Connect with us

#NNPA BlackPress

Jitney Poses Old Questions to New Audiences

THE AFRO — Modern audiences are all too familiar with topics regarding racial inequities, widespread gentrification, car service regulations, senseless violence, PTSD and unhealthy relationships with parents and children, which is why it is a true testament that August Wilson’s “Jitney,” set and written in the late 1970s, is a timeless story that resonates across backgrounds, demographics and generations.

Published

on

“Jitney” by legendary writer August Wilson runs at Arena Stage until Oct. 27. (Photo by: Joan Marcus)

By Micha Green

Modern audiences are all too familiar with topics regarding racial inequities, widespread gentrification, car service regulations, senseless violence, PTSD and unhealthy relationships with parents and children, which is why it is a true testament that August Wilson’s “Jitney,” set and written in the late 1970s, is a timeless story that resonates across backgrounds, demographics and generations.

An intergenerational story in itself, Wilson meshes social justice and civil rights challenges with characters, all who have their personal quirks and challenges that make them important to the storytelling of Arena Stage’s 70thAnniversary Season performance of “Jitney.”

Wilson’s words are penetrating, particularly in the sense that over 40 years later, “Jitney,” has a way of perfectly resonating with audiences.

“There are few voices that articulate the American experience with the honesty and the bittersweet beauty of August Wilson,” Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith wrote in the play’s program notes.

In an exclusive interview with the AFRO, Wilson’s wife Constanza Romero Wilson explained how the play’s story lines connect with modern day audiences.

“[It’s a] lot of characters that everybody recognizes–their nosey uncle, their very stubborn or authoritative father. August wrote recognizable humans that have a lot of passion for life and they want justice in their daily lives,” said Wilson’s widow, who is a costume designer. “On the other hand, the topics that are being talked about in 1970s Pittsburgh are present today in 2019. We have cycles of young violence, young people that are aimless. They don’t have a clear path for life, and they can offer so much. And we also have disillusioned parents. And then we have young people who have fallen in love and they have a hard time starting their lives.”

Romero Wilson noted that the directing also contributes to the way modern audiences in D.C. can connect with late 1970s Pittsburgh.

“I think that a wise director directs the play so that it speaks to the modern audiences,” she told the AFRO “We’re still trying to introduce August Wilson to younger audiences, to younger generations, and it speaks as loudly now as it did then.”

Directed by multifaceted artist and performer Ruben Santiago-Hudson, who was also at the helm of the 2017 Tony-Award winning revival, “Jitney,” is an honest portrayal of people who desire to fight past challenges, celebrate triumphs, move onto new opportunities and create their own paths.

With an intricate, yet practical set designed by David Gallo, audiences are immediately welcomed into the jitney, a car service, with a desk, couch, refrigerator, ride tallying board, checkers board and chairs. It’s clear that the car service office has seen better days, newer floors and more business through the technical elements and the casts’ recognizable desire to balance desperation, frustration, hope and a yearning for more. Even through the play’s sound (designed by Darron L. West and Charles Coes), opening with original Blues music by Bill Sims Jr., audiences can understand that this play will show the bewildering beauty in pain and hardship.

The jitney drivers provide rides where taxis won’t go. Much like today’s modern car and ride share services, jitneys turned people with cars to honorable and reliable businessmen for their communities.

Despite the looming threat of gentrification and loss, watching the characters battle personal and financial frustration, celebrate beautiful moments, and seek more for their lives is what keeps audiences engaged in the storytelling of “Jitney.”

Santiago-Hudson found a way for the actors to work cohesively on stage and command the set, as if they actually experienced working in a 1970s car service office.

While it may have taken the first few minutes to adjust to the dialects, and interesting speech idiosyncrasies’ of the characters, each actor lived in the truth of Wilson’s words. These veteran artists, many of whom have spent much of their careers tackling the playwright’s words, quickly transported the 2019 D.C. audience to 1977 Pittsburgh.

