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Nora Brooks Blakely

Artistic director and playwright Nora Brooks Blakely was born on September 8, 1951 in Chicago, Illinois to Henry Lowington Blakely, Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks, the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Blakely graduated from Chicago’s Hirsch High School in 1969, and received her B.A. degree in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1972. She then earned her M.A. degree in interdisciplinary arts from Loyola University.

Blakely taught at Copernicus Elementary School in the Chicago Public Schools system from 1972 to 1980. She also performed as a dancer with the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago in 1977. In 1979, Blakely founded Anchor, an arts organization for children and the precursor to the Chocolate Chips Theatre Company, which Blakely founded in 1982 on the south side of Chicago. In 1987, the Chocolate Chips Theatre Company began a residence at Kennedy-King College. As the company’s producing artistic director, Blakely worked closely with students of Chicago Public Schools and wrote original plays such as Brother Man, A Few of My Sisters, The Tiger Who Wore White Gloves, and A Day in Bronzeville: Black Life through the Eyes of Gwendolyn Brooks. Blakely later founded the Aurora Performance Group, a troupe dedicated to honoring Gwendolyn Brooks’ memory through the performance arts. After the death of her mother in 2000, Blakely founded Brooks Permission, a licensing firm for Gwendolyn Brooks’ literary works. Brooks Permissions later expanded to offer merchandise and programming related to the life and works of Gwendolyn Brooks. In 2014, Blakely donated Gwendolyn Brooks’ archives to the Rare Books and Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois. In 2017, Blakely served as an editor for a book about her mother called Seasons: A Gwendolyn Brooks Experience. She also served as an organizer for Gwendolyn Brooks’ International Birthday Party celebration in 2017, and participated in numerous celebrations of her mother’s 100th birthday.

Blakely served on the board of directors for the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago. She also served on the selection committee for the 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Youth Poetry Awards given by Illinois Humanities organization.

Nora Brooks Blakely was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on May 1, 2018.

Accession Number

A2018.089

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/1/2018

Last Name

Blakely

Maker Category
Middle Name

Brooks

Organizations
First Name

Nora

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BLA18

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Places She Has Never Been Before

Favorite Quote

Brick Walls Are There To Keep The People Out Who Don't Try Hard.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/8/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Short Description

Artistic director and playwright Nora Brooks Blakely (1951 - )

Favorite Color

Blue

Richard Wesley

Playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley was born on July 11, 1945 in Newark, New Jersey to George Wesley and Gertrude Wesley. He graduated from East Side High School in 1963 and went on to attend Howard University. He earned his B.F.A. degree in playwriting, dramatic literature, and theatre arts in 1967.

After graduation, Wesley moved to New York City. His connection to actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, whom he had met at Howard University, led him to the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem. In 1971, Wesley’s first play, The Black Terror, was presented at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre. The Mighty Gents, another play by Wesley, premiered on Broadway in 1978. In the mid-1970s, began writing screenplays. Many of Wesley’s screenplays enjoyed success at the box office. Wesley produced screenplays for Uptown Saturday Night in 1974, Let’s Do It Again in 1975, Fast Forward, and Native Son in 1986. He also wrote a screenplay for a children’s film that premiered on PBS, called The House of Dies Drear. Wesley also wrote teleplays, which include Murder Without Motive in 1991, Mandela and De Klerk in 1997, and Bojangles in 2000. Wesley was involved with the musical The Dream Team at the Goodspeed Opera House, and The Talented Tenth at the Manhattan Theatre Club. In 2013, Wesley was chosen by the Trilogy Opera Company to write the libretto for the opera, Papa Doc. Two years later, Autumn, which was written by Wesley, premiered at the Crossroads Theater Company in New Brunswick, New Jersey. In 2016, the Trilogy Opera Company’s Five, which contained a libretto written by Wesley and was composed about the Central Park Five controversy, opened at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Wesley has served in teaching roles at multiple academic institutions. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Manhattanville College, Wesleyan University, Borough of Manhattan Community College, and Rutgers University. Wesley has also been an associate professor in playwriting and screenwriting, as well as the chair of the Rita and Burton Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing, at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

In addition to commercial success, Wesley’s works have received awards. The Black Terror, Wesley’s first play, won a Drama Desk Award. The Mighty Gents, which premiered in 1978, received an AUDELCO Award.

Welsey and his wife, Valerie Wilson Wesley, have two daughters, Nandi and Thembi.

Richard Wesley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 30, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.080

Sex

Male

Interview Date

03/30/2017 |and| 05/05/2017

Last Name

Wesley

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

WES12

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Feet to the fire.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

7/11/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley (1945 - ) was an award-winning writer for stage and screen and served as an associate professor and department chair at New York University.

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

George C. Wolfe

Playwright and artistic director George C. Wolfe was born on September 23, 1954 in Frankfort, Kentucky. His mother, a teacher, was among the first African Americans to study library science through the University of Kentucky Extension Program. Wolfe’s mother became the principal at the private, all-black, Rosenwald Laboratory School, where Wolfe received his elementary education, and discovered an interest in staging and directing. As a teenager, Wolfe attended a summer theater workshop at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and began directing plays. He graduated from Frankfort High School in 1972, where he wrote for the literary journal. Wolfe attended Kentucky State University in Frankfort but, in 1973, transferred to Pomona College in Claremont, California, graduating in 1976 with his B.A. degree in theater.

Wolfe wrote and directed his first play, Up for Grabs, in 1975. In Up for Grabs, Wolfe debuted his sketch framing technique and the motif of passage through doors, which became common elements in his later works. The following year, he premiered Block Party. Wolfe completed a six-month postgraduate artist residency at Pomona College before meeting C. Bernard Jackson, who funded the first production of Wolfe’s Tribal Rites at the Inner City Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Wolfe staged several plays in Los Angeles before moving to New York in 1979, where he graduated with his M.F.A. degree in 1983 from New York University School of the Arts. He premiered Paradise! in 1985, and The Colored Museum in 1986, which garnered Wolfe national attention, as well as the attention of New York Shakespeare Festival founder Joseph Papp. Following the premiere of Spunk (1989), Papp named Wolfe a resident director in 1990. Wolfe won his first Obie award for Spunk’s New York production that same year. In 1992, Wolfe made his Broadway debut with Jelly’s Last Jam at the Virginia Theatre, and achieved widespread recognition when he directed the Broadway premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America in 1993. He was named producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival that year and went on to produce ten seasons. Wolfe also directed the 1997 world premiere of Amistad at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, Illinois. He staged Shuffle Along, or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed at the Music Box Theatre in New York City in 2016.

In 1975, Wolfe won the Pacific Southern Regional Award for playwriting at the American College Theater Festival for Up for Grabs. The following year, he premiered Block Party, receiving the Pacific Southern Regional Award for playwriting a second year in a row.

George C. Wolfe was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 9, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.127

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/9/2016

Last Name

Wolfe

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

C.

Organizations
Schools

Rosenwald Laboratory School

Frankfort High School

Kentucky State University

Pomona College

New York University Tisch School of the Arts

First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Frankfort

HM ID

WOL01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Amazing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/23/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Moqueca

Short Description

Playwright and artistic director George C. Wolfe (1954 - ) was resident director and, later, producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival. He is known for directing Broadway productions of Jelly’s Last Jam, and Angels in America.

Employment

Pomona College

Inner City Cultural Center

Various

City College of New York

Margo Lion

Public Theater of New York

New York Shakespeare Festival/Joseph Papp Public Theatre

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George C. Wolfe's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George C. Wolfe lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George C. Wolfe describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George C. Wolfe describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George C. Wolfe talks about his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George C. Wolfe describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George C. Wolfe describes his grandparents' personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George C. Wolfe describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George C. Wolfe remembers his neighbors in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George C. Wolfe describes the assertive personalities of his mother and maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George C. Wolfe recalls his neighborhood in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George C. Wolfe talks about his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George C. Wolfe remembers his early interest in theater

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George C. Wolfe describes his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George C. Wolfe talks about his personality as a young child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George C. Wolfe remembers Frankfort High School in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George C. Wolfe describes First Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George C. Wolfe recalls his decision to attend Pomona College in Claremont, California

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - George C. Wolfe remembers his start at Pomona College

