My two younger cousins and my aunt and uncle lived in the Hayes Homes, which was a collection of apartment towers that was right across the street from the police precinct where all this gunfire, where the uprising itself started. And in those old newsreels that you see of the rebellion itself, occasionally you might see some film of some National Guardsmen crouched behind cars firing at tall buildings in the background. And then there's images of bullets ricocheting off the facade of large stone buildings—those are the Hayes Homes.
Those were the buildings that my aunt and uncle and cousins were living in at the time, and they were forced to stay on the floor. I know that it had a terrible effect on my aunt because it wasn't too long after that she had a nervous breakdown. And she had other emotional problems, because some of those gunshots were aimed at the building that she was living in.
And Mrs. And that was the tower that was diagonally across from the one that my aunt and uncle were living in at the time.
I've never really directly written about my experiences or memories of the uprising itself. But I think there have been residual effects. It's had to have turned up somewhere in my plays and things. And they take place right around the time of the rebellion itself, even though they don't talk directly about it. But they talk about people who would have been in the middle of it had they actually been real characters.
Another play, The Talented Tenthabout a black professional and former political activist in his youth who is now entering his 40s during the s and experiencing a mid-life crisis, features another character, a young woman in her 20s, who was a child caught in the middle of the Newark Rebellion and has a completely different memory of those days, one that is neither rosy nor heroic.
Well, the area of black theater that I came from, we were the cultural arm of the Black Power Movement. We were the offshoot of the civil rights movement itself. After the Voting Rights Bill was passed inthat was pretty much the culmination of the primary struggles of the civil rights movement; the next level after that had to do with, how do you use these newly acquired rights as far as voting is concerned?
How do you turn the right to vote in the South into a way to address the inequities there? And how do you turn this energy, this right to vote, into a real political power in the North? Newark was predominantly black going all the way back practically to the early to mid '60s. The same was true of Washington, D. Each ethnic group as it reached a certain critical mass has exercised that mass through the vote as a way of gaining some traction in the overall society.
Now, here was a time for black people to start doing some of the same things. And so what do we want to do with this vote and how are we going to use this vote to exercise our freedoms as citizens? That's what Black Power was all about. But Black Power was not necessarily a movement that was the brainchild of Dr. We felt we owed our legacy more to Malcolm X, who was much more assertive and took a stronger stance, and I think it was more reflective of his urban setting.
King was in the South, in the Jim Crow South, a very violent area of the country at that time for black people. And nonviolence as a way of political expression made a lot of sense there, but in the North, it was different. There were not the same kind of Jim Crow constraints, certainly not overtly in the North, so the ability to speak our minds and the ability to have an eyeball-to-eyeball conversation with the white power structure came out of a different kind of psychological or emotional stance.
Malcolm represented that stance far more than Dr. King did. So we started looking more toward Malcolm. What was going on with the political action movements and liberation movements in Angola? Their political philosophies were far more leftist. That's where all of that came from. And then later on in a special edition of the Drama Review where Neal expanded that essay and literally laid out a manifesto that structured an ideological platform for the Black Arts Movement.
We moved in that direction. Black Theater grew out of that. One arm of it, the political and culturally oriented black theater that was deep inside our African American communities. The Negro Ensemble Company, they moved in another direction that was very strongly based in art but was not quite as militant or ideological as what we were doing uptown at the New Lafayette. You had these two opposing lines of thought, but everybody was moving in the same direction, which was this greater expansion of expression.
We had a lot to say. We had a lot that we wanted to do. We had writers, we had tons of things that they wanted to write about. And there seemed to be no real room in mainstream theater for us at all. Whether it was Broadway, off Broadway or even the regionals. And since they didn't seem to have room for us, we had to create room for ourselves.
And that's also where theater came along. And then when you had the National Endowment for the Arts, particularly the expansion arts division of the National Endowment, and Rockefeller grants and the Ford Foundation grants, everybody was trying to make a contribution. Everyone was trying to get involved. The same way everyone wants to get involved to support Black Lives Matter today.
Suddenly, we had the financial means and we had these spaces, storefronts and old converted movie houses and flatbed trucks that can move through the communities, and everything like that and the funding to support these spaces, so we went out and we made art. Yes, there was. There was a great deal of conflict. There were conflicts between the artists. Each had a position about the direction the art should take, and each side was equally adept in advocating for their points of view.
At the same time we were all engaged in difficulties with those who were strictly politics. The ideologues, the brothers with the guns, that's how I describe them in the book. And it wasn't just the Black Panther Party, I know that's the first thing that everyone runs to when you say brothers with the guns. But it wasn't just the Black Panthers, there were others. There were black nationalist groups who were also armed.
And they were committed to the idea of armed struggle. And we, the cultural nationalists, if you will, were not. We felt Of Course with the art that we were engaged in, we were busy trying to reconstruct the psychological lives of the black community.
