Victoria, Nadia, Maddy Children, your Father is a great man. Resolved, your Father IS a great man because his legacy of works will never end.
His work on the stage, his words on page and most importantly, his work in people.
I am one of those fortunate people who were blessed to be fashioned by his Greatness.
Victoria, Nadia, Maddy Children, speaking with you about your Father soothed my tears and caused some too. It made me realize how expansive your ability to love and understand must be. He is your Father and even as he has left us on this level, you must still share him widely.
Thank you again for accepting, understanding, the impact your Father has had on many many lives.
Victoria, Nadia, Maddy Children, your Father is a great man. 1998 – Atlanta, Ga. – Delores Cross has just taken over as President of Morris Brown College.
Golden years for Atlanta, or the point just at the downward turn (in hindsight). Morris Brown, oldest college in the AU – with no Theatre Dept. Delores Cross appointed your Father to head up, found the Theatre Dept for Morris Brown. So there we were, offices positioned nicely in Fountain Hall where W.E.B. Dubois’ office’s where, Clarke Atlanta University had a known Theatre Dept., Whitman Mayor (Grady from Sanford & Sons) had been teaching there, Spellman College had a Theatre Dept. of note as well and there we were. Delores Cross was bringing in lots of dynamic academic figures, but the buzz around Prof. Maddy setting up the Theatre Dept. for Morris Brown could not be turned down. It got out … The author of “Give Us Free The Amistad Revolt”. WAIT! A bit of clarity. The actual “Give Us Free The Amistad Revolt” premiered by Gbakanda Theatre Company, University of Iowa 1993, not the shit many people have seen on screen.
WAIT! Another story here. Your Father shared this story with me Nadia … with that face he had at times, it was a perfect mixture of sad/mad … I can relay this to you because I don’t care for the likes of people we are speaking … Neither did your Father – Without apology. Steven Spielberg sends Debbie Allen to woo your Father – They must attain his script. On so many levels I can see absolutely why they would need/want it.
Your Father’s work as it were, would be their official document, it was the Original. It would give them credibility, validate there claims to even be able to tell this story etc. They flew him out to Hollywood a couple of times I believe. $600,000.00 for the script outright and your Father says ABSOLUTELY NOT – I know Debbie Allen got a “fuck you” (I always hoped she did at least) from Pat Maddy. He said no because he knew what they were up to. He said no because he knew the story of Amistad is not with the U.S. Senate or President van buren …
The story of Amistad was on the ship with the slaves. When I think about all the men in the world, with all their principles, and we know your Father had a lot … Approached with $600,000.00, how many principles survive? Your Father is a very rich man. Always was, he will always be – and he shared abundantly to those with the capacity, to those with the endurance to receive the treasures Pat Maddy had to offer. You said a friend of his told you that your Father “picked” people. I was picked and he made me know it. Changed the very direction my Art was going … put me on my proper artistic journey. It was only sweet, my being fashioned by your Father.
Forward to Morris Brown. It was very important for your Father for me to at least get something for my working for him. For me, not so much, I was helping your Father set up the Theatre Dept for Morris Brown – I would have paid him for this chore.
Rehearsals were about to begin … the school year had not yet started and he wanted to open up the new theatre space with a performance. It was a collection of poems and plays he put together. The way in which he composed it made it into a mystical magical Afrikan journey through space and time … He had me playing a mad man poet who sort of guided all through the adventure – It was rich …
WAIT! Another story here. This mad man poet he had me playing. Your Father had me “making love” to a pole on stage, caressing it, feeling it, almost becoming one with it (Aimee Cesaire, “We must remember how to become tree again, Must remember how to become stone …”) … IN FRONT OF MY YARDIE BREDRIN and many many many sistren “deh’ya bout”. Uncomfortable … Cannot imagine … He is screaming directions to me … love the pole (all the while I have these mystical poet lines to vocalize) … I’m resisiting … looking at my bredrin and all the sistren all around … your Father, “love the pole, feel the pole … Grab it man …!” I’m saying these words, touching the pole resisting not “being cool” … Now I see your Father is engaged with all my bredrin looking on at me, alone on this stage – never felt so naked in all of my life – What the fuck man!!! I see them all nodding in agreement … Absolutely, he had them to … Now a bredrin is yelling out … ” … Hug di pole man” … another ” … you not even really saying the words bredrin”. Wow. Then your Father on his directions again … something clicked … All my life people had tried and tried to push me on stage – never what I wanted – Fought it off completely. Until your Father. I came to him as a playwright, trying to get on however I could … stage manage, whatever, just to be able to work with your Father … he made me audition as an actor. Then forced me to play his lead. He did not try to change my direction in the way that others would – “I think you more inclined to act … your writing is stilted” … Starting out, I did not like my own stuff very much … But I knew that there was something there. Your Father being able to command me into the most uncomfortable positions changed the way in which I write. Totally. He allowed me to develop a way to be super sensual even, under the most undesirable circumstances … I could walk naked in front of anyone, this is the way in which I approach art.
