Gem of the Ocean opens February 1, 2019
|Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD|
|Oakland , Ca|
|"I am an artist trying to touch the world though the medium of creation. I create therefore I am. I am a theater director. I started out as an actress -- I still love the boards as much as I love my next breath. I am a poet. They call me WordSlanger. I founded The Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc a non-profit theater troupe based in Oakland CA. We were the troupe in the Yard for 13 years. We are now in residence at The Flight Deck in downtown Oakland. My art is particular. I am talking to you. I am listening to the universe. I am constantly in search of teachers. It is said when the student is ready the teacher appears. I will be grateful the rest of my life for meeting my current teacher, Master August Wilson. I met the master after his death, his affect on my life, knowing, and craft have been profound. I proudly walk with Wilson. I commune with his spirit. I am embiggened by his vision and I humbly pay juba. With the production of Radio Golf the tenth of the ten play Cycle; I proudly claim being the first director to direct the Cycle in chronological order and my troupe, The Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc are the first troupe of any size or stripe to ever enact the ritual of the Century Cycle in order. We stand on our art, our art stands on the graveyard at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean, we walk with the Bones and August Wilson. If you have seen us you know, we shine like new money." Nzinga 2016|
King Hedley II written by August Wilson, is the 9th play in his American Century Cycle. Directed by Dr. Ayodele Nzinga and performed by The Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc; King Hedley II is currently on Broadway in Oakland, CA. at the Flight Deck, located at 1540 Broadway. Come see it and enjoy!
The Lower Bottom Playaz, Inc (LBP), a small scrappy theater company in Oakland CA, are about to become a part of theater history. They are in production for Radio Golf by August Wilson which will open on December 18, 2015 at The Flight Deck on Broadway. Radio Golf will be the tenth consecutive LBP production of Wilson’s crowning achievement, The American Century Cycle. LBP took up the mantle to become the first theater company to formally stage the entire Cycle in 2010. With their production of Radio Golf they become that company.
Pre Production Notes
In the first installment of The American Century Cycle, Gem of the Ocean, we started out in the house at 1839 Wiley St., the house with the red door, Aunt Ester’s house. It is fitting we should end our journey here at Aunt Ester’s house as the battleground for Radio Golf, the final installment of the Cycle. Souls are still being washed on Wiley St, even though we lost Ester in King Hedley II, the ninth installment. By returning to Ester’s house we are making a circle back to where we started. I find that, and Master Wilson, most elegant.
We are about to do what we said we would do in 2010. It was such a big undertaking until I am not sure that anyone other than us realize how much we bit off. That we would be here, now, is nothing short of miraculous, and that’s the small of it — it has been such a blessing to those of us who stayed the course. This is such a pregnant moment for me as a theater maker. It is bittersweet and filled with a quiet power. Everything is before us as a theater company and so much is behind us as a group of artist dedicated to a single purpose creating together for a sustained period of time. In this moment we can argue that we will save the house on Wiley St. which is slated for demolition as the curtain rises on Radio Golf.
We have reached the end of a mythical quest with Wilson as our cartographer we have traveled through time and consciousness by the completion of his elegant circular ritual we have arrived at our destination. We are home. We have come ashore firmly dressed in a cosmology, in possession of an epistemology, rooted so firmly in our soul that our arrival is only understandable in the context of remembering and going home. We have traveled from who we were, to who we wanted to be, by realizing we are enough.
We may yet save the house on Wiley St. . We know of a certainty we will build it again if it is torn down. It’s a metaphor; we are the foundation of the house on Wiley St., if we can wrap ourselves around that, then, we know they can’t tear down the house, Aunt Ester is alive, the song is strong. We are that song. We are the children of the Diaspora, the fruit of the bones, without sanctuary in search of a resting place carrying the foundation of home within. Thus we may still save the house. It’s all metaphor and the purest of truth.
Metaphor and symbolism are part and parcel of the ritual offered by Wilson. We have learned to speak the language, to carefully read between the lines, and to connect the dots between Wilson’s history of the twentieth century to our lived realities here in the twenty first century. Having learned the game it is my great pleasure to play with the master’s toys in his house at least once more.