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

5$2

DATitle
George C. Wolfe talks about his paternal great-grandfather
George C. Wolfe remembers his early interest in theater
Transcript
Let's talk about, (audio disturbance) give your father and his year of birth and what you know about him?$$Oh my god, I don't--oh my god, I don't know what (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's okay, don't worry, you don't have to worry.$$Yeah, I can figure out my father--$$But, but your middle name is--$$Costello, which is his name, and, and his father's name was George, so I'm named after my, my grandfather, George Wolfe. George, what's very interesting, so my father's name is Costello Wolfe, he had a twin sister named Estella [Estella Wolfe] who, who was incredibly very fussy, very, very, very, very, very consuming personality and he and my--he, she, and my father fought all the time--they're twins. They just fought all the time. His, his sister--he has another sister, Florence [Florence Wolfe], who just turned ninety-eight and lives in St. Louis [Missouri] and rides the bus and he has another sister [Norma Wolfe] who's ninety-five who mows her own lawn in Providence, Kentucky and so they're like--it's so, it's really, really fascinating and their, their father, on, on, on and their father was a man named, was George Wolfe and George Wolfe's parents were named Sam Wolfe and Mary Wolfe. Mary Wolfe died when she was 106. She was--there's an article written about her 'cause she, it ended up--I believe she was living in Muncie, Indiana at the time, which is where they ended up, which is a fascinating story and she remembers as a slave serving Jefferson Davis and she also when you--she, there are stories of that her--and she was born into slavery as was Sam Wolfe and then George Wolfe had a brother named Sullivan Wolfe. Sullivan Wolfe in 1930, I believe he was thirty-eight years old was evidently incredibly smart, very charismatic and a leader. They lived in Providence, Kentucky, which was a coal mining area and so he tried to organize a union, a black and white mine--an integrated union. Some men knocked on his door on a Saturday at four A.M., told him to come with them and they were black and white men, interestingly enough, as the story goes, and he said, "I need to go put on my shoes," and they said, "You're not going anywhere," and when he turned to put on his shoes they gunned him down. Now the thing that's really--and this was in Providence, Kentucky. The thing that's really fascinating about this--well, one of the things--everything about it is fascinating, what's really fascinating is the paper the next day or whatever day, the next day the paper came out, it said, the headline was "Negro Leader Slain." The fact that they used Negro and the fact that they used leader is astonishing, is astonishing. His wife [Lillie Gray Wolfe] was watching from the window, she had a coal oil lamp--these are certain, very details that Florence in particular has told me and my father told some of this, this is a huge story and, and it was reported--so that happened like on a Saturday, the newspaper came out and I have a copy of it somewhere, the newspaper came out, there was never a trial, nothing ever came from it and that was that and his wife took her three children and left town. This is just an astonish- there's so many aspects of that story, I mean he could sing, he was so smart, he was just like this, this heroic figure and he was, and he was gunned down at the age of thirty-eight.$You do talk about even dissecting, you know, I think you talked about at the age of five was it? A show, was that, or did I read that right?$$Oh yes, yes, yeah.$$Yeah.$$I remember, yes, I remember very specific- yeah. So at Rosenwald school [Rosenwald Laboratory School, Frankfort, Kentucky], Rosenwald was a very--Rosenwald school, it was a very--the principal of the school was this woman named Minnie J. Hitch, who was very, very severe, but very smart and I realized in many respects was, was probably the first director, (laughter) first theater director I ever knew without knowing it and, and we would put on a Christmas play and at the end of the year we'd put on a school closing play, probably it was like maybe ninety people, mainly kids, maybe who were in eight grades at Rosenwald and we'd put on these enormous plays and she would always direct them and I--there was a part of my brain that was sort of exhilarated by that time. I mean I, as early as I can remember I was obsessed with theater, which is an odd thing because, I mean obsessed with it, very, very, I mean (audio disturbance) from the very, from the very beginning before I could remember it. I remember at one point I got--I was given for Christmas a, a showboat, a showboat that had little scenery pieces that you could put in there and I would just, and I was in heaven with this because there was a backdrop and there were legs and then there were middle ground and foreground, there was a whole stage there and it, it, which, which was, it, it was very, very interesting, so it's you know, I was obsessed, I was obsessed, I was obsessed with, with, with theater from the very beginning but at Rosenwald, she would put on these plays and, and, and, and I remember just--you, I, I remember studying them. I remember when I went, came to New York [New York] and I saw 'West Side Story' [Arthur Laurents] at the State Theater [New York State Theater; David H. Koch Theater], I remember s- I was studying it, I realized--(background noise) and a lot of times I would sit there and watch TV and I would sit on the ground and I was studying the rhythms.

Ntozake Shange

Playwright and author Ntozake Shange was born Paulette L. Williams on October 18, 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey to Paul T. Williams, an air force surgeon, and Eloise Williams, an educator and psychiatric social worker. Her family regularly hosted artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Robeson, and W.E.B. DuBois at their home. Shange graduated cum laude with her B.S. degree in American Studies from Barnard College in New York City in 1970. While pursuing her M.A. degree in American Studies from the University of Southern California, Shange began to associate with feminist writers, poets and performers. In 1971, she adopted her new name, Ntozake, meaning “she who comes with her own things,” and Shange, meaning “she who walks like a lion,” from the Xhosa dialect of Zulu. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 1973.

Upon joining Malifu Osumare’s dance company, Shange met Paula Moss, and their subsequent collaborations led to the invention of Shange’s work, the choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. The work was initially produced Off-Broadway in 1975 at the New Federal Theatre in New York City, moving to the Anspacher Public Theatre in 1976. After premiering on Broadway at the Booth Theatre later that same year, the play went on to win the Obie Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award. Originally conceived as a choreopoem, it has been published in book form, and adapted into a stage play. In 2010, Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed the film adaptation, For Colored Girls, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, and Loretta Devine.

In 1978, Shange released Nappy Edges, a collection of fifty poems celebrating the voices of defiantly independent women. In 1979, she produced the Three Pieces trilogy of choreopoems, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 1982, Shange released her first novel, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, which she followed with Betsy Brown in 1985 and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter in 1994.Shange’s work also appeared in The Black Scholar, Yardbird, Ms., Essence magazine, The Chicago Tribune, VIBE, and Third-World Women. In addition to poetry, novels, essays, and screenplays, Shange published four books for children: Whitewash (1997); the tribute to Muhammad Ali, Float Like a Butterfly (2002); Ellington Was Not a Street (2003); Daddy Says (2003); and Coretta Scott (2009). She also served on the faculty of the Department of Drama at the University of Houston.

An Emmy, Tony, and Grammy award nominee, Shange received an NDEA fellowship in 1974, two Obie Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981, the Paul Robeson Achievement Award in 1992, the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival in 1993. She was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Shange passed away on October 27, 2018.

Ntozake Shange was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 12, 2016 and February 1, 2017.

Accession Number

A2016.042

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/12/2016 |and| 02/01/2017

Last Name

Shange

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Barnard College

University of Southern California

Clark Elementary School

Trenton Central High School

Boston University

Dewey International Studies Elementary School

Lone Mountain College

First Name

Ntozake

Birth City, State, Country

Trenton

HM ID

SHA09

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

Not My Will But Thy Will Expressed Through Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

10/18/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood Gumbo

Death Date

10/27/2018

Short Description

Playwright and author Ntozake Shange (1948 - 2018) wrote the award-winning Broadway play and choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, which was published in book form, and adapted into a 2010 film.

Employment

The Evolution of Black Dance Troupe

Trenton State College

Sonoma State College

UC Berkeley Extension

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:12584,218:23582,329:23894,334:24284,340:26936,393:27404,404:27794,410:29900,461:30290,467:34892,647:39150,663:42722,730:44320,750:45824,768:46294,774:47328,788:50994,833:73791,1099:78151,1138:88180,1208:88555,1214:89230,1225:89605,1231:99172,1343:99781,1352:100303,1359:101173,1372:102826,1449:103783,1464:104566,1476:105175,1484:109791,1514:110313,1521:111183,1532:111531,1537:113793,1575:114750,1588:115098,1593:122266,1752:132958,1932:134047,1944:165800,2386:169000,2483:169500,2489:169900,2494:176119,2532:177666,2551:201775,2841:202195,2846:202825,2854:208499,2894:208823,2899:209390,2907:209795,2913:210119,2918:213764,2980:215627,3010:224162,3093:224514,3098:226010,3123:227066,3141:228650,3172:231818,3211:232698,3222:247180,3333:249135,3363:250325,3382:250665,3387:252705,3538:264705,3711:307320,4215:311310,4277$0,0:1152,42:5796,137:6140,142:14110,272:15254,288:15694,293:18122,304:18710,311:19690,322:20572,333:21258,341:21650,346:22728,359:24688,385:25276,392:25668,397:33452,467:55340,643:58828,685:62321,729:63049,738:64141,753:64960,767:65324,772:71721,887:75634,942:111734,1346:112410,1365
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ntozake Shange's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her mother's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her father's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange lists her siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange lists her siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange recalls her parents' celebrity guests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange remembers watching the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange recalls her early exposure to literature and film

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange remembers her first two poems

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange remembers reading African American periodicals

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her decision to attend Barnard College in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about her involvement with the Black Power movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes her experiences at Barnard College in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about editing the Phat Mama literary magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange recalls her abortion and first marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange recalls the strike at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange recalls her professors at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about her decision to leave graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange recalls the start of her writing career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange remembers her aspiration to dance with the Sun Ra Arkestra

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange recalls starting to write 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange remembers the rehearsals for the first production of 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange explains the meaning of the title of 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange remembers bringing 'For Colored Girls' to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ntozake Shange talks about the first performances of 'For Colored Girls' in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Ntozake Shange's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange talks about the negative critical responses to 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about the adaptations of 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about Tyler Perry's film, 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her work after 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about experiences of bipolar disorder and neuropathy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her struggle with bipolar disorder

