From November 2008

Zora Neale Hurston's Choreography Rediscovered

Choreographing the Folk: The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston
by Anthea Kraut
University of Minnesota Press
Paperback, $25.
320 pages, illustrated
ISBN: 978-0-8166-4712-5

Book Review by Kam Williams

“Although I studied ballet and modern from an early age, jazz dance was my greatest love… In these predominantly white spaces, no mention was made of the African-American origins of the idiom… It was not until my junior year at Carleton College… that I confronted the racial dynamics that went unspoken in those suburban jazz dance classes… It became clear just how much jazz dance, that quintessentially American form, owed to African-derived traditions… Why had it been so easy to participate in and become passionate about a dance form without learning its history?

As I continued my study of American dance history in graduate school at Northwestern, my interest in ‘invisibilized’ histories only deepened. I learned that Zora Neale Hurston had staged a concert with a spectacular Bahamian dance finale about which little was known. What began as a quest for information about Hurston’s theatrical revues gradually expanded as I uncovered connections between Hurston and a number of leading dance figures.

To a great extent, the recovery project also became a case study of invisibilization – an attempt to understand the conditions that enable certain subjects and performances to be forgotten – as well as an inquiry into the implications of restoring those subjects and performances to the historical record… For Hurston’s stage work… did play a role in the composition of American dance as we know it today.”

Excerpted from the Preface (pages ix-x)

Read more

Beyond Black and White Politics

Anh ‘Joseph’ Cao, a Vietnamese American, is running for Congress against popular incumbent William J. Jefferson, an African American facing a corruption trial.

By Richard Fausset
Courtesy of the Times Picayune

Reporting from New Orleans — Anh “Joseph” Cao, who hopes to be the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress, was helping a TV host with the pronunciation of his name.

It’s not “cow” but “gow,” he explained recently, with a hard “g.” The interviewer, Eustis Guillemet — an African American jazz bassist who also runs a local public affairs show — practiced the name repeatedly, as if learning a new riff.
“You know, ‘Cao’ means ‘tall,’ ” added the Republican candidate, who stands 5 feet 2 in his loafers. “And if you notice, I ain’t that tall.”

The “ain’t” was a departure for an otherwise formal man — a playful, deliberate shift into the soulful local vernacular and an acknowledgment, perhaps, that this rising star in New Orleans’ Vietnamese community will have to charm a significant number of black voters if he hopes to defeat the scandal-plagued but resilient incumbent, Rep. William J. Jefferson.

Jefferson, a black Democrat, has represented Louisiana’s majority-black 2nd Congressional District, which covers much of New Orleans, since 1991. He is facing an upcoming trial on federal corruption charges stemming from a bribery probe in which investigators found $90,000 in his freezer.

Read more

Prop 8 Hostility Towards Blacks ‘Got Out of Hand’

By Aurelio Rojas,
Sacramento Bee

Speaker Karen Bass said this week that she is “appalled” at the hostility that has been directed at African-Americans since the passage of Proposition 8.

According to exit polls, 70 percent of black voters supported the gay marriage ban measure, which has caused friction between gays and blacks.

But during a meeting with The Bee’s Capitol bureau, Bass said that lost in the post-mortems over Proposition 8 is that black support for the measure was “a generational issue” that divided younger and older African-Americans. Read more

Dellums Keeps Promise With 837 Police Officers

By Post Staff

newpolice.jpgMany people said it could not be done, but Mayor Ron Dellums has announced that the City has reached the goal of fully staffing the Oakland Police Department and for the first time has a community policing officer on every beat.

With the graduation of  38 new officers from the Police Academy last Friday, the size of the police department has reached 837, the largest force in the city’s history. This exceeds the 803 number required by Measure Y.

In addition, the City now has a community policing officer on each of its 57 beats, something mandated by Measure Y and but never implemented.
“In 2004, the residents of Oakland voted to have 803 officers on the street. In January of this year, we made a commitment to get to that number by the end of this year – no matter what it takes,” said Dellums.

“I am proud to say that on our watch that challenge has been upheld and the 165th Academy will provide the city with the largest police force we’ve had in Oakland’s history.”

Mayor Dellums in his State of the City address last January had committed to reach the city’s authorized police force strength of 803 officers by the end of the year. That promise was met with widespread skepticism. Read more

Dellums Genealogical Tree Bears Fruit

By Paul Cobb

politicalwinners.jpgAs Mayor Ron Dellums’ former aides rise to legislative leadership, Oakland is seeing a legacy that can only be a plus for the city as local governments everywhere compete for resources in the midst of  national and global economic turmoil.

