Picture Thomas Dale High School in Chester, VA - 1998.
Charmaine Crowell White, my then theater teacher, opened my world to Ntozake and gave me a piece to read from this renowned choreopoem, and I spoke lovingly about Toussaint L'Overture -
This is Ms. Crowell-White (in the middle),
Ms. Davis (Keith's mom - he's a singing theater wonder!)
and I in 2007.
LADY IN BROWN de library waz right down from de trolly tracks cross from de laundry-mat thru de big shinin floors & granite pillars ol st. louis is famous for i found toussaint
but not til after months uv cajun katie/ pippi longstockin christopher robin/ eddie heyward & a pooh bear in the children's room
only pioneer girls & magic rabbits & big city white boys
i knew i waznt sposedta but i ran inta the ADULT READING ROOM & came across TOUSSAINT my first blk man (i never counted george washington carver cuz i didnt like peanuts)
still TOUSSAINT waz a blk man a negro like my mama say
who refused to be a slave & he spoke french & didnt low no white man to tell him nothin not napolean not maximillien not robespierre
TOUSSAINT L'OUVERTURE waz the beginnin uv reality for me
the poem goes on, and tells a very vivid story about imaginary friends and heros. I took that piece to about a dozen or so forensic competitions (AKA speech and debate!) and won every time. Was the Virginia State champ in poetic interpretation with this piece!!! I loved Ntozake (my very first e-mail address was firstname.lastname@example.org! I recently changed the password, as it was Shange:)
It's a huge dream of mine to be in theatre and present works that are meaningful and that resonate with the soul. I'm not sure how far I am on that path, but that's where I was in 1998. I've gotten caught up in the rush of day-to-day life and my (current) career that I forgot about my art.
I know Janet, Phylicia, Whoopi, Kimberly, and the crew will be stunning - and that their fame will bring heightened visibility to Ntozake's amazing piece and her talent as a writer, novelist, and author. I just wonder if I had stayed on the path of my passion, could I have helped - in any way - could I have helped Mr. Tyler with bringing this to the masses? Have I missed a calling of some sort? By chasing what I think is an intended career, am I discouraging possible paths that I was born to take?