The Waymakers

Reflections by BLK Artists on BLK Creativity

Reflections. . . . . . . . . . Impressions, Questions, and Dialogue on Blk Art, an essay by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer

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Long Story Short:

This is a collection of poetic impressions, reflections, questions, and dialogue written by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer as a way to process her thinkining and challenges in building a Black Theatre. The whole document poses compelling questions about the soul of Black Theatre and potential ways to bring it forth / honor its being.

(Impressions)

June-1968

The whole concept of Black Theatre is so right and so new…….oooh weeee,
    Come on in Babee…… Blow my mind!
Huh uh uh,
       To Create, create for Black People?
                   Good God!
       So Glad we got the real Thing.

Black people, Can you dig what’s happening?
Check it out.
(We being the most Supreme of all Supremes) (We being so alive and living.)
Can you really dig what’s happening?
Oooooh, can’t wait,
Gotta create for you.
Hummmmmmmmmmmmmah ooooooh weeeeeee

July-I968

Harlem/ I 25th Street
   Pools of beauty and blues
   tipping and dipping
   walking and talking
   Moaning and groaning
   Hollering and screaming
Spirit sounds of Divinity
        rapping through and to us
           Can you hear it Coltrane
             Can you hear it now?

August-1968

      We all in the streets now
Oooooh African people ….
You magical, mystical, miracle Beings
        who poe/zess all kine/da weird and
                   mis/sterious pow/pow/whaza
     Gotta gotta create from you
     Can’t git enough of you
            hum humhummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmGotta
            Gotta Gotta Create with you.

Yeah, this seems to me to be
       the Black Artists’ job.
He’s gotta make his people feel, see and hear all that
       beauty, all that power.
           They need to know it,
            So they can show it
So bring it on home now
Bring it on back
            To Harlem now
                  Bring it on back
     So Glad we got the real thing.

September-1968

    The National Black Theatre grew out of a
desperate need for me to see and feel myself and
my people living and loving again.
     Hummmmmmmmmmmmmmm
          So Glad we got the real Thing.

For theatre is or should be a Temple of Love/ An
     Action House.
     A Space/Place where thousands of Spirit vibra­tions
are exchanged and shared. It really should
be a Religious Ceremony.
     Oooooooh weeeeee, set my soul on fir/ah.
     Hummmmmmmmmmm, ooooooh, Ain’t nothing
    like the real thing babee,
                   Ain’t nothing like the real thing.
                   Come on now/
                  Let it all hang out.

Problems:

To create is to experience Love. But how can you experience love in a love/less land?
     Gotta make a way for love
     Cause love is the most vital ingredient needed to committt and to create
                needed to CHANGE.
     Gotta find that Love.
     Gotta make that Love.

Think about it. . . . . .
Looking around, what guidelines of behavior and thought do we have to follow? Huh huh uhuhuh.
     What to do? What to do?
     Gotta create Love
     Cause We are Love,

Surrounded by cold calculating inhuman human , riven by their lust and greed for things; the artistic expression and content here  in  the West naturally reflects this condition. Now ain’t that a drag. (We be here-stuck in the West.) Save us Won’t somebody save us for we are  here steeped in centuries of ignorance, accumulated from b ing physically planted in this anti-spiritual land. And in most cases have adapted this European cesspool of decadence with every fiber of our being. Save us, Save us-Won’t somebody save us. (Needed: A New Definition for Theatre.) We are surrounded by these alien and negative forces and we too have become inhuman and denaturalized and are now constantly  driven  by this “I” impulse which blocks  out  any  type of love impulse. So it seems to me to be our job to evolve an African system of Theatre based on what we consider  to  be an African value system of Harmony, Love, and Understanding for we in fact are an African People, a feeling/ caring/loving people and we must create from the knowledge of these facts because all art flows from a specific ideology, a· specific/way of viewing the world and without this ideology or base, where can we begin? Without this ideology or base, where do we even want to go?
     Black Theatre come on in now
     Come on in so we can come on out and
         Take over Take over Take over

                  So Glad we got the real Thing.

