Black Fest '97: Slavery Chronicled

News   Black Fest '97: Slavery Chronicled
 
Last night was the opening of Do Lord Remember Me. A drama by James de Jongh, directed by Regge Life. This drama, which played in New York City, a few months ago, is about telling the real story of the Black slave. What their lives were like on the plantation. How the Massa, his wife and overseers treated them.

Last night was the opening of Do Lord Remember Me. A drama by James de Jongh, directed by Regge Life. This drama, which played in New York City, a few months ago, is about telling the real story of the Black slave. What their lives were like on the plantation. How the Massa, his wife and overseers treated them.

While much of this production shares horrific events such as the wiping, starving and hanging of the slave, there are also moments of humor as five slaves remember how it was enjoying the homemade foods.

The cast was extraordinary: Barbara Montgomery, Ebony Jo-Ann, Roscoe Orman, Lou Myers and Glynn Turman. Each performed multiple roles, because as two people tell a remembrance, two or three others would act it out.

There's one scene which was funny throughout. Turman is a slave explaining, that a long time ago there were only "niggers" in this world. Looking at himself, he seems baffled by the fact, that the palms of his hand and bottoms of his feet are white. Then he explains how this came to be.

Everybody on earth was a nigger until, they found a lake. When you bathed in the lake you came out White and it took the kink out of your hair. The niggers came running and the water started getting yellow--thus you got mulattos. Then the word went out that the water was almost gone, so the last group of niggers rushed to the lake. But the water was so low they couldn't walk into it, so they walked on all fours (hands and feet) and thus your hands and feet are white. This production is a mix of tragedy, humor and finally triumph.

It's told from the viewpoint of the slaves who lived it. Slavery to freedom is shared, not only through stories, but through some of the old slave spirituals.

When the show ended the cast received a rousing, standing ovation. As if our hearts had not already been touched enough--we then witnessed Larry Leon Hamlin present the awards to the honorees of the day and there were a few added surprises.

Yesterday was Barbara Montgomery, Hattie Winston and Dick Anthony Williams day. Each received their plaques with humility and love. Yvonne Brewster (Artistic Director of the Talawa Theatre Company, the oldest and largest Black Theatre company in England) and Trevor Rhone (playwright) were also presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards.

However, a moment which made many breakdown in tears, occurred when Hamlin surprised JaNet DuBois. He announced that her birthday had passed and as she stood by him, he had the audience join him in singing happy birthday. DuBois was so moved, the tears begun flowing. At first she put her hands over her face, unable to speak for a few moments. Then, she tearfully thanked Hamlin saying, "Larry has given us a chance to get close. We're so busy trying to get jobs, we wouldn't be able to get time together. We are sisters and brothers and friends and we owe it all to you."

The evening was truly wonderful.

--By Linda Armstrong
Special Correspondent

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