We are mining the lessons and the message already. As usual, for us our real life becomes a part of each story. As we enter Pittsburgh’s Hill District in its final throes of being remade at the turn of the Century we are reminded of how much our hometown of Oakland has changed in the mere space of the five years since we began our Century Cycle Project.
We are no longer in the theater built for us. It no longer exist. Most of our theater troupe no longer lives in West Oakland where we started out. Most of us can’t afford to live in the area we dedicated ourselves to revitalizing with culture and self determination. Our neighborhood, once one of the poorest in America, has become one of the most expensive neighborhoods in California. Like the characters we met in Gem of the Ocean and Joe Turner has Come and Gone we are looking for home and opportunity in places we had not imagined as choices. Most of these places are in fact are not choices in the literal sense of the word.
To say the least our lived experiences leave us in a most interesting place as we begin production for the only installment of the Cycle told from the standpoint of potential developers, who happen to be Black. We are on slightly different terrain in this play. Usually our main focus is on common folk with lessons for all of us about complex issues. This time we focus on the hearts and minds of Dubois’s talented 10th. Our hero’s are very comfortable and upwardly mobile folk on a move. They are not suffering from a lack of resource or opportunity. Their poverty is of a different stripe. It allows us to look at a manifestation of trauma not well examined since Caesar Wilkes explains why he hunts Black people for a living in Gem of the Ocean. I have always thought that monologue was one of Wilson’s greatest gifts in the cycle.
In that monologue Caesar tells us how he lost his soul. He speaks in great candor about his journey as a striver and how he took the only road left open to him. Caesar figuratively murders freedom in Gem of the Ocean by killing Solly Two Kings. He violates the sanctuary of 1839 Wiley the home of Aunt Ester to do so. We still have time to unfurl the mystery of Black Mary, Caesar’s sister who we believe at this point joined the myth of Ester Tyler, who of course is symbolically much more than a 300 year old woman. We will return to this thought in later writings. But for now we do know somethings for a certainty, in Radio Golf we come to know that Caesar Wilkes regrets where he found himself, and went to great lengths to make right his wrong. It is his act of contrition that sets the stage for Radio Golf.
Radio Golf offers space for a reexamination of wealth, legacy, and loyalty in the context of a marginalized people in a material culture. It allows us to question what success looks like from multiple vantage points. We are afforded a vehicle to examine our interconnectedness in a way I hope makes audiences quietly uncomfortable in the consideration of the simple truth: right is right and right don’t wrong nobody.
Radio Golf starring The Lower Bottom Playaz, directed by Ayodele Nzinga opens 12/18/15 in Oakland Ca. at The Flight Deck, 1540 Broadway. Ticket info on website:http://www.lowerbottomplayaz.com . Information :510-457-8999.
They say King Hedley II, is the darkest play in the American Century Cycle by August Wilson. Dark with all its connotations is an interesting take. It is dark. Dark like black life, dark and heavy like the history of North America’s Nation within the Nation. Dark like a burn on a soul that won’t comprehend the enduring nature of the trauma initiated by the Transatlantic Transgression, the lived experience of chattel slavery, and its living legacy in its descendants.
If you want to know why things are the way they are you might consider Wilson a source of spiritual information. It is not history Wilson seeks to address rather its the fullness of every-day-ness, the extraordinary complexity of the ordinary, the enduring and universal struggle of North American Africans through the decades of the twentieth century to find the center that keeps shifting.
I have always invested Wilson with the ability to be in two times at once: the current moment is always made more clear by looking at his reference to a specific point in the past. I have come to understand that this is not so much a trick of Master Wilson as it is an intentional testament to what the “illusion” reveals; not a lot has changed at the core of North American African existence in North America in the last one hundred years. It is not Wilson’s ability to reside in multiple time frames but rather the unchanging nature of barriers to inclusion and the methods of exclusion perfected over time that we observe in Wilson’s Cycle.