October-1968

     Trying to Survive
        Problems, more problems
        Confusions, more confusions.
     Everybody fighting,/ everybody criticizing/ no­-
body sharing/ nobody caring/ nobody trusting.
     What to do, Where to go.
Need money-Gotta have MONEY.
Need an audience–Where to find that audience­–
     In the streets, In the bars, in the churches,
                                               in the schools,
     Where?
          Calling all Black people              Come on in Black People
     So we can come on out.

November-1968

     Onyx Cultural Conference
Good God! Black people at last comin on out.
Blow my  mind. We is finally gittin together to
rap/ to confer/ coming together/
                 Good God!
We gonna pool all our resources and hopefully
come up with some answers. Oh Happy Day!
        We can do it, Us, Black people, Beautiful people.

Reflections . . . . . . . . . .

The National Black Theatre Workshop,
23 East 125th Street

Scene:

We are desperately· writing proposals, seeking financial aid from white foundations (by this time we have realized that all money is white money). We are going around to Black churches and organizations seeking support and protection.

We need you-We gotta have you-We are you. so we can come on in.

Man in the Street:
“What is this thang called Black theatre?”

Scene:

Heavy in to research and experimentation trying to develop what is now referred to as a Black art standard. Trying to evolve a Black value system which will enable us to communicate with each other.

Thoughts in my head.
“I mean how can you have a Black theatre without first developing techniques and forms which naturally flow out
of Black people. (Good-. bye European theatre forms. You have thrived on our essence much too long.)”

Planning Session for the Conference:

Harold Cruse had set up some hip guidelines for people involved in the Black arts to be governed by. “Theatre must have a three-pronged program: A cultural, economic and political wing, all operating toward the same goal-nationhood.”

The practicality of this concept in my mind needed much discussion and clarification.

I was asked to be the  moderator  for  the Theatre Workshop. Delighted! I asked Ossie Davis to join as comoderator. He said yes! Delighted. I was determined this workshop  would  not  tum out to be just another waste of time so I compiled a list of specific questions which seemed to me at the time very relevant, and if answered correctly, might lead to some clarity of purpose! Remember this was 1968.

Needed:

  1. A definition of politics and the political ignificance of Black theatre. (The conflict exist­ ing between the cultural and political task forces had begun to stifle the growth of our Black artists and desperately needed clarifying. And since everything we do is an extension of our culture, our art will reflect our culture, i.e. Everything we do has political implications  and is manifested in a political way. Let’s Rap about it.)
  2. A practical structure and procedure con­ cerning fund raising “Blackly” as opposed to “soliciting white grants.”
  3. Guidelines as to how to most successfully develop an audience.
  4. What kind of material or content do we want to feed into the minds of our audience?

The next step was to compile a list of specific questions which would hopefully stimulate the kinds of answers which would point the way to some solutions for Black Theatre people, and would offer specific point of view concerning participation in Black Theatre activities. Hopefully, these questions would help formulate a strong Black cultural ideology which we could all agree on.

Questions Asked

1 . What is the difference between American (European) theatre and Black theatre?

  1. What is Black Theatre?
    A. Purpose
    B. Functions
  2. Is art propaganda?
  3. Should the Black artist be concerned with or involved in politics?
  4. Should his political point of view affect his work?
  5. What specifically do you mean when you use the word Black?
    • (a) Color of the skin;
    • (b) state of mind;
    • (c) way of life;
    • (d) value
  1. Can one lose one’s Blackness? (culturally and/or spiritually)
  2. Is there any significant valtie in using the word BLACK before your discipline (nature of your employment) e. actor, director, writer, singer, critic, etc.?
  3. What is the difference-or is there a difference-between a person who says:
    1. I am an artist
    2. I am a Negro artist
    3. I am an artist who happens to be Negro/ Black
    4. I am a Black artist
    5. I am Black and I am an
  1. What do you hope to accomplish theatrically as a Black artist?
  1. In the context of theatrical accomplishments, what does “MAKIN’ IT” mean?
  2. What should be the significant or determining factors as to whether a Black artist should take or tum down a job in any mass media communica­ tion (i.e. theatre, television, films)?
  3. If a Black artist is depending on the American theatre as the only means of financial survival, how will that affect his decision in taking roles?
  4. Can the Black artist use the. same financial criterion in accepting roles for the Establishment as he does for Black theatre companies?
    • If the answer is yes or no, what should be the determining factors of his acceptance of refusal?
  1. Given the economic system that we have, can the unions work for or against Black theatre groups?
  2. Should the so-called professional actor beconcerned with Actors Equity union rules and regulations when involving himself in Black theatre projects?