We were trying to get it to look inward, see themselves, rebuild themselves. And then we could start making decisions about the world outside, the world beyond us. And if you guys are not with us, then you're against us and if you're against us, you will be dealt with. That's an argument and a debate that is still ongoing.
It's never been resolved. And I just think that it's two contending thoughts that are going to have to exist side by side. And I think the times are going to dictate how that argument is going to be resolved going forward. American society as a whole is going to determine the end of that argument. Inside the community, it's never going to be settled. Each side thinks they are absolutely right.
There's one side that believes we have to do art for the people, for black people, black art for black people. We have to be able to speak directly to them. We can't temper what we want to say. We can't be worried about other people's feelings.
We can't be worried about, is this going to offend one segment of the audience if we say that? Then you have the other side. You're talking about ideological purity and we're talking about trying to develop an audience and we're trying to have everybody in on the conversation because we're in this space with everybody else.
Everyone should be able to experience our art. Our art is human, it is as expressive of the human condition as anyone else's art, so why keep it confined? That debate is just going to go back and forth I think for the foreseeable future. It brings back a flood of memories. Most of the people in my age group are so very proud of these young people marching. For Of Course personally, the fact that they are doing precisely what we did makes me want to go to them and say, "Look, don't do precisely what we did, instead build on what we did and learn from what we did.
Build on history. And I think even to some degree, I heard last week Jim Clyburn, the House majority whip who also is a veteran of the civil rights movement from the '60s, he said precisely the same thing. It's a question now of these kids taking what we did from the '60s and expanding on it and making something even better and stronger. He stated it differently, but there are a lot of us who had very similar feelings in the late '60s and early '70s. The artists who, for instance, who were interested in black theater for black people, would have said something very similar to what Charles Blow was saying there.
Because back then, one of the things that used to drive us crazy, and was a big reason why we never really got very close to the Weather Underground or the Yippies, or some of the other groups, the white groups at that time, was this nagging sense that the same kids who were frolicking in the ponds, in the rain at Woodstock, would eventually cut their hair, shave their beards, hang up the tie dye dresses and blouses, wash their faces, and the next thing you know they're going to be in the banks rejecting our applications for home loans.
All the young men who had drifted north of the border into Canada came sheepishly back into the United States, but there was still no strong drive coming up from the streets. All those kids who were out there, they suddenly turned into middle class America. And within 10, 15 years they had quieted down and were replaced by Dan and Marilyn Quayle. She basically denied the entirety of the anti-war movement, talked about how the anti-war movement was represented by only a small portion of the baby boom generation.
The majority of that generation were the ones who were working two jobs, were the ones who had their noses buried in the books on college campuses to put their careers together so they'd be able to start an all-American life. They were, she said, the ones who were part of the silent majority… But I remember hearing that speech and thinking back to our mistrust of those political alliances with the Weather Underground back in the '60s.
They're just what we always thought. There they are. Because 15 years ago, Marilyn Quayle had her hair halfway down her back. She was wearing sandals, then she was out in the streets and everything else with everybody else. Now, she's a Republican wife and her husband is the vice president of the United States.
And she's somebody else entirely, and all that stuff is forgotten. And she's pointing fingers. I remember a contemporary of mine, Ben Caldwellwrote a play about it.
It was a short piece where you have all these true believers and you're out front and you're leading the revolution, They All Died - RQTN - We Were . We Are (CD), and the police roll up the big gigantic cannons and you are ready to run headlong into the cannon fire. Because even if I fall, I know that people will continue on.
We will turn those cannons around. And the police commander yells, "Fire. But when the smoke clears, it's all dollar bills floating down to the ground. And as the revolutionary leaders are running forward, the masses behind them are stooped over on the ground scooping up as many of those dollar bills as they can. I think it's always a possibility. As excited as I am and happy for them moving forward, it's always a possibility. But they're the ones who are going to have to watch out for it.
All of us older guys, the only thing we can do is advise them. What we can do is point to our own experiences, but I think this is something they're going to have to go through. Also as I mentioned in the book, it's a characteristic of America itself. It's the way the system is constructed. You have the billy clubs and the tear gas and the militarization of the police and the police violence and all of that in terms of putting down demonstrations, but the way in which America really handles its threats always involves money and who gets access to it.
And our movements always get bribed out of existence Everyone wanted to wear a black Morena leather jacket at one point. The minute that Johnny Carson or Dick Cavett, once they had Kathleen Cleaver or Huey Newton on as a late-night guest, the revolution had turned into something else.
It's not Fidel Castro hiding out to the point of starvation in the mountains in central Cuba before he manages to turn things around and seize power, drive Batista into the sea. That's just not how things are going to work in the United States. And no one has really figured out how to have a violent political revolution in America. At least not yet. You don't know what's going to come in the next four or five years. But that was something that I remember seeing and feeling very strongly in the '60s and '70s—the way in which revolution in this country became just another aspect of celebrity in America.