Dellums served for 28 years in Congress, holding many positions, including chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Now, his former aides are heading the African American legislative groups at their respective levels of government.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. Assemblymember Sandre Swanson heads the California Legislative Black Caucus and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is head of the caucus of East Bay Black Elected Officials.

Civil Rights Activist to Lead Lawyers’ Committee

lateefahsimon.jpgThe Board of Directors of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area today announced the appointment  of Lateefah Simon as its new Executive Director. A MacArthur Fellow and a nationally recognized civil rights activist, Simon joins the organization as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

“Throughout her life, Lateefah has advocated for the communities and issues that are central to our mission,” said Nancy Harris, an attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Board Co-Chair. “A brilliant leader, she is skilled at building effective coalitions and moving the social justice movement forward. With her leadership, a dedicated staff and renewed energy, we will continue to build on our successes and bring fresh solutions to the problems facing our client communities.”

Simon joins LCCR from the Office of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala D. Harris, where she has served as Director of Reentry Services since 2005. There, she helped launch successful initiatives such as Back on Track, a program designed to prevent re-arrests by providing formerly incarcerated young men and women with educational and employment opportunities. Back on Track now is a national model, reducing the recidivism rate for program participants to less than 10 percent. Read more

Michelle Obama: New Style of First Lady, Proud of Her Country


Michelle Obama brings the skills of a corporate lawyer to the White House as first lady to President-elect Barack Obama, but she says her priority will be her role as “mom-in-chief” to the couple’s two daughters.
Democrat Obama beat Republican John McCain in Tuesday’s election. He will be the first black U.S. president and his wife the first black first lady.
Michelle Obama, 44, was a passionate advocate for her husband’s candidacy, but she says she would not want a direct policy role in an Obama administration.
“My first job, in all honesty, is going to continue to be ‘mom-in-chief,’” she said in a recent magazine interview referring to daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
Though it is only a few weeks since Election Day, it is already possible to buy a new biography of Michelle Obama, which includes coverage of her husband’s history- making victory as the first African-American to ascend to the Presidency.
Elizabeth Lightfoot is the author of this very timely book about the soon-to-be first lady. Ms. Lightfoot, a Harvard grad who also has a Master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University, has worked as a reporter for the Associated Press. Read more

Tapping Into Your Child’s Potential One Word at a Time

First 5 California Offers Tips on Promoting Family Literacy

Reading and telling stories are enjoyable pastimes that are also essential in building a foundation for your child to succeed in school and in life.

Unfortunately, studies show that many of the children entering California’s kindergartens haven’t acquired basic learning and social skills. These students, many of whom are African American, are likely to struggle throughout their school careers. A simple remedy lies in encouraging family literacy as well as making sure parents and caregivers understand that a child’s learning begins long before the first day of school.

The National Center for Family Literacy reports that family reading time improves literacy, language and life skills for both parents and children.

Read more

Great Opportunity For Oakland Kindergartners

By Post Staff            

If you want to do one thing to make yourself more employable, learn a second language….and that goes for your children also. A new Oakland program is offering the opportunity for your children to learn the skill early and for free.

In Fall 2009, kindergartners will be able to enroll in a public “dual-immersion” program in East Oakland.    Private dual-immersion schools are often expensive.  Most private schools, even those that are not dual-immersion, such as Head Royce, begin teaching foreign language in kindergarten and first grade.

Children enrolled in dual immersion programs learn the regular basic curriculum of reading, math, and other subjects.  At the same time, they are immersed in both English and Spanish. And in a globalized economy anyone who speaks a second language has a better opportunity at both higher education and employment.

Read more

Bishop Jakes “Sets It Off” in Oakland

tdjakes.jpgOn Friday, Nov. 14, many welcomed Bishop T.D. Jakes to Oakland.  His first stop was the Jack London Square Cinema to promote his new movie, “Not Easily Broken”which is scheduled to come out in  January.

Later on that evening, Bishop Jakes was hosted by Bishop Ernestine Reems-Dickerson and the Center of Hope family.  Many were blessed by the word and the  signing of his new book, Before You Do”.  Over 3000 people were blessed by the word titled “Set it Off”!

Pastors Brondon and Maria Reems were the organizers of this powerful worship service.

Lee Criticizes New U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement

Congresswoman Barbara Lee has criticized the terms of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement approved this week by the Iraqi Cabinet and that is now awaiting approval of the Iraqi Parliament.

“This agreement will be unacceptable to the American people in its current form and should be rejected,” she said.

Lee also urged Congress to pass legislation she recently introduced that would prohibit the unilateral deployment of U.S. armed forces or the expenditure of public funds to guarantee the security of Iraq without prior approval of Congress.

