Maafa: The Assault on African Civilization and the African Response to Slavery: It's hard not to get emotional about history, but too much emotion, whether it comes from the political right or left, tends to obscure important lessons. The 13th Annual African Awakening Conference will, according to press materials, "focus on the more than 1,400 years of Arab and European assault on African people and the African way of life." That Africa has been pillaged by outsiders for hundreds of years is undeniable; but will the organizers of this conference have the courage to admit the bloodthirstiness common to all people, including Africans? (Hello, Rwanda.) Events around this conference include "A Tribute to Our Ancestors," a memorial that happens at 7 p.m. in Griggs Park, Clark and Hall Street; and a film, "All Power to the People," that screens at 7 p.m., October 31, at the South Dallas Cultural Center, 3700 Fitzhugh. The Maafa (Swahili for holocaust) conference itself happens 11 a.m.-7 p.m. November 1 and 2 at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, 650 S. Griffin St. Tickets to the latter are $30, and they include admission to the previous two events. Call (214) 743-2440.
Hijacking Hollywood: First-time writer-director Neil Mandt scored a real buzz at the Austin Film Festival's Heart of Film Screenwriters Conference with his reportedly scorching sendup of the L.A. entertainment industry titled Hijacking Hollywood. The fact that Mandt is a Los Angeles resident who's corralled other disgruntled "outsider" performers like Scott Thompson to co-star made the experience all the more gratifying. The Dallas Screenwriter's Association presents a Dallas screening of the film, with Mandt in attendance for a Q&A afterward. The screening happens at 7:30 p.m. at the Lakewood Theater on Abrams Road. Call (214) 922-7829 for ticket information.
Aida: What's so scary about a Halloween-night performance of Verdi's Aida by the Dallas Opera? Well, for starters, the best seats cost $150; our hands go clammy at the mere thought. And then there's the infamous Cask of Amontillado-type finale that, because it ends with two dead but united lovers, is supposed to make us glad about the power of love but instead makes us think, "How much did Radames and Aida claw those sealed tomb walls before they finally died of suffocation?" Maybe we're just not opera-fan material, but Halloween is the opening night for Aida, and we hear The Dallas Opera always puts on a smashing show. The show happens at 7:30 p.m. October 31, 2 p.m. November 2, and 7:30 p.m. November 5 at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Tickets are $29-$150. Call (214) 443-1000.
Boo at the Zoo: We're not worried about what the adults are doing this All Hallow's Eve. Unlike, say, Christmas and Easter, Halloween is a holiday that becomes more fun with age and the legal right to drink. Since trick-or-treating, sadly, seems all but dead as an American tradition, what are the tykes to do? "Boo at the Zoo" at the Fort Worth Zoo offers activities that include a magic show, a song-and-dance revue from Yber-geeks The Morris Brothers, a puppet show with "Madam Claire Voyant," an "unhaunted" ghost town, and more. It's designed for kids between ages 2 and 10. Events are scheduled 6-8 p.m. October 30-November 1 at the Fort Worth Zoo, 1989 Colonial Parkway, Fort Worth. Admission is $8, but kids under 2 get in free. Call (817) 871-7000.
The Lacandon Maya and Highland Chiapas: If we were to list any ethnic cultures as "endangered species" in the slow melting of ethnic lines that is world culture, the Lacandon Mayans of Southern Mexico would top the list. Numbering fewer than 500 in three separate communities in the forests between Mexico and Guatemala, these people have been called the last links to a civilization that lasted 4,000 years. Florida-based photographer William Warner has moved among these people for months at a time and collected images of their lives in a smashing collection now showing at the Artcentre of Plano called "The Lacandon Maya and Highland Chiapas." The show runs through November 20 at the Artcentre of Plano, 1039 E. 15th St., Plano. Call (972) 243-7809.
Faces of a New Nation: We must admit that after a public-school career of stultifying American history classes, our attention shuts off the instant we see one of those silly 18th-century colonial wigs. But Faces of a New Nation, a Dallas Museum of Art exhibit that traces aristocratic portraiture from 18th-century England to 19th-century America, actually is interesting if you stop to read the accompanying text. The new acquisitions in this show run through January 10 at the Dallas Museum of Art, 1717 N. Harwood. Call (214) 922-1200.
902102112, first installment: There are people who spend all their time thinking about the meaning of existence, and then there are people like Ludwig Schwarz, who spends all (or at least a good portion) of his time thinking about Jenny Garth's character on 90210. We suspect Schwarz would be more fun at dinner conversation. He's presenting the first one-person show at Angstrom Gallery, "902102112, first installment," a multi-media show that includes paintings, an installation, jewelry, and a video performance of Ludwig's band, all of it dedicated to guess who. The opening happens 8 p.m. November 1 and also features a video performance. The show runs through November 29 at 3609 Parry Ave. Call (214) 823-6465.