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange describes her writing process

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange talks about her current writing project

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange talks about her theatrical works

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes the plot of 'Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about the critical reception of her works

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about her novel, 'Betsey Brown'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes the plot of her novel, 'Liliane'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about writing a novel with her sister, Ifa Bayeza

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her books for children

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange talks about her inspiration

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange talks about the lynching of the Newberry Six

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange remembers the African American literature courses she taught

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange shares her advice to aspiring poets and writers

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange lists her favorite poets

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon her body of work

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon the status of women today

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange shares her advice for black women

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon the state of African American art

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange recites her poem 'Ode to Orlando'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange recites poetry from her collection, 'Wild Beauty'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about her family

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange describes her parents' thoughts on her career

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her musical accompanists

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$2

DAStory

10$8

DATitle
Ntozake Shange talks about the first performances of 'For Colored Girls' in New York City
Ntozake Shange remembers her first two poems
Transcript
And then I ran into my sister who--the playwright who always inspired me, Ifa. And Ifa said, "What you have here is theater Ntozake [HistoryMaker Ntozake Shange]. You don't need to do this in cafes anymore, you can do this in a theater." And I said, "Well, I'm happy doing it in cafes, I don't need to make it theater and do the same thing every night. When you do theater, you have to do the same poems every night. And doing what I do, I can change the poems every night. And we still have 'For Colored Girls' ['For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf,' Ntozake Shange] because it becomes whatever poem I put in there." And she said, "No, no, no. You don't understand. Theater is alive. You can find actors who can make it different every night." And I very reluctantly entertained these actresses that my sister Ifa Bayeza, and [HistoryMaker] Oz Scott, my director, discovered in New York [New York]. And that's how we got Trazana Beverley and Laurie Carlos. And we kept Paula [Paula Moss] as a speaker as Lady in Green. And Paula had a verbal role which she had never had before. And I had two pieces that I did. We got Janet League and Rise Collins and Aku Kadogo and I think that's all there were. I don't think I'm leaving anybody out. And Oz arranged for us to perform--or I arranged for us to perform down the street from the Old Reliable [Old Reliable Theatre Tavern, New York, New York] where we had been working, where they had no running water and no heat And we were having practicing down there. And then Oz found us rehearsal space at New York University's theater school at the Tisch School of Art [Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, New York]. And they had empty rehearsal rooms sometimes. So we would be in from seven to eleven [o'clock] or from seven to one, or from eleven 'til dawn. And then we would go to our day jobs and we would finish rehearsal. For free we did this. And then we did to DeMonte's Cafe [New York, New York] on 3rd Street and the Old Reliable was on 3rd Street between C [Avenue C] and D [Avenue D]. But DeMonte's was on 3rd Street between B [Avenue B] and C. So we were moving up as we went along, up the Lower East Side [New York, New York] (laughter). And we felt very accomplished because at DeMonte's, they not only served food, they served drinks. And, and people could come and sit down. So my parents [Eloise Owens Williams and Paul T. Williams] in their mink coats came to the Lower East Side to DeMonte's Cafe to see my show that my sister was very involved with as a dramaturge and assistant director. And she also did the set, the original flower that Ming Cho Lee won a Tony [Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre] for. And we performed it and Woodie King [HistoryMaker Woodie King, Jr.] came to DeMonte's to see it and said that we could do it at Henry Street. So we were very excited about that because we had a theater engagement, and I had been convinced that it was okay to let other people read my poems because I was so used to reading them all myself, that it was very hard for me to let other people have them. Even though I saw they brought different life to them. I still had to transition from ownership to sharing. And so we performed for Woodie King at Henry Street, and there were lines that went around the corner. And it was just word of mouth that people were coming to see it with. And we did a, a workshop of 'For Colored Girls' at Henry Street. And a lot of stuff we did at Henry Street, we lost when we went to The Public Theater [New York, New York]. We had to do a, an audition performance for Joseph Papp in the little theater where the movie theater is now at The Public. It used to be a rehearsal room and, and, and small theater. And we performed in there. And Joe picked us up. He picked up the show. But we made a lot of changes.$$Okay. Let me just--we have to stop here, but just wanted to point out the Henry Street you were referring to is the New Federal Theatre [New York, New York].$$Yes.$$Woodie King's New Federal Theatre (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes.$$--and the Henry Street Settlement House [Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York].$$But we didn't do the New Federal, we did the Henry Street auditorium.$Did you start writing, when did you start writing creatively (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well it was really funny. I wrote a poem in high school [Trenton Central High School, Trenton, New Jersey], just one about Vietnam [Vietnam War]. And it was about a picture I had seen in The New York Times of a little Vietnamese girl whose clothes were tattered and everything around her was burned down from Agent Orange. So there was just this black starkness behind her. These stripped trees, and a little white doll with its head off. And the poem I wrote was about the state of the girl and the head off of the white dolly. And how painful that image was to me. That's what the poem was about. And it was--they published it in the literary magazine at my school, at my high school. And then I didn't write another poem 'til I was at Barnard [Barnard College, New York, New York] and I was sitting on a terrace and this white girl came up to me thinking I was Thulani Davis. She came up to me and said my poem was due in by five o'clock. And so I went home and wrote a poem and turned it in by five o'clock. And that's how I started writing and the literary magazine ended up publishing two black girls instead of one because Thulani Davis published her poem, she got hers in by five too (laughter).$$Now that's funny. We're gonna pause here again. That, that's funny.

Amina J. Dickerson

Arts administrator and foundation executive, Amina J. Dickerson was born Jill L. Dickerson on February 2, 1954 in Washington, D.C. to Ann Lee Stewart Dickerson and Julius James Dickerson. While in high school, Dickerson wrote a ritual play entitled, The Journey, which bore witness to cultural and personal transformation. Attending Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1972, Dickerson produced her play "The Journey" and then took it on tour. Her theatrical activities brought her back to Washington where she was hired as an administrator by Arena Stage.

After completing the Harvard Program in arts administration in 1974, she joined the National Museum of African Art where she became director of education through 1982. There, she staged public programs including a tribute to Langston Hughes which featured musical group, Sweet Honey in the Rock, jazz and a script by Dr. Eleanor Traylor. Dickerson served as assistant director of Philadelphia’s Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in 1983. In 1984, she became the new president of Chicago’s venerable DuSable Museum of African American History and Culture. While serving at DuSable, Dickerson served as a consultant with the Schomburg Center for Black Research while earning her M.A. degree in arts administration from the American University in 1988. Joining the staff of the Chicago Historical Society in 1989, Dickerson brought in the “I Dream a World” exhibit and established the Sojourner Truth Mentoring Program for young women. In 1994, she became director of education and public programs for the museum. After a fellowship with Newberry Library and a stint as “distinguished visitor” at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Dickerson served as coordinator of the Arts in Education program of the Kraft Foods Company in 1997. There, she was promoted to director of corporate giving, and in 2003 she became senior director of Global Community Involvement. Now, on the other side of the philanthropy table, Dickerson funded valuable initiatives in health, hunger, education and the arts.

Retiring in 2009, Dickerson continues to serve the community through her activities on the boards of the Harris Center for Music and Dance at Millennium Park, co-chair of the Peer Network for International Giving of the Donor’s Forum and vice chair of the International Committee of the Council of Foundations. Dickerson was honored as Chicago Professional Grantor of the Year in 2002, Chicagoan of the Year in 2004 and she received the Legacy Award from the ETA Creative Arts Foundation and the Annual Sor Juana Award from the Mexican Fine Arts Center. The Jazz Institute honored her with the Tim Black Award for Community Service in 2006. Dickerson has presented on various arts and community issues and serves as a consultant to various arts, cultural and philanthropic organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts.

Dickerson lives in Chicago with her husband Julian Roberts.

Dickerson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 17, 2009.

Accession Number

A2009.148

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/17/2009

Last Name

Dickerson

Maker Category
Middle Name

J.

Schools

John Burroughs Elementary School

St. Anthony Catholic School

Academy of Notre Dame

Emerson College

Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Amina

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

DIC05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

2/21/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Playwright and foundation executive Amina J. Dickerson (1954 - ) was the director of global community involvement for the Kraft Foods Company until 2009. Dickerson also served in executive capacities with Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History and the Chicago Historical Society.