Turnbo (Ray Anthony Thomas), Youngblood (Amari Cheatom), Doub (Keith Randolph Smith) and Fielding (Anthony Chisholm) are the drivers who set the tone of the life of jitney drivers, while Becker (Steven Anthony Jones), who runs the service, is an example of the man who never stops working and sacrificing. Each driver had their own stories and strong acting choices that led them to be fully developed characters, with feelings and goals.

Thomas as Turnbo, the slick, nosy figure, who might come off as annoying and a troublemaker, shows that even with these less than desirable qualities, the man just wants to be accepted.

Youngblood might be hot-tempered with a smart mouth, but audiences empathize with Cheatom’s portrayal as he shows the young man’s fears and desires for greatness.

Doub-who is somewhat of the car service’s moral compass- is not just the good guy, because in Smith’s portrayal of the role, audiences can see a man who overcame a lot of trauma, who works hard to make good choices, and who wants the best for the generation behind him.

Then there’s the sweet, drunk Fielding, who, as an actor has the hard challenge of “playing drunk,”- which is difficult because people who are inebriated work to show they are not intoxicated. Chisholm’s Fielding is quite believable as he balances the drunk, old man gurgle in his voice, well-meaning actions, struggle of fighting alcoholism, and clinging to memories past.

Jones as Becker is like watching an acting workshop, as his bold clear choices show a man who is battling with secrets, feelings of betrayal, responsibility, good intentions and pain. The entire theatre shifts once Jones reveals that he is not just a good guy, but is also an unforgiving, belligerent and disappointed parent. Jones is able to simultaneously balance and portray both sides of his character until his last moment on stage.

Francoise Battiste as Booster gives audiences chills. Although his character enters later into the play, his presence immediately commands attention and lingers even when he’s gone. Watching Battiste and Jones play off one another is like watching a close tennis match, as heads move from man to man, actor to actor, hurt person to hurt person, and audiences are treated to real truths and human experiences.

Strong performances by Harvy Blanks as Shealy and Brian D. Coats as Philmore add color and comedy to the drama, and keeps audiences missing them when they’re gone.

Nija Okoro holds it down as the only woman in the cast, Rena, and she is representing for strong, intelligent, creative and well-dressed Black women. Each time Okoro stepped on stage there was a shift. Her presence required anyone in the room to pay attention to her words and empathize with her desires, and through Okoro’s honest portrayal of Rena, audiences are treated to powerful monologues and perfectly timed comedic relief.

Elements of theatricality such as well-executed and believable fight scenes (Thomas Schall) and tableaus heightened the stakes of the play and kept audiences interested in each actors’ movements.

The costumes (Toni-Leslie James) and lights (Jane Cox) were also beautiful, becoming characters in themselves, and added a value that set the mood and tone of the time period, while also appealing to the eyes of modern audiences.

“Jitney,” will have audiences considering their own ways of dealing with life’s lemons and showcases how these Black people in Pittsburgh tackled challenges- with tropes that cross demographics.

“When August wrote this play, the Black community took matters into their own hands- and it’s a story about determination. And they said, ‘Well, if taxis aren’t going to come to our side of town, we are going to start having these jitney cabs. It’s a story about self-determination,” Romero Wilson told the AFRO. “There’s so many other human stories that run through the play, that I think that there’s plenty of story lines and moments that people can relate to.”

Due to popular demand, “Jitney” has been extended to Oct. 27 at Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

#LetItBeKnown

Fighting an Unjust System, The Bail Project Helps People Get Out of Jail and Reunites Families

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Published

on

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.
Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

Hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily — many find it challenging to pay bail

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — advocates remain adamant that it’s more important than ever that the facts are straight, and everyone understands the bigger picture.

“The U.S. doesn’t have one ‘criminal justice system;’ instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems,” Wendy Sawyer and Peter Wagner found in a study released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative.

Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 2,850 local jails, 1,510 juvenile correctional facilities, 186 immigration detention facilities, and 82 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories,” the study authors said in a press release.

With hundreds of thousands of individuals locked up in jails almost daily, many find it challenging to pay bail.

Recognizing America’s ongoing mass incarceration problem and the difficulties families have in bailing out their loved ones, a new organization began in 2018 to offer some relief.