Wilson’s work is important because it sets the two America’s side by side and offers a view of the center from off-center. The better to understand that there are two songs of Americas living side by side in dissonance. The song of America that echos in the world is one of democratic strength, stewardship, might and compassion. There is a moral note borne in its declaration of being a Christian nation that implies certain ethics are in play within greater society where progress is seen as both natural and inevitable. There is a public good and a standard by which this nation views itself.
Yet there are consistent anomalies like the persistent gap in wages and job attainment that exist between well qualified black applicants and their white counterparts. Disproportionate incarceration, as a result of disproportionate contact with law enforcement and lack of access to competent legal representation is another point of observation as is the lack of correlation between education and employment prospects in emerging fields. Another would be the tenuousness of geographical community. Just as The Hill District is a topic of contested space throughout Wilson’s Cycle the relationship with geography, community, space in which to thrive, and the concept of belonging have been and remain a troubling and complex point of reflection in considering tales of the two Americas.
There are multiple places where one can observe the great divide one could visit a court room, a hospital, a school, a Fortune 500 company, a tech campus, or perhaps more telling pay attention on Sunday morning to who prays where. There are two Americas. One has an infrastructure that helps to contain the other which stubbornly persist in refusing to be homogenized with a vigor equal to that which seeks to contain and.other it.
In Gem of the Ocean, Wilson introduces us to “The Mill”, the only source of employment, along with its blatant racism and overt hold overs from share cropping thefts of labor, by the end of Gem the mill has been burned by Two Kings. Solly, a freedom fighter from the Underground Railroad, is murdered by Caesar the black lawman who tragically found a way to go forward against the obstacles he faced by siding with the system of containment in place. Caesar sees no way for the poor blacks to survive without the meager chance for subsistence offered by the mill. He predicts deeper poverty, the decline of morals fed by unmet need, the rise of criminality, and more as the result of the absence of even less than half a chance. Solly acts out of the philosophy espoused by Aunt Ester. “If the wheel is broke somebody got to fix it”. By burning the mill he forces some other way into reality. Some other way must be discovered even if it must be created. The Nation buried within the Nation exist in search of the tools to fashion a way from what appears to be no way.
The Nation within the Nation is a push me pull me phenomenon. It is a place we are constricted to as well as a cosmological event we are joined in, feed, construct by our nurture, a place in the center of the whirlwind – the eye of the storm we stand in endeavoring to become. It is what we become that is in question.
The Black Lens
Off center is an instructive view. It is a view of the center from outside. If the narrative of America from its center its a song of self, a kind of authorized autobiography that is carefully curated then, reading from the side lines gives us a less invested view, one that can afford to not be politically correct because political correctness has never served it outside of the earshot of those invested from the center. Here we measure affect divorced from dressed up language of intention, the pig without the lipstick.
Where else can you get a comprehensible context of life as experienced by those behind the veil unless you step behind the veil to bear witness its beating heart. It is a marvel left untold center stage in the drama of America. Wilson takes us into the cauldron of the lived existence of ordinary people to experience the compelling tragedy of reality meeting rhetoric in the brightness of stage lights so that we can see the places where the peeling paint attempts to obscure a profound brokenness.
A Black lens is a view from the center of the Nation within the Nation. In its gaze, black life is the center of the universe aware of sitting in the belly, orbiting within an internal logic.
Enduring Trauma & Dark Cycles
Hedley is a view of enduring trauma unmitigated by substantive progress. It is a tale of barbed wire, blood rituals, and dying to go forward. It is the observation of the everyday chosen over the stories of exceptionalism that feed the sense of “real black life” as captured by Wilson. There is little room to argue the success of numerous North American Africans within greater society however they are the exception not the rule. Nor is the rule the parade of mug shots and short walks in handcuffs that populate the evening news , rather the rule is reflected in Wilson’s parade of ordinary people struggling to find their way into the dream of American equity.
Wilson harnesses the hope, the determined struggle, the callings and failings of a tribe stranded in the process of transition wanting to “be” in the most literal sense while trying to become at the same time. The Cycle is replete with round unvarnished tales that reflect Wilson’s mastery of storytelling and offers a view of humanity obscured by its lack of access to the stage of the American public sphere. In his tales from off-center he connects the hopes and desires of these dark spaces in the authorized biography of America to the shining ideals America uses to light its way.
