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The Madame X Academy, a spy-themed experiences program for insatiably curious girls

The Madame X Academy is about sparking the imagination in kids because inspiration stimulates innovation. Building community also matters, because if they’re comfortable with who they are, nothing can stop them from reaching their full potential.

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Madame X Acamedy Leader in a chair during an “Ain’t MisBEEhavin’” class, Photo courtesy of Madame X Academy website

It’s hard to remain anonymous in a town you grew up in, but to a small number of Bay Area families, that’s the case with Madame X, the somewhat fictional headmistress of The Madame X Academy, a curated, high-end experiences program for girls 7-12 years old, that ties African-American cultural relevance to each unique pop-up style activity.

An example of the organization’s unique offerings is a class called “Ain’t MisBEEhavin’”, a multi-sensory experience where the children learned all about bees. They were taught about pioneering African-American zoologist and behavioral scientist Charles Henry Turner, known for his groundbreaking research on honey bees while observing live bee colonies and learning about them from a professional beekeeper. The kids manually uncapped honeycombs from bee panels and used a hand-powered extractor to harvest the honey. They also strained, bottled, labeled, and gift-wrapped honey. They also experienced a professional honey tasting with a flight of 10 samples from around the world. The class learned the concept behind flavor wheels, and how they could apply it to describe various nuances found in the honey’s taste, flavor, and texture. In addition, the children watched a video of Madame X and the beekeeper tour the bee boxes of the bees used in the program, so they could see them in their local habitat, and learn more about their “bees’ to bottle” origin story. All of the kids in the program received spy-themed activity packets related to the curriculum, their tasting notes, and bottled honey. The Madame X Academy’s covert spy theme permeates all of the kids’ activities and its communication with the families.

“I love spy-everything, and being part of a secret organization for girls, enables them to use their imaginations and suspend disbelief, which elevates the fun factor and makes them feel like they’re part of something special,” Madame X  says excitedly. “I have several interesting ways of communicating with the kids and their parents, including, through ciphers that they must decode, but I won’t tell you anything else, or it might ruin the fun.”

The philosophy behind The Madame X Academy is that to be competitive in today’s world, children need exposure to diverse experiences, so that they can think more creatively when problem-solving. “If you gain exposure to a lot of interesting, disparate ideas, skills, and experiences; you can better make connections between and among concepts, enabling you to be more innovative in how you think,” she says.

“There’s also a huge social benefit to being an interesting person who has had a lot of fascinating life experiences. People want to know those people. It’s also why Madame X has a spy theme. James Bond can do anything and be anyone because he has a ‘particular set of skills.’ Madame X wants girls in the program to think expansively and to be able to move through society and the world effortlessly. In part, that’s why they offer professional etiquette classes like a Malaysian/British high tea service scheduled in October.

What also makes Madame X Academy different is that it uses African-American instructors and vendors for their experiences.

“I want the kids to see themselves reflected in positive role models who represent professionals across industries and occupations.” Building community is also a big part of the organization’s mission. “There are under-resourced children who lack opportunity, as well as very privileged ones, who feel socio-economic and cultural isolation. I want to bring everyone together, including their families.”

Visit The Madame X Academy for more information. Register here for the Saturday, October 23, professional etiquette class and Malaysian/British high-tea.

Arts and Culture

Marin City 80 Celebrations Including History Exhibits, Play Open in August

This interactive, historical, and immersive experience features memorabilia from Black shipyard workers who worked at the Marin shipyard. It explores the Black migration path, and how welding was important in shipbuilding. The exhibit features contemporary original artwork by Chuck D of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group Public Enemy; clay sculptures by San Francisco-based artist Kaytea Petro; original pieces made by Marin City youth in collaboration with Lynn Sondag of Dominican University of California, and recorded music from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.

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Tickets for “Spirit of Joseph James,” are $20.00 and are available @ tickets.marincenter.org. Call the Marin Center Box Office at (415) 473-6800, or go to www.marincity80.com for more information.
Tickets for “Spirit of Joseph James,” are $20.00 and are available @ tickets.marincenter.org. Call the Marin Center Box Office at (415) 473-6800, or go to www.marincity80.com for more information.

By Godfrey Lee

“The Legacy of Marin City, A California Story, from 1942 to 1962” exhibit will be open at the Bartolini Gallery on Aug. 20.

The Gallery, located at the Marin Center at 10 Ave. of the Flags in San Rafael, will be open from Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The free exhibit will be on display until Nov. 1, 2022.

This interactive, historical, and immersive experience features memorabilia from Black shipyard workers who worked at the Marin shipyard. It explores the Black migration path, and how welding was important in shipbuilding.

The exhibit features contemporary original artwork by Chuck D of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group Public Enemy; clay sculptures by San Francisco-based artist Kaytea Petro; original pieces made by Marin City youth in collaboration with Lynn Sondag of Dominican University of California, and recorded music from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.

