Sometime during the third grade, my Father brought home some Black History flash cards. He did this because one of his co-workers at his lab at the U.S. Customs didn't know who George Washington Carver was. I cannot remember all of the cards, but I can still recall Norbert Rillieux, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, in part, due to those cards.
Fueled with the militancy borne out of one night with flash cards I went to my (Caucasian) teacher, Mrs. Tobia and asked that we introduce Black History into the classroom. What this woman did was unprecedented. Instead of dismissing me outright, she sat down with me and found a catalog with films that dealt with issues of color and we ended up screening "Black History: Lost, Stolen or Strayed".
Blessings on both of them for that. That happened in New York.
In San Diego ca. 1976-77 in ninth grade and I don't remember HOW I got involved in this, it was decided that a good way to introduce the diversity of American History was to have several students (including my dear self) go to the various classrooms and talk about some of the prominent non-White people.
Were this an inspirational movie or musical, I would tell you of my stumbling first attempts and my rise to galvanizing speakers, but this is being written on my seldom-read blog, so you may already know what happened.
I felt as if I was thrown under a bus.
I had a list of names and summaries and I was to lecture various classes on various people. Let's put this into perspective. I was NOBODY in Junior and Senior high. Were I on fire, people would have stopped only to toast marshmallows. So I, the Anti-Billy Dee Williams went off to educate Amurrca. I went to Dr. Frankville's history class.
Dr. Frankville was not in a good mood that day, exacerbated, I gather, by a student who was told to be quiet, or some such and was not taking this in good humor. Hold this thought.
As I went down my list, trying to corral this class into listening, amid the indifference, derision, and smirks, I think it was around "Maria Tallchief" that it really unraveled. I spoke her name, asked if anyone had heard of her, read the synopsis, and asked if there were any questions. Up came this aforementioned kid's hand:
"Yeah, I got a question. I don't understand why someone isn't doin' anything gets punished while all these other guys was..."
I came unglued. I actually was fighting back tears as I said,"HEY! There's a bunch of us walking around doing this and YOU DON'T CARE. You don't care!" As one forgets dental surgery, the rest of that day is a bit blurry, but I remember it not being regarded as a success.
Sometime later we had an assembly. On the stage were three actors with no props who covered the same subjects as I and my dreary band went over. Except they were:
They were also quite talented. When they came around to Maria Tallchief, the two men pretended to be Russian ballet dancers and the woman knocked on a door. The men kept rehearsing and one said,
"Ignore the door, Igor!"
And it got a laugh from the same folks that couldn't be bothered with me. At first I was a bit miffed, but I found that I retained the knowledge better and looking back on this, I wished that the powers that be had done this in the first place.
After all of this, it is only to-day that I saw actual footage of her dancing.
Even though this is a not a cheesy movie or a bad musical, one would figure that I would loathe getting up in front of people and talk, but that moment showed me that it was OK to do it, but never when you were unprepared. Tomorrow, I will be performing at 221B Con with the Atlanta Radio Theater Company.
|There is adventure...in Sound!!|
Much of it stems from that day and that is what Maria Tallchief did for me.
You can hear me performing with them here. I'm Peter Perkins.