Wilson lights the considerations of love, honor, duty, dignity, and the desire to thrive complexified by invisible lives and dark history. He clears the stage for the articulation of how it is we sit behind the veil, the coldness born in the shadow of America’s song of itself, and the tragic rawness of sitting so long in the storm. His work is the storms song remembering itself , valuing itself, singing itself whole again.
The ever two-ness in which we sit and the blocked paths are the geography of Wilson’s work in a figurative sense he demands we understand the distance Caesar Wilkes travels from murdering Solly Two Kings to remembering what he did not know what he had forgotten. We know something in him shifts when we reach Radio Golf, (the final installment in the Cycle), we discover he assumed the taxes on the sanctuary he violated in Gem of the Ocean, ( first installment), 1839 Wiley St, the home of Aunt Ester. Caesar’s tale of origin has always struck me as instructive. The lesson begins in the first installment. Caesar becomes Caesar because there seems no other path to success in life and he is a striver with a hard-wired imperative to survive. He becomes successful in the eyes of those beyond the pale at the cost of disconnecting from what placed him behind the veil and taking what he perceived as the only path open to success by becoming an overseer. Yet he becomes steward to Aunt Esters sanctuary where the blood memory of self as articulated by the mythic Ester guides dark travelers for a century that we know about. In the distance of the cycle Caesar comes full circle and reaches some understanding with his song of self. The Nation in the Nation is still traveling the road of Caesar’s logic trying to understand the cost of unsung, squandered, and lost songs of self. Wilson urges us to make it a consciousness interrogation and charges us with manifesting the fortitude to insist we be fully sung.
Resistance & Sacrifice
Resistance and sacrifice are implicit themes in all of Wilson’s work. They are brought center stage in King Hedley,II as are love and honor all metered through the motif of blood.
What must North American Africans sacrifice to a be part and un-separated parcel of the American pubic sphere? What must be let go, what part of the self must be set adrift, amputated to find firm purchase in the public square of American consciousness?
The redundant reference to the song of self, the need for reconciliation between now and how it came to be, the recognition of the point of origin and coming into being Africans who are North Americans, the struggle endured in pursuit of belonging, and the cost of the journey are touchstones for Wilson’s retrospective of the twentieth century.
Wilson strongly suggest that we have an innate “self” guided by a cosmology, an epistemology that resides so deeply in us we may have forgotten it but it has not forgotten us so it keeps itself alive in narrative personified in the water wise metaphor of Aunt Ester, traveling a line, emanating from the ocean anointing us as a new tribe here – ever African and American. Wilson embodies in theater pieces the lived experience of Du Bois’s theory of two-ness. The work gives flesh to the narrative of the lived experience of being cast into seeking wholeness, looking for a song of self even if we don’t know what it is we are searching for, and a textured consideration of what we are trying to reconcile. Wilson is the great interlocutor, interrogating our experience in the context of American progress, wanting us to claim our part of the story, to tell the truth to ourselves about what’s been lost, what can be gained here, and to do the work of conceiving how we go forward, who we will become. One of the central questions posed by Wilson’s work is what it cost to become American from the lens of those bound both willingly and without choice within the Nation in the Nation.
Wilson wants us to know that redemption is a necessity. He calls attention to the way in which we sit in the belly. He has cast us as our own redeemers. No one else is coming to right the wheel. It is our duty to find a way to harness the wind if we want it to blow this way. If we want to sit on top of the mountain we must find the key. He wants us to know that we know. We know because we have lived the story-we were there. He wants us to remember — to connect events to one another, and to believe the story it tells when you stack one decade a top another. He wants us to be clear on what progress looks like. He wants us to recognize cycles, where we bent, where we were broken, and to create options where none seem to exist. He wants us to remember that we are able, we are enough, we were born with dignity and honor. He wants us to know that we have a duty to life itself, that duty is to live, living is not the same as surviving and he wants us to note that. He wants us to see ourselves as dignified in our struggle to create a way out of no way, to observe the ways in which we leave the path, and the cost of losing one’s self. He wants us to be awake in our journey and to understand the things that bind us, the things that sustain us, and to value them appropriately. He wants us to celebrate the ordinary and accept it as the space in which extraordinary things can be achieved. He wants us to make our better, best. Redemption could come any day it does not require a special day. The day will be made special by the song we choose to sing.
