No Ordinary Man

By Leslye Joy Allen

Copyright © 2016 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Left to Right: Actor & Cultural Architect Charles Reese, Historian Leslye Joy Allen, and Actor-Director-Drama Professor Keith Arthur Bolden (Copyright © 2016 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.)

Left to Right: Actor & Cultural Architect Charles Reese, Historian Leslye Joy Allen, and Actor-Director-Drama Professor Keith Arthur Bolden (Copyright © 2016 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.)

When I learned that Mrs. Margarette Bolden passed on to the ancestors on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, I immediately thought of her son, my friend Keith Arthur Bolden.  I never met Keith Arthur’s Mama, but I knew her through him.  He spoke of her lovingly and often.  But then, that is Keith Arthur’s nature. (I call him by his first and middle name.)

An actor, director, Professor of Drama, and director of the amazing Spriggs Burroughs Ensemble at Spelman College that contains actors from all-female Spelman and all-male Morehouse College, I am highly familiar with Keith Arthur’s phenomenal work with young actors.  I had the good fortune to act as a Historical Consultant for him and this group; and the adventure was a lot of fun, and his asking me to do so was a supreme compliment.  But on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Keith Arthur lost his Mama.  Yet…

In an act of unwavering devotion to his art and craft, he was up at 1:00 AM on October 27, 2016 for a late night/early morning rehearsal with his actors in the Spriggs Burroughs Ensemble.  One day after his amazing mother passed away from her third bout with cancer, Keith Arthur stated that his Mama would want him to keep working and perfecting his art.  This behavior might sound unreasonable to an ordinary man or woman, but Keith Arthur Bolden is not an ordinary man.

I have listened to him rave about how good his wife Tinashe Kajese is at acting.  “If you want to know how to get into a scene, you watch my wife,” he has said on so many occasions.  He could routinely brag about how beautiful his wife is (and she is a real beauty), but he praises her work all the time.  In that respect he is quite different from a lot of men.  Many men will praise a woman’s cooking and will talk about how pretty she is, or how supportive she is, but rarely do we women get praise for our professions unless the man has discovered some personal use of his own for our particular skills.  Even more rare is the man or husband who brags about his wife’s abilities in her chosen profession.  Keith Arthur Bolden is proud of his wife—as he should be, because Tinashe is a powerhouse of an actor.  He doesn’t mind telling everybody how proud he is of her as a professional.  In addition to that, he remains one of the most thoughtful men I have encountered…

When my cousin and theatre veteran Billie Allen passed to the ancestors in December of 2015, one of the first people to contact me was Keith Arthur.  When I had no money to attend the theatre, Keith Arthur made sure I saw Tinashe Kajese in the phenomenal play “Serial Blackface” about Atlanta’s late 70s-early 80s missing and murdered child cases; and actor-playwright Terry Burrell in her one-woman show “Ethel” about the life of the late Ethel Waters. (I have to add that Atlanta actor Margo Moorer is also another one of my theatre angels.  Margo came and picked me up and took me to the theatre to see Gabrielle Fulton’s “Uprising” and made me take some money.)  Keith Arthur adds even more love and light to the best in the theatre tradition.  He thought of me and got me tickets all while he managed and directed a college theatre group, while he taught classes, acted in a variety of television roles, while he had the regular duties of husband and father, and while he went back-and-forth to L. A. to check on his ailing mother.  I WILL NEVER FORGET HIS THOUGHTFULNESS.  So…

When I learned his mother passed away, I thought of the value of good parenting, the value of raising a boy to look for substance in a woman. Mrs. Margarette Bolden had to have been one hell of a woman and Keith Arthur’s dad was probably pretty smart for having married her…and now she has left the earthly plane to join the ancestors…

Keith Arthur would probably tell me that he has made some mistakes and that my compliments here are a bit over-the-top.  I would have to disagree.  Ordinary men rarely understand much about women, not always because women are that complicated, but often because ordinary men never really ask women any real questions, at least not any questions about what a woman wants to do for a living, particularly if what she wants to do professionally has nothing to do with the man asking the questions. Keith Arthur Bolden is not so self-absorbed and does not fit that description…

I suspect that his mother had a lot to do with his thoughtfulness and genuine respect for a woman’s ambitions and talents.  I have little doubt that his tenacity and belief that “the show must go on” (which explains his early A.M. rehearsal) not only comes from the theatre tradition, but also from his mother who battled cancer like a champion, always with a smile and positive attitude.  I looked at the photos Keith Arthur would post of her smiling, even though her health was declining.  So I thank Mrs. Margarette Bolden for her shining example and also because she raised a man who is not ordinary by any definition of the word.  One day at a time, Keith Arthur…Rest in Peace Mrs. Bolden.  Àṣé.

