Thursday, June 20, 2019

An Artist Figures Stuff Out

If you want to get into a TV room, become an expert in something. I know a staff writer in her early 20s who was hired at the last minute. She didn't go to NYU or Yale or Juilliard. She's not related to someone famous. She was an assistant at a management company and she loves horror movies. Her professors and friends tried to dissuade her from her fixation. "Write about something else. No one is going to hire a black woman for horror or thriller shows." (Yes, this was before GET OUT.) But that's what she loved so she didn't pay them any mind. She wrote her Black girl horror specs and screenplays while working as an assistant. She networked and went to conferences for horror movies, but not out of a sense of obligation. She just liked meeting with other people and finding a community. CAA snapped her up, she got some development stuff in the works, and all those people who tried to get her to write like Lorraine Hansberry or August Wilson look foolish. Write what you love, write what horrifies and captivates you, write what you can't get out of your head. Become an expert in something: politics, horror, police, vampires, ghosts, YA novels, family drama, Vatican history, anything. The world is filled with very good writers who can write about anything in a generally competent way. Don't be a respectable black writer or a Latino writer. Separate yourself from the 'very good' herd and become 'an essential expert.'

Once you have all that...make it dangerous. Even if you love a genre, push yourself to the limits of it, test your own morality, challenge your virtue comfort zones, know the rules so you know what to break. Readers can feel when a writer is merely recycling what they know vs. writing from an inferno that is consuming them. Conjure from the contradiction, the riddle, the enigma where your beliefs converge and clash with your intellect. Start a war between your heart and your mind, battle your PC'ness and your 'dirty, little, strange thought' self. Let the multitudes in you serve as prisms to refract the light of the world. Do not take hang around 'good enough' friends who don't have passions, but live on the principles of comfort. There is nothing new or innovative that comes from Sunday brunch. Comforts are for sleep and eating. Comforts smooth things out. Comfort is a silent and soft killer...and the world runs on it. The world will kill you with either criticism of 'this is not what you're supposed to be doing' or the applause of 'keep doing exactly that until you melt into a gray paste that is comfortable for me. Always practice two sides of the equation: passions and craft. The two work together like wings.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Deadline: June 3

PEN America’s Writing for Justice Fellowship will commission six writers—emerging or established—to create written works of lasting merit that illuminate critical issues related to mass incarceration and catalyze public debate.

The PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship aims to harness the power of writers and writing in bearing witness to the societal consequences of mass incarceration by capturing and sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, their families, communities, and the wider impact of the criminal justice system. Our goal is to ignite a broad, sustained conversation about the dangers of over-incarceration and the imperative to mobilize behind rational and humane policies. As an organization of writers dedicated to promoting free expression and informed discourse, PEN America is honored to have been entrusted by the Art for Justice Fund to engage the literary community in addressing this pressing societal issue.

The Writing for Justice Fellowship is open-genre, and proposed writing projects, which must be authored by the applicant, may include—but are not limited to—fictional stories; works of literary or long-form journalism; theatrical scripts; memoirs; poetry collections; or multimedia projects. The most competitive applications will demonstrate how the proposed project will engage issues of reform, fuel public debate, crystallize concepts of reform, and facilitate the possibility of societal change. As part of our mission to stimulate discussion, emphasis will be placed on proposed projects that show strong promise for publication. Fellows must commit to contribute actively to bringing attention to their work and that of other Fellows. The Fellowship is open to writers at any stage of their career. Currently and formerly incarcerated writers are highly encouraged to apply, and special provisions will be made for incarcerated writers to participate through alternative methods.

Fellows will receive an honorarium of between $5,000-$10,000, based on scope of project. Modest expense budget requests up to $2,500 will be additionally considered. Fellows will be paired with a mentor to serve as a source of guidance for the project, and the cohort will convene in person twice during the course of the Fellowship. PEN America will draw on the Writing for Justice Advisory Committee, as well as its network of agents, editors, publishers, partner organizations and outlets in order to assist efforts for publication and dissemination of the work of the Fellows. Opportunities for sharing the created work through public forums will be organized in New York City at the PEN World Voices Festival, in the Fellow’s home community, and possibly additional locations.