We are wandering in the wilderness; all there is to save us is an unsung song of self. If you can’t imagine North America as a wilderness you have not experienced history from my perspective. My people were captured and sold into servitude by a savage country founded in violence stolen from the indigenous people they found living in what they named North America. They made a grave yard of the Atlantic Ocean in the process of the inhumane transporting of millions of human beings bound for the most dehumanizing bondage the world has ever witnessed.
Once here they were stripped of semblance of humanity save that they claimed for themselves. They were for all intent obliterated, left unable to trace tribe, village, religion, language, or worldview. They were rewritten as property to be used in any manner seen fit. The concepts of honor, love, and duty were undone as were the institutions of marriage,childbearing, and by default family, all torn apart and set outside of the African– now slave, in a society that placed the slave outside of humanity.
If they ran they were hunted. If they resisted they were slaughtered. They were set afire, and hung from trees. They were caged, bartered, sold, raped, murdered, and considered no better than animals of the field.
Slavery ended and they were set free into nothing with nothing to make their way out of no way. This country has shook them from place to place in so called migrations which under closer scrutiny more resemble refugees fleeing.
Wilson’s work offers a view of the 20th Century in North America from the view of the descendants of cooks, mammy’s, share croppers, garbage men, waitresses, nail makers, steel workers, those that bent their backs to set the telephone poles in the ground and drive the railroad ties, the collective of America’s Blues people. These are their stories, this is their song of survival and the every present quest for equity in this land of equality where lynchings made their way into the new millennium and one can make a cogent case that slave catchers still exist with body cams in black and whites and they neither protect or serve us in the most literal sense.
Wilson places us center stage between the epic events of this countries history in our daily reality as ‘most human’ in search of honor and dignity. He credits us with the means for reinvention as borne by our achievements here and our legacy which stretches beyond the shores of this continent to embrace a highly developed sense of community, a view of god, a sense of worth, a cosmology, an epistemology, an artful aesthetic, and worldview that we managed to hold onto, albeit it in shreds. We are trying to remember who we are in a world that changes but manages to leave us standing in the rear of the line.
When we see our sense of continuity as a song emanating from the collective soul we can begin to grasp the enormity of Wilson’s gift to us. In his Cycle he has captured the essence of our blue black determination to thrive, our brokenness, our insistence on a share of what we built, our loving hearts, our patient longing, our twisted paths, the barbed wire, the places we leave the path, and wander into the dark, the places our light is made and the chance of wholeness waiting in remembering, claiming, and singing our song of self. It is a redemption song carved from the blues instructed by jazz and re imagined in hip hop, it is our beating heart saying I Am.
It has been a great honor to stage this work. I will be sorting the gifts it has offered up for the remainder of my life. I have been hugely influenced by Wilson and I am grateful. I invite you to join us as we finish our American Century Cycle Project. We are currently offering King Hedley, II at the Flight Deck through September 6th.
Hedley is a beautiful work for right now in North American inner cities. It offers a glimpse into the beginning of gun proliferation in urban spaces. The era of Reaganomics, Crack decimation, and inter-group violence have a sick relationship that continues to influence our quality of life. It’s a raw wake up call, a gun shot in the night, the site of a train wreck…sometimes you must go back to see now more clearly. King Hedley, II offers that chance in a dark, soaring, blues filled blood ritual of a play. You can’t miss it.
Eight of Ten: Jitney, A Director's Note
I am mid way through the production of Jitney. Only 3 shows left. It's the second show of the cycle we have done at the Flight Deck in newly dubbed "Uptown", (used to be plain old downtown), Oakland. This is our third production since leaving The Yard , (The Sister Thea) in the Bottoms. We started in the Bottoms and now we are Uptown -- we are a success story. What a story it is -- the making of art is often if not always as much a drama as the work itself. We are The Lower Bottom Playaz, we are Oakland's premiere North American African theater company and we have earned every accolade we have ever received.