Employment

Living Stage Theatre Company

Museum of African Art

Philadelphia’s Afro American Historical and Cultural Museum

DuSable Museum of African American History

Chicago Historical Society

Kraft Foods Group, Inc.,

Favorite Color

Yellow

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Amina J. Dickerson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about her father's education and career

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Amina J. Dickerson describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers her neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Amina J. Dickerson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her early exposure to the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her start at the Workshops for Careers in the Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her performances with the Workshops for Careers in the Arts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about her schooling

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers her trip to Italy

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her high school aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls writing and producing 'The Journey: A Black Ritual Experience'

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls the prevalence of discrimination in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about the African American community in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Amina J. Dickerson describes the rituals in her play, 'The Journey'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about the spiritual component of her play, 'The Journey'

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about her experiences of discrimination in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers restaging 'The Journey: A Black Ritual Experience'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls producing 'The Journey' in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her transition to the field of arts administration

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls the members of the Living Stage Theatre Company

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her experiences at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers the Institute in Arts Administration at Harvard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her work at the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson describes the programs at the Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her challenges at the Afro American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her dismissal from the Afro American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers seeking a position at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls joining the staff of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about her presidency of the DuSable Museum of African American History

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson reflects upon her achievements at the DuSable Museum of African American History

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about the challenges faced by African American museums, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about the challenges faced by African American museums, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Amina J. Dickerson reflects upon her conflicts with Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Amina J. Dickerson reflects upon her tenure at the DuSable Museum of African American History

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her transition to the Chicago Historical Society

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Amina J. Dickerson describes the programs of the Chicago Historical Society

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson talks about her fellowships

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson remembers joining the Kraft Foods Group, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her role at the Kraft Foods Group, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson recalls her retirement from the Kraft Foods Group, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Amina J. Dickerson reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Amina J. Dickerson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Amina J. Dickerson reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Amina J. Dickerson reflects upon her family

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Amina J. Dickerson shares her motto

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Amina J. Dickerson describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Amina J. Dickerson narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Amina J. Dickerson recalls her early exposure to the arts
Amina J. Dickerson talks about the spiritual component of her play, 'The Journey'
Transcript
What were you like growing up? What were you interested in in and what kind of information did you come in contact with that shaped, you know?$$Well the arts were always a part of our life. We spent a lot of time especially in muggy hot humid Washington, D.C. The only place you could find air conditioning was very often with museums that are free. So we spent a lot of time in the Smithsonian museums [Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.] and Ann and Dick [Dickerson's parents, Ann Stewart Dickerson and Julius Dickerson] made a priority for us to have the exposure to dance and to music and to theater. So we did Shakespeare [William Shakespeare] in the park that was free down near the Washington Monument [Washington, D.C.] we went and sat on the steps of the Ellipsis [sic. The Ellipse, Washington, D.C.] and hear musical concerts. We got hauled over to the Marine barracks to hear the Marine bands which as you can tell not one of my favorites. We always saw 'Nutcracker' ['The Nutcracker,' Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky]. They just really were culture freaks and we got it from a very early age. We had a wonderful, a wonderful amphitheater the Carter Barron Amphitheatre [Washington, D.C.] off of 16th Street. It was kind of like Ravinia [Ravinia Park] is in Chicago [sic. Highland Park, Illinois]. But they would get season tickets again don't know how they managed season tickets for a family of eight and we got to see all the musicals of the day. We saw 'Guys and Dolls,' we saw 'West Side Story' [Arthur Laurents], we saw 'My Fair Lady' [Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe], we saw 'Camelot' [Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe], we saw 'Carousel' [Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II]. You know, we'd get to see New York City Ballet. I'll never forget one day we waited back stage for [HistoryMaker] Arthur Mitchell to come out and everybody had gone and so we had Arthur Mitchell cornered and got to take him back to his hotel, you know, and talk with him about his career and we chatted him up all the way. I'm sure he was very happy to get out of that station wagon. But it was, it was a kind of defining experience to have the arts always validated and always around us. So we were avid readers. We all read all the time. We did a lot of camping as a family 'cause once again you've got six kids and a limited budget. They paid for us to go to Catholic school so that was a priority and for us to get away we camped around the country. So we'd camped up to Canada for the World's Fair there, we camped out to Wyoming, we'd camp up into Upstate New York and see friends. Again really wonderful eye opening experiences helping us feel that we could be connected to the world that it was ours. There was no barrier for that. We'd talk--my mother would also really talk about the racism and the history. I remember going to Monticello [Charlottesville, Virginia] and her taking us around to the back of Monticello and pointing at those bricks and saying, "You see those bricks? Those bricks were built by slaves so don't ever think that you don't have a part of this legacy. You built this legacy." She would always point that out to us throughout that time. So I started really doing little neighborhood theater things at an early age. You know, my first breakout performance on television was actually on one of the kid's TV shows where they invited you to come up, you know, and who can do something. I'll never forget this was something that akin to 'Captain Kangaroo' or one of those afternoon shows and I put my hand up and they said. "Well come up. What can you do," and I said, "I can whistle." They said, "Okay, well whistle," and nothing came out and I'll never live that down. My brothers [Jan Dickerson, Jaffe Dickerson, Jason Dickerson and Julian Dickerson] were in the audience and they started howling with laughter. So of course the whole family heard that, but--$$How old were you then?$$Oh I think I was five or six years old something like that.$We're talking about ritual theater in, in your play 'The Journey' ['The Journey: A Black Ritual Experience,' Amina J. Dickerson]--$$Yes.$$--what you were trying to accomplish.$$Yes.$$You had to ride herd or try and control the energy on some level of the actors (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah the energy of the room. You know, again, as, as someone who did not have that ritual experience in the church and not out of an affluent African experience. It was at once quite exhilarating and scared me to death but you recognized it as the director you are responsible for these souls that are now in your hands. You know, I guess it was one of the first times that I understood how things work through you. Sometimes you don't have to really understand everything but if it works through you and you just have faith in it, it sort of helped me know what to do how to bring people back down to the state of normalcy of calm. It did get me a reputation as something of a sorceress or something. But they were just magical performances and I think that was part of the power of, of that show.$$I didn't ask this, well I shouldn't, but I'm going to ask this anyway. Did it make, does it make you reflect basically upon what happens with spirituality with people in general? I mean, like when people do that in the church they can do it in Yoruba or they can do it (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, and it's so funny, 'cause--$$--but that's a core of whatever the spirituality is.$$It's about a connection and it's about an openness. You have to be open for something for you to receive that, for you to touch those places in yourself. It was so funny because just that makes me reflect on attending candomble services in Brazil and then coming back to a black Baptist church on the West Side [Chicago, Illinois] for the christening of some cousin's children and a woman got the spirit. The way that people move in circles and the way that they react when, when, you know, divine horseman when your head gets taken, when the spirit enters. You really see that that really is of a piece there's not that separation by geography, by religion, by cultural tradition. Ultimately it is about possession in this most glorious way. And so that's what was happening in this production, you know. I had read about it and certainly I knew about it from my exposure to the black theater experience and [HistoryMaker] Barbara Ann Teer and all of that but then it's in your rehearsal room, okay, or it's on your stage. And the idea that every time you did that ritual this might happen out there with an audience and how do you help people move through that to come back to script. So it was, it was an exhilarating time. It really, really was.

Suzan-Lori Parks

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks was born on May 10, 1963, in Fort Knox, Kentucky, to Francis McMillian Parks and Donald Parks, a colonel in the United States Army. As the child of a military officer, Parks spent some of her youth in German schools while her father was stationed in Europe. She attended college at Mount Holyoke College and studied fiction writing with James Baldwin, who recommended that she focus on writing for the theater. Parks began studying such playwrights as Ntozake Shange and Adrienne Kennedy, and she won honors for her experimental work The Sinner’s Place. Several of her early plays often addressed issues of race.

After graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Mount Holyoke College with her B.A. degree in English and German literature in 1985, Parks moved to London, where she began her career as a playwright. In 1987, her script Betting on the Dust Commander was produced in New York, and two years later, her play Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom was awarded an Obie Award for the best Off-Broadway play of 1989. In 1990, she also published The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole World. Parks’ script for The American Play was produced in 1994; it starred an Abraham Lincoln-obsessed character who works in a carnival dressed in whiteface.

In 2001, Parks’ play Topdog/Underdog was produced to critical acclaim. It followed the story of two brothers and their growing tension, and starred Jeffrey Wright and Don Cheadle (who would be replaced by Mos Def when the play hit Broadway). Parks was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, the first African American woman to do so. The following year, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded her a MacArthur Fellowship of $500,000, known as the “genius grant.” During 2003, Parks published her first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, an experimental retelling of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. Parks also wrote screenplays for 1990’s Anemone Meand 1996’sGirl 6, directed by Spike Lee, as well as the radio plays “Pickling,” “Third Kingdom” and “Locomotive”.

Parks and her husband, blues musician Paul Oscher, live in Venice Beach, California. She works as a director at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

Suzan-Lori Parks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 21, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.148

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/21/2006

Last Name

Parks

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

John Carroll School

Mount Holyoke College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Suzan-Lori

Birth City, State, Country

Fort Knox

HM ID

PAR05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Kentucky

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Lift As You Climb.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

5/10/1963

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Short Description

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (1963 - ) is the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for drama for her play, Topdog/Underdog.