             (these questions were passed out)

The workshop was then divided into three groups. Each group took five questions, discussed them and brought  them back to .the larger body for a summary  discussion.  Then  we  were  to  decide what needed to be done and how best to do it. Because  of  technical difficulties  none of the morning information  was recorded: however the afternoon session  was.  The following  recorded report is simply an extension of what went down that morning.

 In conclusion, I will say that there were over 17 Black theatre groups represented from across the  country,  so  the  Black   arts  movement  is growing.

We really need a Black theatre on every corner so at least once a week we can just stop, come inside/outside-any space/place and take a good look at ourselves-take a ,good long look. Cause it sho is nationtime. There’s a whole iot of work  to  do and can’t nobody  do but me & you. So let’s get it  together babee. The power is in you!

Barbara Ann Teer (Roho Taji Taifu) Founder and Director of
The National Black Theatre.
9 E. 125th Street
N.Y.C. N.Y.


Transcript from the Afternoon Session, National Black Theatre Workshop

Female Voice:You do your thing and get a job on the side.
Female Voice:Since there are so many dedicated people I think  an author  shouldn’t have to work at a  9-to-5 job, because it takes away from their creative productivity. I think we all know someone who can help us with this financial problem–our greatest draw-back. If we could conquer our finances, we would have no problem.  We  could  work towards a building complex which included living accommodations for artists. Everyone could be involved in some aspect of the theatre. There could be similar units in various cities around the country. Obviously, if you don’t have a 9-to-5 job and live in an artistic atmosphere, you isolate yourself from the community. I think , we should j have the opportunity of working at a p9-to-5 ob. If you don’t how can you truthfully portray someone who lives that kind of life?
Female Voice:If you’re really together and know what you have to offer, do your thing and let people give you what they can. Let them support you. If it’s good and relevant to them, they’ll pay their money to see it.
Male Voice:She’s right because our whole goal is to relate to people
Female Voice:Today I believe the Black Artist is serving a function to the Black community. He shouldn’t have to hold a 9-to-5 job. For instance, you wouldn’t want Rap Brown to go out and work a 9-to-5 doing something else. Rap is spending all his time doing his thing. It’s the same way with the artist. If he serves his function, then he should not be expected to do anything else.
One of the basic things Black artists can do to support each other is to come out and look. The Apollo Theatre exists because Black people go there. If we follow that example we could take care of some of the financial difficulties.
Moderator:That’s a good point. Does that mean  you go where Black artists are and support them?
Female Voice:Absolutely.
Moderator:What if they’re downtown?
Female Voice:This is community support.
Female Voice:The concept of the Afro-American Arts Theatre in Philadelphia is that no matter where or what kind of gig it is, ten percent of whatever you make goes to the Theatre. Therefore, no matter what you do, the Theatre can continue to thrive. Well, what about people like Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte? I think they should, in a sense, be forced to support what’s happening to Black artists in the community.
Male Voice: I think we ought to start helping ourselves as individuals. It’s fine to look at people like Poitier_ and Belafonte, but how many of us really go to hear another Black cat do his thing? How many of usgo to another Black cat in an art show down at the museum? How many of us actually support him financially? It’s great to of tell someone else to give money from his own pocket, but what did you do to support him?
Female Voice:We could get money from organizations such as the Ford could get Foundation. They’re just dying to give money in order to pacify Blacks. It funds the Negro Ensemble Company. When you go to one of their plays, it seems as if their audience is predominantly white—and that’s another problem altogether. When you go down to the Negro Ensemble Company you get away from Black relevancy in the theatre. We’ve been talking about politics and culture and what’s relevant to Black people. When a theatre is financed by an organization such as the Ford Foundation, they’re hindered in what they can do.
