Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

No Ordinary Life

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

No Ordinary Life

Article excerpt

Dr. Samuel Hay's David Richmond is remarkable because it neither attempts to document Richmond's life in great detail nor does the former A&T student ever appear as a character in the play even though some of the action revolves around news of his birth. Rather than recounting the momentous events leading up to and following the dramatic sit-in staged by the four students in February 1960, the play explores a fictional conflict between two fortune-telling sisters who have divergent visions of Richmond's future life.

Set in 1941, the year of Richmond's birth, the play examines Black life in Richmond's hometown of Greensboro, N.C. Its pre-civil rights movement setting captures traditional Black southern communities whose residents are steeped in religious mysticism and occult practices akin to Haitian voodoo anted other West African-based spiritual rituals. The lead characters, sisters Ollie Mama and Mama Plookie, not only have the ability to predict the future, but the latter lays claim to community leadership because of her authority as a spiritual leader.

The conflicting visions the sisters have over predicting Richmond's life help illuminate a deeper rivalry between them. The sisters argue over whom has rightful ownership of a temple left to Mama Plookie by their late mother. The embittered sister, Ollie Mama, who predicts tough times for Richmond, claims that her sister deceived their mother -- often at Ollie Mama's expense -- and as a result won inheritance of the temple.

Mama Plookie, who wants only to emphasize the good that Richmond will achieve for the community, has been unwilling to confront her own past and the pain she has caused her sister as she runs the temple and goes about organizing local Black residents for a protest march. In the end, Ollie Mama's plotting to wrest the temple away from her sister leads to a surprising conclusion at the moment when reconciliation becomes most possible.

Hay says he got the idea to write David Richmond after university officials expressed interest in commemorating the legacy of the Greensboro Four. The playwright, who has authored 20 plays, accepted the assignment and began researching Richmond's life. …

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