Employment

California Institute of the Arts

Favorite Color

Purple

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Suzan-Lori Parks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her parents and her mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her mother's side of the family in West Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her immediate family and having to move while her father served in the U.S. Army

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her mother's upbringing and her mother's family's educational background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's family in West Texas, part 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's family in West Texas, part 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's family in West Texas, part 3

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her mother's education and how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her parents' marriage and her father's career in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about her birth and various moves her family made during her early childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her family's politics and the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes her mother's career

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her early education and the places she lived as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks explains her parents' political views and values

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about wanting to become a writer

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses wanting to become a writer, part 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses wanting to become a writer, part 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Suzan-Lori Parks describes herself as a student and her love of reading

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Suzan-Lori Parks discusses her first written works as an adult

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Suzan-Lori Parks explains her writing methods and ideology

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Suzan-Lori Parks talks about screen plays, writing commissioned works and her play, 365 Days, 365 Plays

Melvin Van Peebles

Filmmaker, author, and actor Melvin Van Peebles was born on August 21, 1932, in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up during World War II, he spent his adolescence with his father, a tailor. Van Peebles graduated from Township High School in Phoenix, Illinois, in 1949 and spent a year at West Virginia State College before transferring to Ohio Wesleyan University where he earned his B.A. degree in English literature in 1953.

During the late 1950s, Van Peebles served three and a half years as a flight navigator in the United States Air Force. After the military, he lived briefly in Mexico and San Francisco where he wrote his first book, The Big Heart, which was about the life of San Francisco’s cable cars and their drivers. Moving to the Netherlands, he studied at the Dutch National Theatre before moving to France in the early 1960s. During this time, Van Peebles wrote several published novels in French, including La Permission in 1967. He filmed this story under the title, The Story of the Three-Day Pass, and it was selected as the French entry in the 1968 San Francisco Film Festival. It earned critical acclaim, which helped him obtain a studio contract with Columbia Pictures. In 1969, Van Peebles returned to the U.S. to direct and score his first Hollywood film Watermelon Man. The film was released in 1970, followed by his independent feature Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, probably his best known work. Some of his other films include Don’t Play Us Cheap in 1973, Identity Crisis in 1989, Gang in Blue in 1996 and Le Conte du ventre plein in 2000.

As a playwright and composer, Van Peebles wrote two Broadway hit plays: Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death in 1971 and Don’t Play Us Cheap in 1972, for which he earned a Tony Award nomination. As an actor, Van Peebles has appeared in several films including Robert Altman’s O.C. and Stiggs in 1987 and Mario Van Peebles’ Panther in 1995, which he also wrote and co-produced. In 2005, Van Peebles was the subject of a documentary entitled How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (and Enjoy It). He has been honored with numerous awards, including a Grammy and a Drama Desk Award. He received the Children’s Live-Action Humanitas Prize for The Day They Came to Arrest the Book in 1987, and in 1999, he was awarded the Chicago Underground Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Van Peebles resides in New York City.

Accession Number

A2006.100

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/9/2006

Last Name

Van Peebles

Schools

Ohio Wesleyan University

Thornton Township High School

University of Amsterdam

West Virginia State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Melvin

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

VAN05

Favorite Season

None

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/21/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Actor, film director, fiction writer, and playwright Melvin Van Peebles (1932 - ) was best known for his 1971 independent film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which was credited with helping start Hollywood's Blaxploitation era in the 1970s. He also wrote novels and two Broadway plays, and acted in several films.

Employment

United States Air Force

United States Postal Service

San Francisco Trolley Company

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
0,0:14305,154:20045,238:43130,609:78610,933:79042,940:81150,1052:86331,1111:100136,1234:100793,1244:101158,1250:110330,1345:110730,1351:131420,1498:132045,1505:132920,1513:146695,1606:166380,1872:167100,1879:177480,1970:179260,1996:194698,2256:214160,2512$0,0:4230,51:42258,659:42630,672:50047,732:54200,760:61546,907:72298,1056:74123,1149:83006,1293:83390,1315:90934,1403:97960,1448:126499,1743:131149,1896:150520,2076:174810,2428:214250,2749
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Melvin Van Peebles' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls growing up in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his parents' family backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his father's tailor shop in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Melvin Van Peebles describes work experiences from his childhood in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his sexual relationships as a teenager, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his sexual relationships as a teenager, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls his African Methodist Episcopal upbringing, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls his African Methodist Episcopal upbringing, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls the impact of moving to Phoenix, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls lessons from his father

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his experiences at West Virginia State College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his experiences at Ohio Wesleyan University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Melvin Van Peebles remembers his first experience of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls being ostracized at Ohio Wesleyan University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles describes joining the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls segregation in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Melvin Van Peebles talks about how he became interested in the arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his decision to leave the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls pursuing relationships with black and white women

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls the birth of his son, Mario Van Peebles

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls moving to San Francisco, California

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Melvin Van Peebles recalls writing about San Francisco's cable cars

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Melvin Van Peebles remembers making his first films

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Melvin Van Peebles describes his career setbacks in San Francisco

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
Melvin Van Peebles remembers making his first films
Melvin Van Peebles describes his career setbacks in San Francisco
Transcript
I called the guy and I said, "Look, I want to make movies." He said, "Great. Is it going to be fiction or," he said, "what's the documentary going to be about?" I said, "I don't want to do a document, I want to make it fiction. I want stories." I said, "How long are movies, anyway? I've been going to movies all my life, triple features and everything else, but I never paid any attention." "Well, they're ninety minutes or a little longer." I said, "Well, how much is film?" He said, "Well, what're you going to shoot it in, in 16 or 35?" I said, "What's that?" He said, "16 or 35 millimeter." I said, "What's that?" I mean, I knew nothing. And he told me, he said, "I got a 16 millimeter camera. And if you want to do it, I'll do it with you. I won't charge you anything for the camera." "Okay." So, my first feature film that I shot turned out to be eleven minutes long. And I began to teach myself bit by bit, nobody taught me. Then I remember we got the first film, the first film I shot, projected on the wall. I said, "Wow, it's okay. The story's here, but it's not right yet." He said, "Of course not, you haven't edited it yet." "What's that?" I mean, that's the level--now film talk is ubiquitous. Everybody knows about this and all that. I never heard--he didn't talk film before. And anyway, I made those short films. And when I, well, first I asked the guy how much it would be. And he told me the price, and I calculated it. And at that time, you could make a feature film for $557; that was my calculation. Shit, no problem, fine. It was a lot of money, but still. But so, I remember the first day we were getting ready to shoot the film, and the guy's out there, "Okay, this is going to be scene four, take this, roll--." "Whoa, wait a minute, the film. Oh, don't use all the film." I had counted how much it costs for ninety minutes of film, period. That's what I counted, not knowing there was editing or this, or none of that. Then after that I said, "Okay, at least we got these shots, and it'll be a little shorter than I thought." The guy said, "Now we got to go to the laboratory and develop it." "Oh, so okay." He said, "No, no, no, no, no, you never touch the negative, you've got to make another print." "What!" (Laughter) In the meantime my wife [Maria Marx] is getting rocks in her jaws the size of Mount Rushmore [Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota]. I have to sell my car, et cetera (laughter). So, but I got it, I got them.$And then that's how I went into music. I couldn't afford any musicians, and all, I mean, musicians who were dependable. Everybody else, "Yeah, brother, I'll be there. Oh, man, you know, I got high last night and my old lady," blah, blah, blah. So I got disgusted, and that's when I numbered the keys on the piano and started picking out melodies. That's what happened. And then I made these little films and I took them down to Hollywood. And they looked at them and said, "Oh, you obviously can't be a director. You see, there's a snowfall in Kilimanjaro [Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania] this year, so therefore--," and blah, blah, blah. "And there're only so many wheels," and you know, all kinds of blah, blah, blah. So I decided that I couldn't--by that time, Mario [Mario Van Peebles] had a sister [Megan Van Peebles] and I had a family to feed, et cetera. So in the meantime, I'd gotten fired from the cable cars [in San Francisco, California], because the guy who runs the cable car said he didn't think--personally, he didn't think Negroes should read, let alone write. And when the book ['The Big Heart,' Melvin Van Peebles] was a success and complimentary to the cable cars, I got fired. I said, "What are you firing me for?" He said, "It looks like you're going to have, your profile fits the profile of someone who's going to have a big accident." They fired my ass. So anyway, what happened was, I go to work to the Negro university, that is, the post office. And ironically, the post office was called the Rincon Annex [Rincon Annex Post Office, San Francisco, California], where--I mean the irony just won't quit, you know what I mean. So I say, "Okay." So then I say, well, I have to go to my second love. And Sputnik [Sputnik 1], the first little Russian satellite had just gone up. You know, the beatniks were really not called beatniks. They were originally called beats, and then the N-I-K was added afterwards. That's what we called the beat generation, and then later on they became beatniks, in honor of Sputnik. So I felt that the future, one of the secure business futures, was going to be in the calculation of trajectories, to keep these things up, which is called celestial mechanics. And the best place for celestial mechanics at that time was Holland [the Netherlands]. So I had the G.I. Bill [Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944], I write to Holland, and I say, "Hey, I'm coming early to brush up on the language," and they accepted me. And on my way to Holland, I came to New York [New York] and took a boat, Mario and Maria [Maria Marx] and Megan and myself, to Holland. I took these three films that I had, and leased them to a little art house, to a film distributor, and went to Europe.

Robert C. Johnson, Jr.

