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February 10, 1994 - Image 14

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-02-10

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6- The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, February 10, 1994

Not a man,
By KAREN LEE
Charles F. Gordon has always felt the need to express1
himself. Of course, he didn't always do it constructively.I
"I was sort of a juvenile delinquent when I was a kid,"i
admitted Gordon, the dramatist and University professor
who is better known as OyamO. "The one thing I did like
to do was read, and I was always in the highest reading i
group. So at the beginning of the day, the teacher wouldW
send me out into the hall, because I was causing trouble.
She'd come and get me for reading, and when that was
over, she'd put me right back out in the hall.1
"As far as writing is concerned, I think my fifth grade
teacher was kind of an influence. She used to give us daily
writing assignments; they were only supposed to be a few
lines or so, but I always used to hand in a page or two. One
day, (she) was handing back the papers. When she came{
to me, she said, 'You really like to write, don't you?' I
answered, 'Yes, I guess I do,' and she said, 'Good.' I guess
I've been writing ever since."
OyamO has parleyed the respite from delinquency into
a playwriting career that has lasted over 20 years. The
Ohio native, who has gained status as one of the country's
more prominent Black dramatists, has seen his works
OyamO has parleyed the respite
from delinquency into a playwriting
career that has lasted over 20
years.
produced in such venues as New York's Public Theatre,
the Yale Repertory Theatre and Washington D.C.'s
Kennedy Center.
OyamO's newest project, "I Am A Man," which
recently ran at New York's Working Theatre, will pre-
view on April 22 at Chicago's prestigious Goodman
Theatre and has also been commissioned by HBO. The
play narrates the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike wherein
Black sanitation workers struck for better pay and work-
ing conditions. Ultimately, the strike became known as
the prelude to the death of Martin Luther King, Jr., who
had come to Memphis to march with the protesters. The
result of the strike? Eight cents more per hour and recog-
nition of the union.
"All I really knew about the strike itself was that a man
named T.O. Jones had started it," said OyamO, "I wanted
to know who he was." He eventually wrote "I Am A Man"
from Jones' perspective.

but a play
OyamO began his search for information about Jones
by traveling to Memphis State University and sifting
through pile after pile of information about the strike -
information which included interviews, tapes and film
footage.
Eventually, he was able to cull enough information,
including a taped interview with Jones, to craft a portrait
of a passionate, stubborn man gradually stripped of his
power in the union that he virtually created.
OyamO is quick to point out that "this is not an
accurate history."
"It is based on the events of the strike," he continued.
"It's a way of looking at the Civil Rights Movement from
a different perspective, because this is not a monolithic
polarity. Remember, the strike did not start as part of the
civil rights movement but as a labor movement. The
elements of the time made the strike much bigger than it
started out to be."
As in many of OyamO's other plays, music plays a
huge part in "I Am A Man." A Bluesman follows charac-
ters playing his guitar and speaking lines for the charac-
ters. His creator considers the Bluesman a storyteller.
"The history of Memphis is tied up with the history of
Beale Street, where the play takes place," OyamO said.
"Beale Street in turn was tied up with the progress of
Blacks in Memphis, and with the blues. There were other
Black movements centered around Beale Street, but I
wanted the music because the spirit of the strikers ema-
nated from the same place from which the music came.
"You know, Black people's lives have been almost
ruled by music. In Africa, music was the most significant
part of their lives; a song was made up about everything.
When Blacks came over here, they brought that heritage
with them, and I wanted to capture all of that."
"I Am A Man," like "The Resurrection of Lady Lester,"
is about a Black man whose dignity is threatened by
outside forces. But don't try to label it as a "protest play."
"I don't believe in protesting in my plays," OyamO
declared. "I try to write out of my experiences as a Black
human being, and as a human being in general. I like to
examine some of4he ironies of reality, and I don't think I
can be labeled as any one thing.
"I believe that, as a playwright, it is important to be
unafraid, to look at life and experience and to be honest
about it and what you're saying. I don't think I can save the
world, but I may give a perspective that is different
enough to make people think about things. Ijust want to
be a better writer, to write a better play each time."

Charles F. Gordon (better known as OyamO) has found success as a playwright, most recently with "I Am A Man."

