Tag Archive | "black history month"

“Roots” Actress Tina Andrews Celebrates Life of Coretta Scott King in Southampton Play

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Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, with playwright Tina Andrews (photo courtesy of Tina Andrews).

Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, with playwright Tina Andrews (photo courtesy of Tina Andrews).

By Tessa Raebeck

Before she began dating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King traveled with her boyfriend at the time, a white, Jewish boy, to spend Thanksgiving with his white, Jewish family. Upon arrival, however, Scott King, a college freshman, learned that her boyfriend had failed to mention to his family that the new girlfriend he was bringing home to meet them was black. The family objected, refusing to let them stay, and the young couple ate their Thanksgiving meal at a roadside diner.

“It took me a long time to get stories like that out of her,” said Tina Andrews, a noted actor, screenwriter, producer and director who spent over 120 hours interviewing Scott King before she passed away in 2006.

Conducted over the course of three years, the extensive interviews act as the foundation for Andrews’ new play, “Coretta: Promise to the Dream,” a one-woman show chronicling the life of Coretta Scott King. The show will premiere at the Southampton Cultural Center this Friday, February 7.

Tina Andrews

Tina Andrews

Best known for her role in the famous and groundbreaking 1977 mini-series “Roots,” Andrews wrote the play, directs it and stars in it as the only actor, alternating between playing Coretta and herself.

“I would like to think of her as a friend,” Andrews said of Coretta. From 2002 to 2005, during the last years of Coretta’s life, the pair spent significant time sharing ideas and swapping stories of their lives, from their experiences dating in college to the impact of the civil rights movement.

Hesitant to go public with her stories, Scott King permitted Andrews to interview her only after she saw “Sally Hemings: An American Scandal,” a television miniseries written by Andrews.

“What I love about the story is that I think of myself as a child of the dream,” said Andrews, who, like the modern civil rights movement, was born in the early 1950’s.

“So,” she added, recalling her friend, “she and Dr. King stood against the hoses and the dogs and the billy clubs beating them and jail and all of that, so that I could actually become an executive producer and writer of a CBS miniseries.”

When they first met, Andrews told Scott King, “I stand on your shoulders.” She began to cry and then, struck by Scott King’s beauty, exclaimed, “’Dr. King must have lost his mind when he first met you!’”

That mix of humor with drama, of light stories with harsh realities, is present in all Andrews’ work and especially throughout “Coretta: Promise to the Dream.”

Although it chronicles a lifetime’s worth of progress at the center of the civil rights movement, the play is, above all else, a love story.

“It was that love that endured,” said Andrews, “that made her then fight and pick up the gauntlet after he died to find the other co-conspirators in his death and to make his birthday a holiday.”

Following Dr. King’s death in 1968, rather than shying away in mourning, Scott King picked up her husband’s gavel. For three months, she gave his speeches and fulfilled his obligations. She spearheaded fundraising efforts and established The King Center in Atlanta that same year.

For 15 years, she lobbied Congress to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed the bill into law in 1983, making the third Monday of January Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

In 1999, Scott King won a civil trial against Loyd Jowers, a co-conspirator in the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Shelby County, Tennessee trial found Jowers and unknown co-defendants, including government agencies, civilly liable for participation in a conspiracy to assassinate Dr. King. Despite its huge implications, the trial received virtually no publicity in the mainstream media.

“It did not reach the front pages of not one newspaper in this country,” Andrews said of the civil trial. “She couldn’t understand it. I can’t. No one can understand it.”

Civil trials require financial attachments to proceed; Scott King attached a mere $100.

“She only wanted the information to get out,” said Andrews, who uses the testimony and trial transcripts in her show, adding, “At least with this one person, there was enough justice so that she felt that she had done her little part to at least expose that there may have been a conspiracy with regard to the death of Dr. King.”

“She said,” added Andrews of Scott King, “everybody’s getting older and everyone is getting sick and I want to know, I want it out there even if I only can take one of these guys to trial, I just want some justice for my husband…I just need to get to the bottom of this for my peace of mind.”

When Scott King brought Dr. King’s body back from Memphis following his assassination, she promised him she would “get to the bottom of this,” Andrews said, making her promise to the dream.

“She was his first lady,” said Andrews, “but people always push the partner aside in talking about the powerful man, not realizing that that man cannot be as powerful as he is without the help of a powerful woman.”

“Coretta: Promise to the Dream” will be shown Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. from February 7 through February 23 at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-287-4377.

Layered Visions

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web homage to baldwin

A complement of black artists make and exhibit whole.