“The Bush agreement commits the United States to a timetable that could leave U.S. troops in Iraq until Dec. 31, 2011,” she said. “Aside from the fact that the America people are plainly fed up with this unnecessary war and occupation in Iraq and want to see it ended, occupying Iraq for three more years under the Bush plan would cost American taxpayers $360 billion based on current spending levels.

“That money obviously could be better spent digging our economy out of the ditch the policies of the Bush Administration has put it in.”

Lee also said the Bush agreement will have the effect of undermining the Constitutional powers of the next President by submitting American military operations to the “approval” of the Iraqi government,” giving operational control to “mobile operations command centers” controlled by a joint American-Iraqi committee.

“Throughout history, American troops have been placed under foreign control in peacekeeping operations only where authorized under treaties ratified by the Senate,” Lee said. “No American President has ever before claimed the unilateral power to cede command of American troops to a foreign power.”

Oaklandish Offers $5,000 Innovator Grants

Oaklandish has created the Oakland Innovators Award, a fund that offers annual grants to organizations and individuals who are doing pioneering work in the community. The award is meant to offer recognition and financial support to local programs that exemplify the values of innovation and progress in all areas of civic life, including arts, education, technology and business.

Oaklandish began as a covert public art campaign designed to bring a sense of history and culture to the underutilized public spaces of this city. Eight years later, it continues that legacy by encouraging local artists to create their own Oakland-centric works in the public realm.

Local innovators are invited to apply for a grant of up to $5,000. Total grant fund is currently $25,000. The application due date has been extended to Dec. 8. Download the application and guidelines at:

Zimmerman Honored for Transformation of Your Muslim Bakery

bakery.jpg(Top, left to right) Exterior view of Your Muslim Bakery before the restoration. Interior view of Vital Life Services AIDS / HIV center after restoration. (Bottom, left to right) Omar Benjamin, Executive Director, Port of Oakland, Peggy Bush, Executive Director, Vital Life Services, Kurt Zimmerman, Managing General Partner NCK LLC and Principal at RN Field Construction, Nancy Zimmerman, and Judy Briggs Marsh. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

By Post Staff

The San Francisco Business Times honored developer Kurt Zimmerman for his conversion of Your Muslim Bakery to the Vital Life Services AIDS / HIV Center.

Zimmerman did a multimillion dollar renovation and conversion of the bakery, located on Telegraph Avenue, Oakland. Read more

Nonprofit Employers Looking for Part-Time and Freelance Workers

A new informal poll has revealed that close to 40 percent of people hunting for jobs at nonprofit agencies took from three to six months to find their current job and that in today’s economic climate, nonprofits are looking for more part-time and freelance workers.

In the current economic situation, nonprofits are looking for more flexible staffing solutions in addition to full-time employees, according to Opportunity Knocks, a national website that features nonprofit jobs at

Jonestown Victims Remembered 30 Years Later


Rev. Dr. Amos Brown (top left and Dr. Jynona Norwood (top right) lead the dedication of  The Memorial Wall for Jonestown victims. Photos by Gene Hazzard and graphics by Alapi Bhatt.

By Wade Woods

It was Nov. 18, 1978, in the steamy jungles of Guyana that over 900, mostly poor Black people died in a mass suicide.  They were the followers of Jim Jones, a charismatic white minister from Indiana who set up shop in the Western Addition in the early 1970’s.

The question is why they died. Why did over 900 people, many of they elderly, follow a white minister into an isolated rain forest and then to eternity?  The answer, at lease a piece of it, lies right here in San Francisco. Jones arrival coincided with the last embers of the riots that had swept through Black communities from New York to Watts. The famous Kerner Commission had just warned in its report that American society was becoming two nations – one white and affluent, the other black and poor. Read more

SF Co-op Residents Protest “Land Grab”

sfprotest.jpgResident shareholder/owners of apartments at the Martin Luther King/Marcus Garvey Cooperatives are protesting what they consider a “land grab” by Citi Community Capital to force them into a refinance deal that make them pay many times more than they still owe.

An agreement by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and City Community Capital would force the shareholders into a  $40 million refinance deal, though they are only 10 years and $3.5 million away from paying off the property, according to residents at the cooperative at 1680 Eddy St.

“MLK/Marcus Garvey residents should not have to pay twice to finance Citi Community Capital through taxes and also through an unfair refinance deal,” according to a statement made by protesters who picketed on Nov. 13 in front of the office of Citi Community Capital, 1 Sansome St.

“It is unfair to strengthen a financial system that would then turn around and take unfair advantage of low-income elderly residents,” the statement said.

