Cy and A-lan's Picks: Brave New Voices, Seeking Sanctuary, and Divine Black Women

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Karen Seneferu and Melora Green co-curators for The Black Woman is God exhibition at SOMArts in San Francisco (Photo: Cy Musiker/KQED)

My co-host this week is A-lan Holt, a playwright and movie maker (Inamorata- with a screening August 4th at the Blackstar Film Fest), and the Associate Director of Stanford's Institute for Diversity in the Arts (Instagram @a_lanmoon). Now here's our picks.

July 20 - Aug 26: "Abracadabrakaafrika" (the video above) by Oakland singer, community organizer and video maker Zakiya Harris is just one of the works on display at SOMArts in San Francisco as part of the new exhibit, The Black Woman Is God: Divine Revolution. Co-curated by Karen Seneferu and Melora Green, the exhibition features works by 60 black women artists in a range of styles and media. The show touches on how African religions (Yoruba and others) feature female deities. But it's also about how artists, like gods, are creators. "What does it mean for a black woman to create," Seneferu told me, with Green finishing her thought. "To add to that, to have the audacity to create." Green said. "When you look around this room, you’ll find  a lot of women who’ve been creating in hiding. Most of these artists have experienced someone telling them that it (their work) doesn’t look good or doesn’t fit. And in this room, we’re saying your work is dope as hell."

SOMarts will also host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on Saturday, July 22, inviting people to help fill in the gaps in art history minimizing black women artists. Admission is always free. Details for the show at SOMArts are here.

Artwork by Adriana Monsalve, part of the Shelter/Refugio show at MACLA in San Jose
Artwork by Adriana Monsalve, part of the Shelter/Refugio show at MACLA in San Jose (Photo: Courtesy of MACLA)

June 2 - Aug. 13: MACLA, San Jose’s Chicano and Latino arts space, is hosting the show Shelter/Refugio, a critique of how we think about everything from the evaporating American dream of a suburban home, to how we care for the homeless, the immigrant, and the refugee. The show includes a piece by Chris Treggiari and (UCSF Professor) Sergio De La Torre that simulates a raid by immigration agents inside the gallery.


"For us the idea of a shelter is a place where you feel safe," De La Torre told me by phone. "No matter whether you’re homeless or undocumented. Everyone deserves a safe place -- a sanctuary."

Details here for Shelter/Refugio.

Sanctuary Print Shop, an art show and free silkscreen workshop opens July 20 at YBCA
Sanctuary Print Shop, an art show and free silkscreen workshop opens July 20 at YBCA (Photo: Courtesy of YBCA)

July 20 - Oct 22: We also talked to De La Torre partly because he and Chris Treggiari are also mounting a participatory show at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on themes they explored in the MACLA show. Sanctury Print Shop is meant to educate people about the concept of a sanctuary city. They're offering free sikscreen workshops for visitors throughout the run of the show. Details here.

July 21-22: The video above is a sample from the Baltimore team's performance at last year’s Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Competition, a festival that is bringing teams of young poets from around the world to the East Bay and San Francisco. The local festival is hosted by Youth Speaks, which trains Bay Area kids to write and perform. When she was a teenager, A-lan used to sneak out of her home in Los Angeles to attend Grand Slam competitions. She was knocked out by the passion and brilliance of the performers, the laughter and the deep introspection. The semi-finals and quarter-finals are at venues all over Berkeley and Oakland on Friday afternoon and evening and they're free, and the Grand Slam finals are at the San Francisco Opera House, a venue used to high emotion. As A-lan said, 'You better believe “the next generation can speak for themselves.”' Details are here.

Aug 11-13: Antoine Hunter's Urban Jazz Dance Company continues its impressively subversive mission with the fifth season of the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival. "The beautiful thing," A-lan said, "about creating more visibility around the deaf and hard of hearing community is that is expands our understanding of communication." There are performances and workshops featuring all kinds of dance styles, including ASL dance, a reminder that signing is a kind of beautiful movement as well. The workshops are in San Francisco at Dance Mission Theater in the Mission and at the Deaf Community Center in San Leandro. Details for the festival are here. pat Dance Mission Theater in San Francisco are here. 

July 26: Beth Ditto says she never fit in in her hometown in rural Arkansas, maybe because she describes herself as a “fat feminist lesbian.” The former lead singer for the band Gossip has a hot album out now on her own that features 12 new songs. I love how she brings so much country to this mix of disco and power ballad and rock and roll. A-lan loves how the way she presses a body-positive message in danceable form. She's known for her powerful live shows, so we're wishing her best after a hospitalization earlier this month in New York and hopes that it doesn't derail the rest of her tour. Details for her show at the Independent in San Francisco are here.

Thanks so much to A-lan for joining us this week

KQED's Cy Musiker and Stanford's A-lan Holt hosted The Do List this week
KQED's Cy Musiker and Stanford's A-lan Holt hosted The Do List this week (Photo: Chloe Veltman/KQED)