Robert Moses-Civil Rights Activist

Robert Moses started actively working as a civil rights activist in 1960 when he became the field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. By 1964 Moses became co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations and a leading figure in the Freedom Summer of 1964. His leadeship did not stop there, he later moved to Tanzania to teach, returned to Harvard to complete a doctorate in philosophy, received a MacArthur Fellowship and founded the Algebra Project with the Fellowship money. The Algebra Project is a foundation created to improve math education for minorities, primarily to increase their chances of attending college. Bob Moses is one of the key figures in the civil rights movement who never quit fighting for the rights.

Bridge to Freedom

In the description of the setting for Bourbon on the Border Cleage states that one can see the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan to Windsor, Ontario, Canada through the apartment window in May’s apartment. This bridge serves as a symbol throughout the piece. Here is a gorgeous picture of the bridge at sunset:

Ambassador Bridge

Recurring Characters

As I have been reading through several of Cleage’s novels, starting with What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day and recently finishing Babylon Sisters. I was amazed and slightly caught off guard when characters from prior novels kept recurring. Crazy and I Wish I Had a Red Dress use a prominent character in both novels. Additionally, Some Things I Thought I’d Never Do and Babylon Sisters are set in the same time and place but centralize on different characters, additionally characters from Some Things appear in Babylon. Even more so, you can find some of the same characters reappearing in all four books! Then I was even more pleased that Cleage feels it to be completely natural for many of her characters to live in the same world. Cleage comments on her recurring characters below.

“I struggled with whether it was fair to work with the same characters. You have all these arbitrary rules as a writer, like it’s cheating if you go back to the same characters. But I finally realized I don’t believe any of it. If there’s a story there, it should be told. I feel that there is a third Idlewild book, I think it has to do with the little girl, Aretha, who was in the first book. I think that she has a story to tell. I think that black women readers particularly enjoy encountering the same character. I like Valerie Wilson Wesley’s books because I like her character Tamara Hayle. As a reader I like to go through time with these characters. But as a writer the challenge is not to repeat yourself, to let each book stand on its own.”

-Cleage in an interview

I completely agree with Cleage’s comment “As a reader I like to go through time with these characters”. Though there are instances in which it is nice for the character’s lives post-novel to be left up to the imagination, as in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). The manner in which Cleage approaches it feels like running into an old friend on the street, an unexpected, yet pleasant surprise.

you call them plays?

As I try and wrap my head around trying to write a play a day for a year and what kind of extreme exercise that would be as an artist I love the section from one of this weeks play below.

From 365 Days/365 Plays, August 21st, “The Bear”

Woman: I dunno. I feel very-insignificant. Ive been writing-“plays” I call them. I have, what my dad would call the “audacity” to call them plays.

(Rest)

Shits. Theyre shits. 365 shits.

Not only is this an insight to the process of writing a play a day for a year; it is also an excellent example of how many of the plays in this festival are a reflection of Suzan Lori Parks on that particular day.

Pearls of Wisdom

In many of her works Cleage takes a woman that is “in a bad way” and takes a journey with her into a better place in life. The following are examples of this journey. Late Bus to Mecca displays Ava making her way down to Atlanta to get away from her bad place and make a new life. In What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day she takes a different Ava from Atlanta where she was recently diagnosed with AIDS to her hometown in Idlewild to find a better home for herself. Additionally, in I Wish I had a Red Dress she journies with Joyce as she learns how to love again after losing what she thought was her one and only.

What I find the most interesting is in both books is that Cleage bullets a list that specifically gives advice to women about how to live. Continue reading

SLP on 365

“[Writing 365 Plays in 365 Days] it became this prayer, almost.  To theatre. To life. To the art process.”

-Parks in the New Yorker  regarding 365 Plays/365 Days

Suzan or Susan

Tidbit of the week:

Suzan Lori Parks was born as Susan Lori Parks. What’s with the change? Parks spells her name with a ‘z’ due to a misprint that happened early in her career. You can read more about that and Parks in this interview.