And of course my childhood hero, Paddy Chayefsky, he wrote about it and previewed it to some degree in Of Course film Network. In terms of some of the changes that I've seen, I'm really excited about the work of this young writer, Misha Greenwith her show Lovecraft Country There are elements that turned up in some of the writing in the Perry Mason series that HBO recently had.
Lena Waithe with what she's trying to do with The Chi over on Showtime. And also with the elevation of more young executives of color and women executives inside the industry itself These are new possibilities, and I think some it is an outgrowth of Black Lives Matter, which itself [has had a resurgence after] the horrific deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so much else, right on up [to Jacob Blake,] the young man shot down at close range in Wisconsin.
And now we have more police violence revealed to have taken place in Rochester. And still the marches continue. All of these things are having an effect on our country. And I see parallels with the '60s, but at the same time I'm also aware that this is a new century. And the young people who are coming up, I know that they're different because I teach them over at NYU in dramatic writing.
Those kids, they have a different way of looking at the world, and the world itself has had such an impact on them. They're in the process of trying to figure out how to write a new set of rules that make the space that they have to live in livable. I'm interested to see what that's going to be. I've been teaching for 25 years at New York University. And some of the students that I was teaching early on are now moving into positions of influence and they've really settled into their careers.
And I'm interested in seeing what that means in terms of how things are shifting and changing. And I think I can already see it.
Not only them, but other people in their age cohort. Ava DuVernay is in their age cohort. Ryan Coogler is in their age cohort. The older ones that I taught from way, way back; Dee Rees was in the film department upstairs from me, and she's making her presence felt. I think the jury is still out. We still have yet to see all that's changing They've grown up with America at war every year of their lives right up to this very day. No other generation in this country has ever experienced anything like that.
And it's somewhere in the back of your consciousness. They've already lived through two economic upheavals, I mean, complete upheavals in their lives. And at the same time, they're the first generation that spent eight years of their lives with an African American as president. So Kamala Harris is not necessarily a surprise. Kamala Harris is something more of an expectation.
And because of that, there are certain things that they're going to expect of her that are going to be impacted by the other expectations they have about what all of this America is supposed to mean. They're the ones who are going to inherit and have to figure out how to navigate this post-pandemic America that's coming. None of us can know until after the election exactly what that's going to look like.
These kids are the ones who are going to be the most affected by it because they're going to live throughout most of the rest of the century. The same way that a person living to the age of 80 today is sort of like, well, that's kind of normal. Toward the end of this century, living to Of Course a hundred will be kind of normal.
So that means, wow, inthey're going to be adults taking over the reins of control in this society. And then fromall the way down tothey're going to be the voting bloc that determines the leadership, determines the legislative directions of the country, and determines, since I teach mostly screenwriters and playwrights, they're the ones who are going to be controlling the images that come on out through whatever the medium is — holograms!
I think they won't be doing TV anymore at all. Three dimensional images projected in some kind of special entertainment room in everyone's house or apartment for all I know. And what are those going to be? All of it is going to come out of the tumult, I think, of the times that we're living right now. I think it's true. Although he used softer language, that was pretty much what he was extolling the virtues of. That's the battle we have to face. Yes, there are a lot of people who will profess to be upset with Trump, but at the same time they're secretly very happy at what he has delivered.
But for those of us who had a completely different vision of America and what its promises represent, their vision is a nightmare. There are more of us than there are of them and the question is, will we motivate ourselves in the face of all of this opposition to get out there and vote? There are days when I am incredibly optimistic about that. I think a lot of people are really angry about what happened with the post office most recently, and with the president's pretty much tacit admission that he was manipulating the postal service to thwart mail-in balloting.
And I think a lot of people are going to come out of their houses, they're going to risk their health, and they are going to stand in line at those one, two or three voting places that are available to them, and they're going to stand in line and vote. And they're going to vote by the hundreds and hundreds of thousands. And this guy was deliberately pushing policies that kept our country wide open and vulnerable at exactly the time we should have been shut down.
How many thousands died, how many millions became infected, because of what he did, and because of the corrective measures he failed to follow? One of the things that I remember from the Reagan years, when Reagan became president, that comment that he made about government is the problem.
That was, of course, an outgrowth of all of these efforts by Republicans and conservatives going all the way back to Robert Taft during the Truman administration to make people uncomfortable and distrust expansive government, to undermine the effects of Roosevelt's vast expansion of the federal government, with Social Security and the FDIC and all the other great things that he did during the New Deal.
Market forces should determine the future of the country and the government should stay out of it. He has undermined almost every branch of the federal government that we have taken for granted. Alyea said IRFD's call volume has gone from just over a year to and climbing, what with water rescues.
We usually do about a year, and so far this year, we're at and climbing," said Alyea. Now we're rescuing about 20 people a week. Online condolences may be left at tahlequahfuneral. Died September 15th in Tahlequah, OK. Services September 18th pm at Reed-Culver Chapel. Burial at Park Hill Cemetery. Services pending.
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