I cannot keep as many balls in the air as before. I also do not have a desire to be everywhere and do not feel attached to events or activities that have passed which I missed. I am also not attached to those events which I cannot participate in any longer.

I do need more growth in holding onto resentment and having expectations. I also still like giving advice and letting certain people walk on me, but I am learning to pause and think. Ask for time to think and then answer. It is a learning curve. 

Though I have learned in these 12 step rooms that I am not unique and that others have similar stories, there are cultural differences. 

Nia is a good day to take stock, which I did in conversation with two sisters at the year end, Bring Your Own Jam (BYOJ). BYOJ was born in 2020 to help with connection at a time when distancing was the new normal. For some people, this is how we move now-- personal space 6 feet by 6 feet, masked and cautious. I spend a lot of time in the street. Dogs are the new normal in my community. They get to walk on the sidewalks. I do not. 

Poetry Celebration

This year after thinking about it, we had another virtual Poetry Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry. We featured Kalamu ya Salaam from New Orleans along with many Bay Area poets. A special feature this year was also the inclusion of African poets from Kenya and Ghana and I think Nigeria. Nana Sula opened the gathering with a prayer and libation and song. She is also in NOLA.  We dedicated the poetry reading this year to Christine Saed, Branch Librarian at the West Oakland Library. She had the longest tenure and the day of this year's program was her birthday, Feb. 19. She died in January this year. Friends shared Christine stories. She was certainly "the People's Librarian." We shall miss her laughter and great stories. 

For 2023, I plan to host the 33rd Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry, event on the last Saturday, Feb. 25, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. (PT). FB.com/wandas-picks  Our featured poets are Avotcja and Ayodele "Wordslanger" Nzinga, Poet Laureate for the City of Oakland.  I am also working with an editor to complete the poetry celebration anthology and schedule a reading at the West Oakland Library at some point in 2023.

It would have been nice to plan something for February, but we do not have a completed manuscript yet, so I don't want to build anticipation and hope and then nothing happens. 

Publications


I have been writing a lot and publishing. 

This year I co-edited a collection of poetry with Sara Biel, Colossus: Freedom, poetry that speaks to the lives affected by incarceration. I am also included in an anthology that looks at activism and art practice: Write Now! SF Bay: Uncommon Ground: BIPOC Journeys to Creative Activism, edited by Shizue Seigel. I am profiled in Black Gold











Wanda's Picks Website and Podcast continue

Though I am not broadcasting weekly, I have had some really remarkable conversations this year among them Quincy Troupe and many playwrights like Ishmael Reed and Mildred Inez Lewis re: The Museum Annex at Central Works in Berkeley. I also had an opportunity to interview some remarkable artists, among them: Xaviera Simmons.

I also have a YouTube Channel:
YouTube.com/wandaspicks Follow me and subscribe. 

Other favorite stories and interviews for 2022:
Marcus Gardley's "King Lear at Cal Shakes" (wandaspicks.com + sfbayview.com)

Obits for Fred T Smith (wandaspicks.com +sfbayview.com)

Celebration of Mrs. Anita Black's 101st Birthday (sfbayview.com)

Quincy Troupe "Duende," Book Review/Interview Story (wandaspicks.com + podcast)

The Body Has Seasons (wandaspicks.com)

Ishmael Reed's "The Slave Who Loved Caviar," A Review (wandaspicks.com)

Interview with playwright, Cleavon Smith (wandaspicks.com podcast)

Zaccho Dance Theatre's A State of Grace (FB.com/wandaspicks)

32nd Annual Celebration of African American Poets and Their Poetry (FB.com/wandaspicks)

Michael Gene Sullivan, SF Mime Troupe's "Back to the Way Things Were," and thoughts on the passing of Muziki Roberson

With the teaching, I have found it hard to keep up with the virtual theatre scene. Hopefully, once I have retired I can once again watch plays and hopefully by 2024 attend plays again. Perhaps the technology regarding air purification will be at a higher level, so that we can feel safe while indoors. I'd love to be able to attend concerts and plays again. In the meantime, I have begun over the past few years to create soundtracks. 

Me? A character in a play? Oh my!

Ishmael Reed's play, The Conductor opened for a staged reading at Theater for the New City in October. It was a virtual and directed by Carla Blank. The production was so good, I went to all the performances. The cast was excellent, star-studded especially the actor who channeled Ms. Wanda, Kenya Wilson. Ms. Wilson's character is based on my life, yep! and work as a journalist at the San Francisco Bay View. I think this is awesome cool! The best complement and recognition to date is to be immortalized in a play by such an erudite icon, Ishmael Reed.

Here is a link to a review at wandaspicks.com  (I just learned that the play is opening at the same theatre in February and that the playwright rewrote a scene based on my review. Oh did I mention that this review was published in Reed's Konch magazine this year? Well it was.)

We had two really wonderful radio interviews with the playwright and all the women in the cast:

https://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2022/10/05/wandas-picks-radio-show and https://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks/2022/10/12/wandas-picks-radio-show

27th Annual MAAFA Commemoration 2022


We continue the in person MAAFA Commemoration this year October 9, 2022. The theme was "We are all connected, so we must treat each other right." Visit maafasfbayarea.com (blog for the program). It was really lovely, so many birds came out to wish us well. The water was warm and the day delightful. 

In conjunction with this year's commemoration, we had two programs, a reading at The Freedom and Movement Center with Colossus Books, Colossus: Freedom (all the money raised goes to California Coalition for Women Prisoners; we gave CCWP a check for $500). The second event was with our long time collaborator, the San Francisco Public Library, African American Center. The topic was incarcerated women and California's sterilization of women prisoners 20 years ago and the reparations bill passed recently to compensate the survivors. We showed the film, Belly of the Beast and I hosted a conversation with the lead plaintiff and her attorney. It was quite moving and informative. 




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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Souljourning for Truth Sketch (4/26/22) by Wanda Sabir

Sojourner Truth sketch from the photo here.