You might know him from movies like Krush Groove, Rules of Engagement, Deep Impact, Gattaca, or Set It Off. Possibly you saw him portray a black Jesus in 1992's The Second Coming. Maybe you've caught him on the small screen on LA Law, Sex in the City, The Cosby Show, and One Life to Live, or perhaps hosting the NAACP Image Awards. Yes, you know and love Blair Underwood, but did you know he was involved in literary pursuits as well as cinematic ones? He recently edited Before I Got Here, a book of children's remembrances of life in the womb, featuring Donyell Kennedy-McCullough's photographs of the kids who were interviewed. On his Web site (BlairUnderwood.com), he explains the impetus behind the project: "As a father of three young children, I have witnessed firsthand the silliness, the joy, the bickering, the exploration of new worlds through infant eyes. Yet, it is the occasional, nonchalant utterings that leave a parent speechless if we truly listen to what the children are telling us." Underwood comes to Marcus Books (3900 MLK Way, Oakland) today at 5 p.m. to talk more about Before I Got Here. 510-652-2344. -- Eric K. Arnold
It may be hard to imagine with our country caught in the fleshy grip of an obesity epidemic, but there are undernourished persons right here in the US of A, including children, seniors, abuse survivors, people with disabilities, people living with AIDS, and the homeless, says the Alameda County Community Food Bank. The Food Bank wants to feed them, and so attendees of this evening's tree-lighting ceremony in Emeryville (6 p.m., Bay Street shopping mall) are asked to bring canned food items for the org's holiday food drive. Enjoy children's fun such as Santa and Mrs. Claus, and help a hungry person into the bargain. A food collection container will remain at Bay Street through December 31, so don't forget the less fortunate as you make your holiday rounds. Info: 510-635-3663 or ACCFB.org -- Kelly Vance
Banned by the Taliban, celebrated in Berkeley. That's the story of Radio Kaboul: Ustad Mahwash and Friends, an Afghan musical variety show headlined by traditional singer Farida Mahwash. The first woman to be named an ustad (master musician) in her country, she and her troupe of four musicians -- on zerbaghali clay drum, tabla, rubab and sarod (Afghan lutes), and harmonium -- play the unique folkloric melodies of Afghanistan, a blending of classical Persian, Indian, and Arabic influences, with a touch of Tajikistan and the ancient melodies of the Silk Road. A resident of Los Angeles ever since she fled her native land, Mahwash and her group play one night only, tonight at 8 p.m., at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. Tickets ($22-$30-$40) from 510-642-9988 or CalPerfs.berkeley.edu -- K.V.
The music and the message. That about sums up Anthony B.'s career in a nutshell. Affiliated with the turban-wearing "Bobo dread" movement, the Jamaican sing-jay first came to prominence during the roots resurgence of the '90s (which reestablished conscious lyrics in dancehall music), endearing himself to reggae fans as a member of the Star Trail crew and scoring the controversial hit "Fire 'Pon Rome." His 1996 debut album So Many Things... made him an international star, and since then, he's been incredibly prolific; in the last two years alone, he has released at least ten solo albums, in addition to appearing on numerous compilations, and putting out 'nuff 45s. Anthony B.'s live shows always resonate with fire and brimstone, not to mention charisma, so break out the red-gold-and-greenery and enjoy the scenery when he puts in a rare East Bay appearance tonight at the Shattuck Down Low (2284 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley). $17; ShattuckDownLow.com -- E.K.A.
From silk-stocking district to Jewish quarter to depressing slum to fashionable gay village, Paris' Marais has had a typically dramatic urban progression over the years. The ancient Right Bank neighborhood, centered on Rue des Rosiers in the 3rd Arrondissement, has quite a history, and if you come to the little French cottage at 1542 Grant St. (at Cedar St.) in Berkeley at 8 p.m. tonight, authors Cara Black and Leonard Pitt will be happy to tell you about it, especially from the point of view of Ms. Black's character, sleuth Aimée Leduc, who investigates murders that never happened. RSVP, s'il vous plaît: email@example.com. The $20 admission includes wine as well as the glories of the Marais. -- K.V.
At this point, it's practically impossible to add anything new to the blues. But you can still wring a new tear out of the good ol' twelve-bar onion by adding something even older than the blues -- Indian classical music. That's just what Harry Manx has done, creating a style he calls "Mysticssippi." Sporting an appropriately weathered, gospel-influenced vocal tone, and brandishing a twenty-string guitar-sitar hybrid he calls the Mohan Veena, Manx' mix of folksy Americana and trance-inducing traditional ragas truly pushes the boundaries of a genre long thought past innovation. Pick up his new album Mantra for Madmen, or, better yet, enter "the Harry zone" tonight at 8 p.m. at the Freight & Salvage (1111 Addison St., Berkeley). $17.50-$18.50. TheFreight.org -- E.K.A.
With two days before Thanksgiving, and Aunt Millie and the kids on their way from Michigan, now is the time to think about the dispossessed, the displaced, and the disenfranchised. Volunteer to help serve a meal. Donate food. Give that extra winter coat to someone without one. Help homeless youth in Berkeley by contacting BerkeleyFreeClinic.org; contact Oakland's Women's Economic Agenda Project at WEAP.org or Hayward's Human Outreach Agency at HOACA.org; reach out to the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond at BayAreaRescue.org. Buy a Street Sheet or ten. Remember, a little goes a long way when you have nothing. -- E.K.A.
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