Ayodele Nzinga Directs Gem of the Ocean

Ayodele Nzinga Directs Gem of the Ocean


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



Gem of the Ocean takes place in 1904 Pittsburgh. Nzinga said it could be Oakland, it could

happen anywhere. The main character is trying to live his life after emancipation, but finds

he’s still on the outside forced to continue to live with racism. Nzinga said they didn’t

change a single line because the story so “richly embodies a message and inspiration.”



Ayodele Nzinga Directs Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson

In West Oakland with the Lower Bottom Playaz


This weekend [began] a first for the Prescott-Joseph Center’s theater troupe, the Lower Bottom Playaz, when they perform August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean in its backyard theater at 920 Peralta St. in Oakland. Ayodele Nzinga, theater director and dramaturge for the center, said this week’s production of Gem of the Ocean is the first play she felt no need to adapt to make the story relevant for her West Oakland community. She said she is excited about this production. “Wilson, the North American Shakespeare, summed up the African-American experience,” Nzinga said. “It all still happens, it’s still relevant, that’s why it doesn’t get changed by a group known for adaptation.” Gem of the Ocean takes place in 1904 Pittsburgh. Nzinga said it could be Oakland, it could happen anywhere. The main character is trying to live his life after emancipation, but finds he’s still on the outside forced to continue to live with racism. Nzinga said they didn’t change a single line because the story so “richly embodies a message and inspiration.” “West Oakland is every urban area, anywhere,” she said. “This story can take place wherever people live with uneven resources and lack of access to education, jobs and safety.” The Playaz received rights to perform the play just 30 days ago, rehearsals were held every week night and all day Saturday. Most of the performers work during the day. Nzinga both directs and plays the part of Ester. “Most artists have to do something else to survive, “said Nzinga, “I feel blessed because everything I do has to do with art.” Another first for the Playaz has been performing Shakespeare in West Oakland for 10 years. Nzinga said the Prescott-Joseph Center had a vision of performing Shakespeare; in 2001 the center built the outdoor theater in its backyard with seating for 100. “I figured the reason most people didn’t enjoy Shakespeare like I did was because there wasn’t a frame of reference, people didn’t relate to the European stories of civil discontent,” Nzinga said. When she adapts Shakespeare, Nzinga said she keeps the plot, but changes the location to West Oakland, specifically 920 Peralta. She changes characters into rappers, a young mayoral candidate or a father just out of prison. She wants the audience and actors to see themselves and their situations in the timeless stories of unrest.Nzinga  holds auditions each year and said she’s trained the majority of actors of color who have assisted through the years. Children are included whenever possible and some have grown up with the Lower Bottom Playaz, which has created a multi-generational theater. She also works within the West Oakland school system teaching writing and performance.Nzinga said she believes that teaching children how to act on stage gives them discipline, literacy skills and helps them know “how to act in life.”

Nzinga wants people to see this performance for many reasons.

“You have to know where it is in West Oakland, people have to come here. It’s a good place, when you walk in the backyard; you’re in a different world, a divine theater space.”

Source: Oakland Local

*   *   *   *   *

Gem of the World

By August Wilson

Set in 1904, 285 year-old Aunt Esther welcomes two strangers into her home. Solly Two Kings, a former Union Army-man who was born into slavery; and Citizen Barlow, a young man in search for redemption. Aunt Esther guides Citizen through a spiritual journey to the mythical City of Bones aboard the legendary slave ship, Gem of the Ocean. Meanwhile, chaos ensues in the real world where Solly is wrongfully accused of a crime and gets shot as a result. Come to our performance to find out how this magnificent story unravels.

No one except perhaps Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams has aimed so high and achieved so much in the American theater.—John Lahr, The New Yorker

A swelling battle hymn of transporting beauty. Theatergoers who have followed August Wilson’s career will find in Gem a touchstone for everything else he has written.”—Ben Brantley, The New York Times

Wilson’s juiciest material. The play holds the stage and its characters hammer home, strongly, the notion of newfound freedom.—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

*   *   *   *   *

 August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean

Directed by Ayodele “WordSlanger” Nzinga

October 8 – 17, 2010

Friday & Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday Matinee at 2:00 p.m.

Admission: Table with Amenities – $20 General Admission – $15 Group Rates Available

For general information call Erika at 510-835-8683 or e-mail

Source: PrescottJoseph

*   *   *   *   *

WordSlanger@Black World Theater

*   *   *   *   *

Ayodele Nzinga is a dramatist, arts lecturer and performance poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Artistic Director of The Lower Bottom Playaz and The Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater in West Oakland. She is a force to be reckoned with on the West Coast spoken word circuit. Well known for her take no prisoners style. As the WordSlanger she is loved by vets and admired by young poets. She is affiliated with Marvin X’s Recovery Theater.  She holds an MA and an MFA in Writing and Consciousness. She is currently a candidate for PhD at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco CA.

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King’s birthday ended up becoming a national holiday (“The Last Holiday because America can’t afford to have another national holiday”), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered.

Gil uses Lennon’s violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King’s assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —

Jamie Byng, Guardian

Gil_reads_”Deadline” (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

*   *   *   *   *

The Warmth of Other Suns

The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

By Isabel Wilkerson

Ida Mae Brandon Gladney, a sharecropper’s wife, left Mississippi for Milwaukee in 1937, after her cousin was falsely accused of stealing a white man’s turkeys and was almost beaten to death. In 1945, George Swanson Starling, a citrus picker, fled Florida for Harlem after learning of the grove owners’ plans to give him a “necktie party” (a lynching). Robert Joseph Pershing Foster made his trek from Louisiana to California in 1953, embittered by “the absurdity that he was doing surgery for the United States Army and couldn’t operate in his own home town.” Anchored to these three stories is Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Wilkerson’s magnificent, extensively researched study of the “great migration,” the exodus of six million black Southerners out of the terror of Jim Crow to an “uncertain existence” in the North and Midwest.

Wilkerson deftly incorporates sociological and historical studies into the novelistic narratives of Gladney, Starling, and Pershing settling in new lands, building anew, and often finding that they have not left racism behind. The drama, poignancy, and romance of a classic immigrant saga pervade this book, hold the reader in its grasp, and resonate long after the reading is done.

*   *   *   *   *


1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

*   *   *   *   *


The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly).

Ripostes from proponents, the Federalists, animate the great detail Maier provides, as does her recounting how one state convention’s verdict affected another’s. Displaying the grudging grassroots blessing the Constitution originally received, Maier eruditely yet accessibly revives a neglected but critical passage in American history.—Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *


*   *   *   *   *






posted 10 October 2010 




Home  Marvin X Table   Black Arts and Black Power Figures   The Claude McKay–Romare Bearden    Literature & Arts

Related Files: Ayodele Nzinga Directs Gem of the Ocean   Duet for The Godfather   Blessings Are Due  Leonard Peltier: Letter to a Relative   Situating August Wilson

Beyond Religion toward Spirituality   Poetic Sermons for Sundays   The Ground on Which I Stand   Professor Sandra Shannon     The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson 

Post Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.