Africana studies professor, lawyer and playwright Robert C. Johnson was born in Summit, Tennessee near Chattanooga on May 13, 1948 and moved with his family to Boston, Massachusetts at age thirteen. After struggling in Boston public schools, he transferred to the prestigious private school, the Commonwealth School. There he excelled under the mentorship of Charles E, Merrill, Jr., the founder and headmaster. At Commonwealth, Johnson participated in extracurricular activities and began writing plays. He received a B.A. degree in political studies from Bowdoin College in 1971 and a Watson Fellowship to write plays and study African American immigrants in East Africa. Johnson earned a M.A. degree in Africana Studies in 1975 and his J.D. degree in 1977, both from Cornell University. As a law student, he worked on the defense team for prisoners implicated in the Attica Prison riots and he later, developed an educational program at Auburn Prison in Auburn, New York.

From 1977 to 1978, Johnson worked as an affirmative action officer for the Massachusetts Board of Community Colleges and the University of Massachusetts at Boston. He left affirmative action work to practice employment and criminal law with his law partner, Eddie Jenkins, Jr. After a heart attack in 1992, Johnson stepped back from his law practice and became an Africana Studies professor at University of Massachusetts at Boston. Johnson has published extensively in the field of African American history. Most notable among his books are Why Blacks Left America for Africa: Interviews with Black Expatriates, 1971-1999 and Nantucket's People of Color: Essays on History, Politics, and Community. As a playwright Johnson has documented the African American experience with dramas such as Scag, Stop and Frisk and Mama G

Johnson has been involved with many community projects and philanthropic organizations including the “The African Diaspora Program” an after school development program for African American youth in Boston and the United South End Settlements' Harriet Tubman House. Johnson has been married to Amy Merrill, the daughter of his mentor Charles E. Merrill, Jr., for over ten years. He has two children, Gary Weldon and Amika Ama.

Robert C. Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 7, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.068

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/7/2006

Last Name

Johnson

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

C.

Schools

Commonwealth School

Bowdoin College

Cornell University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Summit

HM ID

JOH27

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Vermont; Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Favorite Quote

The Power Of The People Is Greater Than The Man’s Technology

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

5/13/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Playwright, africana studies professor, and lawyer Robert C. Johnson, Jr. (1948 - ) has written several books and plays documenting the experience of the African diaspora as well as advocating for social change for African Americans.

Employment

University of Massachusetts, Boston

Bentley University

Massachusetts Regional Board of Community College

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert C. Johnson, Jr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his middle name

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. recalls moving from Summit, Tennessee to Boston, Massachusetts with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his early childhood in Summit, Tennessee

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes annual family reunions

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about researching his mother's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about researching his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. recalls his earliest childhood memories of Summit, Tennessee

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Summit, Tennessee and Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his year at the Dwight School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his years at the Charles E. Mackey School in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about English High School of Boston, Massachusetts, and entering the ABC (A Better Chance) program

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes attending the Commonwealth School in Boston, Massachusetts, through the ABC (A Better Chance) Program

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his first play, 'Coffee and Sour Cream'

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about riots in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts after the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his decision to attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his years at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his 1971 trip to East Africa through the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. recounts his decision to attend law school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his activism at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about working on the 1971 Attica Prison rioters' legal defense with W. Haywood Burns and HistoryMaker Howard Moore, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes working at the Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges as an affirmative action officer

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about entering private practice with HistoryMaker Eddie Jenkins, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes his community and public service with HistoryMakers Eddie Jenkins, Jr. and Charles "Chuck" Turner

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his mentally-ill son's 1991 arrest, which inspired his play 'Stop and Frisk'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his plays

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his photography, vintage car restoration, and trips to Vermont and Treasure Beach, Jamaica

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes teaching at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his book, 'Shona,' and his work to exonerate Ndume Olatushani in Tennessee

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his published works

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes working with the University of Massachusetts Boston's Africana Studies department

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. reflects upon his interracial marriage to playwright Amy Merrill

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his hopes and concerns for the African American community and about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert C. Johnson, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
Robert C. Johnson, Jr. describes working at the Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges as an affirmative action officer
Robert C. Johnson, Jr. talks about his published works
Transcript
So professor you were awarded your Doctor of Laws [J.D.] degree from Cornell Law School [Ithaca, New York] in 1977?$$Right.$$And what came next?$$Well I, I got my master's in 1975, so I got the master's in '75 [1975], and '77 [1977], I got the law degree and then I moved to Boston [Massachusetts]. We moved to Mattapan in Boston, we bought a house there for $28 thousand, nice old Victorian house, huge yard, about fifteen fruit trees, and started to raise a family.$$Um-hm.$$In, in terms of--I was married to Renda [ph.] Johnson, or Renda Harriston [ph.] was her maiden name and we had two children, my daughter was born in Ithaca, New York, Anika Johnson, so, two kids, Gary and Anika.$$Um-hm.$$One of the first things I had to decide is their schooling and I did not want them to go to the public schools, 'cause the public schools were terrible and I saw what education had meant for me and so I sent them to private schools. My daughter went to the Advent School [Boston, Massachusetts] and then the Beaver Country Day School [Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts] and then my son went to Chestnut Hill School [Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts], and I forgot the other school he went to.$$Um-hm.$$And then I started to work at Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges as affirmative action officer, and, and I wanted a job that would have an influence in the black community and bring about some kinda social change. So, I met Alan Jackson, I knew Alan Jackson, Alan Jackson put me in touch with Betty Johnson, Betty Johnson was on the board of directors for the Mass Board of Regional Community Colleges [Massachusetts Board of Regional Community Colleges], there was a brother who was chairman of the board, I can't recall his name, Pat--Patrick Jones from Lena Park [Boston, Massachusetts], he was on the board, he was head of the committee, personnel committee but he was head of the affirmative action committee. So I met with Betty, and Betty said, "Robert, with your legal background, we can do some really good stuff in the community colleges," so I said fine, so I came and, and worked there which was great because we set up the policies for the community colleges, and the policies were very explicit. Everyone, every professional position had to be signed off in the, in the central office, I reviewed all--everything that came through and I remember in Massasoit Community College--no, at Mass Bay Community College [Massachusetts Bay Community College, Wellesley, Framingham, and Ashland, Massachusetts] they were looking for a dean of faculty and there was a brother who had applied, he was from some community college in New Jersey and they didn't recommend him, they recommended a white person, now we'd, we'd setup these procedures where they had to set forth the reason why a black person was not give- being recommended. So, the reason they put was that he couldn't communicate well, so I went to Betty, I called Betty, I said, "Betty, you know I got this thing here, you know this position and there's a brother who applied and, you know, they say he can't communicate, I said I wanna hold it up." And she said, "Yeah Bob, I'm with you, you know tell the president that, you know you're gonna hold it up." So we held it up and we said to them, brought 'em in the president of the college came into the central office, and we said, "What's this here, you know, about this guy can't communicate?" I mean here's a guy who was the dean of the faculty and of a school in New Jersey.$$Um-hm.$$He did well, all of his references are well, no problem with communication, he has a Ph.D. [degree], from a major university, he had to defend his dissertation, he's been teaching, excellent teaching records, and you're saying he can't communicate. So, we said, we're not gonna sign off on it.$$Um-hm.$$And the president told the president of the college you better go back and bring the brother in, which is what he did, so we did that kinda stuff--$$Um-hm.$$--As a result, we integrated the community colleges--$$Um-hm.$$--In the state.$So, I did that in my sabbatical, and of course I did a lot of research on my family history while I was down there [Tennessee] and then came back to Boston [Massachusetts] and then went up for my promotion to full professor. When I went up for full professor, I had published two additional books, one book was called 'Race, Law and Public Policy,' first and second edition, and then I had another book called, 'Returning Home: a Century of African-American Repatriation,' that one was with publishers, I had a contract and, and was subsequently published in November of last year. Then I have a book that's with University of the West Indies Press [University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica], called 'Fighting for Africa,' and that's based about interviews I did with Dudley Thompson, who is a Jamaican attorney, whose is now close to ninety, but he was the lawyer for Jomo Kenyatta, when, in the Mau Mau Rebellion, and his descriptions of going to visit Jomo up in the Hinterlands of Kenya, and seeing him in a cell that's underground and just hearing his voice it's just amazing, I mean, it's just--firsthand interviews that I did with Dudley Thompson, so he represented Jomo, he also represented Julius Nyerere with the founding of Tanzania, he drafted the constitution for Julius Nyerere, so and then the other person is Bill Sutherland, I interviewed Bill Sutherland who is the brother of Murial [S.] Snowden, and he's lived in Africa for like thirty-five years or so.$$I've met, I've met him.$$Yeah. So that book hopefully will come out within the next year, this is University of West Indies Press.$$Um-hm.$$And then I have one other book--$$Go head.$$--That's ca--supposed to come out in June and that's the one where I'm editing 'Nantucket's People of Color,' and that was a result of the James Bradford Ames Fellowship, the program and Bob Hayden [Robert C. Hayden] was our first James Bradford Ames scholar and the scholars go to Nantucket [Massachusetts] and do research on the history of blacks and Cape Verdeans, so we have ten essays in the book, I wrote the introduction and I have an article in there on Patience Cooper, and that's coming out this June [2006].

