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March and Rally Marks Anniversary of Mario Woods Death by S.F.P.D.

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Civil rights attorney John Burris held a sign as he marched in last year’s event for Mario Woods, killed by the police on Dec. 2, 2015. Photo courtesy of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community: Justice 4 Mario Woods.

It has been almost two years since 26-year-old Mario Woods died by the Muni stop Third  and Fitzgerald streets in San Francisco. How he died is well-known: in a barrage of gunfire by San Francisco police, all caught on the cell-phones camera of bystanders.

As the 2nd anniversary of Woods’ death approaches, Phelicia Jones and members of Wealth and Disparities in the Black Community: Justice 4 Mario Woods, want to make it clear that the right terminology be used to describe his death: Execution.
Police had been called because Woods had allegedly stabbed a man with a small knife. About 5-foot-6 inches tall, and slightly built, Woods tried to walk away. There were dozens of bullets fired in all, 21 hit his body.

A small, dedicated group has met weekly to keep the Woods case, and others like it, on the hearts and minds of the community, but also to bring pressure to bear on the  S. F. District Attorney’s office,  city supervisors as well as state assembly representatives and senators.

Of the groups three demands, one has been met – Police Chief Greg Suhr was fired in 2016. The two remaining demands are a truly independent investigation of Woods’ death and the arrests of the police who shot him for murder.

To honor Woods’ memory, on December 2nd at 3:30pm, a memorial march will begin at Third and Armstrong and will end at the site where he was killed.

Parents of victims killed by police have been invited and will be given seats of honor at the front of the rally.  An altar will be constructed in memory of Woods and other victims of police violence including, Idriss Stelly, Kenneth Harding, Derrick Jones and Jessica Williams.

Civil rights attorney John Burris and Officer Joel Babbs, who has gone on record about the racist practices of the police department will speak at the rally. Awon Ohun Omnira will perform a ceremony for Woods, sung in the Yoruba language and accompanied by Bata drums.

Entertainment

REVIEW: A Tale of Two Mothers in Radio Play of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”

Mia Lane

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Cathleen Riddley. Photo courtesy of Aurora Theatre Company.

Michael Asberry. Photo courtesy Stuart Locklear Photography

The Aurora Theater is finishing up a run for radio of the stage adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Bluest Eye.” 

Just past Mother’s Day, the tale of two moms, adapted for the stage by Lydia R. Diamond, we meet Mrs. Breedlove and Mama as actor Cathleen Riddley takes on both personas. Perhaps the actor’s success lies in the potential inherent in each of us to do the same if given certain experiences within fixed structural policies or historic mapping.

What does Black geography look like? 

Mrs. Breedlove sees herself as beautiful until she believes the lie. Her melanin too much for a world without color, she frightens her neighbors, even other Black people who are trying to get along and so she stifles her fire; covers her flame until it is little more than a spark, just enough to throw her legs over the side of the bed, put feet into worn, yet comfortably familiar shoes until the weight of her Blackness settles like an anvil upon her once proud shoulders . . . and so, into this world Pecola is born– a beautiful brown baby girl.

     With her marriage to Cholly (Michael J. Asberry), an orphan rescued for a garbage heap, Mrs. Breedlove was so looking forward to this new, sweet life. Leaving behind loved ones — a community reminder to the newlyweds that they mattered —  the newlyweds head north to the bare northern region Lorrain, Ohio, where that sense of self-worth is absent.

All Pecola (Jasmine Milan Williams) wants is for Mrs. Breedlove, her mom, and Cholly, her dad, to love her. Constantly wishing to disappear from the violence and unhappiness furnishing all the rooms in her life, the child notices how in the absent body– her eyes are always left. Her soul refuses to shut its eyes. Perhaps the windows remain open as a witness. Pecola wants to be gone completely– she does not want to take anything forward into the fairy tale captured in films with blonde, blue-eyed heroines or the pretty “light-skinned” girls at school who get all the attention.

Mama, on the other hand, is the mother of Frieda and Darlene (Sam Jackson), two girls who are Pecola’s friends. After a fire, Pecola stays with the girls’ family while their home is being repaired. Pecola has an opportunity to see and perhaps imagine another version of her story. Frieda and Darlene’s mother and father are so different from her own. The story takes place over a season beginning in Autumn.

Dawn Monique Williams, the director, says the Aurora production is for all the Black girls and women who couldn’t find a space to be free, where beauty and liberation were synonymous. 

    “The Bluest Eye” is an adult story, even if the narrator is a child. There is rape, physical violence, and death. It is what one might call a tragedy, so take care of yourself and listen to loved ones. You will want to talk with others afterward. One can feel the love shared among the cast, director, and creative production team. The sound design (Elton Bradman) is marvelous and you will probably never forget this story. We need to be gentle with each other. We literally do not know who is on the other side of the mask, but we can still hold each other in love and light as we recognize their humanity as we look in their eyes as we pass.

