Op-EdOpinion

BAILEY: Witnessing Two History-Makers in Action

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month 2020, it is necessary to pay tribute to two history-makers who are still with us: Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who is a renowned historian of religion, and Charles Fuller, one of the premier playwrights of our time. During the past month, I’ve had the spiritually enhancing, knowledge-expanding experience of witnessing two brilliant, serious, though-provoking brothers in action.

Dr. Wright, despite being in a wheelchair, delivered a powerful Dr. King birthday message — titled “What Do You See?” — to over 1,500 congregants in Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel in Cramton Auditorium. With a compelling voice he urged Black folks to not be discouraged or distracted by current events in this nation. He cited historical and Biblical references to show that this is nothing new, that our ancestors with determination, faith and skills had made it through similar or even worse circumstances. He made a special appeal to the significant number of young people among the congregants. “Stay woke! Stay conscious! Hold on to your hope,” he urged them to enthusiastic amens and applause. When attending Rev. Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker’s church in Harlem, he would sometimes say, “I’m not just a Baptist. I’m a Black Baptist.” Dr. Wright is not just a Christian, he’s a Black Christian.

The second history-maker, Charlie Fuller, though not physically present when I saw his unforgettable play, “A Soldier’s Play,” on Broadway, was definitely there spiritually. I first saw his compelling, provocative creation in the 1970s when it was presented by the Negro Ensemble Company. It is one of my favorite plays. Charlie, with supreme talent, and intelligence make audiences aware of the lacerating psychological damage this basically white supremacist society inflicts on way too many Black men. The lead character, played by David Alan Grier, is a demonic, self-hating Black sergeant who is basically a Black white supremacist. With scorn and disgust, he physically and emotionally brutalizes the mostly rural young Black soldiers under his command. “It’s people like you,” he continuously snarls at them, “who justify the attitude of white folks about us.” Eventually he is mysteriously killed.

The second leading character is a black army captain, played by Blair Underwood, whose job is to find out who killed the despicable sergeant. Throughout the play, which takes place during World War II, Charlie includes conversations from white officers about confronting the Nazis. What they didn’t talk about was the brutality and terrorism being inflicted on Black folks by white supremacists in the United States.

A wise person will take advantage of any opportunity to see the two great history-makers in action.

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