Moderator:Robert MacBeth said that the New Lafayette Theatre was being financed by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations
Female Voice:I think what I’ve heard here ls people talking about their particular theatre company, and getting money. Before people go into their pockets for money, they must be confinced that they’re making a reliable investment. We have to get out of the “individual” bag and into a national organization where artists from all over the country can be supported. In that way we can get larger amounts of money and we can reach more Black communities.
Male Voice:I think we have to get foundation money when­ ever possible. We must start working with the Establishment in the Black community and emphasizing the fact that Black artists do serve a specific function in the Black community and are entitled to get money from it. We must go to Black sources for money (i.e. Black businesses) which, in turn, will guarantee our control of it, too.
Moderator:l think we’ve come up with some good suggestions so far. But let’s also establish the fact that one of the guidelines of this conference is that Black people establish their own institutions. However what does one do in the meantime? I don’t know of any so-called Black institution that is not financed by white money. In fact, when you get down to it. all money is white money.
Female Voice:That’s the point I was trying to make before. Get your money the way you can. Some companies like the Negro Ensemble Company fall into the white-money bag. They do what the Man says so they can get his money. Money is money and it’ll get you what you want.
Female Voice:I don’t think the Ford, or any other Foundation, gives money to anyone to do a white thing, I think it’s the people who run them. Who are the people who establish politics? What is their cultural philosophy? If we leave here with a standard from which to begin, then we will have succeeded in gaining something. I don’t think the Ford Foundation does the dictating.
Female Voice:Year before last, the Ford Foundation gave our New Heritage $43,000 to do a theatre-in-the­streets. After the proposal had been drawn up, a budget had to be laid out. The representative asked me if I would do a play by LeRoi Jones (whom he considered controversial), and I told him yes. We were the only one of five groups that were funded. There was a little clause in the contract that said we shouldn’t deride any race or religion, etc. One afternoon we did a play called Ode to the Future. It had some real strong stuff in it and the next day the FBI came to look around and see the scripts. You have to be very careful.
Male Voice: Getting into relationships and the uses of foundation monies means a certain proposal for an allotted amount of time. Once the proposal is drawn up and the guidelines laid down, then you can do other things. I think those you who are dealing in theatre and writing proposals are forgetting a very important method of initially organizing community or theatre support. There should be three basic purposes: (I) Inform the community about the theatre, (2) Bring the community into the theatre, and (3) Begin to build organizations within the community to protect the theatre and also to raise funds. The organizer becomes involved with organizations whose main purpose is to raise money for the theatre under the proposed guidelines. This gives the theatre group protection if it puts on plays of a revolutionary nature and the force necessary to remain open under pressure. Another organization could work principally on funding by various methods, such as door-to-door canvassing or taxation of monies that come into the theatre.
Female Voice: I don’t think it is as difficult as we might think. It’s just that we’ve been used to the easy life and accustomed to the wrong values. If we had some kind of organization that could unite all those people who are interested in the theatre, it might help. Foundations are selective about where they invest their money. That’s partially why LeRoi Jones failed in Harlem.
Female Voice:


