“Sit, child. You too enthusiastic!”
And then he put on his gloves and walked out of the room. He came back an hour later with a picture of my great grandmother's front porch in 1911. The store on the corner where she bought her produce; the candy store where - 60 years later – she would send me to pay her light bill; a church program with her name in it as pianist. A photo of my great grandmother Celia walking down 2nd Avenue in the white straw hat which now sits on my altar. He turned to me and said,
“That street is an historic landmark. Now you're our archivist. It's your job to tell the story of who we were and how we built this city. Gone and tell them that we were here.”
I cried, but I finally understood that my stories matter to people. I tell stories about the places and people who made me and who built the city of Miami. I tell the stories of my family constantly shaking up the status quo and becoming community organizers and visionaries, not because they wanted to, but because the times in which they lived demanded it. I make the invisible visible every time I put pen to paper because that’s my job.
Like anything larger than yourself, you need some help telling this magical story of a powerful Black Gullah woman and the family she protects in Good Bread Alley. About Celia crossing all kinds racial, religious, color-based, sexist divisions that existed in Jim Crow Miami. She turned them all upside down on their heads. From healing folks, running and owning her own properties and business to marrying, loving and making babies with Afro Cubans and Geechie men so fine, you have testify. Celia did what many in Miami cannot do now. She could get the African American to sit in a room with the Afro Cuban and remember their common ground, their common gods. She was a center woman. She represents a generation of women who did not wait for a movement or for someone to tell her what the American dream promised. She was too busy snatching it out Jim Crow’s hands.
To that end, my producing partner, Ron Simons and I, from SimonSays Entertainment are doing a KickStarter Campaign to raise funds for a workshop of this play. I am told that Good Bread Alley is ambitious. Uhm, I lived thru three consecutive race riots before I was 13 years old. My parents were proud community organizers during the civil rights movement and my great grandmother faced the Klan, a Katrina-like hurricane and lived to talk about. So ambitious is really a relative term, isn't it? I will say it only makes sense that the theatre should be the place where American traditions of epic narrative, traditional music, song and dance from the last 500 years of American history should thrive. The stories of men and women living through the first holocaust of slavery; then riding it out through Jim Crow, dragging our children through the firehoses and dogs of the Civil Rights Movement and finally putting a Black man in the White House are uniquely American. Triumph in the midst of utter desolation is the contradiction and the beauty of our history. Since the theatre's job is to entertain, but also, the place where we remember what's important to us; we get our PhD's on how to rejoice in the triumphs after the heartache, to remember how to live well and with compassion, it only makes sense that Good Bread Alley should find a home in within its hallowed walls. So is Good Bread Alley really ambitious or simply an humble effort on the part of this playwright to live up to the promise of the American dream?
I will own that Good Bread Alley is unprecedented in the theatre. Part of the Gullah, Afro Cuban and Bahamian poetry (yes, I am all those races…lol) is its music, dance and epic stories of its black gods: The Orishas. From the Gullah Ring Shout to Rumba (and Dancing with the Stars has nothing to do with this Afro Cuban dance), Son, Abakua, Merengue, Negro Spirituals to the gorgeous percussive harmonies of the religion of Regla de Ocha. All of these incarnations of the American story are on the verge of being extinct. I am a chronicler of the stories, myths, music, food and dreams of each of these cultures. As a result, most of the collaborators I am working with are professional musicians, not theatre people. We have actors, a chorus and a live quartet on stage as the spirits of Good Bread Alley start shaking down the house. These generous musicians are passing on lucrative gigs on the road, so éthey can be a part of preserving this tradition. A play of this size requires a three week workshop to put all the pieces together: music, dance, poetry.
That’s where you come in. We need to raise money to make theatre in New York City, the most expensive place in the world to do anything let alone theatre. Your contribution will help us rent studio space, hire director, musicians, singers, actors, production crew, equipment and countless other things needed to create a musical score for an epic play.
We love $100 donations. But a $5, $10, $15 or $20 donation along with sharing the campaign info on your social media platforms or via email or word of mouth goes a long way towards getting this play from page to stage. Give! We got lots of great gifts that speak to the flavor of the worlds of Good Bread Alley from theatre tix to dance concerts of Afro Cuban and Afro Caribbean dance to signed posters from the cast, we will most definitely hook you up with Goodies...
Kickstarter is all or nothing, so if we don’t make our goal, we get nothing!
Do you want to be a part of weaving our American stories together? Do you want preserve our Herstories? Do you want to watch a love story unfold in the most magically unexpected ways ever? Then give and become a part of living the dream that is Good Bread Alley. ¡Aché!
Click here to watch the video and learn more about the campaign: