Black Thespians, Tellers of Their People’s Stories

by on August 12, 2021 · 2 comments

in From the Soul

by Ernie McCray

I think of
the Black thespians
of old
who,
like minors
shaking ore
in water
panning for gold,
separated
the top grades
from what might be “fool’s gold,”
seeking ways
to get their people’s stories told
authentically,
taking into consideration
White performers
had, since the beginning of
the early 19th Century,
portrayed Negroes
on stage
in blackface.

Oh, they would
dance and prance
just a
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Da-ing
and Mammy-ing
all over the place.
And the Black actors
and actresses
of those days
had to pave their way
to the world’s stage
performing in similar ways
as, of course,
the opportunities
to ply their trade
were slight,
dim as the deep blue darkness
of midnight.
But they kept mining,
kept sifting through
the sediments,
getting at the true essence
of black humanity,
that Black folks
are human beings
like every other breathing soul
and overtime
their descendants
have gifted the world
with the most precious of nuggets,
stories that,
rather than demean,
humanize.
Dramas of:
a family living on
Chicago’s South Side,
struggling mightily to survive,
arguing, trying to decide
how to spend money
left to them
by a husband and father who had died;
a marvelous comedic mind
sharing the tragic circumstances
surrounding him setting himself on fire,
in a manner that makes you laugh until you cry;
colored girls
confronting racism and sexism
and contemplating
committing suicide;
soldiers, “brothers in arms,”
burdened by self-hate
and racist attitudes
they find hard to set aside;
a woman
and her children
running excitedly
to greet a husband and father
making his way to them
hobbling on crutches, returning,
after spending months in prison,
for stealing a ham
to feed his family…

So what
the Black actors
and Black actresses mine
|is priceless,
a labor that
offers humankind
a mirror in which
to look at ourselves
and change
how we see each other
and hear each other
and feel for each other
in the depths
of our hearts and souls.

Along these lines
Black thespians
have, for centuries,
like those who work in mines,
had their sights
forever set
on striking gold.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynda Sterns August 18, 2021 at 8:16 am

LOVE THIS “So what
the Black actors
and Black actresses mine
|is priceless,
a labor that
offers humankind
a mirror in which
to look at ourselves
and change
how we see each other
and hear each other
and feel for each other
in the depths
of our hearts and souls.” Thanks Ernie
Need more color-ful reflection,
Lynda Riverlee

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Thomas Gayton August 19, 2021 at 10:13 pm

We were thespians who dramatized the life and times of Afro-Americans.
VIVA!

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