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IN MEMORIAM: Jazz Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, 81

“We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away,” family representatives tweeted Saturday morning. “He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning. Always and forever the most beautiful human being, may he rest in peace.”

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Pharoah Sanders. Facebook photo.
Pharoah Sanders. Facebook photo.

By Post Staff

Jazz saxophonist Farrell ‘Pharoah’ Sanders, a pioneer of ‘spiritual’ jazz who lived in Oakland for a time before gaining renown in New York with John Coltrane’s band in the 1960s, passed away in Los Angeles on Sept. 24, 2022. He was 81.

“We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away,” family representatives tweeted Saturday morning. “He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning. Always and forever the most beautiful human being, may he rest in peace.”

Tributes like this from on YouTube by nbaccess were seen on social media.

“Pharoah was like John Coltrane. So soft and tempered in the daily life and human interactions but incredibly powerful and soulful when he blown this horn…he was a truly Spiritual Man, just as John. Ornette Coleman famously said that Pharoah is probably ‘the best tenor saxophonist in the world.’ I don’t think we will hear such kind of artists for a long, long time…RIP Pharoah. Your music is your true essence and will never die!”

“My beautiful friend passed away this morning. I am so lucky to have known this man, and we are all blessed to have his art stay with us forever. Thank you, Pharoah,” said San Shepard, whose stage name is Floating Points.

“A visionary amongst visionaries. Pharaoh forever.” Thurston Moore Tweeted.

Born in Little Rock, Ark., on Oct. 13, 1940, Sanders showed early aptitude for music, playing several instruments including drums and clarinet before he settled on the tenor sax in high school.

“I was always trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. What I really wanted to do was play the saxophone — that was one of the instruments that I really loved,” Sanders told The New Yorker. “I would rent the school saxophone. You could rent it every day if you wanted to. It wasn’t a great horn. It was sort of beat-up and out of condition.”

Nevertheless, Sanders played in Little Rock’s Black clubs and sometimes from behind curtains at white venues in the segregated city. At 19, he moved to Oakland and attended Oakland City College while collaborating with local jazz greats including Dewey Redman and Sonny Simmons.

“I never owned a saxophone until I finished high school and went to Oakland, California. I had a clarinet, and so I traded that for a new silver tenor saxophone, and that got me started playing the tenor.”

John Handy encouraged his talent, advising him to move to New York, which he did in 1961.

There Sanders was often homeless, pawning his horn and sleeping on the subways before he recorded his first album in 1964. He eventually got the attention of John Coltrane and joined his band in 1965.

According to Sanders’ web site, “(Coltrane and Sanders) music represents a near total desertion of traditional jazz concepts, like swing and functional harmony, in favor of a teeming, irregularly structured, organic mixture of sound for sound’s sake.”

“Sanders has consistently had bands that could not only create a lyrical near-mystical Afro-Eastern world,” wrote one champion, the late poet-critic Amiri Baraka, “but [also] sweat hot fire music in continuing display of the so-called ‘energy music’ of the ‘60s.”

Exploring spiritual jazz — which Coltrane had begun to do before his death in 1967 — Sanders would go on to play with, Alice Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Sun Ra. It was Sun Ra who supposedly suggested Sanders change his given name from ‘Farrell’ to ‘Pharoah.’

In 1969, Sanders recorded the album “Karma,” featuring “The Creator Has a Master Plan.”

It was his most renowned work, but Sanders was comfortable moving in and out of genres. He earned a Grammy for his 1987 album with the pianist McCoy Tyner called “Blues for Coltrane.”

A decade earlier, he recorded with singer Phyllis Hyman in what could be called the pop 1977 album “Love Will Find a Way.”

Sanders would go on to lead and collaborate with jazz musicians here and abroad, record and tour through the 1990s.

A composition by British electronic music producer Floating Points prompted Sanders to seek out a collaboration in the 2010s. The album, “Promises,” was recorded with the London Symphony orchestra in 2019 and released in 2021 to positive reviews.

It was his first album in ten years and his last.

Services for Sanders have not yet been announced.

Sources for this story include The Guardian, YouTube, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, People magazine, National Public Radio, Facebook and Pharoah Sanders’ website.

Art

Last Weekend to View African American Artist Faith Ringgold Special Exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young Museum

The exhibit, titled ‘Faith Ringgold: American People’, is on display until Sunday, Nov. 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco.

