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This 'n' That
By Laura McHale Holland
Many neighborhood residents are familiar with Global Exchange through its store on 24th Street. It offers goods crafted by poor people from around the globe under an arrangement whereby the lion's share of the profit goes back to the people and communities who create the products. Sanchez Street resident Medea Benjamin, who co-founded Global Exchange in 1988, has just been named an award recipient in the 10 Women Campaign sponsored by the San Francisco dance company Flyaway Productions. This is the second year that Flyaway has recognized 10 women in the arts and civic life who have effected great social change in their communities.
In addition to launching Global Exchange, Benjamin helped found Code Pink, a women's peace group. "We are less than a year old and already have over 100 chapters around the country. We encourage women to organize creative, outrageous actions for peace, and to make common cause with members of their communities who are bearing the brunt of budget cuts to feed the military," says Benjamin. (Find the full scoop at www. CodePinkBayArea.org.)
Wearing a large Code Pink button, Benjamin also appeared Sept. 22 on Channel 9's News Hour with Jim Lehrer, in a debate with Bush defense policy adviser Richard Perle. She was unflinching in her views: "I just came back from Iraq. It's a disaster. People don't have electricity, water, garbage collection, sewage collection, jobs. They're angry, they're bitter. They say the United States money is not getting down to the people, it's going to Halliburton, it's going to Bechtel," Benjamin declared. "We should not approve this $87 billion [proposed for Iraq reconstruction by the Bush administration]. Instead, there should be immediate transition over to the United Nations and as soon as possible to Iraqi self-rule."
As for the 10 Women Campaign, Flyaway Artistic Director Jo Kreiter says her group wants to build bridges between people in the arts and those working for social justice. "We established the awards to make a stronger link between what we as feminist-based artists are doing on stage and what feminist-based activists are doing out in the world. I call it pulling dance out of the margins, 10 women at a time."
Benjamin was a natural choice, Kreiter says, "because she's amazing globally and amazing locally in how she approaches citizen participation in whatever she's doing."
The awards ceremony will be held at ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street, at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 6. Presenters will be 10 leading women in the San Francisco dance and performance community, one of whom is Noe Valley resident and renowned choreographer Margaret Jenkins. Tickets are $12 to $25 sliding scale, and are available at www.ticketweb.com. Entertainment will include an excerpt from the Flyaway Productions piece "The Grim Arithmetic of Water."
Another group of 10 being honored this fall are the student singers at Adda Clevenger Junior Preparatory and Theater School for Children. In the school's first annual vocal talent competition, Michael Bannett placed first in the senior division (grades six through eight). Justine Fox and Christopher Lanehart tied for second place. Chandra Gordon-Lockhart placed third, and fourth-place honors went to Michael Schooley.
In the junior division (grades four and five), Mary Russell sang her way into first place, Michaela Creedon placed second, Ashley Thompson won third place, and both Sophia Namara and Grazia Benedetti received honorable mention.
"The competition was established to acknowledge special talent within the student body and was open to all students in grades four through eight," says Jen Segal, an assistant teacher at the school. Judging was done by the school's chorus instructors John Davey Hatcher and Urs Leonhardt Steiner and by professional singers Linda Christian Hedin and Lanier McNaab.
All students at the school, located on Fair Oaks Street, are members of the Adda Clevenger Youth Chorus. The school's advanced choir has been invited to sing at the White House twice and will depart for its third concert tour in Europe in June.
Cory Combs, a composer and bassist who works at Cover to Cover and lives on Liberty Street, hasn't won any major competitions lately. But he has released a CD entitled Postcards from California. Combs recorded the music at 4 x 6 Studios in "Noe Valley, California."
"As you know, in Noe Valley, space is at a premium, so I emptied a utility closet in our one-bedroom apartment and put all my recording equipment in there. That's where I recorded the CD. When I finished it, I took the measurements and decided to call it 4 x 6 Studios. There's barely room enough to turn around," notes Combs.
Studio size isn't the only interesting aspect of this project. The album consists of compositions for electric bass guitar. "Oftentimes the bass is not seen as a solo instrument. It's more of a background instrument, so with the pieces I wrote for this particular CD, I wanted to feature the electric bass in a more melodic way."
Combs was moved to do this because his older brother Chris, a filmmaker, died unexpectedly in July 2002 in a kayaking accident on Lake Michigan. "He was always a big supporter of my music. Some of my fondest memories of high school are when he would make me play for all of his friends because he was proud of what I was accomplishing. He always loved to sit in front of me and listen," Combs recalls.
An especially noteworthy thing about this CD is that half of the profits from its sales will go to the Chris Combs Foundation. The Combs family established the foundation in an effort to bring more art, music, film, and dance into the world. They have already garnered corporate contributions to bring special musical performances to university students in Wichita, Kan., where Combs' mother and father reside. "I think the foundation will become larger and start disbursing money each year to a worthy filmmaker or musician or writer to help further their work," says Combs.
Postcards from California is available at Streetlight Records on 24th Street, at cdbaby.com, and through Amazon.com.
Another family that started a foundation in honor of a loved one is the Titus family. Twenty-eight-year-old Alicia Titus, who lived on Guerrero Street and worked as a flight attendant, perished aboard United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. When we wrote about the tragedy two years ago (October 2001 Voice), Alicia's family and friends were still in shock and had yet to set up a lasting memorial.
On the first anniversary of her death, they created the Alicia Titus Peace Memorial Fund. The foundation is based at Urbana University in Ohio, where Alicia's father, John Titus, worked as dean of students and where Alicia spent a semester of her college career. The stated purpose of the fund is to carry out Alicia's legacy by enabling Urbana University to sponsor programs that support the cause of peace in the world.
Several of Alicia's San Francisco friends have also launched a web site, www.sweetalicia.org, as a tribute to their lost friend. "Alicia's web site is truly a godsend. My wife Bev and I go to it regularly. It inspires me and gives me hope, and it helps me through my grief," says John Titus.
In addition, the Tituses, who live in Dexter, Mich., have joined a group called September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
"At Alicia's memorial service, several hundred people held hands and sang 'Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me....' This is what Alicia was all about. After all, aren't we humans all from the same origins? Why do we continue to kill each other because of different beliefs and self-serving motives? This is what our primitive ancestors did, but haven't we learned and grown spiritually beyond where they were?" Titus asks.
Alicia's father adds that he and his fellow members of Peaceful Tomorrows will continue "to speak out against the Bush administration policies and actions that justify killing more innocent people in the name of our family members who died. We want justice, but not revenge. We want to work towards peace, not engender more war."
On that note, dear readers, farewell until next month. Live each day to the fullest, and please send in your news. Do you have a new baby on board? Have you recently won an award or accomplished something worthwhile? Are you planning a wedding?
Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or leave a message at 415-821-3324, or write Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114. h