*How does a black soldier in the Jim Crow South deal with the inner battle of self-hatred, resentment, anger, and pain of serving in the military? In “A Soldier’s Play,” written by Charles Fuller and directed by Charles Weldon, these raw emotions lead to an explosive and tragic climax.
The play takes us through a segregated U.S. army base in Louisiana during WWII, where the murder of a despised black tech sergeant, Vernon C. Waters (Gil Tucker), and the suicide of an enlisted soldier, Private C.J. Memphis (Jimmy Gary Jr.), are being investigated.
The Negro Ensemble Company new production of “A Soldier’s Play,” scheduled to run through March 4, at the Gene Frankel Theatre, was a riveting whodunit that retained the mystery and intrigue of classic military courtroom dramas. However, there was nothing ordinary or formulaic about the divine cast bringing this story to life.
Captain Richard Davenport (Chaz Reuben), an African American lawyer, is sent to investigate the murder of Sergeant Waters, who was shot three times and dies, drunkenly muttering angry retorts, drowning in sorrow and guilt over his complicity in the suicide of Private CJ Memphis.
Jimmy Gary Jr. gave a masterful and heartbreaking performance playing the innocent C.J. Memphis—a blues singing, guitar-strumming “geechie,” as Waters called him—whose gentle soul evaporates in a jail cell because he was punished for a crime he didn’t commit.
Davenport, the play’s narrator, is sharp and clear about his assessments and determination to find out who committed this crime. He is aware of the condescension of the white superior officers, who consider his investigation useless. But he is also encouraged by the enlisted men who beam with pride and excitement to greet and congratulate the dapper Davenport, one of the first black officers they’ve ever seen, allowing him the confidence he needs to proceed.
The military unit he investigates is mostly made up of baseball players, itching to fight for their country and show what “Negro” soldiers can do. Nevertheless, any excitement, laughter or celebrations of any form between the men was vehemently snuffed out by the demeaning disposition of a tight-fisted and unforgiving Sergeant Waters, portrayed in an exceptional performance by Gil Tucker. His powerful lines invoke visceral shockwaves through me every time he said the word “nigga,” and he said it often, without apology.
The specifics of Sarge’s disposition were revealed through flashbacks and present-day conversations recalling incidents that demonstrate how he treated the soldiers under his command. Through harsh interrogations, Davenport was able to piece together the explosive truth of how the insidious undercurrents of self-hatred, fueled by racism, and revenge took a man’s life.
The transformative power of this Pulitzer Prize-winning play still heals, and hopefully, we all will walk away contemplating something deeper than just the travails of military life during America’s recent past.
The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.
The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.
“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”
Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”
The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.
“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”
Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”
In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.
“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”
Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.
“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”
Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”
New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’
*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.
“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).
It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.
EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.
Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars. As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.
This year has been a year like no other. “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead. Radio Programmers click here for adds.
“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA. Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita. The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture. “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms. Click here to listen on Spotify.
Celebrate Halloween with ‘Spell’ Starring Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine and John Beasley / WATCH
*Today/TONIGHT is Halloween and what could be a more perfect way to celebrate than with the release of SPELL? Enjoy the clips below to get you in the spooky spirit!
Omari Hardwick (“Power,” Sorry to Bother You), Loretta Devine (“Black-ish,” Crash) and John Beasley (The Sum of All Fears, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) star in the terrifying thriller SPELL, coming to Premium Video-On-Demand and Digital today October 30 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Omari Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.
DIRECTED BY | Mark Tonderai
SCREENPLAY BY | Kurt Wimmer
STARRING | Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, John Beasley
AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS | Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, DirecTV, VUDU, Xfinity, FandangoNOW and more.
Rating | R – violence, disturbing/bloody images, and language
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