Lynn Nottage

Playwright Lynn Nottage was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1964. At age eight, she had already written her first play. Her inspiration came from the women in her family. Her grandmother, mother, and other women were the nurses, teachers, activists and artists in the Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew up. Nottage is a graduate of New York’s High School of Music and Art in Harlem where she earned her high school diploma in 1982. That same year, she enrolled at Brown University where she received her B.A. degree in 1986. She continued her studies and received her M.F.A. degree in playwriting at Yale School of Drama in 1989.

Nottage became a full-time playwright in the 1990s after spending four years at Amnesty International as national press officer. Her first break came as a commissioned monologue for a musical entitled, A...My Name is Still Alice. In 1993, her short play, Poof!, about a woman whose husband spontaneously combusts premiered at the Actors Theater in Louisville, Kentucky, where it won the Heideman Award. In 1996, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois, produced one of her most known plays, Crumbs from the Table of Joy, in its family outreach series.

Nottage took a break from writing for nearly seven years, but in 2003, her drama Intimate Apparel, a play about an African American seamstress in turn of the century New York, won major awards including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Francesca Primus Prize and the Steinberg Award. In 2004, actress Viola Davis won a Drama Desk Award for her outstanding performance in Intimate Apparel at the Roundabout Theatre Company in New York City.

Nottage’s plays are being produced the world wide. She continues to write in her Brooklyn home where she resides with her husband and daughter.

Accession Number

A2005.252

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/5/2005

Last Name

Nottage

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Saint Ann's School

Brown University

Yale University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Lynn

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

NOT01

Favorite Season

September

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Barbados

Favorite Quote

Oh Boy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/2/1964

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate

Short Description

Playwright Lynn Nottage (1964 - ) has written several highly successful plays, including, "Crumbs from the Table of Joy," in 1996. In 2003, her drama, "Intimate Apparel," a play about an African American seamstress in turn of the century New York, won major awards including the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.

Employment

Amnesty International USA

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:8852,248:11664,356:16030,465:17954,513:18546,522:19730,546:20544,558:25580,580:26070,588:29500,670:29920,677:30690,701:42230,911:44790,971:45366,981:46838,1007:49462,1069:65233,1315:66997,1355:78326,1519:83136,1621:83728,1630:84320,1640:88242,1726:88982,1737:89278,1742:96624,1798:102268,1918:109984,1983:121240,2104$0,0:2625,64:18978,323:19806,336:20358,346:21117,358:34670,591:38940,627:39430,636:40690,660:46150,775:46920,793:47410,801:52240,947:53990,988:62161,1079:62526,1085:63037,1097:63475,1114:78778,1343:79352,1352:84440,1389:87106,1450:87354,1455:89010,1471
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lynn Nottage's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lynn Nottage lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lynn Nottage describes her mother and maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lynn Nottage describes her great-grandmother's immigration to New York from Barbados

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lynn Nottage talks about her mother's childhood and career

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lynn Nottage describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lynn Nottage talks about her mother's biological and adopted fathers

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lynn Nottage talks about her mother's education and when her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lynn Nottage shares her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lynn Nottage describes her mother's political activism

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lynn Nottage remembers her experience in elementary school

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lynn Nottage describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Lynn Nottage recalls enrolling at The High School of Music and Art in New York City, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Lynn Nottage recalls her childhood awareness of racism

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Lynn Nottage recalls the lack of images of African American women in the media during her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Lynn Nottage recalls writing her first play, "The Darker Side of Verona," while in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lynn Nottage describes her exposure to African American artists and playwrights

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lynn Nottage recalls her experience as a teenager in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lynn Nottage describes what hip hop music meant to her in the 1980s and how 2000s hip hop is different

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lynn Nottage describes the impact that Charles Fuller's plays had on her as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lynn Nottage describes her decision to enroll at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island in 1982

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Lynn Nottage describes her experience attending Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Lynn Nottage talks about the African American women writers who influenced her

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Lynn Nottage describes her experience at the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Lynn Nottage describes her experience as a national press officer for Amnesty International from 1989 until 1993

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Lynn Nottage talks about the success of her 1993 play "Poof!"

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Lynn Nottage talks about leaving Amnesty International to focus on her playwriting

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Lynn Nottage talks about some of her early plays, including "Crumbs from the Table of Joy"

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Lynn Nottage talks about her play "Por'Knockers"

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Lynn Nottage talks about being a part of a multicultural playwriting collective

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lynn Nottage talks about her plays "Mud, River, Stone" and "Intimate Apparel"

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lynn Nottage talks about the success of her 2003 play "Intimate Apparel"

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lynn Nottage talks about her 2004 play "Fabulation, or the Re-Education of Undine"

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lynn Nottage talks about her community of contemporary African American playwrights, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lynn Nottage talks about her community of contemporary African American playwrights, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lynn Nottage reflects on her identity as an artist

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Lynn Nottage describes how her plays have been inspired by her mother and her mother's friends

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Lynn Nottage describes her plans and her inspiration for the play "Ruined"

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Lynn Nottage describes her plans for the play "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark"

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Lynn Nottage talks about her daughter

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Lynn Nottage talks about the legacy of African Americans in the theater

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Lynn Nottage reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Lynn Nottage reflects upon the importance of The HistoryMakers

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Lynn Nottage reflects on her career

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

9$13

DATitle
Lynn Nottage describes her experience as a national press officer for Amnesty International from 1989 until 1993
Lynn Nottage talks about her play "Por'Knockers"
Transcript
So you, you graduated Yale University [School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut] in '89 [1989]?$$In '89 [1989].$$And what happens in your life after that in that (unclear) (simultaneous)$$In '89 [1989] I, you know, I graduated. I was twenty-four years old. My parents [Jeannette Ruby Newton Nottage and Wallace Nottage] effectively said well you're not coming home (laughter). You must go out into the world and get a job. And I was also confronted with, with this massive debt because they--you come out of graduate school. I did get some scholarship money but still we're talking about cost of living loans that you have to take out and they want them paid back almost immediately. You know, after six months you have to begin. And I was also feeling quite conflicted about going into going playwriting. I thought you know is this really what I want to do? I sort of rushed into it when I was very, very young. I think I need time to live my life and have a different experience and, and I had always written over the summers, worked over the summers as a journalist. And I had that background and a job opened up at Amnesty International and I decided that I was going to apply for it and lo and behold I mysteriously got it (laughter). And so I found myself as a national press officer for Amnesty International for the next four years. Which in some, some ways became the most important informative experience I ever had.$$How so?$$Well, one, I was thrust into a massive job which, with a tremendous learning curve and I had to hit the ground running. I mean, number one, you're--I was dealing with a language which was completely alien to me which was the language of human rights in which you're dealing constantly with lots of acronyms. I was thrust into the reality of the world (laughter) which I didn't know. I mean, I sort of understood what was going on in the United States but I had no idea of sort of the geopolitical world beyond, beyond, you know, beyond the borders of the United States. And, and so, I mean, that's, that's basically what, what I was confronted with.$So from "Crumbs" ["Crumbs from the Table of Joy"] what was your next step as a playwright?$$From "Crumbs" I, I joined the collective of, of writers, of multicultural writers and, and it was predominately Asian (laughter). Which was really interesting. It was Asian, Latino, I think I was the only African American and we specifically wanted to write plays that addressed politics in America from our specific point of views. And I wrote "Por'Knockers" which is about a group of, of political idealists, of African American political idealists who are trying to figure out well what is it that we want today. And they can't agree on what they want but this comes out of them committing an unthinkable act which is blowing up an FBI building and inadvertently killing some children. It was written before Oklahoma [Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995] and but I still believe that it was incredibly prescient. It was what I was feeling is that there was this frustration that was building up in a radical community that had lost the ability to express themselves. And I think that it was part of what the government had done in the 1970s with the COINTELPRO program which was to squelch radical voices in the United States and the voice of dissent which continues until today and that's why we see terrorism. And so that play at the time was exploring that impulse and, and what frustration leads people to do and once they've done it, how they justify the act.

Angela Jackson

Angela Jackson, poet, playwright and fictionist, was born July 25, 1951, in Greenville, Mississippi. Her father, George Jackson, Sr. and mother, Angeline Robinson Jackson moved to Chicago where Jackson attended St. Anne’s Catholic School. Fascinated with books, Jackson frequented the Kelly Branch Library and admired Chicago’s Gwendolyn Brooks. She graduated from Loretto Academy in 1968 with a pre-med scholarship to Northwestern University. In 1977, Jackson received her B.A. degree from Northwestern University and went on to earn her M.A. degree from the University of Chicago.

