Excerpt from April’s play, _Liberty City_:
**April: Kindergarten. Age five. It was the seventies. I had an afro and a nose ring. All my father’s doing. My daddy was this slickster, streetwise intellectual, the kind that sounds like a hustler but he’s talking about Marx? His friends were all in the movement, we went to sit-ins, all the kids had African names. There were twenty Kwame Nkrumahs's in my nursery school class. “Kwame,” everybody’d turn around.
My father would talk to me about great Africans as if they were people who live round the corner. He’d be like,
Saul: Come here baby, look at this picture. Joseph Cinque. The boat was called the Amistad and they took the shit over and they kept the motherfuckin white people alive so they could run the damn boat.
April: Okay Daddy, then what happened?
Saul: They got to the port and Joseph said, “Who is the man in charge of the law?” He told them his village, his father, his father’s father, how he was illegally captured against the rules of war.
My father had decided I would go to an exclusive white private elementary school, so I could learn the tools of the enemy. So I have an afro, a pierced nose, Lord & Taylor dresses and eighty five dollar Stride Rite shoes. And we had watched some special on PBS about the Dahomey people, in West Africa. My mother’s family had traced her great-great-grandfather back to that tribe. So my dad was like,
Saul: See, see now: this is why your features are like this because we Dahomey.
So I had just learned about the Dahomey, and we had Show & Tell. This was kindergarten. And this kid named Gunther got up. Gunther had recently come to Miami from Austria. And he had lederhosen, platinum blond hair, and he talked about his family making strudel. And I was like,
April: I’m from someplace else too. I would like to share. And I stood up, and I said,
April: I am from Africa. I grew up in a small village. It was originally bigger, but it is now smaller because of slavery.
And Mrs. Greene said,
Ah- where in Africa, April?
April: We’re Dahomey. From Benin. That is in West Africa, not very far from Togo. It’s near the coast.
And she was like, “….”
So what do they eat?
And I said,
Mrs. Greene: And what else?
April: Different kinds of rice.
And she called my parents, and she told them I had a problem with lying.
Saul: This school calls me up. You say, “we are concerned your daughter has a problem with the truth.” You pull me out my job, I come to the school. Principal sittin there with the teacher. No child. I said I’m givin you all my gotdamn money. Is the child gonna be present?
And Mrs. Greene is like,
Well, we feel that we should talk to the parents and establish a rapport.
Saul: Well the accused person should be able to stand here and defend themselves if you got something to say.
Mrs. Greene: She’s just a child.
Saul: She’s a person.
And they brought me into the room.
Mrs. Greene: Hello, April.
Saul: Hey baby, how you doin.
Mrs. Greene: Why don’t I begin. At show and tell today, our little Gunther got up and shared about his heritage, do you know, and about some of his family’s Austrian traditions, and—possibly, it seemed as if it were a “Heritage Show and Tell.” Because afterwards, April said she’d like to take a turn. And April. . .why don’t you tell your father what you said.
April (to Saul): I said I was from Benin, from the Dahomey people, Daddy. Near Togo.
Mrs. Greene: Well.
Saul: I don’t understand what the problem is. She told you where she was from. Did you think we just appeared here and waved a flag and people came and invited us into their homes? I told my daughter where she came from because nobody else here is going to tell her except 1161 Northwest 38th Street.
Mrs. Greene: Well, we were talking about literally--
Saul: Are you going to sit here and tell me ‘lit-rally’ that’s not where my daughter is from? She not from where you from.
Mrs. Greene: Well, we all know that April is not actually from Africa.
Saul: Look at me! Where the fuck else am I from? I ain’t from this motherfucker! I got dragged here, in some chains. By some folks, that you motherfuckers know. Is that why we sittin up in here? Is that why we sittin here? Cause she from Africa?
Mrs. Greene: Well, Mr. Thompson, but--
Saul: The child look like she from Africa to me! Where you got her from? Your house? You got some people related to you that look like that? I think not. This is some bullshit.
And Mrs. Greene was like: …..
Saul: April, did you lie?
(April shakes her head no)
Saul: Are you from Africa?
April: Yes, Daddy.
Saul: You know some people from Africa?
Saul: Who you know?
April: Joseph Cinque.
Saul (to Mrs. Greene): Now did she give you any incorrect information?
April: The rice.
Saul (to April): Well, the Dahomey people do make a rice and it’s long grain and they double bake it and put it in stews. (to Mrs. Greene) The people of West Africa, eat a lotta rice! They
If she got the book, and she did the research, and she can tell you where she from, then why we sittin up in here, and you try and call my baby a liar? (Saul stands, crescendoing) This: is some racist ass bullshit. Don’t sit here and tell me I don’t know where I’m from or my child doesn’t know where she’s from. She deserves an A for the history lesson she just gave you.