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Faith Ringgold in her studio. Photo courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Sunflowers Quilting Bee’ 1991. Photo courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Faith Ringgold in her studio. Photo courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Sunflowers Quilting Bee’ 1991. Photo courtesy Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

By Post Staff

San Francisco’s de Young Museum is now featuring an exhibit of the first retrospective of American artist Faith Ringgold on the West Coast. The exhibit, titled ‘Faith Ringgold: American People’, is on display until Sunday, Nov. 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco. Ringgold, 92, specializes in using quilting in her work. Ticket prices, which include access to all galleries, are $25 for adults; $18 for seniors or visitors with disabilities; $14 for full-time students and no charge for children under 16. Go to Tickets.Moma.org for more information.

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Arts and Culture

Former Post Staffer Releases New Film, ‘I Thought You Knew’

With the intent of addressing LGBTQ themes as well as mental health issues and how to cope with them, Haqq Shabazz’ most recent effort, “I Thought You Knew,” follows beautiful and intelligent Lavette, who has just been released from prison after completing a two-year sentence. While inside, she succeeds on her college SATs exam, realizing her desire of going to college.

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Amir Abu Haqq Shabazz, left, with Elise Neal, an actress who has appeared in several films Haqq Shabazz has produced. Phot courtesy of Haqq Shabazz.
Amir Abu Haqq Shabazz, left, with Elise Neal, an actress who has appeared in several films Haqq Shabazz has produced. Phot courtesy of Haqq Shabazz.

IN YO FACE Filmworks recently released the film, “I Thought You Knew” on the internet and is available for viewing through IMDb.

Amir Abu Haqq Shabazz, owner of Haqq Shabazz Entertainment, and staffer for the Post News Group more than 20 years ago, has produced and/or co-produced many films with Black casts and crews.

With the intent of addressing LGBTQ themes as well as mental health issues and how to cope with them, Haqq Shabazz’ most recent effort, “I Thought You Knew,” follows beautiful and intelligent Lavette, who has just been released from prison after completing a two-year sentence. While inside, she succeeds on her college SATs exam, realizing her desire of going to college.

But things swiftly spiral out of control. To her astonishment, her terrible connection with her father re-emerges as do troubles with her psychotic best friend.

It results in a life-or-death situation.

The stars of the film are Glenn Plummer, Felicia Snoop Pearson, Marcus T. Paulk, Drag-On, Lindsey Cruz, Zaina Juliette, and Michael Monteiro.

The story concept was created by playwright and executive producer Retornzia Riser and the screenplay was written and directed by Conrad Glover.

Haqq Shabazz, Damon Jamal, and Chad Montgomery, executive producers of IN YO FACE Filmworks, led a fine team of line producers in Riser, Cleo Flucker, Anthony A.B. Butler and Emily T. Hall.

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Activism

Saluting California’s Native American Heritage: New Laws, “S-Word” Ban Lift Up Celebrations

Leaders of Native American tribes from across California, joined Governor Gavin Newsom when he signed AB 2022 and four other bills in an effort to build on his Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion, and accountability throughout the state. 

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Assemblymember James Ramos host of the Third Annual California Indian Cultural Awareness Event at the State Capitol Aug. 15, 2022.
Assemblymember James Ramos host of the Third Annual California Indian Cultural Awareness Event at the State Capitol Aug. 15, 2022.

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland), the only Native American elected official in the California Legislature, has been working diligently to get rid of the racist and derogatory word, “squaw,” which has derisively referenced Native American women since the 1600s.

The “S-Word,” which has been used to name public places like Squaw Valley, the popular Lake Tahoe ski resort, is a slur, Ramos says. It is hurtful and offensive to Native Americans, he says, particularly Indigenous women.

On September 23, California Native American Day — which is now a paid holiday in the state — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed several bills to support California Native communities, including Assembly Bill (AB) 2022, which will remove the “racist and sexist slur S-Word,” from all geographic features and place names in California, the governor’s office stated.  The ski resort has since been renamed. It is called Palisades Tahoe.

The negative connotation in reference to Native Americans is as disturbing as directing the N-word at the Black community but it’s been used more commonly in naming public and commercial spaces.

“It is an idiom that came into use during the westward expansion of America, and it is not a tribal word,” Ramos said in a statement.  “For decades, Native Americans have argued against the designation’s use because behind that expression is the disparagement of Native women that contributes to the crisis of missing and murdered people in our community.”

According to the U.S. Census, California is home to more Native Americans with a population of 757,628 (1.94% of the state’s total population) than any other state. Oklahoma is the second highest with a Native population of 523,360.