Deadline: June 15


Plays that are challenging.
Plays that exhibit fearlessness.
Plays that are not mainstream.
Plays that exude passion.
Plays that are relentlessly truthful.
The American Playwriting Foundation encourages submissions by first-time playwrights, women and playwrights of color.

The author of the Relentless Award-winning play will receive $45,000.
The winning playwright will have the option to have the winning play published by the Dramatists Play Service.
The winning playwright will have a week-long residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm, an artist residency program housed on a working organic farm in Brewster, New York. The author can elect to have a director, a dramaturg and actors join him or her while in residence on the farm.
The selected play will have a national roll-out through the Ed Vassallo Relentless Reading Series, established to help bring to life and develop the winning play by presenting a series of staged readings at some of the top theaters across the United States.
When the winning play is selected, three runners-up will also be named.

Deadline: June 15

merican Stage is committed to producing powerful and relevant professional live theatre. Our 21st Century Voices is an initiative dedicated to developing and presenting new works for the stage that speak to a contemporary audience in fresh and compelling ways. 21st Century Voices programming includes an annual staged reading festival, workshopping of new scripts, playwriting residencies and fully produced new plays receiving one of their first three professional productions at American Stage.

21st Century Voices: New Play Festival Submissions
This year we are seeking submissions of new plays that promote the exploration of themes relevant to our world today, featuring characters who inspire us. 

Play submissions should align with our 40-year history of productions that celebrate the most powerful stories of the moment, the most defining stories from our past and our mission to reinforce the power of live theatre with high-quality productions of compelling plays that excite and challenge a diverse audience.

Submission guidelines for the American Stage’s 21st Century Voices: 2019 New Play Festival are as follows:

-Plays must be full-length in any genre: comedy, drama, musical, etc.
-Translations, collections of one-acts, children’s plays, or any play that has received more than two full-scale, professional productions prior to submission are not eligible.
-Plays that have had a full production in the state of Florida are not eligible.
-In order to be eligible as a finalist for our 2020 New Play Festival – you must grant American -Stage the right to produce the Florida premiere and one of the first three full productions worldwide if it is selected for production in our 2020-21 Season.
-Plays that have had workshops or readings in the state of Florida or worldwide are still eligible.
-Only one submission per playwright is allowed each year.
-Plays that have been submitted to 21st Century Voices in the past two years are not eligible.
-Local, national, and international playwrights are encouraged to submit.

Playwrights invited to participate in our 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival will receive a $250 fee and will be provided a $250 travel stipend and accommodations during the festival.

How to Apply: Email your complete submission package to between April 15 through June 15, 2019.
- go online and fill out submission form:

Deadline: June 15

Plays must be full-length scripts, submitted by playwrights with at least one child 18 years of age or younger as of the submission deadline. Each playwright is limited to submission of one script for consideration. Plays must be in the English language. Playwrights must be U.S. residents. No musicals will be accepted. We will not reconsider scripts that have already been submitted to this competition in previous years. Scripts that have been produced by Equity or professional companies or that have been published are ineligible. Scripts may not be under option or scheduled for production or publication as of June 15, 2019.

-A week-long workshop residency in Boulder, Colorado, from January 6-11, 2020, with daily rehearsals, culminating in a staged reading of the selected script;
the chance to rewrite and revise during the week as part of the script development experience;
-A stipend for travel and lodging;
-A $500 prize; and
-A $500 childcare stipend to defray the costs associated with childcare during the residency.

Deadline: June 17

The Civilians R&D Group is comprised of theater artists from various disciplines (writers, directors, composers, performance, etc.) interested in exploring different strategies for making theater from their own creative investigations and being a part of The Civilians' community of artists.

The R&D Group is organized around the idea of investigative theater, which we broadly define as any creative process of inquiry that feeds the creation of a performative work. Methods may include research, a community-based focus, interviews, or other experimental strategies of the artist's design. The artists meet on a regular basis for nine months to share their methodologies and the resulting work with the group. These meetings are facilitated by the R&D Program Director. The generative artists in the group (writers, composers, etc.) are expected to attend all 12 sessions; regular attendance is critical and should be considered when applying.

