African children’s tale is parable for our time

The Handful Players, a children’s company that performs at the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition, are giving a free performance of Chinaka Hodge’s play “Who’s in Rabbit’s House?” at 1 p.m. May 13. It’s based on Verna Aardema’s book of the same name, from an African Maasai folktale called “The Long One,” about a bullying caterpillar. But the playwright has made the work relevant for our time.

After the bully caterpillar takes over a rabbit’s hut, it says, “I’m going to build a fence around it and make you pay for it. You’ll never get me out. The Long One is huge, I tell you! Tremendous! Be very afraid.”

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He also threatens other animals: “I eat trees and trample on elephants and dismantle health care. Go away or I will trample on you!”

Finally, the animals get to together to oppose the Long One, and with their help, the rabbit gets the Long One out of his hut.

“We do have a lot of children of immigrant families in our program,” says executive director Judith Cohen, “so this story about getting kicked out of your home and a community standing up to a bully is very personal.”

P.S. In Los Angeles, Mark Share was struck by a sign on a vacated space: “The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy is closed.”

The latest in J.A.’s series of “In Memoriam” tributes to people who stood up for their convictions is to Gordon Hirabayashi, who was born April 23, 1918, and died in 2012. Hirabayashi defied Executive Order 9066, refusing to be rounded up and sent to an internment camp. His imprisonment was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court in 1943 (finally overturned in 1986).

“If you think the Constitution protects you,” said Hirabayashi, “you better make sure that (it) is actively operating. … Otherwise, it’s a scrap of paper.”

J.A. pays tribute to “Hirabayashi and conscientious objectors everywhere. Be Brave. Stay Strong. Live your values.”

•In honor of Rainbow Flag designer Gilbert Baker , who died on the last day of March, the New York LGBT Film and Media nonprofit Newfest, NYC Pride, and a team from Ogilvy & Mather created a rainbow-hued typeface. The free and downloadable typeface, created with the use of Fontself, is called Gilbert. Its designers hope it will be used on banners for protests and marches.

Jerry Barrish, who was busy as a bail bondsman during the Summer of Love, attended the de Young exhibition on the era, and found himself locked up — in traffic. Barrish was there on 4/20. After the museum closed at 5:15 p.m., he says, it took him an hour and 15 minutes to get out of the garage.

•Sign carried by artist Gyöngy Laky in the March for Science: “The White House is celebrating Flat Earth Day. … All six of America’s 2016 Nobel Prize winners are immigrants.”

The Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association had a rededication event on Wednesday, April 19, for the restored mini-park at Taylor and Beach, whereupon stands Benjamin Bufano’s 18-foot-tall statue of St. Francis. The park was created in 1962 by the Teamsters Union.

The provenance: After its first unveiling in Paris, Bufano’s 13-ton granite sculpture was shipped in 1955 to San Francisco to be installed at the St. Francis Church in North Beach. The church didn’t like it, says association treasurer Mike Villeggiante, and the statue was sent to Oakland for installation at a restaurant. Then Bufano, well known in San Francisco, “reached out to his longshoremen friends,” including Harry Bridges and Jimmy Herman, “to see if they could provide a new home.”

A Mill Valley man was surprised that a friend of his who was being prepared for surgery was asked in a phone interview: “Is anybody in your house abusing you verbally or physically?”

And on Monday, April 24, the day the Frisky Scale appeared in this column, Mac McCarthy was struck by the Peanuts cartoon of the day: Snoopy notes that it is National Secretaries’ Week and recommends, “Give your secretary a hug.”

P.S. Jim Schock informs us that Tucker Carlson, who is replacing Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, is the son of Dick Carlson, who was a KGO-TV reporter here in the ’60s.

Leah Garchik is open for business in San Francisco, (415) 777-8426. Email:; Twitter: @leahgarchik

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