The theatre I belong to was not financed by anybody. We’ve been going for about a year and a half. What we’re trying to do-besides getting financial support– is to grow politically as a theatre group. This means that we are as closely linked to the community as the community permits us. In order to have a Black political theatre, the members must be among the leaders who set the political pace for what’s going on-living defensively and probing the minds of the young people. This is why I think school heatre is very important. Things happen in the schools. This should be the goal. Financing is very relevant but what the gentleman said about embracing our African culture should be taken into account. We did our thing. We designed and made our costumes and constructed our own set. One group, which is called the Black Arts Theatre (New Haven, Connecticut), was given a lot of money. It was set up in one of the poor Black neighborhoods. Somehow-with all that money- the creativity never really blossomed. All they could do was reproduce scripts. The theatre never grew politically because they didn’t have to go through anything. I’m not saying that one day you won’t ask for money, but you’d damn well better have your heads together when you do ask for it.
Male Voice:I was a member of the Board of Directors of the American Negro Theatre. One of the basic reasons for its failure was not from lack of community support but because it didn’t make money. This is one of the most important aspects of the theatre. If you get money, buy a house, because once this goal is accomplished, everything you want to do can be done. Some of the finest actors we have today are the result of American Negro Theatre efforts. But one of the things that plagues many theatre groups is the need for artists’ managers. When a professional artist lacks proper guidance in protecting his earnings, what happened to the American Negro Theatre can be repeated. Some cat takes all the bread and uses it for his own thing.
Male Voice:I’d like to go back to the idea of the theatre as a cultural and political force. If we are going to have any kind of relevant cultural and political movement, we must literally force Black people to donate money in the same way we pay our taxes. Don’t ask questions, take the money out before they get it. (LAUGHTER).
Female Voice:There is one thing we haven’t really been honest about. We’ve gotten as far as dashikis and natural hair, but we haven’t truly embraced our culture. If we took the theatre movement into the African movement today, we would have brothers who are carpenters making and selling drums, flutes, and hair-combs while still doing their thing. I’m not saying they’re necessarily imaginative things, but they do exist within the African experience.
Moderator:What you say is beautiful and a lot of things are practical. We can use them. practical. We can use them. However, there are some other things discussed earlier that I’d like to introduce at this point. First of all, the theatre as we know it is show business and, by the very nature of its sound, is middle-class oriented toward middle-class values. We, as Black artists, would try to reappropriate those values so that they fit us. If we start thinking in those terms, we have to give up that luxurious life because the theatre as we know it is another kind of syndrome. The theatre is a hard life. If you’re not equipped to put up with it, then you should do something else.
Female Voice:I think we are being insensitive to the artist’s needs. I agree he should be supported and financed to a certain extent. But I also agree with the person who said the artist should contribute ten percent of his earnings to the theatre. However, I don’t know how much that means in terms of theatrical experience.
Male Voice:But if you force someone to contribute, that’s another form of dictatorship.
Female Voice:But I didn’t say that. If the artist is within the community and has agreed to it, then that’s something else. He should contribute.
Female Voice:I don’t think anyone should force me to give my money if I didn’t really believe in something. I think Black artists who truly believe in what they’re doing should go out into the community –possibly door-to-door–and tell the people what Black theatre is. Solicit their support.
Male Voice:What the young lady said is valid to a degree. The underground element of the community draws a lot of people, and they have money to spend. The New Heritage Repertory Theatre works out of I.S. 20 I (600 seats). We talked with the neighbor hood people. The theatre holds a certain aura of glamour for a lot of people. We got a lot of them to come to performances and they included pushers, ·among other types. Some would take 25 or 30 tickets and give them to their friends. We’ve had people come in grumbling and leaving enthu- siastic. Many wanted to return for other perform- ances. The kind of material you have is very important. It can work. You can use every force. I dealt with it in a program review at HAR YOU- Act. I was working with the children at P.S. 140, I didn’t have any real basic groundwork on African culture, dancing or anything. I heard a couple of things I liked. So, I went home and drew up a plan and took it to school the next day. The kids were looking for leadership. I had 40 children but didn’t know what to do with them. Each of them eventually began by learning a step and then saying a group of words. I went to the principal and told him I wanted to give a program. I didn’t know whether all the parents would come. I wanted to see if I could get to the parents through the children. The auditorium was packed. Force is really unnecessary. The money will come. The parents paid admission. It’s the idea being put across that’s important. There is one thing we fail to recognize. Harlem has diverse groups with a lot of ideas about how we should live. We find out that most of the parents are hog-tied to television at least 72 hours a week. And what they learn on television they practice in their homes. Our main goal is to set the pace for these people. If we show them the things in the theatre that are feasible, we wouldn’t have to hog-tie them for their money. They’d be glad to give it to you if we could control their youth. Today, most parents are upset about how their children are turning out. I am. I have two daughters. If we don’t get together I don’t know how my daughters will turn out. It’s really up to us how the nation will rock. We wouldn’t have to ask them for money because they’d be afraid that if we fail, they’d fail. We’ve got to get down to one basic thing, however. What are we trying to portray to these people? Because they have to do what we’re acting on the stage. What you act on the stage you must live each day. This is why the church is so successful. I was raised by a preacher and her main thing was not preaching in the pulpit but how her home was and how her family behaved. When her followers saw this, she knew that she had a new member. And this is what we’ve got. The people will pay their money. That’s no problem. I’ve never dealt with pushers or anything like that. But I believe that if I go half the places I went to while selling books in Harlem, I bet I could get money because I’ve lived what I preach.
Moderator:Let’s go to the next question of whether Black theatre should be political. I think all art is propaganda. There are two things that I want to talk about. How do you finance your program in terms of drama and total value? This is directed to the brother from the Yoruba Temple. Partially from monetary sources and from collec- tions taken at the dembesa (an African religious service). Each person pays approximately a dollar. We so take money from the market, the clothing store and from the leather goods. This goes into the theatre. We have never been funded.