U U

215 .
Ann
995-
(up

State St.
Arbor
DEAD
stairs)

Forget Al Gore and Bill Clinton: re-elect FDR

Sometime around when I was born,
people lost faith in the Presidency.
There were several factors, in addi-
tion to my birth, that contributed to

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44

this sense of fallen leadership. By the
early'70s, presidents had managed in
quick succession to die (Kennedy),
cause others to die (Johnson), and die

of embarrassment (Nixon).
So I would like to pose the follow-
ing question: how can we restore the
nation's faith in our once noble and
mighty oval office? Not that Clinton
isn't doing a great job; he is, as far as
I know (I haven't read a newspaper in
about a year). So the question re-
mains. What man might take America
on his shoulders and piggy-back ride
us back to a belief in our powers to
govern and improve ourselves?
The answer: Franklin Delano
Roosevelt. Now, there is an obvious
problem associated with the re-elec-
tion of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: he
has already served more than two
terms. However, I think we can make
an exception for this experienced can-
didate. FDR was a man who truly
understood the meaning of the word
leadership. "It means," he once said,
"you know, like being in command."
Furthermore, it suffices to say that
we do not want a president who will
die on us like the previous ones. And
FDR would never do that to us - he
is already dead.
There are a number of advantages
to having a corpse for a president.
First and foremost, it would lower the
bureaucratic costs associated with the
presidency itself. The need for secu-
rity staff attending the president would
be drastically reduced, since he could
not under any circumstances be as-
sassinated. We should probably keep

a few guys watching the president,
because if you just leave him lying
around, some dogs might eat him.
Many people don't realize how
many of their tax dollars go to the
upkeep of the lavish Airforce One.
Rumor has it that Airforce One is
equipped with a hot tub, movie the-
ater, indoor track and flying robot
birds that kill on command. Our
president's Airforce One wouldn't
contain any of that stuff. It wouldn't
even be a plane. With a minute staff of
There are a number of
advantages to having a
corpse for a
president... it would
lower the bureaucratic
costs associated with
the presidency itself.
two or three paleontologists, the Presi-
dent could be disassembled, wrapped
in foam rubber and shipped Federal
Express.
Also, as I'm sure you've noticed,
presidents can get a little rowdy.
They've been known to do things like
start wars, deregulate the airlines, puke
at important dinners and throw gar-
bage out the window of their hotel
rooms at passers-by on the street.
(Incidentally, Dwight Eisenhower

loved to eat garbage). Instead, our
president would be calm and silent.
We could even call him names like,
"Hey, corpse" or "You dead chump"
and all he could do is say nothing.
Perhaps this has not convinced
you. Perhaps I have not been able to
bring to life for you the advantages of
a dead president. For that reason I
have prepared simulated press cover-
age of a presidential day that should
show you in real images how great a
dead president would be:
This morning at nine a.m. the Presi-
dent met with Russian President Boris
Yeltsin to discuss increasing U.S. aid
to the struggling Russian economy.
The President emerged from his con-
ference with Mr. Yeltsin looking un- x
well. He was unkempt, tired and ap-
parently his face has fallen off. Re-
ports indicate that Mr. Yeltsin's face
has also fallen off.
After the meeting the President
was rushed to his private gymnasium
where he met former President Ronald
Reagan for a game of one-on-one
basketball. After an intense and physi-
cal hour-long game, in which neither
man stirred from his prone position
on the floor of the basketball court,
former President Reagan came away
with a 2-0 victory. It is uncertain as to
how the two points were scored.
Former President Reagan, who had
been lying on his face and drooling
throughout the contest, said afterward,
"Ow, my face."
The President next proceeded to a
press conference which he arranged
in order to counter accusations that he
was "unenthusiastic," "lifeless" and
"a putrefying, repulsive corpse."
Questions were asked on a variety of
issues, but the President, in what many
analysts consider a major public rela-
tions gaffe, remained stony on all of
them.
Exasperated protesters outside
caused a small scare for the President
when they managed to rip his head off
and toss it into moving traffic where it
was crushed under moving vehicles.
So that's how it would be. It is
time for us to divest ourselves of old
prejudlices against the abilities of dead
people. Re-elect FDR.

CHICANO HSTORY WEEK 1994

Dedicated to the Memory of
Cesar Chavez

Viva La Causa !

Next semester, broaden your horizons with Beaver College.
You can intern in London, ponder Peace Studies in Austria,
cycle to class in Oxford or study Spanish in Mexico. You can
;even stop by acafe in Vienna or explore a Greek isle. We
;also have a wide variety of university programs in the U.K.
,and Ireland. For over 30 years, Beaver College has been
:sending students abroad for the experience of their lives.
Now it's time for yours.

Tuesday, February 8th: DIALOGUE
Chicano/a identity and Intergroup Relations
Within the Latino Community
7:00 pm Trotter House - 1443 Washtenaw Ave.
Facilitated by Anne Martinez - Homemade Mexican food will be provided
Friday, February 11th: POETRY READING
Carlos Cumpian Director of the Movimiento
Artistico Chicano Abrazo Press,
Author of Coyote Sun
RauI Nino Chicano Poet, Author of Breathing Light
7:00 pm Kuenzel Room, Michigan Union
Question and answer period following reading - Their books
available at discount prices!

E

}.

Saturday, February 12th:; iEL BAILE !. DANCE
LIVE BAND - GRUPO ALDACO
The jam of the Year - Don't miss it!!
9:00 pm Michigan League Ballroom
Tickets Available at Ticket Master, Michigan Union

r,

m -=

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