On The Way To The Concert

berkmusic.jpgNew Century Saxophone Quartet stopped at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley to perform for students the day before their concert at Regents Theatre (Holy Names University), last week.  Ernest Clark of Seville Realty, sponsored the student development program for Four Seasons Concerts.

Students listened with rapt attention during the 45 minute performance, and amazed everyone with their “sophisticated questions”.

Congresswoman Lee to Chair Congressional Black Caucus

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) was formally named Chair-Elect of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) at a press conference this morning on Capitol Hill announcing the organization’s leadership for the upcoming Congress.Lee, who served as a member of the CBC leadership team for the past six years, first as Whip and currently as First Vice Chair, praised the leadership of outgoing Chair Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick. In the 111th Congress, CBC members will chair the Judiciary, Homeland Security, and the Ways and Means Committee, and numerous subcommittees. Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) will serve as Majority Whip of the Democratic Caucus and President-Elect Barack Obama will become the first African-American President.

“I want to thank Chairwoman Kilpatrick who has done a phenomenal job in keeping our caucus together and for the many legislative victories achieved under her leadership and to congratulate our newly elected officers. The 111th Congress will not only present unique and difficult challenges, but also historic opportunities for our caucus. I look forward to working with all of our CBC members to craft and implement a unified and bold agenda for the 111th Congress,” said Lee. Read more

Reggae Legend Pato Banton Comes to Oakland


An Intimate Evening with Reggae Legend Pato Banton” in West Oakland launches a 2009 state tour of America and is a rare opportunity to enjoy his music up close and personal. On Sunday, Nov. 23, Cjoy Inner.tainment and Friends of the Black New World will present Pato Banton & The Mystic Roots Band & Stay Positive Sound System at 6 p.m., at the historic Continental Club, 1658-12th Street in West Oakland.

Rated as one of the top showmen in the industry, Banton provides a high-energy performance while mixing humor with social consciousness and spirituality for the body, mind & soul. Banton is known as one of the greatest British MCs to evolve from the UK. Read more

Investigation of Schools’ Facilities Deflates, Questions Raised

By Ken  A. Epstein

An Oakland Unified School District investigation of its Facilities Department seemingly has all but collapsed, while raising serious questions about the accountability of the state overseers who have been in charge of the district for the past six years.

“As the district went forward, it was determined that there were no improprieties – I think the investigation is over,” said Boardmember Alice Spearman.

The matter became public in October, when the  district issued a press release announcing its intention to investigate the facilities department and refer the matter to the Alameda County District Attorney, saying that a “pattern of irregularities” indicated the “possibility of flawed protocol and insufficient vendor oversight in the department.” Read more

Lynum Elected President of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials

 Orlando, Fla. – Orlando Commissioner Daisy W. Lynum was elected 2009 president of the National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (NBC-LEO) this week during the group’s annual membership meeting at the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Congress of Cities in Orlando.

The Congress of Cities is the National League of Cities’ annual conference for city leaders. It encourages city leaders to exchange best practices and new program ideas that provide economic opportunities, make available more affordable housing, ensure public safety, and allow more effective interaction with state and federal agencies.

Lynum was first elected to the Orlando City Council in 1998, where her primary focus for Orlando citizens has been quality of life through sustainable neighborhoods. She is a member of NLC’s Bo ard of Directors and the Florida League of Cities. Read more

Now We Have More Than Sports

Kurt Streeter’s article hits the nail on the head. Now that Barack Obama has achieved the highest office in the land, young black children have another image to aspire to, in addition to the visions of sports stars and rappers that usually fill their heads.”If Obama can be president, well, this gives us hope,” said Darius Turner, a young man interviewed in the article. While the change won’t come overnight, hopefully youth will start looking beyond the green of the playing field and towards the White House as they set their life goals. Read more

Barack Obama: "Brothers Should Pull up Their Pants" has posted a section of an interview with President Elect Obama where the hip hop generation president is admonishing young African American men to get over the sagging pants style originally popularized in the early 90′s. Several cities, including a suburb of Chicago (Obama’s hometown) have passed laws against droopy jeans and Obama, while admitting there are more important national issues to focus on, admits that he thinks the style is disrespectful and asks young men to “have some sense and some respect for other people.” Read more

London Times premiers free Obama E-Book

The Times of London has released a free E-Book of Barack Obama coverage.  The 24 page E-Book, titled

Obama: How change came to America, chronicles the President Elect’s rise to “from the slave cabin to the White House,” discusses his appeal from a feminist perspective and features insight by poet Maya Angelou and a poem by Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott.  The E-Book is available online here.