    As I spoke to cast members over a week in a series of radio conversations, my suggestion is to listen to all the perspectives. Each is singularly enlightening. It is pretty amazing to watch the actors slip in and out so seamlessly. between personas. There is also laughter and lightness within this story as in life.

    In its 29th Season, it is to its credit that Aurora Theatre allowed Williams, associate director, to take it on a creative journey unlike any before. We hope such excursions continue. Toni Morrison’s work, “The Bluest Eye” is among the classics in the Western canon.

Apply the Family Discount code: BluestCNC50 for half-price tickets: For tickets visit https://www.auroratheatre.org/thebluesteye or call (510) 843-4822

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Bay Area

Residents Celebrate 510 Day, an Oakland Holiday

The holiday started in 2016, when a group of long-term Oakland residents felt that, in the face of Black and Brown native Oaklanders being displaced through the city’s gentrification, a celebration of their cultures was necessary.

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Neptune Jenkins, Tiny Matthews and Zay Coleman at Oakland's 510 Day celebration today near the Lake Merritt Amphitheater. Photo by Zack Haber on May 10.

Demetrius Coats with his legs over his bike’s handlebars as he rides in the bike caravan around Lake Merritt at Oakland’s 510 Day celebration today.
Photo by Zack Haber on May 10.

Over 40 people gathered around Lake Merritt on Monday to celebrate 510 Day, an Oakland-based holiday that honors Black and Brown cultures of the city and their resilience against displacement each year on May 10.

“For us, it’s a protest and a party at the same time,” Leon Skyes, a Black Oakland native who helps organize 501 Day celebrations, told The Oakland Post. “Rather than being targeted, today we’re being celebrated.”

The holiday started in 2016, when a group of long-term Oakland residents felt that, in the face of Black and Brown native Oaklanders being displaced through the city’s gentrification, a celebration of their cultures was necessary. The 415 Day, a San Francisco holiday where residents gather every April 15th in Dolores Park to celebrate against and protest the removal of native SF families, was 510 Day’s inspiration. Both holidays get their name from their city’s respective telephone area codes.

In the years since the first 510 Day, several incidents at or near Lake Merritt have shown the area as a contested place where long-term Black and Brown residents’ acts of celebrating, music making, barbecuing, or simply existing have been under threat.

In the fall of 2016, a woman who lived near the lake called police on Aaron Davis, an 18-year-old Black Oakland native, to file a noise complaint about him playing his drum set. Soon after, Oaklanders rallied behind him with drums of their own to protest the complaint.

In mid-May of 2018, after a viral video showed white Oakland resident Jennifer Schulte calling police on Black Oakland resident Kenzie Smith for barbecuing near the lake, many Black Oakland residents came out to protest the incident by participating in the “BBQ’n While Black” celebration. Later that year, a white jogger threw a Black Oakland resident’s belongings in the lake. The city began evicting many Black and Brown homeless residents from the area and enforcing no camping rules in 2018 as well.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the lake has become a contested site for informal Black and Brown businesses after residents who live nearby have filed complaints against Lake Merritt vendors selling merchandise without permits.

“Gentrification has created a hostile environment for us where we can’t even just exist without getting the cops called on us,” Needa Bee, who helped start 510 Day and organize its Lake Merritt celebrations, told The Oakland Post.

Bee, also known as The Lumpia Lady, has lived in Oakland for about 30 years and has sold lumpia, a traditional Filipino food, for about 10 years at Lake Merritt. She served free lumpia to those who came to the 510 Day celebration.

The celebration included a bike and car caravan that circled the lake about one and a half times. Bikers, many of whom rode fixed gears and did tricks, lead the way. Demetrius Coleman put his legs up on his bike’s handle bars several times as he rode. 

 At one point, Zay Coleman sat entirely on one side of his bike, only using one pedal to move it as he biked down Grand Avenue with both his legs and his face pointing towards the lake. Cars that had signs attached to them supporting defunding the Oakland Police Department and against gentrification followed along, honked their horns loudly, and blared Oakland musicians like Too $hort. Motorcyclists rode along and revved their engines. Two roller skaters also joined the caravan.

After the caravan, participants gathered at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater to eat food and take photos while some of the bikers continued to do tricks. Neptune Jenkins stood on the frame of his bike while grabbing the front wheel, pushing and pulling it back and forth while continuing to balance. Signs honoring historical Oakland events and famous Oaklanders like basketball player Bill Russell, activists Elaine Brown, Bobby Seale, and Fred Korematsu, musician and dancer Kehlani, and rap groups Hieroglyphics and Digital Underground were lined up in a row at the amphitheater.