Original, unpublished photos, and articles from the Felecia Gaston Collection, the Anne T. Kent Collection, and other collections about the Black experience of Marin City will be displayed, along with news clippings from the San Francisco Archives.

“The Legacy of Marin City, A Housing Story” exhibit will be on display on the first and third floors of the Marin Civic Center, 3501 Civic Center Dr., San Rafael, from Aug. 20 to Nov. 1. Hours are Monday to Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This multimedia presentation of newspaper articles and Marin City community artifacts that tells a narrative of housing discrimination, land grab, outside developers, and the continual fight for housing rights and equality in Marin City.

The exhibit will feature works from the Felecia Gaston Collection and the Daniel Ruark Collection and explores how Marin City residents have endured housing inequities over the years, the history of plans to remove Black people from the area during WWII, and the beautiful survival spirit of the people who stayed and made Marin City their home.

The play “Spirit of Joseph James,” will be performed at 2:00 p.m. on Aug. 28 at the Showcase Theater Plaza, Marin Center, 10 Avenue of the Flag, San Rafael. It was produced by Performing Stars of Marin and directed by Jahl of Microphone Mechanics and 393 Films.

Act I, which features Davon Smith of Marin City, begins with Joseph James singing Negro Spirituals for tuition in college, and traveling on tour to the Jim Crow South with Eva Jessye as the prelude to his move to California. The second act, which features Adimu Madyun from Oakland, focuses on the Marinship shipyard in Sausalito and James’ fight against discriminatory union practices with the help of civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall and 1,000 Black shipyard workers. Act III, which features Tami Bell from Marin City, gives in his own words from a video captured in his 70s, a retrospect, and a call to action to continue to work for freedom, justice, and equity.

Tickets for “Spirit of Joseph James,” are $20.00 and are available @ tickets.marincenter.org. Call the Marin Center Box Office at (415) 473-6800, or go to www.marincity80.com for more information.

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Art

Four Seasons Announces Artists for 2022-23 Season

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, violinist, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

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The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.
The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.

By Mary Jo Hudgel

Four Seasons Arts announces its 2022-2023 annual series of music. Programming emphasizes classical music compositions with contemporary works incorporated. The series intentionally offers an inclusive roster of artists that reflects racial, ethnic, and musical diversity.

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone. The quartet aims to highlight the instrument’s remarkable versatility by presenting meticulously crafted repertoire from all periods of classical and contemporary music.

Both concerts will be held at: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., in Berkeley.

Four Seasons has scheduled other chamber music events with the Viano String Quartet; the Park Brothers Guitar Duo; Piano Duo Beaux Arts; Thomas Mesa and Ilya Yakushev Piano/Cello Duo; and solo artists Jennifer Ellis, Harp, Amadi Azikiwe, Viola, and Thomas Buckner, a pioneer in performing and commissioning New Music.

A complete listing of Four Seasons Arts concerts can be viewed at www.fsarts.org. Concerts are presented in Berkeley at St. John’s Presbyterian Church and the Berkeley Piano Club.

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Art

Oakland Featured in Film “Bottled Spirits” at Oregon Shakespeare, Premiering Sept. 2 on Live Stream

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

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Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)
Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)

By Post Staff

Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2.

Three Black artists who live and work in Oakland — actress Margo Hall, writer Cat Brooks, and director Elizabeth Carter — teamed up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and International Production Company Black Lives Black Words to bring to life this tale of Oakland’s soul.

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

She straps on the daily armor of alcohol, cigarettes, and a sharp tongue to block out the constant ache of losing everything that ever mattered. On this day, however, a door she has been banging on for years magically opens, an ancestor arrives to help, and Louise battles her demons — and herself — in a desperate attempt to find the courage to walk the difficult path toward redemption.

The film is the first installment of the Black Lives, Black Words’ Films for the People series.

Said lead actress Margo Hall, “Working on Bottled Spirits allowed me to channel all of the souls of West Oakland. To be inside Esther’s Orbit, and to sit on 7th street where the Panthers marched-ignited something inside of me, that was familiar, frightening, and exalting. I was transported and transformed. Louise is now in me.”

Cat Brooks, writer, said: “This is my love letter to Oakland. I am so grateful to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words for this opportunity.  Most importantly, I am grateful to this town for embracing me, sharing its stories and struggles with me and allowing me the privilege of calling Oakland home.”

Director Elizabeth Carter said: “I am beyond thrilled to be directing “Bottled Spirits” for Films for the People. This effort conceived by Black Lives Black Words International Project (Simellia Hodge-Dalloway and Reginald Edmunds) and co-produced with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Nataki Garrett) is a dream come true.

You can watch a live steam showing of the film, Friday 2, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m. at

https://www.stellartickets.com/…/films-for-the-people. Tickets are $20.

After the screening, VIP ticket-holders (cost $40 for all access) can hear from Cat Brooks and director Elizabeth Carter, and more.Lives, Black Word

For more information: www.osfashland.org/productions/2022-digital/films-for-the-people

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