By Emily J Weitz

On the East End, black history is as complex a topic as it is anywhere. That’s why, as the Southampton Cultural Center prepares its third annual art exhibition honoring Black History Month, Curator Arlene Bujese chose to select four African-American artists who express their art in markedly different ways. Works will range drastically in medium, style, and scope. They were selected “because they work well in concert with each other and they represent the artists or topic,” says Bujese. “It all combines to create a marvelous variety of points of view.”

The show is comprised of 40 wall works and several sculptures that Bujese thought would highlight the artists’ work. “I insist on my curatorial rights to choose the works,” she explains, “because I can visualize the exhibition in its totality to be sure it all works together.”

This is particularly true when you’re working with four artists whose styles are so different, and still pay homage to the idea of a cultural legacy.

Sheila Batiste, a Sag Harbor resident and the only artist who was shown in last year’s exhibition as well, is a minimalist. Last year, she displayed abstract drawings inspired by her own experience as a young woman growing up in the South in the early 60s.

“My work is autobiographical,” says Batiste. “The main concept was related to growing up in the South during the Civil Rights Movement. That’s present in all my work since the late 90s, when I started looking at my experience and the way it affected me.”

While she draws a connection between the inspiration of her work and this show’s tribute to Black History Month, Batiste also emphasizes that “Black History Month is something I think of as 12 months out of the year, and if it takes one month to highlight the achievements and contributions of black Americans in this country, then that’s okay; but I really believe it should be all year long.”

This year, Batiste will be showing sculpture, which she refers to as “Three dimensional wire drawings. The reason,” she says, “is the original concept behind them was that once they were made, the light would be projected on them to create shadows on the wall, and they become drawings. I actually draw directly on the wall to create the shadow.”

In this way, Batiste takes her two dimensional drawings into three dimensions.

One of the works on display, which Batiste created when she was artist-In-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem, is called “What’s Gold About the Gold in Goldsboro?”

“The piece is a  large book with 38 pages of drawings and writings on acetate,” says Batiste. “It’s about listening to what my mother was saying, about remembering what I remember and injecting things that maybe weren’t there but I thought were there. A lot is fact and a lot is fiction. But the book is this clear acetate with all these layers, and again, part of life is about layers. It was a labor of love.”

Other artists whose work will be showcased in the exhibition  include Nanette Carter, Danny Simmons, and Frank Wimberley. Carter’s series is called “Loving Bouquet”, and “It’s a dedication to her dear friend Al Loving, who died years ago,” says Bujese.

“She uses his name to honor him and to express the need for less conflict and more love.”

Danny Simmons, who Bujese met when he was doing a poetry reading about being a young black man in America, shares both his poetry and his vibrant artwork.

“There’s a lot of influence from the Surrealists in his work,” Bujese says, “like Dali and Miro. But he also does bark paintings, influenced by the bark paintings of the pygmy people in the Congo.”

Frank Wimberley, who has had a house in Sag Harbor for over 34 years, is what Bujese calls “All American Abstract Expressionism. He had a major show at the Spanierman Gallery in New York last month, and now he’ll be showing his Homage to James Baldwin. One is a print and the other a sculpture, so you can see the homage in both two and three dimensions. He’s abstract, but there’s always something that informs his work, and then he takes off.”

For his part, Wimberley agrees that his work is entirely abstract. He’s worked in many media, and will be showing examples of his assemblages as well as prints in the show.

“A lot of this work comes from a time when I was doing pottery, putting pieces together,” he says. “Taking pieces of clay and massing them together, that’s how I used to do collage. When you do collage, you’re selecting various pieces and putting them together and layering them.”

The prints, executed by Wimberley’s printmaker Warren Padula, are done on archival paper using archival ink. “He makes a series of them, and I put collage on top of the image,” says Wimberley. “The photos [Padula] does are so good you can see the texture of the paper. The surfaces are transferred to the prints and I am quite pleased with them.”

The textures and surfaces are integral to Wimberley’s work, even now that he’s working more on paintings on canvas.

“I like texture in my work,” he said. “When I do paintings, I increase the thickness to give them interest.”

Of his tribute to James Baldwin, Wimberley says, “I wanted to do a tribute to my father, but the piece had a roughness about it that didn’t lend itself to my father’s character. I had been reading Baldwin at the time, about his rough, cold life, and there was a darkness about it and that was the quality that I got into this piece of assemblage.”

For a long time, Wimberley resisted participating in shows that were executed specifically for Black History Month.

“I would rather show year round,” he says. “I don’t think any of the work that I do necessarily indicates that I am African American. You should just have the freedom to produce work that indicates your own particular personality, and that’s what I like about abstract painting. Each artist has his own way of expressing himself. We each have our own thumbprint that indicates our differences, and long live the differences.”