We are that company Javier Reyes from Colored Ink called the Mc Gyver troupe for our inventiveness and applied ingenuity. How else would a troupe with the motto, We create what we need from what we have been gifted" roll. We much like our art come from a place of struggle. We are more than entertainment. Our mission is to create community one story at a time. We have become very intentional in embodying our mission. We are serious artist.
We do not create art because it is easy. It is in fact very difficult. Art making in America is costly. We are not wealthy but we have something to say. We are artist out of a necessity -- we have found our purpose. We are gifted. We share the gifts we have been given. We find a way to make art in spite of the difficulty. We make art as a way of being in the world, as a way of changing the world, as an act of resistance to narratives of lack, marginalization, and scarcity. We are abundantly gifted. We are boundless in our determination. We are dedicated to our craft.
Personally, I stay not because its easy, not because of material rewards, but because art is my calling. The stage is my podium -- I am talking to you. I have been gifted a talented cohort of artist to create with -- that in itself is a challenge. Sitting in a room of geniuses is not all you might think. Genius comes at a cost. And I demand more than mere genius. I am not fond of actors. I am in love with artist -- storytellers, musicians, alchemist who turn story into gospel, magicians who willingly disappear into a character in the name of the story unfolding to show us pain, beauty, horror, injustice,ugly truth, triumphant love and all the other myriad aspects of being. Try herding cats, harnessing fire in a bottle, or aiming a rainbow and you will come to understand what it is to sit in collaboration with genius. I have that privilege.
Yet this is not a cakewalk. It is a marathon in a smorgasbord with all the challenge you can stand . I may have come to the table ready, but I have grown since I pulled up a chair. I have become very firmly who I say I am. I am now capable of setting the table. I owe some of that to Wilson. I owe a great deal to the teachers who came to me before Wilson. I owe it to my horse eating great grand parents and the female lineage they bore who taught me how to strive. I owe it to the characters I recognize and have come to love and admire in the American Century Cycle. I owe it to the genius in the room with me trusting me to invoke Wilson properly. I owe it to my ancestors who walked the path to give me the privilege to claim my gift as my birthright, as my ordained avocation, as my duty to life and nation. I owe it to my nation walking like a blind man in the dark surrounded by enduring hostility and privilege in this nation divided smothered by the myth of the American dream. I owe it to myself for the struggle doing the American Century Cycle has been.
Doing Jitney was difficult. They are all difficult. I don't expect it will get any easier. Doing what is right, what one should do, what one must to live in the world with dignity in tact is not usually the easiest path. My path has rocks on it. I stay the path rocks and all. I have been called. I have answered. "The destination is worth the journey" as Wilson himself declared. The difficult journey has made me appreciate the lessons learned along the way. We should all know we pay for our lessons in life. With that in mind I am open to the lessons, paying the price for knowing, and determined to remember to remember. I am on the battlefield with Wilson.
With Jitney I claim our space. I mark this point in the journey like Wilson marked completing Jitney which was the eighth play of the ten which would become The American Century Cycle. He had yet to write the bookends Gem of the Ocean and Radio Golf. This was a point of epiphany for Wilson. He could see the whole spell. I sit in deep communion with him. I feel this point on the path viscerally. Seeing and knowing have become painful and I channel the pain through the production of art that illuminates the source, and the chance of deliverance from that pain. I am praying with my hands moving, trying to help construct the healing I need -- the healing we all need. I have the advantage of having the whole spell writ out before me; nothing left but to perform the incantation. I am on verse eight of ten, shoulder to the grindstone, pushing the envelope, anticipating a blessing.
With my commitment to the American Century Cycle. the world I knew has fell apart as I walk the path. The producer and the theater we started with are in our rear view as is the neighborhood we moved into to do art that had the intention of being much more than entertainment. We were Griots coming home to tell the tale of falling forward into the American dream with our souls still in tact. We had the idea that, if we worked to make it so, it would surely be. My home itself has become an emblematic battleground. Home and the idea of it had to be rethought, are still being considered as I write. At this moment my only home is in the graveyard where the songs of my ancestors whisper to me -- stay the path. Wilson has blown so much away.