The intention of the group is that each generative artist or team will finish a draft for a public work-in-progress showing by May 2020. New plays receive 10 hours of rehearsal while musicals recieve up to 15 hours in advance of the showing. These sessions are focused on the writer’s self-stated developmental goals. Given the nature of the process, it is understood that these drafts will be in various stages of development when they are presented.

Additionally, directors are chosen to complete the group. Those writers/generative artists who do not apply with a director will be paired with one by the R&D Progam Director. Directors are invited to meetings, but not expected to attend all. Once paired, directors will work with writers and cast and direct the final work-in-progress showing.

Deadline: June 28

Seeking work from emerging and established female and female-identifying playwrights. Playwrights must be available to attend the festival in Sarasota, FL, including rehearsals, to be considered for selection (October 5 - 13) Travel and housing is provided.

Festival Awards: Winner $3,000 (1)
                           Finalist $500 (2)

Travel, housing and per diem provided for all three finalists.

Submission Rules and Requirements:

Interested playwrights are encouraged to read Urbanite’s mission statement and look at our production history to get an idea of the type of work we produce.  Urbanite Theatre will only consider submissions that meet the following criteria:

Submissions must be from female or female-identifying playwrights.

Playwrights must reside in the United States.

Plays must be unproduced and unpublished with limited development.

No musicals, translations, or adaptations.

Full-length plays only (at least 60 minutes)

Plays must require five performers or fewer.

Quality, female-identifying roles must be well-represented.

Plays must include a contact page and character breakdown.

One submission per playwright.

Any plays that do not follow these requirements will be dismissed.

Playwrights must be available to attend festival, including rehearsals, in Sarasota to be considered for selection (October 5 - 13). Housing, transportation and per diem will be provided to finalists.

7. MARTIN DUBERMAN VISITING FELLOWSHIP (for playwright/scholars)
Deadline: June 30

The Martin Duberman Visiting Scholar program at The New York Public Library fosters excellence in LGBT studies by providing funds for scholars to do research in the Library’s preeminent LGBT historical collections. The fellowship is open to both academic faculty and independent scholars who have made a significant contribution to the field. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or permanent residents, with the right to work in the United States. The recipient of the award will receive $20,000 to fund their research at the Library. The awardee will be expected to spend a minimum of three months researching at the Library and at other archives relevant to their topic in the New York City area, to give a public talk on their work, and to write a short piece about their project for the Library’s website. To be considered for the fellowship, applicants should send a research proposal of 5-10 pages, their updated Curriculum Vitae, an example of their research (article or book chapter), and an appropriate letter of recommendation.

Applications for the  August 2019 through June 2020 year will be due June 30, 2019.  Applications should be sent as one pdf file to Jason Baumann, 

Deadline: June 30

Whether you have a simple screenplay or a film that’s already in production, we want to consider it for our grant program. We consider a range of projects, from standalone screenplays, to fully packaged projects seeking finishing funds.

If your aspirations are solely to become a produced screenwriter, you can rely on ScreenCraft and BondIt to package the winning script with a talented director and in-house production resources with up to $30,000 in cash financing, judged on a case-by-case basis, depending on each project’s budget and needs as determined by our internal jury of industry professionals.

In partnership with BondIt Media Capital, a film & media fund based in Beverly Hills, ScreenCraft is offering two production grants per year to talented filmmakers for narrative features, short films and TV pilot series scripts and documentaries that display originality, vision & exceptional potential. Grant amounts will vary from $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the scale and merit of each project. This program includes creative development from the ScreenCraft team and production guidance and resources from BondIt Media Capital and Buffalo 8 Productions.

Deadline: June 30

Each applicant must be a composer/lyricist or composer/lyricist team wishing to create work for the musical theatre, and must not yet have achieved significant commercial success.

Application Materials:

A CD, flash drive, or electronic file of up to four songs from one or more musical theatre pieces, with typewritten lyrics and a description of the dramatic context for each song; and
A completed application form.
We will code the applications as they arrive. Because all submissions will be reviewed blind, please do not place name(s) of writer(s) on the CD, flash drive, electronic file names, lyric sheets, or description of dramatic context. Only musical theatre work will be considered. Please do not submit live recordings. The applicant(s) must have written all the songs included in the submission. For example, a composer cannot submit one song with her own lyrics, and a second song with lyrics by another writer. No individual may appear on more than one application. You cannot apply as an individual and again as part of a team, or as part of more than one songwriting team.