I’d like to talk for a moment about a particular playwright-Derek Robinson. We think the artist should be paid for his work. Therefore, each time we do his play, we give him a $30 royalty. We also pay our actors. We are not funded by anyone, yet we’ve managed to save about $3,000 over a period of three years. That’s a long struggle, but it came out of the Black community. And the money that comes from the big foundations can’t be put in the bank. You have to account for every last cent. We decided to invest in ourselves. We got about fifteen members and we each paid dues. If we decide we want to rent a theatre to put on a production, we can. Half the money would go to the treasury, half for salaries and miscellaneous. With fifteen people-at $25 apiece-that comes to a lot of money. There are many techniques that one has to develop.
Male Voice:Earlier today someone said that he refused to buy people’s time. “Buy your time” is a very important phrase. People who are trying to start theatres seem to have been put in that position, and you are going along with it. I have just so much money to pay you to work for me. If somebody else comes along and offers more, naturally you take it. In the process a lot of cultural hustlers are beginning to develop in the community. Artists are not accustomed to managing their monetary affairs but they must learn to. I won’t go into the production thing because that’s somebody else’s job. But the artist can still acquire the basics of management affairs, because the question of money always exists. If this question doesn’t arise, you usually end up getting brothers and sisters off the street who just want to be in the theatre. They have no training whatsoever. Now we come to the question of technique. These people must be given a sound, basic training so they will have something to fall back on.
Male Voice:What about the people who are to train Blacks for the theatre?
Moderator:That’s why we’re supposed to be dealing with Black people. This point also deals indirectly with the financial problem, which we always seem to return to. I work for the Poor Peoples’ Claims Bureau. We are not paid. The director has no appropriations to teach us anything. We use churches for meetings plus any free space we can get. If we don’t get a new place, we meet in the park. These are a group of dedicated people who · donate their time. Money is not absolutely necessary in training people for the theatre, because a lot of people in the cast have never had any kind of theatrical experience. The director trains the people as they come in.
Female Voice:But… That’s contrary to what you just said. You can’t just take people off the streets.
Moderator:You do anything you have to in order to get things done. Everybody has a different method. There are too many groups who refuse to deal with the professional. Many people enter the theatre with the goal of becoming a professional (i.e. Actors Equity), which means that they make more money. Those of us who are experimenting with theatre groups have to deal with this aspiration.
Male Voice:Earlier in the meeting the discussion focused briefly on politics and the theatre. I’d like to discuss this point further. Is the theatre political? I think an all-Black theatre, no matter what it has done, is political. However, I think Black theatre is taking the wrong direction. I think from any theatre must come an action. Once a theatre is successful (and being successful is bringing Black people to see their thing), it can expand. Any political organization knows that when anybody comes to them, they get action. This is how to get people involved. The whole theatre scene who watch and are excited by what they see. Once the curtain comes down, some people discuss what they’ve seen on the stage. We’re talking about Black culture. It’s there. Everybody knows what Black is, and when we see it we recognize it. But after the play is over and discussed, the mental curtain closes again rather than trying to find out who has the problem we saw on the stage. How do we relate this problem? Welfare and housing are two problems close to the Black community. The theatre could produce a play involving a welfare recipient or somebody in housing. We can take the stage into the community. This role doesn’t have to be done by an actor. I think the actor’s job is to present the play. Then, after it’s presented, the play takes another direction for explanation. Then, take what’s happening out into the community for action and change.
