The Challenge – A Black Mythology

I had the great, good fortune to meet Russell Goings, a close friend of artist Romare Bearden  at an exhibit at the Schomburg Library in NYC several years ago.  He challenged me to think about Bearden’s late work as he was thinking about death. 

Bearden, Empress of the Blues, 9813 {gallery_year}

He also issued a challenge that I’ve been pursuing — less purposefully than I should have — ever since.  He asked me to think about using my work to creat a black mythology.  This is not a rejection of white subjects or characters or the global.  But a way of exploring the African diaspora and representing “us” to “us.” 

The first step in this journey was my screenplay adaptation of King Lear as as hip hop mogul.  King is now making the rounds. 

The next is my comedy screenplay Ghettopreneurs, a love letter to the entrepreneurial spirit of the hood.

Next, an homage to black love. 

I have struggled sometimes to find authentic black voices.  I am overwhelmed by the flow of hip hop and the lines written by white writers for black characters.  Except for the jive robots in Transformers II.  Somehow I’ve been able to resist that 😉

Then I see Precious. And while I celebrate the performances, appreciate the redemptive effort and applaud the black entrepreneurial talent behind it,  I wonder why all the “good” characters are multicultural or fair-skinned and all the troubled characters are very, very black – in skin tone, stereotype and discourse.  Who will untangle this for us?  Will we ever be able to think about class as well as race?  When can African Americans begin to see ourselves in a global perspective?

If now isn’t a good time for the truth I don’t see when we’ll get to it.
Nikki Giovanni


About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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