Submission Deadline and Award: Applications will be accepted from June 1st – June 29th.

Please mail or deliver applications to:

Fred Ebb Award, Roundabout Theatre
231 West 39th Street, Suite 1200
New York, New York 10018

Mailed submissions must be postmarked not later than June 30.

The winner will be selected in November and will receive $60,000. The Foundation will also produce a one-night showcase of the winner’s work.

Deadline: July 31st

The Lanesboro Artist Residency Program, located in Lanesboro, MN (pop. 754), is supported by the Jerome Foundation and aims to provide an immersive, meaningful experience for emerging artists from Minnesota and the five boroughs of New York City. The program is unique in that it provides an entire rural community and its myriad assets as a catalytic vehicle for engagement and artistic experimentation, with staff working with each resident to create a fully-customized residency experience.

Lanesboro Arts’ goal is to be flexible and accommodating to artists, allowing them access to local resources needed for conceptualizing and realizing their place-based work. Lanesboro Arts recognizes “place-based work” as work that is specifically inspired by and designed for the place in which the work takes place; it can be a new project, or an interpretation of the artist’s current work tailored to engage the community of Lanesboro. The residency program was designed to align with and amplify Lanesboro Arts’ vision for communities–especially rural communities–to embrace artists as economic drivers, culture bearers, community builders, and problem solvers.

The application deadline for the 2020 Lanesboro Artist Residency Program is 12 p.m. (noon) CST on Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Jury review will take place in August and applicants will be notified by September 13, 2019 at the latest as to the status of their application. A phone interview process with finalists will take place in late September and selected artist residents and runners-up will be notified by September 30, 2019.

Artists must be legal residents of Minnesota or one of the five boroughs of New York City to be eligible to apply. To be considered, eligible artists must submit their application through the online webform on Lanesboro Arts website. Complete program details are below. Please contact Adam Wiltgen at 507-467-2446 or with any questions.

Deadline: July 19th

Center Theatre Group's $10,000 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for theatre artists is given annually to nurture innovative and adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles. Two additional finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium.

The Sherwood Award nurtures the selected artists and invites them to engage in a professional relationship with Center Theatre Group. Sherwood awardees demonstrate leadership qualities, push existing boundaries, and are dedicated to improving the future of their respective artistic fields. Artists are not limited by title, role, or genre, but they must have a relationship to contemporary performance rooted in theatre.

Originally created in 1996 as an annual fund to support innovative, adventurous theatre artists from Los Angeles, the Sherwood Award was established in memory of Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood. Both of the Sherwoods were patrons of the arts with a special appreciation for the energy and talent of artists at a catalytic moment in their career who are vanguards in theatre. Richard Sherwood was president of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and president and then chairman of Center Theatre Group’s Board of Directors from 1980 until his death in 1993. Dorothy Sherwood created the award to honor her husband and helped shepherd the award process since its inception before her passing in 2018. The award is endowed by the Sherwood family and honors the Sherwoods’ passionate commitment to theatre.

Applications for the 2020 Sherwood Award are now open. The initial application is due June 10, 2019 at 11:59 pm. Select candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Full applications, along with letters of recommendation and work sample material, will be due no later than July 19, 2019 at 11:59 pm. The awardee will be announced at the LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards.

Sherwood Award priorities:
Competitive candidates will demonstrate the following qualities:

Innovative—introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking
Pushing boundaries—extending frontiers, experimenting, challenging the theatrical norm, finding new forms of artistic expression
Exceptional talent—the ability to capture the attention of the audience through pure skill and craft, a natural ability or aptitude in the selected field, translating passion and dedication into works of art, etc.
Effective communication—theatre artists who can passionately and effectively communicate their point of view and distinct artistic voice.
About the Sherwood Award Application Process
There are four phases in the Sherwood Award application process.

Phase One (May – June)
Initial applications are reviewed by the Sherwood Fellow and Center Theatre Group’s Artistic staff. Applicant’s submitted application, professional resume, artist statement, and website materials will be reviewed.

Deadline:  August 1st for composers and lyricists

A new prologue to the established Librettists Workshop, Bookwriting Basics explores the fundamentals of writing book for the musical theatre through a series of lectures and assignments. This is a one-year course.

Fall Semester

Award winning bookwriter Adam Mathias unlocks the toolkit for musical theatre librettists. Through lecture, discussion and assignments students learn how to apply the fundamentals of playwriting to the craft of creating musicals.

Spring Semester

David Spencer, award winning bookwriter/lyricist and author of The Musical Theatre Writers’ Survival Guide, leads exploration through a series of masterworks to uncover what makes them work...and through analysis of promising source material for unsuccessful shows that had the potential to work…in which the class endeavors to solve inherent challenges that the original creative teams didn’t.

Librettists Workshop
After completing the Bookwriting Basics program, writers may apply to join the established Librettists Workshop group. Not all writers who apply will be invited to join.

Nancy Golladay, veteran Broadway literary manager and dramaturg, moderates a writers’ roundtable focused on developing the skills unique to musical theatre bookwriters. Members read and critique each other’s work as their material evolves from one-page synopses to fully scripted scenes — including occasional cold readings of an entire show. In a yearly collaborative project, the Librettists Workshop engages with the First Year Songwriting Class. Librettist Workshop members are also eligible to participate in Collaborator Connections events with members of the Songwriters Workshops.

Deadline: ongoing

The Brick Resident Artist Program offers new and established experimental theater artists exclusive use of The Brick for one or more weeks and the encouragement to reinvent the theater space with surprising environments. A BRAP Residency also includes full staff support, box office staffing for all performances, full use of The Brick's non-profit umbrella for The Costume Collection and Materials for the Arts, active press representation (upon request), production intern assistance (upon request and availability), free pre-Residency photo shoot at the theater with free costume rental, free promotional brochures for the season, group campaigns for free rehearsal space, audience development help, load-in and load-out assistance and a production grant fundraising advisor.

The Brick is currently adjudicating applications through 2018 and beyond.

BRAP artists will be marketed as part of The Brick's Residency Season.

Applications are rolling but early submissions have better opportunities for consideration.

To apply, please fill out the application here:

Monday, May 27, 2019

Lessons at Gunpoint

When cops have guns drawn
and give you conflicting orders like
'hands in the air' and 'grab your license'
or 'don't move' and 'shut off the car'
it's cause they want to shoot you.

When they yell 'GUN'
and you have nothing in your hands but your blackness
and they have an instrument of death,
it's because they want to kill you.

When cops work themselves up into a panic frenzy,
shaking and screaming at you while you are completely unarmed
it's because they are pumping themselves up to commit murder.

They will get away with it.
Camera or no camera.
So don't move.
They still might shoot you,
but you have to resist all your natural instincts
 Resist the urge to run or shake or scream.
And that's what it is like to live.

You have to resist your nature
to flee/fight/move to be Black in America.
After they've beaten/arrested/tortured/killed
and suffocated your instincts, they'll call you an animal.
And the proof is in your existence
b/c no human would live under these conditions.
In order to survive, you strangled your humanity.
You became something else. 

The Statue of Liberty is a Monument to Black Liberation

FRANCE: Here is a gift to celebrate you not being assholes any more and freeing slaves.
AMERICA: Oh wow, thank you. This is going to look so good on our lawn. It'll be a tribute to other Europeans arriving.
FRANCE: No, you're not hearing us. This is a statute for your freed Black ppl at this very moment. Right now. You don't have to wait.
AMERICA: Yes, European immigrants are going to love this statue later on. It'll show American pride. Oh, maybe we can get a poem inscribed on it about immigrants to show America's magnanimity.
FRANCE: Okay it's a French statute. It was created by French abolitionists. It is called the Statue of Liberty. Your freedmen were steeped in 'Black Liberation gospel' while enslaved. There are quite literally chains on her feet that are broken to show freedom from slavery by the Lady of Liberty. We used the Roman goddess Libertas, who wore the cap of freed slaves. Black LIBERATION gospel. Lady LIBERTY. Roman Goddess of Liberty for freed slaves. You get it?
AMERICA: I'm just going to ignore everything you said after 'here is a gift.'
EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS: (looking at statue) Oh wow! For me?
AMERICA: Totally babe. I like to call it The Statue of Liberty and... *applause* oh thank you, thank you so much. This is for immigrants who make this country great. You know *wink wink* the ones I’m talking about. Frenchy French guy over here made it *light applause*...
FRANCE: But, but-
AMERICA: I just wanted to show how much I was thinking about you.
EUROPEAN IMMIGRANTS: You are the greatest!
AMERICA: I know, right?!?

To all the ppl who found it strange that in a monument-obsessed nation, there was nothing erected in honor of slaves, guess what? There was. In fact, it's probably one of the most iconic images of the United States. America just 'retitled' and regifted the tribute.

Friday, May 17, 2019

No Worries

I found out my license expired when I tried to pick up my rental car in the Savannah airport. The rental car company said, 'no problem.' Just go get a temporary license. I opened my laptop in the airport and began filling out the forms online for NY state. On the third page I found out that I needed an eye exam to do an online renewal because I have glasses, but no problem. You just pop into a Lenscrafters and get a form filled out. Nick and I drive around and Lenscrafter is closed but there's an optometrist office in the Wal-Mart. I'm thinking 'wow, life is so convenient: online renewal, Wal-Mart optometrist, quick forms.' I pop into the Wal-Mart optometrist and they're booked. No worries I'll come back tomorrow. I get back the new day and tell the clerk 'I just need this form signed. My vision is fine.' They test me for cataracts, repeatedly ask 'do you want to get your eyes dilated?' No. I'm trying to rent a now. I heard the optometrist in the exam room waxing philosophically to a client. I just want to be a New Yorker and electric slide into the office like 'excuse can you just sign this form?' I resist b/c I'm trying to chill and 'no worries'... there are walk-in hours.

We go get lunch and I come back for walk-in hours. I waited two hours and I was told that I could come back in the morning. No worries...just come back at 8am. I started taking a Lyft around b/c I have a month-long pass that gives me $8 off the first 30 ride so short-distance rides are free. In NYC I've used the app about 20 times in the last month and only paid the optional tip of $1-2. I rode around for free, talked to the drivers. I Lyft'ed to the Wal-Mart the next day at 8am sharp. As I'm was waiting for the optometrist I replayed Beyonce's cover of "Before I Let You Go" in my head. An employee caught me dancing and was like 'heeey, you doing the stinky leg' and an impromptu dance party started in the vitamin section. The optometrist came and I explained that I just needed him to sign the form. He starts talking about the nature of the eye. This goes on for about 10 minutes. What is going on? Well, fuck it. If he's going to talk this much I'm going to record him. Maybe I can use it for a character later. He gives me permission and I record a half-hour of him talking about the eye. The exam itself took about 2 minutes. At the end of our 40 min session, he was like 'yeah, your eyes are fine.' He gave me the forms, I raced across the street to UPS, filled out my renewal online, got a temporary license, and printed it out. Then I took a 'free' Lyft to the nearest airport to rent a car where I ran to the rental counter: car please! No worries, the clerk told me they only had an SUV. I thought 'fine, whatever. Just give it to me." They said it would cost $500. For 2 1/2 days? Now, could I pay $500? Yes? Should I pay that when I'm riding around in Lyfts for free? I walked outside and took a Lyft back to the condo I'm staying at...maybe this happened for a reason. All these people I met, all these little stories. I decided that I don't need a rental car. I Lyft to my next appointment. The next day I walked to my interview. No worries. Someone else picked me up to go to another meeting, and toward the end of the afternoon, the AD of the theatre down here gave me his car for the last two days.

No worries.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Killing Anger

From a reliable source...I heard that before Singleton had his fatal stroke he was flying out to shoot something and he vowed to 'have it out' with one of the creatives on SNOWFALL. He had been unhappy with a lot of thing on the show. Apparently, this confrontation/argument/whatever happened. A day or so later he had a stroke. I heard this info a few days ago and I was processing it. I don't share this to cast aspersions on SNOWFALL because I don't know the particulars. Even though I have heard numerous stories about the toxicity of their writers' room, I don't know what the argument was about or who was right....but does it matter? I'm trying to think of a creative argument worth having that would justify me losing my health or life....and I can't think of one.