Male Voice Mao Tse-lung’s been doing that for 50 years. All communist theatres were built on the direct situation.
Female Voice:Once the community sees the material, they can’t be turned away. You have to defend the community and forget about the community defending you. If the people like what is offered, they’ll come.
Male Voice:A gentleman from Italy went to Peru, which at that time had no theatre. He founded the National Peruvian Theatre. The group wanted to reach the peasants in outlying areas and they used the theatre as a means to get the farmers to work and to get the people to take innoculations for disease, etc. They put all these problems into theatrical form. We will have to do a similar thing in the Black community.
Female Voice:In other words, the theatre can be used as a functional tool.
Male Voice:I won’t dictate to anybody what the theatre should present to the people, but we must create a program that each of us can produce no matter where we are.
Moderator:If we agree that the function of the Black theatre is to liberate psychologically, then we can all start with the same premise: The role of the Black movement in the liberation struggle. What needs to be done? Harold Cruse spoke about setting up institutions· that have political (culture is some­thing taken for granted) and economic thrust. Seek out ways to raise funds. Find out how to get middle-class (Black) money. Learn how to write proposals on how to get grants from foundations. Bill also spoke about a political wing that can be used to mobilize people and protect the theatre. They circulate throughout the community in­forming the people that the theatre exists
Male Voice:I have a couple of questions I’d like to address to the group. There are approximately 11 or 12 different groups spread across the country, each of whom has their own particular method of working and an individual program. What can we do together?
Moderator:The problem is communication. The New Lafay­ette Theatre has a magazine. Most theatres don’t even have that. And here we are again, involved in the financial thing. If you decided to have a national theatre conference, where would you get financial support? This conference was set up primarily for New York-based people. If I had known so many more wanted to attend, you could have been supplied with more information. And now, since time is running short, I think it would be a good idea to deal with Black art. Don Lee can do this in very concise terms.
Don Lee (Quoted):“The Black man and Black art are synonymous. That’s what we’re about in dealing with the community. I think we have to solve some very basic family situations. What we now need is positive direction. Ivall says that we are living in a world ruled by an unpeople. I think we’re real people because we care about other people. We care about ourselves. When we begin with that basic premise: We (as Blacks)-change the I to we, to us, to our–will subordinate our egos, though this does not negate the individuality of Black people, per se. But in order for us to work together to build a Black nation, we have to start with the we, the our, the us. As a Black artist, I want to lead the people in the right direction. This means I have to deal with myself first … get all my hangups out of the way. Black art means that the artist will reflect his experiences as a Black man. This means that in order for us to be Black men and women, we must remain a physical part of the community. We are an integral part· of the community. Hopefully, we will be an example for Black people. What we say, we will live. Black artists will be directed by Black people. It will be a reciprocal thing.”

Endnotes

Text reproduced here for educational purposes only.

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