AB 2022 was introduced by Ramos and Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus.

The bill was sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union CA (ACLU), Restorative Justice for Indigenous Peoples and Renaming S-Valley Coalition, and Alliance for Boys and Men of Color (ABMoC).

ABMoC is a national network of more than 200 advocacy and community organizations that banded together to advance race and gender justice by working to transform policies that are failing boys and men of color and their families.

AB 2022 requires every state agency, local governing body, or political subdivisions in this state to identify all geographic sites, public lands, waters, and structures under its jurisdiction containing the S-word.

Leaders of Native American tribes from across California, joined Newsom when he signed AB 2022 and four other bills in an effort to build on his Administration’s work to promote equity, inclusion, and accountability throughout the state.

“As we lift up the rich history and contributions of California’s diverse tribal communities today, the state recommits to building on the strides we have made to redress historical wrongs and help empower Native communities,” Newsom stated after signing AB 2022. “I thank all the legislators and tribal partners whose leadership and advocacy help light the path forward in our work to build a better, stronger and more just state together.”

Born on the San Manuel Indian Reservation, where he still resides, Ramos is a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla Tribe. He represents the 40th Assembly District which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.

Ramos chairs the California Native American Legislative Caucus and Assembly Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Two years ago, Newsom signed AB 3121, the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African Americans. The bill was authored by Secretary of State Shirley Weber when she was a member of the Assembly.

Similar to the harm many Black Californians have suffered, Ramos spoke of the “atrocities and genocide” Native Americans in the state have endured at the 2022 Third Annual California, Indian Cultural Awareness Event held on the grounds of the State Capitol in Sacramento.

Ramos and other speakers acknowledged that the property the State Capitol sits on is the Miwok tribe’s land.

“We’re trying to educate the Legislature of the true history and culture of California Indian people,” Ramos told California Black Media. “It’s that important for us to talk about our culture to explain who we are. If we don’t come out to speak to these issues, those in the state of California will make assumptions about our way of life.”

Ramos added that more than 100 places in California contain the S-word. The United States Department of the Interior earlier this month renamed about 650 sites that have been using the slur on federal lands. The states of Montana, Oregon, Maine, and Minnesota have already banned the word’s use.

“The sad reality is that this term has been used for generations and normalized, even though it is a misogynistic and racist term rooted in the oppression and belittling of Indigenous women,” Garcia stated. “AB 2022 begins to correct an ugly and painful part of our history by removing it from California’s landmarks; it’s the least we can do to help our indigenous women heal.”

The Governor also signed four more tribal measures presented by Ramos, including AB 923. The bill requires state agency leaders to undertake training in properly communicating and interacting with tribes on government-to-government issues that affect them.

The second measure, AB 1314 creates a statewide emergency “Feather Alert” – similar to those used in abducted children’s cases – to enlist public assistance to quickly find Native Americans missing under suspicious circumstances. Native Americans face disproportionate numbers of missing and murdered people in their communities.

“California is ranked No. 7 in the country in terms of unsolved murders and missing people,” Ramos said.

AB 1703, the California Indian Education Act, encourages school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education to engage with the tribes in their area to provide the accurate and complete instruction about the tribes’ culture and history and share instructional materials with the California Department of Education.

AB 1936 authorizes the University of California Hastings Law College to remove the name of its founder, Serranus C. Hastings, from the school’s name. The bill specifies restorative justice measures for the Yuki and Round Valley Native Americans in Northern California whose ancestors suffered mass homicides orchestrated by the college’s founder in the 1850s.

In 2021, Newsom signed six wide-ranging tribal bills introduced by Ramos. Among other provisions, they aid tribal foster youth, create a new monument to Sacramento-area tribes on state Capitol grounds, and bolster students’ right to wear tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies.

In addition, the new laws allow a paid holiday for state court personnel on California Native American Day and streamline access to emergency response vehicles on tribal lands.

Raven Cass, a youth advocate for the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, said Ramos and the legislators who worked with him to pass the bills, “made great strides” in the past year “to protect sovereignty and safety in Indian country.”

They were encouraged by the Native Americans’ concerns and strongly took them into consideration, she said.

“This is the power of community, the power of unity, and the power of voice when it is determined to make a change,” Cass said at the California Indian Cultural Awareness event in August. “The more we work together the more we can get done. I hope (the legislators) continue to stand with us. Our lives matter and the world should know that.”

California Black Media was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.

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