My Dad worked as a teacher for over 30 years. The year before he retired I went down to Miami and observed him in the classroom. Something had shifted. He had become angry at the kids. I told him 'please don't yell at them.' He looked insulted, like I was taking their side in the generational arguments. But I was trying to reach him. He didn't work out, he ate bad food...but he had been a sort of jolly fat man for most of my life. I told him that he was now adding anger/stress into the equation of junk food/sedentary life. The people in my family like to say we have 'good genes.' We can get by on eating shit and sitting on our ass and no one has a heart attack or dies in their 40s or even 50s. I actually have grandfathers and grandmothers who died peacefully in their sleep at an old age...without the terror of hospitals or tubes and monitors.  But we can't add stress. The second we do that it's eliminated every single one of my family members. My Dad laughed at my thesis. When he drove me to the airport I repeated what I said a few more times. He kept ' Okay, Dr. Squire' in a sarcastic tone. The discussion continued via text as I was waiting to board my plane. Almost a week later he was in the hospital with a massive stroke. Once that stroke happened, he was hit with several more. This was a year before retiring with full pension/benefits. He planned on retiring and traveling across American in a Winnebago with my mom. Now he had 18 months to live according to most doctors. Miraculously, he's still around 13 years later because...well, remember what I said about the genes? But his physical/mental abilities have degenerated significantly. He's bed bound. The Winnebago tour never happened. Whenever I see him I wonder about those last few arguments before the first stroke: what was he arguing about with the kids or his boss? Was it worth it? Could he even remember?

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mitchelville, South Carolina: #1

Down here in Hilton Head doing research about Mitchelville, the first town of Black freedmen in America and apart of an 'experiment' during the Civil War. The Union Navy beat the Confederates and decided to set up a blockade in South Carolina and to deplete the South's income since a lot of it came from sea island cotton and indigo bricks off the coast. The Union soldiers arrive on the Gullah islands to find...99% Black ppl, some black drivers, some white overseers, and no slave owners. It was hard living and the islands were filled with mosquitos that spread malaria and yellow fever, so slave owners didn't live there. The slaves lived in a semi-independent existence where they worked on a task system. They were given a daily quota of how much cotton or rice they had to bring in, and if they brought it in...they could chill for the rest of the day. As a result of no meddling slave owners and some daily flexibility, Geechee Gullah plantations were not only more productive than plantations in most of the South, but the slaves were stronger, more independent and had much more control over their communities

Union Generals didn't know what to do with the Gullah population, so they freed them! Yay!! End of story, everybody lived their dreams, prospered, pursued happiness No. President Lincoln rescinded that order, which must have made for a very uncomfortable 'see what had happen was' conversation between the Union general and Gullah ppl. 'Remember what I said before about you being free? So, yay, um..see, what had happen was...'

Lincoln wanted to use the Gullah ppl as leverage with the South. So the people were neither free nor totally enslaved. They were in limbo as war contraband in possession of the North until further negotiations. They started Mitchelville, a prosperous self-governing town they named after Union General Ormsby Mitchel. It was called the Port Royal Experiment because the Union wanted to see if Black ppl could govern themselves. Spoiler alert: we can if you get the fuck outta our way.

Gullahs said 'we want to fight with you! Give us some weapon and we'll go get those dern Confederates for you.' Union Generals replied "You want weapons to fight? Wow, thank you so much for your offer. But we don't trust-, I mean you might ki-.. you're too freaking stron-... just stay right there. And don't be too independent!' (Oh, white liberals allies ain't never changed.) Anyway, Lincoln began selling off the South's land, which is the primary source of wealth so that the Confederates would negotiate and end to the war. He kept the slaves on lockdown.

Finally Lincoln said 'okay,, I guess you're free. Here's a Proclamation. And I'm going to give you want you want.' White slave owners wanted reparations for the loss of property...aka human beings walking around without their permission. The government granted them that. Black freedmen said 'just give us 40 acres and a mule and leave us ALONE!' Lincoln said 'I'll get right on long as I don't get shot or something like that.' Oops. 40 acres and a mule and reparations went away with an assassin's bullet. White slave owners still got their reparations, and black people got sharecropping and 100 more years of terrorism and serfdom.