Rehearsals were about to begin … this script your Father put together – this beautiful collection was massive. And someone had to type it of course. I was running this high end art shop at the time and ran into tons of people. I befriended this Puerto Rican sistren who had wonderful skills as a sketch artist and most importantly, she knew how to type really really really fast … She did typing for me on many occasions before, loved theatre, knew format, she was an angel. I told your Father about her and it was now in her hands. She lived with her mom and sister – They all typed really really really fast … But not fast enough for your Father … It was getting near to crunch time … Your father had just come out of one of their late night board meetings (Gbakanda Board in those years, best Board ever) and rang me. Told him they had not finished yet, probably by morning … Had to give him her number. I’m at The Royal Peacock (Dancehall, Downtown Atlanta), it’s late … My sistren rings me saying, “you betta come get this Old Afrikan man out of my house!” Your Father went to their house and began lecturing them on the importance of this work and so on. When I arrive the situation is surreal … I have to hit my sistren off with a nice piece of change … get Prof. Maddy out of there (when I told my wife this story she asks, “What did Prof. Maddy say to you when you got there? … Me shaking my head at her, answering, “What do you think he said, he told me about the importance of this work we were doing.”). They finished by morning and something happened to them all, what stood out for me was my sistren’s Mother … I hit them off yeah, but something else happened. They read the play script while typing and guess what … He now had them too … Her Mother wanted to give him the completed work to him herself.
Victoria, Nadia, Maddy Children through your father you have a brother
Mr. Frederick Woodward – Professor at Iowa University.
Dear Nadia, I am so pleased you remember being here for the birthday celebration. Your story about Amadu is striking in its details.
It brought to mind the way he and I used to clown around. “Man,” he’d say, “man are you going to throw one of yo nigger fits?” Then I’d demonstrate one for him, on the spot. He’d laugh until he had to beg me to stop, tears rolling down his cheeks. Then he had this greeting, a kind of ritual: he’d extend his right hand as if for a handshake; but, then, as my hand was about grasp his, he’d circle his hand around my wrist and draw back, quickly. The routine was so much like those I’ve seen fraternity boys do, or something from some super secret society.
I still have to imagine it had some meaning for him. For me, even in remembering, it is amusing. We never talked about it, but I remember it as something “really cool, man,” as he’d say. Eccentric? Yes. Sometimes priestly, other times, he’d make you want to wring his damn neck.
As for the people he touched, there are several of them. One former student actor trained his daughter to act and his now with her in Hollywood, where she has steady work. Another is in St.Paul, Minnesota, directing community theater and coaching senior citizens. I think what most of us loved about your father is that he insisted upon being himself, without shame or apology. That freed us up to explore our inner selves for new expressions. . Of course, all that must be one of the premises of creativity– letting go and drifting with the flow.
“Ulisses jr” I met first in Freetown. Then he lived in Iowa City for awhile. The last I heard from him was from New York, I believe. He was a personal trainer. Glad to know he is in London and wish him well. I am left to guess that “little Amadu” is in Atlanta. He, too, was into lifting weights. Send me an address or telephone number, so I can be in touch with the Atlanta family.
Good luck on your next novel. I plan to purchase the first one and poke my Face Book friends to do the same. Please know you are always welcome here. It is not Holland; but Iowa City has its flavor.
By Jus Tafari
Wednesday April 09, 2014