The Bail Project, a nationwide charitable fund for pretrial defendants, started with a vision of combating mass incarceration by disrupting the money bail system.

Adrienne Johnson, the regional director for The Bail Project, told NNPA’s Let It Be Known that the organization seeks to accomplish its mission one person at a time.

“We have a mission of doing exactly what we hope our criminal system would do: protect the presumption of innocence, reunite families, and challenge a system that we know can criminalize poverty,” Johnson stated.

“Our mission is to end cash bail and create a more just, equitable, and humane pretrial system,” she insisted.

Johnson said The Bronx Freedom Fund, at the time a new revolving bail fund that launched in New York, planted the seed for The Bail Project more than a decade ago.

“Because bail is returned at the end of a case, we can build a sustainable revolving fund where philanthropic dollars can be used several times per year, maximizing the impact of every contribution,” Johnson stated.

In addition to posting bail at no cost to the person or their family, The Bail Project works to connect its clients to social services and community resources based on an individual’s identified needs, including substance use treatment, mental health support, stable housing and employment.

Johnson noted that officials created cash bail to incentivize people to return to court.

Instead, she said, judges routinely set cash bail well beyond most people’s ability to afford it, resulting in thousands of legally innocent people incarcerated while they await court dates.

According to The Bail Project, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by cash bail, and of all Black Americans in jail in the U.S., nearly half are from southern prisons.

“There is no way to do the work of advancing pretrial reform without addressing the harmful effects of cash bail in the South,” said Robin Steinberg, Founder, and CEO of The Bail Project.

“Cash bail fuels racial and economic disparities in our legal system, and we look forward to supporting the community in Greenville as we work to eliminate cash bail and put ourselves out of business.”

Since its launch, The Bail Project has stationed teams in more than 25 cities, posting bail for more than 18,000 people nationwide.

Johnson said the organization uses its national revolving bail fund, powered by individual donations, to pay bail.

The Bail Project has spent over $47 million on bail.

“When we post bail for a person, we post the full cash amount at court,” Johnson stated.

“Upon resolution of the case, the money returns to whoever posted. So, if I posted $5,000 to bail someone out, we then help the person get back to court and resolve the case,” she continued.

“The money then comes back to us, and we can use that money to help someone else. So, we recycle that.”

Johnson said eliminating cash bail and the need for bail funds remains the goal.

“It’s the just thing to do. It restores the presumption of innocence, and it restores families,” Johnson asserted.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina

NNPA NEWSWIRE — U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association and other participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.
The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Published

on

Administrator to honor legacy of environmental justice and civil rights at event in Warren County, site of protests that launched the movement 40 years ago

WASHINGTON (September 22, 2022) – On Saturday, September 24, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan will travel to Warren County, North Carolina to deliver remarks on EPA’s environmental justice and civil rights priorities and the progress we’ve achieved since the first protest and march that launched the movement 40 years ago this week. Administrator Regan will make a significant announcement on President Biden’s commitment to elevate environmental justice and civil rights enforcement at EPA and across the federal government and ensure the work to support our most vulnerable communities continues for years to come.

Administrator Regan will be joined by significant figures from the civil rights and environmental justice movements, including participants from the original Warren County protests for the event.

Who:
EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan
Congressman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Leaders
Warren County residents and community leaders
Additional stakeholders

What: Remarks on EPA environmental justice and civil rights priorities and honoring the legacy of the environmental justice and civil rights movement
When: Saturday, September 24, 2022,
Doors Open: 11:30 AM ET
Program: 12:45 PM ET
;
Where: Warren County Courthouse
109 S Main Street
Warrenton, NC 27589
Livestream: A livestream of this event will be available at epa.gov/live.

The post PRESS ROOM: EPA Administrator Regan to Join Leaders of Civil Rights, Environmental Justice Movement for Significant Announcement in Warren County, North Carolina first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Continue Reading

#NNPA BlackPress

September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane

Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …
The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Published

on


Join Al McFarlane (Host), Brenda Lyle-Gray (Co-Host) and Special Guest Co-Host Diana Hawkins, Executive Director for …

The post September 26 | Governance at the Local Level | The Conversation with Al McFarlane first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending