"The fierce urgency of now."
"We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood -- it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, 'Too late.'"
-- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., April 4, 1967
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Commentary: The dangers of banning "the N word" from works of art
Posted by Matthew Murray on BroadwayStars.com, January 15, 2011
David Snead, superintendent of schools in Waterbury, Connecticut, moved this week to shut down a production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Waterbury Arts Magnet School. The furor is erupting over the play's use of the word "nigger," which Snead believes should be verboten: "The use of the N-word is something all civil rights leaders around the country want us to stop using." In other words, a play about the struggles of black Americans in the early 20th century should not use a word that carries with it extreme power and relevance to both the black and white communities, even though the show was written by an African-American playwright who was aware of the show's baggage as much as he was its impact? For a school superintendent to take this position should be appalling to everyone, black or white, theatregoer or not, because it flies against the very nature of what his job is supposed to be: education. Neither Wilson nor the "civil rights" leaders to whom Snead claims to be beholden would ever begin to claim that the word in question should be used in casual, everyday speech. But in order to understand why it shouldn't, and the extent of the hurt it causes people of all races, it cannot be banned from art -- especially when the art in question depends on it for reasons of history. This is not the only incident like this in the news recently. NewSouth Books decided to reprint versions of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that had been scrubbed of the same word (replaced with "slave"). Snead and NewSouth were presented with golden opportunities to teach crucial lessons about the intersections of race, language, and intolerance, but instead chose to take the most near-sighted and dangerous avenues open to them: ignoring the conflicts that not only shaped but have defined this country since its very inception.
Commentary: We need a Martin Luther King prize for Boston's artists of color
Posted by Thomas Garvey on The Hub Review, January 15, 2011 [hat tip to Art Hennessey]
Monday is the day we honor one of the greatest leaders of our civil rights movement, so it seems only appropriate to pause for a moment to note in sadness the apparent passing of Boston's African-American Theatre Festival, which ran from 2001-2009. Another loss to the local African-American theatre community was the recent death of Jim Spruill, founder of the New African Company, who with his wife Lynda Patton (who also passed not so long ago) inspired a generation of theatre artists of color. Of course there are always new faces and voices of color to be seen and heard in Boston. But it's troubling that the African-American Theatre Festival, probably the highest-profile showcase for local performers -- and especially local writers -- of color, should have vanished so quickly, and without apparently any local protest or comment. We hear a lot about the ravages of racism in places like South Africa, or the antebellum South, or the Congo -- but never right here in Boston, even though we have quite the fraught racial history. It's clear to me that one way for theatre artists of any color to make a difference is to connect with their own community -- to tell its story. Yet I can't remember the last time I saw a play about our own racial issues on a major local stage. So I'd like to make a modest proposal to our colleges, theatres, and foundations -- how about a prize, or a grant, or a commission to an artist of color for a play about Boston? With a production guaranteed? Maybe we could call it the Jim Spruill and Lynda Patton Prize. Or maybe the Martin Luther King Prize.
A Vermont sculptor also had a dream: to honor Dr. King with art
From The Washington Post, January 17, 2011
Chris Sharp was standing at a copying machine in the Vermont high school where he teaches art when the White House security people called: Was he the guy who sent the heavy bronze sculpture of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the homemade wooden packing crate? Absolutely, Sharp replied. He was the guy who, at his own expense, sculpted, cast and was shipping in carpet-lined crates his 60-pound statues of King to President Obama and 16 other destinations across the country. The White House was "direct," but pleasant, Sharp said of the conversation a week or so ago, and the caller seemed to know everything about him. Sharp asked whether his sculpture would reach the president: "They said they didn't know." But the sculptor was delighted. After years of work, copies of his unusual sculpture of King were arriving at their destinations. In a kind of benevolent performance art, they were landing in VIP mailrooms across the country [including The Washington Post, NPR, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and the National Portrait Gallery, along with several school systems] -- pure, heartfelt gestures in the era of the suspicious package. Sharp said he began thinking about sculpting King several years ago when plans were afoot to design the new King Memorial, now being completed in Washington. The memorial design had been selected, but Sharp wanted to make a King sculpture anyhow. He planned something more intimate. He was struck by what he saw as a duality in King -- compassion and confrontation. His design called for two Kings in the statue: one standing as if giving a speech; the other, growing out of the first, crouched down with a hand extended in greeting.