Copyright © 2016 by Leslye Joy Allen.  All Rights Reserved.

This blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this or any blog authored by Leslye Joy Allen, or any total or partial excerpt of this or any blog by Leslye Joy Allen must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: https://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

 

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Guide My Feet…

by Leslye Joy Allen

“Guide My Feet”
(Traditional Negro Spiritual)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

I am grateful that my late Mama and Daddy taught me our old African tradition of ancestor worship.   That worship was as much a part of my childhood as was the old Western Judeo-Christian tradition…Now, for those who know me well, you know that I can be the most severe critic of ministers and organized religion(s) that too often fail to act in the best interests of the flocks they claim to serve, lead and protect.  Yet, that is another blog.  Save your breath.  I am only responding to the message(s) sent to me…

I occasionally re-read the poem that my friend actor-poet-writer Charles Reese wrote immediately following the death of my nearly 92-year-old mother in early 2013.  In homage to her, he referred to my Mama as “a Queen,” but he also referred to her as “our newest ancestor.” — Nothing in “Syble’s Poem” struck me as much as that line about her becoming an ancestor.  For people who know my late Mama, they know that certain songs remained in her repertoire right up to the very end of her days here on earth.

I do not need to recount the tragedies that have happened to Black folk in the last few weeks or even over the last year.  Yet, for the last couple of days I have been unable to get the old Negro Spiritual “Guide My Feet” out of my head.  Composed and sung in the caldron of American chattel slavery and passed down from generation-to-generation by my people, I have been singing it and humming it off-and-on for the last couple of months.  At first, I thought I was going crazy.  I must confess that I had a similar experience with “You Gotta to Move,” a Gospel/Blues song composed by Mississippi Fred McDowell.  A few months earlier in the year, I was singing “You Gotta Move” in an impromptu singing session that followed a gathering of my Sistahs that was a combination of good coffee, prayer, testimony, and truth-talking with each other at Dream Café…A few days after that meeting, I ran into a brother in a wheelchair who was singing the same song on a corner in downtown Atlanta.  That had to mean something, I thought…

When I went to my cousin Dexter’s graduation from Morehouse College this past May 2015, the class Valedictorian and Summa Cum Laude graduate Jerek Sharrod Brown burst into “Guide My Feet” before he began his inspirational and spellbinding Valedictory address.   His voice in song was an unexpected, but welcome and perfectly poetic pleasure.  I felt something inside of me shift and move when Brown sang and when he spoke.  I felt something shift again when my cousin Dexter’s name was called as a new graduate of Morehouse College. After all, I remembered when I first held him in my arms when he was still an infant…

Today I decided to see whether the lyrics to “Guide My Feet” would come up in a general search on Google.  It did.  Now, usually when something comes up in an internet search, I typically download it and then email it to myself just to make sure that I have a couple of copies of my research findings in two different places.  Yet, something strange and beautiful happened after I performed my usual ritual…

When I clicked the email button to send my Google search findings to myself, the email did not pull up my personal email address.  Instead, it opened my late Mama’s email address which was and remains a secondary email account affiliated with my own primary account…Sometimes the Creator knows that you need a little help.  Sometimes the ancestors are talking to you…

There are moments when no matter how bad things are or may seem, you simply do not worry and you no longer expend energy on people who do not work in your and your own people’s best interests.   I have reached that moment. More than we know or acknowledge, the ancestors speak to us in small but important ways if WE only listen, if WE only listen…So, Thank You Mama and Daddy and all the known and unknown ancestors and saints…Thank You Goddess…Thank You God…Peace and Blessings.  Àṣé…

Guide my Feet,

while I run this race.

Guide my Feet,

while I run this race.

Guide my feet,

while I run this race,

For I don’t want to run this race in vain.

 

Copyright © 2015 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Any partial or total reference to this blog or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly and visibly stated as the author. All Rights Reserved.

 

“Syble’s Poem” by Charles Reese (guest blog)

My friend Charles Reese wrote this poem in honor of my late mother Syble Allen Williams (March 1, 1921 – February 9, 2013).  Thanks Charles for this rare gift; it makes her passing a little bit easier to bear.  — Leslye Joy Allen

Syble Allen Williams in 2007 at age 86.  (Copyright © 2007-2013 by Leslye Joy Allen)

Syble Allen Williams in 2007 at age 86.
(Copyright © 2007-2013 by Leslye Joy Allen)

Syble’s Poem

by Charles Reese

Today feels like a poem for Syble

Syble’s poem is moving

Syble’s poem is taking action

Syble’s poem is moving toward something unknown to man or woman

Syble’s poem is moving beyond the limits of state apparatuses, struggling to control freedom outside its natural formation

Where poems are her songs

Holding us up

Keeping us together

Walking in the Spirit

Shouting

Hallelujah

We are moved

We are changed

Because today feels like a poem for our newest Ancestor…

Queen Syble Allen Williams.

