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.
El Dia De Los Muertos: Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, there's one thing we can all agree on--that our present lives last a painfully short time. So there's no reason to deprive yourself of the Modern Art Museum's sixth annual El Dia de los Muertos celebration. With storytelling, dance, mariachi music, and those fabulously ornate altars to dead friends and family members, this event is Latino in conception, but if that seems like a barrier to all you non-Latinos, just remember: The Grim Reaper doesn't discriminate based on skin color. The celebration happens 2-4:30 p.m. at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1309 Montgomery, Fort Worth. Call (817) 738-9215.
Dallas World Aquarium: We always knew there were animals in the West End, but we thought they were of the liquored-up, humanoid, can't-keep-our-lips-off-each-other variety. It turns out the Dallas World Aquarium, the West End's privately owned, AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association)-accredited aquarium, has been harboring various man-eating critters for a while. The latest guests are B.J. and Cody, two black jaguars visiting from the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound in California. Sleek, beautiful kitties like these two can be found in only two habitats in the world--Northern Mexico and various facilities across America for breeding animals. The aquarium is open daily from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. and located at 1801 North Griffin in the West End. Admission is $5-$11. Call (214) 720-2224.
Mark Doty: As the second writer in a Southern Methodist University Literary Festival lineup that includes Alice Walker (November 2) and Norman Mailer (November 19), gay writer Mark Doty, winner of the National Book Critics Award and T.S. Eliot Prize, might be lost in the shuffle because he's a poet. We admit that contemporary Anglo poetry offers up a lot of reasons to be ignored--so much of what's written today by highly feted poets is just prose broken up into verse lines--but Doty is a real wordsmith. As a survivor of the AIDS epidemic, Doty has been forced to think about the bottom-line issues for the past 12 years. But he cares as much about the sound of language as AIDS politicizing, making his vision all the more effective. Doty reads from his works at 8 p.m. in the Hughes-Trigg Theater of Southern Methodist University. Admission is free. Call (214) 768-7654.
Two Poets, Two Books, One Night: One time, they were on opposite sides of a Dallas poetry battle over use of the word "fuck" in venues where children are present. Now, Dallas poetry ringmaster Clebo Rainey and self-styled Fort Worth "white trash garage poet" William Bryan Massey III have reconciled and joined forces to offer Fort Worth modern poetry lovers a taste of their unexpurgated, outraged word collages, and we suspect "fuck" will be among the tamer references. They're both celebrating new books: Rainey's The Spiral Notebook and Massey's Slow Death of An Urban Outcry. Both guys have a strong sense of humor, so don't take their more shocking material too seriously; that's the best way to enjoy offensiveness. The evening starts at 8 p.m. at the Wreck Room, 3208 W. 7th St., Fort Worth. It's free, but donations are gratefully accepted. Call (817) 870-4900.
Roots of Jazz: The roots of jazz are, of course, the roots of all great American music: the incalculable influence of African-American artists. As part of its Wednesday jazz series, Sammons Center for the Arts presents "Roots of Jazz," a performance of early forms like ragtime and Dixieland by the James Gilyard Ensemble featuring Kelly Durbin on piano and the vocals of Ron Davison. Performances happen at 7:30 p.m. at Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd. The $18 ticket price includes complimentary wine, beer, and soft drinks. Call (214) 520-7788.