We were not wrong it has just not turned out the way we thought it would. That's okay. We have become fine dancers we have learned to change the steps when necessary but we refuse to leave the path. We are no longer sure where the path will take us. We have faith in our fate, we have surrendered to our destiny, we are doing what we must--sharing the gifts given. We are in alignment. We are the water that Ester speaks of in Gem of the Ocean, we are fluid, we have learned the necessity and rude contours of Diaspora. None of it matters as much as the fact that this is exactly where we should be. Even the difficulty factor acknowledges we are at the top of a mountain. Wilson and the ancestors stand there with us waiting for the song. The song must be sung the spell must be completed.
No one not even Wilson has enacted the spell in order. We will be the first. We are in a new theater. We produce our own work. We will finish this spell of a work and move on changed forever having walked with Wilson though the past to the point where Radio Golf ends. We will know more than we now know, and that will inform how we walk though the world carrying the song we have found in Wilson. I have learned a fair amount so far:
One must match walk with talk or become simply sound and fury.
If you pray with moving hands the path will clear.
One's song is the essence of one's being the inner light, the purpose, the soul force, it must be nurtured, it demands to be sung.
We have a duty to life.
We must remember.
If you drop the ball go back and pick it up.
Everything ain't always what it seem.
If you lose sight of your song you will suffer.
You were born free with dignity and everything.
Our stories are enough.
You can't pass the torch to the future and then insist on calling the music it dances to.
We must consider doing what we have never done if we desire what we have never had.
The past is the key to the present you need it to see the path to the future clearly.
Trust what you know you know.
I am because we are.
If the wheel don't work somebody got to fix it -- it don't matter who it pains.
Right is right and right don't wrong nobody.
You got to tell the truth and stand in the light.
We are enough.
What I have learned is what feeds me now. Finally we are getting feature stories. To all this I say yes. But as the SF Gate feature pointed out "we have been doing this with very little fanfare." Truth is fanfare cost. You need money for advertising and bells and whistles. We are so grassroots. I value paying artist. I know we eat and that heat and water cost even geniuses. It's nice to finally get reviewed. They say:
The actors capture the essence of their characters, and director Nzinga succeeds in providing the elements necessary to bring them together into a cohesive and unflinching portrayal. “Jitney” is an exceptional piece of theater, well played by this gifted group of artists." --Elizabeth WarnimontJitney is a must see. If you can, rush, run, fly downtown to the Flight Deck Theatre at 15th and Broadway, go pass the boarded up buildings from I Can't Breathe & Hands UP, Pants Up! and take a seat...
So the fanfare is coming.
But it's not what drives me. I am driven by what drove Wilson: the urgency to hear the song . The need to complete the spell. This is my duty to life. If my art is my weapon I have chosen well with Wilson. We are on the battlefield in dark times when the song of self is our most potent magic. The world is poised for change. I can hear it in the people's getting up and taking to the street. The fight is not over. We have not forgotten being born free. We are all called to contribute to a better world. There are forces in place that like the way the wheel works its their job to guard the wheel. I am a Black Arts Movement artist. My art is my contribution to the battle to change what is into what needs to be. I battle not against personalities but principalities, this art is spiritual, its a leavening stone, it is resistance. I am emboldened with my hard earned lessons firmly rooting. I am fit for the battle. In the tradition of the Black Arts Movement art is ritual, it is political, it is my calling card for discourse, it is my intra-inter group interface with my humanity. I am teaching while I am learning. This song will be sung.
*The portrait of August Wilson at the top of the article is by James Gayles. It is for sale to support The August Wilson American Century Cycle Project undertaken by The Lower Bottom Playaz in 2010 to be completed in 2015. Inquires to: email@example.com
The American Century Cycle
Tags: august wilson ayodele nzinga the century cycle lower bottom playaz oakland ca black theater