Nicole Lee, an Oakland native who helped organize the celebration, described 510 Day as a way to “assert joy at the same time that we’re protesting around Oakland natives and Oakland culture being displaced.” 

The politics of 510 Day were present at the amphitheater, as organizers encouraged participants to sign a petition to be sent to City Council, Mayor Libby Schaaf and county and state leaders to support the #WeStillHere Oakland Platform which outlines nine demands including shelter for all and Oakland’s non-cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

While people celebrated at the amphitheater with music and some drank alcohol and smoked cannabis, the celebration stayed calm, the crowd was not densely packed, and people left well before dark. Although in years past 510 Day in person celebrations included larger, dense crowds and live DJs spinning loud music, organizers intentionally kept this year’s in person celebrations low key as a precaution against spreading COVID-19. The organizers hosted a party on the internet later in the evening with local DJs Kleptic, AbelDee and DJ Fuze.

“While this isn’t physically the largest [510 Day celebration], this has been one of the best ones, just by the heart of the people, the will of the people, and the vibe,” Skyes told the 510 Day celebrators at the Lake Merritt amphitheater. He looks forward to hopefully returning next year with a larger in person party/protest.

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Arts and Culture

APPLICATIONS FOR SAN FRANCISCO’S $3 MILLION MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT VENUE FUND TO OPEN APRIL 21

The Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund will offer grants of at least $10,000 to every eligible entertainment venue in San Francisco, which have been struggling to remain in business as a result of COVID-19

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San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the City’s Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund will begin accepting applications for grants on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. The fund was established to provide financial support to San Francisco-based live music and entertainment venues in order to prevent their permanent closure due to the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Venue Fund advances the Economic Recovery Task Force’s recommendations to support the arts, culture, hospitality, and entertainment sector. The fund is also aligned with San Francisco’s other efforts to support entertainment venues, including Mayor Breed’s $2.5 million in fee and tax relief for entertainment venues and the proposals to support arts and culture in the Mayor’s Small Business Recovery Act legislation.
“These music and entertainment venues are part of what makes San Francisco such a special place to live and visit,” said Mayor Breed. “This past year has been devastating for the entertainment sector, and these local funds will help these businesses hang on until they can start operating again.”
In March 2021, Mayor Breed and Supervisor Matt Haney agreed to allocate $3 million to the fund as part of $24.8 million for small business loans and grants in the current year surplus spending plan. The first round of grants will expend all $3 million in equal amounts to every venue eligible to receive funding. Grants will be at least $10,000 for each venue, although that amount will vary based on how many venues qualify for the program.
“Our independent music and nightlife venues have been hit hard over the last year, and desperately need the support that this fund will provide,” said Supervisor Matt Haney. “Nightlife and entertainment are cornerstones of our city’s economy and culture. As we reopen and recover, we need our city’s venues to not only survive, but to be even stronger.”
The fund is administered by San Francisco’s Office of Small Business, and was developed in consultation with stakeholders from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, the Entertainment Commission, the Small Business Commission, the San Francisco Venue Coalition, and the Independent Venue Alliance.
The fund is also available to receive donations from the public. Any private donations received before the first round of grants is issued will be distributed as part of that round. If additional money is added to the fund by the City or through donations after the first round of grants is issued, that money will be awarded in subsequent rounds of grants. Members of the public interested in donating may find out more information at sfosb.org/venuefund
“San Francisco’s storied live music venues bring more than just economic activity to our City; they are the beating heart of our shared culture, diversity, and sense of identity,” said Ben Bleiman, President of the San Francisco Entertainment Commission. “But due to the pandemic, many of them are teetering on the edge of permanent closure. We applaud Mayor Breed, Supervisor Haney, and our San Francisco leaders for swift, decisive action to establish the Music & Entertainment Venue Fund. These grants will play a crucial role in saving our live music venues before it’s too late.”
“Live music venues have not been able to be open for even a single day, at any capacity, for over a year. They have been among the hardest hit businesses in San Francisco, and as a result are hanging on by a thread,” said Sharky Laguana, President of the San Francisco Small Business Commission. “Many have been forced to permanently close. Music is a central part of San Francisco’s identity and history, and speaking as a musician, I don’t want to even think about our City without our beloved venues. This aid will make a big difference, and help keep music alive in San Francisco. Thank you Mayor Breed and Supervisor Haney for creating the Music & Entertainment Venue Fund.”
Applications open on April 21 and the deadline is May 5, 2021. Venues eligible to receive funding must have held a Place of Entertainment permit from the Entertainment Commission prior to the start of the pandemic and must be able to demonstrate a track record of substantial live entertainment programming, among other eligibility criteria.
Venues interested in applying and members of the public interested in donating to the fund can learn more at sfosb.org/venuefund
 

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