At Northwestern University, Jackson joined FMO, the black student union. Influenced by artist Jeff Donaldson and visiting poet Margaret Walker, she was invited by Johnson Publishing’s Black World magazine editor, Hoyt W. Fuller, to join the Organization for Black American Culture (OBAC), where she stayed as a member for twenty years. At OBAC, Fuller mentored young black writers like Haki Madhubuti (Don L. Lee), Carolyn Rodgers, Sterling Plumpp and others. Jackson was praised as a reader and performer on Chicago’s burgeoning black literary scene. First published nationally in Black World in 1971, Jackson’s first book of poetry, Voodoo Love Magic was published by Third World Press in 1974. She won the eighth Conrad Kent Rivers Memorial Award in 1973; the Academy of American Poets Award from Northwestern University in 1974; the Illinois Art Council Creative Writing Fellowship in Fiction in 1979; a National Endowment For the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Fiction in 1980; the Hoyt W. Fuller Award for Literary Excellence in 1984; the American Book Award in 1985; the DuSable Museum Writers Seminar Poetry Prize in 1984; Pushcart Prize for Poetry in 1989; ETA Gala Award in 1994; Illinois Authors Literary Heritage Award in 1996; six Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards; five for fiction and one for poetry; The Carl Sandburg Award; Chicago Sun-Times Friends of Literature Book of the Year Award; an Illinois Art Council Creative Writing Fellowship in Playwriting in 2000; and in 2002, the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Jackson’s published poetic works include: The Greenville Club, 1977 (chapbook); Solo in the Boxcar Third Floor E, 1985; The Man with the White Liver, 1987; Dark Legs and Silk Kisses: The Beatitudes of the Spinners, 1993; and All These Roads Be Luminous: Poems New and Selected, 1997, which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her plays include Witness!, 1970; Shango Diaspora: An African American Myth of Womanhood and Love, 1980; and When the Wind Blows, 1984 (better known as the eta production entitled, Comfort Stew). Jackson is working on Treemont Stone, a novel; Lightfoot: The Crystal Stair, a play; her memoir, Apprenticeship in the House of Cowrie Shells; and more poems.

Jackson lives and works in Chicago, Illinois.

Accession Number

A2005.247

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/22/2005

Last Name

Jackson

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Loretto Academy Catholic High School

St. Ann Catholic School

Northwestern University

University of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Angela

Birth City, State, Country

Greenville

HM ID

JAC16

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Brazil

Favorite Quote

Usikate Tamaa (Do Not Despair In Swahili)

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/25/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grits, Eggs

Short Description

Playwright and poet Angela Jackson (1951 - ) has won numerous awards for her work. Jackson is actively involved in Chicago's Organization of Black American Culture, where she has mentored young black writers.

Favorite Color

Orange, Hot Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Angela Jackson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson talks about her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson talks about her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes her parents' marriage and her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson describes her father's experience in the U.S. military and the family's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson recalls her childhood neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson describes her childhood personality and interests

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson describes encountering overt racism in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson describes the ethnic makeup of Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson talks about her love of school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson talks about writers that influenced her, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about writers that influenced her, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about her experience at Loretto Academy High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about her writing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson talks about her extracurricular interests at her experience at Loretto Academy High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson talks about her childhood mentors and memories

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson talks about her changing political views in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson talks about her parents' reading habits

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about reactions to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about Loretto Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois and her decision to attend Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about the politics of black hair

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson reflects on her changing attitude toward Malcolm X

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson talks about her mentors at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson talks about her introduction to the Organization of Black American Culture

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and related organizations

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson reflects on cultural changes in the late '60s and early '70s and OBAC

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson describes her experience in the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson describes her experience in the Organization of Black American Culture (OBAC), pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about her time at Northwestern University, the burning of OBAC's storefront, and the Communiversity

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson talks about her first published writings and various jobs

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson recalls events in her life which occurred in 1977

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes the history and demise of Black World magazine

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson describes Festac 77 in Lagos, Nigeria

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson describes her play "Shango Diaspora," pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson describes her play "Shango Diaspora," pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson discusses her published poetry

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson discusses her book "Dark Legs and Silk Kisses" and other writings

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson describes her novel "Treemont Stone" and other writings

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson describes an article she wrote on her use of popular culture in her writing

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson talks about her teaching career

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Angela Jackson talks about her future plans and present writing

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Angela Jackson talks about the difference between light and serious fiction

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Angela Jackson talks about the subject matter of her current work

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Angela Jackson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Angela Jackson reflects on her life

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Angela Jackson reflects on her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Angela Jackson talks about Ida B. Wells

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Angela Jackson reflects on how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Angela Jackson reads her poem "Faith"

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Angela Jackson narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Angela Jackson narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$8

DATitle
Angela Jackson talks about her writing
Angela Jackson talks about her introduction to the Organization of Black American Culture
Transcript
Okay, so were you writing in high school? Were you writing creative?$$Yes, yes, I was. In, in, in--when I was twelve, this wasn't creative writing this was, I kept a diary and they were letters to Jesus and they were very personal letters, intense letters to Jesus that I kept a little note book, but they weren't poems and they weren't meant to be published, but my sister found my diary and they laughed at it, my younger sisters, Betty and Sharon. And my sister Rose salvaged it from them and hid it. But--$$Do you have still have it?$$No I don't. I wish I knew where it was. I wish I knew what had happened to it. I wish I still had it, but I do remember one thing about it. I do remember one thing about it that I know about myself based upon it is that I am intensely competitive, but I learn over the course of time and experience to try to compete with myself, you know, not to worry about what anybody else has or does, but just compete with my own work, you know, with what I have done in the past to try to make it better to do, to create something different and better with each turn, with each, embrace of a work as a writer. So, that's what I do.$$Okay.$$Because if you compete with other people, it will just make you, make you nuts. I was talking to Sterling [D.] Plumpp last night, and he was upset that [HM] Haki [Madhubuti] and I are not included in the Oxford, in the Oxford collection of African American poetry edited by Arnold Rampersad, and I wasn't that upset about, and he said but that's like writing you out of history and I know it is, but I'm in other anthologies. I'm in the, I'm lucky and glad to be in the Penguin anthology edited by Keith Gilyard and you can't, you can't make people put you in them, you can't--they have all kinds of reasons why they don't include you and some of them is, is, might be as simple as they don't know about your work, which means they haven't done their homework and just you know, just all kinds of peculiar reasons and rationales, so, and, and my other feeling about is who decided that Arnold Rampersad was the authority on African American poetry (laughter). When did he come along? I never remembered his name from Black World [magazine]. How long has he been here out here working in the vineyards, so that's why I compete with myself because you can't depend on other people.$Were you aware at the time that she has, I think she's from, she's from Louisiana or--$$No, she was born in Alabama, but she taught at Jackson State [University] in [Jackson] Mississippi--$$Right.$$--and she was a visiting professor at Northwestern [University in Evanston, Illinois] and she had attended Northwestern in the '40s [1940s]--$$Yeah, she was a part of the writers' group in the '40s [1940s]--$$Yes she was, yeah.$$--with Richard Wright--(unclear)--$$Yes, and Gwendolyn Brooks, exactly.$$--(Unclear)--were you aware at that time that she knew Gwendolyn Brooks?$$No, all I knew was that she had written "For My People" and I loved it, and I wanted to study with her. So, the following year in my sophomore year came another African American literature class, which I definitely could not take, but wound up auditing. It was taught by Hoyt [W.] Fuller and my roommate, Roella Christine Henderson, later Davis, kept urging me to go and show him my poems since he was an edi--editor. She said, "He's an editor, you're a writer, you should take him your work, so I did. Christine, by the way is a cousin of [HM] Jeff Donaldson and I and Christine worked for Jeff in sophomore year. I was his slide assistant, and I filed his slides and during his class in those days they didn't have electric slides, so I had to show, change each slide and show the slides in, in his class while class was going on and I had to take notes at the same time because I was taking the class and Jeff, as you know, was one of the founders of OBAC [Organization of Black American Culture]. Hoyt Fuller was a founder of OBAC and when I gave my poems to Hoyt Fuller he kept them for three weeks and I asked him about them and asked him about them, the man was busy, but he was kind enough to read my poems. When he gave them back to me, he said very kindly, "You have a way with words. You should come to OBAC where you might be judged by your peers." Now I knew about, I don't know how I knew about Don L. Lee [HM Haki Madhubuti] and Carolyn Rodgers, but I did know about them because he said your peers and I was thinking my peers they're older than me, they're not my peers, but I did go to OBAC on the third Wednesday of October, 1969. I took the El from Evanston to 35th Street, I got off and walked the three blocks over. And the workshop was at 77 East 35th Street and the door was opened by Walter Bradford, the poet who had done the Black Stone Ranger workshop, organized that workshop with Gwendolyn Brooks and also present was another poet named Evan (ph.) Higgs, and they were very warm and kind to me. Later on the place started to fill up. It was a lovely fall evening, the place started to fill up, people floated in and sat down in the chairs and on the couches of that store front and after a while Don L. Lee came in and he slid through the room. [Dr.] Ann Smith came in and she walked through the room. Then Hoyt Fuller came in and he strolled through the room, and he sat at the front, and I was sitting on a couch and he looked up and looked at me and he smiled and that was how my OBAC experience began and I was a member of OBAC for roughly twenty years.