Saturday, October 04, 2008

Maafa Awareness Month...Ebony and Johnny, Breath of Our Ancestors: Joy Holland, Casper Banjo, introducing Keith Hopkins

We had a great discussion on my radio show Friday, October 3. It was crazy since I was in Anaheim at a conference. I skipped the closing plenary and last workshop. There was just too much to do beforehand and then I was mentally and emotionally spent...but everything went well. I have learned over the past month and a half on the air, that success is staying loose, having two back up strategies or plans and then being open, at the last moment to another change in plans.

One issue I am still trying to iron out is technical. I need to find a way to record my interview via phone and then upload them to the website. Right now their is a hum which when minimized causes the vocal quality to be distorted. If anyone knows how to minimize this and make a better quality voice recording for radio, let me know. You can post responses here.

What else?

So after the show, I rush around the hotel room packing and then run downstairs to join my colleagues for lunch and then check out. We'd reserved a return airport van so it was outside waiting for us. The driver was really nice. The drive over was perilous with the driver swerving and honking at other drivers. People told me they were afraid. I guess I didn't notice.

I visited with my sister and nephews both evenings and we went out to dinner. The kids had fun jumping on my bed :-)

When I got into town, I had just enough time to run home, drop off my luggage and head over to the theatre for a field trip to see Ebony and Johnny, a remix of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, The Lower Bottom Playaz version at the Theatre in the Yard, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland.

It was superb. The writing was awesome. I could hear where the Bard left off and Sistah Ayodele Nzinga, the amazing wordslanger, took over. Oh my goodness! The poetry, iambic pentameter, with themes recast in urban America, no less the community where the theatre is located: West Oakland, the Lower Bottoms.

Okay so the heads of the two rival families: the Montagues and Capulets, were once friends, but one friend sold his buddy out for greed and he is being bribed by another man (Paris) who wants his power and money. Enter Johnny Montegue who is portrayed as a dreamer, innocent and somewhat shielded from the street or gangsta life of his cousins and even close friends. He doesn't carry a gun or participate in street life jargon. He even challenges his friends when they call women out of their names and each other by stereotypical insults.

Ayodele's Johnny (Romeo) exemplifies the nuanced place adolescents occupy, young adults on the verge of adulthood. He is bewildered and questioning. He is impulsive and irrational--everything is fluid. One can see why his adviser, the Rastaman (Friar), in this play doesn't take his fidelity or passion for Ebony Capulet(Juliet)seriously. Just the day before he'd been in a tizzy over Rosaline.

The setting in this 'hood tale is West Oakland, which is up for grabs. Real estate speculators are snatching property from poorer residents. The haves are distanced from the have-nots, there is violence and despair, but Ebony's coming of age party is an opportunity to mend the philosophical differences between these families who have powerful allegiances. It is at the costume party where Ebony and Johnny meet. He doesn't know who she is initially, but before they sneak off, he does, and despite the danger involved and warnings, he proceeds.

I like Ebony's spunk and her challenge to Johnny to "come correct" if he truly wanted her. The direction is superb and to gage how well opening night went: at 10 p.m. while Ebony lay on her bed without a pulse, the rain started to fall and no one in the audience left. We covered our heads, some people left to get umbrellas, but all of us stayed until the cast was introduced and they took their well-deserved bows. I just wish I could return for another show. It can only get better as the words eventually... become flesh.

The art exhibit: "Breath of Our Ancestors: Joy Holland and Casper Banjo, introducing Keith Hopkins," opened last night also. It is curated by Wanda Sabir with TaSin Sabir and TheArthur Wright, at Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland, through October 31, 9-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call (510) 208-5651.

Reception for "Breath of Our Ancestors" exhibit at Prescott Joseph Center, 920 Peralta Street, Oakland, CA, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., (510) 208-5651, Wednesday, October 15, 2008. There will be a reflection on the work of artists: Joy Holland, Casper Banjo and Keith Hopkins by their friends and family members, which will include introductory drumming procession and blessing.

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