Welcome to the fold.

And so it is.

Ashé.  Amen.

(Charles Reese is an Audelco Award-nominated Actor, Writer, Curator & Founder of The James Baldwin Project; and original actor & editor of the late Howard B. Simon’s Stage Play James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire, published by Glover Lane Press.)

Charles Reese: James Baldwin

Copyright © 2013 by Charles Reese.  All Rights Reserved.  No portion of this poem may be reprinted without permission from the author.

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This Guest Blog by Charles Reese featured by Leslye Joy Allen is protected under U. S. Copyright Law and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Charles Reese clearly stated as the author and Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the owner of this blog.

Leslye Joy Allen and http://leslyejoyallen.com is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

James Baldwin’s Soul is Still on Fire!

by Leslye “Joy” Allen                                                                                                         Historian, Educator, Theatre & Jazz Advocate, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

On Thursday, May 23, 1963, writer and activist James Baldwin met privately with Robert F. Kennedy at Kennedy’s home in McLean, Virginia. Baldwin was infuriated by the virulence meted out on peaceful civil rights protestors by Birmingham, Alabama police.  Robert Kennedy got an earful.

A second meeting was hastily held the next day, this time at Robert Kennedy’s New York City apartment.  However, on that Friday, May 24, Baldwin brought along a group that can best be described as a “civil rights arsenal”!

Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, playwright Lorraine Hansberry, Rip Torn, Dr. Kenneth Clark, freedom rider Jerome Smith, attorney Clarence B. Jones, Edwin C. Berry of Chicago’s Urban League, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morganthau arrived at this meeting at Baldwin’s request.

Baldwin’s group came to discuss and complain to Robert Kennedy and Burke Marshall (head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights wing) about President John F. Kennedy’s failure to use the power of the presidency to stem the police violence that continued to plague peaceful civil rights protesters.

The meeting of this group of individuals was not particularly successful. Yet, Baldwin’s outspokenness, audacity, and literary genius was—and remains—a source of both political and artistic inspiration.

My good friend, actor-writer-curator-activist, and now editor, Charles Reese is but one of many keepers of Baldwin’s legacy.

Reese—who stays in Southwest Atlanta whenever he is in town—is pulling double duty in the legacy preservation department.  I learned about his plans when he and I had one of our long breakfast sessions at “The Beautiful Restaurant” on Cascade Road.

Back in the year 2000, Reese, a Morehouse College alumnus, had a daunting task.  He had to figure out a way to preserve, protect, and promote the work of his good friend, fellow Morehouse alumnus and playwright Howard B. Simon who died that year of complications brought on by streptococcus meningitis—He was only 37 years old.  Even more tragic, Simon never got a chance to read the great reviews theatre critics wrote about his seminal play James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire.

A Soul on Fire is not an account of what happened in Bobby Kennedy’s apartment that Friday in 1963.  It is, rather, Simon’s vision of what Baldwin did, said, and imagined the day before.

Via the dramatic genius of Simon and the bravura performance of Reese in the title role, the play captured the essence of Baldwin and the spirit of the 1960s.  With both Simon and Baldwin gone, Reese has not waivered in his determination to preserve the legacies of both men.

With a lot of tenacity (and a little help from his friends), Charles Reese has edited and published the play James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire by Howard B. Simon.*

Reese kicked off a book/play-signing tour on January 29, 2012 in Los Angeles with plans to go from city to city hosting book signings and reading salons, inviting the public to take part in the drama and the discussion.

I urge you to join the celebration of James Baldwin and Morehouse alums Howard B. Simon and Charles Reese.  The play James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire is available at: Amazon.com.

For more information about hosting a book-signing and play-reading event; and to keep up with Charles Reese’s many multimedia projects (The James Baldwin Project, the Howard B. Simon Literary Canon and The Charles Reese Experience), go to: The Charles Reese Experience.

For additional historical information about James Baldwin and Howard B. Simon; and to keep up with the plans to develop a film version of the play, visit: James Baldwin: A Soul on Fire.

*Finishing the last edits and details in late December 2011, Charles Reese chose 2012 as the target year to promote the publication of Simon’s play because this year marks the 25th anniversary of Baldwin’s death.  Baldwin’s body departed us on December 1, 1987 in Saint-Paul-De-Vence, France.  His Soul, however, is Still On Fire!  Peace.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: http://leslyejoyallen.com with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author..