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Editorial

QUIT PLAYIN: Beah Richards…A Jewel!

Abeni Jewel Haynes is a name you should probably note for future reference. Someday, the stage and screen will be hers to command in a big way. It’s just a matter of time. Ask veterans like Dr. Curtis King at The Black Academy of Arts and Letters if you doubt me.

The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, Inc. is a multi-discipline arts institution that strives to create and enhance awareness and understanding of artistic, cultural, and aesthetic differences. In addition, they continue to spotlight the history of African American arts that go untold. Dr. King is its founder, director, and principal defender.

Abeni, and I admit a scintilla of bias because she calls me “Uncle Vinny,” performed the most moving one-woman show that most of her audiences have ever seen. Her dramatic interpretation of “A Black Woman Speaks” derived from Beah Richards’s poems, and musings left us with few dry eyes and no regrets.

Abeni Jewel Haynes
Abeni Jewel Haynes Credit: TBAAL website

So before you can appreciate Abeni, let me point you back to one of the most underrated Black artists in our history, Beulah Richards (Beah) is best known for portraying Sidney Portier’s mother in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.”

Ms. Richards depicted a Black mother with all of the skepticism and squeamish tendencies you would expect. After all, her son dusky-sinned was about to marry a lily-white beauty in the 1960s. Six months before the movie debuted in 1967, the Loving. Virginia Supreme Court verdict was handed down.

Anti-miscegenation laws served as the backbone of racial segregation concerning marriage and intimate relationships.

These laws criminalized interracial marriage and, in some cases, forbade sex between members of different races. These unjust laws lasted in North America from the late seventeenth century through the SCOTUS ruling.

And if you ain’t a six foot-10-inch man with a jump shot with a professional contract, America still looks unfavorably upon such unions.

Abeni captured and conveyed for theatergoers the immense eloquence, intelligence, and insolence that fluxed so fluidly throughout “A Black Woman Speaks…of White Womanhood!”

The first few lines portend a brutal truth that even CRT haters must acknowledge. “A Black Woman Speaks…Of White Womanhood Of White Supremacy, Of Peace. It is right that I, a woman, black, should speak of white womanhood.

My fathers, my brothers, my husbands, my sons die for it; because of it. And their blood chilled in electric chairs, stopped by hangman’s noose, cooked by lynch mobs’ fire, spilled by white supremacist mad desire to kill for profit, gives me that right.”

In this poetic political pericope, Richards alternates be- tween chiding and challenging her white female counterparts. She insists that slavery, racism, and the world’s burdens stood squarely on the shoulders of womanhood. If women unified, injustice would suffer. That’s what Women’s International History Month ” is all about!

Curtis King
TBAAL Founder Curtis King Credit: DMN

“Because your necklace was of gold you did not notice that it throttled speech. Because diamond rings bedecked your hands you did not regret their dictated idleness.

Nor could you see that the platinum bracelets which graced your wrists were chains binding you fast to economic slavery.

And though you claimed your husband’s name still could not command his fidelity.” Beah moved from repression to rape in three sentences!

It’s hard to admit my short-comings, but my little “Neecey” introduced me to some literature and history that had previously escaped me. Finally, the story around Beah Richards and her protestations, both literary and vocally, was made known to me.

HBO MAX currently features a 90-minute documentary about her life, and you should take it in. Invite your daughters, sons, and your White friends. The last lines of the poem left a question for all of us.

“What will you do? Will you fight with me? White supremacy is your enemy and mine. So be careful when you talk with me. Remind me not of my slavery; I know it well but rather tell me of your own.”

Abeni reminded us that the vestiges of American enslavement may have waned in word, but never in subtle deeds. Dr. King, and TBAAL strive to teach us, sometimes against our will. But the truth will forever speak! And Abeni gave us a Jewel!

Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.
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Written By

Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and award-winning columnist.

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